Archive | July, 2008

Exposing Myself…finding me

31 Jul

I have a confession, since the age of 15, I have worn make-up almost daily. Now that is funny because I grew up with a mother who rarely wore anything other than lipstick, in fact it was only when she was in the midst of battling cancer and coping with hair loss and a host of other side effects from chemo did she start wearing makeup.

In my case I initially started wearing make-up because it was fun and then somewhere between 16-20, it became my mask, a way to hide me and present myself as whoever I wanted to be. When wearing a full mask aka face full of makeup I could be bold, I could be sassy, I guess I felt I could be all the things I was not when I was bare faced… exposed.

However a few weeks ago as we are dealing with what seems to be a rather hot and humid summer, I realized my face was breaking out in pimples and at 35 pimples are not something I want to deal with. So I showered one day, put my locs up and didn’t bother to put on my normal foundation/powder, instead I just put on some lipstick and was ready to go. I did it the next day and after a few days, the pimples went away, but instead of putting on my mask aka make-up, I decided against it and now I can’t tell you when the last time I put on makeup aside from lipstick.. I love my MAC lipsticks, you will have to pry em out of my hands.

Now what started out as a way to get rid of pesky pimples actually has grown into something much larger, see when I turned 35 early this year, it was like something went off inside of me and there has been what I call a shift in my life. Part of that shift has been studying feminist spirituality, reaching my weight loss goal after 2 long years on Weight Watchers but really just this mental shift where I feel like I love me, I know me and no matter what anyone says its all good. No longer do I get upset at other people and hang on to negativity, I brush that shit off now as fast as I flush mini-me’s poop down the toilet. Let that shit go. My love/hate relationship with family is mostly over, they are who they are and I cannot change them all I can do is change my way of dealing with them.

No, this has been the year that I have come into my own as a woman, even though I had my first baby at 19, its only now that I can say I am a grown woman. I suspect that while I felt the change this year, in  some ways I think it started with my Mom’s passing 4 years ago.

As a grown woman, I no longer need a mask, because I can be bold, sassy and anything else I want or need to be without hiding. Though should I want to put on a mask, that too is ok, but in wearing the mask, I need to be clear on why I am doing it.

For me makeup was my clutch, my mask but perhaps you have something that you to hide behind, perhaps now is a good time to decide whether its time to let it go.

Personal Responsibility

30 Jul

First off I am not some raving pull yourself up by the bootstraps type nor am I a closeted Republican….let me just say that since I know words like personal responsibility have been completely misused by such individuals. That said, I have a rant that’s been brewing off and on for a while and I need to let it out.

When the hell did folks in America stop exercising any type of responsibilityover their lives? No, seriously… I grew up in a working class Black family, some times life was good and hell, Moms and Pops even bought us name brand cereal and sometimes we were just lucky to have food. However Mom and Dad despite the rough times always worked at least Dad did most of time and one of the few times he tried to be a slacker and we were staying with my grandparents, I still remember my Grandpa saying “If I got to work everyone up in this beyotch needs to work or be looking for work.” Needless to say my Dad got off his ass and manned up and as one might say these days.

No, work has always been in my vocabulary, when I graduated from 8th grade at 14, that summer before high school started I lied about my age (this was back when you didn’t need to show id to work) and got my first job and I have been working ever since barring late pregnancy and right after having my babies. Now when I got pregnant with eldest child at 18, a few months into what these days would probably be known as a starter marriage, I didn’t have insurance and well babies cost money. So I had to sign up for state medical insurance which after baby boy was born turned into a very brief stint of getting welfare benefits. Let me just say that was one of the most humiliating times in my life.

Back then in Chicago it was called Public Aid aka the Aid office and even then at 19, I knew this was not some shit I wanted to do or be on long term, by the time my son turned 13-14 mos, I landed a decent gig and have never looked back. Don’t get me wrong, it has not always been smooth sailing for me since that time, but barring some really bad shit, the idea of getting a gubment handout just is not for me. There was one period in my life when my son was 2-3, where I was working 3 jobs, I had people ask me why was I doing that when I could apply for XYZ benefits, yes I could but sorry that was not for me.

However because of my humble roots if you want to call em that I have always had a compassionate heart towards helping people, back when I was working at a homeless shelter, I will admit I often bent the rules to help folks out especially those that showed some spunk. There were times when the shelter didn’t have transit money to help clients yet for those clients who had just landed a job, I often would slide them some carfare from my own money.

All that to say while I know what its like to have hard times, been there, done that and as Dave Ramsey would say I even got the t-shirt. The truth is sometimes we make poor choices that get us in a bad situation and unless we own up to it, our shit won’t get better. For me that was the realization that I have/had a spending problem, the spousal unit had been trying to tell me for years that I spend too much but last year, our lives too a sharp right when I wanted to go straight and I had to own up to the fact that sista-girl spends way too much. I am happy to say I am taming that beast, some days are better than others but awareness is a big part of it.

No this is a rather sensitive issue but why the hell do people have babies when they know they are broke and as my Granny used to say don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of? Look, I know the desire to have a baby is real, shit when that bug hit me almost 4 years ago I jumped on it but not before I looked at our finances and had a realistic idea of whether adding another child was reasonable and even doable. In our case we knew that by giving up certain pleasures we could afford it. However in the past several years I have run across some folks who are in real dire straights who keep having babies when they don’t have a pot or window or anything else and I am sorry but its madness to me to do so.

In one instance, a couple where both parties are on a fixed income (SSI) and already had 3 kids decided to have another baby, this is a family that every month must go to the food pantry because their food stamps don’t last the whole month and they have no additional money to buy food. I barely know this couple but when they announced they were expecting baby #4, I really wanted to go why??? I’m sorry but if you are at the food pantry every month maybe another mouth to feed is a bad idea….

By the same token, you have so-called middle class folks buying half a million dollar homes and yes I know in certain parts of the country that is nothing, but folks buying homes with either no money down or fancy loans like the interest-only loan. Duh, it used to be you needed to put 20% down to buy and excuse me but what the hell is the difference between a interest only loan and renting? Nothing except that one gives the illusion of ownership but you are no closer to owning than the guy who rents outright. Yet now droves of folks are losing their homes now and yes some of it is because of predatory lenders but in some cases people did not sit down and think the situation through. I know because had it not been for having a savvy ass father in-law and doing a bit of research, my ass might be joining some of y’all.

Look my point is not to rail against folks and kick anyone when they are down but as I get older, I see there is a lot of value in searching ourselves and really assessing things before we make what could be bad decisions and that is part of being an adult and taking some personal responsibility for ourselves.

Racial Progress or Not

28 Jul

I am back from my weekend hiatus, so nice to be back online. Anyway while relaxing with the family this weekend, we went on a drive in the country to visit a local farm. During that drive, we saw a house that had a rather large lawn jockey on the yard, of course the lawn jockey happened to be Black. Now as a Black woman, seeing that damn thing pissed me off, but what followed has left me pondering are we making progress or not as a society when it comes to race.

While I was ranting and raving over how I should go and smash the what to me was offensive lawn jockey, my 16 year old son who is biracial asked me why? Now this is a kid who has been fed a healthy dose of Black culture since day 1 (he also reads Mama’s blog), but as he explained to me he was not offended by the site of the lawn jockey because to him he viewed it much like how some Jewish folks view the Holocaust and strongly believe that they must never forget what happened. He feels that we as Black people must never forget the past and imagery like that offensive lawn jockey should keep us focused. I will admit for a moment Mama was like WTF? On the other hand many baby boy has a point, perhaps if some of these so-called ballers and rappers came upon these offensive images, they would be less likely to be creating their own offensive images. Since whenever elder boy is home, I inevitably end up watching some MTV or VH-1 and am absolutely dumbfounded over how we (we as in Black folks) now have no problem creating imagery on our own that makes us look like buffoons. Of course the reality is that coonery and buffoonery sells and the biggest buyers of this are not people of color… no its white folks. What the hell does that say about us as a society?

On another note speaking to racial progress, I woke up this morning as I always do listening to NPR and was listening to the Monday report on the election season and heard a rather interesting tidbit. Seems that there is still questions on whether or not Barack Obama can close the deal with working class whites and actually get them to vote for him. The report I heard this morning, mentioned that in states like Michigan and Ohio, two places I would not want to live since economically they are the pits, it seems the working class folks are not buying what Obama is selling. Now back when Hillary was still in the picture, this same issue was mentioned, why couldn’t Obama close the deal?

Come on now, you don’t need to be a Rhodes scholar to figure this out… race. Now I know some will say, why you gotta make this about race? Look who in their right mind votes against their own economic self interest? In America its lower income white folks who believe that people of color and them damn immigrants are stealing their jobs and whatnot, so rather than vote for change that might bring a few jobs back to them, they will vote for anyone else.

I am not saying Obama is perfect, personally since clinching the nomination he has pissed me off, that said, voting for McCain seems like economic suicide since in essence we will be getting a third Bush term as far as policies. Yet racism is deeply ingrained is the fabric of this nation, so economic well-being be damned, anything is better than a Negro in charge.

Guess the question for me is are we really making racial progress? Personally I am on the fence about this…

We be junkies… battling the net addiction

26 Jul

Yesterday a very bad thing happened around my house, the internet died. If you could have seen the looks on both me and the spousal unit’s face, you would have thought a family member had actually died. Yes, it was that bad. We tinkered with it, plugged and unplugged the modem, only to have to call the lovely folks at Time Warner who supply our internet connection. Since we both work at home, the internet is pretty important to our respective gigs since its the means by which we connect with our clients.

Well after what seemed like hours on the phone with the lovely tech folks, we got the very bad news that they would have to send someone out, however they were booked and couldn’t come out till the next day. Noooooooooooooooo. You mean 24 hours without going online? But, we have professional class service I thought that meant you come right away to fix my service? This is what we told the gal on the phone who explained that they were getting to us right away, that if we had a Joe Regular Residential account we could be waiting a week for repairs. Oh.. That cooled us down.

Truthfully my work day was just about wrapped up, but I still had blogs to read, boards to go to and information to seek. Instead I took my elder child out and had a great day. It was during our outing that I realized I am addicted to the net. See, upon waking in the morning, I drink my coffee while reading the paper online and surfing my favorite blogs. From there I check the various discussion boards I moderate as well as ones I surf. Even aside from my work, I spend a lot of time online. In the evening, I am often online between playing with mini-me, I am famous for saying just one more moment baby.

While out yesterday I was listening to Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Throw Away your Television, and was struck by the fact that I could say the same thing about my computer.. over the years I have grown more dependent on this piece of machinery. Even blogging has helped to fuel the addiction, I thought I would maybe at best write a post 2-3 times a week instead I try for almost every day. Know what? Its too much..

Yet its a strange love-hate relationship, truth is technology allows me to live in a rural state and earn a living and have clients anywhere, yet I find that the line between personal and professional life is harder to find.

That said, I am not giving up the net, but while the weather is good I think I need to engage more with the outside world instead of online.. so I think much like I confine work to certain days, I suspect for the good of the fam, I should blog only during the week, in fact I am trying to limit my online time period. This is gonna be a lot like my 2 year journey with Weight Watchers, took 2 years to lose almost 50 pounds because I had to re-change my relationship with food.

So am I the only one who spends way too much time online? Catch ya on Monday.

Blackness..who defines it?

24 Jul

In my daily cruising of blogs, I was struck by a blog I read about Soledad O’Brien and the issue of Blackness. Soledad is hosting a two part program on CNN that I have not yet seen on being Black in America and guess some folks questioned whether Soledad was really Black enough to be a part of such a discussion. For starters I will admit that I didn’t even know she was Black, over the years I thought she looked like she might be Black but with that name honestly, I never gave it a second thought.

However in the larger picture, reading about her Blackness or lack thereof brought me back to my own childhood and how often I endured cutting remarks from family members on my supposed lack of Blackness. As I have talked about before, I attended predominantly white schools even when we lived in Black areas, I was the kid in high school who had to get up at 5:30 am to trek across Chicago to get to school by 8 am. In my early years, we did though live in a predominantly white area.

For starters, as a kid, I was the kid who couldn’t jump rope, not just any rope, double-dutch, that definitely earned me lots of laughs as a kid.. later on I was put down because I talked white, I read books, and the worse offense in the eyes of relatives, I listened to white music. Back in fourth grade, I bought my first albums, Duran Duran and The Police and yes these were indeed albums. LOL

Later on growing up I grew to embrace all kinds of music, yet despite my love of music, I have been told I cannot dance. How many family gatherings did I attempt to let loose only to hear the family “Look at S, she dance like a white girl”.. laughs all around.

It wasn’t until in the past 10 years I realized I wasn’t the only Black kid who grew up being cracked on because of my supposed lack of Blackness as a kid, yet even when we become adults if you were a member of the non-black enough crew growing up, you still get it from adults. Its never ending, but the reality is what the hell is Blackness?

Honestly I beleive much of what we in America call Blackness makes no sense, to say that a group that  has millions and millions of members must all do the same thing is group-think on a crazy level. What I consider the Black experience in America is a rich diverse array of experience. It shapes us individually and creates Black folks as diverse as John McWhorter, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Even factoring for socio-economics, we are as diverse as white folks. No one ever expects white folks to be all the same.

Yet for many of us Black folks if we see someone engaging in behavior that we associate with White America we are quick to slap a label on that individual and heaven forbid we might even call said not real Black person an Oreo. Yep, been there, done that too. Thankfully I have reached the age where it no longer irritates me that family members think I am an Oreo, I suspect my move to Maine solidified in their minds that I am a true Oreo.. oddly enough these same folks like many who are quick to judge who is really Black, no nothing about Black history.

Blackness as I define it is a state of mind, its the ability for me to take pride in my roots, its when I reached that place where I can proudly share about my humble family roots, the grandfather who was a sharecropper. Its that place where as a Black woman I can look upon my own natural attributes and be at peace with how I was created, I see joy in my nappy hair, my full lips and hips and cocoa complexion. Its the place where I want to embrace all members of the diaspora, where I understand that the Dominican brothas and sistas are the same as me.. we all hail from the same place, we just ended up at different places.

No, Blackness can not simply be reduced to a few points, Blackness is not necessarily growing up in the hood, Blackness allows for the richness that gives us the Soledad’s who choose to embrace her heritage because she understands that Blackness is more than skin color. I like to say its in our blood, we feel its strength, its the strength that allowed a people who had been taken away from their homes to create in this new and strange land that was forced upon us. I sometimes think that if the ancestors could see this silliness that many of us engage in that they would cry out in shame at what we have become.

Instead of deciding who is Black, let us make sure we understand who we are first and foremost.

Whose truth?

23 Jul

I was not raised in a traditionally Black Christian household, basically church was something we went to every few years, would have been even less than that if it were not for my Pops. My Mom was raised by her Dad who was an atheist and my Pops was a lapsed Southern Baptist. However when I was 17, Pops was diagnosed with throat cancer and given less than 6 months to live, on what he thought was his deathbed, he had a mid-life conversion and long story short he didn’t die and went to seminary and ended up becoming a minister and pastor much to my Mom’s dismay.

By the time he became a preacher and got his own church, I was already married with my own family, however I started coming to his church and ended up becoming a born again Christian. Its been many years and while I still have a deep and personal relationship with Christ, the truth is Christians scare me. I find Christians to be some of the most insincere and hypocritical folks around, I know that is a rather blanket and possibly offensive statement but after years of faithful church attendance and bible reading I decided a year ago to skip church and set  out to gain a better understanding of the word of God sans a preacher, admittedly I have occasionally used my Pops as a reference since he is a rather unorthodox preacher.

In the year since I stopped attending church regularly and stopped searching for a church home, I have immersed myself in the works of folks like Marcus Borg and many others and honestly I feel cheated. Like most faithful church goers who never go beyond what their preacher says, I never understood the foundation of how the Christian church really came to be, how Christianity stole from Paganism to create holidays that we revere such as Christmas. While I still believe that the Bible is God’s word, I am now aware that the words were written by men and also reflect the value system of the times in which the books were written. A point that never seems to get mentioned in many traditional churches, this is why we have Paul offering rules on women in the church, yet upon deeper reflection and research is it practical to say these teachings and advice should be applied in current times? After all how many women especially in the Black community are the true workers at the church holding it down while the preacher reaps all the glory. My Granny died giving all her money to a church that did nothing for her, when she needed a furnace, medications, where was the church? I suspect she was not the only faithful attendee who gave yet when she needed her community it was not there for her.

I also have come to face that the Bible has been misused to keep down and oppress others and as a Black woman, I grapple with that daily. Don’t get me wrong I have always known the bible was used as a tool of oppression but I guess it really hit home when I set my heart to truly grow closer to God and yet studying the bible have really thought how the biblical truths have been used to justify many wrongs.

 Right now I am praying for clarity, there are moments when I think perhaps this Christianity thing is not real but there are too many things I have seen and experienced in life that lead me to know its real.

What’s not real though is how people use the bible and God to create a false truth for their own purposes, be it to sucker people into their congregation or keep people feeling bad about themselves. In an election season we don’t have to look any further than the highly regarded Evangelical Christian vote to see folks who misuse God to create their own truth. These same folks get up in arms about abortion but I ask where is the compassion that Jesus showed on earth? Instead of getting up in arms about so-called liberal issues, if Evangelicals took that same energy and used it with a spirit of compassion maybe there would be less hungry and homeless folks in America.

Right now I am pondering my own journey which may lead me to seminary (talk about irony, another family mid-life journey) but I wonder am I the only one who ponders the issue of truth every day and wonders whose truth to follow?

Are we too hard on ourselves..

22 Jul

I am in my second marriage, the first one lasted only half a minute, just long enough to produce my son and realize that getting married at 18 is a really bad idea for most folks. That said when I remarried at 24, I felt more or less ready. The spousal unit and I are a good fit, we are like sour cream and cheddar cheese chips, he is the sour cream and I am the cheddar.

I will admit that when I took that short walk down that aisle the second time I was nervous since second marriages have a high chance of failure, that said this is the hubby’s first and he is committed to making it work

I say all this to say that last night we had a bit of a argument, really it was about bullshit, but in the three years since our daughter was born, these nothing arguments have increased from being at best a yearly event to at least a few per month. I suppose this should not have been a surprise but for a couple that rarely argues, these past three years we have been stretched. However during last night’s argument, I uttered the words my spousal unit hates to hear “Well maybe you should leave”. Truth is I really don’t want him to leave, its just that at those moments when I am most vulnerable and feeling stressed and all I really want is to be left alone, I seem to put on my strong Black woman costume. Sistas if you reading this, you know what I am talking about.

Its in that moment, I look at him and, I hear snatches of ole songs ” I am every woman”, old sayings my Mom and Granny used to utter “You can do bad by yourself” and I get so caught up in the moment and utter the vilest shit.

After the argument I was reminded of a new blog I have been reading that deals with Black women and it hit me that I am perpetuating a lot of the negativity that interferes with relationships that Black women have generally with brothas but truthfully with men in general. The shit that keeps us from being willing to expose our vulnerability, our needs and truth is its got to stop.

Last year when I unexpectedly lost my job, I took on doing all the work around the house except for taking out garbage, thing is I am still doing it and I am working again, plus mini-me is not so little and elder child is home for the summer. Yet the funny thing is the spousal unit never asked me to do everything, but some how in my mind I started thinking I should do everything, even now. As you can imagine this causes a great deal of tension, since as I have been told I walk around with a perpetual scowl on my face.

Yet here I am getting mad as hell when in fact I put this on myself, last night after we made up, I was plagued with the thought that despite growing up in a 2 parent home, I seem to perpetuate all the negative images that many sistas in general have about men, and while some of its true the fact is I think we bring a lot of it on ourselves by not being upfront. Simple stuff like making dinner, I married a man who had been on his own for years and knows how to cook but as he jokes half heartedly it was after we married that I took away his cooking privileges yet I bitch all the time about hating to cook.

The thing is in relationships unless you are truly not well matched, its the little shit that will bring the relationship down, years of cooking when you really didn’t want to.. and so on.

No, the realization hit me this morning that if I am truly committed to making this work, its time to permanently retire my superwoman suit. I am not every woman and I can not do everything and I am not even expected to. I also must be willing to get real and as a old professor of mine in grad school said during a workshop, be prepared to get raggedy. The reality is in a loving relationship its ok to be raggedy at times, no one thinks less of you. I just need to stop thinking less of myself. I suspect I am not the only one out here who needs to ease up on herself either.

White privilege.. its everywhere I am not

20 Jul

I guess the reason I won’t ever be a blogger who writes about current events is because I have a tendency to come late to the party, but that’s life when you have an almost 3 year old and only 24 hours in a day.

Last post, I wrote about Jesse Jackson and the n-word but at that writing I hadn’t yet heard the story about ole Elizabeth from The View and the rather um, emotional discussion that occurred between the ladies of The View about the n-word. Plenty of folks have already wrote some fabulous stuff specifically about that conversation, however at another blog the issue of white privilege came up and for some reason this weekend that stuck in my mind.

Seems white folks don’t always get why they can’t use the n-word, some even say it feels unfair… after all if its such a hateful word, why the hell should Black folks use it? Seems maybe we should all bury it. On the surface that feels like a really warm and fuzzy argument and maybe if it were not for this little pesky thing called white privilege, I might almost agree but I don’t.

Before I get into my rant, let me say upfront, I don’t write an academic blog, I am a former quasi-academic, long story short after I got the masters degree a few years ago, I decided I had had enough of school.  So I say this to say that when I blog, I just write, I don’t for the most part add sources but if you are reading this feel free to google anything I say and find the references yourself.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets get the rant on… Many years ago Peggy McIntosh wrote a piece that is often used to discuss white privilege, it basically highlights the many invisible perks that white folks get just by nature of being white. Simple things like knowing for instance you can pretty much do what you want to do without fear… or at the very least live in a state and not have to travel 2 states over to get your hair done.

With that paraphrasing of Peggy’s piece, I am reminded that maybe on some level the reason whites don’t get why they can’t use the n-word is not so much rooted in the fact that they care about Black folks (not saying that they don’t) but more rooted in the fact that its one thing that Black society has basically said no about, you can’t use that word and in general to be white in America does not mean hearing no all that often compared to if you are a person of color in America. After all for the average white person throwing out a casual n-bomb at the very least will earn you a mild scolding if your n-bomb falls upon Black ears to possibly getting your ass kicked. Depends on the Black person hearing it and honestly the kind of day they are having.

See, its funny when the spousal unit and I were talking about The View and my reaction to Elizabeth (honey, stop crying… get over yourself, use those tears to help folks if you really want to do something productive). It was my white half that brought up white privilege and how in his 40 years of life, 13 which have been spent with yours truly, that its been only in these last 13 years that he realized how many things he took for granted as a white man.

Imagine walking around in a large city when the urge to take a sudden and powerful bowel movement hits (I know this is sounding crazy but stick with me), well the spousal unit just looks for a nice hotel and wanders in and uses their facilities. The first time he shared this with many years ago, I looked at him like he was crazy, see when I used to live in Chicago and found myself in a similar predicament it never dawned on me to go to a hotel. Perhaps, because I have had experiences when traveling and staying at top notch hotels where just my appearance required showing a key card and proof I really belonged at the hotel and wasn’t loitering. Its a small thing but it was one of the first times I stopped to ponder how we, Black folks and White folks at times can inhabit different worlds.

In more recent days, a white girlfriend and I were discussing local beaches we take our kids, and my pal shared that she regularly uses one particular beach that is private… I knew the beach in question but was fascinated that she regularly just used it with no concerns, I even asked her aren’t you concerned that the organization that owns it might ask you to leave? She told me no; see white privilege allows you to go and do seemingly simple things like shit or use a beach with no concerns that someone might question you, hound you, or disturb you in any way. Damn, it must be nice…

However back to my original point, I see some whites irritation in not being allowed to use the n-word rooted in the fact that to be white in America unless you are at the lowest rings of the socio-economic ladder is to not have to hear the word no, it means always having a choice.. and yet Black folks have said no, you cannot have this word. That said, I am not saying we as Black folks need to hang onto this word as a commenter on my last entry stated maybe its time we look for some new language in general and I agree.

That said white privilege is everywhere, maybe instead of getting pissed about what you can’t say, it would be better to look at what you can do and strive for ways to achieve parity so that everyone can shit when needed.

The N-Word.. Should it die?

18 Jul

So it turns out when ole Jesse Jackson was at Fox News network talking about Barack Obama’s nuts, that he may have also slipped out the ole n-word too. Honestly, I am not surprised, I guess if you are gonna talk about another man’s balls, why not drop the ole n-word in while you are trying to make a fool of yourself.

I am not interested in whether Jesse said it or not, but as I surf around in cyberspace, its been interesting reading various folks opinions on the use of the N-word especially as it relates to us Black folks using it. Before I start I must confess, I was raised by parents who made liberal use of the n-word, in fact I still try to tell my Pops that we aren’t supposed to use it and as he tells me “Why?. Good question, why aren’t we supposed to use it anymore.

I know, its a word laced with history and negativity. I technically know why we shouldn’t use it but as a reader and writer, I am not particularly fond of censoring words even ones that as a woman make me cringe such as c**t. Words are words on one level and they only hold power if we give them power, that said, if a white person were to haul out the n-word, I suspect that is a white person who would be tasting my red toes. No, that is definitely not what I am talking about, for me white folks don’t ever get to use the n-word, sorry, you just can’t….

That said, it seems in the Black community at times the idea of whether or not the use of the n-word seems to break down around class. See, back in my old neighborhood in Chicago, folks used the word and no one ever thought anything of it. However as I went to college and started interacting with more solidly middle class Black folks is when I noticed that if the word came up folks visibly got uncomfortable. I definitely noticed upon moving to Maine and interacting with Maine Black folks no one ever ever uses the N-word, I will admit that I still suffer lapses and occasionally the word comes out much like the b-word comes out from time to time. In my defense, I have a potty mouth in general, what can I say, cussing comes easy to me and I have to work at it much like I work at maintaining a decent weight.

A few years ago, comedian Paul Mooney who I love said he was no longer gonna use the n-word and truthfully I was bugged, I know it was in response to Michael Richards tirade at a comedy club a few years back. Clearly Richards was in the wrong using the word but did Mooney really need to retire the word? Mooney’s comedy came about in an era with great artists such as Richard Pryor and honestly I can not even imagine how funny Pryor would have been without the use of the n-word. Maybe that makes me small minded but its my feelings.

No, the current crusade against the use of the n-words by Black folks sometimes feels like a class struggle at its roots, I am not saying there are not working class Black folks who don’t cringe at the mere mention of the word but there definitely seems to be a connection with the more education/more income one gets, less of a desire to use that word.

Over the years, younger Blacks have changed the word from n***er to n***a, some folks feel it doesn’t matter since its still the same word.. yet on a certain level I am not sure its the same word. I wonder if its a way to reclaim it and use it in a way where we own it versus the traditional use where it was a label slapped on us. Just wondering out loud…

That said at the end of the day, I do think there are a lot more things to get pissy about than whether or not we should be angry about this word. I say for those in the middle class who get disgusted at the use of this word maybe we should look at the circumstances that continue to produce folks who cling to this word. I suspect that much like myself if one is surrounded by folks who no longer use this word that eventually it will fade away, there may be the occasional lapse but it will become less common.

So tell me should this word die?

How much for those carrots? You are what you eat…

16 Jul

Today in my local town is one of two days when you can go to the Farmers Market, an event that the longer I live here in Maine is a truly joyous treat for me. Prior to moving to Maine, the farmers market was not a regular part of my life back in Chicago; of course its only been in recent years that farmers markets have really grown and become popular in many places.

This time of year, the harvest is finally coming in and today’s bounty included fresh raspberries, blueberries, glass bottled milk and a host of other goodies (including the first harvest of sweet corn that I will be eating tonight). All that said, the farmers market is not cheap, that quart of milk is $2.25 a bottle plus the buck deposit on the bottle and with elder child around we go through about 4-6 bottles of this milk weekly. I know I could buy the stuff at the store, where a gallon could be had for $4 but the milk I buy at the market is milked from cows that live about 10 miles from me by people I see every week. That gallon of milk at Wally World or large grocery chain comes from who knows where by people I will never see.

It was at my last stop at the market I ended up having a conversation that was the inspiration for this post, I was patiently waiting my turn when the lady in front of me starts trying to haggle with the farmer (this pt farmer/lobster-man that looks like a character in a Stephen King novel), she was pissed because the carrots were $3 a bunch. Now seeing as how I was standing in line to buy these rather gorgeous plumb fingerling carrots with aromatic green tops still attached, the conversation was amusing to me. It seems the gal ahead of me felt that $3 was too much for carrots since she could get em cheaper at the store, the farmer told her well you go right ahead but these carrots were picked by folks who work and get paid $10 an hour and who need health insurance. Well haggle woman walks away disgruntled saying his prices were too high and I ended up engaging with the farmer, who told me he gets that often, folks mad because his prices are high. Well truthfully he is the cheapest stand at the market and while he is a bit brusque in his presentation, his food is good and he always saves my eggs.

However all day I have been thinking about how many of us expect food to be cheap, no seriously, most large farms in the US are subsidized by the gubment so when we see food at a farmers market or see the organic stuff how many of us bristle at the thought of the extra price? I know I used to until I got to a stage where my stomach started getting twitchy and I watched the spousal unit sick from food poisoning and realized that maybe cheap food is a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, I know in some areas there is no access to a farm, farmers market or places such as Whole Foods.

Back 14 years ago or so I stayed at my Granny’s house with elder child for a year on the south-side of Chicago and without a car, the only place to shop was the corner store where Wonder-bread was all that was offered for bread and most of the meat was grey, don’t even talk to me about vegetables. The vegetable offerings were mustard and turnip greens, anemic iceberg lettuce and the occasional bruised apple. Shopping sucked.

No, I am talking about folks with the means to get better food but who choose not to, yet food impacts our overall health. How many of us know folks with diabetes or other health ailments who if they simply changed their diet, they most likely wouldn’t need to start the day popping 6-7 pills? I know plenty folks like that.. folks who will pay a couple hundred a month to rock a nice relaxed hair do, who drive a nice car so they could drive to some place to get food but instead say “Nah, that’s too much”

Yet how can we put a price tag on our health? Moreso, in case you haven’t noticed food at the store is no longer as cheap as it used to be, seems there is a direct connection between cheap gas and cheap food.. now that gas is not so cheap, what you buy at Super Wally will no longer be as cheap either and less you think the prices are coming down, word on the street that no one shares, is that the prices will not be coming down. No, thanks to peak oil and the wealth explosion in places like India and China all competing for the same limited resources aka the oil… what used to be cheap won’t be cheap again.

That said, you are what you eat so if you have the means, treat your body right, its the only one you got and I don’t know about you, but as I get older I don’t want to be dependent on pills to live unless I really need them. No, $3 carrots sounds like a bargain.