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The Real Truth About Loss

Let me preface this, I don’t know the WHOLE truth about loss.  Frankly, I’m not even entirely sure what MY truth about loss is but I’ve been spending the last few weeks really trying to figure it out.  On June 21st, 2019, I lost something that was so much a part of me that I’m pretty sure a part of me left with him and since then, time has flown by but seemingly stood still. I’ve drafted so many different explanations and justifications for what I was feeling and how I was coping so that my friends, my family and everyone else could understand me.  But, despite all these drafts, I haven’t finished any of them. The thing is I haven’t been able to get to the ending.  I haven’t been able to write the conclusion, to tie it up in a nice little bow, and although I’ve heard it doesn’t always have to end that way, I can’t figure out how to stop writing without it.

Let me start at the beginning and throw it back to about eleven years ago.  I was a few weeks from 21, living on the 4th floor of a Chicago flat with three of my college girlfriends and I decided I was getting a dog.  Our lease specifically said “no dogs,” but I got him anyway. See, from the moment I saw the goofy brindle puppy that wasn’t quick enough to keep up with his brothers and sisters, tripping over his own paws and wanted nothing to do with me, I was hooked. What can I say? Me gusta la mala vida.  I knew the clumsy, not into people, would rather be alone, pup was made for me. And if there’s one thing I know the real truth aboutit’s that he was in fact made for me, by science, evolution or whatever God you believe in, me and him were meant to find each other.

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Through undergrad, law school, the bar and my first years of practice he remained my loyal constant.  One house and 5 apartments later, he didn’t care if it was acres of grass to run freely or an apartment with no air conditioning, he was with me as long as I was with him. 

He listened faithfully to my early 20’s drama and my late 20’s fears and constant second-guessing.  He never walked away or chose someone else and always met me excitedly when I got home.  I had no idea what I was doing and made most things up as we went, but he trusted I’d figure it out–and if he ever doubted me, he never let on.

I taught him to nap like your life depended on it, and he reminded me to get up, get some fresh air and have a meal and some water. He inherited my hate for the cold and the rain and refused to leave the house if there was even a threat of precipitation, I admired his commitment. He taught me patience and the importance of finding the ray of sun shining through the curtains even on the rainiest of days, and I tried to remember to embrace that point of view. I showed him the importance of a warm bath and a good towel dry, he made the shower his favorite spot when he needed some alone time. I moved, he came with. I was scared to jump, he reminded me I wasn’t alone. I was nervous about moving to a new neighborhood–5 different times–he never let me walk alone. I told him all of my secrets and he saw all of my mistakes and short-comings and chose me anyway. I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend would fit in with our life, he showed me you’re never too old to make a new friend. I was always afraid I’d end up alone, he stayed with me until he made sure I wasn’t. He got sick and we tried to get him better, really hard. He showed me he couldn’t do it and about 2 months ago, we all said goodbye.

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I don’t know the truth about loss, but I know that losing him was the rock bottom of a place I haven’t seen in a while.  I’m not sure what your truth about loss is, but I know mine makes everything a shade of grey, sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and feels numb and outrageously heavy all at the same time.  I know mine makes it hard for me to feel anything that doesn’t drag me down and I know that I’ve never gotten through mine without my buddy by my side.

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I know that this time it feels heavier, darker and more hopeless than before.  I know that it feels scary and unsteady and makes me question every thought and decision.  I know that it feels terribly lonely when I open the door, walk to my bed or remember there’s no one at home waiting for a walk.  I know that I work more, drag out my days and avoid being home alone as much as I can. I know I feel cheated and lonely that I can’t share my day with my friend. I know that no matter how many examples I write or stories I tell, that no one will ever understand the emptiness I feel.  I don’t know about you, but the truth about my loss is that it’s still very much here.

I know he was more than a companion or a friend.  I know he was more than a pet and I his owner. I know now that I don’t have to justify this undefinable connection to anyone.  I know the truth about him was, that I’d do it all over again. I know that he was the only decision 21 year-old me made that 31 year-old me doesn’t regret.

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I don’t know the truth about your loss, and I guess I don’t know the real truth about loss either. I know my truth. I know it’s heavy and dark and sometimes feels like quicksand if I let myself be still for too long.  I know I’ll always expect to hear your paws when I open a door. I’ll expect to see you staring back at me from across the room. I’ll always expect to see you sitting patiently waiting for your food. I’ll always anticipate you jumping up between my legs to find the perfect spot like you were still 10 weeks old.  I know I’ll miss the one that taught me to be selfless, the one who taught me what true, unconditional love was, the one that always found the ray of sunshine peaking through everyday.

As you can see, I have been getting to know the truth about my loss pretty well.  I know it was hidden in 70 pounds of brindle fur, a line of chalk on the wet pavement that was his forehead to his nose, a hearty dash of patience for kids, a sprinkle of protectiveness, a healthy scoop of love of a warm shower and equal amounts addiction to the filet your dog dad would make for dinner.  My loss manifested when the one who always followed me to bed, never walked too far ahead and never missed a Saturday Snooze suddenly up and left.  

I’m not sure what the truth about loss is.  I don’t know how long it lasts, if it gets better, easier, more forgettable, less painful, brighter, less numb, more open, lighter, less suffocating, more smiley, and less randomly cry-y. I know it’s made me question a million times over if I made the right decision at the right time. I know I’m not sure if you appreciated or hated the effort in the end and I can’t stop asking myself if you heard all of the things I was thanking you for in my head when I held you as you passed. 

Truthfully, I only know things about MY loss. The truth is I’m not sure if I’ll ever find the place to put the perfectly tied bow to wrap up your story. But I think that’s fitting, because your life will live on in me because without you, I wouldn’t be 31 year-old me.  As I told you for 11 years, “If there’s a life after this one, I promise I will find you there too,” because the truth about my loss is that my heart will always look for you and hanging on to that piece of hope is going to have to be the perfectly, tied bow.   

My Dad is NOT a Feminist

My dad is not a feminist. His sole use for a stove is to light his cigarettes.  He only uses our microwave to warm his coffee.  Other than that, unless it involves fixing them, he wants nothing to do with either.  He recently learned how to use the coffeemaker but regularly forgets to change the grounds when making a new pot.  He calls grown women “girl” in English but “señorita” in Spanish—it’s probably a translation thing, but the truth is my dad could care less about the difference because in his own words, he is not a feminist.  He once told me I wasn’t ready to get married because I made a pasta dish that tasted awful. He ate it anyway, but see, he’s not a feminist.  He won’t eat his meals unless it’s served for him, warm not hot, with a napkin, a drink, room for his toothpick and the necessary utensils. He won’t make himself a sandwich and doesn’t do laundry because, well, he is not a feminist.  When my mom and I went to Europe for two weeks he went to my Grandma’s house every evening for dinner and had my uncle order him lunch every day at work—he did make his own coffee—but don’t be confused, he’s still not a feminist.

My first job was as his assistant mechanic, handing him tools and letting the air out of tires. My wage was 2 dollars a day and lunch.  He taught me how to hold the flashlight at the perfect angle, the name of all the tools—in Spanish—and how to use them.  He let me get dirty at the shop and pretended I was helping instead of getting in the way.  All through my childhood he wouldn’t leave my brother and I home alone or with a baby sitter on Saturdays.  He made us go to work with him and my mom so we could at the very least be together in the same place for a full day.  But way back then even, he was never a feminist.

He pulled me out of ESL classes and made me bring my math book home on Fridays so he could teach me the lessons ahead of time. See according to him, math was important especially for a girl, but he wouldn’t say this kind of thinking was feminist. I hope he never sees me try to split a bill without a calculator though, he’d shake his head at all the house he spent with me at our kitchen table 😉 He never insisted I learned to clean the house with my mom and grandma’s attention to detail. He never made me stay in the kitchen and learn my mom’s secret to making the perfect rice and salsa. He never kicked me out of the living room when he was watching sports to help the ladies in the kitchen, but don’t be confused, this does not make him a feminist.

He pushed me to focus solely on school and to learn as much as possible from elementary through the bar exam.  He never suggested I trade my books for pans and a broom. Although after some failed dinner attempts and a college and law school diet made up of 75% pepperoni pizzas, he probably wishes he had—however, he would never call his failure to domesticate me, feminism.

He taught me how to change a tire, check my air pressure and never miss an oil change. He showed me how to find a stud, use a drill, patch drywall, build furniture without directions and how to go back and fix it when I failed without them…He taught me calluses from work are a good thing and I always feel a little proud whenever I get one on my hand. But…I still wouldn’t say he’s a feminist.

He made me watch the news every night at 9 p.m. to discuss politics and societal issues.  He could never understand how women–who make up half of this country’s population–couldn’t seem to unite and stop voting against their own interests since feminism exists.  He always said and still says, “how come women don’t realize how powerful they really are?” but he’d never call that kind of ideology feminist.

In high school we had one of many serious conversations telling me he’d rather take me himself to get an abortion than see me give up on my future aspirations.  He constantly reminded me how much bigger and better life could be compared to the life I was living then–which was pretty great on its own–and if I just gave myself an opportunity I could go anywhere.  He told me how birth control was necessary and effective, but how pregnancy was the least scariest risk of having unprotected sex.  He assured me that an abortion is not killing a baby or a sin against “God,” that my future and my life were the most important things to consider.  He made it clear, if I ever had to make that decision but didn’t want to tell him that that was ok too, but that he’d always support my, and every woman’s right to choose. He never could quite understand how men thought they could have any say in legislation over a woman’s body. He finds it laughable when lawmakers insist sex is only for procreation and insists that type of thinking might be part of their problem. But even with all of that, I still don’t think he’d call himself a feminist.

He taught me to treat everyone the same from a janitor to a celebrity regardless of race, gender or orientation, that alone though, doesn’t  make him a feminist. He explained to me that turning to crime may not always be right but there’s a disproportionate lack of opportunity that plagues black and brown communities, and how that was unfair.  So, I should never judge or feel superior because I didn’t have to take that path, but he has never considered himself a feminist or even an activist.

He showed me how to always be aware of your surroundings and keep a car length distance from the car in front of you in case something pops off you always have enough room to make a move. He drilled into my brother and I to keep our hands on the steering wheel if you get pulled over and don’t move without permission. See he always understood we aren’t perceived the same as other people who get pulled over.  But I think he would refer to this as survivalism as oppose to anything else.

When my long-term relationship began to fall apart he mostly kept silent.  Then one dark night, he held my face and said “this is not love and ending it is not failure, it’s a small price to pay in the long run you’ll see.” And with those words I called off my engagement for good, and he never said a negative thing about it.  He probably wouldn’t say he’s a feminist because of that though. He and my mom helped me and Chopper move and furnish the solo apartments that followed and assured me that my new life would be just as happy as the one I left behind, even when it didn’t always look that way.  That was no surprise because my mom is indeed a feminist.  But, he told me time and time again, that my value wasn’t dictated by a relationship or finding “the one,” but I bet he doesn’t consider that sort of thinking feminist.

He reminded me that anyone can get married but not everyone can finish college and law school and pass the bar and find a job…and raise a 75+ pound pitbull with a bad-itude.  He repeated to me that my value is calculated by who I am not who I’m with.  He never let me forget that my happiness was dependent on me alone.   He never urged me to marry young (or at all), have children or become more domestic.  He always encouraged me to take some time to enjoy my life.  He always reminded me that time will pass no matter what we do, but enjoying it is what’s important.  And see, here is the thing, he taught my brother all those same exact things too.

So yes, my old school, Mexican-accent, toothpick having, atheist believing, refusing to learn how to cook or wash clothes Dad is absolutely without a doubt, not a feminist, and truthfully, at times, he doesn’t even fully grasp racism or sexism.  But somewhere in his upbringing he decided to not be a misogynist or a sexist either and because of that he and his wifey/my mom made ME A FEMINIST.  

I guess that just goes to show, you don’t have to be a part of the movement to respect it and you certainly don’t have to commit to oppose it simply because you don’t understand it. You can fall sweetly in the middle and still support its cause and goals simply by committing to be a good person.

Note: I wrote letters to my mom and dad as a kid when I felt like I couldn’t express what I wanted to say in person, as I got older when my dad could tell I couldn’t get my words out, he’d ask me to write it to him. It’s been a while since I wrote to him, but I let him read this piece before I posted it–I’ve had some issues in the past in posting things (my thoughts or experiences) without getting the other person(s)’ involved permission–so, I asked if it was OK for me to share. His response was a simple string of texts from my mom’s phone, “of course you can post it, it’s your truth and you always write beautiful words to me, you don’t have to ask for my permission to write about what you feel, by the way this is ur dad.”

I am the Sun

Every year I get the Birthday Blues.  It never fails.  I know some people get so hype and litty every year when their birthdays roll around, but me I get the birthday blues.  It’s a combination of anxiety and nervousness of having everyone LOOKING at me and engaging with me that gives me a dread that I can only describe as such, the ol’ Birthday Blues.

Over the years I think I narrowed the reason why birthdays get me down: a new year for me always marks looking back on the year before and constantly comparing myself to, myself.  What did I do? What did I accomplish?  Am I where I wanted to be? Did I achieve the goals I set out for myself last year?  Normally, the answer is no or not quite.  And every year, like clock work, I have to re-set those goals, re-evaluate why I didn’t get to where I wanted to be and come face to face with some failures–eesh even writing that sentence gave me anxiety…  Then, just like I always do, I set some new goals, re-set some old ones and try to remind myself I’m not a complete waste of space for having to re-set the old ones I didn’t accomplish.  A constant comparison with myself and everyone else who has ever turned my age before me.  So yeah, I guess it’s safe to say I get the Birthday Blues.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays, my best friends’, my family members’, my partner’s-I love to celebrate them.  Even preparing for mine is fun it’s just THAT day, the day of reckoning or celebration (as some may call it), the day of the party, the actual day when all the attention is on me, is overwhelming.  But, this year I didn’t quite get the same feelings of dread.  Maybe because I was too busy doing 1 million other things, but I didn’t feel that same “oh god I have to sit down and look at all my failures again,” feeling and for once the only thing that gave me anxiety was that I was going to be 31 and how I hoped that no one would make the restaurant staff sing to me at dinner this week…

I realized that all these years I’ve been constantly competing with myself.  Every year I set the bar higher, do more, do better, be more efficient, work, volunteer, write, research, find my passion, pay off my debts, let go of the weights in my past, love harder, be kinder but remain steadfast.  It’s like me and my goals are flying around in space rotating around the perfect “BGT” trying to get sucked into her gravitational pull to find some kind of order…  So, naturally every year, I let myself down when I don’t achieve all of these crazy benchmarks, and me and my crazy goals are spiraling out of control in space, but not this year.

See this year, I realized I’m the Sun.  Me, this BGT is the Sun, and I’m not waiting to join anyone’s imaginary gravitational pull, because it turns out, I am the pull.  This year I am praising myself for every single accomplishment and failure and I’m equally proud of them all.  I am happy to be in love with someone who only expects love in return.  I am lucky to have dog that’s 11 but is confused for 5.  I am privileged to have a family that loves and supports me despite my flaws.  This year, I am walking into 31 leaving behind a past that I thought would have it’s grasp on me forever.  I feel lighter than any goal weight I’ve ever set for myself.  I found my voice and wasn’t embarrassed to share it with anyone and everyone who was willing (or not) to listen or read it.  I am working everyday to find my passion and enjoying some laughs along the way.  I am using new found time at home to write and research more and I’ve never felt more invigorated to work towards change of all kinds.  Every day, I’m trying really, really hard to be kinder while maintaining my passion and steadfastness and hey I have a little less debt than last year too…  I guess that’s what happens when you turn 31 and realize you are the Sun. 🙂

I’M HERE

Sometimes when I’m really angry I get on social media and I wait… I wait to see the racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and all of the other “issms” and phobias to rear their heads. I simply wait. I wait for the comments to pop up on my feed and read what the kid-now adult-I went to high school with, and his sister, and their Dad’s cousin’s to comment on a news article that the white guy who killed his pregnant wife and two kids is not as abhorrent of a crime because he was born here. Going on about how unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about that situation, but how THAT is very different from the undocumented immigrant who confessed to killing the white girl in Iowa. It’s SO DIFFERENT because he was here “illegally” and IF he hadn’t been here “ILLEGALLY” then that murder would not have happened.  Because for some reason after statistics and logic tell us that white men are over-represented as perpetrators of violent crime, when a brown, black or undocumented person commits it, well then it could have been avoided and so they shouldn’t be here and we should get back to building that wall or passing that ban… So, sometimes I get on social media when I’m angry…and I wait.  (spoiler alert: yes guys the white guy did it…again).

On other days, I don’t.  On these days when the posts are too much and there are too many crying kids in prison-like facilities, confused at the language they’re hearing and the strangers they’re around, and the dirt that’s building on their bodies-on those days, I make myself stay off social media.  Because sometimes seeing the capsized, makeshift rafts that refugees used as boats to cross oceans with their children risking drowning to escape their horrors is too much. Because sometimes, seeing babies drowned on white beaches and then seeing Tim from Indiana’s comment underneath, “they believed in sharia law, is that what you want in your country?!” “They should blame their parents for making that decision,” “We need to take care of our country first!” is just too much. So I stay off social media and, if I stayed off the entire day, I gift myself a bowl of flaming hots (and lemon), and I do it in the name of self-care. My red stained fingers a badge of honor known only to me.  A secret “Good Job, Melody!” to myself.  In all sincerity, I eat flaming hots after I lose my shit on a person like Tim too–it’s still self-care.

But then there are days. Days where all of the posts push me into a daydream of being on CNN and having the producers afraid to take their fingers off the censor button because regardless of how smart and articulate I can be, I’m still this brown girl and I can best express myself when I don’t have to “watch my French” or keep my neck from snaking around. I imagine being split screen alongside ANY conservative commentator and reminding them exactly why what I come from made America great way before it was an acronym on a poorly made hat. And sometimes, when I’m feeling really racy I imagine it’s Tami “that’s not my name” Lahren.  Those are the days I fight with the devil on my shoulder until I shut my eyes for the night to stay the fuck off social media.

Then there are those days, those days when my friend’s lists decrease and my family one too because you decided to comment that “racism isn’t real” and “they should just listen to the police!” and “If women want to be safe then they need to be smarter and not drink or run or walk to their cars alone.” Those are the days where you might catch me on my social media tip and you might flip positions too.

You might decide it was too much and block the thread. You might block my posts. You might even click the unfriend or unfollow button, maybe even the one in real life too. But I’ll still be on my social media tip. I’ll still be in restaurants hoping someone’s friend doesn’t make a racist comment at dinner and I have to spend my two free hours before bed reminding him that I am THAT kind of Mexican and that Black Lives do in fact Matter.

I’ll still be here denouncing people and ideas when I see or hear ignorance in real life or on social media.  I’ll still be challenging, reading, learning, and trying to be a better version of who I was before. I’ll still be pushing, donating, volunteering, and supporting men, women and non-binaries that are under-represented because I AM HERE.

So be annoyed, be an unfriend but I’m still here. I’m the gnat you can’t kill screaming, “Women get paid at most 75% of what men get paid and women have to pay more for things they need like tampons!” So the next time you see “click here to see 274 comments” with my name all over it, don’t scroll past it. Read it. Don’t hit me with the “I didn’t post this to argue,” because as long as I’m here, I’m doing my due diligence the best way I know how and a lot of the times that’ll be right here or on all different types of social media

So, appreciate the fire and challenge yourself to understand the movement. In the meantime I’LL BE RIGHT HERE. 

Immigrants as…Humans?

I sit in court a lot, most mornings that’s where you’ll find me, sitting in a courtroom.  While I wait, I online shop, check the news, Facebook stalk people who were mean to me growing up–realize they were actually all terrible even at 8 years old because as adults they all voted for trump.  It’s all a distraction.  It distracts me from focusing on the fact I have to get up there and be better.  Just in general I have to be better.  Better prepared than the other attorney, know more facts than the other attorney, write down the new deadlines faster than the other attorney, etc.  Why?  Because sometimes judges think I’m an interpreter and ask me to interpret for pro se parties in a courtroom full of my colleagues.  I do it willingly, every time  The people I interpret for remind me of my parents, my aunts, uncles, and my friends’ parents.  The ones that know more English than they think but get really nervous when they’re put on the spot.  The ones who want to make sure they don’t miss one word in a legal proceeding because it could mean the difference between OK and oh fuck.  They trust me, I’m brown like them, my Mexican accent is comforting and they see their kids in me, they see what the kid of an immigrant can be.

My parents are immigrants, they came here undocumented and remained so for a really long time.  So long so, that I remember going to their citizenship ceremony and reciting the pledge of allegiance with a picture of Bill Clinton hanging on the wall.  I had to miss school that day and I went back thinking I too had become an American Citizen at that ceremony.  I proceeded to tell all my 2nd grade classmates how cool it was.  Some of them started to call me an illegal alien.  At parent-teacher conferences my teachers asked my mom if she was lying about my social security number when she enrolled me.  My mom had to explain to them that I was a citizen, but the ceremony was so important to them that they brought us with to witness it–also they couldn’t be sure they would be home before we got home from school.  As an adult I know now that schools are not allowed to ask a child’s immigration status.  My parents, although now documented, are still immigrants.  But they’re parents and they’re people and they’re human.

They aren’t doctors or biochemical engineers who are working on the most forefront research on the cure for pediatric cancer, they’re just humans.  They’re two people who have run a small business for over 30 years.  But they still deserve to be treated as humans.  We all do.  Not every immigrant, documented or undocumented, is going to be a doctor or a the next Harriet Tubman but they still deserve human rights.    My parents are luckier than most, they get to point to my brother and me, and our accomplishments to bolster the undocumented immigrant narrative, like, “look at what we can contribute to society if you let us in!”  But they shouldn’t have to,  sometimes just existing in this country as an immigrant is hard enough.

A lot of people think that immigrants come to this country to take advantage of what the US has to offer.  To that I say, “TRUE TRUE.”  BUT there are two things you’re missing: 1. people wouldn’t leave their countries if the US didn’t go in and colonize the fuck out of places, 2. these people leave EVERYTHING behind, EVERYTHING.  My parents told me, like most other undocumented immigrants I know, that when they came here they left with the clothes on their back….THAT’S IT.  The clothes on their backs.  They left family, homes, jobs, security, etc., because there was more opportunity here.  Or at least the prospect for more opportunities.  Whatever it was, the idea that they could improve themselves was worth leaving behind their entire lives.  Not because they wanted to but because they HAD to.  I don’t think I have to go into the extensive history of the United States and its colonization of  Mexico–Hi Texas!–or the entire maquiladora systems they set up in countries all around the world but long story short, the opportunities aren’t there.  And NO it’s not all the US’s fault, these countries’ governments have played a role, but when your fighting for survival, everyone is fighting for survival and there wouldn’t be a fight for survival if there wasn’t a trigger, *cough cough* US colonization.

But immigrants come here and for the most part they just try to exist.  They work, they pay taxes, they are friends, neighbors, property owners, fathers, mothers, children AND SOMETIMES they produce children or they themselves are impeccably, outstandingly smart and accomplished and are about to change the world.  But mostly, they just try to exist, like you and me.  And I think it’s time to stop seeing immigrants as worthy because they are doctors or engineers or overly accomplished in any other area.  Immigrants are worthy just because they exist here.  Period.

I don’t know one person who has or had the courage to get up and leave their entire life behind to take a chance in a country that has a force whose sole purpose is to remove them from it.  I lied.  I do know people like that, they’re all immigrants, they all came here undocumented and they’re all here EXISTING.  And they are just as worthy of a reason to reform this broken system as Malala, Justino Mora of Undocumedia , and every immigrant engineer and doctor whose story  I see on my Facebook feed.

So I’m done.  I’m done with having to push the stories of the top 1% of undocumented immigrants to convince people that fixing this system is necessary.  From now on, I’m pushing the majority.  The men and women, or however they identify, that are working in the back of the restaurant, cleaning our homes, fixing our shit, working tirelessly to put their kids through school all while not having seen their parents since they left their home countries.  Those are the stories I’m pushing, because that is worthy that is necessary.

I never asked my parents what their dreams were when they were kids but they always told me the only thing they ever wanted was for me to have more than them, to have it easier than them.  I’ll always remember my dad telling me, when he grew up all he wanted was a house with walls and a real floor.  His favorite thing about our house is our hardwood floors, he always told me he dreamed to have the house he lives in now, to him that is a mansion compared to where he came from.  He just hoped that he was able to put me in a position where one day I could have better, that I could have more.  And every immigrant parent I’ve ever met, from doctors to service workers, their goals are the same: to give their children more opportunity than they had.  And that, that makes them worthy.

So the next time you’re thinking about whether the Democrats should let the government shut down because the Republicans refuse to pass a clean DREAM Act or reform this broken immigration system, think of these immigrants.  They have the same goals as you.  The have the same aspirations for the future as you.  They are just as worthy, as you.

 

Brown Girl Talks Meets Bourbon N Browntown

I spend a lot of time on social media sometimes silently but mostly vocally judging people’s opinions on certain human rights topics.  Sometimes though, my social media stalking leads me to discovering new forms of resistance that are happening right in front of me.  This time in particular, my gym life stalking lead me to Caullen Hudson’s Instagram and podcast Bourbon N Browntown that he hosts with his roommate and friend, David Moran.

I causally and creepily slid into Caullen’s DM’s and shot my shot and asked him and David to come have a Brown Girl talk. Luckily for me, they didn’t think I was a major creep and said yes!  Below is what transpired after 5 people of different shades of Brown and religious affiliations chatted over a bottle of tequila and homemade guacamole.

Obviously David and Caullen are doing great things and I am so grateful to have been able to pick their brains a little.  Check out SoapBox PO here!  You can also catch their podcast on iTunes or their website!

Tweet Caullen here!   Caullen’s Instagram!

Tweet David here!     David’s Instagram!

SoapBoxPO Instagram!

In a Sea of Attorneys I Present to you: Sharon Fairley

As you may have heard by now, Lisa Madigan, current Illinois Attorney General, will NOT be running for her fifth term.  What does this mean?  Well to a lot of people it means a lot of different things but to me, it means that there’s going to be seat open come November 2018 that MUST be filed with a competent, educated and experienced attorney….AND if that person just so happens to be a strong, independent woman of color?!  Well that’s just icing on the cake.

I ran into Sharon (we’re cool like that now) at the American Constitutional Society panel on Race and Bigotry I was on about a month ago.  She introduced herself to me and showed genuine interest in why I was there–as a blogger not an attorney.  She asked me for a card (which I didn’t have because I am NOBODY) and said she was interested in doing something together.  My BGBF, who was there with me standing in for my mom, and I just laughed because we seriously thought she was just campaigning.  How sweet but ya right.  Low and behold I sent her an email a few days later–shot my shot if you will–and she responded!  She had her campaign manager, David, set up a meeting and on a late Wednesday night after being at events all day she came to MY house.  We sat down and had a chat and this podcast (click play down there!) is what transpired.

There’s not much more to add to what Sharon shared with me that night.  She’s smart, hard-working and tenacious it’s how she’s been since she started her education and has taken that into her professional life as well.  As of December 5th, 2017, she’s OFFICIALLY ON THE BALLOT as a Democratic nominee for Illinois Attorney General.  Not to mention she is the most educated and experienced candidate in the running, period…AND the fact that she’s a strong, independent, mother and woman of color…well that’s just icing on the cake.

Check Sharon out on Twitter FairleyforAG or on her site at Sharon Fairley

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.