Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Monday, December 31, 2007

What Have You Done This Year To Make You Feel Proud?

Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write your New Year’s Resolutions . . .

Before you berate yourself for how much weight you didn’t lose, how much money you didn’t save, how many unnutritional meals your kids consumed this year, how much debt you amassed. . . .

Before you do any of this, ask yourself one thing:

What have you done this year to make you feel proud?

Yes, to borrow from the theme song from “The Biggest Loser,” (which, by the way, was a big hit in the U.K. before it became the theme song from “The Biggest Loser"), think about it. Surely you did something right this year. Surely you did one thing to make yourself proud, giving you pride to carry on into the next year.

Well, let’s get this party started right! Here’s my list:

1. I walked away from a toxic job with dysfunctional people.

2. I devised a real estate transaction that resulted in two of my family members moving out of the ghetto. And before you accuse me of being bourgie, which I cop to, let me tell you this: No one should live anywhere where they are not safe if they can afford to move. Especially if they have kids. My family members were no longer safe, and they needed to move.

3. I helped BMNB get a better, higher paying job close to home.

4. I joined Weight Watchers. Now, mind you, I didn’t say I stayed in Weight Watchers, but, like quitting smoking, weight loss is often a series of repeated efforts toward success. I prefer to think that I have one more effort notched on my belt toward success.

5. I won second place in a local short story contest. This was a BIG step for me because I had put away my creative writing a long, long time ago. I entered the contest on a wing and prayer, saying that if I won anything, it would be a sign to me from God that I was indeed meant to write. I still haven’t cashed the check for $75.00 I received – I’m keeping it as a reminder that somebody out there is actually willing to pay me for my writing.

6. I finished the National Novel Writing Month contest (NaNoWriMo.org). No small feat – 50,000 words, 30 days. Now I have complete almost one-third of the first draft of my novel.

7. I learned to say “no” to people and things that weren’t for me. And I’m still doing it. 2008 will definitely be the year of “No: Part Deux.”

8. I cut my hair. I don’t know what it is about black men (including BMNB), but when you mention cutting your shoulder length hair to them, it is nothing short of blasphemy to them. I even had a good black male friend quote The Bible, telling me that I was cutting my crowning glory. Well, my crowning glory was looking more like a crown of thorns. If your hair is wearing you instead of the other way around, you need to think about changing it. I did, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to having long hair again. My hairdresser, Gigi Mathews of Gigi Mathews Salon in San Francisco, can hook you up with a good cut. All I have to do now is pop two rollers in the top, wrap the rest, and tie it up with a scarf at night and I’m good to go in the morning.

9. I survived. Despite problems on my job, financial turmoil, family strife (Note: Don’t ever volunteer to organize a family reunion!), having to move twice in two years, death in the family, and other challenges, I’m still here. Here to greet another New Year. That’s more than a lot of people. And if you’re reading this, you survived, too. Give yourself a big hug on my behalf.

Sure, like many, I have some goals I’d like to accomplish next year. Like many, I’ve had multiple, multiple failures this year. Like many, I’ve been bingeing out on the things I’m cutting out of my diet next year (Potatoes Au Gratin, anyone? Talk about a heart attack on a plate! But they’re so, so good!). But for today, for the last twenty-four remaining hours in this year, you and I should simply celebrate the things we did in 2007 that made us feel proud.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

To Die For

I was saddened to hear of the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Saddened to know that there are still people out there who believe that might is right and that they can win by violence, as if the world is going to stand still and just put up with their crap. Saddened to think that this 54 year-old woman will never see her children grow up and will never know her own grandchildren. Saddened for the prospects for democracy in a country that so desperately needs it to work – not for the international security of the world, but for their own self-determination.

Ms. Bhutto’s death got me thinking: What would I be willing to die for?

In truth, not much.

Oh, I’d be willing to die for the usual – my husband, my family, and, if threatened, my faith. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t deny my Christian faith if faced with anti-Christian assassin asking me if I believed in Jesus, as occurred at Columbine.

Would I die for my country? Probably not. Not because it isn’t worth it. Because the idea of “dying for my country” has, in this country, been stretched so far from the idea of national defense into the idea defense of national, or rather international, economic and geopolitical interests. We send our men and women in uniform to die for nations that aren’t democratic and don’t aspire to be (Kuwait) or that don’t want democracy bad enough such that their own people rise up to die for it (Iraq). I think we perpetrate a huge lie when we say that every person in uniform who is killed in action has died for our country when in truth they have died at the request of our country.

Would I die for my people? Probably not. I remember when I was taking Professor Derrick Bell’s “Civil Rights at the Crossroads” class at Harvard Law School when he posed this same question of us students. One of my law school classmates, who is African American, said no, she wouldn’t die for her people. Why? She responded, “Why would I die for my people when my people don’t even love themselves?”

Perhaps that’s precisely why we as African Americans should be willing to die for our people – to show them that someone loves them enough to die for them, even if they don’t love themselves. But would my death in the service of advancing my people make my people any better off, if only to ponder the reason for my sacrifice? I doubt it. If the sad but understandable death of Rosa Parks or the untimely demises of Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz didn’t shake us out of our embrace of ignorance over education, tattered family units over unity and primacy of children’s best interests, and materialism over wise economic stewardship, I don’t know what else could.

Is the fact that I haven’t found much other than my husband, family, and faith that I’d be willing to die for mean that I don’t know what I’m living for?

Perhaps. So, my goal for the New Year is to ask myself: What purpose am I willing to die for?

Perhaps you should ask yourself the same thing. Because we’re all going to die, but at least some of us will know what we’re dying for. Like Benazir Bhutto, may she rest in peace.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas From Me and SWIE

My late mother, hereinafter referred to in this blog as “She Who Is Exalted” or “SWIE," was able, year after year after ever-loving year, to get a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, rice, greens, another vegetable I probably wouldn’t eat, rolls, scalloped potatoes, stuffing, and salad all on the Christmas dinner table at the same time, with all the hot foods still piping hot. That effort didn’t even take into account the two sweet potato pies and the two apple pies she baked the night before. All this while holding down a 40 hour a week job and raising six kids and juggling Lord knows how many credit card balances to fulfill the wishes of said six children whose births spanned ten years and didn’t have a clue as to how poor they really were. She was more determined than Scarlett O’Hara that, as God was her witness, her kids would never, ever have a piss-poor Christmas.

Now you know why I refer to her as SWIE. She had mad domestic and creative finance skills that I don’t’ have. I don’t even aspire to have them. And, as I noted at my office holiday potluck this week, she, like many overworked and underappreciated mothers before her, accomplished this amazing feat year after year without benefit of Prozac, Xanax, or Zoloft.

And she was among the lucky ones. At least she had a husband with a job. Today, many women are doing this and more on their own. Again, without benefit of Prozac, Xanax, or Zoloft.

Well, since I can’t say this to my own mother, I say this to all of you: Thank you and God Bless You. Because one of the most important gifts you can give your children is a happy childhood. That’s not to say that a happy childhood is made up of material goods all the time – God knows that, between Christmas and birthdays, we rarely got gifts “just because” – but my mom definitely tried to make sure we participated in the childlike magic that is Christmas. That on one day, we were special and our wishes were fulfilled, making up for any and all disappointments we had suffered during the year. When I would ask Mom how she could afford to pay for all this (yes, I was a precocious child), she would tell me that that was grown-up business and none of my concern. “You need to enjoy being a child,” she would warn me. And off I would run, shielded from the truth of our circumstances. We weren’t dirt poor, but we weren’t nearly as well off as our Christmas bounty would suggest.

(Oh, and a belated and heartfelt thanks to the kind folks in the credit department at Macy’s for increasing my mom’s credit limit during the holidays.)

So, to all of you women who do and continue to do everything my mom did for Christmas, and especially to all of you who do it without the benefit of a second income from a husband, I applaud, salute, and adore you. And, by the way, my mom does, too. The one thing she would always say was that my aunt was the real heroine in the family because she, too, was raising six kids, but without benefit of a husband. My mom looked up to my aunt because she felt that, deep down inside, she didn’t have what it took to do what my aunt did as a single mother.

So, from me and SWIE, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Obamaudacity

Obamaudacity: The possibly irrationally exuberant belief that Barack Obama's candidacy will energize young voters, sweeping him into the White House and causing Generations X and Y to take ownership of their country.


Yes, I've been on the fence for a long time regarding what has now become the Obama/Clinton /Edwards race, partly because none of them was my first choice. Long before his movie won an Academcy Award and he shared a Nobel Prize, I had hoped that Al Gore would take all his newfound populist energy and fame and make a final run at the White House. It was not to be, but I held out hope.

But now we're getting down to the wire, and I feel like I have to choose. And, given my choices, I've come down with a mild case of Obamaudacity, for a variety of reasons.

First, I'm not a Hillary hater, but I can kinda understand those who are. I would love to see a woman in the White House as someone other than the First Lady, but I'm not certain whether Hillary is that woman. I don't think the Hillary folks truly recognize how much of the African American community's fondness for Bill is manifested as grace toward Hillary. And, as much as Bill Clinton did, most likely with Hillary's help, to increase the number of African American federal judges and to appoint African Americans to his cabinet, I'm still smarting over the Clintons' treatment of Lani Guinier. Remember her? The nominee for head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice? I hated the way she was made out to be some "quota queen." Trust me, I had to read some of her academic writings in law school, and she wasn't nearly as radical as she was made out to be. What I hated more was that the Clintons didn't defend her and she wasn't allowed to defend herself. But God and Kharma worked it all out -- she made history as the first African American woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School. But it still left an image of the Clintons in my mind as a couple that turns tail on their friends at the whiff of controversy or confrontation.

The other reason I'm not feeling Hillary is that her candidacy reminds me of the same old tired political tactics that the candidates use first to inflict harm on their party brethren and then to inflict harm on the other party's candidate. Her swipes at Barack Obama's inexperience ring hollow for me. First, I love that Obama has grassroots political experience from actually working to organize everyday people to vote. Second, her backhanded remark to the effect that spending part of one's childhood in a foreign country doesn't count as foreign policy experience lends itself to some irony and doesn't exactly ring true. If that is indeed the case, then sleeping with the president doesn't equate to foreign policy experience, either; otherwise, Monica Lewinsky would be more than qualified to be Secretary of State. She did, after all, overhear President Clinton talking to Arafat while she was in flagrante fellatio.

And, as someone who actually did live in a foreign country, albeit for a short time during college, I would beg to differ with her assessment. I studied in Spain as a college student during the Reagan years, when the dollar was at an all time high. I learned first hand the effect of U.S. monetary and foreign policy on other nations. For instance, I never understood why, when I went to the bank to change my dollars into pesetas, that I was treated with disdain. One of my Spanish classmates explained it to me curtly: "Don't you get it? Oil is bought in dollars. It's winter, and the dollar is high compared to the peseta. That means that a lot of poor people in this country won't be able to afford to heat their homes. And you come walking in the bank, exchanging dollars like they're nothing. Of course they hate you."

Talk about foreign/economic policy 101. If Obama gained even a scintilla of an other-worldly perspective on the effects of U.S. foreign and economic policy on other countries, or even an understanding of how non-Americans regard this nation, he will have brought far more of worth into the White House than its current occupant. Plus, if I haven't learned anything else from the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, I've learned this: Don't confuse experience with wisdom.

Finally, I've got Obamaudacity because of my experience teaching young people. When I taught law students, the one thing I noticed was that very few of the black law students I met were registered Democrats. Those who were registered to vote at all were primarily Independents. They didn't feel any Roosevelt/Kennedy/Clinton loyalty to the Democratic party. And they were largely apathetic, suffering from "political party fatigue." Yet, it is this very group that has the most to lose if they are not politically energized and engaged. They're Gen X and Gen Y, so that means they're going to get the sloppy seconds of the Baby Boom generation -- sloppy environment, sloppy Social Security, sloppy economy, sloppy deficit, sloppy never-ending war in Iraq, sloppy immigration policy, sloppy everything. Basically, we Baby Boomers are going to leave these young folks to clean up our mess. They might as well get started now and have a say in who is going to help them do it. And if Obama is their choice, then, as someone in the tail end of the Baby Boom generation, I want to honor their choice. To them, I imagine, he represents a clean slate unsullied by past scandals, support for the war in Iraq, and the same recycled political hacks from both parties.

I know Baby Boomers won't let go of Rolling Stones concerts -- hell, some of us would still be following the Grateful Dead if Jerry Garcia were alive -- as well as smoking doobies, endless self-improvement, and flagrant conspicuous consumption. But maybe, just maybe, we need to cede to the choices of the generations behind us. Maybe we need a case of Obamaudacity.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bad Girl, Bad Girl . . . Whatcha Gonna Do?

I always loved the movie "Thelma and Louise." I thought the only thing wrong with it was the ending. Instead of clasping hands while driving the car off the cliff, I thought Thelma and Louise should have been giving the police the "rigid digit," i.e., the finger.

Well, yesterday I did the equivalent of driving the car off the cliff AND giving the finger. At least in my world. Without saying more, I walked away from a situation that wasn't working for me, hadn't been working for me. A situation that I initially tried to make work against my better judgment. I walked away, leaving others to pick up the mess. I had had enough and couldn't bear to remain one minute longer. It reminded me of when my friend Sheila was breaking up with her bankrupt-but-fronting-using-her-money boyfriend. Like a debtor to a collection agency, he asked her, "Can't you give me just thirty days?" She replied, "I can't give you another thirty seconds."

Yesterday, neither could I.

Call it midlife crisis, call it Anne Heche "Celestia" crazy, but I had made it to the finish line of my commitment spiritually bedraggled and running on empty, and I couldn't take a second more. I had nothing to show for my time. Almost a year wasted. Alot of passive aggressive behavior on everyone's part, including mine, especially considering how I exited. It wasn't pretty. And I had stopped caring and checked out long before I left.

I was a bad girl. But hey, whatcha gonna do?

As they say, good girls rarely make history.

Will this be a bad mark on my reputation? You betcha.

Do I care? Well, kind of. It's not in my nature to act this way. I usually overcompensate for walking away, trying to leave the person or persons in a better position than when I left.

But when you feel like you've been treated as less than, talked to like you're stupid, and criticized for efforts you know in your right mind were good and better than most, you have to take that glass of Kool-Aid your critics would have you drink and throw it in their face.

And walk away.

But not without giving the finger first.