xoJane; IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Punished For My White Co-worker’s Racism

Graduating from USC with a degree in industrial engineering never could have prepared me for the racism I would face living in Orange County, CA. In fact, my education at USC did the exact opposite. I moved in diverse circles, chatted with folks from all over the world on a daily basis, and even though I was born in a predominantly black area in Oakland, CA, I had pretty much become accustomed to racial heterogeneity. There were tons of people like me on campus and in Los Angeles. Then I got my first job at a popular theme park and everything changed.
I was 22. It was my first job. I loved the company and intended to be there until I retired. I had pretty much worshipped the brand since I was a small child. I basically came in both wide-eyed and with my eyes wide shut at the same time.
I was the only person of color on my team, but that didn’t bother me. It actually seemed like an asset at first. Being black with an engineering degree drew people to want to know more about me. No doubt they thought I was some kind of exception -– even though I really wasn’t. I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was more than happy to show my analytical ability in just about every scenario I found myself in. I was confident.
I had an older peer, about 60, who had been at the company for 40 years. He was a pretty nice man. He made jokes about everything and knew the theme park like the back of his hand. Our jobs required that we work in close proximity to one another. He was a white male who, as he got more comfortable with me, frequently used the term “cholo” as an adjective. He found great amusement in the Spanish-speaking staff on campus. I never said anything. It was the combination of a fear of ruffling feathers, desperation to have a paycheck for my growing family, and acquiescence to authority that silenced me.
One day we had some downtime in the office. We were chatting about life at the park. He started,” I have been here a very long time.”
I was eager to hear more.
“You know, when I first got here, you had to be dressed up to go into the park. All the receptionists, hostesses, and food workers were these tall, thin white women.”
He chuckled. I did too.
Then he pointed at me and said, “And, ‘Africans’ -– like yourself –- they would never have been allowed to work front of house. They had to stay in the kitchens.”
I froze. I had no idea where this was going next, but I was already hurt. I just stood there and plastered a smile on my face.
Read the full article at xoJane.

WCC: We’re Black, We Didn’t Jump the Broom, and It Kinda Sucks

I never expected to get married at 22-years-old. I envisioned myself as a briefcase wielding, pseudo-Oprah taking over the world. Then, my husband happened in my freshman year of college. And that was that. While we have a pretty fairytale style romance, we neglected to do what most black couples do on their wedding days: jump the broom. I feel pretty sour about it.

We were college sweethearts. We knew we wanted to get married and have children within months of dating. After being best friends for almost a year, it was like the stars had aligned. And, the wedding was the best day of our lives. It was a beautiful sunny May day in Orange County. We had everything and everyone we needed. Everything except the broom.

We are both black folks from California. He is a Socal native and I hail from the Bay Area (Oakland to be exact). We were both raised by single mothers. And, we both understand our black history. So, everyone expected we would be ‘jumping the broom’ at our wedding. But, neither of us was interested.

Several times during our two year engagement I asked him, “You sure you don’t want to jump the broom?” To which he’d answer, “For what?” “I don’t know…tradition,” I’d say reluctantly. Then we’d both do a Kanye shrug and go back to playing video games.

What was most interesting was everyone else’s reaction to it. “So, who’s going to carry the broom?” my wedding planner asked me a few months before our wedding day. “No one. We aren’t jumping the broom,” I said ready to rattle off all of my reasons for that choice. She looked at me. Her eyes were gasping. You know that look when, if eyes could talk, they’d be saying “Gurl! Are you outta your mind!?!” It was actually pretty funny. “Well, I am sure you have a good reason for that. So, do you honey,” she chuckled after her eyes caught their breath. But, I knew her judgey eyes linked to judgey thoughts.

 

Read the full article at WCC.

WCC: Public Spaces, Black Faces, Latino Gazes

Race in America is often discussed in a continuum of black and white. One’s worth is measured by one’s simultaneous distance from blacks and closeness to whites. One group that likely finds itself pulled in either direction on this linear structure is Latino Americans. Often clumped into race conversations as the “brown” to our black, Latinos face wholly different social and economic circumstances than blacks. Not only that, they have a range of socio-political issues which can draw them toward blacks and away from whites. But, in an attempt to distance from blacks, Latino Americans sometimes embody the very same racial animus some whites show toward black Americans. When that happens, we all lose.

Saturday was an atypically cold day in the sunny SoCal city of Orange. My children, husband, and I decided to go catch breakfast at a local diner we have eaten at at least 100 times. The place was surprisingly packed from front to back. We were toting two little ones and an infant in a car seat. So, we were obviously laden with parental responsibilities – along with a giant diaper bag and bejeweled princess backpack for the two-year-old. While I have previously written about the negative reception I have gotten from unwelcoming white folks in the OC, today’s gazers, avoiders, and repugnant face-makers were all Latino women.

When we entered the restaurant and added our names to the waiting list, there were two open benches. I told my husband, “Let’s sit down over here” while walking toward the seat nearest the door. I was no more than three feet away when a Latino young lady turned, and raced toward the seat. As intended, she beat me to it. Snarkily, I said, “Well, nevermind.” Since we were already walking in that direction, my husband and I stood next to the seat organizing ourselves and children. The young lady, so concerned that we wanted to share the four-foot long bench with her, scooted to the middle, sat her purse down next to her, and put both hands out on the bench beside her. We definitely got the message; she was waiting for others and she didn’t want us to sit on the bench.

Read the full article at WCC.

WCC: On the Jordan Davis Murder and Why I Avoided the Michael Dunn Trial

On Saturday, Michael Dunn was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder while the jury was torn on the killing of unarmed black teen Jordan Russell Davis, 17. It happened. It was sad, wrong, and terrible and it happened. Most of us expected some type of injustice to ensue. But, I’m sure none of us could have imagined that Dunn would be convicted for not killing enough young boys that day. This is my first time writing about the trial because…well, because I got too invested in the George Zimmerman trial last year. It became a personal issue for me. It hurt me so deeply. So now, I have taken to emotional detachment as a coping mechanism.

I took to Twitter to read words from acquiescent black murder apologists like “grateful,” “at least,” and “partial justice.” Some folks were happy that Dunn would be going to prison for “attempting” to kill Jordan Davis’ three other friends who were in the car with him that day. They felt at least partially satisfied that, unlike George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn wouldn’t be walking away free. What they didn’t realize was that the conviction – no matter Dunn’s age and likelihood of rotting in a prison cell – was not justice for Davis.These folks don’t have the courage to admit that their Kool-aid has gone sour. There just aren’t enough straws to grasp anymore.

In essence, Dunn could have shot and killed Davis, walked down the road, then shot at – and missed – all of Davis’ friends and the same outcome would apply. Dunn didn’t kill enough young boys playing “thug” music to walk free.

Only in America can a grown man – with obvious racial hatred – shoot and kill a young black boy only to go to prison for shooting at the boys he didn’t kill. Had those boys not been in the car with Davis, Dunn wouldn’t be serving any time at all. Let that marinate with you for a bit.

Read the full article at WCC.

WCC: Coke Ad Shows Diversity, White Conservatives Die a Million Deaths [VIDEO]

Americans are vile human beings. Besides our issues with jingoism, white superiority, and ethnocentrism, we are also stupid. So stupid in fact that we become completely bent, afraid, and offended over the stupidest things. For example, a man in Temecula, CA answered his door by pulling a gun on a young girl there to sell him cookies. Cookies. What imminent threat she presented is unknown. It is truly frightening the amount of freedom these simpletons have. But, something else happened recently that sent Americans (read ignorant white Americans) over the edge once again. It was a Coke commercial that featured people who weren’t white and English-speaking singing ‘America the Beautiful.’ Cue the tiny racist violins and white people tears.

The minute long ad called ‘It’s Beautiful‘ is a patriotic tribute to this country ‘from sea to shining sea.’ What ruffled feathers? Well, the people in the commercial weren’t the right complexion for many white viewers. You know how that goes. So, those pissed off white people had no other choice but to lash out.

Read the full article at WCC.

WCC: Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Left Out Little Girls of Color…Again

My family went to see Disney’s hit movie Frozen this weekend. It was really amazing. And by amazing I mean the little four-year-old girl inside of me put on a princess dress and crown, grabbed a magic wand, danced around in circles and swooned for an hour and a half. It was that good from start to finish. But, at some point, I glanced around the theater and noticed the two other brown or black families. Then I became an adult again. And I got sad.

The movie’s powerful messages of self-acceptance, overcoming bullying, succeeding in the face of stigmatization, and remaining true to one’s self seemed to fit almost perfectly with the conversations us brown and black mothers have to have with our little girls almost daily. I think Disney may have missed an opportunity to really make a difference with this film. Or, they just chose not to touch it. Either way, little black and brown girls continue to exist on the periphery of the American fairytale.

During the movie, my two-year old tuned in an out. At times she was fully engrossed in the popcorn rather than in the giant screen in front of us. But, whenever the singing geared up, she was at full attention. She was wide-eyed and absorbing every moment of it.

The signature ballad for the Snow Queen, performed by Wicked‘s Idina Menzel, was gorgeous, instilled hope and wonder, and was sung flawlessly. During the song, there was a moment when I could see the same youthful exuberance and inspiration in my little one’s eyes that I must have had when I first saw Cinderella a quarter of a century ago. Like me, she was seeing not just the animation but the messages of hope it imbued. Those messages, however, were coming from a gorgeous blonde character surrounded by other sparkly-eyed white figures. None of them looked like us. So, was the message really for us too?

Read the full article at WCC.

WCC: Four White Privilege Truths for 2014

Since starting this blog, I have encountered a range of responses from readers. From the “I’ve been there so thank you for doing what you do” responses to the “Why do you keep talking about race?” comments, I have a broad swath of patrons.

One thing I see my white readers continue to struggle with is the notion of white privilege. Many can’t understand how they are privileged if they aren’t on Bill Gates status. So, I figured it was time to lay it out plainly just to clear up some confusion.

Truth 1: White privilege does not guarantee vast personal wealth

There is a rumor out there that if you aren’t white AND rich then you don’t benefit from white privilege. That couldn’t be further from the truth. White privilege isn’t a system of direct monetary transfer. It is a structural societal process wherein the white identity is the benchmark. Via private enterprise, educational opportunity, environmental barriers, and the US justice system, the majority (white) standard of what is good, meritorious, and “normal” automatically rewards whites for simply fitting the mold.

The justice system is especially blatant about these benefits. This is seen when states like Florida where Ricky Eugene Patterson was sentenced to life in prison for possession of a handful of crack cocaine while US Representative Trey Radel (R) got to return to Congress (with his job intact) and only a year of probation after purchasing 3.5 ounces of powder cocaine from an undercover cop. Patterson recently received a pardon from President Obama commuting his excessively harsh sentence. There was no direct transfer of monetary benefits here but it is clear that life in prison and a felony charge would have monumental economic impacts on someone like Patterson. Rep. Radel received what is akin to a slap on the wrist for a similar offense. And he still gets to collect a paycheck from the American people.

American Capitalism is not blind. Neither is the justice system. The ‘good ol’ boys’ still reign supreme in every facet of public life. That’s nothing short of white privilege.

Read the full post at WCC.

WCC: If You Still Eat McDonald’s Just Go Kill Yourself Now

So, by “eat McDonald’s” I mean you regularly patronize the chain restaurant consuming items from multiple parts of the menu. Need more clarification? If you only go there once a month to grab a salad, breakfast beverage or sandwich, or an ice cream sundae, this is not directed at you. I am talking specifically to those of you out there who still order Big Mac meals including fries and a drink. I am talking to you if you eat dinner at McDonald’s more than twice a month. Why should you go kill yourself? Because you are giving money to a company which outright says their food is bad for you and makes you fat. They are killing you. Why spend money when you can simply do it yourself?

When I was a kid, I ate McDonald’s at least twice a week. I usually had it after basketball practice on Thursdays as we scurried over to church for choir rehearsal. And, I sometimes had it on weekends for breakfast before church. I am no stranger to the McDonald’s menu. Trust me. I have eaten my fair share of double quarter pounders with cheese. My poor mother probably wouldn’t have been able to keep me full had she gotten me a normal portion of something healthier.

But, I have since sworn off the lunch and dinner menu. I will sometimes grab a breakfast there but not on the regular. And, I NEVER eat there for dinner. Honestly, I don’t even consider most of the items on the menu to be real food. So, when we are looking for something non-homecooked to eat, it doesn’t even make the list.

McDonald’s has been making the news recently because of their “McResource Line” website which is supposed to only be accessible to employees. On the site, they show a picture of food that bares an uncanny resemblance to a quarter pounder meal on their menu labeled “Unhealthy choice.” Then, they show another meal which includes a salad, sandwich, and glass of water labeled “Healthier choice.” In other words, McDonald’s wants you to go eat at Subway.

Read the full post at WCC.

WCC: Justine Sacco Challenged Black Twitter…and Lost

This weekend, I witnessed a brutal battle. It was a virtual battle but a battle nonetheless. I witnessed Justine Sacco (now former PR Director for IAC – a web company which owns Match.com, The Daily Beast, and other well-known websites) attempt to be racist against black people via Twitter. And, I subsequently witnessed (and participated in) Black Twitter’s swift pummeling of her actions thus causing her to be fired from her job. Did I feel bad about it at some point? Yes, sort of. I didn’t want to ruin this young lady’s life all because of a racist tweet. Did she deserve it? Certainly.

No one who works in PR has half a brain if they think that tweets like this one belong on the internet.

Read the full post at WCC.

WCC: Your White Privelege, My Microaggressions…or Death

The term ‘microaggression‘ became my “Word of the Year” last week when I first read it. It perfectly sums up the tiny little peckings I experience daily from people outside of my racial and ethnic group. The awestruck and gratuitous hair touching, the shock at me not being able to name a member of The Beatles (and being unapologetic about it), the questions about fried chicken, and the tip-toeing around conversations about race are all gateway drugs for the microaggressive addiction we have in this country. And today, I read something else that made me believe these microaggressions are mostly due to white privilege. Go figure.

Author Heben Nigatu derives the meaning of the term “microaggression” from Columbia professor Derald Sue. It is the “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” This definition is great because it includes accidental racism (you know, like the kind LL Cool J and country singer Brad Paisley recorded a song about) and the racism that happens when your mouth talks before your brain can tell it to shut up because you are in the wrong company.

In other words, microaggressions are what happen in a country that is still struggling to understand and accept the unique contours of a racially diverse environment. One doesn’t have to be racist to exhibit microaggressive behavior. All one has to do is forget that other races deserve the same dignity and respect as one’s own. That seems pretty easy right?

Read the full post at WCC.