alive, awake, aware

Race is on the brain – and I’m alive.  I’m awake.  I see the “news” coverage of Barack and the insinuations that somehow his manhood is questionable because of his bowling prowess [or lack thereof].  I didn’t miss the 40 year anniversary of MLK, Jr’s death.  I got the memo that somehow Mariah’s record-breaking single means less.  More pointedly, I know someone who’s being bullied out of his house by a crooked mortgage company.

And it seems to me – now that the ‘race conversation’ has been opened up by Barack and (indirectly) his former minister – that white people (liberal and otherwise) are feeling increasingly comfortable to come forward and claim the out that Barack provided in his speech.  You know – “a similar anger exists in segments of the white community” – as though it really is similar.  I know he’s a politician, and he can’t win on black votes alone, but it was stifling to me that he had to add the caveat.  If you’re gonna make things plain – make ’em plain. Black people are not immigrants.  The whole point is that the experiences of whites and blacks in this country cannot be compared as though they are the same.  The denial of this point is the root of the “resentment [that] builds over time”, according to Obama.

As I’ve mentioned before, the desire to claim that you’ve made it ‘on your own’ is common, but almost entirely impossible to be true.  No man is an island, no one accomplishes great things without help.  Because this is contrary to the ethos of individuality inherent in America, my assertion can inflict almost physical pain on some people, but this makes it no less true.

It seems though, that everywhere I turn, white people are asking why they can’t have WET (white entertainment television), or Miss White America, etc, etc, etc.  Telling me I’m too sensitive, that I should teach them how to not be racist offensive, and that they can’t be racist because – they voted for Barack, have black friends, have a family member who married somebody black, etc.  And then, when I get tired of explaining, when my patience wears thin, I’m not doing my part to foster dialog and ‘healing’.

But you know what?  I’m over that.  I’ll be in teacher mode when I’m in teacher mode.  Not when someone demands it.  Reading an interview with Vernon Reid, I found a worthy quote that reminded me of what we’re actually dealing with

Part of the genius of Institutional Racism is that long after Ol’ Massa’s Gone Away and The Last Overseer hung up his whip, fear has been a constant companion of the African American, justified or not. Black performers are uniquely vulnerable to that fear, because the stage exposes and further objectifies. The safest route then is to merely entertain, to make and keep people “happy” (unchallenged and unchanged, but edified). Not to take anything away from the skill and talent required. This is a long and powerful tradition, subverted, raged, and signified against, but potent nonetheless.

This fear is also alive.  Present and nearly palpable in those very same discussions about Barack’s former pastor, about Condi’s reminder that she is actually black; in the discussions about higher STD rates in young black females, higher HS dropout rates among black youths, other gaps and inequities that scream out loud that the revolution hasn’t happened yet.  And of course, in the fact that I have to explain that the revolution isn’t about turning the tables, and making white people the slaves of black people, but that it’s about righting the wrongs and giving the power to ALL the people.

The fear is the reason Barack and the rest of us have to give white people an out.  An escape clause to grab hold to so they don’t have to feel (too) guilty.  Cuz white people don’t really believe that mess about them not having anything to do with it – it was just their ancestors.  No, that’s just a straw to cling to, flimsy though it be.

So the ever-present fear is sometimes overcome by the boldness that comes with anger, and then we get Rev. Wright’s sermon – not railing against whites, but all of us that fail to stand up for real justice.  Or the outburst from Kanye – saying what the rest of us were thinking.

There are a lot of racial wounds in this country, and it’s gonna take longer than one presidency [whoever wins], to work things out.  Here’s hoping.

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getting there from here

My dad’s on a plane to Accra right now. His first trip to Africa, ever. And I’m moderately freaking out in my head. Even though I know everything’s gonna be ok. It’s just that, I can’t help thinking about how he’s going to hang out – soak up some sun/work on his tan – and help some people out who are living in a Liberian refugee camp [~30,000 people]. My mom went to Morocco a couple years ago, and came home with GBS. Now, supposedly, the two are not ‘necessarily’ linked. Technically, she could’ve developed GBS here. But she didn’t. How do you not associate the disease with the trip? I can’t separate them, even though I want to.

But actually, I don’t think about that too much. I’m not a worrier. I’m the kind of person who has random/brief freakouts, but [for the most part] remains fairly calm throughout all kinds of sitch’s. Calm was once THE goto descriptor for me when asking a friend or acquaintance about me.

I’m also really full of pride that he’s gone – that aside from sunning himself on the beach [if you knew my dad, you would get why that is funny], he’ll be teaching first-aid classes, and generally using all the medical knowledge he has at his disposal to help, while he’s there. He took the shots, the pills, got his visa, packed his bags [and duly weighed them]…and he’s off for a two week trip.

it just feels weird.

In other news [about me], I’m still kinda dealing with what I was talking about before…going to a place where I felt like I immediately belonged to the group, because of our shared cultural experience. And as time went by, it became abundantly clear that that was not the case at all. I had stumbled upon an online haven for esoteric white people. A place where they can congratulate themselves on their forward thinking and their interest in causes, though, for the most part, they remain untouched by policy/issues that affect those they discuss. Being an online atmosphere, as long as no one knew I was a POC, they could continue in sharing sometimes ignorant race rhetoric. Once I could hold my tongue no longer…well…I became Caroline. [h/t Racialicious]

the ghost in the kitchen

Last night I was up late writing what has since been misinterpreted as a semi-explanation of How Black People Think in a comment at Spectrum, with the wind whipping around my house. All of a sudden, the door to my garage creaks open, and the motion-sensor light in the kitchen turns on. ::cue Twilight Zone theme::

I froze on my couch for about 30sec – but there was no human besides me in the house. So I closed the door, and figured it probably opened due to some kind of pressure change [or something] because of all the wind. [what’s weird is that just as I was writing this, something fell or dropped in the kitchen. but the light didn’t come on – and when I went to look – I didn’t see anything out of place.] I don’t actually believe in ghosts – the freezing on the couch was cuz I couldn’t remember for a split second if I’d closed my garage door. If it’d actually been somebody walking in…woo! Freakout.

All this on top of the very special Oprah all about FEAR [didn’t you know it was your secret weapon?] that aired yesterday. I hate being afraid. And it’s actually pretty rare that I am. I don’t put myself in bad situations frequently, and I simply refuse to believe that a woman outside after dark is a recipe for disaster. I have no qualms [besides a bit of laziness, esp. if I’m already comfortable] with going out at night to do some shopping/visit friends/whatever. But I know women [around my age] who don’t leave their houses after dark, have security alarms and dogs and more.

Oprah’s show was about how listening to your intuition can help save your life. An example was given about how sometimes women will get on an elevator with someone they have a bad feeling about/scares them because they don’t want to offend the person on the elevator. [anyone else reading between those lines?] I don’t want to contradict the basic premise that listening to your intuition is a good idea – cuz I actually agree with that. But you might wanna spend some of your downtime analyzing whether or not there’s a pattern to the ‘bad feelings’ you get.

This all reminds me of an article that was in B*tch a couple months ago (wow, it was actually last summer). The same woman I know who doesn’t go out after dark is prone to send me those fear-mongering emails. You know the ones – they usually say something like “send this to your wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers and daughters all the women in your life” and then proceed to tell some story about how a woman was out at night, or doing something completely normal by herself – like shop in the daytime – and she was accosted/assaulted/saved-in-the-nick-of-time by a man. It boggles my mind how people can cognitively know that snopes.com exists, yet send out unsubstantiated drivel to overfill my e-mailbox on such a constant basis. And *believe* that you should never smell a perfume sample cuz they might try to drug you, that every time you go to a gas station at night you better check your backseat for serial killers, etc.

What’s up with the fear always being the tool for the woman? And how come it’s so acceptable to heap fear on women? same ol’, same ol’, huh.