some words for today

originally written on my personal facebook page.

this morning i am thinking about being a woman of color. and i am thinking about the small things that happen to me on a daily basis--how my body is ignored on a daily basis and how an older white woman pushed me and my bag while i simply waited for the subway the other day and how when expressing myself i've been called irrational and how i continue to be both sexualized and desexualized and how i often have to find proof for the things i know to be true despite others just being believed, how i change my voice and mannerisms when shopping, etc.. and i am thinking of how small these things feel to me...how normal and everyday they feel...and yet i keep thinking how these small things are signs of/grow into bigger things, and bigger beliefs, and bigger prejudices, and bigger and bigger. and i am thinking about the women of color who lost their lives this weekend--one for practicing her faith and another for calling for help--and the ones the weeks and months and years before that--for changing lanes without signaling, for being transgender, for loving who they love, etc. etc. and...

i am just thinking about it all this morning. 
thinking
and thinking
and thinking
and feeling
feeling it all
looking at my body
and feeling
and thinking
and feeling.

read and write

on my way to california last week for my granddaddy's funeral, i finished colson whitehead's the underground railroad. in the book, whitehead makes a point to depict black men and women learning to read and to write after being prevented from learning as slaves.

slaves were often prevented from learning to read and to write. depending on the situation, depending on the location, depending on the plantation, it could be a dangerous act to learn. an even more dangerous act to show that you knew how to read and write. 

i sat back on the plane. i thought of how, most days, all i am doing is reading and writing. reading and writing. reading and writing and buying books and wanting to write books and then back to reading and writing.

it doesn't seem revolutionary that i am a writer and reader. it seems like breathing to me. i can't imagine my life without my relationship to words, to paper, to bindings. 

i sat back on the plane and i thought about all of this. i thought about how i shouldn't apologize for my reading and my writing. i thought about how i should forge ahead, keep getting lost in words. i thought about how becoming a successful writer and reader could be revolutionary.

hours later, i stood in my grandparents' house. my dad waved me over to a wall of pictures. he pointed to one. "that's your great, great grandfather. he was born a slave."

and i thought it wasn't that long ago that someone like me, someone like my great great grandfather, perhaps even my great great grandfather, wasn't supposed to get lost in a book, wasn't supposed to put my/their thoughts down on paper. it wasn't that long ago that someone like me would have been putting their life at risk to write, to read, to express the way i do now freely.

and then i let the thoughts go.

until tonight.

a black man was shot by police today. i went to bed thinking about one black man who had been shot by police and then today heard of another. the police say he was armed with a gun (in an open carry state, mind you). 

an eyewitness says he was armed with a book. 

and now i am sitting here wondering if i am as free to read and write as i thought. 

i am wondering what is left to write, to read, when it has all been said before and people still won't listen. 

i am wondering what words can do to save us.

 

 

 

again

i wrote the following last year as a blog post. i then edited it a bit and performed it at the oneness project. this april, i read part of it at the AWP conference in LA. 

this morning i thought of it as the woman next to me played candy crush and i impatiently waited to refresh my twitter feed. so i thought i'd share it again. 

i wish i didn't feel the need to keep sharing it.

--

That night, I stayed awake refreshing twitter and reading articles about the shooting in Charleston.

No new information was really coming in at 2am, but I kept refreshing anyway.

I do that when things like the shooting in Charleston happen.

I refresh and refresh my newsfeeds, my email.

I could say that I refresh anytime a major event happens, and I would be telling the truth, but I’ve noticed as of late that I refresh more when it is an event that has to do with race.

When it has to do with race, I refresh and I search hashtags.

Sometimes this feels good; I feel as though I am not alone in my anger, my despair, my frustration. I retweet and favorite and refresh. Again and again.

Sometimes I make the mistake of reading others’ responses. I read the tweets by those that downplay the event, call us names, mention wanting to kill us once and for long.

When I refresh those, I don’t feel as good.

But I refresh anyway.

Again and again.

Maybe I refresh because that morning I talked with both of my parents and we didn’t talk about it, the shooting. They have seen violence happen in other churches in their lifetimes. Maybe they didn’t open up because it felt reminiscent of the past or maybe they were tired or maybe they internalized it as I do. Maybe it was on their minds all day, but they couldn’t find the words. Maybe they sat up at 2am and watched the news like I did. Maybe they went to bed shaking their heads.

I was thinking about it, the shooting, as I went to therapy, but realized I didn’t want to talk about it with my therapist. I realized that maybe having a black therapist would have changed that feeling. Maybe it wouldn’t have. I don’t know.

The day before, I refreshed and watched videos of black kids at pools being manhandled by police. I remembered the picture of acid being thrown into the pool back in the 1960s. I thought about how my dad doesn’t know how to swim, but had a pool at his house when I was growing up. I think about how privileged I was to be able to go to my dad’s house over the summer and swim in a pool where I would not be hauled out by police.

So I refreshed. retweeted. Read.

I thought of how at age 14, I walked around my boarding school town and was called a nigger. and I thought about how I was called it again when I came to my reunion 14 years later.

I refreshed.

I thought about those who have said, “you are not really black,” because of my personality, my appearance, my way of speaking…I thought about one kid who had to apologize to me after he told black kids in the class that all the black people were going to fall off the earth…I thought about the first time I realized in an audition that I wouldn’t be considered for all the roles because of my skin color…I thought about the times in Germany when I was asked for my passport and no one else was…I thought and I think

and I refreshed and I refresh

I think about how grateful I am to still be here.

I refresh and I refresh

I think of my grandparents who have seen much more of this than I have

I refresh and I refresh

I think of the children I want to have and I wonder about the world they will live in

I refresh and I refresh

I think of how I went to the doctor and she said I was stressed. that I wasn’t sleeping right or eating right or exercising enough. She told me not to drink as much. She told me not to read in bed. She told me to go to bed, to sleep.

I think of how hard it is to do that when you are refreshing and refreshing, when you are reading and rereading, when you are taking it all in, when you are feeling it hit you in your gut, your heart, when you want to stay online to stay connected to those who may understand what you are feeling, who may get the thoughts you are having, who may be living this in a much more personal, emotional, detrimental way.

I refresh and I refresh

I continue to read.

I refresh and I refresh

I continue to think

I refresh and I refresh

I continue to write

I refresh and I refresh

I write and I write

Refresh.

Refresh.

Write

Refresh.

Write.

Write.

Write.

dating realities

it is another i-can't-sleep-through-the-night night over here in the charly residence so here i am typing away. (and sharing the above picture because it is priceless and seems like a good entry into this post)

so, guys. let's talk about dating and online dating and attractiveness...because it is 6am and why not.

i'm going to be honest. i've found the men i've dated to be attractive, but mostly because of my interactions with them. it was after i talked with them and saw how they laughed when they were really laughing or how they looked at me so sincerely and openly that they became devastatingly handsome to me. they are good looking guys in general, yes, but they are not the ones who took my breath away when i spotted them the first time. the ones who take my breath away are men who usually don't have the time of day for me, which is fine. i'm all for the brad pitts and shemar moores of the world, but i'm also okay with them being people i enjoy watching and don't come home to.

but attractiveness is a thing these days. last time i was online dating it was a thing too, but tinder hadn't even launched yet. of course, OkCupid, Match.com, and eHarmony (all of which I used years back) all used photos and therefore attractiveness was a thing too, but my profiles and the profiles of the guys on those were pretty descriptive. i had information about the person i was looking at...but now there are numerous apps where we swipe left and right, often with varying degrees of information. some we may be able to put a few lines of info. others have where we went to college. others allow us to put our height and race and hometown and who mutual friends are. but often, as i am swiping through, all i am getting is a picture, an age, and a name.

so attractiveness is a thing. and it is a thing i am not used to really using as my prime motivator to say yes or no to liking a person on a dating site/app.

i was listening to a podcast yesterday and it was discussing how a few dating apps have set-up situations in which people have the opportunity to connect without the help of photos. like you have a full profile, but no pictures to look at. you are supposed to base your decisions off of what the person says, not how the person looks. the people that have connected this way often report having better connections.

but...there is always a but.

these apps reported a ton of complaints, very low usage numbers, and more because of this set-up. you know why? people want to know what the person looks like. they want to know if they are attractive to them.

i get it, i do. attractiveness isn't a prime motivator for me, but there are people i am just not attracted to. my exes may not be brad pitts, but they weren't unattractive to me. they just were people that were "sure, he's cute" when i finally paid attention. am i making sense?

anyway, these apps found out a harsh truth about attractiveness that is a no-brainer really:  you also see race in pictures and people want to see that too...which then brings this whole attractiveness thing to a complicated and sometimes sad place.

in the podcast, they discussed how many people on these apps won't date people of certain races. doesn't matter that everything else on the profile matches...and...you know who gets it worse? black women and asian men.

this isn't new information. i remember watching someone on MTV when i was home for a break in boarding school. i couldn't sleep (ha, this is a thing for me) and so i was up watching. there was a documentary thing about dating and i remember them saying that the people rated least attractive were consistently black women and asian men. i remember my heart dropping then. what a shitty thing to know when you are 15 and have braces and have gained like 30lbs in two years.

let's just say it did nothing for my self-esteem.

also watch tv or a movie. emasculated asian man. difficult black woman... this short on slate shows some of the issues here.

so yes, this isn't anything new. but as i step back into the dating world, i am struck yet again by how prevalent it is. i had a housewarming the other night and several of us discussed dating...and several of us discussed the issues of dating as a black woman. another friend and i have been having a twitter conversation about it. we notice certain things. like how apps that our friends of different races love, don't yield any results for us. like how certain apps only match us with black men, despite us putting no preference. like how we'll match with people and no one will write us back. or how we will match with no one at all. (i should say that i am pretty sure that the black women i have talked to over the last few days all identify as heterosexual...or we were discussing heterosexual dating. i think the podcast was too. and i am heterosexual...so know this is limited in scope for sure)

of course these are common complaints that most of us on these apps have, but there is a difference. there is. it becomes clear, sometimes painfully so, that we are not seen as attractive...as interesting...as [enter whatever you want to say here] as women of other races. and, of course, this is a huge generalization. clearly someone out there finds us attractive because there are more babies coming into the world with black mamas. but then you read articles like the one i shared a week or so ago about this woman's experience (she is actually a part of a bigger look into this now)...and then i go through my experiences and...well...

then on the other side of that there have been a number of articles over the last ten years that say that as a educated black woman, my chances are even lower to find a partner. a quick google search showed me that in april Brookings came out with a memo showing that educated black women are "marrying down" in order to find partners since we tend to go on to higher education at higher rates than black men and also because we marry outside of our race less often than other women (and...well...why is it that we marry outside of our race less? is that a choice? what does this whole thing of being somehow less attractive to people have to do with it? and what does marrying down even mean? and why are we putting it that way? and why isn't it viewed as black men marrying up? and why is it up and down? and why are we only talking about marriage? and why aren't we talking about the incarceration system and how that plays into all of this? and bah...). to be fair, i don't mind this article nearly as much as i do the ones that tell me i'm too picky as an educated black woman. for the record, i'm not going to lie--finding a partner that feels like an equal is important to me and intelligence is a part of that--but intelligence and education are two very different things.

as i swipe right and left, i am forced to not only think about how i am being viewed (am i pretty enough to get the attention of these men? and should i even care because do i want to be with that guy who is on the fence about whether i'm pretty or not and therefore whether he should swipe right or left anyway?), but also how i view others. i have prejudices too and i am sure if we looked at my swipes, we'd see some uncomfortable things come up. combine my prejudices with others' prejudices and you may have reasons why i don't see the returns others do.

this is not a post to lament abysmal dating situations. forgiving a few terrible connections, there have been one or two good ones in the few weeks i've been stepping my feet back into the water. ones that make you hopeful. at least for now. in six months i may be singing a very different tune.

this is getting long, but i wanted to say that i was thinking about all of this yesterday morning and then i came home from class and saw this video of a young black woman being terribly mistreated by a police officer in a school. and it got me thinking about how i spent much of my morning reading about how people don't see me and people who look like me as attractive and then i spent my evening watching an example of how people don't see me and people who look like me as worthy of respect and instead see fit to treat, beat, and misuse our bodies as they see fit.

thank god a friend came over in the middle of the day and reminded me how lovely the world can be.

it takes its toll, guys, seeing and reading crap like this all the time. i could not look and not read, but it is the reality that i and you and all of us are living in. i know that i am valued by friends and family, but i am often reminded of how people outside of that circle may not see me as valuable or worthy of love. and sometimes it is heartbreaking and scary...(especially after a breakup when you are feeling especially unvalued, unworthy and unloveable...even when you know that is not really why the breakup happened). don't worry, i'm not going to let it consume me, but...it is on my mind and i couldn't sleep...so there you go.

now excuse me while i snuggle with my pup and make some tea and pretend i just didn't spend two hours writing this instead of sleeping because man i would have loved to sleep...