Our lives are full of defining moments. They’re milestones like graduating high school, getting married, buying your first home or car, or the birth of your first child. There are historical moments we have frozen in time, memories jarred alive by the question,
“Where were you when…?”
Where were you when the first man landed on the moon?
Where were you when JFK was assassinated?
Where were you when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated?
Where were you when the Twin Towers fell?
These are all very common milestones in our lives that are burned firmly in our collective and individual consciousness. But for some of us, there are other defining moments that don’t resonate with others.
It is not an uncommon view that racial inequality has not changed in the way that many think it has since the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) of the 1950s and 1960s. While there was progress made in terms of facilities and schools no longer being segregated legally and discrimination was no longer allowed in a legal sense, in my view, that’s where the most significant progress ended. Many people have been lulled into a false sense of comfort that “we have come so far” when it comes to race relations, and in turn has promoted damaging colorblind racism which further perpetuates racial inequality as it neglects to acknowledge how much more work there is to do. And most importantly, colorblind racism fails to fully recognize that many in this country still hold racist views, implicit bias and prejudices unknown to them.
In her book “From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation”, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor outlines the many systems that have existed since slavery and still exist today that play an important role in maintaining racial stratification. All of these persist in spite of how far we’ve come, a clear indicator that colorblind racism has a strong hold in our country. These systems are important to acknowledge as they have not yet fully dissolved and they ensure the continuation of racial inequality even in light of the achievements that many people of color have been able to make.
On the way into my polling place today, an older Muslim woman was exiting the building. As she came through the double doors, she raised both of her arms high above her head, like a champion who had just won a fight and she shouted:
“Yes! The first time in November! Yes!”
And shook her fists in the air.
I watched as she walked through the parking lot, hugging the women she was with, practically jumping on their backs. Pure exuberance and happiness. Her smile flashing in the swirling snow.
I was immediately filled with an immense sense of joy.
And I was immediately humbled.
Here was someone who was not native to this country who was so empowered by doing something she felt called to do while there are many here, born and raised, who take this opportunity for granted year after year and voluntary choose not to vote because of this attitude of “why bother”.
As Professor Joshua Page says, no matter which way you vote, you should always vote. After all, voting is, as Americans, our “civic minimum”.
I will forever think of this woman as she voted for the first time in a November election celebrating her civic duty as I was on my way to perform mine.
And I will now forever see my civic duty not as something I do because I have to.
But because it’s something I’m able to.
And I’m grateful for that.
I was out with my friend Britta when I first heard of the killings in Pittsburgh on Saturday. We were enjoying a day of “fall fun”: an apple orchard, the pumpkin patch, a trip to Stillwater, which all started at a hip new food court in St. Paul. I had logged onto Instagram on my phone to look for a photo, and the first post that popped up in my feed was from Shaun King, reporting on the shooting and killing of eleven people at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A white man had stormed into The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill armed with an AR-15 and handguns, yelling “All Jews Must Die.”
She swept into the room
and I breathed deep of her.
A vision of excellence.
A vision of greatness.
What Black Women are made of.
long and beautiful, moving with her.
A most delicate dance.
Her breadth of knowledge apparent.
Her thirst for knowledge visible.
Radiating wisdom with every step.
I, in awe.
Lulled into a state of euphoria by her essence.
Submerged in and absorbing
the atmosphere made temperate
by her aura.
Yet wide awake and receptive to
every word, every thought she uttered.
And then she was gone.
But in her wake remained a reverence that begged a question.
Who is she?
She is perfect in a world where everything is twisted and ugly.
The picture of grace and loveliness.
She is comforting in a world that is scary and dark.
The embodiment of warmth and of nurturing.
She is the hope.
She is the light.
She is the shine.
She is you.
She is me.
She is all of us.
She is all
that we can be.
There’s been a lot I’ve been wanting to write about here, and with school ramping up and starting a new job, it’s been hard to sit down and not only decide what to write about, but just actually get the writing done. And truthfully, I have a ton of other work that I’m avoiding right now, which is why I find myself here. Getting out a new post here sounds more exciting than writing a paper for my Research Methods class or reading more material from dead white guys for my Social Theory class. (Not to hate, but I’m just tired of reading Marx and Durkheim right now #truestory.)
So today I’m going to bring it back to thoughts from this summer and my work at local parks and apartment homes bringing meals to kids. It was a great experience overall, but there were definitely some times where I had to stop and think real hard, or steel myself and fight my emotions as I grew attached to these kids. Click through to read more…
Today, three of my roommates and I took a quick little half-day trip to Stillwater, MN. A 30-40 minute drive from our house, it’s a cute little river town full of charm, history and neat little shops.
One of the biggest shops in town is the Midtown Antique Mall, three floors crammed wall to wall, floor to ceiling full of stuff. A hoarder’s paradise and an OCD sufferer’s worst nightmare.
I was powering my way through the store, poking in almost every nook and cranny when there it was. Nothing I had ever seen in person before, but the type of thing I had just written about here.
A few weeks ago, my roommate Diana and I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things. It was past dinner time and the smell of fatty fried chicken lured me into putting a six-pack of wings, drumsticks and thighs in my cart. Then I spotted their selection of cut fruit, felt the urge for something juicy, sweet and refreshing so I grabbed a nice sized package of pre-cut watermelon.
As I put it into my cart next to the fried chicken, I said to Diana “Geez, could I be any more stereotypically Black?!” And then I thought, “Well no one’s going to think I’m being stereotypically Black since everyone thinks I’m Hispanic.”
(I tend to make light of the fact that I am so commonly thought of as Hispanic and most people rarely assume that I’m around 50% Black. It’s sometimes a touchy subject for me and I have lots more to say on that but that’s for another time, and a whole other post.)
But what really got into my brain after this was how the fact that fried chicken and watermelon have been such a stereotypical Black “thing” that it has taken on a negative connotation. A book that’s on my summer reading list explores the history of racist ideas in America. “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi is a tome of a book (511 pages!!) that I can’t wait to dive into. Even though I have yet to really crack into it (I’m on page 26!), it already has me thinking more deeply about the history of stereotypes and prejudice, specifically those surrounding Blacks in America.
For a good deal of my life I have been aware of racism and discrimination as being all too common in our society. I learned about slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and segregation and all of the horrible things that Blacks in this country endured.
I learned about the racism and discrimination against other minority groups as well. Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans all have endured horrible things at the hands of white supremacy.
Growing up in a mixed race household (I’m Black, White with maybe a little teeny tiny bit of Native American), I grew up used to experiencing diversity on a daily basis. I was born in southern California and my parents are members of the Bahá’í Faith which meant that I was born into some very different cultural experiences.
I remember in elementary school having what felt like a very diverse first grade class. I don’t really remember my classmates that well, but I do know that there was a White kid named Donny that I had a crush on (and so did everyone else) and an Hispanic girl named Unique that I was pretty tight with. Class photos show a pretty mixed class with lots of different colored faces. I should dig one out and look at it again, maybe my memory is fuzzy on that.
I don’t have any specific memories of experiencing racism while we were in San Bernardino, and my early years in California were a little chaotic so I don’t fully trust my memory. However, I do have an idea in my head that my sister experienced some outright racism from our neighbors that lived down the street.