So what? Your genitals are still lined up.

I’m home from my mini-vacation, sans laptop.  I accidentally left it in security when a bag search interrupted me while on auto-pilot.  Fortunately, it was located in the lost and found and will be shipped back soon.  Whew!  I didn’t even notice it was gone until several minutes after we were in the air.  I used the remainder of the flight to freak out.  I was given sympathy and reassurance from the woman seated beside me.  She was so kind I almost started ugly crying.  The relief I’ll feel when it’s back in my hands will be worth every almost-tear.  Okay, I did bawl my head off when I got home, but it was in the shower, so it doesn’t count. 😛

I’m getting back into my rhythm with The Resistance.  I noticed a response thread about Bill Mahr using the N word.  Someone stated they didn’t mind his using it once in comparison to Snoop Dog using it several times a minute.  They first stated they were “Afro-American.”  It’s not a term I’ve heard in ages.  It gave me pause, but only because it was unusual terminology for today.  I didn’t draw any certainties from it.  I’m apparently the only one, out of the hundreds who jumped in to inform him they thought his choice of words proved he was white.  Initially, someone merely stated it’s an outdated term, and the use made them suspicious.  Then came the flood.

At first, it was hilarious.  Lots of memes and witty statements demonstrating a white person pretending to be a black person. It started getting ugly when the comments started coming from those who were taking a little too much pleasure in tearing someone down.  It wasn’t funny anymore.  It was an accusation.  People were literally stating he couldn’t be black based solely on his word choices.  Before long, I was also accused of pretending to be black by some Caucasian woman.   Blocked.  This is another symptom of institutional racism.  The belief one’s behavior dictates the pigmentation level of their skin is ridiculous and astonishingly ignorant.  It’s saying stereotypes have the same efficacy as DNA.

It’s a sore point for me in particular.  I’ve faced this abuse too often in the past by other blacks who deny my membership because of my language, clothing, and/or who I hang out with.  I speak proper Midwestern English, just like every other educated person who grew up here.  I’m aware of slang from hip-hop and rap culture, but don’t think it’s the cultural language of any race other than human.  There are people from everywhere who live the culture.  Their skin is irrelevant.  This isn’t rocket science.  I can imitate an inner-city accent, but not with a straight face while being phony.  I’m a black woman from the upper midwestern US.  This is called a fact.

I’ve traveled enough to notice language and cultural variations in different regions of the US.  I like diversity.  It’s fascinating.  I’m comfortable being myself and am mature enough to laugh at things like peer pressure and pettiness within my own race.  My own sister used to give me shit about being openly Midwestern.  All I heard was, “Hi, I’m a hypocrite so feel free to ignore me.”  Being raised in the Midwest would have sufficed, but on top of that, I was adopted by a Caucasian family.  Guess what?  It influenced my language and culture.  Of course, I don’t speak like someone who grew up in LA or NYC!  Please explain the thought process that led to this being surprising information, because I can’t find it.

I don’t filter my world by things so petty as variations in physical traits.  This is my life, and I intend to continue living the shit out of it.  I’ll continue doing my best to avoid stepping on others out of default decency.  I also won’t tolerate anyone stepping on me.  I’m too busy chasing fascination to waste time conforming to stereotypes.  I’m too free and happy for petty bullshit.  While I sincerely think many who joined in to be silly on Twitter over this had no malice behind their memes, the point that matters is this:  If you honestly believe language and culture can qualify or disqualify a person from a particular race, you believe a lie, which is ignorance defined.

¡La puerta esta abierto! Who left the door open?

I had a busy and productive day.  I’m touching a computer for the first time today, which is astonishing.  My Mom would have been proud.  It got up to 66° F.  In February.  In South Dakota.  It should be well below freezing for weeks yet, but climate change.  Since I’m doing my best to deflect my personal repercussions on the environment, I decided to enjoy the beautiful weather.  I almost blew it straight away by going to an automated car wash.  I remembered in time, and went to a self-serve and used as little water as I could.

I’m too high strung to drive a dirty car.  The snow melted so it should last a while.  I got a few more clients on my Meals on Wheels route.  They live in an apartment complex where an existing client resides, so I’m not worried about finding it.  It’s a weird building, though.  There are two sides separated by the entrance.  The problem entails units numbered the same on both sides, (so there’s a 210 on side A and 210 on side B.)  It took me a while to figure this out.  I made up a few new curse words during the process.

While researching the demographic of 45 supporters, I discovered they’re mostly Caucasian men in their 50’s.   I’m pleased with the leadership of the resistance group I joined.  I spent lots of time learning about leadership in the Army, so I know when I’m following a good one.  The demographic reminded me of my Dad.  He was a conservative, but I know he wouldn’t have supported 45.

My Dad was a Shriner.  He wore glasses and had a white beard and mustache.  He wasn’t obese, but he did look a lot like Santa Claus.   At least I thought so until I was five and discovered he was just my Dad.  I have only good memories of him.  I remember sitting on his lap while he smoked his pipe.  It made my eyes burn, but I liked the smell.  I used to try to think of a question I didn’t think he’d know, then I’d ask.  I remember thinking he was the smartest person in the world.

I didn’t spend as much time with my Dad when I became a teen.  My parents divorced when I was eleven.  I didn’t notice at first.  To me, the difference that stood out was Saturdays.  He would pick us up and take us out to lunch and the zoo or circus.  I remember a Sunday with Dad where he took us to a restaurant and allowed us to choose what we wanted to eat.  I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.  Then I hurled it onto the back seat of his car.

In hindsight, I suspect I was carsick.  I’m highly susceptible to motion sickness.  I think it’s because I don’t look at the right things while moving.  I try to see everything when I should only be looking where I’m going.  The memory of that hurl fest is so powerful I still refuse to eat at Cracker Barrel.  If not for that I would still boycott them for their homophobic hiring practices.  So I guess fuck Cracker Barrel either way.

My Dad was always there for me when I needed him.  Every single time.  I didn’t even realize this was remarkable in real time.  There weren’t very many kids with divorced parents when I was growing up, but the few I knew lived with their Moms too.  My Dad started dating, and eventually married the woman.  She was always kind to us, but we called her by her first name, not step-mother.  She was easy to love.  She stayed with my Dad until she died.  She was his third wife.  I never met his first as she died before I was born.  My Mom’s first husband had died before I existed, too.  We were a lot like the colorful Brady Bunch.  Only a lot more kids, many of which were disabled.  The DeBolt family was well known when I was growing up for adopting lots of kids of various races and abilities.

Heather and I were disturbed by the DeBolts.  We didn’t know how to express why at the time, but I know now it was resentment for their attention seeking.  At that point, following a family with cameras was considered a documentary, not reality TV.  We were offended by it.  Strangers often came up to my Mom while we were together running errands.  They would go on and on about how she was such a saint for adopting us.  The utter shock they displayed right in front of us used to infuriate me.  We weren’t fucking monsters.  Granted, we did live in what was virtually an all-white community.  I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, before Madonna, Angelina, Sandra, and Mariska adopted infants of color, (IOC hahaha).

For most of my childhood, I was the first black person the people of my community ever met.  (I’m of mixed race, but I check African American on forms.)  I’m not as light-skinned as Rashida Jones, who can pass as Caucasian, but chooses not to.  I have an African nose.  If my skin were white as rice, I’d still be of obvious (relatively recent) African descent.  My nose is old school.  I just cracked myself up.  I’m glad I’m not the type of person who is upset about having a nose that in profile reminds me of a chewed wad of bubblegum.  I’m the type who thinks it’s hilarious.  I just wish it held up my glasses better.

My parents would have been livid had they lived to see 45’s regime.  Knowing this is a comfort to me.  My Dad had no tolerance for the mistreatment of people.  He taught us it was important to do what was right at all times.  He explained to me what I did when I thought nobody was watching revealed my character.  (When I was a kid, Character Counts was bandied about like a motto during Saturday morning cartoons.)  I’m often literal, and as a child, I believed I was being watched by Jesus at all times, assuming that’s who my Dad meant.  No wonder I’m so high strung.

My Mom would have adored the Obama’s.  She also would have pointed him out to me before he ran for President.  She went out of her way to make sure I was aware of successful POC my entire life.  I’m glad she did because it was a gift I didn’t know I needed.  She gave me books by Maya Angelou and Alice Walker.  We spent a lot of time in libraries and museums.  I mostly remember my Mom complaining that Steve and I had touchy-itis; a horrible disease where the sufferer is compelled to touch everything, especially if fragile.

There was an authentic Sioux teepee on display in a local museum.  It had a soft but rigid hide and thicker than I expected.  I also discovered the improper securing of said teepee when it tipped over.  Fortunately, my Mom decided my horror at tipping it over was punishment enough.  I still agree.  I’m grateful I had parents who valued good character.  Their influences still guide me daily.  I miss them, but I’m also glad they’re free from 45’s tyranny.

That wakeup guy was trouble!

Today was the first good day I’ve had so far this week.  I spent several hours in the ER trying to get my pain under control, but to no avail.  The pain was unbelievable, and they tried three different narcotics, including morphine.  I was at the point where I had to keep my tooth submerged in ice water at all times in order to get any relief from the pain.  I could go about 5 seconds at a time between dousing it.  Not long enough to get an x-ray at the dental clinic.  They got one, but I was shaking from the pain, and whimpering by the time she finished.  I cracked my tooth, and it got infected, and the infection spread to my ear and sinus cavity.  It took a while for me to notice the pain, then narrow down it’s location.

By the time I went in, it was too late.  But some good came of it.  For instance, my fear of going to the ER at the VA is broken now.  The nurses and doctors were all kind and professional.  I did see the employee that harassed me in the ER in the first place, but just in passing.  I didn’t have to sit in any waiting rooms, which helped a lot.  The nurse who is in charge of all the nurses in the ER took care of me as soon as I got there, and led me to a private room away from the noise.  She’s helped me before, and is astonishingly good at her job.  She told me over the phone that if any nurse ever upset me in the ER to let her know and she’d take care of it.  (That was when someone who wasn’t one of her nurses harassed me).

It’s startling to me how just a handful of nasty people can make a place that also has far more excellent people feel unsafe for me.  Logic would dictate that I would overlook the few, and only count those who are helpful.  I don’t like going anywhere when I’m vulnerable, let alone when I know there is at least one person there who despises me for having brown skin.  I know now that I’m not alone with this issue.  I’ve read about other WOC who have to deal with this problem, too.  It’s disgusting.  When someone is ill or injured, help them to the best of your ability, regardless of skin color.  Otherwise, you’re not a medical professional, you’re a bigot and a fraud.  And I will never again cower in the presence of hatred and ignorance.  Now that I know it’s not just me, I feel like it’s my duty to protect all WOC who are harassed when trying to seek medical care.  So if you pull this shit with me, expect the tongue lashing of your life, followed by a report to the Patient Care representative, which I will CC to the hospital administrator, your immediate supervisor, and several government organizations that can initiate inspections that involve your entire chain of command.

I know exactly how uncomfortable racist white people get when a black woman, who is clearly pissed off, decides to raise her voice and be heard by everyone, while she tells you off for being a hateful bigot.  That’s why we do it.  We know your sneaky ass only pulls this kind of shit when you have us alone, with no other witnesses.  We also know how to download an app that allows us to record everything said while we’re in your care.  So think twice before you mistreat us behind closed doors.  We’re going to use technology to even the playing field, and expose you hateful motherfuckers for what you really are, in front of those whose opinions matter to you.  That’s a promise.

So anyway, before I got all ranty, I noticed it’s National Poetry Day.  It got me thinking about Maya Angelou.  She was a personal hero of mine from childhood.  One of the things my Mom did right as the parent of an interracially adopted child, was to bring to my attention WOC who are amazing, and stand out.  She did this throughout my childhood.  Not only WOC, but women in general who were great.  A lot of them were authors.  Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Zora Neal Hurston, Ntozake Shange, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, etc.  I’m so glad she did this.  She had no idea how isolated I felt as the only black kid in my school district.  But by doing this, she let me know that my skin color and my gender were obstacles, but not barriers.  I wasn’t doomed, even though I sometimes felt like it.  My mom was awesome.

TV shows, like Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show (ugh, I know), and even certain episodes of Little House on the Prairie with Todd Bridges, and a few others helped me feel less isolated.  I believed at first that having brown skin was extremely rare, until I started paying attention to TV.  My little sister was the only other black person I ever met until I was 12.  I guess it makes it easier for me to see some of the progress we’ve made as a nation regarding race issues.  I have memories of incidents that if they happened today, would result in viral shaming.  They don’t haunt me as often as an adult as they did when I was a kid.  I’m proud of the kids I went to school with, because they were genuinely decent people.  Some were assholes in elementary school, but I blame their parents for that.  I forgave them because they outgrew it by age 12.  They could have made my life a living hell, and they didn’t.

In my eyes, my city is far more diverse than when I was growing up.  But the numbers have gone from .1% to 1.4%, so it doesn’t really qualify to be called diverse here.  I remember how excited I got when I heard a man speaking fluent Spanish while checking out a customer at Hy-Vee.  Now I even see signs in both Spanish and English.  When I was a kid, the hispanic population in South Dakota was too low to count.  They put it at 0%.  It’s possible there were zero hispanic people living in the state at that time.  That’s changed.  We also have Asians who weren’t adopted by Caucasians now too.  When I was a kid, the only Asians I ever saw were also interracially adopted.  To me, that didn’t count.  Those of us who were adopted as infants by white families have the culture of the families that adopt us.  This is our native culture, and the only one we know, until we deliberately learn another.

Please don’t ask a POC about what you assume is their native culture until you’re sure it’s their native culture.  Most of the people you meet in America are Americans.  That’s the only assumption you can make without offending someone when in America.  I don’t know very many people who aren’t Americans.  But I love the ones I do know.  I have a particular fondness for people who can speak English.  And Canadians, because for most of my life, I truly believed being Canadian meant you were a nice person.  Now I only believe differently because I took Statistics at uni.  I’m still loopy from all the pain medication they pumped into me.  I felt giddy with joy today, because no pain, and I’m able to keep food down again.  Great reason to feel joyful.  I’m off to read.


Remembering Mom

Remembering Mom
As I remember my childhood, you were always around.
You struggled to reach me, but success was found.
Your gentle nudges, your constant support.
Your disbelief in a doctor's report.

You realized quickly that I am unique.
You refused to allow anyone to call me a freak.
You saw my potential, and encouraged me
to pursue my interests joyfully.

I acquired your mannerisms, and share your same wit.
With you, I felt useful. Not just some misfit.
It doesn't matter whether we share the same face.
Or that we're not even of the same race.

I am who I am, and I do what I do
because at three days old, I was brought home to you.
Even as a child, it was easy to see
that you were a wonderful mother to me.

Heather, Mom, me, Steve

(Left to right – Heather, Mom, me, Steve)