Believe Me, Too

Last week, at the pinnacle of the viral #metoo movement, I shared an Ebony article on Facebook. It was a passionately-worded piece wagging its finger at all of the #metoo hype, as if to say, “Hey! We’ve been saying this for a decade and the movement was started by a Black woman!” While the article did feel a bit ragey, with its give-credit-where-credit’s-due feel, it highlighted several things:

  • Black women are overlooked
  • Black people’s problems tend to *stay* Black people’s problems
  • Celebrities with high-profile scandals have a vast reach
  • White celebrities can get ish done

I even wrote a disclaimer on my article-share, warning my friends and followers to not be turned off by the title and tone. I urged my friends to read it. Read it becausmetoo snipe hey, this isn’t new. This is all races, all sexes, all genders. And it’s a whole lot easier to ignore abused people – especially when we’re shouting from the margins.

Well, I had a friend. That one (sometimes three) friend(s), that did have to say something about – by my own words – “playing the Race Card.”

He expressed his thought that justice is great, why bring race into it? Just be grateful this is getting attention! 

I saw red. I saw flames. If I had laser eyes to shoot at his fingers on the keyboard via the inter webs, I would have aimed and fired. We went back and forth a little, but then he did something amazing that I never expected. He took it to the DM.

And it went down. But it went down beautifully.

He asked me to explain how we missed each other, why his challenge to my article-share insulted me, and how he can be a better ally.

Yeah. He asked how he could serve me

And by the time we exchanged stories, we were both in tears.

We saw each other. We heard each other.

He asked …how he could be a better ally.

This is my DM response to him, (some parts edited for this blog and names removed), and it’s   something that all well-intentioned white people should read before they roll their eyes at yet another angry Black woman that makes everything about race and gender:

[TLDR Version: Privilege is real. We live in a constant state of gender and race humiliation. It happened to me, too. Believe us. Whether its racism or sexism, believe us.]

 

PRIVILEGE

The first time I ever saw white privileged was when I was going through my divorce. Yeah. I know it sounds weird. My first time. But when you’re Black in America you only see the negative attitudes towards your own race and not the actual privilege of being white. That’s not our side of the story. When he and I decided to split, I was the one that was depressed and miserable in the far burbs so I was happy to move.

But I had spent the majority of our marriage as a full-time mom/student with part time gigs. I didn’t have a resume, savings or a sustaining job. Every day while I was still home with the kids, he would come home and say: did you get a job yet? How many applications? Any interviews? How about an apartment? When are you leaving? The pressure was maddening. I wanted to punch him and throw up and run away crying all at once. Every. Day. I felt unwanted and lazy and rejected.

But then I realized he wasn’t deliberately bullying me. He just had no idea. He didn’t have a resume. He’s never had to sell himself on a piece of paper to strangers. He’s never asked strangers for a job and he’s never not gotten an offer for a job he asked for. He lives in a bubble of privilege where he’s never had to go without or rely solely on his own talents. He’s never had to worry that he wouldn’t get an interview because his name sounds “exotic” or “weird.”

He’s never had to worry that someone would look at him and think “a man can’t do this” or “a dad can’t do this.” That is privilege. But people always think a woman can’t do this or a mom isn’t as committed as a childless person. These are things I choke on daily.

He had no idea how difficult it can be to get a job especially when you’re not a white man.

HUMILIATION

You aren’t humiliated by others for the color of your skin.
I just got a lotus tattoo for my birthday. Beauty and blessings springing forth from the mud. X— made some mud comments about me in sixth grade. Again, not your reality. Not even on your radar. But it was stinging and humiliating. It made me feel ugly and less than and unlike and unaccepted and rejected and reminded me that I will never be one of you.

My new ink is my peace with that. I know now that I am beautiful and talented and radiantly intimidating. In first grade I had to change for gym class alone because my changing buddy’s mom found out she was undressing with a black girl and didn’t want me around her daughter. And that, too. All the time: Black girl. I hate it when people say, “so this Black person — no offense — was talking…” Why is “Black person” offensive? I’m not sorry I’m Black. Does my Blackness offend you? Why are you apologizing? I am Black! Say it! Black isn’t a bad word. N** is. Black isn’t. Neither is white. Say it. We are our colors and we all deserve to be seen.

BELIEVE ME

With all of that said, it is SO crushing then, when I say to someone, for example, a white significant other, “Babe I had a weird experience today and I really feel like it was racially motived,” and he says, “nahhh I don’t think so. Maybe you did something wrong.” That’s the most devastating thing. When people in the majority point fingers at me and accuse me of playing the race card.

When I experience something and feel sad and violated and discriminated and someone that couldn’t possibly be able to relate blows me off and says they don’t believe me — it’s a terribly crippling feeling. It’s gaslighting. It’s crazymaking.

If I say “this feels racist,” BELIEVE ME. Please. This is my world, not yours. Please believe me that something hurts and it’s not fair. What if we went to the doctor complaining of illness and he doc says, “Mmmnah I don’t think so. Stop whining!”

#METOO

The last place I worked my coworker rubbed my knee under my dress when the two of us were alone in a conference room. Later he “brushed” past me rubbing his body on my butt. Twice. And then when we were leaving that hospital site, we were alone in an elevator and he stroked my face. Twice. Because I looked tired. I wanted to slit his throat and set myself on fire.

When I reported him to HR, the woman said,” nahhh I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound like X—. Maybe he meant…”

By this time I was numb and tuned her out. Here’s a woman WHOSE JOB IT IS TO TAKE MY REPORT and she didn’t believe my story. #metoo

This happened to me! And she didn’t care. Now, sidebar, there is another dynamic between women where unsolicited sexual advances by an attractive man are not crimes but compliments. Part of me wonders if she was jealous that X— was flirting with me and not her?? Who knows. I don’t care. The point is that she didn’t believe my experience. But she’s not me. Don’t tell me my truth is not true. Now this part is for you and your brilliant girls: when they come to you, and they will, and they say, “Papa someone made me feel weird today,” BELIEVE THEM.

Don’t ask what or if they did anything to deserve it. Don’t tell them “nnnnnno I don’t think it’s like that. Why are you forcing some issue into this?“
Don’t assume they’re just girls making things up or being dramatic or being emotional or too sensitive or being [insert negative idea about women here].

Listen. Believe them.
They will need you to just believe them. And hold them. And validate them. And tell them it’ll be ok. And tell them you’ll do something.

And then… do something.

~OR

Advertisements

Stubborn

 

stub·born
ˈstəbərn/
adjective
  1. having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
    “he accused her of being a silly, stubborn old woman”

 

 

 

 

 

#sorrynotsorry

Today – and as I grow, heal, mature, and hopefully evermore – I am stubborn. Being the peacekeeping, balance-loving, diplomatic Libra that I am, I usually believe there is always a compromise and solution – we just need to explore the possibilities and find it. But there are some things I have learned are nonnegotiable. Some things are what they are – some people are who they are – and I’m finally learning to be unapologetically me.

So, Sorry. I’m not sorry. The list below is my final farewell to things about myself I have learned to love, despite others’ – yes real people’s – strong suggestions to change, eliminate, or “correct” – and yes, I said “correct” with a side-eye.  Skip you. I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry for having a wide nose.

I’m not sorry for having full lips.

I’m not sorry for having brown skin.

I’m not sorry for having dark scars.

I’m not sorry for having dark brown eyes.

I’m not sorry for looking like Vanessa Williams.

I’m not sorry for having a bubble butt.

I’m not sorry for having a lisp.

I’m not sorry for having a crooked smile.

I’m not sorry for having brown gums.

I’m not sorry for having bulging eyes.

I’m not sorry for not talking how you think I should talk.

I’m not sorry I’m independent.

I’m not sorry I’m not attached to my phone.

I’m not sorry I didn’t want a second date.

I’m not sorry I passionately want to explore all my talents.

I’m not sorry I want to be a working mother.

I’m not sorry the laundry isn’t always clean.

I’m not sorry the house isn’t always spotless.

I’m not sorry I hate shaving my arm pits.

I’m not sorry I get hair bumps when I do reluctantly shave them.

I’m not sorry I also hate shaving my ahem…

I’m not sorry I don’t shower every day.

I’m not sorry I have thick, coarse, self-knotting hair.

I’m not sorry I have short nails.

I’m not sorry I have rough palms.

I’m not sorry I love everyone.

I’m not sorry I love white people.

I’m not sorry I love black people.

I’m not sorry I’m black.

I’m not sorry my pelvis isn’t flexible.

I’m not sorry I don’t always enjoy chicken wings.

I’m not sorry I’m allergic to watermelon.

I’m not sorry I defy your stereotypes.

I’m not sorry I have stripy stretch marks after carrying four children.

I’m not sorry I will never look the same in a bikini.

I’m not sorry for wearing a bikini.

I’m not sorry for being vulnerable.

I’m not sorry for speaking freely.

I’m not sorry for having ideas.

I’m not sorry for talking.

I’m not sorry for speaking up.

I’m sorry for singing.

I’m not sorry for refusing to work for free.

I’m not sorry my name is hard to pronounce.

I’m not sorry I’m afraid of the dark.

I’m not sorry I’m a slow reader.

I’m not sorry I don’t enjoy deep analytical conversations.

I’m not sorry for walking away from an abusive situation.

I’m not sorry for exiting an abusive conversation.

I’m not sorry for refusing to participate in gossip.

I’m not sorry having a tattoo.

I’m not sorry for wanting a hundred more.

I’m not sorry for liking tattoos.

I’m not sorry for being attractive.

I’m not sorry for dressing well.

I’m not sorry for not giving you my phone number.

I’m not sorry for not smiling when I don’t feel like smiling.

I’m not sorry for following my dreams.

I’m not sorry for loving karaoke.

I’m not sorry for enjoying TV.

I’m not sorry for loving a day on the couch.

I’m not sorry for having abstract ideas.

I’m not sorry for being creative.

I’m not sorry for not fitting into your box.

I’m not sorry for not being Michelle Obama.

I’m not sorry for having goals.

I’m not sorry for laughing too loud.

I’m not sorry for dancing too much.

I’m not sorry for being silly.

I’m not sorry my feet stink some times.

I’m not sorry for farting.

I’m not sorry for slacking on my pedicures.

I’m not sorry for having a sweet tooth.

I’m not sorry for having three children.

I’m not sorry I refused to be talked down to.

I’m not sorry for being intuitive.

I’m not sorry for being right.

I’m not sorry for making mistakes.

I’m not sorry for being happy.

I’m not sorry for being sad.

I’m not sorry for needing help.

I’m not sorry for falling in love.

I’m not sorry for changing my mind.

I’m not sorry for believing in magic.

I’m not sorry for being Christian.

I’m not sorry for looking for the truth in all religions.

I’m not sorry for saying, “No.”

I’m not sorry for being strong.

I’m not sorry for being brave.

I’m not sorry for not counting calories.

I’m not sorry I’m finally starting to know my worth.

I’m not sorry for being Octavia.

 

~OR

Winter Storm Octavia (pt II)

*flashback*

So there’s this guy.

We’ll call him Nameless. Nameless because I literally stopped writing just before that last sentence and spent 15 minutes trying to think of an appropriate pseudonym, but nothing worked. He just is. He’s a confusingly attractive person; an author, a sort of introvert, an artist, a tech geek, a well-read intellectual snob, a phenomenal car-singer, a time-stopper…and just…cozy. But he’s wonderful and one of my favorite people on the planet. Anyway, last year, Nameless told me, “you’re like… a fat girl…”

I wanted to punch him. Once for me, and about 80 more times for all the big beautiful ladies out there.

But I let him continue, “No, you’re not fat but you’re like one of those insecure women that just want to be touched, or loved, or noticed. When I hug you, you react like you haven’t been hugged in years.”

That stung. It was kinda true.

It took me this long – yes, a full Earth’s rotation of the sun – to see it. I’ve been starving for unconditional companionship. The kind where I am accepted for all my goof, SNL-host wannabe-ness, full-sleeve tattoo dreams, dredlocks, quirks, wild ambitions and nerdish tendencies.

enlightened

I looked (and still do) for it from my mother. Fail. My father. Extra fail. My husband. Super fail. And now I had been trying to make up for lost time by this sort of speed dating, desperately seeking connection to another human. Epic fail. Ok, not-so epic fail; oddly enough it has been incredibly healing in many ways.

As a mother, my most passionate task is to always exhibit to my boys the no-strings-attached agape-love I never received.

It is also my job to love myself unconditionally and treat myself like a great prize to be won. My job. Mine. Just learned that. That right there. That’s the moral.

I’ve said comically before, screw this, I’ll date myself. But really. Truly. I need to date myself. I need to love myself first. I need to be my own hero.

Fine. Whatever.

So, here’s my storm: I’m going to tell my own story. Not just glamorize ridiculous past dates like I have been. But really tell my story. All of it. From the beginning. From my mother teaching me to pinch my nose when I was four years old so it wouldn’t get too wide, to never feeling thin enough to be on national television in a bikini; from my father never being around to having my husband tell me I look ridiculous and need to be more like Michelle Obama. I have a voice that needs to be heard. It is not meant to shame or embarrass; it is meant to inspire, empower and heal — not just myself, but others. There are many sides to every story, and I’m not ashamed of mine anymore.

It is called Eighty-Five Cents, and I hope to complete it in 2015.

It took my life getting wrecked, me ignoring my calling, my life getting second-wrecked, and me being willing to be an open book for me to really be ready to love me, let go of the hurt, and realize that I’m not the only normal person out there struggling to acknowledge their own value in this world.

I know it’s a little cheesy to end on the Frozen note, but really…have you actually listened to these words?

The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.

It’s time to see what I can do

Test the limits and break through.

No right. No wrong.

No rules for me. I’m free.

I’m one with the earth and sky.

You’ll never see me cry.

Here I stand.

And here I’ll stay.

I’ll rise like the break of dawn.

That perfect girl is gone.

Let the storm rage on.

~ OR