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.

 

 

 

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

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.

 

 

I was born this way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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