Archive for December, 2014

Musings on Individual Relationships, Reconciliation and Tolerance

There are certain conversations that happen between diverse groups of friends that nobody on the political theater or anyone who is easily offended would ever understand. I have been privy to these conversations and sometimes found myself part of them, either as a friendly punchline (as a token white person) or in deep intellectual and heartfelt conversations that don’t even seem to be happening between different races but by aliens that don’t understand the world around them. Sometimes it’s just an moment of clarity realizing that many times there is so much commonality (the top ten is listened to by all teens and everyone in the south likes grits).
D. “Hey these veggie chips don’t have enough green”
Me:  “Yeah I know ..I mean they only put a few in here…”
D:”racist”

Me: “Yeah ..they put a few in there just to say they were being “diverse”

“Hey D are you going to classic?
“I haven’t been to classic in years”
Me: Why?
D: “Too many black folks”
Note (D is black)

In college about eight years ago I was talking with a friend from New York and we were discussing some foods that you cant find up north from the south, such as sweet tea and I mentioned grits or asked if grits were in sold in New York

Janelle: “You like grittss??”

Me “Yes of course I do, I’m from Georgia and Alabama…”

Janelle: “But…you are white!”
I’m still confused about this one….maybe up north white people don’t eat grits. Or maybe there is some kind of legend with grits that I don’t know about.

In college I had a Puerto Rican roommate One of my former roommates and I were catching up years later. At the time I was dating someone and this was major news in my circles. The first thing she asked was “what is he?”

“Umm…a male…what do you mean”

“What is he? Puerto Rican, black, what?”

“He is just a white guy”
“Oh”
“Sorry to bore you”

Marvin is a 58 year old man I work with. He is a clown and can and will say whatever he wants when he wants. In all the BS that makes up his myth at work though, he is very smart and understands the psychology of people and knows after a few encounters who he can joke with and who will give him hell for doing so. He has branded me his “Favorite bartender” because we can communicate and work well together. For that reason some of the following conversations have ensued.

Marvin “You know I didn’t know about white people’s hair until I dated a girl in college and she washed her hair everyday and I asked her why”

Me: “Marvin you dated a white girl in college?” (I was doing some math work with history in my head)
Marvin smiling “hey I dated I white girl in high school too…and some may act like they got something because a woman is white but me…the way I saw it a woman is a woman and I like women it makes no difference to me”.

Yes Marvin makes no bones about his high regard for women. Once to prove to Marvin that I was indeed had been married in another life, I showed him my old wedding pictures.

Marvin: “Favorite bartender ”

Me ( talking to someone else)

Marvin: “Favorite bartender”

Me (mixing a drink)
Marvin: “Favorite bartender..is this your mother…favorite bartender I AM TALKING To You”

Me: “Yes Marvin”

Marvin: “Is this your mother?”
Me: Yes

Marvin: “Does your mother have a man?”

Me: No
Marvin: “Does she want one…she is too good looking to not have a man”

Me:…well …thanks Marvin

Marvin is a grocery store sale addict. He does all the grocery shopping in his home. He catches all the candy sales after every holiday. He brings the women at work candy and the men Arizona Tea. Some of us have gotten real used to this and when he brings us off brand waxy candy we feel suddenly taken for granted. Like a alternate work life reality …ok who is getting the good candy Marvin?? There used to be a gorgeous very young girl named Jay that worked in the kitchen. There was no doubt and it was no secret that if given the chance Marvin would put this girl in house on a hill with a picket fence and keep her there in secret for the rest of her born days if she had ever just given him the green light. He also has an ability unlike anyone I have ever met to memorize numbers, I admire this greatly. If he sees a phone number once he remembers it forever.

Marvin: “E is my one true love, she is my number one”
D: “Really…your number one huh?
Marvin: Yes…she is my one love..
D: “Really? hmmm…what is Jays’ number again…?”

Marvin: Rattles off her number without even thinking about it…”yeah…she uh…she is my young love”
Me: “Say what? What am I?”

Marvin: “You? You’re my white love”
Then he walked off with the sound of shock and laughter behind him…I definitely opened the door for that one-never try to joke with someone who has and loves an audience.

Thanksgiving

Marvin: “Favorite bartender what are you gonna do with that turkey because you aint gonna cook it, and you don’t have nobody to cook it for. What kind of candy you want, what do you want me to give you for it  because I need it. I need three I got forty five people coming to my house.”
Me: “Candy? I think I should get some of the turkey since I obviously wont be cooking….”
Marvin: “Well you are welcome to come on Thanksgiving I invite everybody but I know you wont”

Me: “Watch me”

Thanksgiving Day (after work)

I find Marvin’s house, I stand outside a while since I had come in to the back yard and not realized it. Finally I realize the house has a lot of people already in it and I might be standing there a while. I walk in the back door and hear someone announces “There is white lady coming in, I don’t know who that is!” I say “This is Marvin’s house yes?” The air seemed to relax. I traded some fun stories with his nieces about Marvin’s antics and met and hugged his dear little wife and at some point Marvin took my plate and refilled it with much more than I could eat. When he saw I didn’t eat all my second plate he said loudly “Well you could  have at least eat the rest of those greens, because that is a waste-and we would eat them but we don’t eat after white people!” and stalked off with everyone in the room shocked but laughing. When I was leaving and was blocked in in the yard he asked why on earth I parked the way I did. “I don’t know I guess I’m the dumb white person here.”

Marvin:”Don’t say that”

And that was that.

Sitting at the computer one day at work ringing in tickets and someone was playing music on their phone. It was a song from the 90’s and in the 90’s R&B ruled the airwaves and top ten…you know before the new teen pop killed all that was good about the 90’s. Blackstreet “No Diggity” was playing and this was a favorite of mine in my early teens. It had been years but I jumped in humming and singing the song. One of my favorite people named Ertha threw down her silverware and shifted her whole weight to one side and with her hand on her hip and in a larger than impressed voiced exclaimed:”SHUT-UP! What do you know about this??”.  We all listen to varied music we just don’t know it.

Thanksgiving Day at work

Deon: “We’re gonna tear shit up”
Me: “Huh?”
Deon “We …gonna …tear shit up…we are gonna eat.”

Me: “Oh..”
Deon: “I forget that  you are white”

Me: “Oh…thanks?”

I have a friend from Chicago, and it always interesting when we go out in certain places. Certain places just are not used to seeing black shoppers -because the area is primarily white. When we come back to my neighborhood which is very well mixed we still get weird looks, but from the other side. Like they are mad at her for having a white friend. Very similar to when I go out with a black male friend, we feel and observe the different looks or vibes we are getting from both races -because everybody is looking. These kinds of things make for very interesting conversations for people who have chosen to live in each others worlds or communicate or share stories. It is much too easy to live separate and let the status quo reign and act like everyone else is doing the same.This is another thing that me and my friend from Chicago discuss. She says moving down here to Birmingham was a different experience, from both sides. She had to force against conventional standards of the southern city, and say “look in Chicago I had all kinds of friends and I will here too…so I’m black and she is white-so what?”. The thing is we aren’t the only ones. Biracial marriages, relationships and friendships are so much more prominent, even in places like Mississippi. If Marvin who is nearing sixty went out with who he wanted to go out with before it was widely accepted than why is the younger generation still having these conversations? So when, as people we have come so far, why is there still such tensions? Maybe because on an individual levels we heal, through our raising or how we perceive ourselves or each other, and not everyone heals the same or has that opportunity. So we need patience with each other but we must still make the effort. We make choices individually and later as we effect others and they do the same it reaches community. Sometimes the struggle is against a need to acquiesce  to our own subgroups of people and their expectations. Another friend of mine has to fight against expectations just because he does things differently than what is expected. He is a vegan…apparently this is an issue. I did not understand this being an “issue” for years, and this is where me being white gives me a clouded lens. Once I was asking “why do you act like everyone really gives you a hard time about this? Every restaurant in Birmingham has a vegan menu, there is a hippie organic community -it is more wide spread than it used to be”. He spoke very clearly and pointedly and said “Do you know any other black vegans? What does every other black person in Alabama that you know eat?” It sunk in…”oooohhh…” He knew I understood then…”It ain’t you giving me a hard time about eating vegan and wanting to drive a Tesla, OK”.

These kinds of relationships and conversations are learning experiences and offer growth. Race and diversity conversations always come up in diverse groups of people and I think it is a good thing. I have them and overhear them. A mother talks about putting her kids in a diverse school instead of a school in one part of town where only black people would be. She wanted her kids around diversity and now she has diverse kids coming to see her son, and that is what she wanted. Here in Birmingham, or Alabama as a whole, it seems to still be an effort that is almost tiresome and from every side.
A friend in a completely different state was talking about the current racial political war. She is a beautiful well spoken and smart woman, and some things she has to say may not even fly if she said it where the race baiters could hear her. We were talking about how deep racial divisions and pain go, and how this is the reason it can get played with and manipulated still today. The very fact that it can get manipulated and played with is painful in itself. She made the statement to me that the people that rule the world are not black, and how smart is it to put a black guy in office only to continue systematic racial divisions the way that they have and trigger emotional outbursts? “He is a puppet and that is all”. Yeah how smart was that… It’s insane and cruel is what it is.

It is conversations like this, where things are real and human touches human where differences are made. That is the difference in “tolerance” and “reconciliation”. Forget tolerance, that is an illusion of some cookie cutter Utopia where everyone represses, it’s the foundation of the new world wide communist dream. If I ‘tolerate” you it means I don’t understand, I don’t care and I don’t like you but I will tolerate you until something fires off somewhere and that facade falls and then I’ll be jailed for my “hate speech”.  Reconciliation requires communication and learning and a willingness to acknowledge difference and maybe ask and accept forgiveness. Tolerance is a cheap replacement for reconciliation and it’s lacks even the decency of respect, since respect also requires communication and acceptance (all of which also requires reconciliation). Another lie me and this artist friend of mine have joked about is “color blindness”. She really doesn’t like the term…if you deny you see that she is black then you aren’t seeing her differences as beauty but instead saying you don’t see her.,..and she sure isn’t denying that she sees a white person when she talks to me. This kind of freed me up to tell her a little anecdote from my childhood

Me: “I don’t understand the whole new “Sexual identity” thing that they are putting on children…like a five year old pretended to be a boy so they are treating her/him as an adult transgender person. I mean, we all pretend to be various people as children. We all want to be something that we are not as children, like I wanted to be a black woman when I grew up…man I feel cheated-where is my technological surgery to realign my “real” identity?”

A: “WHATTTTT???”
Me: “I swear that is not a joke, I was serious about this in my little five year old mind…I mean what is more boring than being white? I thought if God can do anything than He could make me black, or at least grow up to be so…he had just made a mistake and put me in the wrong family”.

A: “I have never heard I white woman say this”
Me: “I was five, it’s just like later I wanted curls because my hair was straight and I wanted to be tall because I was short”
A: (laughs hysterically)
Note: Every black woman I know is shocked at my five year old pain, but the reason I tell the story is to illustrate that people do note and are attracted to difference, no matter where they come from. When I was little there was a gorgeous woman at church and she was black and I wanted to look like her. So although we may honestly say we don’t “base” our relationships or our perceptions of people on race (as I do not and was raised not to do so) We still have eyes. Just like within our own races we wish to look like others, or we admire physical traits in others, or we are attracted to certain physical traits of the opposite sex, as humans we still can appreciate what our fellow people of other races look like or sound like. And all my sisters from other misters agree and are the ones that bring it up the most often. It seems to be the white people that are so afraid of being labeled “racist” or saying something wrong and sounding offensive that try to stay politically correct.            We have our own pain from the past, it used to be called “white mans burden”, now it is called “privilege” and it gets widely abused so no one knows what it means. What it means is guilt. Because like my friend and I talked about the people that run the world aren’t any of us who are here having these conversations, but they sure want to keep us from having them. Many white people constantly try to prove they aren’t racist, or that the country isn’t and they go to great strides getting on politically correct terminology (by the way most of my friends don’t want to be called African American) and getting on the right political party and keep trying to wash their hands and constantly apologize for things that great great forefathers did, constantly begging the question “are we forgiven yet”. The way to get there is not taking sides but it’s not ignoring each other either.

So I leave you with quite possible the funniest random text I have ever gotten…

Artist friend..
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My answer and then the charge …
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And then we started acting like this was a serious movement…
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Like I said ..the conversations that happen between diverse friends…

So This is Christmas

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This very well be the sappiest post I shall ever write….but it is once a year and I’m allowed. I like Christmas. I remember a few years ago having the thought that I wasn’t going to allow other people’s attitude affect mine anymore. Misery loves company and some people just love being miserable. Yes December is the busiest month at work, and it is for anyone that works. Be it the food and beverage industry, the travel industry, the retail industry or any other place where we make our living. So…we are making a living -does it mean that we have to have a horrible attitude. I remember about nine years ago I was at work and the very day that we started playing Christmas music one of my managers was instantly in a mood that she carried through the entire month ” I HATE Christmas music”. Well gee it started today…hmmm I kinda got tired of the redundant music that I heard in the last eleven months of the year so…. This is common in many places, and it is becoming a younger and younger crowd that carries the attitude. It is no longer ba humbug grinches that have just have an ornery attitude. It is people my age and younger. They are totally devoted to their negative attitude about life. Playing secret Santa? No, they wont play and will make you feel like a horrible person for playing and for the price minimum/maximum. Why do they care how much other friends are spending on each other if they aren’t playing? Watching Rudolph the Red nose reindeer because it is ancient and everyone has a childhood memory of seeing it? They will tell you you are too old to be watching. Quoting Charlie Brown …oh don’t even go there. Say Merry Christmas on Facebook…oh gosh here comes the rant about the commercialism of Christmas and a nice “F*#% Christmas” comment on your wall. If it isn’t Christmas they hate, it’s the cold weather, it’s the children and children being excited (because they hate children as well…or they hate the way people are raising their children to be conditioned to the commercialism of Christmas, they just have a say in everything which they have absolutely nothing to do with). They are miserable and immune to any life or happiness to be found anywhere and want you to be too, whether it is through a political theater about “dont say Christ” or it’s in their constant berating with the blanket statements of “everyone” and “everything”. They might talk about the commercialism and how Christmas means nothing to anyone because “Everyone” is about the money, but they also will hate that Salvation Army and United Way “begs” for money. So there really is no winning with these types of attitudes. Life is just a bit more nuanced than that in my interpretation.

If you hate that the United Way gives an option for you to donate out of your paycheck to their cause, then you must also hate that they shelter battered women and give classes to former addicts so they can get employment. If you hate that, then you probably hate the guy that volunteers to ring that bell outside Wal Mart every year because you know “he is begging” and then you must hate the Angel Tree where people essentially adopt a name of a child for Christmas. If you hate all that because of the advertisement and over commercialism of Christmas then you kind of are aiding in the commercialism that robs Christmas I think. Maybe it is not understood, unless you have been on the receiving end of some of those volunteer services, or of good hearted people who didn’t have to pay attention. I was one of those kids at several times, although I did not understand then, but because I was, I also have a different look at Christmas. Christmas was family. It was once a year watching old movies that never get old because they tell about the Spirit of Christmas. It was about Jesus and giving and miracles and life. Somehow we always had our needs met. So no matter what commercialism, or political wars, or trolls on social media or busyness  at work has to say about it, I still choose to be happy and to give what I can and where I can.  Even when there is so much end of year activity and I’m tired of seeing my co workers, and the four walls of my apartment. Even when I don’t get a chance to see some light displays. Even when I might not be able to do all I would like to for the people I love. It is once a year, and some try to even get on a kick about “I don’t celebrate Christmas because it should be every day that we give”…like trying to make me feel guilty…or something.

Hey giving people do give all year, and still love to give at Christmas.
I found a Salvation Army Angel Tree and got a seven year old boy child’s name off it. He wanted legos and that was my favorite at five…and probably seven…and maybe now since I had to refrain from playing with the 627 piece lego box I got for him. I mean it’s kind of like getting one thing for the one kid don’t have yet, but someone else does and they would like them kid to have a smile at Christmas. I put out my little Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and set out a few ornaments, and that is all my individual self in my studio can really keep up with, but I watched It’s A Wonderful Life while I did…because it is a great message that film. A very forward and simple message about the oppression of a negative rich banker man who wants to run the whole town and keep people indebted to him and in his slums-very negative guy making other negative people, except one little man who has big dreams and a bigger heart and moral compass…George kinda gets lost in his own negativity and loses sight of the people he has affected. Actually if you want to get on a kick about bankers and money that movie has a really deep message…

So at Christmas lets think about how we touch people negatively or positively throughout the year, and if you just hate Christmas…well you are spending a lot of energy in your misery and attempt to make others feel the same. So you might as well love it. Merry Christmas!

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