Saturday, August 22, 2015

When Good White People Do Racist Things

I work with a white woman who is fairly kind. She jumps in wherever she is needed. She has a kind word to say every day to everyone, she is friendly, down to earth and any time I or others have a question she is more than willing to help.

But twice now I've witnessed her doing or saying something racist and I have a strong urge to tell her about it.

The first time, she touched my hair. We were working together on a project and I think, before she realized it, before even she really knew what she was doing, she touched my hair.

I froze. It was odd to be working and suddenly to find my hair  being touched without my permission, without even having been asked. And the look on her face was partly mesmerized, partly curious. It was obvious she'd been looking at and thinking about my afro for some time.

I looked at her and said, incredulously,"Did you just touch my hair? What are you doing?"

And she said, with that same mesmerized look, "It's just so....poofy."

I realized then that I was probably the first black person she had ever been close enough to for any length of time, physically and emotionally, that she was able to avail herself of the opportunity to actually touch their hair.

Still, she should have asked. I may have said yes, but depending on my mood and overall desire not to be treated like an animal in a petting zoo, I probably would have said no.

Her desire to touch my hair is one thing. Acting on it, of course, is quite another and I did not appreciate being a curiosity. I teased her about it the next day - forgiven but not forgotten.

She never apologized. She never asked me if it bothered me. She did repeat her original phrase at least twice. "I just couldn't help it. It's just so poofy."

And I know she was shocked by my reply as white people always are when you point out their whiteness. I said, resignedly, "That's ok. A lot of white people do that to me. I have no idea why." Actually, I know exactly why, but I was trying to give her a hint.

She laughed but in a way that was slightly uncomfortable. Good. I know for a fact that white people do not like to have their whiteness pointed out, especially by black people. But I wanted to throw her off balance a bit. She actually walked out of the office for a bit on some supposed errand, but I think by the time she came back, she had regained her composure.

I should have said something then. I should have had "the talk" with her then. Because if I had, maybe she wouldn't have said the nearly unpardonably racist thing she said to our visitor the other day

We have a lot of Spanish-speaking people where I work. I speak Spanish decently enough to follow along but I'm still at that stage where it takes me forever to parse a sentence together out loud. I do not even try to pretend that the small amount of Spanish I speak is on par with the fluent speakers and I tend to greet them in English unless it's someone I know well enough to greet with "buenos dias" or "buenos tardes" and they know that I'm being polite, not condescending and that my Spanish really doesn't lend itself to more than, "La luz in el bano no esta trabajando," which was actually a pretty important thing to be able to say for a about a week when the lights in the main bathroom weren't working and we had to direct people to the other bathroom.

But we had a visitor up from our Miami office. She speaks fluent but still faintly accented English and I just thought her voice was particularly sweet until I learned that Spanish is her first language. Whenever she comes to the office, she makes a point of of speaking to everyone in the building and some of the Spanish-only speaking workers take the opportunity to have her translate some of their issues.

One of the ladies that I know speaks English pretty well was talking to our Miami visitor. They were speaking in Spanish about PTO time and I turned back to work and stayed out of a conversation that was not exactly private, but certainly none of my business.

That's when hair-touching lady walked in. "Why are you two speaking in Spanish when I know both of you speak English?"

My stomach sank. I couldn't believe she actually asked  it out loud.

The look on our Miami visitor's face was hurt and appalled. I turned around sharply and her eyes met mine in that shared moment of, "Do you believe what she just said?" The worker from our own office didn't respond at all. I'm not sure she understood, or maybe she's just used to the attitude from whtie people that they really shouldn't be speaking Spanish.

I think at first Hair Toucher was serious, but I think she felt the shift in the room and threw on a smile as if we couldn't possibly take her words seriously. At that moment I spoke up. A beat too late, but still, I spoke up the first words I could think of.

"Because they can."

 I think that pretty much said it all. Our Miami visitor looked relieved that someone, anyone had responded to this idiocy. She continued her conversation, in Spanish, with the worker she was speaking with.

Hair Toucher went on her merry way, not really knowing or caring what she had done.

I really want to talk to her about these two incidents. From what I know about her, I think she can handle the evolution in thinking.

I hope.




Saturday, April 25, 2015

Opposing the Cincinnati Streetcar: That Train of Thought Has Left the Station

 Until I came across this article on Twitter today, I had no idea that there were still people trying to get the Cincinnati streetcar project canceled? Really? They need to let it go already.

I say this as someone who is really against the streetcar project. It's just another toy to make life easier for the folks who are "gentrifying" downtown. "Gentrifying" is a word used here which means political speak for pushing poor black people out of a neighborhood to make way for rich white people.

Two years ago, Mayor Cranley officially announced the conclusion most of us had already drawn - that it would cost just as much to cancel the project as it would to go ahead and finish it given the time and money already invested. So we may as well build the thing and be done with it and that's what's happening.

A lot of people, myself included shrugged, popped some popcorn and waited for tales of shoddy management, cost overruns and construction delays. We've gotten that and more.

Right now the latest contention is that some folks took it upon themselves to have a study done for phase two of the project when phase one isn't sure to complete any time soon.

What's going completely unnoticed as usual is the lives of black people being rearranged for the convenience and pleasure of white people who demand their space, take it over and don't really give a damn about much else.

Even so, fighting the streetcar at this point is just stupid.

What this city really needs is light rail. And what the state of Ohio needs is to get the 3C Rail Project back on track. According to Wikipedia, the state funds for the project are still on hold. It's not the same as having the federal dollars John Kasich gave up because being a jerk to President Obama was more important than helping the people of Ohio, but it's a start.

But hey, why meet the needs of the working majority when you can cater to the rich and powerful few?

Friday, April 03, 2015

Pick a Side

Republicans have lost their damned minds. Collectively. It's bad enough every single one of them is reading from the same Koch approved script, but what's worse, is far too many of them are seriously drinking the kool-aid of belief.

I understand why Republicans want power and money. What I don't understand is why the rest of us put up with their bullshit.

Republicans want to take our government "Of the people, by the people, for the people," and make if "Of the rich, by the rich, for the rich."

Enough is enough. The grownups in the room need to starting back for the public good. Public schools, public healthcare and a decent, publicly funded infrastructure are the very basics of what we need to make sure our communities not only survive but thrive.

Republican ideology not only threatens and thwarts public services that should be a matter of course. Republican ideology - based on false religious concepts and tyranny - threatens the freedom of anyone not rich, white and male.

I have no idea why black people or women can even consider being Republican. The only thing more delusional than rich people who think they can tyrannize others is the delusion of people joining a Republican Party that despises their existence and well-being.

Pick a side people. Not Democrat or Republican. Pick the side of the community of the world that needs decent people to stand up against the idiocy of rich people being the biggest bullies in the playground.

It's long past time we called out the Republican Party for what is: The party of pseudo-Christian, racist, misogynist rich white males who couldn't give a damn about anyone else.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

To be continued...

It was nearly 1995 before I let go of the 1980's. I had trouble with the 90's aesthetic and attitudes. My role in a new decade as an adult and mother. But when I did finally embrace the 90's it was wholeheartedly.

But embracing any era too closely is a set up for heartbreak. The only thing certain in this world is change and the only choice is to change with the times or stagnate in an era that no longer exists.

My life has changed so differently since I started this blog. I began as the mother of a budding teenager who has now graduated from college and has embarked on her career in another city, another state.

I've finally chosen a career path - something that I may have been a little late in doing, but not, as you would expect, and as my daughter once asked me, hat motherhood delayed my career choice. The truth is, when I had my daughter, I had no idea what I really wanted to do. I had an idea what a job I would like would look like, but I honestly had no idea what that job would be.

Ye Olde Matey and I went splitsville a few years back. We still talk almost every couple of weeks, but sometimes it's odd to think we spent 15 years of our lives together. It was another era, another life that just doesn't exist anymore.

As for DebLite, every year I decide if I'm going to keep writing or end the whole thing. Well last month, two of my friends went to prison and the upshot of it is, I'm keeping their two-year-old. And since the state has pretty much decided that even if I don't keep him, they won't be giving him back to either of his parents, I guess that means he's mine until graduates from college or runs away from home, whichever comes first.

It's starting over with a vengeance. I think the last few months of silence have been a brief pause- just a moment to give me a chance to embrace this new era of my life and chart my course. But I know now, with a clarity that I never had before what I want to do. I just hope I can accomplish what I set out to achieve.

  • Taking a few more classes in business and marketing
  • Improving my diet and eating less junk
  • Starting my own business in two years
  • Raising this kid and keeping him alive - mainly getting him potty trained would be nice at the moment
  • And lastly, planning for what happens when I stop working. Hopefully, I'll get that far.
  • Building a community project - I want to do something that gives back
  • I'd like to write a book

If I do all that before the close of the day, I won't ask for much else.