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The Hate U Give

I laughed and wept, both alternately and simultaneously, as I read Angie Thomas’s

The
Hate
U
Give.

For a couple years now, I’ve witnessed as names become hashtags. I’ve seen people killed twice over:

first,
when breath was stolen
from their bodies;
next,
when their lives were stolen,
too, swept away by words like
“no angel” or “drug dealer” or “thug,”
as if an entire life
is worth no more
than its worst
(alleged)
offense.

I’ve understood how a person, once painted an “offender,” is seldom understood as worth one more thought. I’ve struggled to explain how

each life taken
is a loss insufferable,
outrageous, egregious;
a. loss. of. a. whole. life.

(that could have been anything)

When I read the fictional-but-not-really-fictional, staggering, powerful The Hate U Give, my whole body sighed. I saw that this is how people understand the life behind the death; the years of needless hate behind a moment’s sanctioned bullets.

While this exact Khalil never lived in this flesh-and-blood world, he lived in a heart that bled onto pages. Those pages are now being read by thousands upon thousands of people. And this Khalil, though he lives in heart and page, represents many who lived
in
this
world:

Oscar.
Trayvon.
Rekia.
Michael.
Eric.
Tamir.
John.
Ezell.
Sandra.
Freddie.
Alton.
Philando.
Emmett.

Once upon a time, each of these people lived and laughed and cried and yearned. Their ability to do these things ever again was stolen from them, but you and I? By remembering them, we can change the world.

By remembering them, we can

end
this
list.

thug

Many thanks to Alison Doherty for the recommendation

 

 

Hair, just a fraction

“Mama?” my seven-year-old, Li’l D, spoke.

“Yep?”

“My friend [M] said that the difference between my hair and [my little brother, Littler J’s] is that his is way bigger because it hasn’t been cut for a while.”

“That’s one difference,” I said. “Another is that his hair is fine, while your hair is …” I searched for the right word, understanding many words that seem neutral in the dictionary are charged in living color.

“Your hair is thick,” I concluded.

“Which is better?” Li’l D asked plaintively.

“Oh, sweetie,” I said, ruffling his thicker curls. “Neither is better. When I was little, my only friend who wasn’t my sibling–Topaz–had curly hair. I was so jealous of her curly hair. Then again, she wished she had my straight hair.”

Li’l D looked at his brother’s hair and half-smiled. “Oh.”

I don’t know if he believes me now. I don’t know if he’ll believe me later. I only know that (1) pre-pregnancy me of eight years ago wouldn’t have understood “dog whistles,” or the ways politicians invoke race without ever explicitly mentioning it, and (2) I believe it through-and-through. His curls are lovely. His brother’s curls are lovely.

One brother’s curls are fine. Another brother’s curls are coarse.

Both brothers are beautiful; either’s hair, only a fraction of that.

 

no. matter. what.

I have three full-blood siblings. Each of those three siblings are soulful, compassionate people; together, they have been my lifeline for most of four decades.

My siblings all had one elementary school teacher who never taught me in a classroom. Far from condemning my single mother, as most adults around my siblings and I did, this teacher praised her: “Any one of your children is kinder and more compassionate than any other student I’ve ever had. That all three of them are like that tells me it’s not an accident, but a reflection of you.”

I was never his student, but he and I became friendly in the years after my siblings left his classroom. He went on to teach teachers. He told me he used me and my siblings as shining examples of what you can become when you care for other people.

(When I had a chance to help one of his people a few years ago, I leaped! How seldom do any of us have a chance to explicitly show kindness to the people who have saved us?!)

Sometimes, I talk to people and wonder how they have so little faith in the folks around them. “How do you believe people are innately assholes, and only ever pretend to be otherwise?” I ask myself, puzzling over this until something or another reminds me: They did not have my siblings!

As my mom lost herself to untreated mental illness, I had my siblings. As our mom died of cancer, I had my siblings. After she died and I argued heatedly about how we should dispose of her house, I had my siblings.

(I was so angry about how we disposed of Mom’s house, I signed the papers upside-down to reflect my protest. Still, I signed because I understood my siblings were more important than a house, and I apologized later when I really understood it.)

And so, I have walked through every day of my life knowing I have three people who will support me even when they want to whack me upside the head (which is probably often). I have three people who know, absolutely, that my heart is full of love, even when the things I do or say don’t necessarily reveal that.

Most people don’t have that.

That is a sadness I can’t even fathom.

‘Cause, see, I have always had these three people–Rachael, David, and Madeline–who have had my back, so I can’t imagine life without them.

2013 siblings small

then and now

Most people have never even had one-third of that. Read more…

In Politics, Silence Isn’t Neutral

A couple of weeks ago, I stood in a parking lot and typed a comment that was the written equivalent of a howl of anguish. I wasn’t anguished by the post itself, but by (1) how it fit within a broader societal context and (2) the identity of its poster. Afterward, the poster and I exchanged emails.

I thought about our exchange for a day or so. As I always do when I don’t immediately have the right words, I sat down and wrote to find them. The original post had been made private, so I included a poor synopsis of it based on memory.

I saved it as a draft and sat on it.

2016-11-22-19.12.50.jpg.jpg

The books that began it for me

After I saved the post as a draft, I continued to think about that email exchange. I devoured a couple more political books, the better to understand, express myself, and prepare to organize against a system frightful long before #45 inherited chunks of it.

Importantly, I had a couple illuminating conversations that made me much, much less frustrated with individual people and more resolute about working to shape a better system. I saw humanity.

To post or not to post? I wondered. It’s already kinda outdated now. An exchange yesterday inspired me to post it; it is part of my journey of learning to speak Politics, after all. Still, I wanted to share the link here with a preface.

Going into summer last year, I’d barely ever tried speaking Politics. It wasn’t my bag.

Last summer, I realized I’d done myself a disservice by never really trying. I’d deprived myself of a vocabulary … and left the business of politics to people I didn’t really want speaking for, well, anyone.

I began practicing. I committed to being okay with making mistakes, and hoped others would be inspired when they saw the earth not swallowing me whole when I spoke ineloquently or incorrectly. Eventually, I realized that this meant I needed to also be gracious with others new to “speaking Politics.”

Inexperience has made this easier said than done, but I’m already much better now than I was last summer. I’ve had dozens of face-to-face conversations improved by the learning I’ve done here. I’ve improved my skill at having discussions online, too, but have found it easier to be aggravated online by not-so-individual quirks I now recognize as reflections of systems.

My steepest learning curve has been the last couple weeks. Please bear that in mind if you choose to read “In Politics, Silence Isn’t Neutrality.”

Tomorrow, I’ll post something more reflective of where I am now: oriented toward both action and building common ground. Today, I hope you’ll consider engaging in political conversation or (better yet!) action. This will probably feel uncomfortable at first; as with building racial stamina, the discomfort means you’re growing.

I have a helluva lot to learn, and, man. I’m excited to learn it all in such good company.

“as ordinary people, our fates are tied together,
and … one group’s liberation is dependent on
the liberation of all the oppressed and exploited.”
— Keeyanga-Yamahtta Taylor in The Anti-Inauguration

 

 

Love you well deserve

 

“You both
have so much energy,”
a mom told my husband
as she watched him and me
play with our boys
at the playground
a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, well,
we have fun,”
he replied.

I was saddened
by the exchange,
but not sure why.

I kept stepping.

“It really looks
like you’re having fun
with your kids!” a cashier
told me and my husband
a few days later.
“It’s sweet.”

(“It just comes naturally
to my husband,” I should’ve said,
but didn’t.)

“My mom really
had fun with me
and my siblings,”
I said, smiling.

I was saddened
by the exchange,
but not sure why.

I kept stepping.

Last week,
someone told
my husband that
our seven-year-old
is just the sweetest.

“He said, ‘You can tell which
kids are so, so very loved,’
my husband relayed. Read more…

Show Up Today

I drove to LAX last night.

Once there, I joined a crowd of a couple hundred people. They–we–demanded release of Muslims from certain countries detained based on a Trump (read: Bannon) executive order issued yesterday.

A California congressperson informed us one Iranian student had already been deported. She and others were at the airport demanding access to the detainees.

As I stood chanting, hoping that so many people show up for Sunday solidarity at airports, I regretted deeply how I contributed to this outcome.

As I drove home, I thought of a post I wrote in October. In “The could-have-been soul-kin of Anne Frank,” I wrote:

anne frank.png

I thought about the quiet inaction of those who watched as Nazis committed genocide. They likely hoped they’d earn safety for themselves and their own if they remained silent.

I understood that the U.S. coming-for actually began at least fifteen years ago.

I thought of three kids who’d stood chanting opposite me at LAX.

They don’t deserve less than my or your non-Muslim kids. In fact, what we do to protect them will profoundly impact the safety of all our kids … forever.

So if you’re wondering what you, just one person, can do? You can donate to the ACLU, busy fighting this heinous executive order. It was the ACLU that earned yesterday’s stay that, unfortunately, wasn’t acted on quickly enough at some airports.

You can call Congress, multiple times every day. You can show up at city council meetings, and other local political meetings. You can call your friends and bring them with  you.

And today? Today you can drive to your nearest airport, and join others in saying, “Not on my watch!”

You don’t need to know what you’re doing tomorrow. Just … please, please, show up today.

Me, speaking instead of writing

I recorded a video a couple of nights ago. I wasn’t planning on linking it here, but I just listened to it and changed my mind. It reveals so much about where I’ve been, where I want to go, and why I want to go there.

It did originate with politics, so you might want to skip it. Basically, some folks expressed concern with my supporting Brand New Congress, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that could legally accept dark money. It’s so personal that sitting down and writing it out didn’t feel right. So … I recorded a (respectful!) video, and I’m glad I did.

Just be forewarned: my husband might work in show biz, but you’ll see none of that glitz watching the video here!

maslow

 

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