Part 3 of what is now a 4 Part Series on young, Black entrepreneurs. Walked away from this one feeling motivated and ready to manifest whatever is next. Thank you to LaStar for sharing his experiences and wisdom.
This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series on young, Black entrepreneurs. On this episode, I have a chat with former Green Bay Packer, Michael Neal. Mike talks to us about his experience leading up to the NFL through his retirement from the Pack. Take a listen for an inside look of life in the league and beyond.
In the last week, there has been an uproar of people opining on what is acceptable for women to: wear, dance and tear up paper in public. This isn’t a new phenomenon but it’s definitely become more brazen in the current climate.
Last weekend there was a huge sporting event on TV. For many it was a historical event, seeing their team win a championship after 50 years. For many others, it was an excuse to eat and drink to their heart’s delight on a Sunday. If you’re anything like me, that game part was the opener for a show with two incredible performers I’ve grown up watching. The first representations in mainstream entertainment of women who looked like me, spoke like me and danced to music I heard pumping through my house growing up. One of which I’ve been compared to in what was supposed to be in an insult. Joke’s on him now I suppose, considering Jenny from the Block just headlined the Super Bowl.
The following Tuesday the State of the Union was on and a few Congresswomen decided to sit it out. At least one Congressman walked out during it, and one Speaker of the House in suffragette-white ripped up the transcript. All while the chamber clapped for the impeached president who twisted facts and lied straight to everyone’s face.
Now on Tuesday, the pubic was still reeling from the indecent, over-sexualized half time show. The countless comments I saw riddled with racism and sexism hidden in what can only be described as a “pearl clutch,” were not surprising. But, considering we saw two women in their 40’s and 50’s put on a 15 minute show which was intertwined with political statements and messages of embracing who you are and where you’re from, the issue people were stuck on was what they were wearing and the languages they were singing. The two women were dressed “scantily, ” “provocatively” dancing and singing in Spanish on national TV for what was supposed to be a family-friendly show. The Karens’ general responses were “how dare they!”
I’ll start by saying, I’m not sure why in 2020 we still think it’s OK to police what anyone wears and then proceed to judge them by it but it’s clear that this outrage doesn’t apply to everyone equally. This uproar didn’t exist when Adam Levine took his shirt off last year–and we saw BOTH his nipples–or when Lady Gaga dropped into the stadium in what was effectively her bra and underwear. I can’t recall seeing one instance on how either of those performances weren’t “wholesome.” There seems to be a few common denominators here though and you don’t have to be a genius to see them.
Now comes Nancy…she extends a hand to a man she’s lead a successful impeachment campaign against–more than most of us would do in her position–and is snubbed. She then sits and listens to him twist facts, like claiming that there are less people on government aid, which although true but only because his administration’s new regulations have kicked a historic amount of people off of them not because people have progressed enough to no longer need them. Sorry just to clarify here; yes, the poor, disabled and least capable of our society were kicked off of benefits which he touted as a win for his administration at the SOTU. So, she did what no Republican senator or congressperson has had the balls to do through this administration, she sent a message of resistance, reminding this country yet again that this is not normal.
Next we have AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) who immediately following the SOTU takes to Instagram live to explain her absence and answer any questions people (not just her constituents) may have had following the SOTU. Again, actively taking a step of resistance and repeating to whomever was tuning in that this administration is not normal. All while comments were flying in insulting her looks and intelligence.
But, what did people take from these things? Well if you take the time to watch any sort of media coverage or social media postings, you’ll see the criticism is centered around around how these women look or plain and simple, calling them dumb. I’m all for having an opinion but to criticize someone based on appearance and intellect (for which there is no foundation) does not an opinion make.
Personally, I see these comments come mostly from men, and of course the compliant women and it makes me wonder, who made you believe that you’re opinion matters or that anyone besides you needs to hear it? Frankly, I want to know why and honestly come back with that amount of blind confidence in my next life.
One thing is for sure, there is a group of embolden people who are loud and crass and finally feel like they can say and do what they want with no consequences. This is why we see men (and women) openly mocking Sunday’s performers and our representatives using only insults based on opinions that are irrelevant to the issues at hand and based purely on conjecture.
Whether someone’s looks tickle your fancy has no bearing on their ability to do their job competently and effectively, but we have lowered the bar so much as to what are acceptable, valid arguments that now insults pass as facts. So much so, that representatives themselves have taken to using insults as viable arguments too. Just watch a certain news source and every time the broadcaster states an opinion as fact, take a shot–kidding! Alcohol poisoning is real yall!! But yes, watch it–in no more than 10 minute increments or else you’ll actually be driven to drink–and pay attention to the facts, you’ll be baffled by the little amount you actually hear.
I for one no longer engage. I don’t warrant it with a response and if I am in a situation where I have to engage with someone who thinks insults can be used in an argument, I raise the bar. I call out opinions being used as facts and I press people for why they hold those opinions in the first place. Why do two Latina women dancing to the music of their culture in outfits of their choosing matter to you at all? Why do you think it’s bad? Is it because your afraid that your kids who were watching will want to grow up to have rhythm? I suppose THAT can be a scary concept…
Why does it bother you when representatives who were voted into their positions to represent their constituents do what is best for those people? Why does relying on facts instead of opinions seem like such an impossible task? Why do personal insults only get whirled against a person when it’s a women?
I’ve boiled it down to this. They like to SEE women. No, they LOVE to see women. They love it so much that they’ll sometimes pay them to be in their presence. They love when women fit the mold that we have in our heads as “good.” But the moment a woman steps out of that mold, there is a sudden sense of betrayal because the power structure they have grown so accustomed to is being threatened.
So the truth is, they love to SEE women and be with women as long as they have the upper hand, but the moment women step out of line they must immediately be reminded who’s in charge. And how do they do that? Well they criticize a woman’s appearance and intelligence because the truth of the matter is when someone feels threatened they take low blows, because frankly, there’s nothing of quality to criticize or argue with.
As a woman I know you’d rather we’d just be seen and not heard. But it’s impossible for me. See, I was once told I have a Jenny from the Block attitude that I needed to grow out of, which as you can see has only gotten worse–better? Then, I saw Jenny from the Block headline a show with Shakira at the Super Bowl last week. Then I saw Speaker Pelosi display a BIG MOOD on national TV. Later on I heard AOC continue to remind us this is not normal all while being called dumb and ugly on Instagram live. So, we can’t just be seen anymore, and it would behoove you to catch up before we move the bar so high that no amount of low blows could help you.
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.
Sometimes when I’m really angry I get on social media and I wait… I wait to see the racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and all of the other “issms” and phobias to rear their heads. I simply wait. I wait for the comments to pop up on my feed and read what the kid-now adult-I went to high school with, and his sister, and their Dad’s cousin’s to comment on a news article that the white guy who killed his pregnant wife and two kids is not as abhorrent of a crime because he was born here. Going on about how unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about that situation, but how THAT is very different from the undocumented immigrant who confessed to killing the white girl in Iowa. It’s SO DIFFERENT because he was here “illegally” and IF he hadn’t been here “ILLEGALLY” then that murder would not have happened. Because for some reason after statistics and logic tell us that white men are over-represented as perpetrators of violent crime, when a brown, black or undocumented person commits it, well then it could have been avoided and so they shouldn’t be here and we should get back to building that wall or passing that ban… So, sometimes I get on social media when I’m angry…and I wait. (spoiler alert: yes guys the white guy did it…again).
On other days, I don’t. On these days when the posts are too much and there are too many crying kids in prison-like facilities, confused at the language they’re hearing and the strangers they’re around, and the dirt that’s building on their bodies-on those days, I make myself stay off social media. Because sometimes seeing the capsized, makeshift rafts that refugees used as boats to cross oceans with their children risking drowning to escape their horrors is too much. Because sometimes, seeing babies drowned on white beaches and then seeing Tim from Indiana’s comment underneath, “they believed in sharia law, is that what you want in your country?!” “They should blame their parents for making that decision,” “We need to take care of our country first!” is just too much. So I stay off social media and, if I stayed off the entire day, I gift myself a bowl of flaming hots (and lemon), and I do it in the name of self-care. My red stained fingers a badge of honor known only to me. A secret “Good Job, Melody!” to myself. In all sincerity, I eat flaming hots after I lose my shit on a person like Tim too–it’s still self-care.
But then there are days. Days where all of the posts push me into a daydream of being on CNN and having the producers afraid to take their fingers off the censor button because regardless of how smart and articulate I can be, I’m still this brown girl and I can best express myself when I don’t have to “watch my French” or keep my neck from snaking around. I imagine being split screen alongside ANY conservative commentator and reminding them exactly why what I come from made America great way before it was an acronym on a poorly made hat. And sometimes, when I’m feeling really racy I imagine it’s Tami “that’s not my name” Lahren. Those are the days I fight with the devil on my shoulder until I shut my eyes for the night to stay the fuck off social media.
Then there are those days, those days when my friend’s lists decrease and my family one too because you decided to comment that “racism isn’t real” and “they should just listen to the police!” and “If women want to be safe then they need to be smarter and not drink or run or walk to their cars alone.” Those are the days where you might catch me on my social media tip and you might flip positions too.
You might decide it was too much and block the thread. You might block my posts. You might even click the unfriend or unfollow button, maybe even the one in real life too. But I’ll still be on my social media tip. I’ll still be in restaurants hoping someone’s friend doesn’t make a racist comment at dinner and I have to spend my two free hours before bed reminding him that I am THAT kind of Mexican and that Black Lives do in fact Matter.
I’ll still be here denouncing people and ideas when I see or hear ignorance in real life or on social media. I’ll still be challenging, reading, learning, and trying to be a better version of who I was before. I’ll still be pushing, donating, volunteering, and supporting men, women and non-binaries that are under-represented because I AM HERE.
So be annoyed, be an unfriend but I’m still here. I’m the gnat you can’t kill screaming, “Women get paid at most 75% of what men get paid and women have to pay more for things they need like tampons!” So the next time you see “click here to see 274 comments” with my name all over it, don’t scroll past it. Read it. Don’t hit me with the “I didn’t post this to argue,” because as long as I’m here, I’m doing my due diligence the best way I know how and a lot of the times that’ll be right here or on all different types of social media…
So, appreciate the fire and challenge yourself to understand the movement. In the meantime I’LL BE RIGHT HERE.
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!
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.
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.
Fuck. I mean what other way can I start this other than saying, fuck? By now you’ve read and probably seen the various videos recording Philando Castile’s death–embedded forever in our shameful history, for the world to see. The death of a black man, televised for all of us to see, again and again like it’s just normal that a black guy shouldn’t get out of a traffic stop unscathed. But after seeing all of these deaths televised, I wish I had enough room to #saytheirnames, have we gotten numb? I’d argue we’ve been numb. The life of a black man was always televised to embarrass and degrade in our media unless it was used to make that media source money, then maybe it might be a positive depiction.
I’m a LatinX. The officer who killed Philando, is a LatinX. I am ashamed to share a heritage with this man. A man who is a person of color, subject to all of the uphill battles that other people of color are subjected to and solidified for us that it was justifiable to fear for your life if a black man is in a car, with his girlfriend and child and following your commands to the T. I am ashamed. I was ashamed when I saw Diamond Reynold’s video after the shots were fired. I was ashamed when, Officer Yanez didn’t plead guilty and instead of forced a trial. I was ashamed when he testified that he feared for his life because Philando was following his commands. And I was ashamed that he shot into a car at a man who had displayed NO signs of a threat, into a car with a 4 year old girl, into a car with his girlfriend who was also following commands. But mostly I was ashamed that a jury saw all of the videos, heard all of the testimony and let him walk.
What’s the difference here though? It’s a person of color doing this to another person of color, it’s not a white officer and a black victim as it normally is. I’ve heard a lot of people argue, this one wasn’t about race. IT IS. IT IS about race. I’m the first to admit that I know LatinX that are discriminatory towards black people, it exist. I don’t deny it, the majority of LatinX I know don’t deny it either. Hell I have cousins, first generations like me, that voted for Trump because apparently they forgot that their parents and grandparents came here illegally. They somehow think that they are white because they aren’t black. What it comes down to in my opinion is that you want to be a part of the oppressors and not the oppressed and you’ll stretch as far as you can to get there, this view also makes you a coward though so choose your side. I’ve chosen mine and mine is the side of equality and humanity.
What else do we need to see before we can finally agree that there is a bias in this country against black people? What else? A cop, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, a judge and a jury, all of these parts make up a system that was crafted to tilt against people of color and we are still shocked when these not guilties are rendered. Myself, as an attorney, believes in justice and the equalizer that is the justice system because if I don’t have hope in that what do I have? I have to believe that there is something that will shake out the bad people from the good. I challenge people I work with everyday when they say derogatory things about clients or the other party hoping that maybe they’ll finally stop thinking that way if they are challenged by a peer. I do my part in what I do and I am the FIRST to condemn someone who shares my heritage and their part in perpetuating the circle of racism that poisons this country.
And that’s what makes this about race, I am a Latinx and I never for one second thought that Officer Yanez was justified in his shooting. I didn’t look for the excuse. I didn’t ask what Philando was doing before. I didn’t ask what his girlfriend was doing before. I only had to watch the video Diamond posted and hear that he had informed the officer that he was carrying a weapon before he was lit up to know that Officer Yanez was a fucken murder. This condemnation and forcing accountability is something that doesn’t happen enough in the white community.
When a white officer shoots a black man for no reason or for the fake reason of “fearing for his life” there are 1 million arguments about how he was scared and how much bigger, scarier, black/brown man was than him so he shot him, in his back, while he was running away. I mean you’re a cop aren’t you always fearing for your life, isn’t that a part of the job description, you’re job is to FIGHT CRIME, it’s a job hazard that your life is in danger as long as your on the clock? This has to stop. The condemning of dead victims of color, specifically black men has to stop.
We need to hold each other, yes those that share a heritage/race/ethnicity with us, accountable. Whether your white, brown, black, etc. if someone in your community commits a crime that is motivated by hatred towards another race or religion, you much force your community and yourself to hold that person accountable. We as LatinX cannot sit silently and allow us to be a part of the group that decides to say nothing and do nothing in regards to the injustice that Officer Yanez served to Philando, Diamond their daugther when he was supposed to be protecting. White people have to do the same thing and unfortunately more often. We cannot expect change or demand change without accountability. I’ve been waiting for the NRA to release a statement about how this outcome is a threat to our 2nd Amendment after Trevor Noah called them out, but not surprisingly they’ve remained silent. It’s obvious that the great equalizer is not going to equalize, so DO BETTER. BE BETTER. Help with the dismantling we so badly need. Black and brown lives are depending on it.
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.