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.
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. 🙂
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 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!
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
The “R” Word
You’re a racist. That is racism. Awww see? That wasn’t so hard? It took me 3 seconds to type and even less to think. For some people it’s like those words are not in their vocabulary. They are reserved to describe Klancowards pictured lynching AND burning a person of color in the 1970’s, not now of course, that type of racism died with them right? The thing is though, you don’t have to wear a hood, fly a confederate or nazi flag, or use racial epithets to be a racist. If you lock your doors when you see a person of color approaching, clutch your purse, make racist jokes, say “why didn’t he just listen to the cops?,” “doesn’t freedom of speech protect them too?,” call WOC “mamacita, chiquita banana, etc.,” or tell me that I’m not on a partner track because I haven’t transitioned from being Jenny From the Block to being J. Lo–guess what? You’re racist. I AM SO SORRY I HAD TO BE THE ONE THE TELL YOU THIS (just joking it’s actually my favorite thing to do) but you’re racist and you have racist ideologies. But here’s the good news: YOU CAN CHANGE. At any time in your life you can choose to change. This choice you have is an illustration of your privilege and your power over POC but it is in fact a choice.
My boyfriend tells me that I use the label “racist” fast and loose. I call it having zero tolerance for bullshit. Tomato, tomatillo, am I right? I can call out a racist after about 10 minutes into a conversation, it’s a gift and a curse really because I’m not afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings in doing so. In the last year it has made my circle of family and friends significantly smaller but I’ll be damned if the quality of my relationships hasn’t increased exponentially. I used to think that it was important to try to get along with everyone despite differences, even if they were racist. I am proudly not that person anymore. I’m not here for the “it’s just a joke,” the “oh c’mon I can’t say ANYTHING these days without someone being offended.” I’ve spent a large portion of my life changing the intonation of my voice when speaking to white people to completely erase any trace of an accent, not flipping a table when someone made a racist joke after we’ve just met and not losing my absolute shit when someone tries to explain to me that I’m being racist because of my blog and feelings about white people who choose to remain complacent in this fight. So yeah, I don’t give a single fuck when you get upset because you have to think before you speak to me for a change.
POC have had to completely contort themselves around white people in the history of FOREVER, we have had to make ourselves less threatening, less loud, less flavorful, etc., or risk living up to the stereotypes they have created for us. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to consciously keep from snapping my neck when I get heated because I didn’t want to be that kind of Mexican Girl. This neck snap something that is in my GENES, it’s the same gene that helps me dance to salsa, cumbia and merengue, it helps me be #alwaysonbeat, it is in my soul controlled by my central nervous system unconsciously functioning at all times. And to make sure white people aren’t uncomfortable around me, I and other POC have had to mute ourselves so that we are more acceptable to them. I have had to bite my tongue when my old Boss said he didn’t want to put people “that don’t speak English” on a witness stand and then turn around watch him advertise on Spanish TV networks and black radio stations for their business. I have ooohhhsaaaaa’d when my boyfriend’s friend asked me if I was outside valeting cars after we had stepped out of a party for a bit. I have nicely explained to friends and their parents for years that my mom’s accent isn’t that heavy and if you just listen you can actually understand everything she says. I one time had to patiently answer the question “does your dog understand your mom? you know because her accent is so heavy.” No, the dog doesn’t understand my mom, the jerk doesn’t even understand me, you know because he’s a dog… I’ve had to explain calmly in my own house to a guest as to why stereotypes are not a survival technique that’s evolved from our ancestors. This is just the tip of the iceberg, I am sure there are 1 million other examples of other POC muting themselves in the name of white people’s comfort. But, guess what white people? TAG YOU’RE IT.
You’ve been IT, actually. You just keep doing that thing you do when you’re a kid after you get tagged, “the bench is base NOW, sorry tag someone else.” But listen, the thing is the nazi, racists–your brothers, cousins, uncles and dads–marched on Charlotesville the other day with tiki torches and new balances so, it’s your turn now. You are IT. When they were done marching because their arch supports gave out, they all went home to your sisters, cousins, moms and aunts so, it’s your turn now. It’s your turn to THINK before you speak and act accordingly.
I know, I know it’s hard–listen I play this blog fast and loose, I wrote this in an hour and I’m probably going to get some hate texts later because of the examples I used but I still thought before I typed so I didn’t completely call out ALL my white friends. But I have been doing this for almost 30 years (the thinking before I speak thing) and I can only imagine how it must feel to go from never having to think twice about your opinion possibly being wrong and unaccepted to having to actually think of the power your words yield. This is going to be tough for you but it’s time. It’s time you stop letting shit slide. Stop not wanting to be that guy that kills the mood or challenges friends when they bring up politics, race or religion because you just want to have a good night. Challenge your friend Jeff, your parents, your uncle, etc., when they make Black Friday jokes and black people are the punch line. Challenge your best friend who can only relate to your brown girlfriend by making jokes about her ethnicity. Call out your friends and family when they display even the slightest hint of racist ideologies, that’s the only way this is going to work. Because see, we’ve been doing the work. We’ve been marching, we’ve been getting killed in the streets by trigger happy police officers, we’ve been voting (albeit getting shut down), we’ve been writing but we remain un-phased and we keep working. But, it’s your turn now. You all want an invite to the carne asada or the cook out, right? You can get one but you need to act now.
The thing is, it starts with you. That’s the hardest part and once you get past this little dip it’s much easier I swear, but starting with yourself is the hardest part. Take a look at yourself and understand that you probably hold some racist ideologies. Sure you probably aren’t wearing a hood–at least not if you’re reading this–but you’re probably making or laughing at the jokes, you’re probably locking your doors, you’re probably complaining that the black community doesn’t help itself enough instead of calling out our government and systematic racism and you have to make a decision to stop that thought process and change. If it makes you feel better, it’s not your fault. Racism isn’t innate, it’s taught even the tiniest parts of it are taught. But that just means it can be unlearned too. But, you have to make a choice to stop being blinded by the privilege you were born into and start being proactive–step outside of your comfort zone for a change. Unless you can call it out in yourself first you’ll always let it slide when someone else does it in front of you–and then they end up buying tiki torches in Charlotesville because you and 45 decided it was OK for Johnny to keep saying racist shit at the dinner table and you didn’t say anything to stop him. So yeah it sucks you’re going to have to admit that you’re a little bit of a racist and then you’re probably going to have call out your best friend as being racist too but here’s the thing: you can change, if you want to. I and millions of other POC can’t change who we are but you can change your mindset and you can challenge other white people from inside their safety net. That’s something we can’t do so your participation is necessary. If you want the invite anyway.
If you don’t want to do the work, we’re not surprised, this country was built on our backs anyway but at least do us a favor and sit down and get out of our way, because we’re pushing for progress here and we’re never going to stop. Also don’t get mad when we call you and your friends racist if you’re not wiling to do the work we get to act accordingly. To everyone to participated in the protest against the alt-right nazis, way to go. We need to stay strong and united, we will not be pushed back.
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.