Really…it’s everywhere

I was relaxing Saturday afternoon catching up on Season 3 of Mad Men courtesy of my love who decided to treat me to the gift of renting the entire season at one time rather than making me wait for them to become available on Netflix. It was a lazy day, kidlet was chilling with Papa upstairs so Mama was engrossed in America circa 1960’s when the telephone rang. Initially I ignored but after looking at the number on the caller id, realized it was my good sista friend who used to live in Maine but now resides in southern New England (CT, MA and RI are southern new England, I live in Northern New England). Let’s just say that since she left Maine she has felt no love with the place and I can dig it, hell she spent damn near 10 years living in the same town in Maine made famous by a certain family that gave us 12 years of presidential rule in the last what 25 years…yep, that town, starts with a K and that’s all I got to say about that.

Now when my girl first moved to Maine she was still youngish and happily married to her knight in shining armor, a white fella a good 10 years older than her who made a shitload of cash. So she wanted to live in the best school district for their boys with zero crime…you get the picture. Well lets just say that 10 years in that town took a toll on my girl and that knight in shining armor well he morphed into a cockroach. Right about the time life started changing for my girl she found Blackness in a major way, no more undercover Blackness meaning she was Black when we hung out but did a code switch when she was around whites. Nope she went from being the favorite Negro to having her son’s teacher slap a restraining order on her when she no longer played the game. So yeah, to say she caught the bitter bug about this place would be an understatement.

So she packed up the kids after a bitter divorce and moved back to where she came, but thanks to the divorce and the pesky need for the kids to see their Papa she still is in Maine a couple times a month. Anyway, I gave her a call back since I had a feeling I knew why she was calling. See, a mutual friend had just been in the paper because she was dealing with some racist shit in her little town here in Maine. Long story short, our mutual buddy came across an email that a town official had received and forwarded to other folks…tuns out that email contained a rather unsavory “joke” about Michelle Obama who as we all know happens to be the FLOTUS. The nasty little joke compared Mrs. Obama to an ape, really not very funny at all. Our mutual buddy took this email to the media and lets just say in certain places in Maine folks have a lot to say about this, some felt it was racist as hell and others felt  that our buddy was just an oversensitive Black woman playing a deck of those race cards again.

So my girl wanted to talk about this, also she wanted to get a sense of what I planned to do since I do have a venue for sharing my thoughts courtesy of the monthly column I write for a local publication. Of course you know, I have to say something and those thoughts will hopefully be published later this week unless my editor decides otherwise. But what I really want to get to is the heart of the conversation with my girl, she made a seemingly innocent statement that I have been sitting on all weekend. She stated that she felt Maine was and I quote a racist ass state.

Now I know my girl has a lot of bad feelings about Maine, it’s that lovely relationship that goes sour like milk left out on the counter all day. You forget that once upon a time you liked that glass of milk. In her case she forgot she used to love this state. Lately all she can see is the bad but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. Make no mistake there are some racists here but the fact is they are everywhere.

Big cities and urban areas are not immune to racism, shit I grew up in Chicago and in the city limits there were and maybe still are neighborhoods you knew were not places to go if you were Black. You might be fine in downtown Chicago but go 20 mins south to Bridgeport and there were whites who would have no problem pulling out the N-word or jacking you up. I remember years ago, a young Black boy from the adjoining community rode his bike into Bridgeport and a group of savage motherfuckers beat that boy silly to the point of brain damage. This story has repeated itself in numerous so-called diverse areas across the United States. Racism and ignorance to the point of violence is real and not at all limited to small white towns or lily white states. Shit I suspect Southern Illinois is still scary place for Black folks.

I often talk with friends from away who remind me that I live in a white state and remind me how much of a drain it can be on the Black soul. I agree it can be a drain but at the same time being Black anywhere in this country can be a drain on the soul. Looking back on life in Chicago, I was denied jobs due to my race…a brokerage firm flat-out told me they could not hire me because the clients would not want to deal with me because of my race. Once I called about an apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview area, an area that seems open and accepting after all its the home of Boystown (gay community) and well on the phone the place was available but when I showed up less than 2 hours later it was magically gone. I could go on…on the flip side and I am being honest I have not found my race to be a barrier to housing or jobs in Maine. I thought they would be but I actually landed a job, a job that by Maine standards paid damn well with complete benefits less than 2 weeks after moving to Maine. Hell, I thought being a Black woman in Maine would make it harder instead professionally in some ways its been a plus. The biggest challenge has been that salaries are much lower than I want factoring in the 100 grand in student loan debt I am carrying.

Now I know some would say that maybe I was just in the wrong areas in Chicago, well I spent my high school years and a year in my early 20’s living in a predominantly Black area and that wasn’t a cakewalk either. I was either teased or ridiculed for my “white” taste in things or looked down upon because I have working class roots…it was a damn I can’t win for losing situation. Get dissed by folks that are not like me and dissed by the one who are like me. So I have come to a place where I cannot let outside shit affect who I am, yes I miss certain things about living in close proximity to my own kind but I try for the most part to not let it get me down. Technology has allowed me to create a virtual sista circle of Black women who are similar enough to me, that I have support, some are sistas I have met in real life and some I only know via email and phone calls but its enough to sustain the soul.

I wish there was some truly ideal place where one could escape the ugliness of hate but in this country no such place exists so rather than focusing on the negatives I choose to create my own positivity no matter where I go and suggest that others do the same. I like to joke that I create my queendom no matter what…as for the Mainers I suspect if we wanted to call an entire state racist, I say look to southern states. I suspect places like Alabama and Mississippi have a few more racists than a place like Maine. Here we might have a bit of ignorance but not all ignorance equals racism, sometimes lack of exposure creates ignorance but those can often turn into teachable moments.

Got to revisit the dog issue

This is a reprint of a post that I did back in 2008 when I first started blogging. I got a fair number of emails about it since I sounded like an ass to some degree but I stand by what I wrote. What inspired me to bring this back up is that earlier today I was checking out a potential chiropractor locally who I had heard about, so I did what folks do these days and went to check out the website. Well I was ready to make an appointment until I got  to the staff page and noticed that the office dog was part of the staff. Look, I know folks like their dogs but as someone who is just not  that into dogs, when I am going to get medical care I really don’t want to see a dog in the office. I will be honest and say that since this original post in 2008, I have warmed up a bit more to dogs since the girl child is a huge lover of dogs and at some point we may consider an english bull-dog but for now its all talk.

Dogs and Mainers..they really love their dogs

In case you didn’t know, Maine is a very white state, I believe its only second to Vermont as far as the whiteness factor. Now, when a sista decided to move here 6 years ago, I knew it was white but I figured what the hell, I already own one white person (aka spousal unit) and despite growing up in Chicago I attended predominantly white schools, so I felt as comfortable as a sista can around white folks. Heck, I figured one white person is about the same as another, how different could the Maine white folks be versus Chi-town whites or my own California version?

Well I would soon learn, they are a little different out here, for starters they all seem to have a deep love affair with fleece and anything that comes from LL Bean. Now in the defense of my fellow white Mainers, LL Bean is headquartered in Maine, so that makes sense and while I do find most fleece clothing lacking on the style factor, the reality is its cold as shit here 11 out of 12 months (nah, I am kidding its cold 8 out of 12 months, on the real I generally turn my heat off in June and that is real.. mind you I am from Chicago so I know cold weather, here it’s not hawk cold like in Chicago, it’s a low-grade type of cold that never ends).

However the one area that I discovered where Mainers are different from the folks back home is with regards to their deep and abiding love for their dogs. Now to be totally stereotypical, in general it seems white folks love the dogs way more than Black folks. I have known Black folks who loved their dogs but it just isn’t the same. Back in Chicago, my biggest gripe with dogs was that folks seemed to never want to keep em on leashes or they would use a leash so damn long that you wondered why they even bothered.  That said, most of my dog issues back home were in my neighborhood, so I could reasonably assume that if I went to downtown Chicago, I didn’t have to worry about seeing dogs. It was an understanding, you keep the dogs at home, the park, or near your home.

Mainers though, well, they take their dogs everywhere and I don’t mean that jokingly, I have seen pooches sitting patiently in the car at the movie theatre parking lot. Um, why? Seriously, the average movie is at least an hour and a half if not longer with previews, you cannot bring Fido in the theatre so it seems to me, Fido would be happier at the crib chilling out. I have seen dogs at eating establishments in our largest city despite the fact that there are laws forbidding such things, yet I guess the general assumption is everyone likes dogs.. Who cares if Fido is running around while you are enjoying a latte or in a real life example trying to get a burrito?  Most Maine folks don’t but guess what I do, I don’t like dogs, I used to be extremely scared of dogs, now that fear is only reserved for large dogs and scary breeds aka pittbulls, dogs of that ilk.

Which brings me to last night, the family and I went to a street festival in town, gorgeous night to walk and partake of some good greasy french fries and other foods I generally avoid. So how come my night was almost ruined by folks strolling around at a festival/fireworks with dogs? Not cute lil dogs, no folks walking Rottweilers and pittbulls at a family festival, come on now what the hell is that all about?

I guess I was more bothered because just a few days earlier a dear sista friend originally from NYC who lives here in Maine, contacted me about a situation she was having with dogs. She has asthma and was trying to connect with a group of folks for a work retreat and she simply asked the leader of this get together to not bring the dog because she has asthma, well long story short, leader woman who is a  White Mainer said no, the dog is family and he goes where I go.

Well, as you can imagine that spawned some heated dialogue but for both my girl and I we realized that culturally Black folks just don’t dig on the dogs like White folks do. I have a Black girlfriend here who has a large dog and whenever she invites me over, she has no problem putting the dog up for the few hours I am going to be over. Yet with white folks, you ask can they move the dog so you can breathe and they act like you tried to smack the shit out of em.

It’s cultural differences like that, that despite folks like me being married to a white guy and Obama being the Democratic nominee for president that keep me aware that we have a long way to go before white folks and black folks will truly connect. It’s cool to love your dog but damn what about the humans?

Struggles of a young Black Man & the Great Recession

Today’s post is actually an email that my brother who is a tad younger than me sent. Unemployment rates are high as hell and if you are Black its even worse. I thought what he wrote reflected the struggles that many are facing and in some ways captures the angst of many who were sold a bill of goods that their education would move them up the socio -economic ladder. Instead we have a growing group of indentured servants who are enslaved to student loans that won’t be paid off till they retire or worse yet are canceled upon their death. The Great Recession is restructuring America in ways that we won’t fully understand for years to come, as the middle class shrinks and we have a growing number of poor folks in this country.

Anyway here are my brother’s words:

What do you do when you do everything you were told to do
and get no result?
What happens when you have a back up of a back up and yet still struggle?

No one can plan for the likes of the recession, especially the one we have had
but as a person that is a hair under 30, I have been working since 16, I expected more.
Much more!

Education? Check! I have been blessed to have a Bachelors in Architecture, and a Masters
in Real Estate. How ironic I have education in two areas that are severely affected by this
nasty recession.

Networking? Check! I have been working in trade association and organizations for over 10 years
to better enhance myself, knowing that just a degree is not enough to be armed with in this
war for success and financial security

Job hunting? Check! I have sent out hundreds of resumes! I have followed up. I have worked with
these fly-by-night companies that say they can enhance your resume, and no call backs.
Knowing ones self worth, its quite depressing to ask for a calculated living wage from potential employers, and have people and employers
say that’s too much? At what point does it become common sense that people need to live amongst HR managers, upper
management, and C-suite executives?
What is also sad is having a masters, and incurring all this debt for the sake of the financial prosperity
has gotten me nothing but harassing calls from Sallie Mae, and the frustrating of not being able to pay
but only defer, defer defer.

What is one to do? Everyday I dedicate hours to calling firms back, sending resumes, tapping my network but
to no avail. Nothing is more frustrating then to find out that your education has made you “overqualified” which
a lot of times now translates to, “Yeah you are probably good, but you cost too much and the C-level execs dont want
you cutting into their 6-7 figure bonuses for you”
Lack of faith in corporate America makes one quite hesitant in believing in any form of job security these days.  However
try explaining that to people who don’t have degrees or family members who assume that since you have multiple degrees
you must be not applying yourself.

Tried entrepreneurship? Check.. By necessity of survival, and trying to keep a roof over my head, I have been pushing to get
my company off the ground. Spending countless hours doing research on business related matters, as well as pumping out
product for the clients I scramble to get, but its not enough! To be in the arts right now is to be a stranded in the middle of the
ocean, during a hurricane with no raft! Any and everything one can do to improve themselves, i have tried and retried again and again.
Left feeling like Peter in the boat with Jesus, proverbially speaking, I have been fishing all night! Praying without cease, I am
wondering, when and where will I find my other side of the boat, to find my abundance?

Even now, I could go on and further elaborate, but I wont.. because I want this story to be heard, as well as continue to job hunt as my rent
is already past due, so I have to get back to fishing!