Gratitude

I am dropping my closer-to-twelve-than-eleven year old son off at the middle school, and somewhere in his face I can still see the chubby, Buddha-like face of the baby I once held in my arms, scared to death, at eighteen. And I have just finished dropping off his sister, closer to ten, now, than nine, who is the exact opposite of me in so many ways. And I am thinking how proud I am, of the both of them, and how proud, quite frankly, I am of myself.

Their childhoods are so markedly different from my own. They will have grown up knowing the same groups of people, the same sets of parents, then grandparents, the same schools, churches, and home. And there is something so satisfying about this stability, something so huge and encompassing that if I stop for five seconds to think about this fact – that their lives are radically different from my own at their ages, I will cry out of gratitude.

Sometimes I worry. I worry because I learned to be grateful for both stability and people very early on, because I knew that both could be gone by the moment you got off the yellow bus from school. My children will, thankfully, not learn to be grateful that way, but there is something different, oddly beautiful, about growing up in an environment ripe with change, adventure, heartbreak, and unknowing. My childhood is not what one would call ideal in the traditional way, but I would be lying if I did not pay heed to the ways in which it also fortified me. This experiment in parenting is interesting. I wonder and hope that with this life of childhood stability, Jaidee and Elijah will still have the same outcomes in terms of gratitude for the lives they lead, the people they become. It’s all new to me, these childhood experiences something I can’t speak to, but I am, nonetheless, providing for own. I am surprised to find that it is still scary. Just scary in a different way. Parenting is terrifying.

In a few hours, both kids will be home from school. And Jaidee will likely talk, in her fast-basically-slurring-her-words-way, about her day. I will likely stare at some point on her face, trying to decipher what her story is actually about, and try not to give up. Elijah will probably come in, tell me has no homework, grab a snack, and head upstairs to virtually hang out with his friends on Fortnight for the time he is allotted. And then we will do our evening routine of soccer/piano/dinner/shower/bedtime goodnights. Rinse, repeat. And this will be our lives for the next few years, while they are still home.

At night, we – Russ, myself, the kids – say this one thing before bed without fail to one another. And if you were a fly on the wall in our home, you would hear this phrase four times, bouncing around the upstairs hall from three separate bedrooms. “Goodnight, I love you, see you in the morning.”

And I am so incredibly grateful.

 

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“Yard work” with Jaidee and Elijah.
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déjà vecu

It’s Tuesday evening, and Russ and I are sitting on the couch watching The Voice. We love betting on who is going to win and who is going to be eliminated, but mostly we enjoy finding more evidence that Carson Daly is, in fact, a robot that the producers wheel out every season. (After updating him of course.)

The second to last performance comes on, and it’s Kirk Jay performing “I Swear” by All-4-one.

You know the song if you grew up in the  nineties.

“I swear by the moon and the stars in the sky

I’ll be there…”

Kirk Jay actually does this a lot; that is, he sings these memory inducing songs from the nineties where the memories are so strong you swear you can smell the air and feel the environment around you. As he’s singing this 90’s slayer, Russell and I describe the places or things of which we are reminded. For me, when this songs plays, I remember the lazy evenings of West Texas. Our foster family has just left the square dance (this is a big thing in West Texas), Tony and I are packed in the backseat, and I can see the moon following us as we drive back home. I can hear the crunch of the gravel as we pull into the driveway, and I can see the moon highlighting our house, and it feels like home. For Russell, the song conjures up memories of being out at the deer stand with his father, and it’s funny to think that perhaps at the moment I am driving home from school or from another square dance, he is in a deer stand with his father, and we are both listening to “I Swear” in the background, in no way cognizant of the other.

I am history-oriented in many ways: the research I conduct, the books I read, my own life. History gives me context, and it makes me feel grounded. When I think about my own history, I am consistently drawn to tears because my history never gave way to the fact that I would be as happy, healthy, and stable as I am now. That’s the thing about history; it can (and for me often does) make one ceaselessly grateful.

For example, as I look over at the man next to me, who weirdly chose to be my life partner, and as he comments on this song, ‘cool to think that you were in Comanche, and I was in a deer stand, and we were both listening to this song, and now we are here,’  I am struck by the realization that, yes, we are here and I am happy. 

There are so many things that I pictured for my life, and these pictures were shaped by my history. It should not come as a surprise, then, that I did not picture a long life with someone else, where I was happy 99% of the time, as the bulk of the people in my life had been transient. From siblings and parents, to caseworkers, to school friends and church friends. What is forever to a person whose earliest memories are shaped by the act of leaving? To be completely honest, I still struggle with this feeling: are you going to leave, too? It is why I become so emotional when something or someone reminds me of their permanence – as permanent as possible in one lifetime.  A group of friends from childhood who are still your best friends twenty years later. A steady job you love. A group of mentors who listen to you rant all the time. Kids who forgive you for not being a perfect mother. Husbands who forgive you when you’re a grumpy wife.

Yesterday evening, Russell, the two small heathens, and I are leaving Del Rio at dusk and headed to see Elijah’s Holiday band performance at Lufkin Middle School. In the backseat, no doubt experiencing a sugar high from the complimentary soft serve ice-cream cone, the kids are laughing their heads off at some, undoubtedly, inappropriate joke. It is a cloudy evening, but still I know the moon is following me. As I look in the backseat at Jaidee and Elijah in a rare moment of sibling camaraderie, I am vividly reminded of my brother and myself coming home from watching our foster sister perform in the band, in a sleepy daze from which we will wake once we hear the sound of the gravel in the driveway. This is what I picture: six year old Rosa and twenty-nine year old Annie, in alternate planes of the universe, foreheads pressed upon glass, looking out at the moon. They are both struck by a feeling that can only be described as coming home. And they are both happy.

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Life as a Process

I had to sit in my car and wait to stop crying because of this NPR story corp piece. (Why are they always so gut wrenching?!) It featured a woman and her son grappling with a topic they had never discussed, despite speaking to one another almost daily. Before you read the rest of this, I recommend you listen to their story first.

The touchy topic they discussed was how being a mom at sixteen felt, and whether or not she regret her path. She spoke about how, looking back, she really felt nothing, and, midway through, her voice broke. As she went further into how she felt (or was not allowed to feel), I was reminded, vividly, of how it felt to be pregnant at seventeen, my senior year of high school, feeling as if I were a failure. And actually, I’m fighting tears right now because I guess that feeling of shame has never really left me.

The thing is, when you get pregnant in high school it’s hard to celebrate that pregnancy because it’s seen as such a huge mistake (and a part of you knows that it was a mistake in some ways — not the future person coming into being, but somewhere something definitely went wrong). It’s hard to be happy knowing that you’ve done everything out of order, that you’re missing out on both the joys of being a teenager and the joy that accompanies pending motherhood, and so you resort to feeling nothing (or trying to), feeling ashamed, or feeling rage. Sometimes all three.

It is so so so hard being a parent, but it’s that much harder when you become a parent, and you’re still a child. You’re battling the looks people give you, the sympathetic nods, the whispers behind your back either of shock or the vindicated whispers of people who always rooted for you to fail. You’re coming to terms with saying goodbye to a teenage and young adult body whose potential you will never get to explore, and  you’re saying hello to a future where you’re expected to make all the right decisions as a mother. You’re missing your high school proms, your high school parties, going off to the college you had dreamed of since you were eight, staying in a dorm, learning how to be an adult without the responsibility of another human on your shoulders, and so much more. But you’re expected to refrain from grieving over the loss of these now trivial things in the face of impending motherhood.

You’re simultaneously expected to be chastened by your teenage pregnancy (how could you?!), but also exceedingly happy you’re going to be a mother. Don’t have an abortion, and don’t place your baby for adoption, because how could you? The child is not a mistake — just maybe everything leading up to him. Every life is precious so celebrate your child, but be ashamed by the pregnancy. Farewell to the future you’d long dreamed of, but please make sure you never let people hear you say you “regret” the pregnancy because ISN’T YOUR CHILD WONDERFUL? Isn’t parenthood just absolutely wonderful?

Essentially, what, looking back now, I think I felt was that I didn’t deserve to feel any of the good things people who had done it the “right” way got to feel, but I also knew that my child deserved a life where his becoming was a joyful affair. It was all so confusing and sad. It was hard.

So you’re facing all these impossible and contradictory standards, but you’re also kind of excited. You’re growing this human in you, and sometimes at night you wonder how it is possible to feel such love and such anger at the same time. When you look at the luggage your parents gifted you to go away to college, you’re really, really angry. So angry you understand what it means to be “hot-blooded” because you can actually feel your blood pulsating in your hands, your face, your chest. But then you see a movement across your abdomen, and you immediately feel ashamed at having felt such rage, and a small flutter of gratefulness that your child isn’t witness to it calms you down. And when you’re calm enough, you allow yourself to think of names, of how it will feel to actually hold him, how it will feel to put down on forms, “Mother,” how it will feel to be a mom when you had never imagined being a parent, not even to a cat.

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And before you know it, you’re a mom at eighteen, married and moved away to a different state, with a newborn baby. And it’s literally like someone, perhaps a bored god, gave you a checklist of everything you knew your future just did not contain, and HaHa! jokes on you because it is your future, present, and past. You are living life in every single way you swore you would never.

But you come to terms with it, you know? “Okay, this is my life, I’ll make the most of it.” And you’re seriously resolved to commit. I was determined to conquer wife-hood and motherhood, but I fell so hard. Flat on my face or, quite literally, into a hospital bed. Something about having dreams you’d long since counted upon because it spelled F-R-E-E-D-O-M to you being ripped away really did a number on my brain. Motherhood was not computing. Neither was being a wife. I was miserable, and not because I had a particularly difficult child. But the crushing responsibility of having someone need me to be the grown up I wasn’t — it’s like when your mom expects and wants you to be a doctor, but you’re like, yeah that isn’t me, but reversed — that filled me with dread, shame, and anger. My child needed, deserved, and wanted a grown up, and I just wasn’t there, and I knew it. Or maybe, in the end, what it boiled down to was I felt (and knew) he deserved so much better a mother, better than someone who had made such a poor choice.

It’s important, I think, to note that while my story is not (thankfully) the typical story of motherhood, it isn’t quite uncommon either. It’s not unique. Every year in Texas, over 35,000 women under the age of 20 will become pregnant. And teen pregnancy is highly correlated with low educational attainment (less than 2% will get a four year degree before the age of 30), higher incarceration rates, higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, and an increased risk to have their own children become teen parents. And even when those who became parents as teens eventually graduate from college or become self-sustaining, nine times out of ten, they still had to redirect their previous dreams. Priorities change, and with that so do ambitions.

Back to this soul destroyer of a story from NPR:

When I heard this mom’s voice, and how she perfectly described what it felt like to have made what society at large thinks is a huge and stupid choice, juxtaposed with the baby in her arms, whom she loved, I was moved. It’s so hard to know how to feel. You think you’re allowed to feel only certain things, and some feelings should be felt in moderation. Feel joy and happiness — but not too much. Not the amount granted to women who did it the “right” way. To exacerbate that complex, if  you grew up in a religious household, the concept that you’re now “spoiled goods” because of the visibility of your mistaken and sinful premarital sex really hits home. It’s so destructive to a young person’s self-esteem. Of someone’s idea of one’s self. If you grew up in an unstable home environment, say…foster care, what happens is you realize that people assume you’re, ‘just like the rest of them.” You’re just like those other kids no one wanted for so long, the other “messed up” kids. But with that awareness, you’re equally aware you have to pull yourself up or risk damaging your own child’s sense of self, and that’s the hardest thing. Trying to keep another person afloat, when you’ve been treading water for what seems like ages.

To this day, I still carry a lot of guilt over being such a young mother, but my guilt doesn’t stem from society’s judgment of teen moms, but the ways in which I just was not prepared for motherhood. My son is so many wonderful things — he is compassionate, protective of his family, intelligent, hilarious, sardonic, ambitious, and curious. But this is despite my mothering — not due to it. Because I was, truthfully, a shit mother for the first three years of my son’s life. I was selfish, I was angry, I was sad, but I loved him. I loved when he laughed or when he reached for me and how his chubby body felt when I held him. But I hated the burden of someone needing me to be so much better than I was ready to be. And all those feelings together made me want to run away and hide. This is not an excuse. It is like the mother of this story said, “it’s not a fairy tale and it’s not a failure. It’s a process.”

The conversation ends with the son asking what she wants for him, and despite her having been a teenage mom, her answer is the answer of any great parent. That her son do and be better than she, and that her son never be afraid to be afraid. That he not settle for mediocrity, but that he strive to be a truly good person. I think that’s what we all want for our children.

In eight short years, my oldest will be eighteen, and I will be thirty-six. While I am far (so far) from being a perfect mom, I consider myself to at least be an okay mom; I am miles from where I was at seventeen, which, to me, is a mountain of improvement. I still have days where I want to run and hide in my closet, but I’m pretty sure that’s true of every parent. I hope, that despite my many imperfections (both as a mother and a general human), my son knows that everything I have ever done has been for him and his sister. I hope he understands that though I was young and selfish when he was first born, and though my feelings were confused, that I always, always loved him. I hope they both know I will always love them, no matter what. I hope that every single day I am able to show both my son and my daughter in some way, big or small, that I am grateful for their presence, and they make me lucky. That more than anything, I want to give them a happy life, and I want them to be able to be proud of who they have as a mother. I want them to know that I want them to do and be better than me, and that I will push them to be the best versions of themselves every single day. I want them to know that I am proud of who they already are. And I hope they learn, like I had to, that all of life is a process. That being human is a process, and maybe we don’t have to necessarily label things as either “good” or “bad,” but just things that help us grow.

 

Who is really unfree?

When you think about it, it is not the oppressed who are in chains; it is the oppressors. Because at least those aware of the forces in our society, invisible and insidious, which keep marginalized communities marginalized are living in reality. It is the oppressor who is caught in a dream, trapped by either fear or will or both.

“The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off.”

“And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. ” – James Baldwin

Poor shaming

Saw this post where a woman was publicly shamed for using her EBT card because she also bought stuff with her debit card. I guess this high-horsed, head-in-ass cretin assumed this meant EBT woman could only afford soap and shit because “we” (people without EBT cards) pay for her food.

 

Uh. 1. That’s the fucking point of a social safety net. My taxes, presumably,  go to help those who,  for whatever reason,  are unable to afford the basics. So, YAY. Cretin should have been happy knowing there’s food on the table for a hungry family in America and soap for their bodies.

 

2. I couldn’t give one flying fuck less what else someone using welfare to dig themselves out of a hole buys with extra funds. I also don’t give a fuck if you’re buying steaks or beans and rice. And? Like because a person is poor they should be relegated to the staple diet of orphans from a Dicken’s novel?

 

3. One day in the not so far future people are most probably going to be replaced with automation,  and the government is going to have to resign itself to giving out living expense allowances to very large swaths of the country. Because,  literally,  there will not be enough jobs , taking into account matching skills, for the population. So all the cretins out there better take note: you’re going to be using a little white card, too. And if not you,  then your grandkids. Providing that we still have a planet Earth of course. What then will you use to judge others by?!

On Activism

I am not ever. EVER. Going to be quiet again. I am going to speak loudly, proudly, and justly. Because look at where we are. Where did being quiet about our values get us? Where did avoiding the reality and truth of our country get us? Our first elected black president is being followed by a racist demagogue. Yes, one can argue that racism and misogyny did not, by itself, compel people to vote for a racist candidate (now president-elect). But it also did not serve as a reason not to vote for him. And that says just as much. It says that like our history shows us, people of color and women, we don’t matter.

Leading the Life You Want

One of my favorite quotes is by one of my favorite authors (although I would not recommend reading all his books within a short amount of time because it can be super depressing).
 
Anyways, it’s, “…if you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes backbone to lead the life you want.” (Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates). And it really does take backbone to live the life you want. Sometimes that life can be very different from what your family expects of you. Or it can be making waves (make tsunamis!) when it’s super uncomfortable to make them. Or it can be excommunicating people from your lives because at some point it’s more than just simple disagreements, political or otherwise– it’s pointed animosity towards anything or anyone different, and you just can’t stomach it anymore. Or it can be trying new and different things because you realize just talking can’t work by itself. Or it can be speaking out in an area where you are the clear minority.
 
Taking risks, which for some people simply means believing in different things than their loved ones or wanting a different kind of life than was expected for them, takes strength and courage because it means you are the perceived cause of discomfort for people you care about. Sometimes you’re the perceived cause of discomfort for entire communities. And that sucks!
 
But I have always firmly believed that when you stand up for what is right — when you stand up against bullying, misinformation, bigotry, authoritarianism, racism, whatever — you are securing your place on the right side of history. Think about it: how silly do those who supported Jim Crow look now? How ignorant? The thing with progress is you can’t stop it — you can slow it down, maybe. You can make it go one step back even. But it’s a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing — we will get where we need to be through action and dialogue regardless of the walls (both literal and figurative) put up. Progress will continue to occur by having backbone to live the life we want and to fight for the life we want for our children.
 
It is easy to get cynical. I am guilty of doing this more often than I care to admit. But then I remember that no human being or group of human beings is entirely bad or good. We’re all a crazy mix, and we’re all worth fighting for. Even people who insist on believing in apocalyptic scenarios where people are mostly bad, and we each need at least 5 guns to protect ourselves from one another — they’re worth fighting for.
 
When I think about women who live their lives in fear of getting pregnant or assaulted, or LGBTQ people who live knowing their family doesn’t accept them (or their country), or Black families who live knowing that too many people see them as second class citizens, or disabled people who remain invisible to society, or Native Americans who are relegated to small, dry pieces of land, or poor families who live not knowing if they will eat that day or not, and so many others — they are worth fighting for, and, as history shows, the fight will always be uphill for these populations. So here is where backbone is especially needed — when society says “they don’t really matter” we have to say, “yes, they fucking do.” And we will also need backbone to continue the fight when we’re just burned out, or we keep hitting wall after wall, or we have to nix people from our lives, or we have to speak up when it’s super uncomfortable, or we have to do things we’ve never done before.
 
It takes backbone to live the life you want, and, it goes without saying, it takes backbone to create and propel forward the life we want for the future. So please, I’ve made a pledge to myself and others that I will not only write and talk, I am acting. I am donating. I am growing more of a backbone because it matters. Will you grow, too?

Magic

Reading, for me, was always an escape, or a maybe it was a salve. Here is my 4th annoying thankful post. I mean it when I say reading was my first love; it is also my forever love. When I moved here my name was Rosalee Rodriguez. I was painfully shy, and books served as my refuge. The first thing people noticed about me was that I read pretty much all the time. I would read during lunch, during class (I got in trouble constantly), and on the bus home. When I would get home, I would continue to read. I wouldn’t say I was teased, but I was “timed” and subsequently quizzed on what I’d just read by classmates during lunch. It was…different. In the 3rd grade, I checked out “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” I hardly remember the book now, but I wonder if that’s where my passion for civil rights began, in the library of Slack Elementary (Go Stallions!), reading by myself so I wouldn’t have to talk to other people. (I still do this.) (Sorry.)
 
I joke that I am a ferocious reader (voracious, too!) because I have this nagging feeling that if I don’t, something bad will happen. So I read purposefully, rabidly, and tenaciously. I try to read at least a book a week. (I also watch a lot of bad tv so I’m not exercising DFW philosophy or anything.) I just know that reading is important. I suspect that part of the reason we are where we are is because many people (too many!) really don’t read. Not things of substance anyway — writing that brings upon the reader more questions than answers and more tragedy than tidy endings. Writing that isn’t boiled down into simple answers. Where there is a clear “good” side and a clear “bad” side. Writing that is tragic realism infused with comedy because, let’s face it, life is sad, but it’s also funny. Isn’t that perfect for now? Life is wondrous, but it’s also ridiculous. (Fitting, right?)
 
I am grateful to be surrounded by fellow readers. My favorite people often turn out to be readers (solidarity!). I am not surprised that the love of my life is also a fellow reader (and writer although he hates to be called that). Our children will be lifelong readers. I am forever indebted to the writers, poets, thinkers, and feelers who wrote things that made me feel, who taught me how to better empathize, who taught me how other people may think or why they may do the things they do, who, time and time again, saved me from deep depressions by telling me, repeatedly, “you are not alone.” Or, like Franzen put it, reading taught me how to be alone. If you are one of my friends, and you write, this is me saying I am thankful for your words. Because often they inspire something in me, or they make me think, or they make me feel (even anger sometimes, which is good!). Language matters and, it follows, reading matters. (Although, the point is made that what a reader gets from literature is dependent on the questions asked of the literature.)
 
America elected a man who hasn’t read even a single book in the past 20 years. This was of no concern to a large portion of the populace, and that is worrisome to me. But, then, to someone for whom words hold so much power, this would be catastrophic. Regardless, here’s to the writers, poets, and songwriters of this ridiculous, crazy, sometimes beautiful world. And here’s to the readers they inspire. Your words matter so much to people like me, and they will surely matter to the children I raise to be readers.
 
“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
– Carl Sagan
 
Thank you for working magic.
 

On Alton Sterling

Last night, a father of five was killed in Baton Rouge, LA. He was shot at least twice. As of now, there is no indication he had a gun, but, obviously, the investigation has just started. His name was Alton Sterling, a black man, who was selling CD’s outside a convenience store.
 
I understand, fully, the types of duress police officers undergo in their day-to-day jobs. But so do minority populations in the U.S..
Except, they do not hold the power to legally shoot and kill citizens.
Except, they are not paid for and by a largely racist institution that has historically always carried out the wishes of our country’s racist laws. Remember, it was police officers who made sure black people stayed in their designated “separate but equal” lanes during Jim Crow. Remember, it was the local sheriff who rode with slave owners to recapture their escaped slaves. Remember, it was our criminal justice system who put black men to death for looking at white women. And remember, it was our criminal justice system who looked away, rather, encouraged, the raping of black bodies for white people’s use. 
 
Racism is no longer this tangible, visible, outward thing. It’s insipid. It’s ingrained. It’s hard to put a finger on; it’s hard to explain to people who don’t want to see it — people who equate racism with only tree lynchings, slavery, the “n” word, and signs pointing to white and black fountains. 
But racism is what this country was/is built on! It’s what enabled us to, economically, thrive! At least, for a relatively short amount of time (in terms of a country’s legacy). In fact, it’s still what helps us buy products cheaply, and in mass quantity! But now, it’s the thing that cripples us.

I find myself reading local news articles, and I can see that NOTHING infuriates people more than when black people point out their blackness as at least ONE factor in a death, an arrest, a case of harassment. Why is that? Why is it that we can all know, on some level, that not even 50 years ago, one’s blackness did in fact determine whether they could go to a bathroom, into a store, marry a person, hell, even look at a person. But, now, blackness is never taken into account? Really?

Let me ask you: do you see the color of the grass? Do you see the color of the sky? Then you can see black, brown, and white skin. You see it, even when you’d rather pretend you couldn’t. That, it, (that dreaded R word!) in no way could ever possibly influence your thoughts or actions.

If you think, for one fucking instant, that those police officers somehow skipped the fact that it was a large black man they were called to take in, then you’re delusional.

If you think, for one fucking instant, that a man’s life is worth some illegally sold CD’s, then you are delusional and you can no longer call yourself “prolife”.

If you think that, in the heat of the moment, that a person drawn to a position of power, without the credentials of any type of four year degree, wouldn’t take the resistance of a black man to his power as an imagined physical threat, then you have absolutely no understanding of a black person’s forced role since the birth of our society. Shuck and jive, black people. Lest you get killed by the powers that be. Shuck and jive, black people. Lest you be forced out of the institutions whites still don’t really want you in — who seek out every opportunity to make you fail. Black people — continue to be twice as good, but remain wary, because the instant you are not perfect, the instant you speak out about your blackness, the instant you bristle because someone has the audacity to say you succeeded because of your black skin, not in spite of it, you will be cast out. You will be whittled down to what a white person denies plays a role, but rest assured it’s everything they know, your blackness.

Do me a favor. Take a look at your skin. Be it white, brown, or darker brown, that skin is a type of credit in our society. The paler it gets, the more leniency you are shown — the more human you are treated — the less suspicion of your innate traits you are obliged.

I work in higher education, and I’m at least a little educated on matters of race. I look at me, in a wholly white, for white, type of institution (remember, for a very long time it was illegal for blacks to learn to read and write) and I can still see so much segregation. This is not, wholly, my fault. But it would be my fault if I refused to acknowledge it. If I refused to even consider the possibility that race still plays a very large role in whether you get to move up in society, gain employment in a middle class position, feel included at more privileged institutions, remain in higher education, go to jail, and live or die — literally, then that would, wholly, be my own fault. Because the plethora of evidence is there! But more than that, logically, taking into account our country’s bloody, racist history, you can’t help but acknowledge the role race continues to play. The privilege that being of the white race plays.

Look at me. Referring to white as a race. But it is. If people were deemed inferior, animalistic, undeserving of the same laws and privileges of whites because of their black race, then their race was only determined in opposition to that of the white race. One cannot be recognized without the other. And it was not blacks who built this system. Nor, were whites the first people to utilize slavery. But we, as a country, were the first to divide who was worthy according to COLOR. And it remains today. And even though there has been slight progress on our front, the fight is far from over.

Did you know that the KKK’s membership has soared since Obama took office?
Did you know that experts are calling this the “4th wave” of critical race studies? Due in part to the loads of verbal vomit racists are coughing up on the internet?
Police have been killing black men and women for ages now with impunity. Just because we have the power to speak out more quickly, more forcefully, with the aid of technology, does not mean we are playing some imaginary race card.

Race is still very real. The race card isn’t. And black and brown people are dying in our country because of their skin. Black and brown people are being incarcerated at rates unseen in our country because of their skin. Black and brown people are being wrongly scapegoated, for their cultures and their skin, by a presumptive Republican presidential nominee and those who support him.
So you cannot bury your head in the sand and pretend that this is just police brutality. It’s police brutality disproportionately at black people. You cannot bury your head in the sand and ignore the roles that the color of one’s skin plays in altercations with law enforcement, or any positions of power for that matter. You cannot because when you do you are ignoring factually based statistics. You’re ignoring our country’s founding, that thing you always say you’re so proud of. You’re ignoring reality, where somehow, after everything our country has done to keep black people in their place, those institutions and policies just magically disappeared and the consequences with it.
While you’re ignoring reality, people are being murdered — for selling CD’s. For not using a blinker. For selling cigarettes. For talking back. For playing with a toy gun in a park. For so many truly inconsequential things. Why?

“Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.” – Toni Morrison (Beloved)