He, She, They, We!

This is who my kid is (he). This is who I am (she). This is who our community is (they). We are all family (we)!

November 9, 2012 5:00 am

Racial Profiling

Hurricane Sandy is to blame.  I have to believe that. No, I really do.  Because of course, it couldn’t be because this is how people act all the time, right?  I want to believe the best about people, but that wasn’t the case at the airport the morning we tried to leave the East Coast before Hurricane Sandy hit.  Our original flight was booked for the next day, but we switched our flight. I knew that if we didn’t get out then, on Sunday, we wouldn’t get out before the hurricane hit.  Due to the fact that we changed flights, we had to switch to another airport.  Yet, even with the last minute change in plans, all that mattered was that we were gonna get out. 
 
We got our bags checked and then got in the über long line for security.  K was wonderfully entertained with his toys and was actually listening.  He was patient and stood for over an hour without complaining.  Then it was our turn to strip down, unload and get everything in the bins for security.  Even though we are no strangers to flying, I walked him through the routine.  He was primed and ready.  And then he “beeped”. They sent him back through to try it again.  He “beeped” again.  We took off his jacket. He “beeped” again. I checked his pockets, he “beeped” again.  The woman who was helping us started to say something when her supervision, who I will refer to as “Jerk”, cut her off and said, “It looks like its his bracelet!” I looked at him and said, “Um, he has been on about 20 flights with that bracelet on and it’s never beeped before.  Could we wand him?!” 
 
During this time, two other TSA agents came to help and “Jerk” yelled at them and told them, “They are now a security threat.  It’s up to her to figure out what’s wrong.  I am not going to risk the safety of all these people in line because of THIS kid.”  All I could do is look at him and repeat, “Can you wand him?” He just screamed at me, “No.  I ain’t touchin’ HIM!!!!  He isn’t coming back on this side again and pose more of a risk.  It’s your job to figure out what’s wrong!”
 
After repeated attempts to get the bracelet off, I stated, “I can’t get his bracelet off.  Do you have cutters, nail trimmers or anything so I can get it off?  We are going to miss our flight and I need some help!”  His simple response was, “I don’t care if you miss you flight lady.  I am not here to help you cut off something that poses a threat to the security of this airport.  If you can’t get it off, I will have to call a supervisor and they aren’t here this early, so you will have to wait!” 

After that, he walked away.  K is in tears at this point, I am about 12 seconds from socking this man in the face and it isn’t even 5 AM yet.  The woman who was originally trying get o help us, saw my frustration and whispered to me, “Take off his shoes.  Sometimes, kid’s shoes have lead in the soles and it can set it off.  I don’t think it’s his bracelet.” 
 
I check the time, try one more time to cut off the bracelet and cant and finally just take off his bracelet!  K is a mess at this point.  He doesn’t now why we are stuck here with all our stuff (ID, money, iPad, computer, phone, plane tickets, etc) all on the other side just sitting there for anyone to take.  It’s 440 am and K and I have been up for almost 2 hours at that point.  All we want to do is get to our gate and get on the plane.  I took them off and he walked right through—no “beeps”! 
 
I proceeded to gather our things, put on our shoes and head strait to “Jerk”.  I “thanked” him for being a jerk. Asked for his name and demanded a contact number for his supervisor. I also added, “It must feel good to suck at your job!  Have fun living your crappy life.  Thanks for making the last moments of our vacation suck!  God Bless!”

I understand the need for rules.  I know that there are real threats out there. I know that airports need to have rules and regulations.  However, what I did need was to have someone look at the situation and say, this 4.5 year old and his mom are probably not that big of a threat.  Let’s wand them.  Something other than yelling at us, accusing us, demeaning and yelling at his staff—that’s not cool dude!  I know the 3 am shift sucks buddy, I get it!  But, you have forever left a bad taste in my mouth about the TSA and about Reagan international airport.  I feel sad for your “crew” who, obviously know what a jerk you are and have to work for you regardless! 

April 10, 2012 5:00 am
Oh how I wish we could just love our neighbor!  NO MATTER WHAT!!!

Oh how I wish we could just love our neighbor!  NO MATTER WHAT!!!

March 23, 2012 8:15 pm

Treyvon Bandwagon

So, you know I had to do it, right?  I know that this blog post won’t be about anything that y’all haven’t already heard, read or seen in the media, but still, as I sit here listening to my 4 year old son singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” in his room, I can’t NOT say something.  I am sad, frustrated, wounded and a little scared!

I know what African Americans have gone through in this country.  I know the history of this country and how minorities are treated today.  All I have to do is look at my own community and I can tell what’s going on.  I first heard about this story and obviously, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.  As someone who has worked in the prison system and the daughter of a civil servant (retired fireman), I generally, think that police and the like do their due diligence!  I didn’t want to automatically think anything like this was race based.  I didn’t want to think that it’s another Florida death where the accused murderer got off.  I just didn’t want to assume anything.

However, over the past few weeks, I can only think about what this inaction and confusion and finger pointing means for my son.  It also makes me think about our community and what our “friends” REALLY think about race and race related issues.  I have read so many posts on Facebook and Twitter and heard people’s opinions about how it was or wasn’t racially motivated.  I have read how people don’t “see” race, so they don’t understand how others can just assume that this was racially motivated.  I have read people getting mad and even incensed about people of color gathering around a cause and being frustrated or hurt or confused.  I have seen how some people just want to “sweep” it under the rug and get upset when we don’t just “walk in love!”

Well, I too am confused.  I too am frustrated.  How do I, a white woman who is OUTRAGED by this, explain this kind of thing to my son?  I know the simple answers and I am not looking for advise, but it does make me think!  Clearly, K and I are not having this conversation today, but someday, we will—this I know for sure.  How do I explain why talking about race is tough for some people but we do it all the time? 

I know that most of my questions (these and the other ones roaming around in my head) will work themselves out and when the time comes, I will be able to have a dialogue with K about such things.  I trust myself on that one.  I also feel that  even if I don’t have an answer for him, we can figure things out together or I will point him in the right direction or to the person who I hope can help him.  These are conversations that can wait for now, but this is a conversation that I need to add to the ever growing list of things that I know we will need to talk about; things we should most certainly talk about: Martin Luther King, Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, the Freedom Riders, Thurgood Marshall, Zora Nealle Hurston, Colin Powell, Alvin Ailey, Robel Teklemariam, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Medger Evers, Langston Hughes, President Obama, Nelson Mandela and the like! 

I don’t know… maybe this is just me brain dumping—it most likely is.  But please, parents, let’s have these kinds of talks with our kids.  Let’s open the doors of conversation about race and race related issues—not forcing them, but dealing with them.  Let’s celebrate how different we are, in a good way.  Let’s also put politics and religion and whatever aside and be outraged that this kid was killed. 

July 18, 2011 5:00 am

So…what you’re saying is…

The Lighter the Skin, the Shorter the Prison Term?

By: Topher Sanders

Posted: July 5, 2011 at 12:01 AM

A recent study of women convicted of crimes shows that dark-complexioned blacks serve more time in jail.

Colin Powell said it, Sen. Harry Reid hinted at it about President Barack Obama, and black folks have known it for hundreds of years. There are advantages to being a light-skinned black person in the United States.

Research on those advantages isn’t new, but with the release of a recent study by Villanova University, the breadth of quantitative studies that examine colorism, or discrimination based on skin tone, continues to increase. From housing opportunities to employment chances to which women have a good shot at getting married, the lighter-is-better dynamic is at play, research shows.

Villanova researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones received more-lenient sentences and served less time than women with darker skin tones.

The researchers found that light-skinned women were sentenced to approximately 12 percent less time behind bars than their darker-skinned counterparts. Women with light skin also served 11 percent less time than darker women.

The study took into account the type of crimes the women committed and each woman’s criminal history to generate apples-to-apples comparisons. The work builds on previous studies by Stanford University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and other institutions, which have examined how “black-looking” features and skin tone can impact black men in the criminal-justice arena.

But researchers say this is the first study to look at how colorism affects black women and how long they may spend in jail. Part of the reason may simply come down to how pretty jurors consider a defendant to be, and that being light-skinned and thin (also a factor studied in the research) are seen as more attractive, says Lance Hannon, co-author of the Villanova study.

Racism gets all the headlines, but colorism is just as real and impacting, Hannon explains. How “white” someone is perceived matters. “Colorism is clearly not taken as seriously or is not publicly discussed as much as racism, and yet these effects are pretty strong and the evidence is pretty strong,” he says. “It’s a very real problem, and people need to pay attention to it more.”

 

Christina Swarns, director of the Criminal Justice Practice for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, says the study’s findings are part of a larger problem in how the justice system deals with African Americans. “It is obviously part and parcel of the problem of overincarceration of the African-American community in this country,” she says. “There is unquestionably … an association between race and criminality, and I think this study emphasizes how skin color plays an important role in that perception of a link between race and criminality.”

William Darity, professor of African-American studies and economics at Duke University and director of the Research Network on Racial & Ethnic Inequality, has studied the impact of skin shade on marriage rates for women and employment for men.

Darity says the Villanova study expands previous research and underscores a known truth. “This has been a long-standing issue and problem that all blacks don’t face the same type or degree of discrimination,” he says.

Treating people differently because of the lightness or darkness of their skin isn’t exclusive to whites. As an example, Darity cites his research, which found that there are “real” disadvantages for darker-skinned black women when it comes to their chances of getting married.

"And one would have to say that’s to a large degree the consequence of preferences on the part of black men," he says. That same preference for lighter-skinned black women over darker-skinned black women is true for white men, Darity adds.

But there has been recent movement by the government to take colorism more seriously, Hannon says. He pointed to a 2008 initiative by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that explicitly considers colorism. Hannon also notes that because the Civil Rights Act refers to “color” and not simply race, the door is open for litigation around colorism, which could also push the policy dial.

Darity believes that the benefits of light skin have to be addressed to cause change. “There are clear social and pecuniary benefits to being lighter-skinned in America,” Darity says. “Unless we eliminate those benefits, this will go on, because the advantages are real.”

Topher Sanders is a newspaper reporter living in Jacksonville, Fla., with his wife and son.

July 7, 2011 5:00 am

More Than THAT Family

This wasn’t written by me, but she SOOOOO speaks to my life!  

For once, the barista at Starbucks didn’t recognize me. He shouldn’t. I’m there only about once a month. The thing is, he remembers me. Well, not me so much as us. This is one of those things that come with being the white mother of a black child. Comments, questions, stares—those I expected. The strange experience of just being visible—not so much. I didn’t realize how invisible I was until I wasn’t anymore.

For our first outing as a family of four, we attended a local Harvest Festival. The park pathways were crowded with people, so Matthew and I took the lead, with my husband, David, and three-year-old Cameron trailing a few feet behind. I was filled with pride in my newborn, strapped snugly to my chest in a carrier, and noticed only the few nods and impersonal smiles I would get anywhere. When we got home, I remarked, “Wow, I think I was expecting more of a reaction. No one seemed fazed by us.” David laughed. “Sharon,” he said, “if only you could have seen it from where I was! People were tripping left and right from turning to get a look after you passed!” We had definitely been noticed.

Multiracial families don’t always blend in

I quickly realized that we were not just noticed, we were remembered. By my second trip to Kroger with Matthew, the cashier was greeting us like old friends. This cashier had, for years, rung up my purchases, while fair-skinned, blue-eyed Cameron sat in the cart, never once showing a glimmer of recognition. But after showing up twice with Matthew, suddenly, we were unforgettable.

Someone who recognizes us stops me nearly every day. Parents from Cameron’s school, kids from soccer class, neighbors, baggers, baristas, librarians. They all greet us with a familiar “hi!” that tells me I’m supposed to know them. (I usually don’t.) When I asked a Caucasian friend if she had ever experienced this while out with her African-American daughter, she looked startled. Ella is her only child. “I thought that’s just how people act when you have a baby!” she said. Sure, babies get attention, but brown-skinned babies with peachy-skinned mamas make heads turn. It’s a different kind of attention.

I don’t know how I feel about being so visible. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s not that people are staring, snickering, or whispering. It is simply a constant sense of being that I’ve never had before.

Looking at race, looking within

When I tell others about our daily experience as a multiracial family, many express surprise, disbelief, or even defensiveness. “I don’t even notice color,” they say. The idea that my family is conspicuous because of our racial differences makes them uncomfortable. They mistakenly believe that to not be racist means to not see race. But ignoring Matthew’s race doesn’t impress me.

The idea of “colorblindness” is unrealistic, but, worse than that, it is dismissive. It implies that his race is unmentionable, and his non-whiteness is a flaw to be overcome. Far from being admirable, colorblindness suggests that racism can be solved by pretending it doesn’t exist, instead of working to overcome our own prejudices and those entrenched in our society and institutions. And why should race alone, and not other parts of our identity, be ignored? Imagine that someone expressed surprise that you were a female. “Oh!” they’d exclaim. “I’m not sexist. I don’t even notice gender!” Women shouldn’t have to lack gender to gain respect. I don’t want my gender to be ignored; I want it to be seen as one of the things that make me who I am.

No, it isn’t seeing race that makes someone racist. What makes someone racist is drawing conclusions about a person based on his race. That’s why I was offended when a shoe salesman pointed to Matthew and said, “Oh, I can just tell, he’s gonna be a linebacker!” Maybe the comment wouldn’t have bothered me if Matthew were a hefty toddler, tossing sneakers across the shoe store and tackling his brother. Aside from skin color, what made the salesman think “football” when he saw my tiny, tenth-percentile infant in his stroller, quietly paging through The Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Maybe I seem hard to please, offended when race is ignored, as well as when it’s not. But it’s actually pretty simple. I want Matthew to be seen for who he is. I don’t want him to live in a society that diminishes him by not seeing his race, nor do I want him to be reduced to a stereotype. I want him to be proud that he is smart and funny and strong and good and black. I want him to live in a society that recognizes, appreciates, and respects all racial identities.

Visible as a starting point

Recently, a mother at the park admired Matthew. “His skin color is so beautiful!” she said. Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized that, although I have been told how cute Matthew’s dimples are and how darling his smile is, no one has ever complimented his skin. His gorgeous, rich, deep-brown skin. I felt oddly grateful to this mother for seeing Matthew’s skin and realizing that it is beautiful and OK—no, more than OK—to say so.

So even though being so noticeable, so unrelentingly remembered, feels strange, it’s normal. Of course, people see that we don’t match. How could they not? We notice differences and, hopefully, we learn to look deeper. I want Matthew’s first-grade teacher, his best friend’s dad, and his classmates to know him as more than the black kid with the white family. There is more to me, more to Matthew, and so much more to our family than what’s visible.

 

We’re Family First

These days, I sometimes forget that people see us any differently until, inevitably, someone asks, “Is he adopted?” or “Where’s he from?” I don’t look at Matthew and think “adopted.” I think about how adorable his giggle is, how tough it is to keep him out of trouble—and a million things other than how he came to be our son. Paradoxically, I am thinking about adoption almost never, and all the time.

Here’s the stuff that is “all the time”: I think about Matthew’s birthmom every single day. Each day, I tell Matthew how much he is loved by Mommy, by Daddy, by Cameron, by Grandma and Grandpa, and by his birthmom. I tell Matthew his adoption story and I think of how that story will someday become a conversation, and how that conversation will grow over time. I think about how to be the best mom I can be, to both of my boys, ever conscious that, in our family, that includes how we talk about adoption and race. I think about how to teach others about adoption and multiracial families, how to answer their questions, how to kindly correct their missteps, how to advocate for Matthew.

So, while adoption has changed our family in so many ways and it will always be a part of our daily life, it doesn’t define our family.

Original Article found here:

http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2292

June 13, 2011 5:00 am

“Um…Yeah, I’m his Mom!”

I know.  I know.  I am not the only person in a trans-racial family who has experienced this scenario!  I know I am not the only person who has to think before I speak back to strangers when asked this (or a variety of any other inappropriate questions).  I know that there will be a lifetime ahead of me to explain, defend, or even be dumbfounded by certain people, and I just have to get over it.  At this point, it just makes me laugh!  But here are a few scenarios that stick out!

Scene: Local Park

Three kids, clearly friends, but close in age to K!  We arrive and I let him go play.  I sit down on a bench to watch him (about 10 feet from where he is).  The mom/adult supervision of the other group stares at me and back at him as he is yelling, “Mommy, look at me!!!  I go on slide all by myself!!!”  I am clapping and cheering and telling him how proud I am of him!!!  Finally, I see her shifting in her seat and she leans over to say, “Oh I didn’t think you were his mother!  I mean, he is so dark!  I assumed you were his babysitter…or something!”  Now it’s at this point that I see K trying to “play” with the other kids (her “people”).  Before I can respond to her, I hear one of this kids comment on K’s skin color and say “Yucky!!!”  Again, before I can comprehend the scenario that’s happening on the playground, the mom continues, “I bet you aren’t his real Mom.  Are you like his stepmom?  So your husband is black, right?” 

Yes friends, I am in shock and awe at this point.  Do I slap her?  Not worth it!  Do I cuss her out?  Not worth it!  No… I just take a yoga breathe and think about the situation (Side note: I have been teaching K to do this when he gets frustrated and wants to throw a tantrum!  Take the yoga breathe baby!!!).  Not only is there ignorance happening in the adult zone, but there is racism happening on the recycled plastic jungle gym! 

My response to her was simple, “Actually, I don’t know who his Daddy is! (Her mouth dropped).  And yes, I am his real Mom!  And clearly your ignorance and bigotry is influencing the little people in your life.  You might want to deal with that!”  I stood up and went to K and asked him if he wanted to go on the swings!  He gladly jumped out of the wood chips, waved bye to them and ran off ahead of me while we played red light, green light!

Scene:  Target

Oh Target, you tempt me with your dollar bins and cute shoes.  You entice me with your food area and cheap triple feature movies, but you also house some crazies! 

Pushing K in the cart around Target and I am having him point out letters he sees and colors he recognizes.  He is talking up a storm and we are laughing, as usual.  Random shopper with her grandchild (I think/assume) says, “Well hello there!!!  Aren’t you a talker?”  I smile and instruct him to say thank you!  She seemed sweet enough…until, “You must get a lot of strange looks from people!”  I know what she means, but I want HER to say it out loud.  I respond with, “I am not sure what you mean?”  She guffaw’s, wants to say something but chooses not to and says, as she’s walking away, “Have a nice day!”  I scream back, “You too Ma’am!” with K saying, “See you later!!!”  In my mind, I am thinking, I sure hope we don’t see you later!

Non-laughable situations:

Urgent care doctor who wouldn’t even touch K

Urgent care nurse who kept asking K if I was his real mother and almost berating him by asking him the SAME question over and over again when I had an over 100 degree temp.

Parent at McDonald’s who grabbed her kid away from K and told her in a stern voice that she wasn’t allowed to play with those people.

Just to name a few! 

April 8, 2011 5:00 am
Freedom Friday
These are kids from Darfur.  Genocide is happening today!  And it SHOULD NOT continue!  The genocide in Darfur has claimed more than 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people. More than one hundred people continue to die each day; five thousand die every month. 

Freedom Friday

These are kids from Darfur.  Genocide is happening today!  And it SHOULD NOT continue!  The genocide in Darfur has claimed more than 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people. More than one hundred people continue to die each day; five thousand die every month. 

April 5, 2011 7:00 am

Get Passionate!!!

I know that people are passionate about what they’re passionate about. We are all drawn to different things.  Let’s see what’s out there right now—the war, gas prices, the economy, clean water, clean energy, plug in cars, Politics, European union, burning down the trees in the Amazon, having an African American President, etc.  Yet, since two of my passions are clean drinking water and the orphan crisis, Ima talk about that for a minute! 

I do indeed know that most people are horrified by the statistics of orphans in the world (please be aware that the US has a LARGE orphan crisis!!!  Don’t be deceived into thinking that it’s only in third world countries!)!

Please just look at these statistics and ponder!  I know not everyone is called to adopt—if you aren’t PLEASE DO NOT!  But you can do something!  We can ALL do something!  Even if it’s just us being made aware!

Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa

Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans

Every YEAR 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone)

143,000,000Orphans in the world today spend an average of 10 years

in an orphanage or foster home

Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…

Every YEAR 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system

Every DAY 38,493 children AGE OUT

Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan child AGES OUT with no family to belong to and no place to call home

Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves. Millions of girls are sex slaves today, simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of orphans in Africa rose from 30.9 million to 41.5 million, and those orphaned by AIDS increased from 330,000 to seven million.

884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; approximately one in eight people.  3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease.

Diarrhea remains in the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – is due to diarrhea. It kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Let’s get passionate about something other than ourselves!  Right? :-)