Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why We Can't Just "Let Boys Be Boys"

By happenstance, I read this post about a woman's college experience with sexual assault. Then, the very next blog post I read was this one from Confessions of a Community College Dean, about sports and raising a thoughtful boy. Together, they make an important statement about gender conditioning and parenting. In case we ever forget, the stakes are high. Oh, boy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keeping It Real

I started this post to briefly comment on the tone of political rhetoric in light of the Arizona shootings, but I was watching The View the other day, and as usual, they were saying things (or omitting things) that got on my nerves, so I'm going to discuss them both.

First, Sherri told Elisabeth that every situation is not all black and white and Whoopi made the joke that it is at their table. Then Barbara said not to her because she doesn't see color; that was the way she was raised. I know she thinks that is good, but to me, it is not. It is, at best, a cop out and at worst, racist. As a cop out, it doesn't require you to make any distinctions among people when people are filled with distinctions and nuance. It's like when schools have zero tolerance policies and they don't have to think through the differences in a student bringing a plastic knife to school and a machete.

It can be racist in that it allows one to assume everyone is like them, that they want to be like them. (Because, if we're honest, we relate to people from our own frame of reference first and foremost.) It denies their culture, their history, and their experience.

I can't speak for every racial and ethnic minority or every black person, for that matter, but I want you to see me as black. I am a black woman and I am proud of it; I love being black. Being a black woman affects the way I experience the world. I don't see anything wrong with it and I don't see anything wrong with people recognizing my race. It becomes problematic when you think (consciously or unconsciously) that being black somehow makes me less than or when you begin to assume certain negative things about me just because of my race (or my gender).

Switching gears:

There's so much discussion now about the tone of political rhetoric and whose to blame for the tragedy in Arizona. It seems the politically correct thing to say is that no one is to blame but the shooter and that there's vitriolic talk on both sides of the political aisle. Maybe, but it seems to me that some people are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. I will use as an example Sarah Palin because the focus has been on her, but she is not the only one who does this. Rappers, actors, etc. do it, too. Whenever something negative happens and fingers are pointed at popular points of influence, everyone is quick to assert their blamelessness. They had no influence over that emotionally or mentally disturbed person. But in times of positivity and financial opportunity, then they are glad to have influence.

Sarah Palin gives speeches, writes books, and garners high ratings on television. She has been called a king maker because of her influence in getting people elected to office. How in the world can she abdicate her influence now? I don't believe she intended for that disturbed man in Arizona to kill people, but she put her words out there and she has to understand that ill people are going to take them how they take them. She cannot claim that her words do not add to the violent tone of political debate now when that's part of how she makes her bread and butter.

Rappers and rockers are similar. They make money influencing people; if their words and music had no power, no one would buy it. So, when that power extends itself in a way that is unfavorable, it is disingenuous for them to say, "I have no power. I have no influence." Because that's not true and they don't really want it to be true or they would be out of business.

Just keep it real, folks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK, Jr. Day

Hard discussions today as the children and I are reading (the Candy Cane Press) books about Coretta and Martin. Questions about equal rights, assassination, guns, race, and why people are so mean. But we will have these discussions, at 3, at 5, at 10, at 16 and beyond. Because if we don't, they won't have discussions about peace and justice and culture and ethical living.

Thank you, King family!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Sweet Read

So I started reading The Help. But I put it down because The Babydoll and I are reading Whoopi Goldberg's Sugar Plum Ballerinas together. She reads one page, then I read one page. I don't how long it's going to take us to get through it, but I'm loving it. It's actually a book by a celebrity that I'm not ashamed to say that I'm reading! Yay!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Use Your Words

So I'm working on my syllabi and assignments (well, not right now--right now I'm avoiding work and writing this post). I'm always excited about the narrative assignment. It is often the best writing from students and the most interesting. But sometimes it's hard to read because they disclose so many personal and painful stories that, eventually, I just felt like I couldn't handle it anymore. I want to solicit happier stories this time around, and I'm trying to figure out how to do that without literally saying, "Don't make me cry and freak me out, people!"

I also thought that maybe I would write my own response to the assignment so that they will have an example of what I want since I won't have a student example for this new assignment. I thought of a story that happened recently:

Not long after we moved into our new house, The Hubby was moving around boxes and exploring the nooks and crannies. He found a note from the original owners--yep! the family who lived here close to twenty years ago. It was a note from the mother to her daughter. It was a short expression on a cutesy sticky note. She wanted this young girl to know that her mother thought she was bright and loving--and loved. She told her that she was growing into a wonderful young woman (we figure the daughter must have been about ten or twelve years old) and that she (the mother) was having a fabulous time raising her.

I was crying as I thought about what that would have meant to a little girl. Actually, I'm crying right now as I'm writing this . . . . What a sweet gesture. It doesn't just express love. It's a seed of confidence and strength in a world that constantly tells girls that we're not enough, or too much, or wrong in some fundamental way. Who could this girl be, with a concrete reminder that in her home she was safe and valuable? Who could my daughter be, also raised in this house?

When we had our house blessing, I thought of the moments of joy and sadness and laughter that must have filled this home in the last decades. I imagined that the words of the blessing--peace, joy, comfort, safety--went out into each room and took root. This family wasn't the only one that lived here before we moved in; but I saw us as part of the history of this house. The house was in great condition and had clearly been well taken care of. I remember hoping that the people who lived here were also well taken care of.

What a beautiful example of the power of language! I really wish we could find these people and give that note to this girl, now a grown woman. And I wish we could see who she turned into.