Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why racism will (probably) never die

(This is something I wrote at work this morning. Yeah, you could be offended, but probably only if you don't actually read through the entire text. My suggestion is to read entirely and not partially.)

I see how people become racist.

Not saying it's correct, but I understand how it occurs.

For starters, there's the lady who slammed on her brakes in this morning's traffic, even though I wasn't tailgating her, preceded to flip me off through her side mirror and talk shit to me. (Yeah, I called her a bitch inside my vehicle and laughed and smiled at her. She eventually moved to let me pass, probably to take down my license plate number or something equally as "professional." [I really wanted to say "something equally as white," but I figured that might be offensive.]) She was white. But, that could just be a coincidence, though I don't believe in coincidences.

Then, there are (some of) the people I live with, whose style of cleanliness is sometimes so different from mine that I wonder whether I've slipped into another dimension. (No Twilight Zone.) Garbage left in the house to stink up the living room instead of being taken out, dishes left for days, dishes put into the dishwasher only to emerge with food caked on them, bathroom trash never taken out, hair left in the drain, the absence of everything and anything good smelling, no vacuuming (ever), no sweeping of the floor (ever), no mopping, no cleaning of the countertops... I could go on forever. Well, they are white. Another coincidence.

There's the people in supervisory positions I've had mucho trouble with, who aren't that qualified to hold the positions they do, one who was even fired for her lack of professionalism that she took care to extend my way. (And this time, I actually mean professional, not "white.") Yep, they were and are white.

White people are always the ones cutting me off in traffic, always the ones slamming on their brakes to try to make me hit them, they are always the ones snitching on anything that doesn't fit their mold of "appropriate." White girls were always the ones at school getting drunk and screaming their way down Museum Rd., always getting drunk and throwing up on the sidewalk. White people are always dirty, white people always argue with the police. White people are always awkward, white people always need you to like them.

All white people are exactly as I just said.

Do I believe the generalizations I just listed? Not at all. Because they are just that--generalizations. You can insert a different race and different circumstances, and have an entirely new set of generalizations that seem to fit that race.

I listed all of these because I understand how people are prejudiced; how they become racist. The generalizations I listed are all things I've happened to observe or experience with individual people, all who happened to be white.

Being the knowing person that I am, I can separate individual white people from the entire group, just like I can do with any other group. But while I can do that, I understand how some people cannot--or choose not to--do the same.

If a person is continually exposed to negative experiences that all come from the same stimuli, they are going to be conditioned to believe that spoken stimuli will always cause them discomfort or negative experiences. They will lose the ability to tell anything otherwise. It's psychology, baby. If I pet someone's dog, and their dog bites me, I might be scared of their particular dog, but maybe not all dogs. But then say I meet another dog and that dog bites me. And then I see another dog and it bites me too. It's not going to take long before I associate the negative experience with all dogs, and probably not long before I decide that I don't like dogs all together. Is it right to judge all dogs based on the three I had bad experiences with? Is it fair? It may not be either, but it's going to seem rational to me, based on my experiences. Did I consider what breed of dog I was dealing with, or what the home conditions of that dog are like? Did I consider the age of the dog, or prior circumstances of the dog? No, I didn't, and logically, I wouldn't care. All I would know is that dog = bad, no matter what type of dog it is; no matter where it came from.

Although I like to consider myself knowing and educated, an intellectual, even, I have to fight against my natural human condition and remind myself when my white housemate is nasty as fuck or when a white sorority girl's biggest problem is a date for formal, or when that white, troll looking bitch with the muppet haircut taunts me while I'm just trying to drive to work, when all these things happen, I have to remind myself that it's not all white people. The same way that I have to remind myself that not all Asian people are smart, not all Black people are rappers, and not all short people are irritating.* But, it's certainly easy to forget this higher thinking when one particular stimuli offers the same outcome.

It might not be right, but it certainly is logical.

*--this has yet to refuted, but I put it in there for good measure.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm tired

--I was in Tennessee this past weekend. I've never been to TN, so I was excited to mark this off my list of places I've been. No, I'm not going to write about it right now. It deserves its own post. But it was beautiful. I promise you I'll document it for you soon. I even took my laptop with me to the cabin, knowing damn well that I wasn't going to be in the mood to write anything. When I'm around my family, I just want to be around them, falling back into the familiar role that I always do when they are around.

--I bought a rosary while shopping in TN. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they are supposed to be sacrilegious if worn for fashion purposes*, but all the Hispanic Catholic kids I see wear them, and they look cool. Katharine in Cruel Intentions wore one**, and she was hot... and yeah, so what if I was a Sarah Michelle Gellar stan back then... I still wasn't biased. She was fucking hot. Anyhow, I bought one out of this really earthy, calming store (Earthbound Trading Company... if I had my own place right now, it would essentially be a recreation of this store. I felt like I was at home). I like the way it looks. (80s Madonna cool but classy Malorie chic with the earthy tan tone.) I like the way it sounds (the rosary, not the sentence preceding this one). I like it.

--While under the influence of something-that-shall-not-be-named, I'm pretty sure I almost accidentally told him I loved him. Though it wouldn't have been an accident, and it's no secret. However, this would have been highly unfortunate, and probably would have killed the mood. Or maybe that's just what I tell myself. Who knows. I'm glad I didn't say it. (I fought against my inebriation.) Because love is just not the right word. Prince knew it was too weak to be used for definition purposes.

--Moving is happening. It's happening soon. Who knows where I'll go from where I'll be soon. The only thing I know is that I'll be moving forward. With that knowledge, I need knowledge of nothing else.

*--no, I didn't look this up. But I always remember this as if someone told me, or as if I heard it on a tv special. So, Google be damned--it's late, and I'm not looking it up right now.
**--linking, be damned. It's late. If you don't know that lovely 90s pop culture reference, it's the movie Cruel Intentions, created from the movie Liaisons Dangereux (and my French dictionary is packed away, so that could be incorrectly written or spelled). The 90s version--SMG and Ryan Phillippe (fucking spoiled rich white boy hotness); the Frenchy title--Glenn Close and someone else. Sorry, it was easier to type all that than to link it. Don't ask.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"leave the light on, I'll never give up, on you..."

Rolling with it, iPod in ear, giving you my thoughts as they come to me...

--I can't wait to live alone. No, better than that: I need to live alone. Maybe I'm just like my mother... she's never satisfied. (Prince, you know.) Things are never clean enough for me, never right enough for me, unless I do them myself. I didn't realize until now just how much I loved my dorm room my last year of college. Like a little studio apartment, it had everything I needed, a nice view, and it was always clean. I would come home from class, turn on that low light, put on my Norah Jones or whatever was suiting my mood, light that oil burner, and it was perfect. It always smelled like me (good) when I got back from class. When I returned, it was exactly as I left it. I miss that.

I've been in this room since December. This is not my room. This is the place I sleep, despite my attempts to make it feel like mine. Partially, it does. When I open the door after being gone for a minute, I definitely exhale, knowing that I'm back in my space. However, despite my many attempts, it's still not mine. I just vacuumed my room tonight, and I'm still picking up globs of hair from the white girl who lived in here before me. Like I said, this is not my room. (You know my relationship with hair. Part of me gags whenever I find more hair. How fucking resilient is her damn hair?)

--Listening to Any Given Thursday by John Mayer right now. I haven't listened to John much lately, not because of his interesting commentary on having a white supremacist-esque penis, or Jessica Simpson's cooch being like napalm. (Shit, I think that's a compliment.) But because listening to him used to put me in this... place. A place that is beyond words, beyond real explanation. (But yet, I try.) John Mayer was pretty much the voice of my late adolescence and early adulthood. But listening to him is so familiar, like speaking to an old, good, good friend. This is one of my favorite albums. I don't have many albums that I enjoy entirely, but this one is up there, along with Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. (Don't get me started.)

--I miss my iTunes. I miss having a computer with sufficient memory. I miss uploading music onto my iPod. Hold on, technology. I will make a comeback.

--5 year plan: everyone should have one. I'm making one, slowly but surely. It's in the nascent stages as of right now, but I've got some ideas. (Become a Mac and leave the PC life behind. Get an iPhone. [maybe.] Stop working with kids in the capacity I'm in right now. Get into publishing. Go back to school. For something. Invest.)

--a line so gorgeously simple I had to stop and think about it: I'd climb inside the skies to be with you (Norah Jones, "Painter Song")... really? Can you say you'd climb inside the skies to be with someone? I can.

--saving grace of NY for the day: lovers, that bless the dark, on benches in Central Park.... it's autumn in New York, it's good to live it, again... (Frank Sinatra, "Autumn in New York")... Frank Sinatra could save anything for me... his voice makes you long for places you've been, places you've never dreamed of, places you've never seen. This song is so rueful, so... Frank. When I heard this line for the first time in a long time, it reminded me that I was in Central Park, and I sat on one of those benches... and once again, New York regained some of that mysterious glory it held for me not too long ago. I'll make another go at it one of these days and see how it makes me feel.

--I'm so good at forgetting, and I quit every game I play, but forgive me, love, I can't turn and walk away, not this way... (John Mayer, "Back to You")

That's my cue...

back to me, I know that it comes, back to me... and doesn't it piss you off, your will is not as strong, as it used to be?

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Some people believe that I love you is the sincerest compliment they can hear, so they wait for it, growing agitated if they don't hear it, or they wait to drop it, thinking that the earth will shift when they do. Or that their sincerest feelings will be understood if they do.

Well, I love you is just a phrase, comprised of words. We are all capable of speech, and anyone can say it. Talk is cheap and bullshit is free. I think I believe that the sincerest compliment someone can pay you is when they mirror part of their life to represent your own. That's no light thing, changing part of you to reflect someone else you hold in such high esteem.

I'm not talking about changing yourself because you're unhappy or anything like that, but something wholesome, organic, even. Something simple and true, coming from your heart.

So just know that when I ride home in the interstate semi-darkness, listening to techno and tearing up, I'm not sad at all. I'm tearing up because in those few minutes, you are dancing around the space in my head, your hand up in the air, fist pumping around, big goofy you smile on your face.

You know, techno's not bad at all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Jersey & New York, part II

Being that I am never a woman of simply one emotional state, I am here to offer you some of my favorite highlights from my time spent in NJ and NY. (Though, I must make this shit quick... the syrup from this morning's pancakes is probably drying on my dishes as we speak...)

  • Meeting Chavon: We (up until this impromptu vacation) had never met before (in person, that is), so imagine my parents' surprise when I told them I was flying to Jersey to hang with someone I'd never met before. (They understood.) Something in my spirit compelled me, and I just knew she would be cool peeps--and she definitely, definitely was (and is)! We talked about some of everything, from relationships, to traveling, to our exes (who share the same zodiac sign, go figure!), to the craziness of this spur-of-the-moment vacation. She took me all around Jersey and New York, and even walked the Brooklyn Bridge with me, though she's not a fan of heights! To imagine that we had never hung out, or done any talking other than blogging and emailing, or that we didn't technically "know" each other, and that our time spent together went off without a hitch might surprise some, but it didn't surprise me at all. I told you... my spirit compelled me.

---->The "Modern Day Matchmaker" event: I'm sure the rest of the event (the part I didn't see because we left early) was probably cool, but I never recovered from the late entry (the late evening, Manhattan-trapped heat + standing on my feet in flat sandals for 15+ minutes had me feeling slightly dizzy and nauseous, plus I hate breaking your neck to get somewhere on time only to have the event start way late), nor the bougie chick/staff member at the front door (when I held my wrist out so she could put the wrist band on, you know, standard for any club or event, she said, oh, I'm not putting that on for you, with just a hint of bougie bitch please. I felt my Dad's side of the family beginning to seep from my pores.*) That all being said, the idea of the event was better than the reality, though I did get a chance to see two of my favorite bloggers, Belle from A Belle in Brooklyn and The Champ from Very Smart Brothas. (If you've never heard of, or visited either of these two sites... stop reading my shit right now and go check them out... then make sure you come back to finish reading my shit.) That alone was worth the $25 ticket. Okay, that's a lie, but I was very excited to see them, and I wish I could have seen them longer. I just wanted to hear them speak, not hear other people talk about the "crisis" of Black relationships. While leaving the event, I decided that I don't ever want to write specifically about relationships.

  • New Jersey transit/the New York subway: while riding the train from Jersey to New York, I found myself looking at the cables hanging along the train track, and being marveled that humankind could create such a masterpiece of transit. Here at home, I don't use public transportation, so when I travel someplace like NJ & NY, I am always fascinated. Plus, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how anyone could learn all the rails and the stops. That's a lot of shit to know. But my favorite is always the subway. I am always duly fascinated by the different people, the different looks, the different accents... people who can stand up on the subway without holding on to any pole or leaning on anything without falling over deserve the Nobel Prize. (I can barely stand up straight while holding on to the pole.) Getting on the car and trying to find a seat reminds me of childhood musical chairs, and I will admit, I love the rush of air and the sound of the car's wheels grinding against the track as the subway comes in... I'm feeling rather nostalgic right now...

---> interesting characters: From the little Asian boy with the braces asking me if he could take a picture of my feet for a science project (thank God our stop had come, I told him no, smiled, and got off the car... I couldn't figure out whether he was being serious or whether it was some kind of weird joke) to the homeless man in Penn Station who criticized us for not giving him money (I gave him thirty-five cents so he would step out of our personal space bubble... he was cocky as a mu'fucka, believe that), my trip was full of interesting characters. Most cities have them... if you haven't found your interesting character yet, just go sit out in the park for a while... you'll find them.

  • The Colombian BBQ: from being welcomed so warmly (though I was definitely a stranger there, I didn't feel like one at all), to delicious food, plenty of beer, amazing conversation with a fellow I'm-not-waiting-on-people-to-come-along-for-me-to-have-a-good-time traveler, the hammock (as soon as I have two trees and two nickels to rub together, I want a hammock), my first time ever seeing fireflies (I had a spiritual experience watching these little lights pinpoint the night air... I forgot they were bugs), that damn cake (if I hadn't been slightly tipsy and full of beer, I probably would have eaten half the cake), hanging out with Chavon, her friend, and his friends (I loved them!), plus hanging out with Hispanic people (mmmm mmmm, I loves me some Hispanic people!)... this was one of the best days I've had in a while. No drama, no crazy people, no irritation, nothing but fun, intelligence, and some funny ass people. That's all I want.

*-I credit my Dad's side of the family with my (at times) short temper and ability to speak before even realizing I've opened my mouth. My debating ability also comes from this side of the fam.

New Jersey & New York, part I*

I made the mistake of telling some people I was going out of town for a few days. And telling them where I was going.

No, nothing bad happened to me like this poor woman (gotta watch that FB, guys), but something bad did happen.

The people I told got hyped up.

I don't do hype, I seriously don't. I had to wait until after everyone had raved over The DaVinci Code before I could read it, because I was afraid that it was much ado about nothing. (It was an amazing read, though--I couldn't put it down.) I don't like Kobe Bryant, because he's so hyped up that he's started to believe his own hype. (As I've said before, he is a phenomenal player, but in interviews, he seems rather cocky, like he's on his own left nut. He's hyped up.) I don't like trendy fashions, usually (though I want a jumpsuit!), and I don't see a lot of movies in theaters because I just can't get past the hype.

Well, New York City is one of THE most hyped places that probably exists. In saying this, don't get me wrong--it is a great place, but it's so hyped usually because Displaced New Yorkers and Wannabe New Yorkers miss it so much and want it so much that they preach about it to anyone they can find. Have you ever made the mistake of saying something, positive or negative, about New York, not knowing you were in the company of DNYs or WNYs? Good luck getting out of that conversation.

Well, I told a few people I was going to New Jersey and New York... and the response I got was overwhelming... for New York. I had friends and kids at my job alike telling me where I needed to eat, what I needed to see, telling me maybe I'd find love like Sex in the City, etc. etc. etc.

It got to be a bit overwhelming. A bit is an understatement. It got to the point where I started getting annoyed at people only asking me about New York, or only wanting to talk about New York. (Yes, I actually got annoyed because peeps were treating Jersey like the red-headed stepchild.)

You see, New York is one of those hyped-up things that I don't particularly care for. It's not the place itself, it's all.the.damn.hype. From kids at my job talking about New York day in and day out, to people pretty much proclaiming it to be Heaven on Earth, it's just too much for me. Not even because I live in the South and espouse (some) Southern charm. But just because I have problems with people pledging blind allegiance to ONE particular thing. It would be like me saying that having a dog is the best thing ever, and nothing compares to having a dog, and gosh I miss having a dog, although I've never tried any other animal. I just find it illogical to lay claim to one thing without having tried a number of other things first. This is the same reason why I do not participate in any one religion. How can I say this is the one if I haven't tried anything else?**

So, I'm on vacation, running through the streets with my friend, the lovely lady of Euphoric Ears, and I'm finding that my time spent in New York is not what it was the first time I went... let me explain.

The first time I went to New York was during my last Spring Break in college. I planned the trip without telling anyone, I didn't have Facebook (I remember those days), and I was still deep in thought over someone who hailed from the Empire State. At that time, American Gangster had been out, as well as the song "Hello Brooklyn," which I loved as soon as I heard it. The fact that all this was coinciding, along with the fact that I'd never been to New York before was more than enough for me to be excited. At this time, I was far away from the people in high school who dripped New York with every breath, and there wasn't much NY hype for me to be annoyed with. (I was at UF after all... most of the people I met there were from Miami and dripping Miami hype, though this never annoyed me... probably because Miami's in my state. No, that's not why. Get back to me on that.)

Anyhow, I remember the experience... it was sensational. I soaked everything up with my eyes and ears... the sounds, the way people spoke, the way the subway sounded when the cars rushed in, the way people drove, the way it looked (the ugliness of concrete beauty), etc. I was whipped around by my cousin and her husband, and it felt so... I don't have the right word for it, but it felt different to be an anonymous bystander, observing the city.

Fast forward two years.

This time, it was too hyped for me. I longed for that anonymity of before, when no one knew I was going, and I was free to observe and marvel on my own, with no one judging what I found to be beautiful or fascinating. This time, I think I felt pressure... not real pressure, but pressure because I found I was stuck thinking about everyone else's expectations for my time in the city. If this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry. It barely makes sense to me.

I can't even go on about it, because I feel like I'm being sucked into the vortex of my own confusion and disappointment--I don't know what happened, but Sade was right--it's never, as good as the first time...

That all being said, I silently clung to the red-headed stepchild that was Jersey. To me, Jersey was no stepchild, but rather, a friend. I was fascinated by the streets, the way the homes looked, the driving style, the gas attendants, the lingo (motherfucker was clearly the word, and I can fuck with this), and something I can't put my finger on... was it the fact that it wasn't New York that I was clinging to?

I don't know, but looking back now, the best times I had were in Jersey. Riding on the subway is fun, in an wow-I've-only-seen-this-on-tv-but-it-really-exists type of way, but curling up in a hammock in the darkness, watching the fireflies light the night, and listening to friends recount stories of camping and parties, all while listening to jazzy rap and Prince and sipping beer?

The concrete jungle ain't got shit on that.

*-Though I consider this Part I, there's no guarantee that there will be a Part II... it just depends on when other emotions surface.
**--I believe in God, sans all the religious takes on Him. I know He's real, and that's pretty much all that matters to me.

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