Sunday, August 22, 2010

The One Blog Entry I Never Wanted To Write

It's not the natural order of things for a parent to bury a child.

-- My dad.

Everybody is somebody's child.

-- My mom.

While other kids were learning their colors and numbers, as a four-year old, my mother made me memorize my home address, phone number, and my parents' names just in case something happened to me and some adult wanted to help me. Like most parents, she hoped that if something happened to me, somebody would realize that I "belonged" to somebody and would help me. That somebody would show some compassion and not take advantage of a child, her child. She wanted me to be able to help whoever was going to help me get home. Naively, she believed that were I to be lost, somebody would help me just because I was somebody's child.

Perhaps that's too much to hope for in the new millennium.

I'll admit -- I've been avoiding writing this blog entry.

I took time off to prepare for a barbecue Black Man Not Blogging and I were giving for some dear, close friends on Saturday. I immersed myself in yard work, house work, and rib rub (prepping the ribs, that is). All plausibly good excuses to avoid writing this blog entry, to write words I never wanted to accept.

On Friday, the family of 24 year-old Mitrice Richardson held a memorial service for her. After months of searching for her after her release from police custody in Malibu, Mitrice's remains were found near a marijuana grove in Malibu Canyon.

I had hoped she would return home. I had been incensed by the fact that, but for her mother and stepfather, the initial press coverage of her disappearance would have been faint, if at all. Incensed that when brown-eyed, brown skinned women go missing, no one seems to notice as much. Incensed when Matt Lauer called her parents by their first names and asked whether Mitrice was "street smart." I had hoped, perhaps unrealistically, for a Jaycee Dugard-like homecoming for Mitrice, without all the weirdness of the Garridos.

I had hoped for too much.

And I am still incensed that a young woman could be released from police custody into the night alone when she had shown signs of mental distress. Her mother, Latice Sutton, had been assured she would remain safe in custody until the morning. I am incensed that sheriff's deputies didn't call her mother when she was released into the night, like she was nobody.

It is not the natural order of things for a parent to bury a child. I never met Mitrice, never met her family, but I didn't have to to know that she was somebody's daughter, somebody's loved one. Someone who was loved by someone, missed by someone, belonged to someone. Someone who deserved more than being released in the dead of night by herself with no way home. Someone who deserved to have some person with an iota of compassion take time and intervene, not because Mitrice was special, but simply because she was somebody's child who was not in a position to help herself. I wonder if the deputies on duty that night would have sent the daughter of someone they knew into the night without a way home or someone to get them. Somehow I doubt it.

Please keep Mitrice's family in your prayers.

NB: Thanks to the Malibu Surfside News for keeping the search for Mitrice in the news.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Cookie and a Nap

If anyone asks me what my happiest time was during my educational years, I would respond, "kindergarten."

Why? Because Mrs. Anderson, my kindergarten teacher, knew exactly what each of us 6 year-olds needed. And sometimes, yours truly needed a cookie and a nap. Quite frankly, I think JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater needed a cookie and nap the other day when he let fly an expletive-laden invective and jetted out the back with two beers. He needed Mrs. Anderson.

Mrs. Anderson was an angel of mercy for a little girl like me who didn't want to be in kindergarten. She wore her raven-black hair elegantly swept back in a French twist and wore dresses much like those worn by the characters in "Mad Men" -- cinched at the waist, full skirt, form-fitting above the waist (This was 1969, after all.). She was expert at dealing with little kids like me who didn't want to be around a bunch of snot-nosed crybabies who didn't know how to count or read or know their colors. Occasionally, I would just have a full-on meltdown, at which point Mrs. Anderson would kindly offer me (or any similarly situated child) a cookie, tell me to go take a nap, and would point me in the direction of the stack of carpet remnants she kept just for that purpose.

And she was right. I'd eat my cookie, lay out on the carpet remnant, and if I slept just long enough, the entire kindergarten day would be over and I could go home and leave the other kids behind.

To this day, when I'm on the verge of having a full-on meltdown at work, I stop and tell myself, "I need a cookie and a nap."

So when I heard about Mr. Slater's antics, first I had to laugh. Then I sympathized because, I, too have had that fantasy of saying exactly what I thought in my work environment, giving the finger, and walking away. In fact, I kinda did the same thing three years ago. I totally understood how he felt. And I would imagine that airline passengers are not unlike a bunch of snot-nosed crybabies from the perspective of a flight attendant.

I just wished someone would have pulled Mr. Slater aside and told him, "You need a cookie and a nap."

Mrs. Anderson would have.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Hope Elena Kagan Is Gay

It’s really none of my business. Really. But I hope Elena Kagan is gay.

The U.S. District Court in San Francisco struck down California’s Proposition 8 on the grounds that, among other arguments, it violated the Equal Protection Clause because there was no rational basis for discriminating against gays and lesbians. For those of you non-lawyers out there, rational basis analysis is the weakest test applied to discriminatory laws. If you were comparing rational basis analysis to limbo, let’s just say it would be ankle-high: not a hard hurdle to overcome. And yet the proponents of Proposition 8 failed to overcome it.

So imagine how lame Judge Vaughn Walker thought the justifications for Proposition 8 were that he ruled that they didn’t pass rational basis analysis, to wit:

1) Preserving the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman;
2) Proceeding with caution when implementing social changes;
3) Promoting opposite-sex parenting over same-sex parenting;
4) Protecting the freedom of those who oppose same-sex marriage;
5) Treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples; and
6) Any other conceivable interest.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger, (2010) No, C-09-0299 VRW (N.D. Cal.) at p. 123. So let me get this straight – you’re going up against Ted Olsen and David Boies, two veritable legal giants who have appeared numerous times before the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably against each other in Bush v. Gore, and this is the best you can come up with? I hope those Prop. 8 supporters didn’t spend a lot of money on their legal talent.

Depending on the patchwork of state and federal court decisions determining whether prohibiting gay marriage violates equal protection and due process under our federal Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court might be enticed to take this case to settle the law once and for all. Maybe.

And if it does, I hope Elena Kagan is gay. I wonder how many gay people the Justices know. I wonder if they know that gay people aren’t trying lessen the meaning of marriage for others; they’re just seeking equal rights under the laws. If states hadn’t gotten into the business of regulating marriage in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this position. Everyone would just go to their church, synagogue, supreme leader, open pasture or whatever, declare themselves married, and prepare to get screwed by the IRS. But nooooooo . . . . the states had to get all up in our business and license and regulate marriage. Well, guess what? The state doesn’t get to play favorites, even if a majority of people want it to. That’s what the Constitution is for – to protect the rights of people who happen to be in them minority, no matter what you think of them. Once the government got involved in marriage, it ceased to be just a religious rite. Now it’s an individual right. And that, in a nutshell, is why you shouldn’t be able to discriminate as to who gets to enjoy that right.

If Elena Kagan is gay, I want those Justices who think it’s okay to discriminate based on sexual orientation to look her in the eye and make that argument.

And then prepare for the legal smackdown of a lifetime.

We’ve heard similar arguments before, folks, and so has the U.S. Supreme Court -- in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), where the State of Virginia had the audacity to argue the constitutionality of its anti-miscegenation laws. In holding Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law up the Court had this to say:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 at 12. If gay and lesbian people love their mates half as much as I love Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), well, then, their right to marry is worth fighting for. I wish them well.

And I’m hoping against all hope that Elena Kagan is gay.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Own Personal Hater (Work That)

I guess I must be doing something right. I have my owner personal hater. Again.

My personal hater, or PH, takes delight in what PH perceives to be my downfall or struggle and, in the guise of offering assistance, seeks to get deeper into my personal business so PH can feel better about PH. Don't know why, but PH can't seem to stand it when I stand out. PH consistently tries to "improve" on my ideas and my work but usually doesn't. Once in a while, yes, but not consistently enough to claim victory or superiority.

You probably have your own PH, too -- at work, in your family, in an organization you work with. If not, it's because your PH hasn't shown him or herself yet. BMNB (my husband, Black Man Not Blogging) has his own PH, too. He doesn't let it bother him.

It wouldn't bother me if I could jettison this PH like I've done others in my life -- even those I'm related to -- but, for the moment, I'm stuck with this PH.

When I was young, I was pretty good at avoiding or appeasing PH's, either getting around them or turning them into friends. I'm done with that crap. I don't have the problem --- I just do what I do and try to do it to the best of my ability. If someone else can't handle it because of how they feel about themselves, that's not my problem. They need to, in the words of my nephew, "build a bridge and get over it."

I was dreading dealing with my PH today, but then Mary J. Blige, the patron saint of black women's self-esteem, came to the rescue. I rarely take out old CD's from my car's CD player, and today was no exception. I just happened to troll around my CD selections, and Mary J.'s "Work That" started to play. It was as if God knew what I was dealing with and wanted to send me a message:

Let em get mad,
They gonna hate anyway, don't you get that?
Doesn't matter if you go along with their plan
They'll never be happy 'cause they're not happy with themselves. . .

I started to bob my head, smile, and sing along. Mary J. knows a little something about haters, too. She's probably got a lot of them.

If you have your own PH and you can't shake him or her for the moment, just crank up Mary J.'s "Work That." It will make you feel better. I promise.

And whatever you do, "don't hold back, you just be yourself," just to piss off your PH.