Archive | August, 2009

Cross cultural communication–I think I am failing

31 Aug

Disclaimer: This post is a reflection of my thoughts, what may be true for me may not be for you so I am going to try not to generalize but this is my perception.

In my early blogging days, I wrote about relationships between Black and White women and today I am revisiting the topic. The truth is that since I was a teenager, I have had very few connections withwhite women. Funny thing is I did not grow up in a predominantly Black setting, I actually spent all of my school days in most instances being the only Black kid or one of only a handful…this would have been in the late 70’s through the 1980’s. So with a background like that you would think I would be pretty comfortable having white women as friends, but the truth is its very hard for me.

I have no bias against white women but at the end of the day, I often feel like we speak different languages. Take child rearing, its a universal thing we as women all do (ok, all women that have kids that is) yet when I speak with most white women even with things like education and class being factored in, I still feel as if I am holding back. Hell, I am actually convinced that with raising kids there is a whole cultural component that plays a large role. Take breastfeeding, I nursed well past what most women do yet in talking with my white friends its still hard to discuss, maybe its me though.  Funny thing is this internal holding back I do only seems to happen with white women. It does not happen with white men, since if it did, I guess the Spousal Unit would be gone by now…though lately we do wonder if race sometimes plays a role in some of our issues these days, but that is another story.

I am not bashing white women because again I have met some who I really do connect with but the funny thing is the ones I connect with the best tend to come from humble roots. There are a few local women I know who come from working class origins though they are not there anymore and they are the ones I definitely feel most comfortable with. Its hard enough for me being Black without having to explain, no that is not a Black thing, its a poor folk or working class thing. Turns out government cheese was eaten by all poor folks though Black comedians would have you to believe its a Black thing, same with kool-aid. As Dave Chappelle joked, Black folks have grape drink…well Dave, there are plenty of white folks who had grape drink too! They just don’t share that as often as poor Black folks do.

A while back one of my truly good friends who lives here in Maine and happens to be white commented on the fact that for the longest time she felt I was really reserved and yet she is glad that we were able to get past our initial tensions where race and class threatened to end our relationship before it ever really began. In this instance my friend is someone who comes from great privilege even with some old money thrown in to really highlight the differences between us yet even now we still have moments where there is the uncomfortable pause.

Sometimes I think maybe its me, but sometimes I know its not me. Take my CSA(community supported agriculture) experience. For what, 5-6 years we have been members of what is essentially a farm co-op, in the early days I used to go with the Spousal Unit to do the pickups, thinking maybe I would get to know some folks. After all if you belong to the same CSA, its safe to say you have some shared interests (healthy eating) well after weeks and months of trying to be friendly with folks and make small talk, I realized it just was not working. I know…maybe folks are just not friendly. I would buy that argument if my white buddies (the two)I know who also belonged to the same CSAhad not made connections with other shareholders at the CSA.

Does my breath stink? Do I look crazy? What’s wrong with me? Its the same with playgroups, when girl child was born before I went back to work, I tried connecting with other Mamas and kids at playgroups. Um…that was a bust. Now the Spousal Unit is in charge of outside park play, I hate being at the park and since small talk with other parents sucks, he can do it.  Of course with the change to our schedules, I will have to try again and I am dreading it.

Now I do well at talking to people of color, folks in a professional setting and older folks but stuff me in a room with white women who are technically my peers and I feel like that awkward 10th grader who never had any dates back in the 1980’s because I was sorta cute for a Black girl (a classmate actually said this to me) but interracial dating wasn’t the thing back then. The only cats who were willing to date me were shifty types or white boys of privilege who hoped I was a easy girl if ya know what I mean? Yet I watched my girls primp and talk about their dates, boyfriends and lives yet basically was sitting on the sidelines.

However as a 36 year old woman who happens to be Black and lives in Maine and isn’t leaving anytime soon, I wonder how can I better connect across racial lines? So if you got any tips help a sista out.

A visit to the other side

28 Aug

I have friends and acquaintances in all stripes, gay, straight..black, white, rich, poor and some in-between. You get the point. Yet the older I get as issues like health-care and finances come up, I am convinced that in America, everyone should spend a year or so living without access to health-care and basically being poor. Now I know you may be wondering why would I suggest such a thing? Well I find that when issues such as the current health insurance reform debate come up, for me its pretty easy to tell who has never had to do without…see while I may not be in the best financial state at present, I have been poor before and its not pretty.

I went to the dentist for the first time at age 17, and because I had never been you can imagine the state that my mouth was in…over the years once I became a working adult with a job that had insurance and later a partner with good health coverage, we spent thousands even with insurance to get my mouth in shape. See, my folks lived a good chunk of my childhood with inadequate insurance, there was no SCHIP program back then so unless you were super poor, or had a job with damn good coverage, you got no care. My folks were lovely people but they were dreamers, Black hippies to a large degree and we went without, I am convinced that my childhood is what has prompted me to be so involved with social justice issues.

Another thing that gets me…well meaning financially comfortable folks who say that folks can and should work hard. Well its true that hard work can move you up, but statistically speaking and I have covered this in my blog before, when you come from a family that has resources its a lot easier to move up..wealth begets wealth. Its a lot easier to take chances and be creative (a la Bill Gates ) when you come from a family that has more than two nickels to rub together.

Truth is the reasons for poverty and scarcity are complex, I was just in a meeting where someone said maybe throwing money at the poor is not the answer…I agree, in fact we need to throw more money at the poor. For all the jokes and snide comments made about women staying on the system and having more babies, I have yet to see anyone living a truly fabulous lifestyle while living on the government dole. Hell, in many states the welfare, I mean TANF benefits are less than what I spend on groceries every month. Could you imagine living on $400-500 a month? Even with section 8 housing, that still would make fora shitty life IMO.

The reasons that people don’t leave poverty as easily as they did 40-50 years ago when a man or woman could get a job that had health coverage and maybe a pension for old age is that somewhere along the line we as a society got things fucked up. Even the college educated set now is realizing there are no good jobs with security left..we are all screwed.

Its funny because in my circle of friends the folks who are most comfortable financially either have family money or resources or they are old enough that they have substantial work years and resources built up…the rest of us are fucked. Yet even in writing this I realize I exist in two spaces, after all I have a house for life courtesy of family. So while I struggle, its less of a struggle than if I were paying rent or a mortgage since while taxes and insurance are high its still less than rent even in a state like Maine.

No, if more of the folks involved in trying to fix things spent some time living on get by street, I think we as a nation would be better off. Its hard to really understand poverty when its a theoretical or abstract concept. Granted there are a few that are able to truly understand it and work towards helping others but for so many others its a street they have never driven on and one they may never visit, its hard to understand a place you have never been. Yet for those that have been there, even when we leave it, memories of that place never quite fade away.

Living Simply…what does it mean to you?

26 Aug

I have noticed lately that folks talk a great deal about living simply. Yet when I think about that term I wonder what the hell does that mean exactly? For some folks it means living within their financial means and not accruing debt, for others it means getting off the grid and living off the land, for others it means  crossing the country in a veggie fueled RV and taking whatever job they find to put food on the table.

Right now for me living simply means struggling with getting out of debt, yet I still succumb to a daily iced coffee on the way home from work…this is down from the multiple espresso drinks I used to buy daily, yet it still involves spending cash, just a lot less than I used to spend.

I no longer visit malls unless I know exactly what I need, I go in, get what I need and leave quickly before I buy something just because it was cute or on sale. Yet I still get weak in thrift and consignment shops, hence the second vintage dress I bought recently that no one in my family likes…what do they know?

I cook a lot more from scratch, yet I still eat the occasional meal out especially in the summer time when I just don’t feel like cooking. However it tends to be an inexpensive salad or tart from a local eatery. Gone are the days of the $75 lunches. Though I know there are many that would say that I still waste money, true but I strive to find my balance between living a lot more simply but not feeling deprived. Drugstore lipstick probably could work at $5 a tube but MAC lipstick at $14 a tube definitely works and if I save 6 empties I get one free.

So what are you doing to live more simply? Do you even think about living a more simple life? Let me know…I can always use ideas to streamline my life.

Where are you?

25 Aug

Look, I know it summer time and if you are like me you are trying to enjoy these final weeks of summer before cold weather sets in…but where are you? I just realized that in the past few weeks my numbers are dropping off. Have I become that boring? Granted I don’t blog for others, heck I just like having a space to write but its also nice to know that someone is reading me.  Guess all bloggers like to know they are being read otherwise we would set our blogs to private and not share our thoughts.

What’s up readers? Are you out enjoying the good weather or have I finally managed to bore you to tears and you had to take me out of your daily rotation?

Getting serious about the cash

22 Aug

I vent a lot about my financial woes here at BGIM, in part because in my day to day life outside of a small handful of folks, I really don’t discuss money at least my money or lack thereof. Granted I talk a lot about class issues especially as they relate to the middle and working class but there is a huge difference in talking class as a general topic or as it relates to my work versus a discussion about the dreary state of my finances.

For the past several years, I have watched our income slowly decline…its funny because I graduated with my masters degree in 2006 and when I started the grad school journey the plan was that our income should grow…only problem was that the Spousal Unit’s income started dropping in 2006 and in 2007 the US economy decided to thwart me and I ended up a casualty of the beginning of the recession when the school I was teaching at decided my department should be closed.

I have sat by for a few years praying and hoping that things would change instead they have only gotten worse. We made some changes to our budget since losing several thousands of dollars a month meant we had to cut back, yet through it all there was one line item that until recently I considered sacred. It was the one item I felt we could not give up. What is it? Full time childcare for the girl. Now I have mentioned over the time that my girl is high energy, I love her but I admit I have often been glad we get a break, the old saying absence make the heart grow fonder!

Well mini me aka girl child is now 4, and old enough to go to a traditional very pt preschool, its only 9 hours a week but she will still get some socializing in and I will get a few hours a week to myself. Now how is this going to work with our work schedules? Thankfully unless I am in a meeting, I can actually bring girl child to the office with me since after all, what’s in my office? Kids. At 4 she is old enough to hang out in some of the programming that is offered by my center and being the head cheese also known as the director, there is no one on site that I report to since everyone who works at the center reports to me. Definitely a good benefit.

The Spousal Unit has created a space in his office for girl child to hang out in when he is working and I am not available, also right now there are only two weeks a month that the Spousal Unit is super busy so the plan is to trade off watching her around our schedules. If I have meetings that are not when she is at preschool, he will watch her and when he is uber busy I will watch her.

I have to be honest this new plan is scary since I am not exactly a SAHM, I have a job but I also have no emergency fund and a stack of extra expenses coming up as well as some bills that need to be addressed. One of my creditors, in fact one of the most pressing ones has made me an offer and with the money saved from no longer paying for ft childcare we will be able to get this huge burden off our backs.

I admit when this idea hit me last year I eventually said no, but this year there is a sense that we no longer have the luxury of having ft childcare, not when we have work schedules that do allow for our daughter to be cared for at home.

So while I am nervous about this change, I am also excited to know we have a viable plan for changing our financial situation for the better despite not having an actual increase in salary. I am reminded that in tough financial times, sometimes we have to think out the box and look at what we really need versus what we really want. For too long I have said ft childcare was a need when for the past year its really been more of a want.

Is there anything in your budget that you think is a need but deep down you know its more of a want? If so what are you willing to change?

Dude, Where is My Occupation?

21 Aug

Another guest post for the Formerly Middle Class series I have been randomly working on this summer, today’s poster asked to remain anonymous since they are someone that I know personally and we have shared friends and colleagues.

 Economy got you down? Realizing you are only holding onto middle class status by a thin string? Feel free to drop me a line at blackgirlinmaine@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you! As for me, I am enjoying the last few days of summer break with my son so posting is not a priority at the moment but I will be back soon.

 

One of the things I find as someone who used to consider myself middle class (and now often struggles to get a payment in before the power company shuts off my services) is that as the economy has tanked, so has the regard for certain skilled professions. Including my own. Which, as you can imagine, cuts into my income and propels me even farther from being truly middle class in terms of income.

We see this with non-profits that need skilled college-educated folks, which struggle to find funding now (whether from grants or private donors or otherwise) and get swept aside, leaving gaps in necessary areas like aiding the homeless, providing health services to the poor, giving educational services to those who need them, etc. And leaving a bunch of people who were probably barely middle class to begin with without jobs at all.

We see it with consultants who, while I often make fun of (because they seem to make a lot for doing very little sometimes), no longer find it as easy to locate companies willing to pay them for their insights and opinions.

We see it with PhDs who now must go find trades or do hourly work in fast food or gas stations or something because getting a job in a university, much less tenure, is harder than finding a virgin in Hollywood or Miami.

We see it in journalism and other writing/editing venues (and this is the area in which I work), where companies and organizations are less willing to pay for people who know what they are doing, and are more willing to let people with no experience (but who have lots of time because they’re out of work or stay at home/work at home spouses) take up the task. And then I see these very same people popping up on discussion boards asking other people how to find sources, locate critical information and otherwise put together a story, something I’ve spent more than 20 years mastering.

And so on.

There are no “safe” occupations. There are no truly “recession-proof” jobs. Sure, there will always be a need for IT folks because we are so computer- and Internet-dependent. Yes, people will always have a need for nurses or plumbers or electricians. But any occupation can find itself in a position where people will forestall paying for services from those folks or where there might one day be a glut of workers in the field relative to the jobs available.

I also realize that at the layers above and below the middle-class, there are professional occupations, trades, working class jobs, and others where people have been hard hit.

But the difference is that above the middle class level, chances are you have more resources to tap for longer to weather the storm. Or you have better stuff to sell and then downsize your lifestyle to something more manageable. You will also likely be cast in a better light when you go looking for loans and such to restart your life.

And below the middle class level, while it is no cake-walk by any means, there are services, private or public, to catch you more often. The closer you get to being truly poor, the more likely you can get things like healthcare (maybe for your kid if not for yourself), food and other essentials from agencies or programs of one sort or another.

But in the middle class, it has too long been assumed that we’re all OK. But the fact is that most of us didn’t notice the slow erosion of our career areas. Nor truly appreciate how our benefits, if we had company-based jobs, were being whittled away so that our minuscule raises really amounted to decreases in our real income year after year after year.

What I find, for better or worse, is more than a little resentment that I have been part of a socioeconomic class that provides the lion’s share of tax revenue in this nation and has for a very, very long time, and yet I am one of the people who has to go through the most hoops to get help and be among the least likely to receive a break.

And now, I find myself with a career I am no longer certain I can rely on solely (or maybe even pursue long-term), wondering if regaining my “middle class status” is even a realistic notion anymore. I know I’m not alone in this, and I wonder how many of us who once thought ourselves solidly middle class now face the very real possibility that we may need to pursue the less-lucrative trade jobs or the kind of jobs that once were the purview of high school and college students, just to keep ourselves out of the poorhouse.

They are telling us something

19 Aug

Despite trying to avoid as much news as possible I must admit its a tad hard for me since I do like to have an idea of what is happening in the world. Also up here in my little corner of the world after an abnormally cool, wet summer we are now in the midst of a mini heat wave so I have been hoping to find out when it plans on ending since 90 plus temps with humidity is a tad outside my comfort zone. So I listen to the news..which brings me to the point of my post today.

So in AZ this week, folks are now showing up at the heath care discussions strapped with assault rifles. No longer is bringing a mere gun enough, its now time to bring out the heavy weapons to let us know that they (the folks with the guns) are really not happy about how “their” country is being managed.

Now  I am about to put on my former African American studies hat (its what I studied in college and almost went to grad school for) but I am seeing some huge symbolism in the fact that  white men are bringing guns to discussions where the sitting President of the United States is in the area. I suspect none of these folks would have ever brought a gun to a place where Bush was…but in showing up when a Black man is in office strapped with 9 mm and semi assault rifles under the guise of exercising their rights, I see imagery of days we thought we had left behind.

Days where folks showed up in white sheets, or left a noose hanging to let Black folks know they felt about us. These symbols also served to show who had the power… I know you may be saying BGIM, you are stretching a bit! Oh really? As a Black woman in America the idea of heated white men walking around in public carrying guns scares me shitless, since as several other Black bloggers have already wrote, what place do guns have in a discussion on health care? Other than if the gun is used you will need some health care. (hat tip to Black Snob who wrote this recently) Or maybe you need to jack a hospital to get some heath care? Maybe a gun might be useful.

No, in what should be a civilized dicussion, there is no reason to bring a gun other than to send a message that says loud and clear that you do not care for this Black man and in America white folks with guns can still send a powerful message. Think I am kidding? Now our president is talking that the public option may not happen, excuse me but without a public option where the hell is the reform?

Obama is no fool and I suspect deep in his heart he understands what those guns are telling us too. So what say you? Do you think its just a few random idiots or that the mobilization of folks with guns at these meetings is part of a deeper issue? Let me know, now off to shower and head out in the heat I go.

Maybe you should keep that to yourself

17 Aug

I am hardly a secretive person, after all I blog and at times I share things that even my best friend thinks is too much. I like Facebook and Twitter as much as the next person but I have noticed that more and more of the folks I know have a tendency to um…perhaps over share at times. Now before any of you in my real life who read this think that I am talking about you, let me state that I am not talking about any of my good friends. No, I am actually talking about folks I really don’t know well at all who use social media as a tool for letting it all hang out.

Look, I know how when you are having a rough moment it feels good to share on say Facebook, after all if you have a half-way decent friends list you may get instant replies and it feels good. But have you thought about what you are putting out there about yourself and how it could come back to haunt you? Let’s face it some companies actually do Google searches on perspective employees and I have heard of some that actually want to see your Facebook and Twitter pages. Now I will admit its a huge invasion of one’s privacy but sadly its the world we live in.

I will also say that whatever I put out in cyber space be it on this blog, Facebook, Twitter or a discussion board, I always think how would I feel if my Dad, pastor or boss were reading this? I actually have 2 of my board members as friends on Facebook and since they are essentially my bosses you can best believe I am always mindful of what I write.

So I write this quick post to say be mindful of what you put out there, because you never know who may see it and the impression it leaves. Truthfully I know some folks who based off what they post thanks to social media, I am not sure I want to know them. Yet by the same token I have met some really cool folks from online venues, a few who have become really dear friends.

So if you wouldn’t want your Mama, boss or anyone whose opinion might matter to see what you are writing maybe an old fashioned diary under the bed is a better idea.

Burnt Out

14 Aug

Maybe it’s because the dialogue around the health care issue is starting to get ugly (when will folks just get real and say the issue is the fact that a Black man is in charge? Quit pussyfooting around) or maybe its because work is getting crazy…in any event I am in a rare place where I almost don’t want to know what is going on in the world. I wake up listening to my local NPR affiliate station and generally in the evening I  watch the local news station; I have always been a news junkie but lately watching or hearing the news feels so heavy.

In November after the election, I was filled with so much hope for this nation. Now though I think we are on a one way course back to a dark place. Birthers, town hall folks….I was so saddened when I heard about a protester at one of these discussions that held a sign up (sorry too tired to link it) saying death to Obama, Michelle and their girls. What the fuck is wrong with people? Seriously, if I were Michelle Obama right about now I would be saying baby, you need to quit….do a Sarah Palin and just exit stage right.

I guess we ought to be lucky though that the First Lady does not think like me but I can only imagine if I find all this nastiness stressful, how hard must it be for their family? 

All this to say I am feeling burnt out on world events and happenings yet because of my work its hard to escape the ugliness that exists in the world. I see families daily in so much need, families mired in generational poverty that at times makes me feel so silly talking about my own financial woes here at BGIM. After all, while my financial situation is a tad shitty at the moment, fact is I write these posts from the comfort of my home that is mortgage free. My freezer is filled with good healthy food and while Visa, MasterCard and that bitch Sallie Mae want their money, all my basic needs are met. The work I do is often good at keeping me grounded and making sure I don’t wallow in self pity too long.

Nope, truth is I am burnt out, its strange because if I didn’t like blogging so much I would say its time to say good bye yet I do like blogging. But most of what I write is about current happenings so not sure what that means for the future of BGIM. Any ideas? Maybe more posts on the simple life in Maine?

Well, have a happy weekend! We are expecting a heatwave so I suspect I will be logging in plenty of time on the beach this weekend.

White Privilege is Real

11 Aug

Its a rare event..2 posts in 1 day but I really didn’t want to sleep on this. By now you may have heard about William Kostric, he’d be that fellow up here in my neck of the woods who decided to come out and protest President Obama’s stop in New Hampshire to talk health-care.  Obviously as the media tells us these town halls meetings have been getting a tad heated with the more conservative side getting down right loopy at times…folks talking about no one wanting their health-care rationed despite the fact that generally in this country, if you cease having a job that offers health insurance or you lose the ability to pay for your medical needs, that your coverage is indeed being rationed already. Yet that is whole other post.

No, Mister Kostric decided that things were not hot enough at these meetings without deciding to bring a little heat with him in the form of a 9 mm gun. Now Kostric was outside and apparently nowhere near Obama and according to Kostric in his chat with Chris Matthews he simply believes we should be armed. Again, I don’t even want to get into that at this time (sorry too tired) but am I the only one thinking had this been a Black man armed at a town-hall meeting even outside with a white president that the armed man might be a dead man? Or at the very least an injured or arrested man?

Look, the fact that Kostric thought it sane to bring a loaded gun to a demonstration is beyond crazy. Shit, all these folks screaming and hollering are starting to look crazy…where the fuck were they when Bush, Cheney and company were using the damned Constitution to wipe their asses? Seriously, for 8 years those fellas took away so many of our rights it wasn’t even funny and to boot, Bush was in charge when the economy started tanking. I’ll be honest I am not 100% happy with Obama, shit considering the mess we are in as a nation he is almost too moderate but he is hardly a Socialist.

I gotta be honest and the main point of my vent tonight is that once again we see white privilege at work…the only reason Kostric is chilling at home and giving interviews is because he is a white man. Now I know a lot of the folks who tend to listen to folks like Lou Dobbs and Glen Beck feel that white folks are getting the shaft in the era of Black man as president, but look when Harvard professors get arrested for not deferring to the police yet a white man shows up at town-hall meeting with the damn president of the United States strapped with a fucking 9 mm on his thigh and gets to spend the evening giving interviews afterwards…we have a long way to go with race relations in this country my friend. Sorry Lou and crew but white folks by and large still have privilege since even being a personal buddy of the president won’t stop you from getting arrested when you are Black.