On today’s timely episode, we talk to a Black RN. We talked back in March where he walks us through his new nursing assignment to an ICU Covid floor. I’m happy to report that since recording and posting this episode, him and his entire family remain Covid Free. Thanks to our special guest, for joining us and giving us a first-person account of what’s it’s like to be an essential, healthcare worker during a pandemic. Stay Safe and remember Masks Work!
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 about
–it’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)