Rss

Archives for : Racism

Dear Black People: An Open Letter to the Black Families on Philly’s Main Line

Dear Black People on the Main Line,

#Warning This story may break your heart, or harden it.

#Warning This story may break your heart, or harden it.

No, not all the Black people. I’m sure some of you are super happy there and if you are, please feel free to completely disregard everything I’m about to say. I’m actually talking to the Friday family that was profiled in the depressing and disheartening story in the December issue of Philadelphia magazine, titled “Racial Profiling on the Main Line.” And while this letter was inspired by the Fridays, I know there are other families like them dealing with the same, ugly, race-based incidents and I hope they heed my advice. And that advice is, MOVE! FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR CHILDREN, PACK YOUR BAGS AND GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE.

Dear Black people, you’ve been misled. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid labeled American Dream and forgot to read the ingredients list. Just because you can afford a “million-dollar house” in the tony suburbs of Philadelphia where African-Americans make up less than four percent of the population, doesn’t mean you should move there, especially if you have children. And really, it’s the children I care about. Quite frankly, Black people, if you are a full-grown adult and you don’t mind being subjected to racist slights on a regular basis, like the chef profiled in the story who admitted he was stopped at least once a month on the Main Line for driving while Black, then that is your prerogative. But, if on the other hand, you are trying to raise happy and healthy children and you subject them to not only the same type of racist slights by neighbors and police, but also an environment that does not offer any positive reflections of Black life and culture, then we have a problem.

I know, I know, dear Black people, you only did it for the top-notch schools offered there in Lower Merion. They’re just so off-the charts amazing you decided it was worth it to sacrifice your children’s mental health, racial identity and self-esteem. Because when I read in the article that one of your sons was allegedly called a “black ass” by a teacher, that kids regularly taunted your kids with the N-word, that in school they are laughed at and made fun of because they’re Black and even that they get teased for eating fried chicken in the lunch room, I consider that abuse, plain and simple. Systematic and continuous abuse. And then I wonder, even if the school that these two boys were attending was the Harvard of middle schools, how much quality education could they actually be receiving if everyone from their classmates to their teachers were abusing them? If they were spending the better part of the school day trying their best to be invisible? The last time I checked, stress, abuse and low-teacher expectations had a negative impact on learning.

Now, before anyone says, ‘but Ms. Meltingpot, why should the Black people have to move? They didn’t do anything wrong. They have every right to live wherever they want. It’s 2015 for goodness sake.’ I have an answer to that line of reasoning. The beautiful thing about it being 2015 and Black people having the right to live wherever they want is just that. We do have the right and the choice to live wherever we want and thank goodness, there are choices. Lots of choices, in fact. In Philadelphia, if folks want suburban living, a big, fancy house and more diversity than the Main Line, there are options like Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. These neighborhoods boast gorgeous real estate options with the benefit of a more diverse population. The public schools in these neighborhoods aren’t as good as those on the Main Line, but with the money one would be saving on taxes by living in the city of Philadelphia as opposed to the suburbs, parents could afford a decent private school. But let’s go back to that ‘its for the education excuse.’ You can’t convince me that you’re only staying on the Main Line for the sake of your kids’ education if that education is sullied by daily racist abuse. (see that argument above.) It sounds like you’re staying because of that Kool-Aid problem I mentioned before. Perhaps, dear Black people, you like the status of your big house. Maybe you think it says you’ve arrived because you have a zip code that indicates you have more money than other people. But really, what that house represents is that you’ve chosen status and the false promise of a quality education over the reality that racist wankers can and will ruin your children for life.

Which brings me to my next point; the racist wankers that inhabit the Main Line. Please note, I am not suggesting that everyone who lives on the Main Line is a racist or a wanker. Not at all. I’m simply saying that based on the Philadelphia Magazine story and anecdotal evidence I’ve heard over the years, there is a significant number of racist wankers on the Main Line and they are not moving. Nor do they seem to be interested in becoming less racist or less wanker-ish. As evidenced by what happened when the leaders of a White progressive church on the Main Line posted a Black Lives Matter banner on their church and were met with such condemnation and vitriol from the community, as well as from White supremacist groups nationwide, that church leaders feared for their safety. Now, one could argue that families like the Fridays should stay and fight the racists, but I say, why? One Black family staying put in their pretty house is not going to change anybody’s racist ideals. On the other hand, one Black family who takes their two children to a neighborhood where they don’t have to fear for their lives when they ride their bicycles around the block and where they will have a chance to interact with other people of color could in fact change two lives for the better. And dear Black people, those are the lives you need to be worrying about, your children’s.

What’s more, in one point in the article, the writer details a moment when Mrs. Friday stormed into school and demanded change after yet another troubling racist incident directed at her child happened. Of course, nothing changed. Imagine if Mrs. Friday took her energy and resources to a public school with a little less money and slightly lower test scores, where the complexion of the population looked more like hers. Imagine the change she could engender there, not just as a change agent, but as a role model. Imagine if Black people like the Fridays, instead of trying to integrate a hostile and unwelcoming White community, instead put their energies into empowering the Black and brown community? At the end of the day, it’s simply not Black people’s job to sacrifice their children so that White people might learn to appreciate diversity.

This letter is getting really long, so I’m going to end it here with a final thought. I know there is no magical Black village where everything is perfect. But I also know that for too long Black people have longed to move on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky, without taking stock of the sacrifices such a move requires of the children involved. Nor do they appreciate how significant going to a school where the color of your skin doesn’t make you a target for ridicule and abuse. Attending a school that doesn’t have manicured soccer fields or a girls lacrosse team isn’t going to destroy a life. What will destroy a life however, is being told on a regular basis that you don’t matter and that you are inferior because you are Black. Dear Black people, where you live matters. Where you send your kid to school matters. If you have a choice, exercise it and choose a neighborhood and a school where your children will learn in both actions and words that indeed, Black Lives Matter.

Sincerely,

Ms. Meltingpot

#TeamLightSkin vs #TeamDarkSkin Take it to the Beach

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

If you’re regulars here, then you know I’m working on a book called Same Family, Different Colors that explores colorism in the United States. I’ve been working on the book for quite a while now, and have been completely immersed in the world of colorism, so much so, I didn’t think anything could shock me when it came to color-based discrimination. But I was wrong.

A colleague told me today about a case of the color wars that had me shaking my head and sucking my teeth. For real. Not only was I shocked by what he told me, I was shocked that the incident hadn’t come up in all of my research for this book. I guess my Google alert doesn’t capture all.

In a nutshell, the popular African-American radio host, Tom Joyner hosted a Caribbean cruise this past spring where one of the planned events was a massive water gun fight where guests were split into two teams. Yep, you guessed it, TeamLightSkin vs TeamDarkSkin. For the record, TeamLightSkin won. What was most shocking about this color based competition is that it wasn’t the first time it was held. Apparently Joyner has some sort of TeamLightSkin vs TeamDarkSkin battle every year on the cruise. Reportedly, this is his way to make light of a very dark situation. (Puns intended.) I guess he’s trying to normalize the conflict between African-Americans on either end of the color spectrum by openly pitting the two extremes against each other.

I’m not sure I believe in this type of healing. When you consider the ubiquity of social media, where images are shared without context, one could easily assume that Joyner, who is himself melanin challenged, was simply fanning the flames of conflict between these two groups. So, despite his good intentions, if I were him, I might rethink this act of subversive, reverse psychology. Instead, I’d retire the TeamLightSkin vs TeamDarkSkin labeling and instead support TeamAllShadesofBlack.

What do you think dear readers? Is Joyner doing the right thing with these annual battles? If the people participating on these cruises don’t mind, should I? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Peace!

My Protest on the Page: The #CapitalBCampaign is Launched!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I’ve been busy since the last time I wrote. Besides making a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner for 15 people, I’ve started a revolution in the name of respect.

Dear readers, you all know how I feel about the capital B situation in printed work. It drives me nuts that Black Americans are written in the lowercase, as if Black culture was something less than Latino, Asian or Native American culture. I wrote about my feelings here on the Meltingpot as well as in the New York Times in an Op-Ed piece that ran last month. And now, I’ve formally created a petition on Change.org asking the New York Times and the Associated Press to officially change their style books to say that when referring to Black Americans, always use the uppercase. Always.

I think it’s so silly that all of the major media outlets agreed to capitalize the N in Negro in 1930 and yet black is still written in the lowercase. What’s up with that? Is there some sort of collective amnesia going on in media circles?

If you agree that Black people deserve the respect of the uppercase, would you please be so kind as to sign the petition at Change.org and share the link with your networks? Bring your protests to the page and join me in the #CapitalBCampaign.

Thank you.

Peace!

This Thanksgiving, I’m Giving Thanks that I am Black!

Ms. Meltingpot and her Grandmother. Black and proud for almost 100 years.

Ms. Meltingpot and her Grandmother. Black and proud for almost 100 years.

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

There’s a lot of sadness and anger in the United States right now, most of it stemming from the situation happening in Ferguson, Missouri and the continual assault on Black lives. And then if you throw in the pathetic and disturbing downfall of Bill Cosby, as his secret life as a sexual predator comes to light, it’s enough to make any self-respecting Black person want to curl up and hide for the next 100 years or so.

There is so much pain and sorrow blowing through our world, I don’t want to add to the negativity. It’s hard not to express my anger in a public format, but I am trying to offer something different here on the Meltingpot. So, I started thinking about the things I was truly thankful for this Thanksgiving. Being healthy and having my family nearby is definitely at the top of my list. The fact that my children are healthy and happy makes me incredibly thankful. And of course, the fact that I have a job that I love is indeed a glorious blessing.

But there’s something else I’m really thankful for that might not seem possible at this particular moment in time. I am really thankful that I was born Black. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in a state deemed the most inhospitable to Black people. Despite the fact that I grew up surrounded by White people. Despite the fact that my own country still has yet to recognize Black people as first-class citizens. Despite the fact that this nation currently seems to be at war with my people, I am truly, hands-down happy and grateful that I was born Black in America. Here’s why.

I am thankful that my skin is this warm chocolate hue that looks fantastic draped in bright, radiant colors. I am thankful that this brown skin is also aging so well, people think I’m a decade younger than I really am. (It’s true, my Black don’t crack.) I am thankful that my thick, kinky hair is so versatile and full of personality. I am thankful that I come from a large family with a distinct cultural heritage that pulls from our southern roots, African heritage and Midwestern sensibilities. I am thankful that I feel a genuine kinship with other people around the globe whose life journey parallels my own. I am thankful that Black men above a certain age give me the nod on the street. I am thankful that Black women above a certain age will smile at me and my children when I encounter them on the street. I am thankful that I can claim some of the most brilliant, strong, creative, dedicated, amazing human beings ever to walk on the face of this earth as “my people.” I am thankful that I am the offspring of ancestors who were battered, beaten and brutalized so terribly, yet they were never broken. Never, ever, broken. Imagine the physical and emotional strength necessary to not only survive the middle passage, slavery, and Jim Crow Segregation, but to thrive and create and surpass the greatest expectations placed on you by your oppressors. That’s like superhuman shit right there. And I have their superhuman blood rolling through my veins today. Hell yeah, I’m Black and I’m proud…and very, very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! And please know I am extremely thankful that you all continue to visit the Meltingpot. I hope you have a warm and tasty holiday. (And pardon my potty mouth above.)

Peace!

Monday Microagressions Comic Relief: If Black Women Said…

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I have a new obsession and it’s called Buzzfeed. *hangs head in shame* My brother sent me a link to this hilarious video entitled, “If Black Women Said the Stuff White Guys Say” from the funny people at Buzzfeed. Yes, it’s meant to make you laugh but underneath the humor is a really effective way to get people to think about the microagressions Black women face every day. Like, I laughed until I almost peed myself watching this, but mostly because I could relate to every single example in the video. And that’s not funny at all. So, rather than keep all this highbrow humor to myself, enjoy. And be warned, there are also, If Latinos Said…, and If Asians Said… versions as well. You’re welcome.

White Moms Sue Because They Got a Black Baby…

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Warning, contents may be Black!

Warning, contents may be Black!

Have you heard about this lawsuit? A White lesbian couple is suing the sperm bank they used to find a baby daddy for their now two-year-old daughter. The problem? The two blonde mommies wanted a White father for their child and the sperm bank screwed up and sent them some Black sperm. So, now they have a Black /biracial child and they have to raise her in their bigoted small town they call home and take her long distances to get a decent hair cut and worry about a life for her that will be filled with racists and bigotry.

Here’s a story from ABC news that provides all the details.

I don’t have anything new to say about this insanity, except I hope the poor child finds a good lawyer once she’s an adult so she can sue her parents for being stupid.

I’d like to hear other people’s opinion on this one. I can sympathize with these women who must have been shocked and perhaps even fearful about the prospect of having a child that would be different racially from them. But then I thought, everybody who rolls the dice in child rearing is taking a huge risk and we never know what we’re going to get. White people have given birth to Black babies naturally (see Sandra Laing). Healthy women give birth to babies with severe mental or physical disabilities all the time. What did these women really expect when they decided to create a life with an anonymous sperm donor who they only knew as a number on a test-tube?

Thoughts, dear readers? I’m so listening.

Peace!

I Refuse to Remain in the Lower Case

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Please enjoy this essay I penned and if you agree with it, please pass it on, share it with your networks, re-post it (with credit please) tell your parents and their friends. I’m seriously trying to start a revolution here and I need your help. Thank you!

Black People Deserve a Capital “B”

This is the face of a revolutionary.

This is the face of a revolutionary.

I am a writer. My husband is a linguist. Words matter to us. I am Black, not African-American. My husband is Spanish, not to be confused with Hispanic or Latino. Labels matter to us as well, especially the labels we give ourselves. Our children, ages 12, nine and two, have yet to find a label for their own unique blend of Spanish and Black that feels authentic and appropriate, but I believe it is important for them to claim a label that gives them both comfort and a connection to a history and a culture. I would be perfectly happy if they identify as Black or Spanish or Mixed. They can call themselves “Blannish” if it works for them, but I resent the fact that my children, myself and any other American who might identify as Black, has to be satisfied with a label that is too often written in the lower case.

This could be viewed as a simple style issue, one that only us writers would take seriously, but I’m not looking to start a revolution over grammar. This is about identity and respect. With a mere slash of a copyeditor’s pen, my culture is reduced to a color. It seems silly to have to spell it out, that black with a lower case “b” is a color, whereas Black with a capital “B” refers to a group of people whose ancestors were born in Africa, were brought to the United States against their will, spilled their blood, sweat and tears to build this nation into a world power and along the way managed to create glorious works of art, passionate music, scientific discoveries, a marvelous cuisine, and untold literary masterpieces. When a copyeditor deletes the capital “B,” they are in effect deleting the history and contributions of my people.

As a wordsmith myself, I cannot understand how any editor, who understands the significance of an errant comma or a “there” instead of a “their,” can sanction the use of a lower case “b” to signify a culture of people. Latinos get a capital “L,” Asians get their “A,” Native Americans get both the “N” and the “A” in capital letters, but Black people don’t deserve the same? Even visually, seeing that lower case “b” in a sentence where blacks stand beside Latinos and Asians, reeks of second-class citizenry and disrespect on the page. How can one avoid feeling inferior when even the nomenclature associated with our group label doesn’t merit the upper case?

Some like to argue that if we capitalize the “b” in Black than we have to do the same for the “w” in White, when referring to White Americans. I have no problem with that. White Americans deserve their capital letter too, but I’m not here to fight their battles, mainly because most White Americans haven’t spent the last 400 years trying to disassociate their cultural heritage from models of inferiority and endemic pathologies.

Another problem we’re dealing with is that there isn’t a consensus around this issue. Some publications, mostly academic ones, capitalize Black when speaking of Black people. But most news organizations, including The New York Times as well as any publication that relies on the ubiquitous AP Stylebook, use the lower case for any “racial designations derived from color.” Yes, some lifestyle magazines capitalize the “b” – see Essence and Ebony – but most of those publications cater to the Black community. The fact is, even the dictionary is divided on this issue, proclaiming that when referring to Black people, either upper or lower case is acceptable.

So, if capital “B” is acceptable, what’s keeping news organizations like The New York Times and The Associated Press from taking a stand for equality on the page? If both are correct, then why not offer a capital “B” as a token of respect if nothing else? Is it inertia or racism? Not for nothing, the editors of the AP Stylebook just recently updated not one but five !!!! of their rules, so we know that change is possible despite what many editors say.

Ironically, W.E.B. Du Bois fought this very same fight almost 100 years ago. Only back then, he and other activists were demanding to have the “n” in Negro capitalized. Du Bois targeted local and national newspapers and like me, viewed the lower case letter as a form of disrespect and overt racism. And he wasn’t wrong. Reportedly, one editor of a Georgia newspaper said he’d never capitalize the “n” because it might, “lead to social equality.” Finally, on March 7, 1930, The New York Times agreed to change their policy and wrote in a stirring editorial, “In our ‘style book’ ‘Negro’ is now added to the list of words to be capitalized. It is not merely a typographical change; it is an act of recognition of racial self-respect for those who have been for generations in ‘the lower case.”

If The New York Times editorial staff had the courage and the insight to make that change in 1930, I wonder why they and other mainstream publishers can’t do the same today? Clearly I am not the first person to bring this issue up and I know I’m not the only one who cares. But I will take my cue from Du Bois and wage a campaign that will not cease until everyone from the copyeditor at the Times to the spellcheck robot on Microsoft Word agrees upon this issue. Because we must be a people who refuse to remain “in the lower case.”

# # #

Speaking of Microaggressions…

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

So, the other day on facebook I stumbled upon this article listicle from Buzzfeed titled, “21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis.” The story recaps the work of a photographer from Fordham University who asked her peers to write down some of the racial microaggressions they hear on a daily basis. Before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s the definition of a “microaggression” per Buzzfeed:

The term “microaggression” was used by Columbia professor Derald Sue to refer to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” Sue borrowed the term from psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce who coined the term in the ’70s.”

There’s also this cool Tumblr that chronicles even more microaggressions from folks all over the world.

Has this ever happened to you?

Has this ever happened to you?

I could so relate to the sentiments expressed in these projects and didn’t even know that what happened to me all the time had a big fancy name like microaggression. I just thought people were ignorant but didn’t know they were being ignorant and so I couldn’t be mad at them for making me feel like a worthless piece of dookie pie. So, in the spirit of sharing, here’s my Top-Ten list of my all time favorite microaggressions aimed at me at one time or another.

1. I’m sorry, you didn’t sound Black on the phone.
2. That’s funny, I never knew anybody Black named Lori.
3. You speak so well.
4. You are really articulate.
5. (When traveling outside of the United States). No, but really, where are you from? Like what part of Africa are you from?
6. (Also when traveling outside of the US) You look just like (insert any of the Cosby Kids here or any other Black female celebrity)
7. How do you get your hair to do that? (What, you mean grow out of my head naturally?)
8. Can you wash your hair when it’s like that?
9. Is your daddy White? Then why do you talk like that?
10. Lori (as the only Black girl in the entire grade), you can play the role of the sassy maid in the school play, because you’re just so perfect for that role.

Those are mine. Do you have any to add, dear readers? I know you do. Let’s get the Meltingpot list of microaggressions going so we can all learn to be a little bit more aware of what we say and how it affects other people. I’m listening and taking notes.

Peace!