Wednesday, July 22, 2015

With Liberty & Justice for All.

I love being white.
I love it simply because my life is easier, and to use a currently popular word, privileged.

I do not live in fear of police officers. When I see lights behind me, I am stressed out because I don’t want to pay a ticket- not because I might be ____ . (Enter your own word for the various fates possible here). I can't stop reading the story of Sandra Bland. After everything that has happened I am still in disbelief that this is happening in America in 2015. 

I can hail a taxicab anywhere I want any time of day or not. I am not seen as a threat due to centuries of stereotypes. No one has ever covered their face and hung my relatives from a tree. No one mocks my accent- because I don’t have one. No one calls me slur words. My history is front and present in textbooks. No gaps are left out because they’re just too ugly for children to witness.

I worry about my brother every single day. He is 21. He is tall and when it is cold out, will walk around wearing a hoodie. He would argue with an authority figure when he believes they are out of line. He has broken the law and dealt with the consequences already in his young life. He is tall, he is strong, he has tattoos. I worry constantly about him getting into a car with someone who has been drinking- or drinking and driving himself. I worry about him not applying himself as well as he could. I worry that he is irresponsible with his money and his time.
I don’t ever worry for one single moment of my life that he is going to be attacked by someone (a cop)- especially when he isn’t doing anything wrong. It just doesn’t cross my mind as a worry. Because he is white and the odds of that happening are so much less- just because he is white.

I see young black boys in my store, on the train, in the bodegas, on the streets- they could all be my brother. But they are black and that is all that separates them. And so while my mother prays her son starts seriously thinking of his future career, their mothers pray their sons make it home alive tonight.

I can’t get on the Internet, pick up a paper, turn on the TV, or listen to the radio without hearing that someone who is a minority has been wrongly accused/attacked/shot by a white figure, often a police officer. I don’t know if the media attraction is making this more commonplace but it is like the goddamn 60s in Mississippi all over again!

So here I am. I am white. I am culturally recognized as a middle class white educated young woman. I am safe from authority figures going wild on me because I put my hand in my pocket and they thought I had a gun.

There is a reason that the phrase white privilege exists. 

My children’s lives will be better than the lives of the children born by POC.
I am so so sad that this is the case, but it is the truth. Let’s stop hiding from the truth.

Mother’s are burying their young sons too often. Police officers are committing crimes and nothing is happening! And we (white people) can't wait for pumpkin flavors to be back on the shelves in a few months. Is the value of our skin greater than the value of theirs?

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?” - Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”
This is the same story we have been telling again and again. It is our job to protect each other from ourselves. Why are we failing so miserably? Why are our souls and hearts so calloused? Who raised us!? Who taught us to forgo the good Samaritan and watch black boys bleed out on the ground as we continue onto yoga and coffee.

"There are two types of evil in this world: those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it." (What good would this be without a Mean Girls quote?)

Which one are you?
Will you hide behind the cowardice of a flag and not stand up for some who grew up under the same flag receiving a different treatment in life than you? Will you stand beside your religion and say that if they had just not stolen from that convenience store / sold those illegal cigarettes/ gotten rowdy on the train they would be fine.

Because here is the difference. Many many many people do those things. Do they deserve to die for them?

So which person are you? Do you do evil things- or do you just sit by and watch them happen with silence?

I think the second person is the more evil- and I believe that is the umbrella we all fall under more often. Grow a fucking backbone and don’t stand for the injustice anymore. Support black lives. Support the justice of those who lose their lives. Do not fall under the guise of the falseness of how a man in uniform upholds the law to the best extent. How many more young (black) lives need to be lost before someone says enough is enough.

If you won’t, I will.
Enough is enough.

And my voice is loud. My voice is loud because it is a white voice. The oppressed can scream until their vocal chords bleed, but if their voices hold no clout, if no one hears them, it is moot.

But my voice is not oppressed. Someone might listen. But my voice is one voice. And it won’t get very far. But what if you add yours. And he adds his. And she adds hers; isn’t that how we change the world?

Shylock: “To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.” - The Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 1

By no means was Shylock the most upstanding human in literary history- but that does not invalidate the points he makes in this scene. Historically, for whatever reason, majority of the world has hated the Jews. And Shylock bore the brunt of this in The Merchant of Venice. But why? Because he is a Jew? Is that the crime of his life, is this what will condemn him and lead him to his death?

If you are a man and you see a woman being attacked/harassed/drugged by another man it is your obligation to help her. You hold the position of privilege.  If you are an authority figure and for some godforsaken reason feel that a teenager is “seducing” you, it is your obligation to get the fuck out of that situation. You are the adult; you hold the position of privilege

Privilege is a circle. We each own it from time to time. It is power. And with great power comes great responsibility. Uncle Ben taught us all that.

Black lives matter.
Be on the right side of history.
Stand up for what is right or sit the fuck down and shut up- you’re getting in my way.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I Am Great.

This story has been sitting inside of me for almost a year now, it is time to tell it.

Last summer I was living in the Upper West Side, which is arguably the best place to live in all 5 boroughs. I was keeping my car in the city for a few weeks and thus began to ever present struggle of finding street parking every other day. I so far was finding a lot of luck, which I had continually said was bound to run out sooner or later. One night I left work around 10:30 and got home around 11 am. I had to be back at 8 am the next day and was already exhausted, and remembered I had to move my car (in the rain to make it that much sweeter). After circling a 10 block radius for about 30 minutes I was nearly in tears and was considering paying for overnight parking- when I see a spot.

I very unsuccessfully tried to parallel park (let me just say that I am a good parallel parker but in this particular night it was dark and rainy and the streetlight was causing and awful glare and my glasses were dirty and I was exhausted!) about 4 or 5 times, much to the dismay of other cars trying to get around me. A man in full traditional West African garb in his late 20s approaches me from the stoop where he had been watching me gives me hand motions to glide into the spot (see, New Yorkers are friendly!)

I get out of the car to check my handiwork and to thank him for his help. I sheepishly tell him that sometimes late at night I have a hard time seeing because my car is pretty big and I am so small. He turns his head so fast I thought he'd have whiplash, he looks me square in the face and says slowly with all of the power in the world-

"Never say that you are small. If you say that you are small, the universe will believe that you are small and that is all you will ever be."

He continues to look at me as I search my mind for any type of a response and completely fail.

He continues on-

"Say that you are great and the universe will believe that you are great."

A completely connected tangent:
I have a lot of confidence when it comes to certain things like... wearing red lipstick, karaoke, strutting in 6 inch high heels, yelling at people in my car safely behind plexiglass, knowing all of the lyrics to the Thong Song, navigating the NYC subway system.  However, I do NOT have a lot of confidence in other certain things like job hunting, networking, talking about what I do for a living, talking about what I want out of life... are you sensing a pattern?

I am small. I am, at 5'2, small. And I have for many years believed it, and so has the universe. Because when you are small, there isn't much to talk up. I once was at a friend's party where other guests I didn't know asked me about my job. I gave a flippant, self deprecating answer that I had barely registered as being such. My friend looked at me and said, "What are you talking about? You are someone's boss. You work really hard. You are really dedicated. You do a great job."
I had no words.

So, back to the story.

I look at this man through rain covered glasses and I guess find some words to respond. I then look at my car and realize that I had parked in a no parking zone and would have to move...again. I thanked him for his efforts but explained that I had to leave. He challenged me to believe in myself, believe that the universe will take care of me and to leave me car there and trust. I looked at him square in the face and explained that I am a New Yorker and I don't put my trust in much, especially when it comes to my car and a $200 towing fee. I got in the car and started circling again. I pulled up the street that I lived on and whispered as softly as I could,

"I am great."

And there was a spot. Right there. Within eyesight of my building.
I said it once more, still barely audible and parked perfectly.

I am small. But I am great. I am great. I am great.
You are great. I am great. You are great. I am great.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


January has a history of ranging from just unfriendly to incredibly cruel in its treatments towards me.

I spent some time researching in my brain every January I can recall and these are the results:

2003 (13) A very odd, dream-like memory of standing on the snow (when the snow has hardened and if you step really softly you sort of glide on top of it), and I was listening to this song on my walkman and experiencing listlessness. As more well read adult, It reminds me of Cecelia from The Virgin Suicides when the doctor asks her why she'd try to kill herself and she replies that he obviously has never been a 13 year old girl.

2004 apparently was either so awful that I blocked it out or so lame my brain felt no need to catalog it.

2005 (15) We were remodeling our kitchen and the house was in such disarray so I spent as much time in my room as possible. I spent an entire Saturday eating sourdough pretzel nuggets and reading Little Women and wishing that I was Jo. Or maybe that I was Mamie. Not really wishing to be Amy, but still considering being Amy because being anyone other than me would've been fantastic.

2006 (16) I kissed a boy for the very very first time and though that it meant that he liked me and apparently it didn't and that was just all too much.

2007 (17) was actually magic. I thought January was repenting for its ways. Lies.

2008 (18) In the midst an emotionally abusive 6 month "relationship", whilst watching The Princess Bride, I realized (as he took my hand and told me he loved me), that he was awful and gross and all sorts of bad words and I told him to go away now and I mean it!
(Anybody want a peanut?)
I guess in the retrospect, this was a good January, but it felt very sad during the time.

2009 (19) I had just returned home from studying abroad and was all types of confused about life. I wasn't working and school wouldn't start until a week or two into February and every day was just a void without sunshine and hope.

2010 (20) I thought someone I loved didn't love me.

2011 (21) Someone I loved definitely didn't love me.

2012 (22)  My phone broke. The year started and about 15 minutes later someone spilled their drink on my phone. The universe was trying to tell me something.

2013 (23) Would've been a redeemable January, except my dog died. In fact, I believe it was exactly 2 years ago today. I took a bereavement day and wept until my eyes wouldn't open.

2014 (24) I was unemployed. With about $50 to my name. And I was very cold. Very sad and very, very cold.

2015 (25) This should've been a good January. There was no reason it wouldn't be a good January. I live in a cool city, I can afford to take cabs and don't have to face the impossible cold, I have a job and friends.
And then, I found myself suddenly single. And then, a few hours later after finding myself suddenly single, I found myself quoting Sally for the first time in my life in a non- ironic way.

Sally: He just met her... She's supposed to be his transitional person, she's not supposed to be the ONE. All this time I thought he didn't want to get married. But, the truth is, he didn't want to marry me. He didn't love me.
Harry: If you could take him back now, would you?
Sally: No. But why didn't he want to marry me? What's the matter with me?
Harry: Nothing.
Sally: I'm difficult.
Harry: You're challenging.
Sally: I'm too structured, I'm completely closed off.
Harry: But in a good way.
Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I'm gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it's there. It's just sitting there, like some big dead end.

I don't fight January anymore. It is useless. I don't know what I ever did to it. I don't know if my planets aren't aligned or if it is just all in my head or if everyone's life is like this and I am just dramatic and easily susceptible to S.A.D. and ex-boyfriends getting engaged. Who knows. Here's to February.