How to raise a racist

This a true story that I am about to share with you, one that I almost hesitate to share because I know some of my readers in my daily life but one that I think needs to be shared for all those who think that the election of Barack Obama has done away with racism in America. For all the talk of post racial America, I call bullshit loud and clear. No, racism is still woven into the very fabric of this nation and our culture and I have discovered the seeds of racism are still planted very young and will ensure that we still will grapple with this evil for at least another generation.

Up until a few months ago, I worked at a freelance grant-writer and consultant, a job that after a while was starting to wear on me. Too many of my clients looked to me as a miracle worker and in the current economic climate I started to realize a little job security might be a good thing. Which is why when the opportunity came up to become Executive Director of a center that serves poor and working class families in a neighboring community came up, I jumped at the position.

Now as a Black woman in Maine, I was a tad hesitant about how this might work since all the families we serve are white, however as a person who was raised poor and working class I can relate to these folks. Well, initially I thought things were going well and while the board (aka my bosses) probably feel they are going well, I am starting to realize that for some of our families my blackness is an issue.

 Recently due to a staffing shortage, I have had to take over running of the after school program myself some days which means that I have a lot more contact with the kids and their families then either I or the board thought would be necessary. The only alternative was to be closed until I can bring on the necessary staff which for some our families would have had a devastating effect since our program is free and these are not cheap services. I will be the first to tell you that watching the kids myself is outside my comfort zone, I like kids, shit, I own a couple myself but watching someone else’s kids is a different situation then watching your own kids especially when you are watching 20+ at a time.

Well at first, it looked liked things were going good, several parents I spoke with last week were happy that I was there and that we were going to be open albeit for less hours while I resolve the staff shortage. However a kid told me something last week that cut to my core and honestly unnerved me initially….little boy A generally comes everyday with his cousin, little boy B. So I noticed that little boy B had not been coming, so I asked his cousin A where was B. Little boy A told me that his cousin B was not allowed to come if our site manager was not there.

Now I have lived 36 years as a Black woman in America so you know where my mind went but I didn’t push and just left it alone, though it was still in the back of my mind until yesterday. A couple days ago, I saw little boy B and his Mama outside the center, well the Mama looked in and saw me and then put boy B back in the car and drove off….and no the site manager wasn’t there so it was just me.

Again, I pushed the doubts aside but yesterday well they came out again, yesterday our site manager was in which meant I could go back to my job of running the agency instead of overseeing this program, but boy B told me something that knocked me off my axis. So both boys were in yesterday and I commented to little boy A that it must be nice that his cousin was there and he said to me in the presence of the site manager that Little Boy B again can’t come if I am just there because Little Boy B’s parents don’t like me. Mind you he said it in that childlike naïve way that kids repeat what they hear at home. The site manager asked why all the while turning beet red and the little boy just repeated his statement again and said because……and that was it.

 Now some might say “Blackgirl, you are jumping to conclusions” Um, no….like I said earlier I have been Black 36 years and some shit you just know, you don’t need a map or a GPS system in this case to get to the conclusion. Mind you until recently little boy B always came up to me and issued me a big hug and was always talkative, this kid is a sweetheart, in fact a truly likable kid. I have noticed that now he stays away from me as if he has been instructed to stay away from the nigger.

See, this is how you raise a racist and start em young. I will be honest I went home last night almost thinking what the fuck am I doing here. However I prayed to forgive that family and at this point it’s between them and the man upstairs, anger is not an emotion I either need or want though there is still sadness to see that such a warm loving kid is being raised to hate early on. So while for my more educated and open minded country men and women of the paler hue racism may seem like a thing of the past, I tell you nope it is not.

Lean on me

Last night I suffered another bout of insomnia which is happening more and more often this past year. Truthfully since the birth of the little one three years ago, I can count on one hand the number of nights I slept longer than six hours. Parenthood coupled with getting older seem to be working against me sleeping a full night….

However last night’s bout of insomnia was brought on by a conversation  I had with a dear friend who I was catching up with, part of me hesitates to write this because I’m not trying to put my girl’s business out there but I feel there is a larger piece here that needs to be shared.

My girl and I go back, way back, I’m talking we have known each other since we were like 10, this sista has always been the light and life of the party. When we was young hot things, I was always the wing-man, a role that suits me well in many way. Yet my girl was always on, shit I wanted her energy.

Anyway in the first hour of what was probably a three hour conversation, we were just catching up, doing our thing though I sensed there was something beneath the surface. True enough there was, midway through the conversation she confessed that the reason she had dropped off my radar was because she was going through some shit. Turns out she had been feeling a tad down, which then got us to talking about Black folks and mental health.

My girl’s issues are not the point here but this conversation reminded me that as Black folks, we have a tendency to not address mental health issues to the same extent our white counterparts do and truthfully that shit is killing us. I know because I have been there.

It was about nine years ago that the pressures of life had me on edge, I felt pulled in all directions, my primary care doctor put me on Wellbutrin, it helped but I sensed I need more, so I took the plunge. I went to see a therapist. This was a huge step for me, mind you at the time I was working with the homeless, many who suffered mental health issues, shit I often got them into therapy but at the time I felt shame about needing to see someone myself. In fact when I was in therapy I only told 2 people, the spousal unit and one close friends, I felt shame that I needed to see someone but at the same time, therapy gave me the tools to deal with stress.

However despite the sucess of therapy at that time, the reality is I still grapple with anxiety. I have a phobia, I cannot drive, driving gets me so riled up that while technically I can drive, truth is I avoid it at all costs. I have not driven in a long time, though this year I am actively seeking to work through this phobia because honestly its become problematic. I almost thought about not sharing this tidbit about myself, but I am at the point that rather than make excuses, I feel like I need to come out of the closet about it as I actively work through my anxiety.

That said, I find that in many Black families we all have relatives with issues but rather than call them what they are; which is mental health issues, we dance around the issues which I believe is killing us.

Instead as we stand on the cusp of history being made tomorrow, I think we need to take the time to do some self exploration and work to change ourselves. Are you eating too much? Drinking? Shopping? Maybe you engage in these behaviors because its easier that dealing with yourself….I know when I was young, I went through a year where I engaged in self destructive behaviors but didn’t know why….I know now that I was depressed.

There is no crime or shame in being depressed, in fact rather than hiding it, I feel we need to be open about it, tell someone, don’t be afraid to lean on family and friends. If they are real, they will be there for you. True change starts when we look at ourselves and then work outward.

Something for nothing

It just hit me the other day that I am indeed getting old, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However I am getting old enough to notice a disturbing trend that’s starting to bug the shit out of me, it seems the younger folks are always wanting something for nothing. Gone are the days of hard work and proving oneself. Look, I know that companies have changed the rules and they no longer reward hard work with things like a lifetime job and a pension.

On the other hand though, I see young folks who think that just because they went to college they should walk into a high paying job despite having minimum experience. Look that piece of paper is valuable and it opens doors but when you are 24-25 and haven’t worked alot, to think you are going to be rewarded with a high salary and perks is just ridiculous.

This week at my gig, I have had to deal with a young lady who I think is trying but uses life circumstances as a way to excuse mediocrity…problem is I am not the one. See, I have been working since I was 14, got my first job by lying about my age, I was tired of being broke and a job was the only way to correct that problem.

Looking back even when I was a young single Mama after my first marriage crashed and burned, I worked, folks tried to suggest collecting welfare but back 16 years ago, the state of Illinois was only offering something like $270 a month, shit rent was more than that. There was a point when my son was little when I couldn’t find one decent job, so I had two, I did what I had to do to put the bread on the table.

No, I am not saying this to pat myself on the back, shit those were hard times indeed for us but I believed and saw in action that it seemed the universe rewarded those who worked hard. Even in the bible in the book of James, it says faith without works is dead, you can pray for change and having your needs/wants met, but what are you doing about it? For many folks, the answer is either nothing or not enough.

Yet I cannot help but think the growing laziness factor with young folks is helped along by the media, on the occasions I do watch tv it seems everyone wants riches and fame yet no one wants to work hard for it. Kids instead of hitting the books, want to come on tv shows and embarrass themselves for the one minute shot at fame, shoot, we only have to look at American Idol. Those audition shows are brutal, the few times I have seen them, its plenty of no talent having fools making asses of themselves. I shake my head and wonder…where is your Mama, friends? Someone to tell you sorry but you need a realistic plan not to make as ass of yourself for the world to review on a endless loop on You Tube.

No to truly accomplish something solid and lasting it takes hard work, when I first started in the non-profit sector many years ago, I had no degree and little experience in the field. However there was an agency that I really wanted to work at, the first job they offered me was the lowest position there and barely paid more than minimum wage. I took it and worked my ass off and in less than a year of working overnight shifts and doing everything that was asked of me, I was promoted to the lowest professional class position they offer me since I did not have a degree. The thing is had I come in with a shitty attitude, I may have ended up out the door and whereas that job opened doors for me, if my attitude had been wrong the doors just as easily could have been shut.

The thing is as the ole folks used to say easy come, easy go….you can get riches, fame or whatever quickly but many times when it comes without sacrifice, it goes just as easily as it comes. Look at folks who were driving SUV’s, living in fancy McMansions, many of them now are scrambling to survive. It used to be folks understood your first house wasn’t going to fill all your dreams, it was a starting point but now folks want their first house to be perfect, sorry kids it doesn’t work like that.

Well have a good weekend, its storming up here in Maine, so I am chilling this weekend in the house.