I have been a rap fan for years thanks to Derek. Two of my favorites are Eminem (Slim Shady) and Kid Cudi (Moon Man) so when I recently came across their latest duet I was PSYCHED, expecting the typical great beat / catchy one liners. I got much more than I bargained for and it’s really made me think a lot about how I was raised, my views on racism or the current state of the world. A different kind of post, but one I hope you enjoy nonetheless.
Mom taught us to look at everyone equal; she grew up in the inner city and had a lot of friends that were not white. One of the stories she used to love to tell was about her middle school history teacher, Mr. Jones, who was an older black gentleman she just adored. When teaching them about segregation he said to the class:
“What would you do if you got on a bus with your friend that was black and they had to go sit in the back?”.
Mom replied -”I would go sit in back with them!”.
Mr. Jones laughed and said “Chickie you can't do that!”.
Same with the question ”what would you do if you were walking on the sidewalk and your friend who was black had to get off the sidewalk because a group of white people were walking towards you?”
Mom's reply "I'd get off the sidewalk too!”.
Again Mr. Jones was just floored that this little Sicilian spit fire would stick up for her friends despite the cultural norm of the generation and the time. He told her she would have never made it in a different generation and he wasn't wrong! 😂
My dad was in a city fire department for 38 years and so many friends over the years that weren't white and as he would say “I don't care if someone is purple so long as they're a nice person”.
Character > color was the life lesson in our family always.
Those little stories always stuck with me as I moved through life and transitioned from a 98% white suburban school to an inner city college where the demographic shifted into what I will guess was 50% white, 50% mixed race. For the first time I had project partners who came from other countries and spoke different languages. Then I made friends that weren't white, I dated guys that weren't white and by the time I was in my early twenties I generally considered myself progressive, enlightened even. I would never discount someone based on their skin color, I would never use the n word and I would call people out for telling racist jokes (not funny, never funny).
Then in 2012 I remember being AGHAST that someone was killed simply for walking in his neighborhood and being black. How could this be?! In 2012! In my naivety I thought “none of my black friends have ever had this happen before right? They haven't been followed or harassed - I would know, wouldn't I?!”. The answer was yes, yes they had been racially profiled and harassed and mistreated and in fact it was SO FREQUENT it was something they just grew up knowing. Knowing which neighborhoods they couldn't be caught “DWB” (driving while black). I was floored. I was sickened. I was helpless. I reached out and asked what I could do and the answers were simple “Listen, support, call out Racism when you see it”.
And I did that. I did it at work - even when it wasn’t popular. I did it in my activities - I talked to people that didn’t look like me, I asked questions and I tried to stay proactive. Then in 2019 I was faced with a real life situation - a girlfriend I knew from Zumba and I became close. We would hang out on the weekend, text all the time and go for cocktails or brunches. Until the day we were discussing books and she referred to Michelle Obama as a “monkey”. My stomach dropped. I had just been to this person’s house and she said shit like that?! She BELIEVED shit like that?! Oh hell no. So, I cut her off - I cannot support someone with that attitude. Michelle Obama’s book was amazing and her husband was still my favorite president behind FDR (because we share a birthday, lol). How could anyone demean America's favorite couple like that?! I felt awful for days - how had I never caught it before? Had she been racist in my presence and I ignored it? I hope not but I’ll never know for sure.
At my current company we do an amazing job with Diversity and Inclusion - it makes me proud that we support charities in the inner city like Year Up and I have been lucky enough to meet so many amazing kids wanting to be project managers when they grow up (it makes my heart happy to see that!). One in particular came up after a panel I was presenting on and she asked what she should do to be a “black project manager” - and I kind of cocked my head to the side and said “Well I don’t think your color has anything to do with it, I don’t call myself a white project manager” and before I could give my answer of study and be part of project teams, offer to UA test during releases, get involved in watching things come from idea to execution she said “You don’t have to say it because you’re pretty and white - that is what people see before they see your credentials”. Girl was not wrong (also I’m flattered she thought I was pretty, LOL) - I don’t need to explain something people see. I was humbled. I have volunteered with Year Up several more times and my favorite thing to do is help shape the interview skills for these graduates getting jobs. I still discourage them from leading with color.
Last year I was going to workout early in the morning in the fall - it was October / November and 5:15am. I had my hood up while driving because it was chilly and I got pulled over for going 45 in a 25. I wasn't paying attention and I totally deserved a ticket. When the officer approached my car I rolled my window down and I swear the look on his face when he was a white woman was like he saw a ghost. I went to hand him my license and registration and he said “Uh just slow down miss, you’re going awfully fast” and walked away. I was confused but it’s 5:15am so I’m chalking it up to the end of his shift and I pull away…..and a mile later I realize he didn’t ticket me or even run my info simply because I was white. Holy. Mackerel. At that point I recognized the realness of privilege and ever since I have tried to be cognizant of the advantages I have simply for being white.
It takes me a few weeks to write a post and in the process of writing this three things happened that made me think even more about the subject at hand -
In my Marvel education (in case you missed it I have recently watched “The Avengers”, “The Avengers Age of Ultron”, “Captain America Civil War”, “Captain America and the Winter Soldier”, “Infinity Wars” and “Infinity Wars: Endgame”)....this weekend we watched “Black Panther” and I LOVED it. I adore Chadwick Boseman from the scenes in previously stated movies and in other things I have seen him in so I was excited. I was impressed by the treatment of African tribes, Sterling K. Brown’s small but powerful cameo (kinda wish he had a bigger role!). I also loved the subtle yet distinct nods to both BLM with the first black superhero but also to the power of women with the warriors known as Dora Milaje that protect the king and their land. It was an awesome flick, A+.
The most recent episode of New Amsterdam discussed the ending of systematic racism and wow, it was so well done! Max (the resident medical director) is painting BLM on the ground of the hospital, throwing out pictures celebrating white doctors performing horrible acts and talking a lot about change. Then Jocko Sims (who plays the lead cardiac surgeon) says “Okay great and where is the policy change? Where is the equality? What is actually being done to back up the talk? What about the fact that black doctors make 35% less than white doctors?”. Silence. Turns out talking about change is much easier than actually making change. I love the producers for tackling this so openly and honestly!
Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. The fact that him being found guilty wasn't a forgone conclusion when there was video evidence is really sad, but alas for a brief moment in time justice prevailed. I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw someone comment "I still support the police" on a news story. Can you support the police AND be an anti-racist? I know some cops that are genuinely good cops and people - but as Chris Rock said something that I will never forget: "Bad apple? That’s a lovely name for murderer. That almost sounds nice. I’ve had a bad apple. It was tart, but it didn’t choke me out. Here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. I know being a cop is hard. I know that shit’s dangerous. I know it is, okay? But some jobs can’t have bad apples. Some jobs, everybody gotta be good. Like … pilots. Ya know, American Airlines can’t be like, 'Most of our pilots like to land. We just got a few bad apples that like to crash into mountains. Please bear with us.'"
It all has me thinking, how can I do more? In case you're wondering, how can you help? Here are things I’m doing that you can do too - and I’m happy to take suggestions!
Listening - yup, listening to the folks facing racism with an open mind (even if it’s never happened to you) - hearing and seeing them and just listening to what life is like when you’re not white. I for one have been shocked and saddened.
My favorite TEDTalk that I found by accident - https://www.ted.com/talks/baratunde_thurston_how_to_deconstruct_racism_one_headline_at_a_time?referrer=playlist-talks_to_help_you_understand_r
Trevor Noah - one of my favorite celebrities, comedians and real talkers ever - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jpg_o0Gk6wg
Educating yourself. After BLM really blew up earlier this year I was turned on to several instagram accounts and blogs that I still follow to expand my horizons - here are some recommendations:
https://www.amazon.com/Ibram-X-Kendi/e/B00IMUM1R0/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1 (quite possibly the most popular book on anti-racism for a reason!)
https://www.amazon.com/Mahzarin-R-Banaji/e/B00DVPMT9Q/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1 (excellent book about hidden bias!)
Frequenting black and minority owned businesses especially restaurants!
https://spokenflames.com/ (the nicest candles ever!)
https://ampbeautyla.com/ (huge selection of beauty products by black owned businesses)
https://www.tippingcowicecream.com/ (best dairy-free ice cream!)
https://petsipies.com/ (pies for days)
https://www.bistro781.com/ (the best brunch in New England, hands down!)
https://highlandcreolecuisine.com/ (my first experience with creole and Caribbean food in Boston!)
Donating to charities pushing for change like:
https://www.blackgirlscode.com/donations.html (Black Girls Code is *awesome*)
https://www.massbailfund.org/ (Close to home --these are people in Mass that need help paying bail)