Thank You, Lin Manuel Miranda

A few months ago I was lucky enough to have my SO take his mom and me to see Hamilton.  I have been on the Hamilton train since it opened and I couldn’t wait to see it.  So when my SO said that he got us tickets for our anniversary back in November I was SO EXCIIIITE.  It was a bittersweet time for me because it was a few days after the grand jury decided the officer who murdered Philando Castille wouldn’t be charged so I was in my emotions.  I had been going through a series of emotions: anger, rage, hate and guilt.  It felt like mainstream society would never understand how hard it is for people of color to survive here, particularly black men, in this country we are supposed to be so proud of.  Too often it seems like people of color, especially black men, are paying a toll for living in this country with their lives.  For lack of a better description, I felt really hopeless.  I felt like no one could truly understand how it felt to be a person of color in this country and how absolutely terrifying something like driving a car could be for a non-white person.  Needless to say, I had a lot of emotions swirling  inside of me pre-Hamilton that I hadn’t quite dealt with so it felt almost perfectly timed that I was getting to see this show.

Now I’m not going to give any spoilers in here if you haven’t see the show (GO SEE IT) and if you have then you’ll understand when I say that I cried.  Not at the end, not in the middle-the entire time.  I started crying about 10 minutes in, holding in audible sobs unable to control tears and it lasted until I took a break at intermission.  At some point before intermission my boyfriend realized I had been silently crying in my seat, squeezed my hand and whispered slightly embarrassed, “why are you crying? nothing sad is happening?”  I responded half laughing half crying, “I don’t know I just feel so moved, so emotional I can’t stop.” Then came intermission and the lights came on and my boyfriend asked me again, “babe what’s wrong why are you still crying?” and suddenly all of the things I was feeling attempted to morph into words and I tried to explain to him the best I could…  The cast on the stage was 85% people of color.  The audience was 85% white.  The lead, Alexander Hamilton, was hispanic and his accent, sounded like mine, my dad’s, my brother’s, my cousins’ and my friends.  The accent my dad calls his “Mexican accent.”  The accent that I have been made fun of for.  The accent that pops out when I have a few too many drinks.  The accent that rears its head when I get too emotional.  The accent that I consciously suppress everyday at work and on the phone.  Yes, that accent was on stage, coming through a microphone, from the lead’s voice at a show running in Chicago on Broadway and he sounded like me, on purpose.  

George Washington was black.  He was a tall, handsome black man.  The other main characters were black too.  The majority of the chorus, black or brown.  There were a few white actors too.  But more importantly the majority of people on that stage were black or brown and something inside of me felt a sense of happiness and welcoming that I’ve never felt before in a setting that wasn’t built for or by people of color.  It was an emotion that was so overwhelming to me, something I’d never felt before.  I felt so emotional thinking of all the kids that got to watch this show in New York City for free because of Lin’s generosity (I don’t know if I can call him Lin but I just did because I feel like we’ve connected on a personal level since I saw this show, so yeah he’s Lin to me!).  And I just thought of all the kids, black and brown kids who are in the performing arts and who got to see themselves up there.  They got to see themselves on Broadway.  They didn’t get to see a part being played by an actor that didn’t look or sound like them and have to imagine with all of their imagination’s power that that could one day be them, they got to see themselves.  I thought of the other black and brown kids who weren’t in the arts but that went to that theater in the City and heard and saw people that looked like them on a stage that grand in a city even grander.  They saw themselves represented up there and for once their dreams to do more, to be more didn’t seem so far fetched.  So yeah, I cried.  A lot.

At one point the three older black women sitting in front of me heard me trying to explain this to my boyfriend during intermission and they turned back, smiled, wiped their tears and turned back around.  They got it too.

The show finished and everyone else decided to copy me and join the crying movement but it had nothing to do with what the cast looked or sounded like, those tears were probably because of the story.  What happened?  How did the show end?  I mean google it, but that’s not the beautiful part.  The beauty of this show is hip hop music samples, a rap musical with a cast that if you haven’t gotten it by now is full of people of color!  And I don’t think one person in the theater had a hard time believing that George Washington was any less GW because he was being played by a black actor or that Alexander Hamilton was any less AH because he was played by a Hispanic actor.  Because surprisingly it’s less about the the actors’ race and more about their talent that makes the part believable.  Believe it or not but talent that belongs on Broadway and that talent exists in all races, we just don’t get to see it nearly enough.

We got in the car on the way home and I couldn’t stop raving about how amazing the show was, the casting mostly.  Later on that evening I was trying to explain to my boyfriend the significance of the cast’s diversity and it just wasn’t clicking.  Listen, I get it, white people, men in particular are represented everywhere–entertainment, professional fields, media, government, etc., so it was probably hard to grasp how emotional it could be to see people that look like you represented on such a large scale because that’s not out of the ordinary to white men.  But this casting, it made me think back to being a little kid telling my mom I wanted to be a lawyer but only seeing women like me portrayed as housekeepers, vixens and housewives, never professionals.  It made it hard for me to picture myself as a lawyer and for a long time my journey felt never ending.  It took a lot of soul searching and identity crisis to try and find who I was supposed to be as this professional and who to model myself as because there were no examples.  I haven’t quite gotten there but I’m on my way.  But, here’s the thing, these kids who have seen and will see this play don’t have to use their imagination anymore.  It all plays out right there right in front of them.  People just like them can be on stage too, or anywhere really and it’s not just in their imagination anymore, it’s real.

So thank you, Lin Manuel Miranda.  From me, from all the kids of color and their parents who have had a chance to see this and for everyone else who’s seen it and didn’t realize that there was so much more to the show than what you got to see.

I wrote this post a few weeks ago before all of the hurricanes hit and before 45 showed again how despicable he is.  Before wonderful people like Lin Manuel Miranda had to step up and save lives in Puerto Rico.  So besides being thankful for Hamilton, I want to extend my thanks for his response to the disaster in Puerto Rico too.  Without him and various other people stepping forward and picking up the ball our government embarrassingly dropped who knows how the American Citizens in Puerto Rico would be right now.  So thank you for that and for this and for what is to come.

DACA: Are we worthy enough for you yet?

A few weeks ago I had the honor of interviewing two DACA recipients, who just so happen to be my cousins!  I did it in podcast form as I think it’s a little easier to hear what someone has to say as oppose to reading it sometimes.  The first few minutes my niece is rudely and loudly interrupting because she is strong, independent and will always reclaim her time–but then she took a nap because being a feminist is exhausting!

My cousins did an excellent job of explaining what DACA is to them and what their plan is with this this program currently in jeopardy.  If you know nothing about DACA or if you want to know what a DREAMER had to deal with to get on DACA or if you fall anywhere in between, I implore you to listen and simply educate yourself a little more.

We are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by documented and undocumented people alike in this country.  In the words of John Legend, “They’re people.  They’re our friends, neighbors and co-workers.  They’re dreamers & lovers.”  And in the words of Angel Pedraza “we’re not going anywhere.”  Thanks for listening, guys!

The “R” Word

You’re a racist.  That is racism.  Awww see?  That wasn’t so hard?  It took me 3 seconds to type and even less to think.  For some people it’s like those words are not in their vocabulary.  They are reserved to describe Klancowards pictured lynching AND burning a person of color in the 1970’s, not now of course, that type of racism died with them right?  The thing is though, you don’t have to wear a hood, fly a confederate or nazi flag, or use racial epithets to be a racist.  If you lock your doors when you see a person of color approaching, clutch your purse, make racist jokes, say “why didn’t he just listen to the cops?,” “doesn’t freedom of speech protect them too?,” call WOC “mamacita, chiquita banana, etc.,” or tell me that I’m not on a partner track because I haven’t transitioned from being Jenny From the Block to being J. Lo–guess what? You’re racist.  I AM SO SORRY I HAD TO BE THE ONE THE TELL YOU THIS (just joking it’s actually my favorite thing to do) but you’re racist and you have racist ideologies.  But here’s the good news: YOU CAN CHANGE.  At any time in your life you can choose to change.  This choice you have is an illustration of your privilege and your power over POC but it is in fact a choice.  

 

My boyfriend tells me that I use the label “racist” fast and loose.  I call it having zero tolerance for bullshit.  Tomato, tomatillo, am I right?  I can call out a racist after about 10 minutes into a conversation, it’s a gift and a curse really because I’m not afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings in doing so.  In the last year it has made my circle of family and friends significantly smaller but I’ll be damned if the quality of my relationships hasn’t increased exponentially.  I used to think that it was important to try to get along with everyone despite differences, even if they were racist.  I am proudly not that person anymore.  I’m not here for the “it’s just a joke,” the “oh c’mon I can’t say ANYTHING these days without someone being offended.”  I’ve spent a large portion of my life changing the intonation of my voice when speaking to white people to completely erase any trace of an accent, not flipping a table when someone made a racist joke after we’ve just met and not losing my absolute shit when someone tries to explain to me that I’m being racist because of my blog and feelings about white people who choose to remain complacent in this fight.  So yeah, I don’t give a single fuck when you get upset because you have to think before you speak to me for a change.

POC have had to completely contort themselves around white people in the history of FOREVER, we have had to make ourselves less threatening, less loud, less flavorful, etc., or risk living up to the stereotypes they have created for us.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had to consciously keep from snapping my neck when I get heated because I didn’t want to be that kind of Mexican Girl.  This neck snap something that is in my GENES, it’s the same gene that helps me dance to salsa, cumbia and merengue, it helps me be #alwaysonbeat, it is in my soul controlled by my central nervous system unconsciously functioning at all times.  And to make sure white people aren’t uncomfortable around me, I and other POC have had to mute ourselves so that we are more acceptable to them.  I have had to bite my tongue when my old Boss said he didn’t want to put people “that don’t speak English” on a witness stand and then turn around watch him advertise on Spanish TV networks and black radio stations for their business.  I have ooohhhsaaaaa’d when my boyfriend’s friend asked me if I was outside valeting cars after we had stepped out of a party for a bit.  I have nicely explained to friends and their parents for years that my mom’s accent isn’t that heavy and if you just listen you can actually understand everything she says.  I one time had to patiently answer the question “does your dog understand your mom? you know because her accent is so heavy.”  No, the dog doesn’t understand my mom, the jerk doesn’t even understand me, you know because he’s a dog…   I’ve had to explain calmly in my own house to a guest as to why  stereotypes are not a survival technique that’s evolved from our ancestors.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, I am sure there are 1 million other examples of other POC muting themselves in the name of white people’s comfort.  But, guess what white people?  TAG YOU’RE IT.

You’ve been IT, actually.  You just keep doing that thing you do when you’re a kid after you get tagged, “the bench is base NOW, sorry tag someone else.”  But listen, the thing is the nazi, racists–your brothers, cousins, uncles and dads–marched on Charlotesville the other day with tiki torches and new balances so, it’s your turn now.  You are IT.  When they were done marching because their arch supports gave out, they all went home to your sisters, cousins, moms and aunts so, it’s your turn now. It’s your turn to THINK before you speak and act accordingly.

I know, I know it’s hard–listen I play this blog fast and loose, I wrote this in an hour and I’m probably going to get some hate texts later because of the examples I used but I still thought before I typed so I didn’t completely call out ALL my white friends.  But I have been doing this for almost 30 years (the thinking before I speak thing) and I can only imagine how it must feel to go from never having to think twice about your opinion possibly being wrong and unaccepted to having to actually think of the power your words yield.  This is going to be tough for you but it’s time.  It’s time you stop letting shit slide.  Stop not wanting to be that guy that kills the mood or challenges friends when they bring up politics, race or religion because you just want to have a good night.  Challenge your friend Jeff, your parents, your uncle, etc., when they make Black Friday jokes and black people are the punch line.  Challenge your best friend who can only relate to your brown girlfriend by making jokes about her ethnicity.  Call out your friends and family when they display even the slightest hint of racist ideologies, that’s the only way this is going to work.  Because see, we’ve been doing the work.  We’ve been marching, we’ve been getting killed in the streets by trigger happy police officers, we’ve been voting (albeit getting shut down), we’ve been writing  but we remain un-phased and we keep working.  But, it’s your turn now.  You all want an invite to the carne asada or the cook out, right?  You can get one but you need to act now.

The thing is, it starts with you.  That’s the hardest part and once you get past this little dip it’s much easier I swear, but starting with yourself is the hardest part.  Take a look at yourself and understand that you probably hold some racist ideologies.  Sure you probably aren’t wearing a hood–at least not if you’re reading this–but you’re probably making or laughing at the jokes,  you’re probably locking your doors, you’re probably complaining that the black community doesn’t help itself enough instead of calling out our government and systematic racism and you have to make a decision to stop that thought process and change.  If it makes you feel better, it’s not your fault.  Racism isn’t innate, it’s taught even the tiniest parts of it are taught.  But that just means it can be unlearned too.  But, you have to make a choice to stop being blinded by the privilege you were born into and start being proactive–step outside of your comfort zone for a change.  Unless you can call it out in yourself first you’ll always let it slide when someone else does it in front of you–and then they end up buying tiki torches in Charlotesville because you and 45 decided it was OK for Johnny to keep saying racist shit at the dinner table and you didn’t say anything to stop him.  So yeah it sucks you’re going to have to admit that you’re a little bit of a racist and then you’re probably going to have call out your best friend as being racist too but here’s the thing: you can change, if you want to.  I and millions of other POC can’t change who we are but you can change your mindset and you can challenge other white people from inside their safety net.  That’s something we can’t do so your participation is necessary.  If you want the invite anyway.

 

If you don’t want to do the work, we’re not surprised, this country was built on our backs anyway but at least do us a favor and sit down and get out of our way, because we’re pushing for progress here and we’re never going to stop.  Also don’t get mad when we call you and your friends racist if you’re not wiling to do the work we get to act accordingly.  To everyone to participated in the protest against the alt-right nazis, way to go.  We need to stay strong and united, we will not be pushed back.

 

 

 

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

Fuck.  I mean what other way can I start this other than saying, fuck?  By now you’ve read and probably seen the various videos recording Philando Castile’s death–embedded forever in our shameful history, for the world to see.  The death of a black man, televised for all of us to see, again and again like it’s just normal that a black guy shouldn’t get out of a traffic stop unscathed.  But after seeing all of these deaths televised, I wish I had enough room to #saytheirnames, have we gotten numb?  I’d argue we’ve been numb.  The life of a black man was always televised to embarrass and degrade in our media unless it was used to make that media source money, then maybe it might be a positive depiction.

I’m a LatinX.   The officer who killed Philando, is a LatinX.  I am ashamed to share a heritage with this man.  A man who is a person of color, subject to all of the uphill battles that other people of color are subjected to and solidified for us that it was justifiable to fear for your life if a black man is in a car, with his girlfriend and child and following your commands to the T.  I am ashamed.  I was ashamed when I saw Diamond Reynold’s video after the shots were fired.  I was ashamed when, Officer Yanez didn’t plead guilty and instead of forced a trial.  I was ashamed when he testified that he feared for his life because Philando was following his commands.  And I was ashamed that he shot into a car at a man who had displayed NO signs of a threat, into a car with a 4 year old girl, into a car with his girlfriend who was also following commands.  But mostly I was ashamed that a jury saw all of the videos, heard all of the testimony and let him walk.

What’s the difference here though?  It’s a person of color doing this to another person of color, it’s not a white officer and a black victim as it normally is.  I’ve heard a lot of people argue, this one wasn’t about race.  IT IS.  IT IS about race.  I’m the first to admit that I know LatinX that are discriminatory towards black people, it exist.  I don’t deny it, the majority of LatinX I know don’t deny it either.  Hell I have cousins, first generations like me, that voted for Trump because apparently they forgot that their parents and grandparents came here illegally.  They somehow think that they are white because they aren’t black.  What it comes down to in my opinion is that you want to be a part of the oppressors and not the oppressed and you’ll stretch as far as you can to get there, this view also makes you a coward though so choose your side.  I’ve chosen mine and mine is the side of equality and humanity.

What else do we need to see before we can finally agree that there is a bias in this country against black people?  What else?  A cop, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, a judge and a jury, all of these parts make up a system that was crafted to tilt against people of color and we are still shocked when these not guilties are rendered.  Myself, as an attorney, believes in justice and the equalizer that is the justice system because if I don’t have hope in that what do I have?  I have to believe that there is something that will shake out the bad people from the good.  I challenge people I work with everyday when they say derogatory things about clients or the other party hoping that maybe they’ll finally stop thinking that way if they are challenged by a peer.  I do my part in what I do and I am the FIRST to condemn someone who shares my heritage and their part in perpetuating the circle of racism that poisons this country.

And that’s what makes this about race, I am a Latinx and I never for one second thought that Officer Yanez was justified in his shooting.  I didn’t look for the excuse.  I didn’t ask what Philando was doing before.  I didn’t ask what his girlfriend was doing before.  I only had to watch the video Diamond posted and hear that he had informed the officer that he was carrying a weapon before he was lit up to know that Officer Yanez was a fucken murder.  This condemnation and forcing accountability is something that doesn’t happen enough in the white community.

When a white officer shoots a black man for no reason or for the fake reason of “fearing for his life” there are 1 million arguments about how he was scared and how much bigger, scarier, black/brown man was than him so he shot him, in his back, while he was running away.  I mean you’re a cop aren’t you always fearing for your life, isn’t that a part of the job description, you’re job is to FIGHT CRIME, it’s a job hazard that your life is in danger as long as your on the clock?  This has to stop.  The condemning of dead victims of color, specifically black men has to stop.

We need to hold each other, yes those that share a heritage/race/ethnicity with us, accountable.  Whether your white, brown, black, etc. if someone in your community commits a crime that is motivated by hatred towards another race or religion, you much force your community and yourself to hold that person accountable.  We as LatinX cannot sit silently and allow us to be a part of the group that decides to say nothing and do nothing in regards to the injustice that Officer Yanez served to Philando, Diamond their daugther when he was supposed to be protecting.  White people have to do the same thing and unfortunately more often.  We cannot expect change or demand change without accountability.  I’ve been waiting for the NRA to release a statement about how this outcome is a threat to our 2nd Amendment after Trevor Noah called them out, but not surprisingly they’ve remained silent. It’s obvious that the great equalizer is not going to equalize, so DO BETTER.  BE BETTER.  Help with the dismantling we so badly need.  Black and brown lives are depending on it.

 

 

Catching Backhands

Hey everyone!  I’ve been a little busy watching the fall of American Democracy to find time to write, but I’m here now to hit you with the latest installment of this Brown Girl’s Life.  One thing that is absolutely HYSTERICAL to me is when I try to talk about white privilege to people who don’t think it exists–turns out it’s really hard to discuss a concept when the other person doesn’t think the concept is real.  Normally I try to explain it using small examples so that said person can see how our experiences are different and how that can only be explained by one thing-privilege-but it doesn’t always work because sometimes there is a basic misunderstanding about what things are; for instance, compliments.

One thing I’ve noticed is that some non-POC don’t understand what a real compliment is.  For me it’s pretty simple, “nice pants,” “nice tie,” “great job on that case/job/cake,” etc.  For some reason though I’m always subject to qualifying compliments you know, “you speak English really well, I can hardly hear your accent,” “you look exotic,” “Wow, YOU’RE a lawyer?”  “You don’t even look Mexican,” etc.  I’ve gotten these compliments since I can remember, especially the “I wouldn’t have guessed you’re Mexican,” one.  When I was younger I used to think some of these were actually compliments like oh I’m just so mysterious, beautiful and exotic.  False.  Truth of the matter is, I can pass in some circles because it’s possible I’m not 100% brown so, I’m more acceptable.  Because apparently the browner you are the less acceptable you are; so, it IS a compliment to be told that you don’t seem as brown, right?  I mean why else would someone say that intending it to be a compliment, if that were not the case?

“You run fast, for a girl.”

Now I’ve come to believe that maybe some people don’t know what qualified compliments are so I’m going to list one you’ve probably heard a variation of before, “You run fast, for a girl.”  This is not a compliment.  If you’ve ever said this and meant it as a compliment, smack yourself in face and continue reading.  People run and some people run fast.  If you know someone who runs fast you can just say, “you run fast.”  You don’t have to qualify it and if you do then you don’t really think they run fast or you don’t mean your statement as a compliment-you probably just like to hear yourself speak.  It’s pretty simple, and if that explanation wasn’t clear to you, it should be now.  If it’s not, there’s a real life example of this happening to me below.

Disclaimer:  At this point in my life I’m taking the route of, if you say something to me that is intentionally offensive I’m calling you out either to your face or here.  So, please don’t start with the “time-outs” later, if you’re going to be offensive or ignorant own it the entire time, not just when you feel ballsy enough to say it to my face.  Embrace your offensiveness at all times or just DON’T BE OFFENSIVE.

 “Embrace your offensiveness at all times or just DON’T BE OFFENSIVE.”

Anyways to set the scene, my SO and I were sharing some nice quality time together and doing what I do best, I bring up race.  I had a week where it was brought up more than average in a professional setting namely at a legal proceeding where one of the judges asked me when the attorney was going to arrive.  Spoiler alert: I am the attorney.  So, we start talking about how I feel like I’m constantly being reminded of my race and how it makes me different and makes even the simplest things harder for me.  For example, we compared how many times someone asked if he was a lawyer when he walked into a courtroom, met with another attorney, met with a client, appeared at deposition, etc., to how many times it happens to me (Him: 0 Me: 1 Million and counting, and three times that week).  He had a hard time believing that people are so overtly dumb-for lack of a better word-to ask me if I was the interpreter, assistant, etc.  I told him I wished he was around to see it, just once, because it happens to me so often it’s laughable.  Currently I am working on comebacks for when this happens in a professional setting.  If you have any tips, hit my comments below!

So later that night we go out to dinner with a friend of his that was in town and some of her friends-people we hadn’t met before.  They were nice enough and we all got to chatting, my SO excuses himself to the bathroom and one of the women says to me “you have the best skin,”  “thanks,” I reply, “I’m very lucky, one of my cousins is an esthetician and she takes good care of me,” (You can find her here!) from across the table this other woman says, “I was just going to say you have the best skin too!…but you have that ethnic thing going for you,  soooo…(hand waive).”  “Yes,” I respond, “I am in fact ethnic,” in the most are you fucken kidding me tone I could muster up.  LE SIGH!  I turn around and continue talking to the person who doesn’t qualify compliments, while simultaneously saying in my head, I can’t believe HE MISSED THIS!! I”M DYING INSIDE FOR  A WITNESS TO THIS TRAVESTY I’M EXPERIENCING AT THIS BAR!  He comes back and I’m trying to shoot him telepathic messages with my eyes, “look at the blond on the other side of the table, she’s jealous of this beautiful Mexican skin and basically said it out loud in public.”  He looks back at me like why are you starring at me you creep show-message not received.

Like oh she was paying her a compliment, and that is privilege bullshit.

Now, there’s a few issues here to start, 1. Why didn’t I just call her out to her face? 2. Why didn’t anyone else say anything?  It’s pretty standard response for me, I am always struggling with being “that girl.”  You know what I’m talking about, the girl that is always calling people out for saying offensive shit and normally hears the response, “I love Mexicans, cmon!” or “Oh come on, I’m not being offensive I’m being funny.”  How about the why didn’t anyone else say anything route?  Well honestly, I don’t think anyone even realized how offensive these comments were, because it was just so normal to them.  Like oh she was paying her a compliment, and that is privilege bullshit.

Moving on: We leave the bar and all I can think is yes I’m going to tell my SO the moment we start this walk to the restaurant so he can be on the look-out for more abhorrent behavior by this so-called adult.  I don’t get a chance to, we are walking in too close of a group for me to spill the beans.  He can tell something is up because I say something like, “oh the funniest thing happened while you were in the bathroom,” followed up with another eye message: message still not received.  We sit down at the table and it’s pretty uneventful just the standard divorcee talking about how she’s getting her groove back.  Later after we eat and sans any talk about my skin or ethnicity, my SO excuses himself to the bathroom.  A random man from another table that has been hitting on said blond woman throughout dinner finally gets up, he sees his opportunity because my SO, the only guy in the group, has left the table-which is a problem all in itself.  How some men, this guy in particular, thinks women should be approached or where they see an “in” is an issue in itself but I will save that topic for another day!  Anyways, he comes over and his opening line is “I bet I can guess everyone’s race at this table.”  Now I have been out of the game for sometime (shout out to my main squeeze) but when did that become a pick-up line!?  Anyone?  Has anyone ever used that line before?  Has that gone well for anyone?  Ever?  In the history of pick up lines?!  Please let me know if it has.

So there’s four of us at the table and he gets up and while pointing respectively, says “Jewish, Jewish, definitely Jewish and Mexican,” (pointing at me).  The blond woman shouts from across the table, “See I knew it!”  I shoot back, “Yeah, it wasn’t a secret!”  This comment I guess went back to the whole, you have nice skin because you’re ethnic thing and at this very moment she realized, she was right, aha!  She had caught me!  At this point I’m annoyed and can’t believe my SO wasn’t there to witness this moment, yet again.    The night ends with us at a nightclub where the divorcee says something rude to the guy with the gift to guess everyone’s race (SHOCKING) and her not being able to understand how she offended him after she called him self-serving (DOUBLE SHOCKING).

“Yeah, it wasn’t a secret!”

The next day I tell my SO about this nonsense and he responds by saying he’s not trying to be ignorant but isn’t being told “you have great skin” a compliment?  I mean everyone tells you that.  I respond like I did above, yes THAT is a compliment but what she said wasn’t.  He didn’t really understand how what she said was different from what he said.  So I explained it in the best way I know, using examples.  “It’s like someone telling you, hey you’re really well off and successful, but you got that Jewish thing going for you.”  He responded “Oh yeah, that’s rude as fuck, I see now.”  So all of a sudden it made sense to him like yeah that’s really not OK.  Which in his defense I don’t think that’s a realization that most people ever have.

We spent the rest of the time talking about how people feel it’s OK to say things like that out loud or how that guy thought that was a fun thing to do, guess everyone’s race as a way to start a conversation.  Three times in one night I told him, that was three times in a few hours that rude shit happened to me in public, with a brand new group of people who felt that this was an appropriate way to act around someone you just met.  I wasn’t asked what I did for a living, what my hobbies were, and at one point I even overheard her ask someone what my name was–she was obviously uninterested in anything but the origin of my skin.  Point being there wasn’t an interest in the normal things you ask someone when you are meeting them for the first time and interested in actually getting to know them.  Instead, it was pointed out that I got this flawless epidermis but it’s not because I take care of it, it’s because of these roots and so it’s not really so great after all because it’s tainted by the fact that my ethnicity is the reason for it and my ethnicity isn’t white.  Sorry you’re so offended by this melanin magic, lady…

The worst is that I’m sure she didn’t even realize how that was rude to say to someone and how the other people around the table didn’t either.  There are only a few things that people of color have a step up on.  It’s not access to education, wealth, societal justice, etc., but some of us have fly melanin  and it’s because of our ethnicity that it’s great, not in spite of it.  Let us have our wins.  Learn to respect us and praise us like you do your non-POC counterparts.  You’re not appreciating and complimenting us if you’re following it up with a backhand.  So to the people who think that they’re being complimentary and not realizing this, hold yourself to a higher standard, ask yourself  why you think that being a person of color minimizes what was initially worthy of a compliment.  Do better for yourself.  We as POC know that it’s going to take more than us standing up for ourselves to get to a better place, it requires allies.  Be an ally not an obstacle or don’t be surprised when you catch backhands too.

 

 

I was born this way

I go through these phases where I feel SUPER in control of myself, my emotions, my reactions, my surroundings etc and then phases when I feel completely powerless.  The best way to describe it is like I’m trying scream or run in a dream–like where you’re screaming and running as fast as you can but you’re actually silent and standing still.  As a woman I think it’s probably standard of us to feel like maybe our opinions, work, thoughts, etc. aren’t as important as our male counterparts.  As a woman of color I think this is even more so the case–especially lately.  It’s like we’re used to be brushed off, and not having our ideas validated until a dude repeats them as their own.

The latest political thing that gave me that familiar powerless feeling is this healthcare bill.   Now if you’ve been watching the news and keeping up with the media, you’ve probably seen that there was this crazy photo going around that is basically a group of white dudes deciding whether or not prenatal healthcare (and other women’s healthcare issues) should have been covered in the first Health Care Bill to repeal and replace the ACA.  It’s like you would never see a group of women deciding on a bill for men’s healthcare.  Why? I don’t know probably because a group of women would want to consult men for issues that are of central importance to men and also we’re not animals.  I think logic just tells you that you should maybe consult at least one woman when you’re making major decisions about women’s healthcare, right?  That first one didn’t pass but it still freaked me out pretty good, mostly because I’m a human and also because I’m a human who can bare children and would like to someday. Even more so because I don’t think I should be punished for being biologically different which requires different/more healthcare than my male counter-parts.  I heard the argument, “I don’t know about you but I’ve never needed prenatal care, why should we have to pay for it,” by a man, who was in Congress.  I was pretty shocked considering he’s a human, a father, a husband and a representative of constituents in what is supposed to be the Greatest Country on Earth.  Also I was concerned.  Didn’t he have the same type of scientific education as me?  He knows babies can only be made by us ladies, right?  Without us there would be no babies, yes even boy babies.  So maybe if you value life, which I think that’s why most Republicans don’t support abortion, you would want to support prenatal care and women’s healthcare in general?  I don’t know, I guess that could be far-fetched, reasonable, logical, whatever…

A few weeks have passed since then and it seemed like they were going to leave the ACA alone and our vaginas and breasts (among other things) would be safe but throughout this last week they started talking about a new bill again.  This one wouldn’t be so bad, it wouldn’t say pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, it would give states the option to have them covered (or not) AND it would allocate funding for the states to create high-risk pools, you know just in case they decided to exclude pre-existing conditions from insurance market place requirements.  JUST IN CASE GUYS!

So yeah I read this and the normal shit starts to happen I start to have trouble sleeping, staying asleep, falling asleep once I’m woken up, I’m getting anxiety reading the news, watching the news, I have a sudden urgency to see my doctor to double check I am in fact healthy, debate getting an IUD, etc.  Why am I so shook?  Well here’s my pre-existing condition story.  When I was 19 I had an abnomal pap smear, I had cells in my cervix which my gynecologist said weren’t cancer–yet; but,  she wanted to get rid of them if they didn’t go away in 6 months.  Fast forward 6 months, the cells are still there and I have to have those cells removed.  It was a pretty simple procedure, my mom came with me for moral support and I was in and out in less than 45 minutes and about 30 days later I got hit with a bill for like 25k.  I had insurance for the first time during this period–my entire life I was uninsured–but, because I was in college and my school required you to have health insurance so I got the cheapest plan they offered.  I had never used insurance before and I was paying out of pocket.  My insurance denied my claim for this procedure because they said it wasn’t medically necessary since I didn’t actually have cancer it was an elective, preventive procedure.  I think they paid like $300 for the exam part and denied the rest.  After a 6 month battle with my doctor’s office and me vs. my insurance company my doctor told me that she wrote off my bill because she was so pissed off at my insurer and the fact I as a 19 year old college kid that couldn’t afford to pay the bill.  Shout out to doctor’s who give a fuck about their patients and take these sacrifices!  Currently, I’m not on the regular check up plan as most people with vaginas because I have this pre-existing condition of abnormal cervical cells and the first time I got a full time job that offered healthcare I immediately called my insurer to make sure that my extra visits that are required by my doctor for this issue were covered.  At that time pap smears were covered once every two years instead of once a year, presently it’s once every three I think.  I have to get one every year and if it’s even the slightest bit off I have to get them every 3 months for 1 year until they’re normal for 1 year.  It’s a lot of vaginas and a lot of speculums.  I honestly cannot say with 100% certainty that if my insurance would have said “no those extra visits won’t be covered” that I would have followed through with my doctors course of care.  I was barely making enough money to pay rent and eat at the same time, I would have probably rolled the dice.  But, I didn’t have to.  Thanks to the ACA that had passed a few years before it guaranteed that my new insurer would have to cover me even if this was pre-existing and even if I had to have 4 pap smears in a year.  My insurer did in fact cover me because my doctor verified that it was medically necessary for me.  After today’s vote, I am seriously concerned again.  Will I find another insurer to take me?  Will I be able to afford coverage?  Will it be better to save a crazy amount of money just in case I get cervical cancer and have to undergo treatment because I’m going to be capped anyway?  Should I just roll the dice?  It’s like standing in the center of a million diverging roads all filled with varying degrees of quick sand traps, land mines, alligators, shark infested waters and ground covered in lava and if you make it past all of those obstacles your prize is that you live.  You might be broke, jobless and uninsurable, but you live.  Why is that a decision that I am forced to make about my healthcare?  Healthcare and treatment, that let me remind you, is only an issue because biologically I am built differently.  I feel powerless, I feel like instead of taking the risk and choosing a road my safest bet is to stand still right at the center because I’m too afraid to move.

I am not the worst effected though, I am probably OK.  I have a good job that offers good insurance and that coverage likely won’t change.  But I COULD be and there are millions of women and men (and any variation thereof) that WILL BE effected if this is passed.  I could bury my head in the sand and say this isn’t my problem–because it probably won’t be–but I am so much better than that.  I care about the fire, even when it’s not burning me.  See I don’t just think of myself when I feel powerless.  I think of my mom, who is over 50 and has to get mammograms.  I think of my aunt who had her arm practically taken off in a freak, work accident and is now worried that this bill will make it so no insurer will have to take her because she has a pre-existing injury.  I think of my dad who is “pre-diabetic” and has to check his sugar everyday and see a doctor every 6 months to make sure everything is normal.  I think of the moms I know who were brave enough to address their postpartum depression and now their care and services will be limited if this bill passes the Senate.  I think of the injured clients I represented who were in accidents, to no fault of their own, and who now have permanent injuries for which they will be labeled “too risky to insure.”  I think of my significant other who lives with a chronic illness like the bad ass he is and now has to worry about his treatment not being covered or becoming too expensive. The most ridiculous part of all of this is that there is one thing in common here, these conditions aren’t through any fault of our own.  I didn’t do anything to make myself have abnormal cells in my cervix.  My mom didn’t decide to have mammary glands which increase her risk for breast cancer warranting mammograms.  My SO didn’t ask to develop a chronic illness that no doctor can tell you who or why it picks who it picks.

But we are lucky.  We have good health insurance, for now.  We have good jobs, we don’t have to live pay check to pay check and if something happened we would probably be OK.  But, there are so many people who won’t be who simply cannot be.  They will be forced to make a decision between paying a bill or paying for their healthcare.  There will be people who aren’t covered because through no fault of their own they are now a part of a pool where the cost-benefit analysis just doesn’t make sense to buy into coverage.

I guess the pre-existing issue is something most people have come to enjoy as a luxury since the ACA passed, but I’d just like to remind everyone that having healthcare isn’t a luxury and having healthcare that is affordable, accessible, quality and covers pre-existing conditions, isn’t a luxury–it’s a necessity because we are humans who get sick.  It’s that simple.  It’s the same reason we have to have car insurance, because we drive cars on streets and inevitably get into accidents.  I mean it’s just logic…

I know, I’m liberal.  I’m VERY liberal.  I know people who are conservatives and VERY conservative.  But one commonality we mostly share is that we still think humans are humans and they deserve to be treated with respect.  This bill, is an embarrassment to its citizens and point blank disrespectful.  I don’t know anyone who thinks that profits are worth this much more than people and think this bill is OK.  I know that they exist though, I mean 217 of them voted for this bill after all.

I really don’t have anything positive to end this one and I know I haven’t even touched on all the pre-existing conditions that are potentially nixed.  Women, men, transpeople, straight, gay, bisexual and those suffering from mental illness are all effected–I think anyone reading this falls into one of these groups.  But I guess I can say this one thing.  I have seen social media blow up with people talking about their disagreement and disgust regarding this bill.  I have seen people post “I don’t normally talk about politics but…” instructions on how to call senators and representatives, and messages of unity.  So that made me feel good.  I saw some assholes too but I won’t spend too much time talking about them because they’re just that.  It’s going to be a tough 4 years; so everyone, stay motivated, stay educated and keep resisting.

My First Time

I can’t be sure of the first time I realized I was different.  I take that back, I always knew I wasn’t like everyone else mostly because I’ve always spoken my mind.  I think it started when I was a kid and cried hysterically for my grandma for any and every reason and my family nicknamed me “ambulanciaaaaa.”  What can I say?  I wasn’t afraid to voice my displeasure–not much has changed.  Anyways what I mean is, I can’t pinpoint when I realized I was a different race.  I guess I didn’t know race was a “thing” until I started school.  Don’t get me wrong growing up I knew there were kids that didn’t speak Spanish and that they were White or Black or Indian or Arab or whatever but I never knew that being non-white wasn’t the same as being white or how and why being non-white was some how worse.

I don’t think I realized race was this thing people treated like a scarlet letter even when I was sitting in the waiting area of my parent’s shop and one of their customers asked me in Spanish if I was afraid of the black customers that had just left.  I remember looking at her very confused and I saying “no?…why would I be.”  “No?!  How could you not be?”  “I don’t know…” then I continued to color in my coloring book, I was probably 4.  I ignored her until she left then ran over to my mom and asked her why that woman had asked me that.  I really didn’t understand why I should be afraid of anyone at that point in my life.  My mom just responded “ay mija, gente estupida.” It probably wasn’t the time or the place for my mom to explain to 4 year old me what race is, how it works and how shockingly someone of your own race can be prejudiced towards other minorities.  I was so confused that day because in my family we have a rainbow of skin tones and eye colors.  My mom is blonde with green eyes, one of my aunt’s features are so dark brown her nickname is “Caribe,” and I grew up calling Tommy Salah–a Muslim, Arabic kid, my cousin.  I knew he wasn’t Mexican but he spoke Spanish as fluently as anyone in my family.  So imagine my 4 year old confusion, because I knew you could be Mexican and your skin tone could be anywhere on the spectrum and I thought that fact applied to pretty much all people.  So you could be white but have brown skin and speak Spanish, etc.  I know it sounds stupid but I was 4!  Either way I didn’t realize the difference because in my family everyone was different and that was ok, that was my normal.

I knew I was different than my classmates when I started school in Indiana but again I didn’t necessarily see it as negative.  I vividly remember sharing our weekend stories on Mondays and I would talk about how I saw the majority of my extended family for a birthday party and my classmates would talk about how they saw their three cousins at Thanksgiving.  Honestly that made me feel bad for my classmates.  Every Sunday was a party for me growing up and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Still, I didn’t think I was THAT different I just felt like I was luckier than them to have such a big, close-knit family.  Imagine that I felt bad for my new, white friends because their families weren’t as big as mine.

I think the first time I realized that being Mexican wasn’t seen as wonderful by other people as it was by me when once I went out to eat with my parents and brother and the owner refused to serve us.  There wasn’t a “People of Color Aren’t Welcomed Here” sign, it was more of a “we are going to make you wait an hour and half for your food” refusal.  I still remember that day like it was yesterday.  It was a Thursday (my parent’s forever day off) and we had recently moved to Indiana.  Normally on Thursdays after my brother and I got home my parents would either treat us to going out to eat or we would order pizza at home.  Talking this over with my mom, brother and dad I was reminded that it was actually my dad’s birthday–fact checking is important!  So, my dad decided he wanted to try this restaurant called The Patio.  We got to the restaurant which was empty because they had just opened and were told that it would take a minute because they were just gearing up for dinner.  My dad said that was fine and he understood and we waited to be seated.  We waited for a while and eventually the restaurant was up and running and we were seated.  The server came around and within a few minutes we had all ordered.  Then we waited.  We waited about 20 minutes and nothing had been brought out except bread.  My dad flagged the server  and she came back out 10 minutes later with our drinks.  At this point the restaurant was pretty full with the dinner rush.  We were still waiting.  We waited more and my dad flagged down the server again and asked her if our appetizer was close to being ready, the server said it was on its way out.  10 minutes later my parents started to let us eat our second or third piece of bread because I was getting hangry and so was my brother.  People at the tables next to us were eating their soups, salads and appetizers.  My dad thought because he ordered his steak extra well done, as per usual, that this was why service was taking so long, so we just sat there longer.  My brother and I both started to get fidgety and my mom said we could drink our sodas instead of waiting for our food.  Waiting, waiting, rationing my sprite because there was no way my mom was letting me drink two sodas before my meal, and I noticed everyone around us was eating.  People who had sat down about 15 minutes after us and ordered after us were now well into their meals.   My dad for lack of a better phrase lost his shit in the most cool, calm and collected way possible.

Now coming from the perspective of an 8 year old I was starving and probably making it very well known that I was wasting away as the seconds went on, so I’m sure that didn’t help my dad’s obvious frustration.  When he asked the server for what felt like the 10th time where our food was I started to realize something wasn’t right.  First of all, I had been allowed to drink all of my soda before any of the food arrived and I didn’t get yelled at.  My mom let me put my head in her lap because I was so weak with hunger, and my dad didn’t tell me to sit up.  And now people around us were eating and my dad was obviously fuming.  About 15 minutes later my dad asked the server for the final time where our food was, and the rattled server ran to the kitchen and brought our food out.  My brother and dad had both ordered steaks, extra well done, and when the plates arrived the steaks were red, cool to the touch and there was blood all over the plates.  I remember this because I added insult to injury and said “Ew dad why does it have blood?!”  “Ew Oso your’s too?!”

*side note: As an adult I know NOW that extra well done steaks are egregious but stay with me here…*  Sorry Dad!

At this point my dad had that look on his face where we all knew he was pissed and he said, “Get up we’re leaving.”  Now 8 year old me is like, “Dad, settle down.  I’m starved let’s send these back, hang out, drink another soda (wink wink), let them fix the food and let’s eat.  Look at me I’m wasting away here!”  (I said that all in my head though, in reality I shot up like a missile and marched my happy ass to the door).  He then turns to the server and in my favorite sound, his heavy Mexican accent says, “We’ve been sitting here for an hour, I have two kids with me and we’ve waited for over an hour and this is what you give me?”  The server was apologetic but couldn’t formulate the reason why we had waited so long and our food was cooked wrong.  The manager and owner came out and started talking to my dad and I remember my dad telling them, “Do you think I can’t afford to eat here?  Do you think that we aren’t good enough to sit here and have these steaks?  This is bullshit my friends we are leaving.”

At this point it’s a scene because my dad isn’t being quiet we are getting up in a huff and the waiter is fumbling all over herself.  The manager and owner were trying to tell my dad to calm down–spoiler alert: telling him to calm down did not get him to calm down–my dad gives the guy his card for our food and says “I can afford to eat here even though I’m Mexican.”  The owner immediately says, “box up their food,” and my dad responds something to the effect of, I don’t want your food, my friend.  I just want you to know that I know and everyone here knows that you didn’t serve us because we are Mexican you obviously didn’t want us here but just know that even though I’m brown skinned with this heavy Mexican accent, I can afford to pay for this meal even if we aren’t going to eat it.  He paid for the meal and we walked out.

There was no, “Wait sir I’m so sorry,” or “It was a mistake in our kitchen,” or (insert your favorite excuse here).  There was no response from the rest of the patrons in the restaurant who should have been horrified that we had been siting there when they got there and somehow they were served first and they knew exactly why.  It was my very first experience (but not my last) of silent compliance.  I was 8.

The next thing I remember from that day is that it was the first time I realized I was different and that people didn’t always think that was as cool and unique as me.  We got in the car and little-million-questions-Melody asked “Daddy why wouldn’t they give us our food I’m SO hungry?”  My mom shot me the death glare that every kid knows, you know the one that makes you stop talking mid-word.  But, that’s the first time my dad explained to me that racism exists, that sometimes simply because you are Mexican some people won’t like you and will do mean things like make you wait extra long to give you food to try to get you to leave to show you aren’t welcomed there.  “Actions, Mija, actions always speak louder than words.”

I remember being shocked sitting in the backseat, like in actual 8 year old disbelief that this was a thing that was happening and that I had lived through because my only information about racism lead me to believe that it was over because the Civil Rights movement, duh.  My dad then had to explain to me that even though laws get passed it doesn’t necessarily mean that people change their opinions or beliefs.  He told me that we, a people of Mexican origin, were different and sometimes that fact alone will make people treat us differently and more poorly even when they don’t know anything about who we are.

I think we ended up eating at a Wendy’s that day and my dad went on to tell us stories about how he and my mom had been treated like this in the past when they first dated and even after they were married.  My mom is very light skinned, like I said, and is often mistaken for white and my dad’s skin tone is like a perfect cup of coffee with a hint of milk, year round.  He told us how people would get up from tables if they were seated next to them, how people would say  “Oh my God” when they walked into stores together, how they would get dirty looks on the regular if they were holding hands in public or how cops would stare at my mom as if to say “are you ok?” when they saw her with my dad.  All because of how they looked.  “Unfortunately,” he said “this is going to be something you guys are going to have to deal with too, like what just happened.”

I remember feeling like man we were alone at that restaurant, no one took our side.  Shit I remember questioning myself years later– was it really racism or just my dad’s temper?  I remember thinking if that was about racism someone would have said something, someone would have stood up for us because racism is wrong, right?  But have you seen what happened on United this past week?  They literally pulled a guy off a plane, leaving him bloody and distraught and all anyone did was gasp, take some cellphone videos then sit down in their seats and prepare for take off.  Silent compliance is a real thing and luckily it didn’t take me long to realize that, it was my very first real-life example of how people’s true colors come out when they’re placed in uncomfortable situations.  I was 8.

So, I guess that was my first time, at 8 years old.   The first time I realized I was Mexican and how not everyone always thought that was good.  The first time I understood what covert racism was.  The first time I realized that laws don’t change minds and beliefs.  The first time I acknowledged that racism didn’t always mean racial slurs and insults.  The first time I realized that even when something ridiculous and insulting is happening at a table next to you (or in the airplane seat next to you) the majority of people will choose silent compliance and their own comfort over a person of color’s fair treatment.  I was 8.

I am NOT for YOU

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve gotten a lot of mixed reviews.  I have had POC tell me they love what I’m doing, that I’m telling OUR stories and there are others who have had some not so nice things to say.  To them I just want to say that with exception to this post, THIS BLOG ISN’T FOR YOU-these stories, these experiences and this life I write about because I fucken live it, IS NOT FOR YOU.  It’s for POC of all genders and gender identities.  It’s for my friends and family who read these entries and say “shit I went through that too, I thought I was the only one.”  It’s for my nieces who will read these one day and be reminded they are not the only ones feeling out of place in an environment that wasn’t made for them and that there is a way to overcome those feelings of inadequacy if we stick together.  It’s for my parents who read this and are proud that their daughter isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  It’s for my mom who shares this on her Facebook and reminds everyone that her daughter is beautiful and brown with all those Mexican letters!  So I’m sorry non-POC this shit right heeeeerrrrreeeee?  It’s not for you.  (side note: if you don’t get this reference this is definitely NOT for you.)

It’s not for the guys who soon after I started this blog told me that I was “making up my struggle.”  It’s not for the guys that made fun of me at that bar and said the words “Brown Girl Talks” using air quotes and a whiny voice.  I’m not surprised you can’t relate to what I write about, even though it’s true, because you know what?  This is not for you.  It’s not for you to make the name of my blog into a joke and ask if I’m running on “Brown Girl Time.”  It’s not for you when you look down on me from your privilege pedestal and have the nerve to tell me that I’m exaggerating.  It’s not for you who think bringing up my experiences in a drunken conversation is OK.  It’s not for you non-POC who try to compare our experiences to show me it’s not as bad as I’m making it seem.  It’s not for you who think it’s ok to ask me if that’s what was said or if that’s just how I felt.  It’s not for you to read, judge and think you know enough about my WOC experiences to form an opinion one way or the other.  The only thing you accomplish when you guys do that is remind me that I have so much more story telling to do.

I remember coming home that night after the bar incident and feeling like these people I knew were laughing at me and making fun of this blog that I am so proud of.  I remember feeling those familiar fears of inadequacy when I left the bar in a huff because I was fighting back tears of embarrassment because at 29 I felt 12 years old all over again.  And, I remember thinking I’m embarrassing myself I’m taking it down tomorrow.   I didn’t take this down though and BGT lives on, because soon after I realized I don’t care what you have to say because this blog isn’t for you.

This place is not for the guy that told me I should go back to writing about how much I hate white people after commenting on a link he posted on social media.  It’s not for the people that call me a bigot because I call out people who don’t believe that under-represented populations deserve human rights.  It’s not for you who tells me you can point out how I’m  a reverse racist by looking at things that I’ve posted on my blog.  It’s not for people who tell me I should take the high road when someone shits on my gender or race because that’s what you did and look at you now.  This isn’t a I hate white people blog.  This is a crush the systematic oppression, discrimination and patriarchy blog and if you happen not to be an ally for those causes then maybe that’s why you’re feeling offended.  But guess what man?  Then this blog isn’t for you.

This isn’t a place for you to tell me how I should have dealt with my past experiences and why that would have been better in your eyes.  Maybe when you become a person of color you can have an  opinion about how to deal with being the victim of racial oppression but until then, this place is not for you.  Now at this point if you’re a non-POC (and you’re still reading) you might feel like “damn BGT what is for me?  You’re not being very inclusive in this post.”  To that I say, EVERYTHING is for you so please if you feel excluded right now, turn on your TV to any channel and see yourself and your ideas represented in any news or entertainment outlet because those are already all for you.  So unless you plan on being part of the solution on how to crush the above-mentioned systems, this blog is still NOT FOR YOU.

I am not here for your judgment and opinions on how I’ve dealt with situations and why your way might have been better.  I’m not here for what direction you think I need to take with this blog.  I am not here for a non-POC telling me how I should and shouldn’t be living my life as a WOC so if that’s what you’re here for, please hit the “x” at the top of your screen because then, this blog is not for you.  I’ll also direct you to read about your white privilege and how you all of those things are completely out of line but for now just remember, this is not for you.

This post and this blog however is for YOU.  You, the person that is still reading.  You, the person that read this and didn’t roll their eyes.  You, the one who read these posts and said to themselves “who the hell says that?” in response to these stories.  You, the non-POC who identifies and checks your privilege regularly and is part of this message of unity and diversity without belittlement, this IS for you. You’re an ally and for that I thank you because when I write, it’s for people like you too.  But the rest of you who are still reading to see how this ends and think I’m dramatic and should stop snapping my neck when I talk, this blog and this post is STILL NOT FOR YOU.

(shout out to the amazing writer and the founder of Latina Rebels, Prisa Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez  (Click here to check out her FB) who after one of these incidents I saw speak and she reminded me how important it was to tell my story, without her and my BGBF who was with me that night I would have stopped writing so to you both, this IS for you.)

Oh Privilege, My Privilege?

Let’s kick off March with a discussion about privilege-my privilege to be exact.

I am brown, I am a woman, I come from a working-class background, I have been discriminated based on my race and gender, but make no mistake, I am privileged.

As a child, I was never hungry except by choice, I always had clothes that fit me and were weather appropriate, my parents stayed on me to turn off lights but I was never afraid our utilities would be cut off because, I was privileged.  I had heat in the house, that wasn’t powered by our stove and my dad would let me turn it up if I didn’t feel like it was warm enough in my room.  I was privileged.  My parents were once undocumented but they were never removed or detained and were eventually able to find a path to citizenship.  I never had to worry that I would come home and they wouldn’t be there because they were in a detention facility.  I was privileged.

I lived in a home my entire life.  The first home I remember was on the southwest side of Chicago, my parents were married and they both worked.  I was privileged.  My parents spoke to us in Spanish and demanded we only respond in Spanish and because of that I can speak two languages.  I am privileged.  My dad fought to keep me out of ESL classes at CPS because I spoke English just as well as Spanish despite the color of my skin and didn’t give up until he won.  I was privileged.  My parents decided CPS wouldn’t work for their kids when the budget crisis of the 90’s made schools go to half days and eventually moved us to Northwest Indiana.  I was privileged.  My dad would leave work before I woke up for school and after we left for school my mom would meet him in Chicago where they run their business.  She would leave midway through the day to pick my brother and me up from school.  For a period of time after we moved, she would drive us back to the business in Chicago  because she wanted us to all be together and show us the importance of hard work.  I was privileged.  When they eventually started leaving us home alone my dad would come home after a 10 hour work day and 2 hour commute and help me with Math homework, I was privileged.

I ended up going to school where classes had no more than 25 kids in them and I could raise my hand with questions and stay after class for clarification or help.  I was privileged.  I had help with SATs, college applications and no one ever told me college wasn’t for me because of my background or the color of my skin.  I was privileged.  I got caught smoking weed after prom my junior year and on Monday my mom made me tell on myself to my principal.  He threatened to expel me for the remainder of the year but after my mom assured him I would be grounded all summer he decided I could stay.  I was privileged.  I was let off the hook with 6 months supervision and what felt like an endless summer of being grounded but I was never formally charged as a minor and my record was sealed.  I am privileged.

My parent’s business is on the Southside of Chicago in one of the neighborhoods with the highest crime rate but most of their threatening run-ins have been with cops, but everyone got to walk away from those run-ins, we were privileged.  My brother was only unjustifiably beat up by the cops once  and all he suffered was a black eye, swollen face, and the attempted stealing of money he was trying to deposit–miraculously it made its way back to my dad when the cops realized my dad wasn’t someone to be taken advantage of.  He was a citizen, a business owner, well-known in that community and someone with the means to hire an attorney.  We were privileged.  I never had to see my mom cry because she lost her kid or husband to gun violence to a trigger happy cop.  My dad was only arrested twice for no reason and I still get to hug him and talk to him about it.  We are privileged.

I had help during my undergraduate career.  I never had to work, I did because I chose to and was reminded that if it ever got to be too much I could quit because school came first, I was privileged.  I had parents who would drive to see me and take me out to dinner when I felt like I needed to see them or just wanted to hear the comforting way they spoke to me in Spanish and I had the ability to live off-campus because of their financial help.  I was privileged.

I am an attorney, I live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood, I have a partner that respects me and makes me feel safe, I make enough money so that I can live, pay my bills and even care for my dog.  I know how to access facts and research because I am privileged

Make no mistake, I am privileged but I am not better.  I am not better than my brother who didn’t finish college, than my cousins who decided not to go to college or my parents who barely finished high school.  I am not better than my cousins who weren’t born here but have been here their entire lives and work and go to school and still have no path to citizenship.  Who pay taxes and hope that everyday something new will come to light that will help make their lives here easier.  I am no better than my family and friends with a more colorful criminal past than mine simply because my teenage years involved me running through cornfields instead of city blocks.  I am no better than my parents who constantly misspell words simply because I don’t need to use spellcheck or a dictionary to know what a word means.  Without perfect grammar and spelling my parents started and successfully run a business till this day.  They didn’t need a professor to teach them about systematic racism or learn about the government.  They taught themselves how to research real facts and they know that there’s a bigger world out there than the one presented by Fox News.  So sure, I had the privilege that a lot of these things were available to me, but I am not better.   I am no better than anyone who is exactly like me but just didn’t have the luck of getting my privilege.

I don’t falsely believe that if you aren’t in a better position that it’s because you weren’t trying hard enough because for people of color “trying” alone just isn’t good enough.

My privilege–which unlike most non-POC’s–was based on pure luck.  Thanks to the way biology works I was born at the right place, to the right people, in the right family, on the right side of the US border.  I am privileged and I am lucky but I am not better.  I do not allow my privilege to blind me or fool me into thinking I earned this position in life all on my own.  Did I work for 7 years in college, law school and later to pass the bar on the first shot?  Sure.  But I wouldn’t have gotten there without my luck and my privilege.  I wouldn’t have made it through without the support system I was privileged to have.  Where I am now does not fool me into thinking that I alone put myself here.  I don’t falsely believe that if you aren’t in a better position that it’s because you weren’t trying hard enough because for people of color “trying” alone just isn’t good enough.  You need support you need help, you need a little bit of luck and yeah it helps if you have some privilege.

This privilege, this luck is why I write.  It’s why I post on social media and argue with strangers and family members alike.  It’s why I advocate, it’s why I donate, it’s why I challenge people’s discriminatory views and ideas and more importantly it’s why I fight.  It’s how I wish every POC and every non-POC would think.   Privilege is a dangerous thing if it’s not checked let alone acknowledged.  It can fool you into thinking that you’re a lot more deserving than you actually are.  I for one acknowledge my privilege and the leg up it’s given me in life. The limited amount of privilege I have been given I try use as a springboard to help others who maybe weren’t as lucky to have access to what I had.  If more people used their privilege–however large or small–to challenge oppressive institutions and thinking maybe they could challenge someone to think and hell maybe even believe differently than before.

“Privilege,” the word alone is enough to send a non-POC into a tail spin.  It’s a nasty word used by nasty women like me, with negative connotations.  What’s worse than the word though, is ignoring its existence and its possible application to YOU, yes even you POC-we can be privileged too!  And we can fall victim to the same tail spin as non-POCs do when we forget that it’s privilege that helped us get to where we are.  So this is what I’ve chosen to do with mine, acknowledge it, embrace it and use it as a springboard to help those that aren’t as lucky to have any or as much privilege as I do…  My question for you is, what do you do with yours?

Wedding Guesting While Brown

One important theme I’ve been hearing lately is “humanize.”  Whether it be from other writers, friends, colleagues, or a panel at the ACLU I’m hearing “humanize” your experience, your story, your struggle.  The more you humanize your story the less likely people are to accept laws, ideas, opinions, etc. to dehumanize, degrade or belittle you and people like you.  So a lot of this blog is stories about me and people like me to humanize us and our stories that may at times be unbelievable to those on the outside looking in.

After Barack Obama was elected there was a  lot of talk going around about how we lived in a post-racial America.  I could write and refer you to a ton of sources that can better explain how incorrect that idea was but that’s neither here nor there.  I bring this up because I really think it was the beginning of the political atmosphere that we live in today, where saying racist things-and not even trying to pass them off as a joke-is somehow OK now.

This story is a perfect example of the above and oddly enough friendship.  Way back when I met my Brown Girl Best Friend (BGBF) in Law School she had a friend who was not brown but we liked her anyway 😉  The three of us became relatively close, we hung out on the weekends and even studied for the bar together.  Turned out she and my best friend had some hometown ties so she came with other friends and for the most part most of them weren’t so bad.  To be honest they were from a completely different high school clique I would have ever hung out with but in adulthood I could handle their occasional camaraderie.

Honestly, I should have called my friendship with this girl a long time ago.  One night my BGBF, this girl and I went out to dinner.  We had a little too much to drink and started talking about politics.  There are some political issues that I can stretch my belief system enough to not hate the person after we are done talking about our respective “sides” but there are a few I do not budge on–the Right to Choose is one of my non-negotiables.  So we’re on this topic and this girl says (and I’m paraphrasing) I don’t think it’s fair that my taxes should pay for them (referring to inner city minorities) to get abortions, like after a certain amount we should force them to be sterilized.  Now I was heated at this point and I should have just gotten up and walked out but I didn’t I said something like sure I can see that point because “it’s your money” (UPDATE NO I FUCKEN CAN’T) but really we need to make birth control more accessible and sexual education better so that abortion isn’t the issue it’s become. There’s way more to this story but that’s the end of my aha moment where I should have realized that this was not someone I wanted to be friends with anymore.  The rest of this story isn’t my story to tell but if my BGBF ever wants to tell it BGT is here for it, honey! (insert shimmy)

Fast forward about three years later and this girl is getting married.  Like I said I didn’t cut off the friendship so we stayed friends-and avoided politics at all costs.  So she’s getting married I’m invited, my BGBF is invited and two of our other best friends are invited too.  As a quick background my BGBF and my friend 2/3 were my friends independently in law school and eventually they started dating and fell in love-I like to consider myself part of their relationship because besides my SO they are the only people I willingly share my burritos with, hence 2/3.  The 4th spot was a nice Michigan boy (NMB), also a great friend of ours in law school.  Those four people pretty much rounded out everyone I am thankful for meeting in law school and everyone I knew well at the wedding plus the bride and her husband.

This wedding takes place in a weird Red State in a weird Red City.  I stayed with my +2’s at my BGBF’s house and that’s what inspired My Best Friend. We got ready took the obligatory Prom pose photos and headed out.  If you’ve ever been to a wedding where you are part of a small group of invitees (i.e. not family or friends from childhood) you’re already feeling a little ehhh–what will the seating chart look like, when my +2’s are dancing to a slow song will they let me cut in the middle, etc. Anyways things were a little weird, I felt like my dress was a little too short maybe a little too tight, I wasn’t completely in love with my body or my hair so I had a lot of insecurities going in.  But like any good wedding guest, I drank and danced those away!  I danced with my BGBF and my 2/3 and I got a good laugh when NMB fell asleep in the men’s bathroom.

At the end of the night we were moving to an after party at some bar “downtown” which isn’t a real downtown but whatever.  So in this weird town 2/3 calls us a lyft or uber and it takes like 10 minutes for it to show up.  While we’re waiting outside for it, watching parents and sober drivers picking up guests 2/3 get’s a notification “you’re ride has started.”  Well this was a huge shock because we were all STANDING OUTSIDE and obviously not in the car.  So 2/3 calls the driver who answers and says something like “you’re in my car aren’t you?”

Turns out there was another group, two girls and guy that were in this car who had lied about being 2/3.  Luckily the driver was in this half circle driveway and she had to stop where we were before she could exit so she pulls up and tells the group that’s currently in her car to get out. 2/3 and my BGBF, NMB and his gf go to the back seat and solo dolo BGT heads to the front seat.  Everyone is confused and the girls in the car slowly start to get out of the backseat after they realize they’re in the wrong car but Taylor (that’s his real name) is not getting out.  He’s obviously drunk and disheveled and not really understanding what’s going on.  So I open the front passenger door and I’m like “Hi you’re in the wrong car can you please get out?”

Taylor is basically pretending to not hear me, is refusing to get out.  He keeps saying this is his car he’s not getting out so I’m just responding ok this isn’t your car though please get out-progressively sassier.  At this point I’m just standing by the door waiting for him to exit.  Finally after his chickies are yelling “Taylor get out! Taylor come on!” he starts getting out.  I will say I kept saying “ok well that’s great but you need to get out now,” over and over and over and over  in response to whatever he was saying until he finally got out.

So, he finally gets out wobbles, tries to balance and starts saying whatever bullshit he was saying.  He’s yelling at me and I’m responding something along the lines of “Ok that’s great please move,” because I’m trying to get into the car.  Slowly he’s wobbling closer to me and at one point I’m looking at this guy eye to eye, he’s not very tall, I’m much more sober than he is, I still have my heels and this too short dress on but my mind immediately goes into defense mode because he’s so close to me that at one point I thought he was going to become violent so I’m prepared to kick him in the balls should he lunge at me.

Then while standing about two inches from my face says “Shut the fuck up you fucken Mexican!”  This is when the record skipped.  First of all I thought he was for sure going to go the “Go back to Mexico you fucken Mexican!” route, which has also been shouted at me, but no… I respond “Oh wow fucken shocker you’re racist!” and in the moment I say that I realize that my forever 2/3 has somehow magically appeared standing between myself and Taylor and 2/3 and NMB are now physically moving him away from me. In this moment all of that weird stuff you feel when you go to a  wedding alone with a bunch of people you don’t know very well and kind of feel like you’re on your own fell to the waist side.  2/3 said somethings I can’t really remember but I think they included something about smashing Taylor’s face in.  They pushed him out of the way as he was screaming profanities, 2/3 put me in the car and we drove away.

NMB and his girlfriend decided to stay in the ruckus and so it was just my BGBF, 2/3 and the driver who was having the weirdest night of her damn life.  Turns out this was her first night driving and probably her last!  She witnessed the entire ordeal and began to apologize to me.  “I’m so sorry, this isn’t how we are here, I swear.”  “I feel so terrible about this.” We got dropped off, told the story to a few of BGBF’s friends who met us up, they all sincerely apologized-although it wasn’t their fault-and we just tired to let it go and have a good time.  We never met back up with the wedding party, thank god, because I was mortified.

Through the remainder of the night I just remember thinking-thank God that we weren’t going to see any of them because I was so embarrassed over what happened.  Somehow while a large group of people were waiting outside this dude felt like it was OK to 1. shout at me 2. degrade me using my ethnicity as an insult.  Like I’m not embarrassed of being Mexican, no, I’m proud of it I could write a book about all of the reasons why.  But this was a get out of my face, shut up, who do you think you are talking to, you Fucken Mexican.  And everyone there knew it was an insult and he meant it as such although it wasn’t to me.  Because my ethnicity isn’t an insult and it shouldn’t be used as one, but somehow everyone understood it to be just that.  I think what made me see red was not just that he used it as such but that everyone else there understood it as an insult too.  So of course following this I didn’t want to see any of them because I felt like I would have 1. died from embarrassment or 2. fought everybody in the bar while shouting “Being Mexican isn’t an insult!”

A part of me felt really bad that this would get back to my friend and she would feel so badly that this happened at HER wedding.  Embarrassed for herself and her friend that said it-maybe in a moment of drunkenness.  Embarrassed for me being the victim of that stupidity in an environment full of strangers.  By the end of the night I wished that we could all forget it happened-even her-and that we would never talk about it again.  Of course I didn’t forget and no one else did either and we told my BGBF’s sister and the next day she was ready to drive over to Taylor’s house and punch him in the face, she had already drafted a number of messages she was ready to send him and was ready to go to bat for me because she’s fucken tough (again see My Best Friend).  Eventually I flew back to the windy city and was thankful my friend was on a two week honeymoon so I didn’t have to see her for a while and relive this.

Honestly I was expecting her to reach out to me after she got back, “Hey I heard what happened, I’m so terribly sorry,” “My husband’s friends really laid into him after that and so did I…” something like that.  I didn’t see her or talk to her again until my BGBF and 2/3 moved back to the City and we all got together for a welcome back party at her house.  I was nervous hoping that this wouldn’t be brought up, this party was basically everyone who was at her wedding and saw what happened, and I just wanted to proceed as normal.

For the most part it did until after a few drinks some of her girlfriends were saying how they hadn’t seen me since the wedding and asking how I’d been.  I was working crazy hours and my BGBF was living in DC so I wasn’t doing a lot of socializing in general but I definitely wasn’t avoiding socializing.  To that comment, my friend responded “Well you know I just stopped inviting you places because you never come out.” This is the first time we had seen each other since her wedding and this is the bullshit she said to me.  I responded with something like yeah I’ve been really busy and kept eating my burrito-yeah I’m the girl that brought a burrito to the party.  But seriously THE FUCKEN NERVE.  This girl really thought that she was the one that stopped talking to me.  She thought that she said ok I’m done with this friendship.  Newsflash: I stopped talking to you because your friend is a racist piece of shit and you did and said nothing to defend me.  Per usual someone in a position of privilege completely ignored the situation then flipped the problem so it was a me at fault not her or her friend, typical.  I can’t say I was surprised…believe them the first time they show you who they are, right?…

There’s a lot of turns I could have taken with this post and I didn’t know where it was going to go until I started writing.  Like fuck these small town, small mind assholes, am I right?!  Let’s burn that town to the ground!!  But my life’s theme is fuck this shit/scorched earth policy, so  after a few years of reflecting on this I decided not this time.  I’m choosing optimism because reliving and writing about this made me feel better not worse.

As disheartening as that entire experience was-I saw someone who I thought was my friend’s true colors-I love what it gave me.  It showed me I had the strength to walk away from a friendship that no longer served me and how that feels when you’re in that situation.  It reminded me how vital it is to not compromise your integrity and who you are because you think you need friends in a new place.  And it showed me that if you put people in their comfort zone their true feelings come out, ask Taylor.

More importantly though, it gave me this beautiful reminder of how even in a sea of terrible-I wasn’t alone and not everyone there was awful.  My forever 2/3 stepped up without me having to ask-maybe my BGBF asked him to and I didn’t realize but he didn’t have to.  His actions spoke volumes to me and his future fiancé.  I thank him every time we sit down for a meal together by letting him eat off my plate before I’ve decided I’m done, a privilege that I normally reserve for my significant other.  If you haven’t noticed food is a big deal for Brown people and sharing your food is a big deal.  I hope this realization serves as YOUR reminder that not every white guy is awful and doesn’t understand, some are on their way to being woke and if you’re lucky-like me you might just befriend one.