New Year’s Intentions Revisited

The saying always goes, “be careful what you ask for”. I wrote down my intentions for the New Year with every intention on accomplishing those tasks, but I really wanted to spread them out over the year. I did not want to realize all of them by February. I actually haven’t realized all of them, but the biggest item on that list was reconnecting with my father. Well, I thought I could get around to doing that in July, but of course that is not what is happening.

I got a call not too long ago from a strange number. Typically, I wouldn’t answer, but something told me to see who it was. I think I knew who was on the other line because I wasn’t totally shocked to hear my father’s voice. He seemed shocked that he heard my voice. I can only assume that it must have been quite odd to hear someone pick up the line after being blocked for almost 2 years. Yes, I blocked my father’s calls. No, I don’t feel bad for it, not even a little. My father and I have the strangest relationship where I love him deeply, but neither understand nor agree with his actions in the past or present. If you go back a few blog posts, you will see an article I wrote on domestic violence. He was not the nicest of men when I was growing up and I had to make a decision of either distancing myself from him or living in the hurt. I chose distance and I am better for it. So…he was shocked to hear my voice and I was a bit amused. I don’t know why I was amused, but I was. He changed his number or rather, my little brother bought him a new phone and this was a way for him to get in contact with me at least one time before I blocked the new number. We spoke for maybe 5 minutes and it was pleasant. I don’t intend on blocking his number from this point forward, but I do intend on stopping his rants before they get out of hand.

My father raised me. I did not have an absent father. I do not remember a time when he was not involved in my life. For a period of time, he was my only parent. My mother had to leave to get better. My father tormented her and if she would have stayed, I doubt I would have had either one of them. He eventually would have been arrested and she would have eventually lost her battle with life or her sanity. It is hard to come to terms with that as a child and surprisingly as an adult. It is even harder after having children. I do not even want to argue in front of my children much less raise them in a chaotic environment. There were times I did not know what house I woke up in because of the constant back and forth. I was overjoyed when their relationship was over, a fact that still baffles the both of them. They swear it was because I wanted more gifts for my birthday, but the truth is that I was happier when they were apart. I was filled with anxiety when they were together. It made me physically ill when they hugged or kissed. Words cannot begin to describe how at war you are with yourself when you love the abused and the abuser.

It becomes worse when you realize that the abuser is someone who loves you and isn’t all monster. My mother wasn’t the only one my father hit. I had a number of step-mothers who came and went and suffered at the hands of my dad. I just became numb to it all, but when I got married, I could no longer push it down. I had to face what I had been through or I wasn’t going to make it. Up until my marriage, my father and I had a cordial relationship. My husband met me when my father was completely out of my life. Because my father did not agree with the Iraq war, he never wrote me and did not accept my calls. I was without him for 14 months. My husband says that Iraq recovered me from my Stockholm Syndrome. I think he may be right about that.

When I came home from Iraq, I no longer felt obligated to be at my father’s beck and call. Our communication became less frequent and my father became more intent on having his time uninterrupted. If I did not answer one phone call, he would continuously call. I showed my therapist my call log once and he was shocked. In a 24 hour period, my father would call maybe 30 times along with leaving 3 to 4 minute messages. It was obsessive and the more we communicated, the more my marriage suffered. I was always irritated after talking to my father. I always wanted to pick a fight. My normal was not being good or happy. I reached a point where all of it was exhausting and with the help of my therapist at the time, I made the decision to let him go.

When I made the decision to stop communicating with my father, it was never with the intent for it to be permanent. I just needed to heal and not be affected or infected by him. I had to do the work to get past my past and learn to accept who he was and not what I would like him to be. I needed to stop viewing my husband as my father. I needed to learn what love really was and what it wasn’t. I needed to breathe. I did it and I thought this would be the year. I wrote it down. I put it in my heart and then my father called. Isn’t it funny how the universe words?

It’s been about a 2 weeks and he’s only called one other time. He has left some interesting messages, but he is an interesting human being. We did have a heated conversation in which he apologized. I am thankful for that, but I know it won’t stay this way. I know he’s going to go crazy when he doesn’t get his way. He requested to see my children and I remained silent. I did not have these children alone and the one time my father was around my children, he said some horrible things about my husband. He basically called my husband a murderer for being in the Army. It took a very long time to explain what he was said to my daughter. In order for him to see my children, he will have to agree to some rules and he will have to speak to my husband. That may be too much to ask for, but it’s what I’m comfortable with.

All of this has led me to evaluate some things. First, even with all the bad that happened, it warmed my heart to hear my father’s voice. I know that he loved me the only way he knew how. I know he could have left and been absent and I am grateful that he tried his best. Next, relationships are what you make them. A relationship can be toxic if you let it be. If it is toxic, let it go, even if it is a parent. Toxic relationships will only screw up other relationships. You, me, he or she don’t owe anyone our happiness. Lastly, my parenting has nothing to do with the outcome of my children. That’s weird, right? I know others feel different, but reevaluating the relationship I have with my parents made me see something that I think I did not see before. Who they were as parents has everything to do with them, not me. Yes, their actions affected me greatly, but their mistakes affect them even more. The way I parent is my choice. It is what I want out of it, not what I expect to raise out it. When it is all said and done, will I feel good about how I treated them, loved them, listened to them, or nurtured them? I make those choices as I make all of the other choices in my life.

I am very curious to see how this all turns out between my father and I. Hopefully, things will go well.

Love and light y’all.

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Perception is Reality

Do you ever pay attention to how people perceive you? I usually don’t care, but talking to my brother in-law made me do a bit of inventory on myself. My brother in-law came to visit for about a week, which is always awesome. He lives in England. He travels quite often and is just a super down to earth person. In fact, I’ve stolen him from my husband. He’s actually more of a brother than a brother in law. I enjoy talking to him because his perception of this place we call America is very different, even from what I think is progressive. You can just imagine what he has to say about Donald Trump and all the support he’s getting, but for the most part, he views America as a nice place to live. Our racism is quite different than racism in England, which includes roadblocks to excel. At least in America, you can find or make a way.

Although I believe that opportunity in America is different for different people; I would have to agree that this place can be what you make it. Our conversations on race, politics, relationships, and many other things were enlightening, but what stood out to me was his perception of me. It was an ever so slight comment. He, my husband and myself were looking for movies to watch and he commented that I would like a certain movie because it was an African American movie about Selma, AL. Of course, jokingly I asked him why would I like THAT movie and without missing a beat, he told me because I was pro-black.

Pro-Black? I’ve heard that before in many different ways. I was told once that I had an immense amount of pride for my race because I knew so much history. I was told once that it was unbelievable that I had dated outside my race because I seem to have so much pride in my own. (As if Black people in interracial marriages don’t have pride) I know my brother in-law did not make the comment in a negative way, but it made me think about what am I putting out into the universe that leads people to come to this conclusion about me.

I’ve faced some pretty ignorant people and maintained my smile, but the fact still remains that I come off as the Black girl with an Afro, wearing a daishiki while pumping my black fist in the air. Would it be better to ignore who I am or be ignorant of African American history for people to see me simply as Andrea?

I’m just Andrea. I’m a bunch of contradictions rolled into one human being. I’m a self-loving yogini who just had a tummy tuck. If that’s not a contradictions, I don’t know what is…

Anyway, if this would have happened with anybody besides my brother in-law, I doubt I would be writing about it. I think my brother in-law may be right about me and the real issue is that I am afraid that people will view my pride or pro-blackness as hate for another group. I don’t want people to perceive me that way, so the real issue is me. I need to find comfort in how I think and even how I may be judged. I have to learn to be comfortable with who I am. I grew up in a community that made a point of celebrating our culture and it had a lasting effect on me. My children do not and will not have that. There is no black history month in this city. My children learn about presidents who owned slaves during the month February. The only Black figure they will ever learn about in their school will be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Personally, I don’t think that’s right for black, white, Asian, Native, or Hispanic children. So, as a parent, it is my responsibility to instill in them the same things I had. I guess I just have to accept that I’m that girl with the fro, wearing the daishiki and keep it moving.

Love and light y’all

Motherhood Mondays (A Conversation with Bridgette)

My goal for “Motherhood Mondays” is to present different views of motherhood. The idea or concept of a “good mother” usually fits one mold and we all know that is not the case. Motherhood looks different to different women and if our voices are not heard or if we box women in to certain roles, we fail at building a community of support for one another. When reading this particular blog, I encourage you to turn off your judgement and open your heart and mind.

Religion, bias, or simple ignorance keeps people away from truly getting to know the heart and soul of those that are different from them. Today’s interview is with Bridgette. She is a writer, United States Army veteran of numerous tours, lover of the arts, committed partner, and mother. She is also a lesbian. She and her partner have a blended family of 5 very successful children. I must also point out that she is someone my husband considers a mentor. He credits her leadership with the success of his military career. Here are her words…

What is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the fact that you have this innocent person who has trust in you. It is unbelievable the trust that children have. People often speak about unconditional love, but I think it is the unconditional trust that is most fascinating about children. They come here and it is your job to guide them and have their best interest. They start out so innocent and it’s my job as a mother to preserve that innocence.

When I think about my own children and even the Soldiers I mentored, the best part about being a mom is seeing this person become a productive member of society. It is nice to see them become successful and live their lives in a positive way.

Can you describe the feeling that you felt after having your daughter?

When I had my daughter, I was 19 years old. I had been in the military for just two years. I was scared. There are no true handbooks for children and each child’s needs are different. I was very scared, but I was up for the challenge. I knew that it was my job to give her the best life.

I know that you are a veteran of the United States Army. How difficult was it to balance being a mother while in the military?

It was difficult to balance. My initial thought was to get out. My mom sat me down one day and told me that I needed to have a solid foundation for my daughter. She encouraged me to stay in. When my daughter was 2 months old, I was shipped out to Korea. My parents took care of her for me. It was a struggle because I missed her tremendously. I struggled with a number of conflicting feelings. I dealt with a lot of guilt during that time.

When I came back, she was 14 months old. She didn’t know me at all. It crushed me that she forgot about me. I worked to rebuild our relationship and when we reconnected we were inseparable. Even though I was back and rebuilt that relationship, I still struggled with the guilt of taking her away from my parents.

I could not have done it without the support of my family. My parents and my sister they were there for me.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a lesbian mother?

I think the biggest misconception is that you’re going to raise a gay child. I always made a point to be careful of what I did in front of my daughter. When she was in grade school, we sat down and talked about what gay meant. She told me that she knew what it was and did not want to be gay. It was important for me to tell her that she did not have to be like me. I told her that she needed to be herself and build her own legacy. As parents, we need to teach our children to be better than us and that involves all facets of who they are.

What struggles do you face as a mother?

Of course one of the struggles was the military, but also society’s perception of who I am. The perception of me being a tomboy lesbian. There is always that judgment that I’m trying to be a man. I’m not trying to be a man. I know and like that I am a woman. People look at me and make assumptions about me. They don’t know my story. I’m just trying to be me. I grew up with just my father and brothers until I was 13 years old. My father didn’t get married until I was 13. I grew up with boys. I wore boy clothes. That is how I feel comfortable. I’m raising young men. I am not a man, so I cannot teach them how to be men, but as a woman I can tell them what is expected from a woman.

Society as a whole thinks that same sex partnership is not good for bringing up children. People think we are going to change children. The reality is that you never look at the news or hear about our children committing crimes or being unproductive.

How do you feel about the woman that came into your life at the age of 13.

She is the mother that raised me. She loved me even though I gave her hell. She never held it against me. She loved 5 kids that were not her own. It was not easy for her. When we got punished, she always showed an immense amount of grace to us. We did not have to relive our faults over and over again. She is the greatest woman. She is such a lady. I let her know all of the time that I appreciate everything she did for me. She is a part of the reason I fell in love with the arts. I was a part of the orchestra. She taught us that there was more to the world than just being black. We were exposed to a lot of different things. Exposure, let’s you know that there is something more to the world than what you are surrounded by. I love her.

Do you model your parenting style after you mother?

Yes, I do. I also bring the military into it. I’m very strict and hands on. I’m Vice President of the PTA and my partner is the President. It’s important to me that my children are educated and doing the right things. All of our children are on the honor roll and we have one that will be graduating early. We make a point to be a team, especially since we are a blended family.

How did you meet your partner?

My best friend kept telling me to go this church and at the time I had been completely turned off by the church. I had some very bad experiences when I was struggling with my sexuality. Anyway, I went to the church and really enjoyed myself. While I was there, I saw my girlfriend. She was sitting in front of me and my friend invited her to a New Years party she was throwing that same day. She, my girlfriend agreed to come and she took my number. I’m a really shy person, so I didn’t want to call or text. When I finally decided to contact her, she was calling me. (Laughs) We began to talk and she came to the party. We’ve been together ever since.

Do you think it is harder being a black lesbian mother as opposed to another race?

I think it can be. We have the power to not make it so hard. It depends on how we present ourselves. I think we have the power to make things better for ourselves. We do have to prove ourselves more. We have to break the stereotypes that exist for us. We can’t be afraid to show our intelligence. Being a lesbian can create more prejudice. People make the assumption that homosexuality involves promiscuity, which is insulting. I’ve learned that you just have to have thick skin. You have to be very secure.

It is harder being black, especially when it comes to our boys. They are seen as animals and criminals. We see what they are going through, but we don’t know exactly what they feel because we are not men. I tell my sons to never give them a reason to bother you or profile you. As a black mother it is difficult to raise boys.

What advice would you give a young lesbian mother?

My advice to any mother would be to approach your children as human beings and not objects. You have to understand that your child isn’t a toy. They have emotions just like you do. Always keep their emotions in mind. You have to teach your children at a young age to communicate. Let them know that they have a voice. Let them express how they feel while setting boundaries. Children aren’t your property. When you teach a child that they aren’t an object, it gives them self worth. If you do not allow them to express their emotions, then you’re conditioning them to keep it in. They become emotionally closed off. When it comes to boys, they are taught not to cry, don’t teach them that. A real man can cry. It is okay to feel. Feeling emotions is being human. Whether man or woman, you are a human being.

As a parent, you have to be humble. You have to be able to apologize.

Bridgette and I spoke for a very long time and everything cannot be included in this post, but there is something that stood out to me. When we spoke about her journey to acceptance, she let this jewel out that I believe applies to us all. She said,

“You cannot shine if you don’t know who you are. I could not be something that I wasn’t. I decided that I was going to love me and live in my moment”

Love and light y’all.

 

 

 

Reflecting…

Earlier this week, I posted a conversation between me and my grandmother. I have revisited her words in my mind over and over again. I believe we stayed on the phone well into the next day. What always stands out to me in our talks are her opinions on men. The title or the right to be called a “man” by her was saved for very few individuals in my life. The respect that she encourages me to have for my husband comes with the knowledge of who he is. Needless to say, she has never believed that every male should be afforded the same respect one gives a man.

I started to think about how many times that lesson is lost by women. I remember I was dating a guy once who was a chest beating, self proclaimed “man”. He made a point to let me know that he was the leader and he deserved respect. These exclamations came when he was acting in a way that was unbecoming of what I had learned a man to be. That relationship didn’t last very long, but I would be lying if I didn’t write that his chest beating was the reason. I thought his words were correct. At one time, I believed his gender alone garnered my respect on all manners, even though he was a faulty individual.

I believe women are taught quite early that their position is less than a man. Some of us are taught that men are natural leaders, providers, and protectors. (A few weeks in a co-ed military bootcamp will show you that all men aren’t able to lead) We are taught this sometimes without a concrete example of what a “man” looks like. We are sold this idea to be martyrs for our relationships and our children, without realizing that that behavior will continue the cycle of accepting less than what one is worth.

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I remember when I first moved in with my husband. I had this perception that I needed to cook for him, do his laundry, and figure out any and everything that made him happy. After about two weeks of that, my husband told me that he was a grown ass man and to relax. He didn’t want a maid. He wanted a partner. Unfortunately, the concept of not being everything this man needed left me lost for a bit. I had this thought that if I didn’t do everything he needed, then what was I there for. The reality was that I had met someone who did not need to beat their chest or put me in a place that was lesser than him to believe or feel like a man. I have yet to hear him say that he is the leader of our household, but he very much is. He leads not in words, but in his actions.

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Some of the best leaders I have met in the military and in the public sector were individuals who didn’t need to remind you that they were above you. Likewise, the worst leaders were the ones who constantly had to prove that they were in charge. I believe we need to start teaching our daughters to throw away these archaic ideas about men. We need to teach our daughters to be mindful of a persons actions and how they make them feel. We need to teach them that every man does not deserve your honor, respect, and unconditional love. We need to teach both our daughters and sons to be their own leaders and when looking for love, they should choose a partner, not someone to follow or lead.

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This week, I chose to concentrate on being thankful for all things in my life. As I’ve gone throughout this week, I have made a point to take a moment to acknowledge all that I have and the people around me. It dawned on me today that I have yet to be thankful for myself. I have come a long way, physically and mentally. I should always be thankful for myself. When I wasn’t thankful for myself, I allowed people to mistreat me, like in the case of the “chest beating man”. The moment I stopped to concentrate on my inner healing, I found a man who wanted me to love myself more than he loved me. Let’s teach our children to always appreciate themselves first.

So…I honor you. All you men who go throughout your days tirelessly putting your family’s wants and needs before your own. The men who consider their spouses/partners as equals. The men who let their egos go for the happiness and cohesiveness of their family’s. The men who had no examples, but are breaking the cycles of abuse and fatherless homes. The men who’s children run to the door to greet him. The men who play barbies or sit in school parking lots to help with homework. The men who never have to say how much of  a “man” they are because they left their insecurities at the door. I honor you. I thank you.

Love and light y’all.

 

Motherhood Mondays (A Conversation with Grandma)

In an effort to write more, I am going to attempt to start a series on my blog called “Motherhood Mondays”. It is my wish to have open and honest conversations with different types of mothers and write about that dialogue on this forum.

My first guest for “Motherhood Mondays” is my grandmother. My grandmother’s name is Rose. She was born in 1927 in New Orleans, LA. A number of the views that will be discussed in this blog reflect the times in which she was born and raised. If you follow this blog, then you know how dear my grandmother is to me. When I was about 13 years old, I went to go live with her. She saved me by letting me live in her home and keeping the person I was getting away from out of my life. Too many families turn a blind eye to abuse, but she did not and for that, I am a better person. I thought who better to start off this whole Motherhood Mondays with than my very own grandmother…here are her words:

What is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is watching your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren achieve the things they want. I like to see children going to school and learning new things. I like to see them go after their goals. There has always been this strain of giftedness in our family, but we have a problem with execution. Learning has never been a problem for the majority of our family, so I get happy when I see that giftedness manifest from generation to generation.

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What was your mother like?

My mother was the kind of person who did not think anyone was bad. Because she was so nice, people took advantage of her. She was friendly. She would do anything she could for you and she was mugged numerous times because of her personality. She didn’t have a good relationship with my daddy. He was a minister and had a mean streak. I had to watch out for her. She was protective of us, so we, my sisters and I, were protective of her. She was a strong women. She beat cancer, but she was too nice.

Growing up, did you want to be like your mother?

I am my mother in my later years. I realize, now, that people are not who they think they are. I am her.

What was your proudest moment?

I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade because I was the oldest and had to work to help my family. I went to work in a cafeteria and thought that was the end of that. When your grandfather and I moved to California, we opened up the little store and then the grocery store, which should have been my proudest moment, but it wasn’t. I went back to school at 55 and finished high school and then got my degree in nursing. School was always easy. I just needed the chance to finish and I did. I also appreciate my longevity of life and that I am of sound mind and body. I’m still independent.

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Did you have to deal with racism growing up or as an adult?

Of course! (laughs) It wasn’t like the stories you hear about being attacked. I was never chased or beat up. In those times, you knew what you could do or should do and that is what you did. I use to hear my father saying, ‘yes sir’ to those men while they called him by his first name, or nothing at all, and I would be so mad that my father was like that. I didn’t realize until he was dead and gone that he was playing them while they thought he was being subservient to them. He was protecting us. He had to do that in order to work or for our family to have things.

The thing about racism in the south is that you got to know these people and you got to doing what they thought you should do. When you act that way, you leave a legacy for your children. We went thru a lot. My parents and my grandparents took a lot, but they left the perception of respect and then the white people would leave you the hell alone. In a sense racism is whatever you make it. We always had a house. Racism instilled in you the things you wanted to achieve.

Wait, what grandma?

Yes, racism made you want to do better, at least in the south. When I moved to California, I could not believe what black people put up with compared to us in New Orleans. I grew up seeing black professionals, educators, and business owners. In the south, you knew that those people worked hard because it was twice as hard to get anything; however the black people in California had this false perception of freedom. When I would go to the hospital, all the service workers were black and the professionals were white. The neighborhoods that black people lived in were horrible. The schools were not much better either. Black people did not have to sit on the back of the bus, but they were being held back in ways that they we were not held back in the south. Racism made us work harder and look out for one another. I never much cared for going around people who did not want me around. These people fought to have everything integrated, even schools. Why would people fight for integration in schools? Our schools had teachers who cared, genuinely. Just because you send your children to school with white children does not mean their education will be better. In fact, their education may be worse because they are dealing with teachers who dislike them and want to see them fail. Back then, you knew who did not like you and now you do not have a clue.

What do you think the biggest misconception about Black women is?

The biggest misconception about Black women is that they do not take time with their children because they do not care. The truth is that they are too tired. I watched a young lady one morning on the bus stop with her child and the sun was not even up. This girl has to get up and take her children to the daycare on the bus, get back on the bus and go to work, get back on the bus to pick up her child, and then go home and do it all over again. By the time, she gets home she is too tired, worse if she is uneducated because she has been working on her feet. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they do not have any help. These women can only do the basic.

So, is that just a single mom issue?

Oh no…your generation is one that is starting to have active fathers, but all of the house and children duties typically fall on the women, even if she is married. I worked close to home and took less pay to make sure I could be a mother. I wanted to be there to drop off my children and pick them up. I wanted to teach them. I could not have done that if I had made different choices. Everyone cannot take less pay. I was married, but I was still tired and took on most of the responsibility when it came to the home and children. Your grandfather helped me, but most of it rested on my shoulders.

That’s the thing about dealing with black men, especially during my time. You have to deal with this black man being a man…anything untraditional to a male role, he feels slighted. Things go from one extreme to another. He gets it so hard from the outside world that you have to let him or give him the perception that he is in the lead. You have to learn how to balance. I had to learn to swallow my pain in order for him to be the man. I did not hear until 30 minutes before he took his last breath that he appreciated me. I had done everything I could for my family.

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Last question. If you could offer one piece of relationship advice, what would it be?

You have to be a team. Each person has to have a defined role. You have to be able to have a certain amount of respect for your husband as a man. You have to feel like a woman and not like a babysitter. Men need to be comfortable being the leader and know exactly what that entails for his family. Women need to let men learn and not try to take care of everything. Even when things get bad, don’t jump in and try to figure it out for the family or him. He will figure it out and be a better man for it. If men aren’t allowed to figure it out, then there will always be resentment and when that creeps in, everything goes wrong. Every family is different, so traditional roles may not work, but roles need to be defined. Everyone needs to play a part.

I always tell you that you’re blessed because you’re the first woman in our family who has had the chance to be a mother. You have been able to raise your children without outside influence. You know your children. It is a sacrifice, but your husband is better for it and so is your family. He does things your grandfather would have never done and you have to honor that.

Any last words?

My life was no bed of roses. Life is what you make it. If you don’t like the way it is going, change it.

Love and light y’all.

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Racism aside…everything is going well

The incident that happened last week at the school has made a lasting impression on my daughter and I believe my household. I don’t know why, but I just did not expect it to happen so early and not here in California.  I’m originally from California and NEVER experienced any type of colorism or racism.  I spent about 10 years in the South and I believe I had experienced prejudice, but it was kind of blatant, like people ignoring you and not acknowledging your presence. Also, I had more positive experiences with White people than I have ever had in the South, so I have been sitting here thinking about what is the issue here.

First, let me say that the school my daughter goes to handled the situation quite well.  The day after my daughter was told she couldn’t play because she was Black by another little girl on the playground, a conference was held with the little racist child’s parents, she was made to write a letter saying she was sorry, and they also made her come up to me and apologize for hurting my daughter.  I thought that it was a great way to show my daughter that the little racist child was wrong; however, I thought it was overkill.  I jokingly call this little girl, “little racist child”, but she was only doing what she has either heard or seen.  I didn’t think she should apologize to me.  I thought her coward parents should have come to me and apologized, but that won’t happen because they are coward racist parents.  The funny thing is that my daughter and her are becoming fast friends and playing together, so I guess racism aside, everything appears to be going well. Go figure.

So…what is the issue here in this little California town?  Why do I feel so uncomfortable here as opposed to where I just moved from?  I believe the answer is that although California may seem progressive, it is not as diverse as people would believe it to be.  I just moved from the South, but my neighbors were White, Black, and Jewish. They were not the type of neighbors you just wave at from time to time.  My neighbors were people I actually spoke to from time to time and genuinely cared about.  I have noticed that this city is overwhelmingly segregated.  I finally found the Black people here and they live in apartments very close to the mall.  The Hispanics live there too.  In my neighborhood, which is all single family homes, there are very few Hispanics and Blacks, a conservative amount of Asians and Indians, and overwhelmingly White (about 67%). The issues here could be more about class and less about race, but segregation could be the root to the problem.

I must point out that I didn’t grow up a fan of Martin Luther King Jr.  I was raised by a Sunni Muslim father who had just left the Nation of Islam and he kept a great deal of his “Black supremacist” ways of thinking even though he was an Orthodox Muslim.  Yes, I grew up singing songs about the White man being the devil.  I also grew up spending weekends holding a sign that read “DON’T KILL YOUR BABIES” in front of an abortion clinic. Anyway, I knew very little about Martin Luther Kings Jr. because he was not celebrated in the private school I went to and at home we focused most on “revolutionaries”.  Looking back, my childhood was quite comical.  I had a Christian mother who was quite passive, but quick to throw a jab at how lowdown some Black people could be and a father who firmly believed that the social ills that plagued Black people were the dirty work of the White man.  I was confused to say the least, but it gave me  an incredible amount of insight on race and religion.  I’m going off topic, but  what I want to point out is that I am now a fan of Martin Luther King Jr. I always saw integration as something that tore down the Black community growing up, but as an adult I can understand the logic in segregation being wrong.

Obviously, no one is outright telling people that they can’t live in one area over the next, but because everyone is sectioned off in their own parts of this city, individuals are not seeing one another as human beings. When your neighbors look just like you, thinks like you, and prays like you, anything other than what you perceive as “normal” is wrong, especially when the images coming from the television portray another race as criminal, hyper-sexual,  an unintelligent.

I’ll give a personal example, when I was deploying to go to Iraq there was a girl in our unit that I became quite close with.  She was a nice person.  I hurt my leg while I was at the mobilization site and ended up on crutches.  This girl helped me to no end. One day, we are walking to the dining facility and she says, “I have something I need to tell you because I’m tired of lying to you”. Of course, I told her that she could share anything with me because we were “battle buddies”.  Well, she tells me that she is gay.  I had never met a gay person before in my life.  At that point in my life, I was very much against homosexuality and anyone who supported it.  It was ungodly to me because that is what I was taught.  When she told me that, it took my breath away and I felt incredibly conflicted because how could I view someone as a friend that I firmly believed was going to burn in hell.  Quite quickly I had to rethink all that I had believed because now I had a face, deeds, heart and soul attached to homosexuality.  My views no longer applied to “them”.  My views now had a name and a face of someone I knew would give their life for me if it came down to it when we crossed over to Iraq.  I finally found the humanity. We are still friends to this very day.

I know some people won’t agree with that, but the same thing happens with race.  It is quite easy to hate what you don’t know.  It is quite easy to stereotype what you believe to be true on television. Remember, I don’t exist in real life.  My family and its dynamic are not shown on television, so what can I expect from my ignorant neighbors?  I believe this is the point where I have to (even though I don’t want to) have amazing strength and put myself out there, like my friend did, and show the humanity of me and my family.  All Black mothers are not like those women on the Real Housewives of Atlanta or Basketball Wives.

I’m having a play date tomorrow with one of the mom’s and her daughter from my daughter’s class. We will see how it goes. Hopefully, it goes well and I’ll make an acquaintance or even a friend, but at the very least I am making an effort.

When the mother sitting next to you mentions her babysitter is Black…

This really happened…

My family and I just moved from the South to sunny California.  It has been an adjustment to say the least.  The people here are nice, but not friendly…or at least not in the neighborhood we live in.  When we moved into the neighborhood, we noticed a few strange things.  First, my husband caught the neighbor across the street looking over his fence when the moving truck arrived with our things.  Next, I met a lady at the park around the corner from our house, who quickly gave me the run down on the gang situation in the next city over…it wouldn’t be weird to be informed by your neighbor of local crime, but she made a point of telling me that it was a “Mexican” problem (umm racist much).  If you haven’t already guessed it, we are the only Black family on our block and probably the third Black family in the neighborhood.

We specifically moved to this area for the school district and it seemed family orientated.  I assumed I would find a stay at-home mom’s group and make friends easily; however this has not been the case. In the South, I had friends of every race and we often broke bread with one another, like ate off of each others plates.  I don’t see that happening here and my feelings have kind of been confirmed by my recent interaction with another mother at a recent play date.

I actually planned this play date at a local park and I expected a great turn out, but only one mother signed up for it.  I didn’t think anything of it.  I assumed that the other mothers already had plans or simply didn’t want to do it…no biggie.  Well, I was kind of excited to finally meet a new mom and for my kids to play with someone besides myself.  After about 20 minutes, a mom showed up and said hello.  I wasn’t sure if it was her or not because I’m new here, but after another 10 minutes she asked if I was the one who planned the play date and I said yes.  She seemed nice enough and we got to talking.  I told her (jokingly) that people usually don’t have a hard time finding me because I’m typically the only Black woman.  She laughed and told me, “oh that’s not true, I have a nanny and she’s Black”.

So, what does one say to that and why did she think that was okay? I guess, I could have said, “really, why don’t you set up a play date for me when she’s working for you head mistress” or maybe “how the hell can you afford a nanny, let alone a Black one, when you’re missing your front tooth”. (For the record, she really was missing a front tooth).  I could have handled that conversation in a number of ways, but I chose to concentrate on my children and leave her toothless behind on the bench.

This isn’t the first time someone has said something crazy.  I was once in Puerto Rico giving a speech and my coordinator told me that I was a benefit to my race because I was educated, married, and had children. When I looked at him as if to question his words, he simply said, “well there aren’t many two parent homes in the African American community”. WOW!  I politely told him that I came from a two parent home and the majority of my friends that I grew up with did too.

I honestly can’t blame the toothless mom for her lack of tact.  It would have been better for her to say nothing or to simply call her nanny a friend rather than make a point of saying that she was an employee.  It would have also been better of my colleague in Puerto Rico to simply say that I have a beautiful family, but when people are constantly given images of you as being less than, then tact goes out of the window.

Someone asked me once, “how does it feel to always be the only Black person” and I want to say that it is hard.  I can represent myself just fine.  I carry those who have come before me with me wherever I go.  I feel like I have responsibility to them and all that they went through for me to live in this neighborhood and to send my children to these schools; however, it is hard.  It is hard because I am either one of 2 things in today’s society and that is an angry, strong black woman or an angry freeloading black woman.  I have to make a point to be pleasant and articulate and just when I think that I have proven that women like me exist, my fellow black mother is outside of the library calling me a bougie black bitch.

True story…