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. 🙂

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!

I was born this way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My First Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About The Radicalization of Whites?

Very good read. Something to think about for all people.

AfroSapiophile

Many of my white friends have become Radicalized

What do white people got to be so angry about? ~ Chris Rock

A while back ago I spoke in great pain on how I’m losing friends fighting racism.  I talked about how one can have friends (white) who will invite you (black person) to a Christmas dinner, but will engage in vehicular manslaughter when it comes to Black Lives Matter protesters.  What I didn’t really discuss was this radicalization process among the white community in America which makes such violent ideas possible.

Radicalization?  You probably never really took a look at it. You’re probably wondering what am I talking about.  Radicalization?  What radicalization?

Radicalization of the White American

radicalized-white-girl

To the left is a photograph I took of a white woman, bowing down to Donald Trump during the Tucson Trump rally in March 2016.

The put this into perspective, I do a lot…

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