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Update: Brand NEW Posts Coming Soon!!!!

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Hair Story Revisited

“I am not my hair, I am not my skin, I am not your expectations…I am the soul that lives within.”— India Arie



Undoubtedly, hair is important to women. At my birthday social I posed the hypothetical question would you shave off all of your hair for millions of dollars? Instantly my girlfriends began to think about what having no hair would mean to them. Finally, one of my friends said yes. Of course I yelled out yes, after all it’s just hair and to receive a million dollars without having to work for it or do anything immoral seems too sweet of an offer to pass up. I remember the look on one of my girlfriend’s faces. It was like her hair’s life was flashing before her eyes. She is a very attractive woman with beautiful long golden hair. Finally, after I upped the amount of money she conceded. I guess she too came to the conclusion that at the end of the day its just hair. But women go through great lengths (no pun intended) to maintain/attain beautiful stylish hair. As I said in my post entitled Ugly, society exacts this harsh mandate on women to look beautiful, yet the beauty standard is always inflexible and ironically unattainable. That said, is it any wonder why women have such an attachment to their hair, even to the extent that they would sacrifice a higher quality of life (in my example, millions) for it?

This year my hair and extensions have received a lot of attention—jokes, commentary etc. To counter some of that I posted this on my facebook page:

“I am not my hair. Indie Arie said it best in her song “it’s not about your hair it’s what’s underneath.” In fact her whole song encapsulates my worldview. I change my hair and wigs and pieces more than most people change their socks. I don’t front! I’ll tell you straight up and unapologetically if it aint mine! I don’t wear hair to be fake or to pretend I am something I’m not. To the contrary, I’m just doing me. And I’m fine with that. I’ll be rockin the natural look soon (no chemicals), but I’ll still be the same person and I won’t love ya any less.”

I don’t really understand why so many people have become my personal hair critics. At the end of the day it’s MY hair. If I want to shave it off or weave it down to my toes, it’s my prerogative. And some people have been down right hostile about it! Take a recent conversation I had with a male family member.

“Girl I know you’re not going to go to work with that knotty, nappy head?”

“Sure am, there nothing wrong with my hair. My hair is beautiful”

He laughs sardonically, “Humph! If I was your employer I would send you straight home.”

“My employer has natural hair too. She has dreads”

“When are you going to get it done, [by done he means straightened] cuz you look just like one of those hood rats, wit yo hair all over ya head.

“This is the way God made my hair. Are you saying God made a mistake?”

“I’m just saying you need to get ya hair done.”

“I think its funny that when I wear wigs your always telling me to wear my real hair, yet when I wear my real hair you seem to have an issue with it.”

This buttresses my theory that when it comes to beauty women can’t win! Regardless of how I wear my hair, someone isn’t going to like it. That’s just life. Part of him recognizes his hypocrisy and smiles. I continue. “I’m not going to perm my hair. I don’t want my hair falling out nor do I want to have holes in my scalp!”

“You need to put a hot comb to it then.”

“Nope, I’m not burning out my fragile hair. Sides I don’t want it straight! There’s NOTHING WRONG with black hair. When are we going to learn this?”

Looks at me as if I started speaking Chinese. “Uh, I still think you look a mess! That s*** is nappy!” and with that he exited the conversation.*

This is a 40something year old man. I can’t re-educated him. He grew up with the same lies that I grew up with. I just decided to challenge what I had learned. What I don’t understand is WHY is matters. I am not my hair. Regardless of how my hair is styled, I am going to be the same person.

Furthermore, I find that the most malignant form of racism is racism that has been internalized by the oppressed group and then regurgitated generation after generation by the oppressed group to further subjugate their own people. The LIE that African people are ugly is a perverse and egregious one! Black people have been conditioned to believe that African features are unattractive and that we too should bow down before the altar that is European beauty. I feel like an idiot for even having to say this, but black people are not white. We are each different, yet divinely made with features that distinguish us and makes us beautiful. In other words, God made different types of beauty!

I have a girlfriend who is beautiful. One of the things that makes her beautiful is her rich African-textured hair, which she chooses to wear in lovely dreads. One day a fellow graduate student walked up to her and asked “Do you think wearing you hair that way is going to affect your career?.” There was no hi, how are you. No introduction. No segue. Just blunt audacious criticism. My girlfriend had never met this woman before and this woman knew absolutely NOTHING about my friend. Yet, this woman felt it was within her right to be both critical and prejudice. I feel the need to recapitulate my point of view. IT”S JUST HAIR. The disturbing truth is that we are a pitifully superficial society. (I am sighing in exasperation!)


I feel like I should add a little caveat here. I’m not praising natural hair at the expense of denouncing permed hair. There’s nothing wrong with permed hair. Perhaps I many go back and perm my hair again. I doubt it, but permed straight, or weaved long, or cut short I am the same person. I played a little trick with myself just to make sure. Since wearing my natural hair I asked myself if I were still as smart, kind, spiritual, and capable as when I had permed hair. WOW! Guess what?!! I haven’t changed!!! So although my outward appearance has evolved slightly, I have somehow managed to retain the same personality and worldview. SHOCKING! That’s almost scandalous. (I really hope you all are picking up on my sarcasm!)

At the end of the day “I am not my hair, I am not my skin, I am not your expectations…I am the soul that lives within!” I wish the world would adopt this stance, but I have a sneaky suspicion that we are too consumed with our shallow pursuits to pay any attention to the reverberating sound of truth.


*In his defense he really wasn’t trying to be cruel, he just has a blunt/untactful way of putting things.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Hair Story

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…And I’m feeling good!—Nina Simone


Twas much shorter but blogger lost the original picture :-(

Last month I cut most of my hair off. Okay let me back up and give you the full story before you think Imustajuslostmamind! My hair journey has been an interesting one. July of last year my hair stylist and I had a falling out. She was an excellent stylist, but her personality was less than palatable. Now I should tell you that I was one of those sistahs with a chemical dependency. Every 6 to 8 weeks without delay I got a relaxer touch up. I brought the lie that my natural hair was ugly and only European-straight hair was attractive. I subscribed to this maladaptive thinking for almost 19 years!! I still struggle with it! Yes, I have been a slave to chemicals for 19 years.

Anyway, because of zillions of bad hair experiences (I could write a separate blog on those alone), I am very very sensitive about who does my hair. So for months I was without a stylist. Then another thing happened. I got BROKE. I was spending 45 to 80 dollars a week to keep my hair looking good and then one fateful day my wallet just couldn’t take the strain anymore. Over the weeks of not going to a stylist my own wonderfully nappy hair began to grow. A sudden curiosity sparked inside of me: What if I stopped perming my hair? This definitive moment was contrary to everything I had been taught! (I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a family that was color struck.) So, I started reading and empowering myself about my African-textured hair. I started really considering and appreciating African hairstyles.

In all honesty, I ALWAYS hated the process of getting a perm. No matter who applied the perm, my scalp always ended up burning. Not to mention, the over processing of the hair had led to shedding—A LOT of shedding. I knew that the only way I was going to have a head full of healthy hair was to give up my chemical dependency. I started off wearing hairpieces and then wigs. Many of my family members and those in my social network (who suffer from the horrible affliction of colorism) thought I was just going through a phase or that I had temporarily misplaced my sanity. Still the months went by and my perm slowly began to break off.

At around November, I met a new stylist who has a lot of experience with styling and treating natural hair. A few weeks later, I let her trim some of the perm off. Last month, as I promised myself, I had my cosmetologist cut the remaining perm off of my head. I remember sitting in that chair so uncertain as pieces of my beloved perm fell to the floor. Will I have any hair left, I thought. Maybe I should just perm it again said my inner brainwashed Eurocentrist. But deep inside I have always like the feel and texture of my own hair. I like to coil and uncoil the little curls and twist them around my finger. I actually felt a little sad when I would get a perm and had no more curls to play with. An interesting thing happened when my stylist handed me a mirror and I look at myself—my real self without that poison in my hair. Instead of feeling insecure, I felt liberated. I felt me. For one of the first times ever I looked at my hair and LOVED it. I have a full head of kinky curly naps and I LOVE them. But another question hit the back of my brain…

How would everyone else react?

I came home with natural twist a few weeks ago and to my surprise most of my family liked it. I mean I got the occasional “Look at all that Nappy hair!* I ignore it. I think we have all been miseducated to some extent, but I don’t always feel like being the one who elucidates the misconceptions. The truth is that some people WANT to remain miseducated. In those cases, I must respectfully agree to disagree.

I went to church that same Sabbath and a sistah with beautiful natural hair came up to me and took my hands. “You look so pretty.” She beamed. She looked at me intently, in away that said “I know being natural isn’t easy and not everyone will like it, but this is who you are!” “Not to say you weren’t pretty before, but I just love you hair now.” She said. I gave that sistah I nice tight hug. Her words, carefully chosen, were affirming. They said I accept you at a point where I was feeling insecure about my short little twists.

My biggest problem with my hair thus far has been the length. I’ve had shoulder length hair most of my life, so it was a real transition getting used to it being so short. But, because my hair is completely healthy it is growing rapidly.

It took me darn near 23 years to figure out that my hair IS beautiful, contrary to what we have been programmed to think. So like Nina Simone, it’s a new day for me and my hair… and I’m feeling GOOD!

*When I use the word nappy, I don’t mean it in a pejorative way. Unfortunately, many people, black and white, use it as an insult. These are the one’s who were socialized to believe that Black hair is inferior to white and other textures of hair and who, despite the facts, refuse to become enlighten.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Great Black Prince

Once upon a time, when I was a kid, I had a vivid imagination--like most kids do I suppose. A little before elementary school, I believed that mermaids and unicorns were real creatures. After all, the movies and books I was exposed to had all these fantastic tales of their existence. So I believed that they had to be somewhere out there in this huge world! But then, something almost tragic happened. When I got to be about 6, I started to have my suspicions and decided to I ask a trusted family member about whether unicorns and mermaids were real. To my dismay, she told me that they were not. It was like being smacked in the face with a frying pan. “Why not?” I asked innocently, wanting and wishing these fairytales to be reality. “Because they just don’t, they are make-believe,” she answered gently not wanting to destroy the hopes of a small child. What a reality check! My most beloved fairytale characters were just that--“fairytales”. My hope in their reality was just wishful thinking. Darn those liars who had me convinced that my mythical beings were genuine!

I think it’s safe to say that I no longer believe in fairytales. In fact, if you were to survey a random sample of mentally stable adult women they would probably tell you the same--that fairytales, no matter how fanciful and endearing, are not real. I don’t think I’ve said anything that’s not self-evident. So why is it that many women go about their lives thinking that someday a great prince will come and save them from the mundane? Obviously, this kind of counterproductive thinking was part of the early socialization/indoctrination process of most women. Just think that most little girls watch Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast etc. and read all manner of tales about great princes on white stallions sleighing dragons. Girls are given Barbie and Ken dolls to play with and all manner of domestication toys (tea sets, clean up sets, baby dolls, bridal sets) with the implications being they too will grow up and find princes of their own and then get married and live happily every after. Even with 40 to 50% of our marriages jettisoned into the sewer of divorce, we still feed our children these outrageous lies.

For the African American woman, these well-intended lies sting most ferociously. Consider that the black divorce rate is TWICE what it is for society at large! Translation: that almost all black marriages end in divorce. That’s not any easy thing for me to type. Neither is it easy for me to write that because of the lack of suitable and marriageable black men, 45% of black women will never get married. The brutal truth of the matter is that black men are crap! Yeah, I said it. In fact, allow me to give you an example. I can easily lists you several brilliant, articulate, erudite, moral black women, but if I were to rack my brain I could barely come up with more than a couple black men with similar attributes. I see black women in graduate school, involved in the community, socially conscious, ambitious and many are breathtakingly beautiful. Yet they remain single. It seems that any man would bend over backwards, climb mountains and swim seas to attain women with such credentials, but NOT black men.

See he realizes that there are a surplus of us, and that no matter how raggedy, illiterate, unattractive, or shady he is, because of the man shortage that he helped perpetuate, there will always be some female who will put up with his reprehensible behavior just for the sake of having a black man. In fact, so called black women empowerment magazines like Ebony and Essence even encourage black women to date down in order to have one of these coveted black penises. To be sure, I have an issue with men of all races in terms of their continual mistreatment of women, however, as stated before I am most affected by the actions of black people and therefore my focus as a conscious black woman is on our plight.

Which brings me to the point, do black men know how coveted they are? You better believe it! And that is why they have no impetus to change. Why become a good man and work hard to attain an education, career, and a monogamous relationship, when so many women of so many different races and backgrounds will do almost anything to secure your interest—and the sweetest part is that you don’t have to do anything but be both black and a man to have it! While black women are being labeled oversexed whores, and golddiggers, black men enjoy the privilege of being thought of as the most virile and masculine men on the planet. Such is the great black dick myth! So despite their high incarceration rate, their unabashed misogyny and violence towards women, their notoriety for abandoning their own children, and their low professional and educational attainment, they will NEVER change because women all over the globe have enabled their behavior!

It’s basic psychology. Put the rat in the box with a lever. If every time the rat pushes the lever he is rewarded with food, he will continue to do so, because his behavior has been reinforced (in psychology we call this a continual schedule of reinforcement). He associates lever pressing with food treats and thus has no motivation to change his behavior. Why change behavior, regardless of how malignant it might be, if it is being rewarded! This is operant conditioning at its best. All people learn through this kind of conditioning, including, or rather in this case, especially the black man.

What are women taught to do? We black women are scolded to stick by our men, even if it is to our detriment! That has become the black woman’s mantra. We are taught that black men have to endure a more difficult life because racism somehow affects them more. If this load of lies is true, than why is it that despite being both black and women (belonging to two historically oppressed groups) and having to cope with the insidiousness of both racism and sexism, black women continue to advance? Black women need to realize when they are being lied to. Why are we supposed to stick by men who relentlessly hate, subjugate, and victimize us? How does this benefit US? Simply put, it does not!

And so we wait.

We get older and more tired, but like a maltreated animal that still retains his loyalty to an abusive master, we return to suffer at the hands of black men over and over again. We get more and more disillusioned and depressed, but pathologically we stand up for men who throw us away for white, Asian, and Hispanic women. We allow our self-esteem to be murdered because these Eurocentric black men do not appreciate our African features. We fantasize about being whisked away by a great black prince, who contradicts all the stereotypes and statistics about black men and loves and desires only us. We wish upon stars, and subscribe to fairytales, thinking that if we are just good enough we might receive the love of the great black prince. My sistah you will wait forever, because like mermaids and unicorns, the great black prince does not exist—no matter how much we want him too. He is just a fairytale.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Crystal Clear On Interracial Relationships


Okay if you have read anything at all on my pages you know that I don’t shy away from controversial topics or try to sugarcoat my opinions. You also know that I’m not just someone who writes blogs, but I am someone who reads them regularly. One of my favorite blogs happens to be a white 20somethings Christian conservative blog (hey just because opinions are different than mine doesn’t mean I can’t read and appreciate them). It just so happens that the topic of discussion was interracial dating/relationships last week. (Most people can guess where this is going.) The original blogger wrote that 1) There is no biblical basis for discrimination or anti-interracial relationship sentiments. I agree. 2) People that aren’t proponents of interracial dating are probably racists. I somewhat agree. 3) That children of interracial unions don’t face discrimination or identity problems. I disagree! I will (probably) discuss these at length in future blogs but for the time being I’d like to comment on the comments. I found many of them terribly politically correct, misguided, and profoundly (umm) stupid. I read comments that said that black people
and white people are the same. Ha! Yeah right. That two white people from different cultures (think a Swede and a German) encounter some of the same problems as lets say a black and a white person dating. Ha! That interdenominational dating among Christians was just as controversial. Ha! There was also a huge debate about which term was the most PC friendly term to use to describe interracial/interethnic/intercultural relationships. Finally, having read dozens of such comments, against my better judgment, I added my two cents to the discussion. And this is where the conversation gets interesting.

My first post
“While all these well-intended, politically correct comments are sweet, I am inclined to disagree. Black people and white people are different. I realize that’s a generalization, but for the most part it’s true. I’m black and from the inner city and when my white friends start talking about sleeping on the ground (i.e. camping), jumping out of airplanes, and skiing (what inner-city-bred black person skis?) I really can’t relate. Okay so here’s where I get lambasted! I really feel like when at all possible we should date exclusively in our own race—although I refuse to believe that it is morally wrong to do otherwise…I believe that children who are bi-(whatever the word of the week on boundless is) tend to suffer a tremendous identity crisis. My best friend is black and white and he’s not just mixed—he’s mixed up. I have [other associates who are mixed] and they have no black identity, they may as well be all white. It really stinks to not being able to relate to half of what you are. It’s awful to throw part of your culture away—and I see that happening a lot to mixed children. I think many mixed children feel like they have to choose a race. No doubt our society is responsible for that.
And now for my most controversial point…I am against inter(whatever) relationships when the woman is white and the man is black.* Does that means I’m against all of these unions. NO WAY. But I am against it when black men intentionally seek white women because they buy into stereotypes about black women (i.e. they are too independent, they are gold diggers, they aren’t as attractive etc). I believe that’s a form of self-hatred. It is the worst kind of racism—racism against ones own people. I believe most black men date white women because they are 1) looking for a status symbol) 2) ashamed of their own race 3) believe that white women will let them get away with behaviors that black women wouldn’t tolerate 4) buy into the forbidden fruit hypothesis or 5) a combination of all five. How else do we explain so many black men marrying and dating outside of their (ahem) group. A few yes…but now its become a trend. I know black men who won’t even date black women, because white is the hottest new craze. I think that’s horribly chauvinist to treat any woman as a trophy—but it happens. And it happens a lot.
Lastly, I am concerned about what will happen to my race (darn did I use the “r” word in this politically correct discussion!) if this type of thinking continues. If black men continue to marry white women because of their lack of racial identity/consciousness (which is what it all boils down to), and then their children grow to lack racial identity/consciousness, and their children etc…etc it will mean the end of the black race—or at least the whitening of it. Maybe I’m overreacting, but that bothers me.”

After I made this post, I intended to walk away (or at least navigate to another page). But then a young lady had this to say in response.

“About the white and black men preferring white women - it is any shock? Look at how our media portrays white beauty as THE most desirable - as many articles by staff at boundless suggest, people are influenced by the media when it comes to their tastes in the oppositite sex. For example, if black women are sexualized in the media, and we always hear that you bring home the "good girl" to mama, how is it surprising that no one's bringing mama home a black woman?!?”

Ouch! I couldn’t walk away from that one even though I agree that white beauty is the ideal in this country.

“[Young woman’s name] what you said about black women not being portrayed positively in the media is definitely true. But I think you are forgetting that black men are portrayed even less positively. They are uneducated, swearing, misogynists, who objectify women for their own selfish gratification. That’s what you see in the media! And there are hundreds of other such stereotypes. Yet these depictions haven’t stopped white women from being attracted to black men. Why have they then succeeded (to use your logic) in making black women unappealing---particularly to their own men? Also I can’t tell you how much media I’ve come across that has white women half-dressed and shaking their thing, or having a sexual encounter, or doing things that are too unchristian to even be talked about. Also consider that the majority of porn (think playboy) is white. Many black men’s first experience with the idea that white is sexy probably came from magazines like Playboy and Maxim. All women are sexualized and caricatured in media! That’s the sad reality we live in.
I also want to add that as a very conscious black woman it does something to me when I see another one of my men with a white woman on his arm. It feels like a smack in the face. It feels like a betrayal—like he’s selling out—as if he is throwing his race away. We must also not forget that a few years ago if he had even looked at a white woman he could have been lynched. I recently watched a documentary in which a young black guy was arrested because he was dating a white girl whose parents accused him of kidnapping. They even threatened to disown their daughter if she refused to press charges. The police didn’t ask questions they just threw him in jail without even trying to hear his side of the story. We must consider the painful and sad history of this country and how that history affects race relations today. Racism still thrives and in many situations (like the aforementioned one) it’s just not safe to date outside of the race. It [interracial dating] causes unnecessary tension and hurt.
I’d also like to add that I really appreciate this discussion. I don’t agree with many of the comments, but they were genuinely expressed and well articulated. These discussions of race always give me food for thought…”

Some people were inclined to agree with me.

“Speaking as a black woman who is pretty much equal opportunity, I was struck by Crystal's comment that dating outside of race might not be safe. Having experienced persecution because of my color, my height, my gender and my religion, I would have to say that if I were only to do what is safe, I would lock myself in my apartment and never come out. (And even that's a risk... what if there's a fire?) As Christians, we're always going to be misfits regardless of whatever else we choose to do, so if I meet and choose to marry a man who isn't black, I'm not going to allow the ungodly opinions and sinful actions of others to put asunder what God has joined.
Jesus came to give us abundant life in every area... He didn't say it would be safe.”

Hey I can’t disagree with that.

Another had this to say “I understand Crystal's concerns. I mean, being ashamed of your own ethnicity is not a good thing. Plus, there is nothing wrong with marrying within your race. However, she didn't point out (sadly) that it is just as wrong to intentionally date within your own race primarily to stay safe or out of fear of becoming a sellout as just as it is not right for folks to intentionally date someone outside of your race out of shame of your own culture or out of wanting to fit into the majority. Plus, we all carry baggage when we date or marry.”
What’s to disagree with there?
But then one young lady had this to say “Crystal, being that my father is black and my mother is white, and they have been happily married since 1979, i find your statements highly offensive. first of all, why wouldn't an inner-city raised person camp? my dad was raised in the inner city of cincinnati, and he and my mom love to go to the red river gorge for a few nights of camping. there is no racially defined "thing" people do. my dad wasn't a "gold digger"- being that he's a northwestern educated librarian, its hardly something he worried about.there is no "forbidden fruit" aspect- if a white person on this board would have made the same statement (and even more, if they would have worried about the "darkening" of the white race) they would have been rightfully lambasted. and my sister and i are not "confused". we refuse to choose a race- why should we? we are black and white. both. not either. i am completely and entirely repulsed. what does it mean to "identify" as black? be able to dance well? be able to name top 10 hip hop artists at the drop of a hat? sheesh.”
Wow I guess I really ruffled her feathers. So I attempted to post this in response. Only thing is that my comment was a bit too black to be approved.
“Dear [young ladies name],

When I wrote my earlier posts I was not targeting you or anybody else specifically. I was merely sharing my feelings on a very contentious topic. My intentions were never to offend or “repulse” anybody. When I talk about living in the inner city, that’s a euphemism for the hood and black people from the hood don’t find the same things appealing that white people from more privileged backgrounds do. I used camping, sky-driving, and skiing as examples because where I’m from these activities are enjoyed predominately by white people. Sure it’s hard to generalize, but I think we can all agree that generally there are things that white people enjoy that blacks do not and vice versa.
Also I think you misunderstood me, I never said that black men were “gold diggers”, what I did say was that many of them buy into the stereotype that black women fall into that category. You see, whenever a black man does something that goes against his stereotype (i.e go to college), he tends to rush right out and get a white woman and throw his race away. That’s another generalization, but I think it’s relevant. I think black men that date outside of their race have an agenda, and I believe that most fall into one of the categories I listed in my prior posts. I’ve seen it, read about it, and experienced it! I think that to choose to date a person just because of their race is just as wrong as to choose not to date them just because of their race.
Lastly, when I talk about racial identity and consciousness, I’m not talking about dancing or hip-hop. That’s entirely irrelevant. I think that you should look up these terms. If you understood them fully you wouldn’t have made the assumptions you made. Read up on the theory of “psychological nigrescence” which talks about how racial identity (a group identity or sense of people-hood related to self esteem) is developed. Consciousness refers to a psychological awareness that one is black living in a world that can be highly hostile to people of color. It’s really hard to paraphrase these very complex constructs without posting 50 paragraphs, but I encourage you to check out the article “African Self-Consciousness and the Mental Health of African Americans” by Joseph Baldwin** for a more complete definition. Also check out the Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Dubios where he talks about dual consciousness.
I think black men who date outside of their race usually lack such identity/consciousness and that it has implications for their future generations. If all black men began to neglect their race and adopt an anti-black worldview, then I am justifiably concerned about the future of the black culture I love so much!”

Crickets chirping. No response. Chirp some more. Yeah of course that comment wasn’t going to be approved. Ha! But it is now and on the most wonderful blog in cyberspace! (I’m suffering from temporary delusions of grandeur).

So what is the moral of all of this race hating and debating. Well the original blogger sums it up in this tongue-in-cheek way stating that, “by the way, who I am really has nothing to do with being black or white -- it has to do with being awesome ;-).” Hmmm. Good point.

***this dialogue was taken from boundlessline.org. For the full discussion click http://www.boundlessline.org/2007/07/mixed-matches.html.
* Before I end up with another defensive email or comment--I’m not against interracial relationship in general. I just have an issue with WHY black men do it. I don’t feel this way about other such unions.
**So I only half agree with this guy because I think he’s a prejudice prick, but the essence of what he says about how lack of consciousness affect mental health is relatively valid.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Keep The Blog Alive!



So I've gotten some positive feedback from the blog. Most people seem to like what I have to say. Some people don't agree with me, but they think the blog is well written and that some of my points are valid. Some people HATE what I have to say, but nevertheless something compels them to keep coming back for more. For all of you, I have just one request: don't keep this blog to yourself! Share it with others. If you find one of my articles helpful or meaningful why not email it to your friends? I must explain that I work for free. Notice that there are no banners or advertisements or paypals on my page! That’s intentional! And I intend to keep it that way. The only payment I get from writing this blog is from people like you who appreciate it and spread the word about it. I created this thing so that I could get feedback in the form of comments, which would nurture intelligent discussions and the exchange of ideas. That is my reward. So share, share, share, and please folk don't use my words or ideas without my permission! Love ya very much. Keep this blog alive!

UPDATE: Yes I am silly! And proud that I just figured out how to work the i Movie software (a little anyway!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ugly?

“ No matter what I do it’s never enough for you. No matter what I say…you’ll never feel differently…you don’t like what you see when you look at me.”—Vivian Green

I am ugly. No, please don’t dismiss this as my having low-self esteem, it just rings true when I compare myself to the standards set by society. As in many other cases, Black women are at a severe disadvantage because, as W.E.B Dubios stated many years ago in his book The Souls of Black Folks, we have to grapple with double consciousness. In other words, black women have to try to live up to the standards of mainstream white society and those of black society and sometimes do so simultaneously. This remains true even when we consider the concept of beauty.

I will once more use myself as an example. See I don’t fit the mold of what black or white people consider attractive. I’m too dark, my hair is too nappy, my nose and lips are too big, to fit entirely in the realm of European beauty dictates. I’m too skinny, and probably a little too dark, and un-curvaceous to fit black people’s perception of beauty. For example many white girls have told me that they wanted to be my size. Just imagine, despite my healthy appetite, I look like someone who hasn’t eaten in 10 weeks and white girls are stating that I have “the perfect body type.” My ex-boyfriend, who was white, thought the same thing. Apparently being rail thin, with a big fat behind is “sexy”, whatever that means this week. I suppose that if I had been born with a lil less melanin, long straight hair, and big blue eyes I’d been considered attractive. Hilarious! Cuz this sistah aint going out like that!

When it comes to black people, particularly those pathological black men who only consider mixed women, Latina women, white women, or black women who resemble those women appealing, I don’t really make the cut either. Don’t get it twisted both my parents are nappy-headed black folk so that eliminates me from the list right there! Unfortunately my community still suffers from colorism—the belief that light-skin equals good and dark skin equals bad. It’s also a belief that praises other typical European features and denounces any one who doesn’t fit the mold. I remember growing up making a concerted effort to stay out of the sun because I would be ridiculed by my own family for “getting darker.” I’m very serious yall, even though that’s pretty sad. Growing up, I was very aware that dark was somehow a bad thing. Luckily, I got older and abandoned this type of poisonous thinking. So has my brother who has chosen an absolutely stunning dark skinned woman as his girlfriend! But still this thinking prevails. I remember my mother warning me not to date dark skin men and bring her home “no black babies.” Ouch! Needless to say, I am still admonished by my family and others in the black community for my love of the sun.

But what about African beauty ideas? Do I fit within their beauty standards? Nope my skin is too light, my hair not nappy enough, my body not curvy enough. Alas I’m too much of a stick creature to receive their approval. I suspect that our societies know just how harmful these ready-made standards of beauty are. Just think about the absurdity of it all. First a society decides that all women should be beautiful in order to have worth and then we shun those who don’t meet the inflexible standards we subject them to. This is most tragic! Interestingly enough women don’t make the beauty standards. Who does? MEN! So women are shaving their eyebrows off, putting toxic chemicals in their hair, painting their faces, peeling their skin off, regurgitating their food, and going under the knife all to appease men! Unfortunately, a lot of the power to dispel this kind of thinking is in the hands of the patriarchy and in a world where the vast majority of men have been socialized to be superficial sex addicts, I don’t see many changes being made on their end.

How important is beauty to a man? I remember having a crush on a very attractive guy who was good friends with a close buddy of mine. Now keep in mind that I am a talented, articulated, educated, and sophisticated, fun loving, and down to earth young lady (pop my collar). Yet this young man cited my level of attractiveness as reason to dismiss me as dating material. He liked my other qualities enough to consider me a friend. He clearly enjoyed my company, but when it all hit the fan I just wasn’t his kind of pretty! Many incredible women are passed over and viewed as inferior by men who have these preconceived notions of what a woman should look like. Men gush over the cutes ones while at the same time devaluing many worthy and truly phenomenal women. I’ve seen this play out time and time again.

So if men won’t change, but instead exacerbate the problem, than what can be done? This is where women step up. This is where you, my sister, get a huge trash bag and throw out all of your cosmetics and instant-beauty remedies! Or at least evaluate why you have them. Do you wear your hair the way you do because YOU honestly like it that way or is it an attempt to measure up. Same thing goes for make up, clothes and accessories. Are these things really you? Do you enjoy the plucking, painting, and spraying or are you buying the lie that men have been selling us for centuries? I had to ask myself these same questions (I still do at times). So when I go out I wear what I like and screw the world! I don’t care much for make up so I don’t wear it often! Screw what the world says! I don’t always shave my legs cuz I don’t always feel like it! Screw what the world tells me. In fact all women should make this their mantra: SCREW THE WORLD! Repeat that until you feel empowered. Throw the fashion magazines away, stop funding a business that looks at you as less than. Stop letting outside forces dictate your worth to you!

I’m not implying that there is anything wrong with “pretty”, but I am suggesting that people should try to have their own definitions of what this encompasses—definitions that aren’t totally rooted in rigid societal conventions. There’s nothing wrong with attractiveness, but I believe that when God made human beings he had a very broad definition of beauty. In other words, why can’t Beyonce and India Arie both be beautiful? Why can’t Tyra Banks and Oluchi Onweagba both be beautiful. Why must it be either/or?

The truth of the matter is that no one really measures up. You’re always going to be too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too black, too whatever to fit this definition. Even those who we believe have attained this elusive and exclusive thing called beauty, still question whether they really have it or work painstakingly to maintain it.

So I guess I’m going to stay ugly, because this is one sistah who’s not changing her thinking or her appearance! SCREW THE WORLD!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy New Year!



So it’s my birthday (well Friday anyway) and I really don’t have anything weighty to say. I’m tired. In fact, it’s almost midnite here and I’m rapidly running out of batteries. I spent my morning cake shopping. It’s hard to find a bakery that has good cake at a reasonable price, and that is allergy safe (I happen to be very allergic to nuts). The sad thing is that I can’t really sleep. Perhaps I’m developing some kind of insomnia in my old age Anyway, I’m kind of excited about this New Year. Kind of anxious and somewhat sad too, but I think excitement is taking over. I plan to have a great weekend! So I’m dedicating this post to me. That’s right, I am wishing me a happy new year. I hope this year brings happy, splendid, fantastic, wonderful, sublime, magnificent things.

I’d also like to thank those who take time to consistently read what I have to say. I love writing for you! It’s really a pleasure. I wish you happy, splendid, fantastic, wonderful, sublime, magnificent things too! Happy MY New Year to you!

Love Ya,
Me

Friday, August 10, 2007

23 Fears


My Birthday is coming up in 7 short days. Unlike other birthdays, I am approaching this one with doubts, insecurity, and much trepidation. 23 just seems so far and so different from 22. I know many people are turning 40, 50, or 60, so they have a more legitimate reason to worry about getting old than I do, but I can’t help but feel this way. Just a short while ago I was in high school, I was dating boys, I was learning how to drive, I was planning what my life would look like now…

I think I spent most of spring and summer obsessing about 23. I’m literally terrified. I actually experience the physiological effects of fear and anxiety—my heart beats faster, my stomach is flooded with butterflies, I am restless. And somehow nothing I tell myself about 23 or nothing anybody else says makes me feel any better. That’s why the next few posts (as well as the last 3) will be a slight departure from my usual style of “impaling people with the truth”* I’m feeling more introspective and contemplative.

I recall other birthdays being exciting. Like turning 18 and going to college. I had so many dreams then, I had intended to be the next Dr. Phil only better and of course blacker! Then came 21. I spent the entire week celebrating at Disney World! I remember feeling overwhelmed with the excitement of graduating and completing my research theses. Even 22, didn’t seem as ominous, as I prepared to apply to graduate school, move out of my parent house, and change the world. At the risk of sounding like one of those whiny, woe-is-me-forever-depressed bloggers (those are even more annoying than the ones who post trillions of pictures of their children and pets—no offence to anyone) I don’t look forward to 23. I am half tempted to run away this birthday. Just lock myself in some obscure hotel on the other side of town, abandon my cell phone and not tell anybody where I am. I don’t really feel like celebratory e-cards, cakes, presents, and that infamous birthday song. I don’t look forward to the verse that goes “how old are you now? How old are you now?” Yet I know that if I looked back on 23 from some even scarier age, I would miss these memories.

Last year around this time, I was in the store purchasing food and party supplies for my Black party (all my friends had to wear black—which is my favorite color). I was thinking about that guy I was totally enamored with. I was preparing for some wonderful thing to happen in my romantic, social, personal, spiritual, and career life. I just knew that 22 was something to smile about. But it left me empty and bitterly disappointed. It reneged on all of its promises. It brought more pessimism and cynicism. It left me exhausted and longing. It was the year of failures. 22 deceived me, and just when I need it, it’s leaving me for some unknown but greater horror. Or at least the pessimist inside of me suspects some greater horror. I know some people are going to say I’m tripping, but I can’t dismiss my own emotions so casually. What tragedies will 23 bring? What new unparalleled heartache? What brutal realizations? What dreams deferred? I don’t know, and perhaps that is why I am so apprehensive.

I don’t want 23, but I can’t hide from it. I can’t pull the covers over my head and pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t ball like a baby, and pray that God makes time stop. And so 23 is inevitable. I’m beginning to wearily stare off into space. My mood is reflective, nostalgic, and sad. I try to ignore the anxiety, but it doesn’t go away. I sigh once more from the bottom of my soul. I close my eyes and pray for God’s divine comfort.


*That’s what my dad calls my blunt social commentary

UPDATE: Of course, I realize that life is a blessing. The tragedy that I spoke of in my last entry has reminded me of how short life is and how we must live it to the fullest. It has reminded me that life is a God-given gift that can be taken a way at any moment without notice. In light of these things I am quite grateful to God for life and strength, yet these anxieties still haunt me and like most things I feel I need to address them and “write them out”, so to speak. In a way I feel bad about feeling bad, but that doesn’t alleviate the sadness/anxiety I have about 23. Moreover, I don’t want anyone to interpret this post as ingratitude to God.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Something Worth Blogging About

Today I was going to post something about my pre-birthday anxiety, but a phone call that I received from a friend last night changed my mind. “So are you going to blog about it?” she asked me. I wasn’t sure at the time, mostly because I didn’t know what to say. What do you say when 4 people are shot execution-style? What can you say when life is so senselessly and brutally taken away? What do you write when they were just kids planning to start a new semester at Delaware State University? Yes they were just college kids, with all the dreams, goals, desires, and challenges that those that have gone before them held. But unlike their contemporaries, they won’t have another opportunity to realize their dreams. And yet we are so accustomed, or should I say desensitized, to these disasters that we just go on apathetically. We shrug our shoulders, sigh, and go back to life as usual. We feel powerless to do anything to change the increasingly violent world that we live in.

I am of course referring to the Newark, New Jersey tragedy where three friends were forced to kneel against a wall behind an elementary school and were shot to death at close range, and a fourth was found about 30 feet away with gunshot and knife wounds to her head. The police still don’t have a motive, though they suspect it was robbery, nor do they have any suspects. Exacerbating it all, these were good kids, who, unlike many of the other homicide victims in Newark, one of the most dangerous cities in the country, had no criminal history. They were just doing what kids do, hanging out together listening to music, when they were gradually approached by a group of men. Natasha Aerial, 19, was listed in fair condition at Newark's University Hospital. Police identified her companions as her brother, Terrance Aerial, 18, Iofemi Hightower, 20, and Dashon Harvey, 20.

What are the political implications of crimes like these? Well many are criticizing Newark mayor, Cory Booker who is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Gun Coalitions, an organization dedicated to getting illegal guns off of the street. But can politicians, who often run on a platform of making our communities safer, really protect us from monsters that commit heinous crimes like these? What are the social implications? Are we to live in a world where people can’t go outside without risking their lives? Must we live in a society so devastatingly inundated with corruption that we must face every second in fear? And what about the barbaric dregs of society who orchestrated this sordid execution? How is it that they became so hardened, so evil, that they could assassinate these youth so callously? Have we as a society failed them too?

Finally what are the spiritual implications? Where is God in all of this? My guess is that he right there with the families whose hearts are probably overwhelmed with grief and anger. He’s there drying tears and encouraging them to lean on him. He’s with us as we leave for work or, run errands, or visit with friends. He’s shielding us from madness like this. He’s has his angels around us to keep those who may wish to harm us away. He has spared your life as you read this post. He has spared mine as I write.

So to answer my friend’s question, I am going to blog about it. I am going to continue to honestly discuss the issues that plague our society. I can’t sit silently. I can’t become apathetic—or at least I won’t allow myself to. So even if nobody reads my blog, or nobody wants to hear what I have to say, I feel compelled to keep right on writing and speaking—even if it does seem as futile as beating a dead horse. Tonight I pray for the families who are burying their loved ones. I pray for the condition of this sin-steeped world. I pray that those who committed this great offense are brought to justice. But not before whispering a prayer of gratitude to Him for giving me another shot a life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My Decline

“Sometimes in life you feel the fight is over. And it seems as though the writings on the wall…It’s what they call the rise and fall.” –Craig David



I still have nightmares about the experience. I pulled up in front of my house, but I could not get out of the car. I can’t tell you how long I sat in the car, starring off into space, but not seeing anything. I trembled silently. I recall being so ashamed. So ashamed that it had happened to someone like me. I felt naked. Alone. Disgusted. Tortured. Confused. These emotions swelled inside of me before melting into a sea of numbness and then giving way to a dizzying rage. My whole world had been shattered. I had failed. A deep haunting feeling ominously swept over me. I knew that this was the end. And so it was.

What traumatizing experience am I referring to? Taking the Graduate Record Exam, notoriously abbreviated GRE. Those of you who think I am being a bit too dramatic have probably A) never taken the GRE B) Are one of the lucky (insert the most obscene word that your imagination can invent here) who managed to score well. So what was the penalty of scoring poorly on this test that tests nothing? Well I wasn’t accepted into any of the graduate programs I applied to and now I (say it with me, blog subscribers) skewer fruit for a living! At the risk of sounding like an egoist, the only thing I lacked in terms of graduate school qualifications was solid GRE scores. It’s amazing how four years of hard work, research, community service, and extracurricular activities can be flushed down the sewer because of a test score. It’s amazing how the worth and potential of a person can be contingent on a mere number.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen the GRE can make or break you! I know of people who performed only average in college and who possessed comparatively mediocre credentials but have gotten into graduate school because their tests scores were good. And for the record, in case you haven’t guessed, I am bitter about it! (I am currently taking deep cleansing breaths—ah much better.) The GRE marked the beginning of my decline.

So now I blog as an attempt to capture in words the utter humiliation of my fall from grace. I am reminded of my tests score whenever I put on my uniform. I hate wearing a uniform. It is my metaphorical "letter A." I hate responding to the recurring question “so what do you do for a living?” I loath the awkward silence that occurs when I answer. And most of all, I hate the “so what are you going to do with your life?” question because I don’t have a real answer and time is ticking… So here I am in my washing machine again. Agitating side to side while barely treading water. Lost in a seemingly perpetual quarter life crisis…

It’s what they call the rise and fall.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Quarter-life Crisis

“So when will this end it goes on an on. Over and Over and Over again. Keeps spinning around. I know that it won’t stop…This is a Sick Cycle Carousel” --Lifehouse


Honor’s Biology, Psychological Statistics, National Institute of Mental Health sponsored research, Psi Chi, Peer Counseling etc, etc, etc. That’s pretty much what my to-do list looked like a year ago. I spent sometimes up to 18 hours of my day working, doing research, taking charge of student organizations, and dealing with my own issues and all the stress and meetings, and…. Well you get the point. After I graduated I was totally burned out!!! I had nothing else to give. After all, I thought I was going places! It was like being in a huge washing machine agitating slowly right then left while trying to tread water. Just spinning and twirling until nothing made sense.

So it was all worth it! All the work, stress, and breakdowns. Now I have a high paying job equipped with paid time off and hecka benefits. Now I have just moved into that new condo in the next town with the large bedroom, fireplace and garage. Now I’m big baller shot caller, speeding down the highway of life in my Mercedes, master of my own destination…! And totally hallucinating! Condo? Heck I can barely afford to pay for the computer that I am using to bring you this marvelous masterpiece of a blog.

I supposed I am the one to blame for my current quandary. I was a victim of my own assumptions. I assumed that hard work would pay off. I assumed that I’d be accepted into a great graduate program. I assumed that after years of more work I’d be Dr. Crystal Clear--a tenure-track professor @ Everything University producing multi-million dollar life changing, earth shattering research. I assumed I’d be doing the thing I love so dearly: disseminating knowledge to the next generation of graduate school hopefuls!

But my reality is in stark contrast to these illusions. Everyday I leave my parents house where I still reside, drive to my low wage job, put on a uniform, apron, and hairnet and skewer fruit! I sure didn’t remember that in my dream. (I should add that my current occupation as a customer service rep at a local business is a miraculous improvement when compared to my old job—the one I’m sure violated the 13th amendment on so many levels. But that’s another story). So when do I get to change the world? When do I get to apply some of the things that I have learned? When do I get see the fruits of my labor (no pun intended).

Wouldn’t you know it, those darn sociologists have cooked up a term that describes my present predicament: the quarter life crisis. (Our society has a ready-made label for everyone and everything--but I digress!). The term is analogous to the mid-life crisis and is applied to the period of life ranging from ages 21 to 29. The Great Wikipedia describes the following as characteristics associated with the “crisis”.

• feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level (check)
• frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career (check)
• confusion of identity (I know who I am, I just don’t know where I’m going. ½ check)
• insecurity regarding the near future (Fat huge big check)
• insecurity regarding present accomplishments (yesterday I put together two fruit salads in under 7 minutes—okay that doesn’t count as an accomplishment. Check)
• re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships (Check)
• disappointment with one's job (Oh yeah, Check plus)
• nostalgia for university life (check)
• tendency to hold stronger opinions (my opinions have always been strong. No check on this one)
• boredom with social interactions (Ha, yesterday I discussed umm, shoes)
• financially-rooted stress (A million, million, million checks!)
• loneliness (all my friends live far away, tear drop slides down right cheek)
• desire to have children (I’m depressed NOT suicidal, what the heck!)
• a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you (because if you have any type of job, or attend any type of school you probably are. Sigh)

So what happened? I attribute crisis to my catch-22 (I am 22 years old for those who haven’t read my illustrious profile). See you go to school to get a degree so that you can get a good job. Then when you get out of school the world tells you that you need to have 2-3 years experience in order to earn a respectable living. Hmm, but you can’t get experience if no one will hire you and paradoxically no one will hire you if you don’t have experience. This is probably the reason that such severe underemployment exists in our economy. My present frustrations can be likened to those algebra problems you did in high school—the ones that take two hours and eight sheets of notebook paper to complete. Then after all your hard work you find out that the problem can’t be solved! That the answer is “no solution”! I grow increasingly disillusioned…Dear God, have mercy on me.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Good News



Happy Sabbath Everyone. Today is my God-given day of rest, mediation, and reflection. That said, I thought it only appropriate that I post a spiritual nugget on this most sacred and blessed of days. The following is an excerpt from a sermon I gave for youth week back in mid-May of this year. I hope you enjoy it...

"I have some Good news! Not just good news! Some God news! Just consider one of my favorite passages in scripture from one of my favorite books: Romans chapter 8. Now I don’t know about you, but when I read Paul’s writings I am all the more touched, cuz that brother lived what he wrote. He understood first hand the transformative powers of Christ. That brother knew how it felt to live on both sides of the track. This dude tortured and imprisoned Christians—he persecuted Christ for a living. Try putting that on your resume’! But having encountered God, he got to see first hand who he was in relation to Christ. He had an I-am-Nothing-Christ-is-Everything experience. And this is what he has to say: "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death!” What a testimony—and that’s from someone who formerly tormented followers of Christ. That brother had an epiphany!

Just think, we are garbage. We are born in sin and shaped in iniquity and now because of Christ's inconceivable love, “There is therefore no condemnation”. Talk about AWESOME! But I got some news that’s even better. In verse 18 Paul (that’s my boy) he says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. What? Now that’s Hot!!! But I got some more for you. You aint seen nothing yet. Listen to how it ends. Verse 28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Did Paul say some things, a few things?... Paul says that ALL things!--That EVERYTHING works for good for those who love God.

OH I’m not finished yet. It gets even better. Verse 31 asks "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" I like to paraphrase that to what can be against us. Unemployment, financial disarray, health problems, psychological issues, car trouble, spousal issues, all these immense pressing social and political issues we keep hearing about on the news? Who can be against us? Terrorists, murderers, rapists, politicians? Who can be against us? Ah but it gets better! Paul leaves us with a challenge. He asks emphatically, who can separate us from the love of God? And then he postulates some examples ”shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” oh but I’m not done yet! Oh This gets even better! Paul testifies, he answers his own question brilliantly in verses 38 and 39 declaring, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Christian author George R Knight writes “What more could Paul have said? He has hammered home, pounded down, and fully exhibited one of the greatest teachings of the Bible—that those who choose to maintain a faith relationship with God through Jesus can not lose...let us never forget that our confidence and assurance rest not in our love for God—which is frail, fickle, and halting—but in his love for us, which is steadfast and preserving”.

Now that's good news!