Friday, May 17, 2013

Race Relations

I went running yesterday as part of the "Let's Do Better"campaign.  Today, I am hobbling around like a chimpanzee.  However, I am told that pain is gain, so my grimace is laced with optimism.

Anyway, I'm jogging along my usual path along the river in 90 degree heat, when I pass three women walking towards me wearing traditional Islamic garb.  They had on the hijab and jilbab - a head scarf and full robe, so that only your face is showing, as dictated by the Qur'an.  (Before you get impressed, yes, I Googled all that.) 

It was an unexpected sight in my corner of the world, but shouldn't be treated as such. And I am so sensitive to discrimination that I worry I go too far in the other direction.  Like shaking someone's hand extra hard or snorting at a lame joke, just to show "we're all one people." 

So, when I saw these three Muslim women walking along the path, I evaluated my choices. 

1.  Ignore them to show, Hey! No biggie!
2.  Smile at them to show I respect them (but is that over-eager?)
3.  Turn around and run away. 

Luckily, on the first pass, my choice was made for me.  I have the luxury of transitional lenses, so they couldn't see my eyes looking away behind my glasses.  But it didn't matter, because I was focused on the pretty little starbursts floating in front of me.

However, when I turned around and ran the other way, there they were.  Feeling like an idiot, I looked up, made eye contact with the one on the end, and smiled.  She smiled back.

It was a nice moment.  She wasn't judging me for running around in shorts with my muffin top jiggling out, and I wasn't judging her for wearing all black on a hot summer day. 

My thoughts turned to a movie I had seen with my daughter the night before. We joined 170 other women and girls for a screening of Girl Rising (, a movie that depicts the impact of education on girls in third world countries.  One of the themes of the movie was that while there wasn't hope for the adults in those countries, the children still had a chance.

I disagreed.  I think, I HOPE, that grown-ups can always find a way to do better, and to prevail. Granted, I can't compare my life to that of a family living in squalor, surviving on scraps found in a landfill.  I will never know that type of suffering, nor will I ever be able to comprehend it.  What I am referring to is the human spirit, that thing that keeps you digging in the dirt, pushing forward when the world is pushing back even harder.

I was riding that high, thinking about that lofty goal, when I logged on to Facebook.  Here is what was posted by a resident on my neighborhood's group page:

Neighborhood watch. On May 15 at one thirty in the afternoon, I saw a tall (six foot three) mulatto man walking west on Forest Pond drive. His hair was short and he had a trimmed beard. He wave at me and I waved at him. He was carrying a small green box in his hand.

Dear God, call the troops.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I thought about my niece and nephew.  Two absolutely beautiful, amazing children, who have a white mother and black father.  I called my sister-in-law and asked her, "How do you feel about the term mulatto?"  I was told immediately and without pause that she and her husband did not care for it AT ALL.

So, I replied to the post, just behind my friend who, having my back, posted as well.

My Friend:  "I'm just curious, why was this cause for concern?"
Me:  "Coming from a mixed race family, I am trying to understand where the concern is? Is it possible he lives here or was visiting someone? Also the term mulatto is not widely accepted."

Four people "liked" my comment, but here is the response I received from another resident:

Neighbor:  "I would be concern if it were not a familiar face, mulatto, green, white or black, walking around our neighborhood. We have a sign in from of the neighborhood NO SOLICTORS. Lived in New Bedford for 27 years and am cognizant of anyone walking around that I don't know and still don't know all my neighbors. Caution is good thing. I don't know (name withheld), but appreciate his concern. Caution is a good thing."

When I saw this response, I evaluated my choices.

1. Ignore him so I don't stoop to his level.
2. Correct his usage of "concern" and "from" and spelling of "solicitors."
3. Remind him that it is not easy being green.

As of this moment, I have picked #1.  Not because I am afraid of a fight or am complacent, but because Rome wasn't built in a day.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I can't assume that this is a case of racial profiling.  What I CAN assume is that neither of these neighbors, who happen to be white, have ever been black men.  So, they can't understand what they don't know.  And I will continue to voice MY opinion until my brother-in-law isn't afraid to walk down his own street at night in his own neighborhood, for fear of the police being called.

And yes, I realize that I have never been a black man, either.  However, I have discovered a DNA test for 99 dollars that can tell me if I have ever been a black woman. And I can't wait to find out.  Because, in truth, on the outside, we may all look different, but our innards are the same.  How wonderful would it be to spend more time acknowledging our sameness, rather than our differences?

Until next time, keep crowin' and caring.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writer's Block

It has been one month and one day since I have written anything, and that is wrong for so many reasons.  It means I haven't made time for it, haven't been inspired, or haven't found myself that interesting.

I will say that life has overwhelmed me the last month.  It is very hard to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere after a zen-like, Utopian week of Spring Break.  We have a place we go that is truly my Disney World.  No people, no cars, no schedules.  I wish everyone could have that type of escape.

Coming back to the real world was shocking.  Like having your hair pulled out by your roots during a deep sleep.  I really am ready to retire, but since my kids are only 13 and 10, that's not an option.

I hit a few walls upon re-entry, and re-evaluated some things.  The older I get, the more often I have these "what needs fixing" talks with myself.  So, I looked at work, volunteer, and miscellaneous.

I can't quit work because it is part of the household income.  But, I was letting work dictate my schedule, rather than the other way around.  Being self-employed is great, until you realize you never clock out.  For instance, my biggest client sent me an assignment at 5:00 p.m. one day for an entire web site project that was due by the following morning. 

Did I stay up until 1:00 a.m. to finish it?  Yes, I did. 


But, I 'yam what I 'yam.  Can't help it.  However, I can complain about it and get some more money for it, which I did.  And then I created a production request system so that it wouldn't happen again.

Another wall was my volunteer work.  This year, I was in charge of the food/supply drives at my son's elementary school.  We collected items for underprivileged students in our area, and it was the best volunteer job I've ever had.  I met some amazing people - the librarian who ran a book fair all by herself, the assistant principal who started a food pantry for his families, the students who saw us roll in boxes and got excited about soup. 

I loved this job, but the loading, sorting and hauling was killing my back.  And after 11 visits to physical therapy, my insurance company cut me off because, according to them, I wasn't getting better.  Or, maybe they thought I was pathetic.  Either way, I had to give up the heavy lifting.

Then there was my Presidency with the theater awards group.  As is so often the case in my life, what began as a hobby became a career, and suddenly I'm in charge.  I stepped up to the plate because someone else was having a nervous breakdown.  But, they are doing better now, and so I rinsed off the plate and handed it back.  No more Presidency.

As for the miscellaneous, well, I'm working on it.  I realize I am a flawed human being. Every day, I wake up and tell myself, "Let's do better today."  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  And sometimes God or Karma or Publix step in to remind me to try harder.  Like when the cashier said to me after scanning my purchases, "Wine is wine, right?  Doesn't matter how much it costs if it tastes good."

I didn't know a person with a custom wheelchair seat and meth-induced drawl could also moonlight as a sommelier, but far be it from me to judge.  Must be one of those Up With People programs.

At any rate, I have every intention of getting my groove back.  Not sure how I will do it, but it's on the agenda.  And if I'm smart, it will be a top priority.

Until then, keep crowin' and don't lose sight of yourself.