Archive | June, 2008

Fear in Maine- Raising Black boys

29 Jun

Elder child aka the boy is home for the summer from his Papa’s house (aka the ex-spousal unit) and as always the first few days of him being home are an adjustment for me since having another member of the opposite sex in my domain always tends to throw me off momentarily.

This year though things are different for me, see elder child turned 16 a few months ago and for the first time I finally understood the fear my parents had with my brother that caused them to flee the south side of Chicago to a more racially diverse area of Chicago because they were scared for my brother. Scared he might get sucked into the gangbanging lifestyle at the tender age of 10, sadly I wish this was an exaggeration but the old neighborhood that my Granny and family lived in for almost 40 years; by the late 80’s early 90’s had become a hotbed of gang activity. On the surface the area seemed quiet but when you raise kids you notice the action that goes.

When we moved to Maine 6 years ago (not even gonna explain how we landed here) a part of me naively felt that I would not have to worry about elder child being targeted for gangs and the madness that can exist in the larger cities, so I willingly traded my urban lifestyle in Chicago for the coast of Maine and a town of sixteen thousand. I figured he would have a chance to be a kid and while Maine and New England has afforded him much freedom and exposure to nature he never would have had in Chicago, in the past few months its dawned on me that its also afforded him something else and that is an exposure to racism in its rawest form.

Don’t get me wrong life was never peaches and cream back in Chicago, shit I grew up knowing that Bridgeport and Cicero were 2 locations in the Chicago area I never ever wanted to be caught in, followed by Mount Greenwood where at 14, I had a preschool age kid call me a nigger. However most racism in Chicago and most big cities manifest itself in slow under the radar ways, as I like to say the white folks know they cannot just start talking greasy or else heads will roll.

Well living in a small town in a fairly homogenous state, I can honestly say I have encountered little in terms of racism, yeah folks stare but the longer I live here the locals know me so generally its only the tourists staring so by late Oct they are all gone and life goes ok. People to some degree seem more real to me, I have a few neighbors who I swear have redneck tendencies but on more than one occasion have plowed us out of 15 inches of snow without me asking and who ply mini me aka the daughter with sweet treats.

That said, I have noticed that now that elder boy is 6’2 with facial hair and looks more like a man rather than a child, the same niceties that are extended to me and his sister seem to stop at him. Earlier this year while walking home from a local sandwich shop he was picked up by the local po-po because he fit the description of a suspect who turned out to be white and rather short. Elder boy at the time was armed with a cheese-steak sandwich and fries, the local po-po gave him a ride in the cop car and brought him home at which time, officer not so friendly upon encountering my other half aka the house white man, started back pedaling and explaining it was just a mix up. Needless to say I have often wondered what would have happened what if I was married to a Black man, would the cop have been so eager to please or tried to pin every unsolved crime in town on both of them.

Most recently, elder child and his best friend were on a local bus coming back from the beach, when elder child says an older white man and his crony started talking loudly about niggas coming to their job being loud and spending money and complaining. Elder child says he was not the only Black man on the bus but the others put their head down, but being my son he was raised to stand up for injustice. I won’t bore you with the details but he did the right thing and the 2 old racists decided to shut the hell up since apparently elder child was ready to open up a can of whup ass on them.

Now when he told me the story, I was proud of him but also scared especially when I saw his rage not just at the 2 racists (as I told him they are bitter and clinging to outdated notions of the world so don’t worry about them) but at the other young Black man on the bus who put his head down. He asked me Mama, how could he (the other Black man) just put his head down? Honestly I don’t know, fear, shame, who knows…

That said I have come to realize that while I am proud as hell to have a son who will stand up for what’s right, I am scared, scared everytime he walks out the door whether he is here in Maine or at his Dad’s house which is just outside of Chicago. I am also mad at a society that makes it necessary for Black women to fear when our sons walk out the door.

I often wonder do white Mamas have these same fears, I suspect not and that discrepancy is only a portion of what can make a Black woman become an Angry Black Woman.

Dogs and Mainers.. they really love their dogs

27 Jun

In case you didn’t know, Maine is a very white state, I believe its only second to Vermont as far as the whiteness factor. Now, when a sista decided to move here 6 years ago, I knew it was white but I figured what the hell, I already own one white person (aka spousal unit) and despite growing up in Chicago I attended predominantly white schools, so I felt as comfortable as a sista can around white folks. Heck, I figured one white person is about the same as another, how different could the Maine white folks be versus Chi-town whites or my own California version?

Well I would soon learn, they are a little different out here, for starters they all seem to have a deep love affair with fleece and anything that comes from LL Bean. Now in the defense of my fellow white Mainers, LL Bean is headquartered in Maine, so that makes sense and while I do find most fleece clothing lacking on the style factor, the reality is its cold as shit here 11 out of 12 months (nah, I am kidding its cold 8 out of 12 months, on the real I generally turn my heat off in June and that is real.. mind you I am from Chicago so I know cold weather, here its not hawk cold like in Chicago, its a low grade type of cold that never ends).

However the one area that I discovered where Mainers are different than the folks back home is with regards to their deep and abiding love for their dogs. Now to be totally stereotypical, in general it seems white folks love the dogs way more than Black folks. I have known Black folks who loved their dogs but it just isn’t the same. Back in Chicago, my biggest gripe with dogs was that folks seemed to never want to keep em on leashes or they would use a leash so damn long that you wondered why they even bothered.  That said, most of my dog issues back home were in my neighborhood, so I could reasonably assume that if I went to downtown Chicago, I didn’t have to worry about seeing dogs. It was an understanding, you keep the dogs at home, the park, or near your home.

Mainers though, well, they take their dogs everywhere and I don’t mean that jokingly, I have seen pooches sitting patiently in the car at the movie theatre parking lot. Um, why? Seriously, the average movie is at least an hour and a half if not longer with previews, you cannot bring Fido in the theatre so it seems to me, Fido would be happier at the crib chilling out. I have seen dogs at eating establishments in our largest city despite the fact that there are laws forbidding such things, yet I guess the general assumption is everyone likes dogs.. Who cares if Fido is running around while you are enjoying a latte or in a real life example trying to get a burrito?  Most Maine folks don’t but guess what I do, I don’t like dogs, I used to be extremely scared of dogs, now that fear is only reserved for large dogs and scary breeds aka pittbulls, dogs of that ilk.

Which brings me to last night, the family and I went to a street festival in town, gorgeous night to walk and partake of some good greasy french fries and other foods I generally avoid. So how come my night was almost ruined by folks strolling around at a festival/fireworks with dogs? Not cute lil dogs, no folks walking rottweilers and pittbulls at a family festival, come on now what the hell is that all about?

I guess I was more bothered because just a few days earlier a dear sista friend originally from NYC who lives here in Maine, contacted me about a situation she was having with dogs. She has asthma and was trying to connect with a group of folks for a work retreat and she simply asked the leader of this get together to not bring the dog because she has asthma, well long story short, leader woman who is a  White Mainer said no, the dog is family and he goes where I go.

Well, as you can imagine that spawned some heated dialogue but for both my girl and I we realized that culturally Black folks just don’t dig on the dogs like White folks do. I have a Black girlfriend here who has a large dog and whenever she invites me over, she has no problem putting the dog up for the few hours I am going to be over. Yet with white folks, you ask can they move the dog so you can breathe and they act like you tried to smack the shit out of em.

Its cultural differences like that, that despite folks like me being married to a white guy and Obama being the Democratic nominee for president that keep me aware that we have a long way to go before white folks and black folks will truly connect. Its cool to love your dog but damn what about the humans?

 

Roots of anger start young

25 Jun

Yesterday, I was out with my almost 3 year old daughter and witnessed a rather interesting incident that only reconfirmed to me that the roots of Black anger as it relates to sistas and the fact that the anger starts young.

The girl and I were having one of our Momma and me times at a local cafe here in our small town, it’s a neat cafe especially since it’s owned by a gay interracial (1 partner is Latino, the other is white) couple who has a daughter almost a year younger than the girl. Well we were sitting next to their daughter’s playpen which they keep in the cafe since they work together, their daughter is a cute child, no doubt but as you can imagine she is a white child, not that there is anything wrong with that but I am trying to set the scene here so bear with me.

Anyway cute white child who I will call Z is playing and cooing in her playpen the way almost 2 years olds do, when a middle age white female customer on her way out, walks over to Z’s pit and starts carrying on with how beautiful Z is, yada, yada. Well my daughter, The Girl starts watching the exchange in that way that kids do when they see a kid with something they don’t have, after about 5 mins, middle age woman finally puts a sock in it and heads to the door but not before turning towards towards my daughter who had been intently looking at this exchange and saying you are a cutie too but keeps walking. The way she said it was as an afterthought. It was a what the hell kind of moment, for just a second a strange look flashed on my daughter’s face, yet in that second I knew that expression because even though at almost 3 she can’t articulate it, as a Cocoa brown sista who was attended predominantly white schools, I know that feeling. That feeling that says maybe I am not cute.

Now you may be reading this, thinking come on Black Girl aren’t you reading alot more into this… well  to be honest no, when you have as a whole, a group of people (Black women) who often will do anything to change their looks to fit the expected norm of cultural beauty (hello, relaxer, weave and blond hair on cocoa complected sistas) I don’t think I am reading too much at all.

Its one of the reasons that despite the fact that The Girl’s daddy aka my spousal unit is white, that the girl will never get a white doll from me, shit I look back at my own baby pictures and see me hugged up with a white doll and wonder what the fuck were Moms and Pops thinking.

No, in this society even at a young age the message slowly seeps in that white is the best, white is beautiful and its small exchanges like what I witnessed where in just a moment of time, I saw my daughter question why middle age woman did not treat her like Z, that start the long road to what at 35 or 40 becomes an angry Black woman.

Now off I go to get my iced coffee, until next time.

Black Motherhood Part 1

23 Jun

In thinking about the issue of angry Black women, another related issue came up for me and that is the issue of motherhood, specifically  Black motherhood versus white motherhood. So this post may be the first in a series of posts examining the cultural differences and on some level tapping into the anger that I and some of my fellow Black sistern live with.

The first time I became a mother I was 19, and to say that I was woefully unprepared for the task at hand was an understatement, though now as I look at my son who is almost an adult, I sometimes think maybe ignorance was bliss. I did the best job of parenting him that I could, at the time of his birth, there was no internet and looking back I am very thankful. Instead I relied on the parenting advice of my elders (aka, Moms and Granny) that advice meant getting him on a schedule ASAP, use of formula even the dreaded CIO (crying it out) in other words sometimes baby cry and there is not jackshit you can do but live with it. Looking back I did not fret over every decision as I do now in my mid 30’s with child #2, the girl.

No, when the boy was born, I was concerned with keeping food on the table and a roof over my head, at that time I was a high school dropout trying to survive. In many ways my circumstances and youth did not afford me the luxury of over thinking every detail as I am now prone to with the girl, shit I drive myself crazy overthinking the small details. I feed the girl fast food now and I mentally beat myself up whereas with the boy, I was thankful to be able to feed him.

Looking back I think over the years as I have attempted to better myself and that meant going to college and grad school at break neck speed and jumping headfirst into my career, I find that on some level despite being a Black woman, I have bought into the cult of white Motherhood and at times that feels dangerous for a Black woman.

Statiscally more sistas are left raising babies alone than white women, and in many ways our ways of being are adapted to that situation. I have yet to meet too many sistas fretting over wishing they were stay at home Moms, if they can its cool, if not you tend to be happy you have a job especially if brings in enough cheddar to pay the bills. Yet amongst my white girlfriends and being a sista in Maine most of my face to face girlfriends are indeed white, there is true angst about working especially if the children are young. Seems that even if their man aka ole man or partner doesn’t earn enough money white women will hold to the idealized view that they alone must care for their kids.

I will admit that after the girl was born a couple years ago, I was sucked into the cult of white Mamahood until I realized that even though my spousal unit is white, this man is not a master of the universe and unless I want to be living poor, I have to work, that is my reality.

Join me tomorrow for the next installment on motherhood, must get to work for the paying clients.

Long time

19 Jun

I love idea of blogging but like many things I want to do, there simply is not enough time in a day to get things done. That said, now that primary season has ended and Obama is the nominee, I feel the urge to write. Specifically as a Black woman, I feel there is so much to say, so starting today I will attempt an entry at least 2-3 times a week. Now that Obama has the nomination, it feels like the spotlight is on Black women since in MSM his wife is being called an “angry black woman”. Well I will confess that at times I am an angry Black woman, so stay tuned to some insights from a angry black woman from Chicago who is currently passing time in the great state of Maine.