Why Are Folks Mad About the GapKids Commercial?: An Explanation of Race, The Media, and Microaggressions.

GapKids just released this ad:

It's cute, right? So innocent. Full of girl power!!!!! However, some folks didn't see things that way:

So why are these people so upset about such an innocent commercial? It's because there are underlying messages that are oblivious to the majority and that are constantly thrown at the minority.  

White women in this country are in a position of power in comparison to women of color.  We are supposed to always care about their feelings. When they talk about rape, it's sad.  When women of color talk about rape, it's not so sad, it's probably a lie (because we're under the impression rape is tied to attractiveness and women of color aren't deemed "attractive" in our society), or that women of color probably deserved it or are used to such things, so it doesn't impact them as much. 

White women are to be put on a pedestal.  If they feel threatened, we are supposed to care and fix it so they can feel better.  When women of color feel threatened, we're just supposed to suck it up, or we're overreacting.  If women of color express an opinion, if it differs from white women, they can feel threatened, and you're supposed to value their opinion over your own, because their whiteness gives the opinion more validity, especially to other white people.  

All in all, we're always supposed to take our issues to the back burner for the greater good of white women.  While the feminist movement put forth great strides for those of us with lighter skin and higher social class, the poor and women of color are still kind of in the same boat of where we were before.

So what does all this have to do with this innocent GapKids ad?  Everything.   The microaggressions that women of color face constantly start to add up and frankly, we're just tired.  It isn't the getting called the "n-word" and being exposed to the KKK, it's the constant exposure to media and society who says we're less than and we're there to supplement white people. People of color are just filler.  We are there to simply placate their lives, and if you dare consider yourself an equal, or worse better, you better realize you aren't.

Growing up, I was always told to downplay what I had to white people, because they would try to take it away or diminish it.  For the most part that is true in my experience.  They will find ways to explain to you why your accomplishments or even material things are really not that great or inferior, or just not to their liking, and usually these opinions and thoughts are unsolicited.  Often times, I just won't share, and that just makes people curious, as if they anticipate trying to figure out what's wrong with whatever project you're doing, or whatever new shiny thing you get.   I once was shopping for furniture, and me and a friend actually were looking at the same things, another friend complimented my friend about her ideas for furniture, but was trying really hard to tell me what she didn't like about my ideas, even after explaining to her I had the SAME exact idea as our mutual friend.  That's the microaggression.   It's the trying to find fault with any and everything that you do, and being eager to share unsolicited opinions about it, but yet if the tables were turned, it would be seen as a threat.

This GapKids ad shows us, we are just tokens, and the "real girls" (read white) need a prop, literally and figuratively.   The little black girl says nothing, literally does nothing, she just works best as an arm rest.  That was what we noticed, because we always notice these things, while this issue is oblivious to white America.

We want to be acknowledged as more than props and filler; and our requests for such things up until recently, were ignored.  Thankfully, there was at least an apology this time.

A lot of us are still tired and still dealing with this issue. We're not filler and it's ok to acknowledge and demand other people know this.

My Problem With Linda Chaver's Problem With Black Girl Magic

Today I read an article on Elle.com outlining the problem with the hashtag #blackgirlmagic.  I have read her points, I understand her hesitation with the hashtag, but I wholeheartedly disagree with her.    Black. Girls. Are. Magic.  There are no qualifiers for that.

Black women are human, I get that; we all get that.   There are the stereotypes of black women being strong, who are able to handle pain, and who are able to handle the stress that others cannot. I agree that those stereotypes are problematic.  However, I also think that we need to be uplifted without some qualifier each and every time.  I don't assume MS or some other medical condition makes you not magic. Sometimes magic is being in pain and having to acknowledge it. Sometimes magic is being able to cry without remorse.  Those things do not and will not negate the awesomeness of a person. Pain does not diminish us or make us less than. Part of our magic now in 2016 is that we can and want to take care of ourselves. We've been relegated to caring for everyone else except ourselves and that time is over. It's time for us to let our magic shine through and let the world know we're wonderful without apology.

We live in a society where black women are considered bottom of the barrel.  We are thrown negative stereotypes from every angle. White men, women, even black men.   We make less money than our counterparts. When we get raped, we live in a culture in which we blame the "fast ass girl" who we want to believe is trying to make another black man a "statistic" if we report these crimes against us.   We are told we're ugly and that everything from our hair to the way we even talk to people is threatening.  Our existence per society is problematic. But, we're not problems, we are blessings and are deserving of praise and recognition.

We need to feel the magic of feeling human without the burdens of the world thrown at us.  Even though there are forces in the world that seek to degrade and dehumanize us, we are still awesome.

As RuPaul says, “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

When Being A Social Justice Warrior Goes Wrong: David Bowie

David Bowie died this week.  I was very sad as I had been a lifelong fan of his music, acting, etc. One of my first celebrity crushes was David Bowie.  I've always been weird, this is no secret.  However, I see a disturbing trend on the internet.  The public shaming and finger wagging of those who embrace or mourn a celebrity or figure they deem not acceptable.   This week I've seen a bunch of people get called nasty and supporting a rapist because they expressed condolences about David Bowie.   I find that appalling and frustrating.  

I totally understand the disgust at sex with barely teenage girls. I totally understand and dislike white supremacy and white supremacists with a burning hot passion; but this is misguided. I'll tell you why.

We are all assuming that everyone listening to David Bowie knew about his "experiences"(read that as rape) with a fourteen year old girl who identified herself as a groupie.  We didn't. I know this is hard to understand for some people, so I'm going to explain why we didn't all know this as common knowledge, and I am assuming most of the people posting this did not know this either until someone on facebook told them and they just shared without any research or context.

Imagine a world where there is not widespread access to the internet via phones, computers, tablets, etc.   Imagine a world where there is no twenty four hour news cycle. There is no Google and Wikipedia. Imagine that when you do see news, it is usually local news, national news, world news that discusses politics, wars, business, and actual events that aren't filled with Kardashians and celebrity gossip. Let's say your celebrity gossip was relegated to super market tabloids and People magazine. Maybe TigerBeat, Dynamite, Jet, Right On, and Bop.

This was the reality for most of us until the 1990s. We heard a song on the radio or watched a music video on MTV and then we got into a car, went to the record store and purchased our cassette tapes or records and then sat in our room reading liner notes and memorizing songs.  If we were broke we would try to record a song on the radio via a probably reused blank tape with bad sound quality.  If you were lucky and went to the bookstore or newsstand with all the magazines, you might find some information on your artist.  That or you tuned into Entertainment Tonight or MTV on television to see interviews from the artist who was usually given softball questions that really didn't get in depth and there was very little "A-Ha Got 'Em!" moments.  We just listened to our music and hoped someone you knew would eventually make a cool zine about your favorite bands or singers.

If you would have asked me anything about David Bowie in the 1980s, I could tell you he made some music I liked and he was the Goblin King. That is about it, I didn't anything outside of that and the fact that he might have had a thing with Mick Jagger back in the 1970s because my friend's older brother said that one time when we watched the horrible music video "Dancing In The Street"in their living room. We didn't know.

So I'm going to ask: Why does that make us who didn't not think to google something that happened over forty years ago rape apologists?   How were we supposed to know outside of Facebook and Twitter?

Let's say I've discovered this on the day David Bowie died, and I vow never to buy his stuff ever again?  What happens when it is discovered I own Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell From Earth, and the vast majority of his discography? Am I now a rape apologist who should be ashamed I loved the song Ashes to Ashes?  Am I horrible to have liked David Bowie before knowing this information?  He's dead, he's not going to produce anymore music, movies, or art. He has ceased, so what does pointing out something now in 2016 do to resolve the issue of what he has done?

We also have to look at context.   We're looking at 1973 when this began.  That's about forty three years ago. Women were still having a hard time getting into professional jobs, even some colleges. It wasn't all that uncommon for 16 year olds to be married at that time.  People not too much further in the past said it was ok for a husband to spank his wife like a child if she didn't obey him. That is warped thinking to us now, but it's true. Patriarchy is a big ass bitch and it's taken us a long time to get here; and we STILL aren't where we need to be.  How many people were appalled at Elvis dating a fourteen year old Priscilla Presley?  The biggest backlash was that Elvis had not yet married her. She was FOURTEEN when they met, her parents weren't like "This old ass motherfucker is trying to rape our child!!"  They were more like "Well it's ok if you date her, but since she's young, here are some stipulations", and all of America was ok with it.    The same girl with David Bowie also dated Jimmy Page, and her friends dated Iggy Pop, and John Lennon and Yoko hung out with them. ALL THOSE PEOPLE!!!!! I have to reevaluate my whole music catalog now. I believe a member of the Rolling Stones dated and married a girl who was 13 when they met.  I think Ted Nugent took legal guardianship of his girlfriend so she could go on tour with him.  All with parental consent.  I'm going to assume MOST parents in 2016 wouldn't do that, but in the 1970s, it wasn't something that was considered abnormal.    

So yes in 2016 we should all be giving David Bowie side eye to the max, but the silence about what he did in the 1970s is simply because in the 1970s, it's wasn't considered as big of a deal because we didn't fully understand the implications of the predatory behavior that was encouraged, nor did we understand basic adolescent development like we do now.  We also as lay people didn't have access to that information outside of the limited media we had available to us at that time. I can't get into my hot tub time machine to keep the kid who liked David Bowie in the 1980s from liking him.

Now a bigger question for the future is this: Are we now supposed to Google every single artist we like to make sure of their background and views before we start to appreciate their artistry?

Are we able to separate the deeds from the person? Can I say I liked David Bowie's music and not like his actions?  How do we reconcile new information presented to us years after the questionable incidents took place?  Are we bad people because we simply didn't know what David Bowie did in 1973?  Do you think he did it consistently or was this something he later on regretted?

Also: Was David Bowie really a racist? I can't find anything on that, maybe you could help?


Late New Years Resolutions

To adult better.
Be a better parent.
To surround myself with people who actually like me.
Seek help when I need it.

I failed at some of these things in 2015, let's hope 2016 is better.

Monsters Are Not Heroes

I often see people getting defensive when it comes to other people criticizing law enforcement. I somewhat understand that. Their purpose is to serve and protect, and if you believe that is what law enforcement actually does, it can get frustrating to hear people say bad things about the people you feel put their lives on the line to serve ALL the people.
However, for many of us, police aren't really there to serve and protect. They harass, they treat many of us with suspicion, some people are seen as the enemy. I don't necessarily blame law enforcement entirely for this, but I blame the systematic racism that is pervasive in this country. Law enforcement officers are indeed human, and they are flawed. Many of us see them as a representation of the powers that keep the status quo, that keep that systematic racism alive and kicking. This is why we are critical, and when we see stories like Walter Scott and Michael T. Slager, we get concerned, because we know without that tape, this story would have ended differently. People would have told us to wait for all the evidence, and people would have proclaimed we played the race card, ignoring the statistical data that shows us again and again there is inequality in how the law is dealt. People will justify police officers playing judge, jury, and executioner; and expect those who are the primary victims of this type of law enforcement to put up with it and be ok with it.
We're not ok with it. You shouldn't be ok with it either.
You don't want us to talk about the current state of law enforcement and it's problems, you want us to be ok with it; and we can't. If we don't discuss these issues, things will never get resolved. You cannot continue to dismiss case after case of police brutality and murder by treating the victims as monsters and the monsters as heroes.
Acknowledge the law does not always protect and serve everyone, it doesn't mean all law enforcement is horrible, it doesn't negate their jobs, but it does help us acknowledge and hopefully fix the issues that seem to be pervasive all over the country, causing harm and death to too many people.

Dear White Atheists

Dear white atheists,

You are not the new oppressed. Yes, you face discrimination.  Yes, atheism is still not accepted in many parts of the world, including the United States.  Yes, I think that religion is a hindrance to our society in many ways.  However, you are not all that oppressed.  You are not the new black, gay, women, or transgender. You are not like the jews in Germany during the reign of Hitler.  It’s not that serious, and yes you can be sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and just in general an asshole.  

Years ago, when I joined the social network no one uses, facebook, I decided to join all types of groups.  Groups for feminists, groups for planning and organizing, groups about cloth diapers, and groups about atheism.   The atheist groups in my mind were going to be filled with enlightened people who are all about truth and the American way.  They were filled with white people, in particular lots of white men.  These groups didn't mention race often, but when they did, it usually transpired like this:

They are discussing this sad story.  However, they are now using this as a platform to discuss reverse racism and how racist black people are.   Ignoring why the Michael Browns and Trayvon Martins of the world are killed and they justify it and allow people to walk free. They ignore that these black kids will end up with severely harsh sentences and they will not have the benefit of the doubt of white America.  They will discuss how white people can’t treat black people like they used to, therefore making them white victims of society, silenced because no one has to put up with their bullshit silently anymore. One person is discussing an incident that occurred at age seven, I’m sure it was an incident that didn't require hospitalization, and I’m pretty sure the people who attacked them in question were not adults. Not dismissing it, but it's not quite the same as you know segregation, slavery, and it's lasting impact.

People like this ignore systematic racism, how racism correlates with inequality in this world, and I’m not a magical negro, so I’m not wasting my time explaining to them how stupid they sound as they lament about the evil negroes intent on being racist towards them and causing them great discomfort.

So I hang out here.   These people are atheists too, but they understand black issues. It’s probably because they’re overwhelmingly black.  It’s open to all people, and there are members of all races, but there is often members who join to show this group is proof of reverse racism.  Because black people having their own space where they don’t have to put up with the racist, simple minded tomfuckery I just displayed is a bad thing.   

So suck it up white atheists.  I’m sorry I’m not here to explain racism to you or how black people are not getting a bunch of free stuff and they we are not oppressing you because you can’t say the n-word.   You can try Google though, I hear it works pretty well.  



My Solution To Education For My Children

My blackness is a defining characteristic of me. People often want to pretend they live in a world of color blindness in which they see no race, but that is a blatant lie. I see it every single day. I’m supposed to have an attitude, I’m inherently violent, and I’m on welfare. At least that is the assumption based upon my skin tone. People do it all the time, and I don’t expect any less from a child. Children notice color. Children ask questions. Children of color, in particular seem to pick up on the nuances of race in our society fairly quickly. My five year old knows I’m black, her father’s white, and she’s in between. She asks questions, and as her mother I answer them to the best of my ability. I’m just dreading the day where I have to tell her the truth about her race and how people will see her. It’s the talk all black parents have with their children, it won’t be any different because she’s biracial, as biracial in our country is black. We steady hold fast to the one drop rule, until it’s inconvenient for us. I dread putting my child in school and it terrifies me. I’m actually considering homeschooling. I’ve already picked out her curriculum, I’ve visited a homeschooling co-op or two to get a feel for them, and I’ve even looked at private schools. This video makes me reconsider even private schools, because there isn’t ANY diversity within a private school, and this kid’s experience reflects my own in predominantly white public and private schools I attended as a child. It’s heartbreaking because I know that it isn’t a unique experience for black children of the upwardly mobile in America.

People often wonder why I would consider homeschooling, and it’s simple. My experiences in public and private school tell me that school is inherently a horrible place for children of color, particularly in schools that are predominantly white. There is no recourse. You will be seen as a troublemaker, a know it all, told you are less intelligent, and you will essentially be beaten into submission until your confidence in yourself is eradicated.

Public schools, at least in Texas are very inconsistent in terms of the quality of education. Often times schools in predominantly non white areas tend to not get as great of ratings of their schools in comparison to white areas. Is it matter of intelligence and the Bell Curve theory? Probably not, but people will think that. In reality, it is a matter of tax base. The wealthier your school, the more resources you have. I really don’t have to worry about putting my child in a more economically advantaged school district, I can do that, but I find more than not, that economically advantaged lends to not be very diverse; and when you don’t have much diversity you have the problems I ran into as a kid. So I need a well off school that offers diversity and will shield my child from people who think she is inherently inferior because she is not 100% white. That doesn’t exist in Texas, and I do not want for her to have the same issues I had in school, in which anything lower than a “B” will send her into a fit of rage for fear of being put into special education classes. Not to mention, it’s Texas, even our best schools really aren’t the best schools out there in most cases, not even in the wealthiest of school districts, which is why the best education in Texas tends to be with the elite prep schools and private schools that average at around $30k/year.

Am I sheltering my child by considering homeschooling? Absolutely, and I have no problem stating such. White people have the luxury of their children being sheltered from privilege and racism, why can’t my child have the same? I feel I have to make that happen for her and homeschooling is a big way for me to do that.

I’m not the only one thinking this way.

Pardon My Dust

Well guess what? I'm back. For real this time. For really real. OK, I might not be back, but I'm going to put forth the effort. Come on back, don't mind the construction, I'm just changing a few things up.

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