FeaturedA Letter of Welcome to Club POC

Dear White Culture,

We are done explaining racism, discrimination and white privilege. We are done attempting to explain your historic cruelty and systemic bias in systems that do not inherently benefit People of Color (POC). To further attempt to explain is like telling a drug addict that he or she has a problem before they are ready to get help.

So this is what it is. When we walk away, when we stop spending our collective trillions of dollars being consumers of hair, cars, electronics, sneakers and handbags, when we decide to educate our own children, when we decide to use our collective power to file the country’s largest and impactful civil suit demanding an apology and reparations for the generations of inhumane treatment targeting our ancestors and us—from the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to the School to Prison Pipeline up to and including all the other deeds which you all have devised out of fear of retribution, dying out as a population and getting just desserts for hundreds of years of going around God’s beautiful green earth and taking what does not rightfully belong to you, and calling it your own UNDER THE GUISE OF CHRISTIANITY, do not be surprised and please refrain from shedding white tears. The jig is up; they have no effect on us. We have realized that those same white tears which shed for abused puppies remain skillfully in place when POC are unjustly killed by police officers.

We don’t hate you (those of us who call ourselves Christians don’t anyway) and that is a good thing for you and for us. But we have learned that this government was never established for us and although a great portion of the economy was built up, dependent upon the free and cruelly forced labor of millions of our ancestors, your continual denial of this fact leaves us to leave matters in the hands of the God you have chosen to justify your deeds—then and now—under the guise of Making America Great Again.

As your government runs amok and wealthy people hide behind all that their billions will allow, we wish you well.

Some of you may be wondering how we can so casually watch the leadership of this country disintegrate without fear, trembling or concern. The answer lies in the statement above: this country and its government were never established for us. Henceforth, all that many of you experience now, we have experienced in varying degrees since the country’s inception as The United States of America. For many POC, particularly those whose US history began with the landing on this country’s soil as enslaved peoples, this is business as usual. So rather than be fearful, we welcome those of you who are discomforted by the haphazard Democrats and the  spineless Republicans, we welcome you into the experience of what it can be like to be a POC in America.


A Card-Carrying Member of the POC


Call it What You Want

Call it What You Want

I met a young pilot the other day and we struck up a conversation about God. His being an African-American in a predominantly white male industry, he wanted to know how I felt about racists who call themselves Christians. This young man confessed that often he is sitting in the cockpit of an airplane next to a white copilot whose views and opinions are extremely bigoted, yet this person will profess Christianity.

After I chuckled (yes, I did find humor in this), I said, “Perception is everything.” I then went on to explain how race penetrates everything within the (physically) United States of America, giving him the example that a person can label another white, black, other, based upon his or her perception or how they view you. Oftentimes, the perceived has no say in the matter.

There are times when I fully cover as I attend the masjid (mosque) with my Muslim husband. Surely all who see me, (incorrectly) assume I am a Muslima. As a woman who strives to embody Christian principles, it is only appropriate that I respect the laws and customs of my brothers and sisters of other faiths, so I cover up if I want to worship with my spouse in that space.

In continuing my conversation with the pilot, I gave him the example of how confused I was when a school in which I taught, with a demographic of 72% Latino, was also considered 68% white. So, I confess I taught English, not math, but huh?

After asking the right questions of my fellow colleagues, my confusion was cleared up after it became apparent that many of the Latino students were identifying as “Hispanic (White)” rather than “Hispanic (Non-White)” as witnessed by the forms they and their parents filled out for free lunch, test data, etc.

I shared this anecdote with my young pilot friend who responded with a “Wow.” Full stop.

Our conversation ended with my answering his question of what I thought about racists who call themselves Christians. My response:  “A person can call himself whatever he or she wants; however, that does not necessarily make it so.”


Labels and Such

Labels and Such

Ultra-Purified Water read the label. It was a first for me. I’ve drunk tap water, filtered water, spring water and purified water. But, ultra-purified? Never. I’ve been missing out. Now that I know gluten is bad for me, GMO’s can increase gut capacity, coffee is bad, no good, no—wait I have to double-check that one—and red wine should be sipped in moderation.

If no one else knows the power of language, I do. From the ability to speak life into a situation–such as feeling better just because you say so aloud–to the rejection of negative messages due to labels, I dedicated years to studying, teaching and writing about this language we call English.

In doing so, it helped me climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the point where I actually reached (tah-dah!) Self-Actualization. It can be a lonely place. To exist at that rung is to challenge almost everything you have previously been taught and to examine it against almost everything you will learn as you make your way up the pyramid through Safety, Relationships (love/belonging) and Esteem, assuming that you are already receiving your Physiological Needs (food/water).

The United States of America is not an easy place. It’s a good place in many ways, but it is also a scary place if you don’t know all the ways that its ways can be used against you if you don’t know them. Was that confusing? Good, because that’s how it feels sometimes when you realize that all you knew and loved about your birth country, about melting pots, about One Nation Under God Indivisible, about Liberty and Justice For All, is bullshit.

And that people can and will use language against you, even your own people, even your own language.

So whites and blacks become the primary category identifiers for Americans. Then POC (People of Color) is for everyone who is not “white.” Then years of affirmative action forms must be revised, if one (insert the metonymic government here) is serious about affirmative action. If not, we will continue to categorize all ye who enter here as WHITE (NON HISPANIC), WHITE (HISPANIC), BLACK (AFRICAN-AMERICAN), ASIAN OR PACIFIC ISLANDER, or NATIVE AMERICAN. So that’s the way the United States sees the world, but that is not necessarily how the world sees itself.

For this reason I cringed when I heard a 10th grader from Egypt ask a substitute teacher, “So, since I’m from Egypt, should I check African-American?” This was in reference to the so-called optional question about ethnicity included in standardized testing. I was in the room as the test administrator, and being the only other adult in the room, the only one who happened to have a café au lait complexion, the white substitute looked at me. Catching her in my peripheral vision, I kept being the silent but observant walk-around-the-classroom administrator. The question was not directed at me, I reasoned. “You’re on your own, Toots;” I chuckled in my head, while thinking, “That kid is on his way up Maslow’s pyramid.”

Making Independence a Thing Again

Making Independence a Thing Again

For the past five days, people celebrated all across the United States to remember July 4, 1776, America’s Independence Day. Independence from whom? Why, the British of course. I ached to be a party to that party, but alas, some of my ancestors were enslaved peoples on this soil, thus my heritage reminded that independence had not even begun to happen for those like me until at least 1865, with the Emancipation Proclamation. So…I opted not to celebrate. For me, Independence Day equates to ubiquitous barbecue, closed government offices and the avoidance of drunk drivers and wayward fireworks from street level amateurs.

Before you rebuke me, know that citizen I am. Born and raised. Part of a larger society that is forced to recognize (and thus hesitant to tolerate) darker hues and the boogie monsters conjured by a fear-mongering media.

Acceptance and respect has been a harrowing road begun at birth, and more easily accessed if you choose to A) Assimilate B) Become College Educated C) Wear eyeglasses, which incidentally will allow the perception of having done both “A” and “B”. Go figure.

For America’s birthday, I’m gifting myself by dropping color references to me and the ones I hold dear. I’m foregoing the African reference too. The woman descendants of colonial America’s enslaved peoples are too often disrespected on native soil by fellow Americans and at the same time pitied in the African Diaspora. Though African men boldly express their desire for us, simultaneously their women will not-so-subtly express their disdain.

And here American citizens—dare I say WE—stand “One nation under God,” even if we said good-bye to His Holiness a long time ago, bringing Him out at times to legitimize the MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda.

Anti-homosexual? Check!

Anti-Jewish? Check!

Anti-Muslim? Check!

Pro-White supremacy? Check!

Pro-Killing of brown peoples here and overseas all in the name of democracy? Check! Check!

There are thousands of scriptures and just as many interpretations one can use to make God’s Word say what one wants it to mean, even when it translates into hateful, unloving, anti-Christian actions. Just do your dirt and ask Jesus for forgiveness and your conscience will be okay, right? Right, Alt-Right?! But what about your soul, for those of you who still possess one?

Because Jesus died on the cross, my sins are forgiven, so I can get to do anything I want as long as I repent afterwards. And God made all people, except I get to hate anyone who doesn’t believe in Christianity (like me). And I was made to be superior, that’s what I was taught and I believe it because what else would allow me to enjoy the fruits of this country’s foundation without acknowledging its unholy beginnings or seeking to right years of injustice at the expense of Native Americans and African slavery? Please don’t look at me like that. It’s not my fault that God made me to look like this. What’s that you say? God made you to look the way that you look too? (Long pause.) I never thought of it that way…

There are few words available for the person who will not listen to any view differing from his/her own, for the person who sees/seeks justification, rationality in all of his/her decisions. This person is hopeless to save. I’ll just leave that one to Jesus.

In the meantime, I pray and I foray through the building up of our nation as it celebrates its Independence Day. A day to deliberate the countless murders of brothers and sisters at the hands of hired guns, an increasingly disintegrating culture, a romper-wearing government, all afraid to stand up to archaic laws, ineffective policies and the harsh self-reflection of what America’s pettiness, passive-aggressiveness, and voting against its own interests did, does, and will cost. Bully for you, America and by the way, Happy Birthday.



Forgiveness: So Help Me

Forgiveness: So Help Me

Unilateral forgivenessthe release of an offense when the offender does not ask for forgiveness, even with the possibility of the offense continuing.

In this case the offender is my government, my country, white culture. At times the offenders individually are white people; at times the offenders are people of color who have falsely deluded themselves into the “white” check-off box and thus exhibit similar discriminatory behaviors based upon…assimilation, perhaps?

Insidious in nature, researchers say racism is committed covertly more than overtly. As such, people who are accused of being racist often are unaware their actions are considered to be discriminatory or biased. To complicate matters, the offense is committed based not only upon the perceived offense, but upon the perceived “race” (a nonsense word and a pathological construct—but that’s another post) as dictated by the offender.

A case in point would be where a man or woman may have the skin tone or hair color/texture of what the observer perceives is characteristic of someone from the Arab culture. Thus, the semantics of what it means to be Muslim, Middle Eastern and the like could cause the observed to be discriminated against simply on that point. Then, the observed speaks and the observer discovers—surprise!—the object of discrimination is actually Latino, or African-American, or Indian, or bi-racial, or white. What then? Realistically, the bias adjustment will occur and subsequent interactions will be predicated upon this new information.

Perception and reality are often two VERY different entities. But when perception becomes reality, one is hovering over dangerous turf. When perception influences another’s reality, the result can be deadly as evidenced by the number of police who have killed “suspects” based upon the perceived threat of danger and what Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor labeled as, the reaching for “empty waistbands.”

[In a California case, Salazar-Limon sued the Los Angeles Police Department, stating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force was violated. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued against the too often used scenario in which police officers are granted immunity from being sued. Granting this protection, Sotomayor argues, “warps the law,” citing a study showing where “nearly half of the individuals shot by Los Angeles police after allegedly reaching for their waistbands turned out to be unarmed.”]

An instance where people are treated differently based upon their skin complexion, religion or perceived cultural group can be found as easily as going to the nearest (legitimate) news website. When you notice that many of these occurrences are directed towards people who look like you, it can be difficult to not take these affronts personally. “There but for the Grace of God, go I or my son, brother, sister, daughter, nephew, niece, etc.” Some might argue those African-Americans who have been killed by police are not my relatives sadly miss the point.  I have a son who is of a statistical age, who looks imposing at 6’2 and 250 lbs. His appearance, alone, may be perceived as threatening by anyone who calls it such. Both history and current events tell me that, although my gentle giant of a son was taught how to handle himself with dignity and respect, this could mean NOTHING if a police officer with a loaded gun declares he or she “felt threatened.” Does a police officer have a tough job? Absolutely. Do the rotten apples taint the entire barrel? Too often.  With that stated, the ones who do the right thing should call out the ones who don’t.

As a person who walks in faith, who tries to live a life of integrity and who wants to follow (my belief in what are) God’s commandments, I am working on unilateral forgiveness. It is a challenge. Attempting to treat everyone like a person worthy of dignity and respect, even when by the world’s standard they all do not deserve it, is pushing my character to a new level.

Logic tells me there is no such thing as all good white people or all bad white people: there are good people who do bad things and vice versa. Contrary to America’s biggest mindf**k, the world is not black and white. There is a vast gray area in between the two extremes of black and white, with those two words lurking on the periphery of all issues American, prepared to claw into any attempt to move this county into a unified direction.

I once believed the hype of this country, believing the kumbaya of can’t-we-all-just-get-along. Living in America didn’t change my mind. Living outside of America did. When I ventured into territory that was majority populated by non-Europeans—India, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Morocco, The Seychelles, Kenya, and China—it became pretty obvious that I was not just a “black,” a term the media and many Americans are still very comfortable using when it comes to describing or defining people of color with “perceived” African roots. Outside of the USA, I am considered, and referred to as, an American. It was a guess on their part. A simple question based upon my speech, mannerisms and dress would confirm it. All interactions thereafter were predicated upon this confirmed knowledge.

Consequently, when I had the opportunity to travel, Europe was the last place I wanted to go. This decision was based upon my United States’ experiences. After going to colleges and universities, working at jobs, living in towns, etc., where I was the minority (and frequently reminded of such), why in the world would I vacation in a place where I would pay to be subject to the racism, prejudices and other tomfoolery that I could experience for free in the good old USA?

And just so I wouldn’t deny myself the experience of possibly being wrong on the above count, I ventured to Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands. In Spain, our hired-for-the-day cab driver was kind; the fact that I spoke Spanish I believe established some commonality between us. The fact that he was unemployed and drove a taxi out of desperation I am sure played a role. In Portugal the worker (not owner) of the shoe store into which my daughter and I ventured, brazenly told me that the shoes in the store were for Portuguese women with small feet. In the Canary Islands, the shop owners were extremely polite, as was our tour guide.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

I leave out the frequent brushing past me (different cultures have different views of personal space—I get it) without an “excuse me” and the holding of the door for the one, two, three white people and letting it go once I get to it. I’ll also not bore you with the fellow tourists (all white with two “perceived” Asians) who gawked and stared at me and my daughter whenever we opened our mouths. Our alighting was enough to silence an entire pre-chatty bus. One lady got up the gumption to ask me where I lived. I told her the United Arab Emirates. She told me my English was excellent. Really. No, Really?

Did I have negative experiences in the other places I’ve lived and traveled? Yes. Were any of them related to someone’s ignorant comments or negative behaviors towards me based upon my skin color? If so, not in a way that was obvious and/or offensive.

Some might argue that perhaps people were treating me differently based upon my skin color in India, Morocco, Kenya, the Seychelles, China, Oman and the United Arab Emirates and that I just wasn’t aware. My response is, if they were, and my super-sensitivity to prejudice and discrimination was none the wiser, then good for them since the whole problem with prejudice and racism is that the receiver’s perception of the offense, just like in bullying and sexual harassment, is what counts. So if I perceive someone is NOT GOING OUT OF THE WAY TO BE RUDE OR INTENTIONALLY MISTREAT ME BASED UPON MY COMPLEXION, then he or she gets a gold star in my book.

It is sad, but true.

Many days I feel like a block of cheese and the racism, prejudicial statements, actions, and (let’s not forget) micro-aggressions rub against my protective layer of love and forgiveness. And I hold onto the creed of a country that told me from kindergarten through grade 12 and beyond that we were “One Nation under God Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All.”

Considering how fractured and split we are as a nation, several decades after a Civil Rights movement some people forget or don’t know existed, our country needs God’s blessings now more than ever.

So every time I feel racism testing my Love-Meter a little too much, I think of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which says—

                       “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Pray for me.

To Whose Voice Are You Listening?

To Whose Voice Are You Listening?

There is something to be said about Obedience. The reference here is to the obedience of following what God whispers in our ear, what He places in our spirit—if we are open to listening to the still voice of a God Who does not need to shout. When you have the power and authority to give, to provide, to create, forcing yourself on anyone is unnecessary; in fact, a wise person would be standing in the midst, prepared to receive whatever it is you have to offer.

Just like a natural father, God desires to bless His children. However, our need to act fully on our own accord, with little or no spiritual input, keeps us in our own way.

Increased privileges are a demonstration of a new level of confidence parents have in their children. Parents give children cell phones, keys to the house, and permission to drive cars, when they believe their offspring are mature enough to handle the responsibilities.

The same principle applies to our relationship to the Ultimate Provider. We make think we “are grown,” but God knows His children best. Some blessings must be held back until we are spiritually mature enough, and thus prepared, to receive them. This is not a reference to food and water, or even health, rather to blessings, such as being able to have a home of your own, being able to drive rather than take the bus, being able to leave a job, or have your own business (if that’s what you want).

So, how do we prepare for a new level of blessings, privileges in our lives?

Because each person is a unique creation, our preparation will be just as distinct. However, there are some general ways that would apply to every person in terms of preparing to receive God’s best for our lives.

  • We have to communicate with God through prayer. We can speak to God using the words that we normally would use for someone for whom we have great respect. The Lord’s Prayer (Mathew 6:9-13) is a good starting point while developing what will become your unique way of praying.
  • Learning about God comes through studying and reading the Bible, no matter how we feel about its contents and the ways it was used to oppress and victimize people around the world. (Medicine was also used inappropriately, but we still take it when we are ill or in pain.) Most people learned what pleased or displeased our parents through observation and listening from childhood to adulthood and beyond. Observing and listening to those who are mature in their Christian experience is extremely helpful because these people are full of wisdom and insight; however, they are likely to be found as members of a house of worship, which leads to the next point.
  • Worship, individually and corporately, is crucial. Thanking God through our words and actions simply shows appreciation for the life we have been given. Worship can be done individually—24-7—with a hand raised in the air, with the singing of a song of praise, and especially by walking in obedience to what God asks us to do in terms of His commandments. Corporate worship entails being part of a church body, where people whose objective is to live a life pleasing to God. This church body should be led by a knowledgeable man/woman who walks responsibly as a Christian and effectively leads and teaches his/her congregation in applying God’s word in today’s world.

The media has done a good job deceiving people into thinking that organized religion is a negative thing. A pastor who commits a heinous act becomes the excuse to excuse one’s self from a house of worship.  Just like there are bad apples in all organizations, religious institutions are no different. How many colleges have had scandals of rape, fund swindling and even deadly shooting, but no one says, “That’s why I stopped going to get my education.” The same effort one puts forth into exploring business opportunities, buying a home and/or attending a university before making a move, should be expended in finding a house of worship where the leader and his or her congregation fit your religious/spiritual needs.

A Pew Research Center study* shows that Americans with higher education levels pray less regularly and consider religion to be less important in their lives, with 11% describing  themselves as atheist or agnostic. For Christians, however, higher education levels show more religious observance, such as prayer and attendance in a house of worship, as well as agreement that religion is very important in their lives.

No matter what pride, earthly knowledge or the media brings, God is and always will be mankind’s life source. Maintaining this connection is in our best interest. To negate it or to deny its significance out of ignorance, pride, etc., is like cutting off our nose to spite our face, walking around in a world filled with beauty we can see but not fully experience.





Problem or Solution? Your Choice.

Problem or Solution? Your Choice.

                “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

How many times has this truism been uttered throughout one’s lifetime? Events over the last few days have caused me to cast aside the associated banality and give this saying a more introspective look. Doing so forces me to acknowledge, I have contributed to laxity in various ways, but chopping the head off the figurative Indian will not dismantle the chief.

This self-reflection began with a few minor repairs being made in my apartment. One of those being a set of replacement blinds which did not fully cover a window.  Instead of getting the correct length window blinds, the youthful maintenance fellow proceeded to remove the old set, bring it down an inch or so, leaving several gaping holes where the blinds previously held.

“Are you going to leave those holes like that?” I asked, peering over my glasses for effect.

“I can fill them if you want,” he said cheerfully, like grandma’s baked cookies awaited him if I was pleased.  Or maybe his look was because he thought I reminded him of his…no, that couldn’t be (that’d better not be). Anyhoo.

So if I don’t mind looking at the holes, they will stay? (I think this, but don’t say.) In my mind, you leave things the way you found them, in better condition, if possible. Lest I forget, this is the same maintenance man who hung said blinds too high in the first place.

“Yes. I. Want…very much for you to fill the holes.” It was the most I could muster during a moment crying for sarcasm.

“Okay, I’ll be right back.” With that he left with a bounce to get some tools, came back to work on the other two tasks of maintenance/repair, and when I finally I left him alone to do his job…I discovered he did not repair the holes. Aarrgh.

Then there was the car. Oh, the car.

A slight fender-bender would land Betsy into the auto body shop. As I write this, Betsy is back at the shop because her first “operation” was not done to my satisfaction. Among other things, like a misaligned bumper and new scratches, the paint colors were dissimilar between the bumper and the body.

Instead of simply apologizing for inconveniencing me with a second trip to the repair shop, two people (employee, then owner) attempted to waste more of my time explaining how “all cars have a bumper which is a different color from the car’s body,” and how “the painting process is such that the bumper will never be the original color again.”

Say what now?

Then they continue with what has been previously decided: to take the car back (having several times acknowledged the color between bumper and body doesn’t match) with a promise to re-do it to my satisfaction. 

I’m no Einstein, but logic tells me, if you will do the repair (again), re-paint, and offer a rental car at your expense, that kind of says, you goofed—which is okay—we all goof. I goofed several times while writing this post and I will probably goof again, then edit three extra times before I publish. I may even edit one more time, depending on how many of my FB people care to point out my errors.

What I will not do is say, I never goofed in the first place, then explain why I meant to write where, when I should’ve written were, or wear, giving some double-talk about creative license or some other Baloney Sandwich I expect the average person to read, chew and swallow.

Herein lies the problem. If you mess up, ‘fess up. You get to keep my respect and my business. And when you don’t, well…the respect you can probably live without. The business you can live without too, I reckon, unless I have to use my written word skills to influence a major insurance company it is problematic for them to continue using your shop as part of their regional repair network. I digress.

When we continue to accept and/or work for (or under) shoddiness, we are guilty by association. There is no way to justify why one would knowingly comply with his or her superiors’ incompetence, carelessness or basic ineptness. However, it happens. And it will continue for as long as we agree to go along with the program, starring in our own commercial while the jingle replays, “I have no other choice.”

Just remember, when reality sets in and your level of discomfort overtakes you: There is always another choice, even if the choice is to be part of the problem.