This is a short one but I want to invite commentary. We are going to the Inauguration next month and I'm having a hard time figuring out how to support my road dog, Obama, while protesting Rev. Warren. Any suggestions?
I'm not much into snail mail but between my Newsweek, J.Crew catalog, and law school bulletins, I've been paying attention to my mail box more than usual as of late. So the other day, I realized that I didn't receive any mail for a while and there wasn't a holiday or a Sunday. Just a regular week. So I asked the mailman the next time I saw him:
"I guess I'm not getting much mail these days," I mentioned including a half-assed chuckle.
As he held up a mega stack of letters, cards, bills and catalogs, all for me, he said "I didn't deliver any mail yesterday. Took the day off."
"You can just do that? I mean, do they get a sub for you?"
"No, I just didn't deliver the mail. Didn't feel like it."
As I am one of the more polite players you may know, I decided to leave it alone, but the conversation that followed in my head, went like this:
"I don't feel like eating salad either, but I also don't like wearing sweats to the club! And you see how this mess is labeled "Time Sensitive"? That's because my paycheck is in that envelope. But, it's all good. I'll wait for you to feel like delivering the mail. And what about Cliff from Cheers? Can I get that dude to deliver my ish? I mean, dude really was serious about the mail. Don't you all take an oath about rain, sleet, and Oakland gangstas?"
I have a lot of interesting friends. And in all honesty, as time moves forward and one loses touch with some folks, when you meet up again, you realize how wack or fantastic some of these folks might be or maybe have been all along. Clearly, I didn't go to my high school reunion; who knows what shocks I would have been in for, or maybe not shocked at all. A few years before my reunion, I ran into a classmate. He said that he was in the process of applying to doctoral programs so that when the reunion came along all those haters would have to call him "Doctor." So I was wondering, was he always that wack?
With Facebook, I have been in touch with quite a few folks from back in the day. Folks who I used to dance and perform with. Folks who I went to undergrad and grad school with. Folks who I was in the Peace Corps with. They have families now and live on farms in Oregon or in Mormon country or in the Big Apple.
The little "status update" option on Facebook proved to be extremely interesting during the election. I saw a lot of my vocal homies supporting Obama and our gay brothers and sisters (I am trying to catch "Milk" by the way, so holler if you want to see it or dialog after). But every once in a while, I would catch a Bible verse in the update or a statement about God's will and war or someone's support for Prop 8. And I began wondering, were they always this wack?
The gay marriage issue is extremely interesting to me, partly to do with curiosity in people of color's attitude towards homosexuals. I've also always been a particularly spiritual person, mostly undercover. I pray on occasion, look towards Africa when it comes to certain ceremonies and life transitions, and respect Ramadan and Hanukkah. I went to Catholic and Lutheran schools for a good chunk of time and taught Sunday school. I have a Torah, Qu'ran, and Bible sitting on my book shelf, all well-worn. My partner chants each morning and attends native ceremony regularly. We are definitely spirituality junkies. But for me, being a person of color and spiritual at the same time, looks particularly interesting these days.
I asked my students last month why they think their parents were in support of banning gay marriage. The young people (all Black or Brown) said things like people of color suffered for a long time and gay people needed to suffer for longer; or that their parents were really worried about the school deal; or that their religion said so. And I thought, wow, those Prop 8 supporters really put their efforts in the right place. They knew folks of color would come out for Obama and their efforts in those communities, unlike the opposition. The young people said that they never saw any No on Prop 8 folks in their neighborhoods, but a grip of Prop 8 supporters. I was shocked to hear that. And with the funnyordie.com folks putting out that video, just too little, too late, still not reaching these communities, it is curious how we are ever going to reach folks of color to understand cyclical oppression. With the millions of dollars that the Mormons, for example, put into getting folks of color to vote yes on Prop 8, will people of color be allowed to join that church now, even set foot in a Mormon temple?
When I was teaching 10th grade World Studies, some of the teachers and I would argue about a particular theme--the oppressed become the oppressors. They were really set on teaching that, using Israel as an example, but implying that all folks of color would eventually be oppressors once they are given the opportunity. It sounded like an excuse to keep that Rudyard Kipling foot on Africa or free trade agreements in Latin America. They would argue that oppression is therefore okay, since folks need to put in their place. Enter capitalism and its inherent ways of organizing people.
And that's what we've missed: Christianity, Islam, and just about every religion and spirituality in the world are, by origin, fiscally and socially socialist! Jesus hated rich players. Ramadan happens so that people can truly understand the plight of the poor and hungry. Lest we forget tithing, shiva, and the plethora of other sharing traditions. We lost that. We can find it again and lose some of this wackness. Tis the season.
It took a while (obviously) to think about the best way to wrap up the election. It was pretty exciting and I couldn't be happier but there were definitely a few moments of thinking this might be all bad...for Black people and therefore everyone. So here are a few things that I've heard or noticed, for your consideration:
Some Election Considerations
We aren't post-racial. I can't even think of when that will be or if we even want that. But the implication that things are equal now, is so false. As Chris Rock said, things aren't equal until Black people are allowed to suck like white people. So when we have a Black George Bush, things might be headed towards equality.
Someone on O'Reilly said that since Obama got all these folks of color out to vote, he should be the one to blame for Prop 8 passing since Black and Brown folks voted for that. We weren't the only ones. Last I checked (from my Mormon classmates), Black and Brown folks aren't allowed to be Mormon. Besides, we aren't the voting majority in Cali. With that said, as a people, we did vote for that mess with some wack excuses like making homosexuals pay their dues or still buying into that schooling mess. It's disappointing and embarrassing, to say the least.
Oh, Sarah Palin. I wish she would run in 2012 and make things easier for Obama's second run. I was shaking my head watching her talk about a "brutal campaign" in front of a turkey slaughter. By the way, I know they have to kill the animals, I just didn't know they stuck the turkey's head into some cone deal until the head was lopped off. I prefer the Nicaraguan machete method, myself. Anyway, it was nice to hear some Republicans talk about how ridiculous she is. But I do wish I heard more about how her pick was a poor reflection on McCain, either in vetting a potential candidate or standing up to his campaign advisors.
Why was the convicted felon Senate race up in the Alaska so close? I mean, if folks are down to elect cons, I have a ton of names I could throw out who would do a way better job than Uncle Ted. Could you imagine Leonard Peltier in the Senate? Or Tookie as Mayor of LA (before the state murdered him). How about Mumia for Speaker of the House and Assata for Secretary of State. Now that's what I call diplomacy!
I think the most heartbreaking part of the election season was listening to the variety of terms we can now put in the racist column. Although they stopped short of calling Barack and Michelle "n*ggas," they might as well; there were just too many instances of letting us know what Black people are not supposed to be and what they can not be trusted to do. Here is a list of some of the racial-coded terms we can now add to our list, if they weren't there already: -elitist -Muslim -Socialist -Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack, and Walmart Mom -pro-America -terrorist -middle-class -hard-working part of America -radical -well-spoken
I was pretty entertained by Al-Qaeda supposedly calling Obama a house n*gga ("he does the bidding of whites"). I guess we'll just have to wait and see. But I do have to say that Obama is a politician, not Jesus. He can't cure AIDS as one voter proclaimed (thanks for your vote, although misguided) and he won't be able to cure any other social ill with his signature here and there. Although I too am hoping for great things, I really don't know how much one can do in a racist country, in a racist system. I appreciate his efforts, putting his and his family's future on the line, and that's what makes me emotional. Not emotional like Oprah crying on some strangers shoulder in the park on election night, but emotional none the less.
Sorry about the final hour post, but here are the last few. And then, go vote, people!
Prop 1: VOTE NO This is that monorail, from that song, in that musical, that I can't remember the name. So it would build an electric train from San Francisco to LA. It would only take a few hours to get back and forth and would not harm the environment as planes and regular trains do. But it costs billions of dollars, only about a tenth of which would be covered by bonds. Didn't Gov. Arnie say we have some sort of state budget deficit? And unlike years ago, the governor isn't blaming it on immigrants but we have a deficit no less and this thing is hella bucks. And it would take ten years to break even. So nevermind.
Prop 3: VOTE YES Okay, those Jamie Lee Curtis ads got to me a bit. Cute little kids singing a Beattle's song. Can't go wrong with that. But in all honesty, this wouldn't cost us anything since it is bond money (which is why I'm confused when the against people say it would). And Children's Hospital does some really fantastic things.
Prop 7: VOTE NO It sounds great: renewable energy for all! But for starters, we are moving in that direction without this mandate. Actually, companies have until 2010 to do this anyway. Since it would make electricity more expensive, PG&E would monopolize the market and we'll end up spending hella money since the price for energy would be capped at today's inflated rate. So nah...
Prop 9: VOTE NO This one is a bit misleading (what a surprise!). It says that victims of crimes will be notified when the person convicted of that crime is released or up for parole. Thing is, that already happens. So it would be more money, for what, exactly? I get that victims of crimes are forever scarred and this may be a helpful way to help with the healing, but we all have to understand that the criminal "justice" system is extremely flawed and we can't continue to punish people after they have served their punishment, assuming they even committed the crime they were locked up for.
Prop 10: VOTE YES Let the Hybrid owners have a couple dollars back. Well, let us all be able to afford those things and other energy-efficient machines. And this doesn't cost us anything because it's all in bonds.
Prop 11: VOTE YES Redistricting. Currently, state elected officials are allowed to form their own districts. So if I were running for state government (hint, hint), I would draw a cricle around Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond. Much love and respect to Barbara Lee, but she isn't losing any time soon, especially since I just described her district. So Prop 11 creates a group of regular folks who will put that together.
Prop 12: VOTE YES This is bond money for veterans. Bonds don't cost us anything, for one. And, although I hate war, especially the pre-emptive kinds, I really think that the soldiers and veterans are treated like crap, even having to buy their own toilet paper while they are in combat. It's really interesting how folks are quick to deploy these guys and could care less about what happens to them when they are there and when they come back. So this is bond money for the veterans. Sounds good.
Prop 6 gives more money to law enforcement and tags on a little something something to increase punishment for so-called gang-related crimes. Let me tell you: if any state entity needs less money, it's the po-po! Second, if those pricks could identify a "gang" or something "gang-related" with any ounce of accuracy, I might be down. Actually, probably not.
When I was teaching high school in a large, suburban high school in the Bay, we were having an issue with fights. Some of the teachers freaked out and asked for the cops to come to a staff meeting to ease our minds. "What should we do!?" the panicked teachers begged to know. "The gangs are here from Oakland!" The officer told the crowd of two-hundred teachers, administrators and staff the following: "if his name is Juan and he is wearing red, send him to me." That's it? Really? Ummm, racist! Classist. Homophobic! Dumb. And I'm not paying any more for that.
It's always good to know how the police defines things. In this case "gang," happens to include any group of three or more folks of color. And for the people on the Califorina Gang Database, it's especially boo-boo since they don't even know they are on that list until they are in a courtroom for swiping a Snicker bar and the prosecutor is like, "hold up, you're on the gang database so this crime is gang-related." And dude gets six months. This is real. It has happened. A lot.
The problem gets even worse when we look at how people get on the database. It is a completely subjective, almost arbritrary system. So Officer Pig sees someone who s/he thinks is in a gang. Perhaps dude is talking to someone on the corner. Officer Pig is sitting in her/his patrol car, could be fifty yards away, and pulls out a camera and takes a picture. It's too far to hear them so Pig writes down a name, "Flaco," figuring that should cover it. And that's the beginning to Flaco's file. That weekend, Flaco goes to a family party. Who knows, they could all be gang members, thinks Pig and s/he takes pictures of everyone at the party. And that's how tens of thousands of Californians are on that list. Some of you all might want to stay away from my ass.
So if that didn't convince you, know that Lee Baca, LA County Sheriff, supports this thing. And he might be the wackest.
Imagine drug offenders go to prison and instead of getting access to more drugs and their addictions getting worse, they go to rehab. What a world! So that's Prop 5. Currently, some drug offenses will get you rehab with a reduced sentence or no sentence at all. Prop 5 expands the list of drugs that fall under this list (and amounts). Of course, these are non-violent drug offenses, so nothing involving weapons, etc. And this does not apply to folks who have been to prison before.
This one is pretty easy so I really want to drive a few points home so that you don't ignore this one. As we know, the majority of prisoners are Black and Brown men (somewhere in the 80 percentile). The majority of them are in prison for non-violent drug offenses (about 60%). Once someone goes to jail, s/he has something around an 87% chance of going back. Finally, a Black man between the ages of 18-25, is six times more likely to be in prison; for Brown men it's four. We also have a major prison overcrowding situation in California. Instead of investing money in schools or rehab, the state keeps building more prisons. If you add up all the CSUs and UCs, you still wouldn't have the amount of prisons and jails in the state. With the Prison Industrial Complex, schools and neighborhoods have become basically a pipeline into the prisons.
If that doesn't convince you, let Hollywood try to convince you:
"Blood In, Blood Out: Bound by Honor"--Meeklo's story should do it "Mi Familia"--Jimmy Smits' character's story "American Me"--Damn, that entire movie "Boyz in the Hood"--when Furious breaks down how buying houses leads to poor neighborhoods
Currently, a teenager (and I believe the age is 13), can see a doctor or health care worker without her/his parents knowing. Again, I'm not sure, but I believe that is the same age in which a teenager can seek an abortion without parental consent. If it isn't 13, then it's 15, but I'm pretty sure it is 13. Regardless, teens can currently seek an abortion without a guardian's approval. So Prop 4 says that the doctor, not the teen, has to tell the guardian within 48 hours of the abortion. So a young person can schedule and discuss the abortion sans guardian but the guardian will be notified 48 hours before the abortion, and can persuade or dissuade the young person in whichever way.
I have been a middle and high school teacher for a number of years and during that time I have had the uncomfortable task of teaching sex ed to young people, who frankly, knew a whole helluva lot more than my naive ass did. I'll keep that first part real. But if I was somewhat blind, no one was more blind than the guardians. I can't tell you how many meetings I've had with guardians about not wanting their 15-year old to hear..."penis"...because little Jimmy wasn't interested in those things yet. Ummm...okay. And I saw little Jimmy doing some bump and grind outside my classroom, but whatever.
So I guess you're wondering why I would say to vote no on something that would require someone to tell the parents what is going on. It's easy. When little Jimmy's guardians were sitting there saying how they wanted to keep him "virginal," I didn't say jack. Because that wasn't my job. When I say that wasn't my job, I'm not saying anything about snitching because, keep it real, half of teaching is snitching. My job wasn't to mend poor communication in a family. Could you imagine blurting out, "well Jimmy does all sorts of things and has like five STIs! I mean, you should know that. Everyone here knows that." What do I look like? I would feel bad for a doctor whose patient doesn't talk to her parents, to be the one to deliver a message that may sound like this: "This is Dr. Hoy and your daughter has been here to see more for the past three months. She has been talking to me and not you, because she feels you are too rigid. Well, that isn't the point, but that's what she said. Anyway, it's Tuesday today and she is having an abortion on Thursday. I'm just hollering so you can know that, but regardless, she can still have the abortion.[pause for effect] Yes, I'm sure you're a nice person and a great listener...Right, right...Me neither...You can say that again...Well, you guys have a lot to talk about. Talk to you later."
Honestly, this is a bit tough because I think communication in families is extremely important. But my family was on a total other level with the communication. I mean, I knew way too much. My dad worked for Planned Parenthood for a while and even before that, he let us know the real deal. I knew what was up when I was about eight! I didn't know what my friends were up to, but I knew what was out there. I didn't know much about, shall we say, tricks and strange names for ordinary acts, like those kids do, but I knew what I needed to know. I would love it if all families communicated like that. But they don't and no external party can make it that way.
So if that doesn't work, here go some other reasons:
The Spears: Jamie-Lynn gets pregnant. Mom writes a book about her ordeal. Mom's on the best-sellers list. Lots wrong in there. I mean, clearly she can put her thoughts out there. Can she do that with her daughters?
Sarah Palin: I'm just thinking about Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin and the doctor that would make that call to Mrs. Pro-America, and having to explain how abstinence-only education doesn't work, clearly! And that poor doctor would get in some argument about moose-hunting and Russia and just hang up. Poor guy.
I need to take a break from serious election commentary. I just can't stop watching this: http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/update-palin-rap/773781/
That is some funny mess. I just keep laughing and laughing although at times, I get a little sad. I'm not sure if I am sad about my stand-up comedy career being all of two weeks long (okay, a little longer than that. Point is, I'm not doing it anymore) and watching SNL take it away as of late. Or if I'm thinking, dang, she might be president and she is absoltely ridiculous and everyone knows it. But, I'm really happy for the people at SNL but then again making fun of Sarah Palin is hella easy. Biden, Todd Palin, McCain, hell even Gwen Ifill..., okay Obama too...all funny bits. I've also watched that Al Smith dinner thing a few times. They were pretty funny too, except when McCain tried to make a joke about ACORN and it was like, really dog, give it a rest. Don't get me started on this ACORN mess, by the way. Okay, real quick. If Mickey Mouse shows up to vote, let the mouse vote. He's in McCain's target age group anyway so he should stop complaining!
Back to SNL. I am a fan, like most people, of everything from Gumby to the Mary Catherine Gallagher. And then they just sort of fell off. But watching Todd hella getting down...I mean, he even makes it rain at the end. And then the moose gets shot and I'm just thinking about Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Not to mention Amy Poehler, about to give birth, and hella rapping and working the stage. I admit that my smile fades when the camera pans over to Palin during "all the mayors in the house, put your hands up." I really wish she didn't have rhythm too. Oh well. But my biggest wish is that in a few weeks, we won't have anymore Sarah Palin jokes since she will be going back to Alaska and taking care of her business over there.
I am a little mad that Oprah beat me to the punch on this one. So Prop. 2 says that for hens, veal, and pregnant pigs, their cages or pens have to be large enough for them to spread their wings and turn around. They will not be cage-free; the cage is only a bit larger. To keep it real, Cali doesn't have any veal and very few pig farms so we are only really talking about hens and eggs. The opposition says that it will cost them too much money and with the competition with Iowa's eggs, California farmers will go out of business. I hear that and I would be down if we weren't talking about humanity, something I don't believe you can put a price tag on. That's first for me.
But I'm also trying to put a budget together (like many of the homies out there) so it is really important to consider how much more money we are talking about. If it means that we have to make a real effort to buy California eggs, even if they will be something like $0.12 more per dozen (really, that's about it), I think it is worth it. In all honesty, I already buy cage-free eggs, so I'm paying about $1.50 more per dozen. I don't anticipate switching over to the more humane regular eggs, thereby putting the cage-free farmers out of business, in case anyone was concerned about that.
It would also mean that other states will follow the lead. I'm sure eventually we will move to getting rid of the cages; if you've ever compared prices with cage-free eggs, you know you are definitely paying more for those cage-free joints. But only 5% of consumers buy those. The more people who buy them, the lower the prices will be. And if in the end, all eggs and meat are cage-free and free range and AFFORDABLE, how is that a problem?
I am definitely biased. As many of you know, I was a vegan for a long time and even though I am not anymore, it does take a minute for me to be settled with the idea of chowing down on a steak. I eat meat about once a week or less but I really love cheese. I'm still stuck on tofu and milk and protein alternatives. The switch had a lot to do with the cost of being vegan, financially and mentally, always thinking about if I had enough protein or calcium that day. That's brain space and stacks that I definitely don't have, with grad school and all. But, who knows, one day, I may be back. The choice for me had a lot to do with my spirituality: how the animals lived and were killed, not wanting to put such bad energy in my body. Thus, I now do the best I can with the cage-free, free range stuff, when I can and try not to trip when I can't.
So if that didn't convince you, here go some alternatives.
Housewife in you: If Oprah said it and she isn't even in California, then it must be important, right? We can ignore the fact that she had Arnie and Maria Shriver on the show when he was running for governator. In that case, I was hella hot since that really solidified his governorship in a state that she doesn't even live in most of the time! But she balanced it out when she endorsed Obama. And she is redeeming herself here, with Prop. 2. Yes, again in a state that she doesn't spend most of her time, but understanding it may affect federal commerce and other individual states sometime in the future.
Charlotte's Web: You know when you read that book you couldn't mess with bacon for like a week. Go with that feeling. Now, the pig will be killed anyway, but imagine a place where the pig has homies on the farm, gets to wander around, literally, in a circle, communicate...perhaps with his homie living in a web...What if the web was behind him? And Charlotte couldn't talk to him because he can't turn around? He doesn't even know Charlotte is there! Let that tear fall like it did when you were eight years old!
Obama: Since he is a Muslim and therefore doesn't eat pork, we can be supportive of our next president by eating humane pork. ;)
Every election there is a grip of propositions that most people don't vote on because they are confused or don't give a hoot (at least that was the excuse for Arnie). So I'm putting together a list of propositions in California, how I am voting and why, and if that doesn't convince you, a list of ways you may be persuaded to agree with me...because Vielka said so. First up, Prop 8, the Gay Marriage Amendment.
Short answer: VOTE NO.
California Supreme Court said it was cool for the gay homies to get married despite the voters saying a few years back that they weren't down. Since then thousands of our gay brothers and sisters have tied that knot hella hard! Ellen's wedding even brought a tear to my eye! Now some folks are trying to amend the Cali constitution to say that gay marriage is illegal in the state. Listen, I don't care much about whose God says what, I just don't want that God manifesting Herself as "moral voters" popping up in my bedroom one day telling me what I can and can't do. We tend to impose our moral high ground on people, sometimes equating eating meat with slavery or driving an SUV with murder. Watch what happens when that Big Mac looks mad appetizing or your kid buys an Escalade. The same folks who are talking about pro-life will be the first to shoot your ass as soon as you say "Allah." Moral lessons are selected at random. Divorce. Lying. Stealing. Cheating. All in the Bible. All punishable by death. So, if we want to go with that morality tip, we can start there. In short, keep your morality out of my, and anyone else's, home.
If that isn't helpful, here are some other reasons.
Comedic: As one comedian said, if gay people want to be miserable too, go ahead and let them.
Your Wallet: Look at all those wedding chapels in Vegas pulling in a ton of money for Nevada. My understanding was that in just a few months, those chapels and honeymoon spots in California made hella money. Tourism is always good for the economy.
The Ads: That law professor at Pepperdine in the commercials is not making any sense. How can you teach kids to be gay? And I don't know what he is talking about in Massachusetts. Whatever he says to do, do the opposite. And the older couple who don't want us to treat their kids differently, alright, you got my vote.
Philosophical: Anytime we create the Other, we must understand that the Other is not limited to one group of people. The Other can and will eventually be anyone.
Political: Neither presidential candidate is for gay marriage. My hope is that Obama knows the federal government can't do what is outside of the Constitution. Whatever the Constitution does not state (and there really isn't an amendment that can be used to interpret gay marriage other than the First), the individual states must make a decision. But Obama/Biden are going to extend all the privileges of heterosexual marriage to gay couples, whether or not they are married. McCain/Palin say no to any of it. You can look at this as, well if Obama gives them all these things, they will be okay if I vote for the proposition. Remember, Republicans have cheated hella times in elections and gotten away with it. Just to be sure, vote against Prop. 8.
This is one of those blogs that I have thought about doing before but I haven't quite gotten around to it. I was at a party tonight and a typical thing happened. Some guy came towards the end, and the one person who knew him, did the polite thing and introduced me:
"This is Vielka." "Dee-el-ka?" "No, with a V. Vielka. She's Central American too, from Nicaragua." He started with my feet and gave me a slow long look over. By the time he got to my face, his mean mug was only matched by my own. Why the hell was he looking me up and down? I was already a bit annoyed. I know people feel obligated to share my family history with strangers who don't seem to get it, and that makes me uncomfortable. But the inevitable next few minutes are the worst.
So I walk across the room to avoid having to ask a fool something about the look on his face and I hear the person who introduced me say "She's a Black Nicaraguan. There are Black people in Nicaragua," hella loud over the music. And then I catch him looking at me again, he still looks upset, like I've robbed him of something.
I've encountered this situation many times. I almost feel like it has happened multiple times in a day. If someone isn't explaining my name, they feel some strange obligation to explain a plethora of other things with "she's Nicaraguan": She likes to read. She listens to music in Spanish. She does well in school. She doesn't sound that ghetto when she talks. She has immigrant parents. She has never eaten grits.
She's Nicaraguan. She's Nicaraguan. She's Nicaraguan...as if to say, she isn't really Black. Or as some people have said, not that Black.
The person who did my hair last month explained to me that I was an "acceptable" Black person, like Barack Obama, having parents who did not grow up in this country. "You all don't hate America yet, you don't have that chip on your shoulder." I answered with "I would like to see a Nicaraguan in this country that doesn't have a chip on his or her shoulder" and that ended that conversation.
The thing I hate most--and trust me, the explaining away is pretty close to the top--is having to prove an identity. So I get asked to speak Spanish quite a bit. It usually goes like "You're Nicaraguan? Speak Spanish then." Speaking Spanish has become such a spectacle for me, I won't even do it when I have to. When I worked at Burger King in high school, one of the managers asked if I could translate "please mop the floor" for the guys in the back. Another manager ran across the "restaurant" to hear me say it in Spanish, so I said "please mop the floor" instead of "por favor, mopiar el piso." I told the manager that I didn't understand why she had to run across the dining area like that, causing most everyone to turn and stare at me. When people ask me to speak Spanish, just to prove I am who I say I am, I tell them how insulting that is. Since I work with young people a lot, I take the time to explain why I won't do it, in case they run into another Afro-Latino one day.
If I'm not asked to prove I'm Nicaraguan, I'm covertly asked to prove my Blackness. I've been asked how to prepare collard greens and grits on countless occasions even though I have no clue. I've been asked about Black colloquialisms, still mostly without a clue. I've been asked to attend certain meetings or become parts of groups for African Americans and I have made people angry when I decline this invitation for a Latino function. What I know of the Black experience in this country is from what I've read or what my father taught me when I was younger. I know about the Black immigrant, Afro-Latino experience.
As of late, I have also been asked to prove an Afro-Latino identity, as people start to see more and more African-descended people from Latin America. But in these cases, I'm asked to play capoeira or dance samba and merengue. I'm not too mad at this since we are in the general area at least, but all Afro-Latinos are not made the same.
My family is from Bluefields on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Bluefields and Corn Islands in Nicaragua, along with Limon in Costa Rica and some of Colon's Black population in Panama, are part of the same migration from San Andres island in Colombia. San Andres is actually much closer to Corn Island than mainland Colombia. Most Black people in Nicaragua and Costa Rica can trace their ancestors to San Andres. During a recent conference in San Andres, the hotel people kept telling me about all the Hoys on the island. One person came by and even drew my family tree for me. If that wasn't validation enough, the conference was the Caribbean Studies Association held in San Andres, a place they deemed, along with Bluefields, the capital of the Western Caribbean. Some people have said that Bluefields is figuratively closer to Jamaica than Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. To say that I am from Bluefields was not a shock to anyone there; actually, it made perfect sense.
This is what I do now. I'm working on my PhD, discussing the experience of Afro-Latinos in California. My cousin often times reminds me that a lot of people are waiting for me to finish, so that I can tell their story, so that we don't have to explain constantly who we are. Another friend once said to me that I will be the first Nicaraguan PhD that she knows and most definitely the first Afro-Nicaraguan one. The pressure is immense but when I have experiences like I had tonight, it is well worth it.
My parents are avid Newsweek readers. They ditched Time when OJ was on the cover looking too dark. I'm sure the operator who deals with Time subscriptions wasn't ready for my mom's call to stop sending Time magazine to the house. He probably quit after hearing "Time magazine is racist" over and over again from my mother in her Nicaraguan Coast accent.
So my parents got me on Newsweek. I enjoy the commentary, the comics and quotes of the week. Good stuff. But this week, I sure wasn't ready when I opened my mailbox to find a MAD close-up of Sarah Palin, so close you can see the brand of eyeglass frames (get those product placement dollars!). I stared at it for a minute and just said "damn" and shook my head. When I put the magazine down, I was sure to put it face-down, not to accidentally peep that cover again.
I'm not mad at her. We all have pore issues, a few facial hairs that we prefer the world not blog about, and a wrinkle or two (although black doesn't crack so that's an issue for someone else, not me). She has the foundation caked on but her lipliner is on point. A little dos mucho with the eyeliner for my taste, but whatever. But just as when Gwen Stefani busted out with those Harajuku girls who speak English but aren't allowed to in Stefani's presence, I thought, someone has to be saying something about this one.
And they are. Those Republicans are hot! But check it. They are mad because it is such an flattering picture of her and as Fox News said, none of the other candidates have had to deal with such an unflattering cover. Really? Don't get me started! No one else? Straight tripping. Unflattering? That's what she looks like. How can she claim to be a feminist, and then mad when folks see her before her highly painful, expensive, and unnecessary lip waxing?
Listen, I can't stand Sarah Palin. I really am thinking of moving out of the country should these fucks cheat again and McCain wins. But as wack as McCain is, Palin only makes it worse. What pisses me off most is when people on both sides of the table say how important she is for little girls, so they can say "I can be Vice President when I grow up." But people don't seem to realize that this "Barbie goes to the White House" image of women is, at the very least, detrimental for young ladies. Palin equals "I can be Vice President and I don't even have to worry about experience or education. I just need to make sure my eyebrows are done and I use my Thigh Master each day."
It's insulting. But the insult isn't just on her part. This country values seen but not heard women. Belle, Ariel, and Snow White. The South hated Hillary Clinton because she talked too much. Oprah talks too much...she's talked her ass right into hella courtrooms. She got sued because she SAID she wouldn't eat beef! If she said that in a tube top, more weave, and while winking, she probably wouldn't have been in the courtroom. Unfortunately, I can go on and on with the examples.
I wouldn't describe myself as a feminist, in the traditional sense: I like marriage, romance, and razors. But I like being smart and letting people know I'm smart. And I aspire to be a politician one day. But when my Newsweek cover comes out, you'll see my pores, zits, and possibly a gold tooth.
So with all the homies getting married and having kids in the last year (2008 is definitely the Year of the Zygote), I have been dealing with a lot of registries for all sorts of knife sets, jungle gyms, and coffee makers. And I started thinking that although my own wedding isn't for a good while (stop tripping, I haven't announced anything and I'll announce it when I'm good and ready...and have a ring and a date), I should start thinking about my own registry, especially since it will take a while for some of these items. So here goes:
A "No bitch ass-ness" t-shirt from P.Diddy (make that two)
5 dissertation chapters or get Apple to invent iDissertation
To free Kells for life (he will probably come due for another trial in a few months)
5 minutes with Zach de la Rocha (to give him one last chance to propose)
World peace, an end to world hunger, and Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin impersonations forever
To quarterback for the 49ers. One game. Just to see if I am right and can do a better job.
It's no secret that I am voting for Obama: I get my daily e-mails and texts from the campaign. I even have an "Obama 08" application on my phone. But with less than a month before the election, I am really wondering why there are so many undecided voters. And why on earth, after these debates, would anyone say things like "neither candidate answered any question" when that's the McCain/Palin strategy, not Obama/Biden or "they didn't talk about healthcare" when they spent a smooth thirty minutes talking about that mess. So I decided (see, making decisions is good) to create a new list. Here goes:
TOP TEN REASONS WHY THERE ARE SO MANY UNDECIDED VOTERS
10. The only way some of these rednecks know to answer those Yankees with their fancy polls and big city cameras and recording devices is to say "I don't know," reminiscent of when those high-falootin' lawyers who would come from the North looking for their civil rights workers in the 60s.
9. The hippies are still working on solar-powered televisions and haven't watched any of the debates, ads, since they don't use anything from the 21st century. Hell, the 20th century too.
8. Wall streeters are still trying to make their multi-million dollar conglomerate appear to be worth less than $250,000 while saying their employees are all robots who don't need health insurance.
7. The pollers are asking folks in the prisons, Guantanamo, or immigration holding cells, who can't vote anyway and have bigger things to worry about.
6. People are still distracted by the smoke and mirrors known as Sarah Palin, falling in love with the winking and dumbass routine, thinking it might be kinda neat to have a White House hockey team with Todd racing his snow machine down Pennsylvania Ave.
5. The Obamas might be too tall, slim and good-looking for the White House while McCain looks like he can barely get up each morning. Who will take a better picture for the peace talks?
4. Ohio and Florida voters still think we are deciding between Bush and some other guy. Can that guy be McCain? What luck!! Two Republicans!
3. Virginia, as a swing state, finally feels important, and wants to keep everyone on their toes to stretch out their 15 minutes of fame.
2. All the polls pass through the hands of Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, who are both hoping the race will be perceived as so close, the candidates will ditch their running mates and pick one of them afterall.
1. They're racist and feel too guilty about saying "The White House needs to remain white" even though that is what they are most definitely thinking.
Well first, I'm not sure if you are male or not, I just assumed for some strange reason. Men and money. Hmmmm? Like if Donald Trump were to make a couple billion on the side, would he say, "I need to get into that college tuition MARKET." Somewhere, someone put a monetary value on "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and someone else said, "I really need people to know about that Columbus guy for my high paying job as a cog-maker" and then that first someone said, "Oh well, you know we are the best at teaching people about that Columbus fella. Just look at all the people who went here and work at your company. Why don't you give us some money to keep teaching about that guy and other explorers/rapists" and the second guy said, "Great idea. And name that library after me while you're at it." And then the lowly graduate student gets a so-called highly prestigious fellowship that puts her just mere dollars above the poverty line and then the first someone said, "Well, you can have more. Just tell the undergrads about this Columbus fella. Work so much you can barely get your own work done without developing issues with your eyesight, blood pressure, and overall fat-ass-ness. And we'll give you more money to write an article or two about him and other murderers. And then you can go run that cog-making factory and tell everyone how you went here and how great we are." Or at least I think it went like that.
I have to put a few disclaimers out there before I get into the list. I can say that I have done the Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition of dating just about every color in the rainbow. There were times that I said no to white men because I figured the revolution would not be televised nor would it tolerate me with a white man. But then I watched that damn movie, “Something New” and it got me thinking and I opened the door to white men again. I need to also put my finger on the pulse of whiteness in the Bay for all the folks not from around here. It’s different. I mean, really different. You have older white folks reveling in their days kicking it with Marty, jr. chatting about the direction Marxist thought is going these days. You have younger white folks singing about Babylon while coming from their yoga class on their way to make samozas for the Sabbath. Trust me, it’s different out here. And I ain’t mad at them…typically…unless they have locks and that’s another story. Otherwise, they’re great: voting for Obama; expressing their disdain for charity, celebrity, and conservatism; saving the whales and stopping the spray. Bless them! Lastly, I had to convince B that I didn’t think he is racist. Now that all of that is taken care of, here are top ten things that I have learned or am now able to put into words by dating white people:
10. Racist thought is masked under the guise of getting to know people of color: “He is Latino so he learned to be sexist. It’s a cultural difference.”
9. Not all people of color (especially Cubans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, North Koreans and South Vietnamese) are pinko-commies or riding that liberal/radical train: “I don’t know what Clarence Thomas’ problem is. Isn’t he Black?”
8. Or that when people of color express these viewpoints, there are repercussions unlike those that white people receive: “If I were a Sandinista, I would just tell the world. I wouldn’t hide it.”
7. White folks (okay, most folks in this country) are a little clueless when it comes to maps, history, etc. as evidenced in this actual question that one asked me: “When was your family freed from slavery? I bet they were freed and then they could come to the United States. Maybe thirty years ago.”
6. It isn’t cute, funny, or entertaining in any way for White folks, especially the likes of the wealthy ones, to joke about the ghetto, hood, or the third world with phrases such as “that’s so ghetto.”
5. Green is not included as one of the colors in “people of color.” Nixing the car for a bike or paying top dollar to make my home more energy efficient are at the bottom of my “Things to Do to Save the World List” where “End Poverty, War, and Hunger” lead the way. And yes I know they are intertwined but I’m too busy trying to get these kids to stop shooting each other right now, so I need the quick (and cheap) answer.
4. When people of color watch the news, it is with specific questions in mind: “Do I need to use an alias?” “Are they trying to deport me again?” “Do I have to pay more for something?” “Are they going to bug me about joining the military again?” Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, Bill Maher…all great political satirists (and I enjoy watching them) but sometimes that ish isn’t funny, especially when it directly affects you.
3. Those deep dinner conversations about the effects of slavery or the Hurricane Katrina aftermath make a meal damn un-appetizing.
2. One person of color does not rep for the rest of us. I can’t tell you if we prefer Black/African American or Chicano/Latino/Hispanic/Brown. As for me, I don’t care, as long as it doesn’t sound like this: “I work with a Black, oops I mean, African American [pause to look at me while waiting for a nod of acceptance that they aren’t going to get] man who is just delightful.” Now what do you reply to that? “That’s great” seems to suffice.
1. Even the most hippy-dippy, radical white person thinks in some way that there is an iota of truth to stereotypes. So for the last time, Black people are not inherently good at running and jumping because in Africa they have no choice but to run and jump from wildebeests or some other survival of the fittest mess; not all Latinos speak Spanish and no English, are day-laborers, or undocumented (if we believe everything we are told then there are like five people left in Mexico); and Asians are not inherently good at Math and Science because their parents push them harder than anyone else and because Math and Science are the same in any language (it’s not, ask the Egyptians).
Sorry for the July hiatus, kids. July was just too exciting to do one blog so I didn't do any. Here are my top ten questions for the month of July (and some August):
10. Who is the alcoholic making new flavors for Orbit chewing gum? 9. And how can I get that job? 8. If the writers were on strike in the fall and we had to deal with re-runs, why do they get another vacation and we have to deal with re-runs again? 7. Why can't Jesse Jackson zip his lip? He is the same guy that advised Pres. Clinton about infidelity and it came out that the good reverend was cheating and then he did this entire campaign to stop the n-word only to use in reference to the good senator Obama on Fox News. 6. Since when did Fox News edit something (Jesse and the n-word) to our benefit? 5. Manny Rodriguez might as well play for the damn devil. Okay, not a question, but I had to put that in there. 4. Don't trans fats make doughnuts extra yummy? Thanks, governator. 3. Since Hillary dropped out, can I still be mad at her? 2. Did the Hiltons get their money back from the McCain campaign? 1. And can I have it? This player could use 4Gs.
To take from the homie, Aaron McGruder of the Boondocks, a "nigga device" is one that you can not hook up to a printer. Thus, the Bluetooth is a nigga device. For all the people I see wearing those things, I have yet to see one, just one, actually receive the call s/he so seems intent on getting. For anyone who knows me, you may have heard me clown a time or two on the blinking blue light seen in the ear of someone in a movie theater, the store, or while giving a lecture at a large public university in the Bay Area (hint, hint). But it is especially poignant to mention my favorite nigga device on the eve of the greatest conspiracy ever devised. It includes Apple, the California Highway Patrol and I'll throw in Rudy Giulliani for good measure. It's the new handsfree cell phone while driving law, in effect tomorrow. I decided to try "handsfree living" for a few days and found it to be virtually impossible with the iPhone unless I walked around with my headphones in, never hooked it up to the car for the iPod portion, and am already on the phone as answering, and even hanging up the phone would require one's hands. I am not opposed to safe driving and I also realize this is just a gripe about my iPhone, another nigga device. But I will not cave and buy a Bluetooth! And I also will not be answering my phone.
Add this to Webster or Rogets (and you only get a little bit at a time):
Negra-free Zone=most of San Francisco and Marin counties ex: I have to hit up Bloomingdales in the Negra-Free Zone.
Celia Cruz Face=what Black women look like when we get our make-up done at mall counters (much love and respect to Celia Cruz though) ex: I got Celia Cruz Face when I got my make-up done for a wedding.
Too Oprah=acting like money can change everything ex: Magic Johnson is way too Oprah with Magic Fridays, Magic's Starbucks, and Magic's theater in Crenshaw.
Jolie-ified=trying too hard to be multi-cultural ex: They Jolie-ified the party with lumpia, chips & salsa, and a samba band.
Don't Taze Me, Bro=ease up ex: Person 1--You seem to enjoy eating a lot. Person 2--Don't taze me, bro! I have a high metabolism.
Michelle Obama=homegirl/road dog ex: My Michelle Obama is the only one who told me I looked fat in those jeans.
Super-Size Me=over 6'5" ex: I only want to date someone who is super size-me so I can wear heels sometimes.
Revolution!=Yes or I agree or see you later or hello or thank you or you're welcome; it means most anything and may now be televised ex: The Lakers need to quit feeling sorry for themselves and get more than one decent player. Revolution!
Although I can't be any happier with who I found online, I do have to emphasize that it took more than two years of buying into those commercials oozing with romance, smiles, and that creepy Dr. Warren's voice from eHarmony. So I decided to save the homegirls a little time and money (sorry fellas, you all seem to be on a different level when it comes to dating online and sorry for being heterosexist here as well). So here are the top ten things to watch out for and remember when dating online!
10. Online dating is a business. They do not really care if you find your soul mate, otherwise that ish would be free. So making you be extra strict about your criteria is all about getting that skrilla! Besides, think about your last great relationship. Didn't you have some interesting differences that most people wouldn't describe as "compatible" or whatever other coded word that really just means, "the same"? Snooze!
9. Dudes can't communicate. This isn't rocket science but this makes things interesting online where communication is key. Ironic? So you absolutely have to read through things, ask hella questions, and call folks out!
8. A guy who is 35, never married, with the fresh job and living quarters, who surfs/rock climbs/ saves the dolphins on the weekend, has dated a lot but just can't find the right combination of smarts, beauty, independence and volunteerism...is single for a reason. He is really just waiting for Angelina Jolie to be single. Leave dude alone.
7. Really look at those pictures. I mean really look. Dudes have some weird sense of how they should put themselves out there. So you'll find the obligatory pictures: at the office being mad diligent and responsible (good for you, player!); with the homies having a good time (cheers, suckas!); and with hella well-endowed multi-cultural sistas at Hooters, an A's game, or Target (what the?!) Come on, man! Or there is one picture of dude hella far away on Mt. Everest and the rest of the pictures are of a dog, butterflies, or Harleys. Not attractive. Leave dude alone. Also be wary of the pictures where dude is not smiling (he is toothless or has mega-jacked up teeth or no sense of humor) or is not standing next to anything that one can use as a reference point (he is hella short).
6. When the online dating page has preset questions, trust your instincts with the responses. So when dude is asked "name five of the most important aspects/things in your life" and dude can't say one human (e.g. cell phone, Wall St. Journal, etc.), leave dude alone.
5. No picture, no date! And conversely, be sure to put up pictures of yourself and when dude asks you to send him more, leave dude alone.
4. The online dating is the dating. Remember when you were asked out in the grocery store and dude asked questions like: what do you do? where are you from? It's not to say that the first meeting isn't another date and you should take it slow, because you absolutely should, but make conversation that goes deeper, rather than repeating getting to know you ish.
3. Remember, some dudes will pay hella money under the guise of online dating and say they are on some long-term ish, but really just be looking for a piece of ass for the night. You know who dude is. Kindly refer him to the "Casual Encounters" page on Craigslist and remind him that it is free.
2. Don't let dude rationalize anything. If you don't want to date a 55 year old fisherman in Alaska, then you don't have to. Period. No explanations.
1. We are in the Bay Area. This means that you'll get some dudes who are into Rastas and Buddhists or pre-surgery, post-hormones guys/girls or Silicon Valley techies. That's love. But then you'll see white dudes who want "sexy sistas only" or "china dolls" or "spicy J.Lo-like Latinas." They are pigs. The bottom line is that you can totally take advantage of all that the Bay is selling, get to know someone you would have never interacted with before, without judgement! It's all good.
I am just wondering what one has to do (or better, not do) to be a levee-builder. Or maybe those things don't work! We had the levees in New Orleans bust open a few years ago and now the Mid-west looks more like Venice than anywhere else. Or maybe folks weren't prepared for the end of the world this early (thanks Al Gore!). That's it...just a quick note to encourage folks to save the planet.
First, don't get me wrong. I'm all about a cause and I appreciate folks who do what they have to do to get the job done. With that said, sometimes sitting in a tree for a year and half (no really, that long, no showers or toilets) isn't the right thing to do. When I hear about the tree-sitters, rarely do I think, "dang, we have to save the oaks!" Mostly, I think, if one of those stinky people throws a bag of piss at me...oh, believe, it's done!
So here are ten things you can do when you want to protest against the man but want to keep your sexy: 10. Be sure the homies are down. If they are your homies, they will say either "let me know when and I'm there" or "Naw, man. That's some bullshit." 9. Nothing says you mean it like having a (full-time) job. Having nothing to lose and being available to sit in a tree for a year and a half does nothing for your credibility. 8. Be sure that the means don't outweigh the cause. Last I checked, those trees weren't meant to have folks living in them, despite what the Shrek movies may lead us to believe. I bet if those trees could talk, they would say, "yo dog, I can't breath. Get the fuck off!" 7. Take the bone they throw you, especially if it's a big ass bone. If they promise to move the trees and you don't believe, sign up to help them move the trees. 6. Think of the larger picture. If the issue is native burial grounds, then you have a whole bunch of trees, schools, government offices, stores, and malls to sit in. 5. Be mad at the right thing: capitalism. That little bit of land spells cha-ching for the university through the athletics department. Go sit in the money office or the head football coach's office (the highest paid public employee in the state). 4. Think: will this hurt the black man or what would Obama do? Either question really gets to the meat of it--will your actions hurt regular folks in some way? Take away a scholarship from some needy kid? Cause someone to take a crazy detour just to get home or to class? 3. Think about the TV crews. Do you want to look hella busted on TV, even the local news? I mean, even the hippies don't want doo-doo on their pants when KRON is interviewing them. 2. Consider the audience. The folks going to watch Cal games most likely don't give a hoot what you are yelling at them unless it's "Go Stanford!" Save your voice for the suits. 1. Where's Al? Nothing says "important cause" like the Rev. Al Sharpton! Do what you have to do to make the cause Sharpton-relevant so that the good reverend will be out there with his megaphone. And then be really prepared with #3 and #4.
As I never want to disappoint my public, I have decided to create a blog. As all of you are dying to know what up with the V-Dawg, now you can stop your tripping, relax, say "ommm," and read all about it. Choco (half canine, half crazy) is tired of listening to me anyway, I'm sure, especially since he just twists his head and runs away when I start going on and on about everything from the homie Obama to online dating, to how everyone is in cahoots to make me feel fat (see, I'm not actually fat). By the way, when I am no longer "fat," I will also work to make other not "fat" people feel "fat" so that I can be rich, like that guy who created Apple and take over the world! So that's it party people. Put on your seatbelts, get your sunscreen, and be ready!