The Myth of a Post-Racial America

Post-racial America is a theoretical environment in which the United States is free from racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice.”

A little over two years ago, I sat on a conference call with human resources. The IT company I was working with, at the time, had been previously acquired by a bigger corporation. The bigger corporation was in another state, which you have probably deducted was not MY state. Thus, to deal with my pressing HR issue, I had to go to the conference room at the front of our office, and place a call to the HR rep at an assigned time.

If the situation had been different, say I was calling HR to discuss new hire paperwork, benefits, or tuition reimbursement, maybe this situation would have weighed on me better. However, this was unfortunately not the case. Instead of discussing the randomness of mundane HR procedures, I was searching for clarity on actual human resources – white staff members in my office who did not think I deserved to be in the room with them.

This phone call, was the ending to a horrible span of days, that pressed into weeks where I was made to feel inadequate, uneducated, and unequal. I did not scream at anyone. I did not belittle anyone. I was not the villain in a melodrama that simply had it coming. I was simply being punished because I was trying to do a GOOD job. This was a quick about-face for me. I was in the middle of my second year on this job, after leaving a VERY RACIALLY CHARGED hospital environment. As a Masters of Public Health student, I had started to gain some of my confidence back and was happy that I had a year to reflect on my previous job, and build something great at this company.  I was ready to contribute and provide input for improvement to make this company soar.

Unlike my last racially charged job, this group of coworkers was very chatty and seemingly good natured. We all talked about our kids, television shows, and random day to day things – a HUGE SHIFT from my previous job where African American workers had to sneak off to lunch because our supervisor got nervous when she saw us chatting in groups.

Looking back (and even in the moment), there were inklings when my new coworkers got a little too comfortable around me and let certain racial phrases slip out like a conversation about healthcare:  “I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about other black folks who drain the system.” I would do my PBS public education moment and gently correct their misconceptions about race, religion, etc. and then conduct what I thought was REAL dialogue. The conversations usually ended on a good note after a period of time, everyone smiled, and we all went to lunch together. I was happy in my environment and thinking about what retiring from this company would look like.

Fast forward to about a year into my time at this company, and the takeover by the remote group escalates and with that our boss needs people to step up and take on my responsibility. I was ready! Some of the confidence that was sucked from me during my last job, had returned.  I had ideas that I thought would be impactful and I ran them by my boss and my team and initially it seemed like everyone was on board.

As I started to get praise and just tried to seriously manage my projects, everyone changed. I would walk in and people would abruptly stop talking. Or, there were incidents where I was sitting in my desk in our shared workspace while my white counterparts opening talked about me – like high school on crack! This was a breaking point. I was confused and trying to rise above and finally went to my supervisor for an intervention.

My supervisor had what I would refer to as an OPRAH meeting (exploring our feelings and other kumbaya moves). It began with people not talking but after I blatantly asked “what changed” I met cold eyes that I no longer recognized with being friends. They questioned my background to walk-in and do anything with their department (even after my supervisor explained that this was work that needed to be done and everyone knew it). I was told I was a brown-noser and someone stepping on toes. These words within themselves did not shake me much but the looks and tones said plenty. This was not about the new kid making folks feel threatened; this seemed to be race based.

Later, my race theory was confirmed. My company used an inner office communications messenger (i.e. outlook messenger, yahoo messenger) to chat with our peers. One of my antagonizers sent a message to me by accident:  I don’t understand why we hire her kind.

Hmm. Did they mean: Smart girls. Health scientists. Skinny girls. Brown people – I think this was the winner.

Back in the conference room, on the day I sat in a conference room to speak to HR, I recounted all of this via phone, as I tried to hold back tears. I had cried a lot during that month. I was in disbelief that people could treat me this way for trying to do my job. I was in disbelief that they could be so open and bold about it. See I was talking to HR about this after I explained to my boss that I thought it was racism and she tried to explain to me that she didn’t think it was but wanted me to talk to HR. HR listened to everything with a “woo woo woo” and a kind ear. Then HR told me it wasn’t racism it was jealously.

For HR and for you now, I will define racism:

* The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. •prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

And then I gave a definition of jealously:

* An unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has. Or an unhappy or angry feeling caused by the belief that someone you love (such as your husband or wife) likes or is liked by someone else.

So I asked, “Couldn’t racism be a type of jealousy?” HR responded, ‘Well, yes BUT in your situation, even with the paperwork I had picked up from the picture where someone had printed out the messenger conversation, this was probably not racism.’ She then gave me some tips on communicating with my coworkers and told me to ring her back anytime I just wanted to chat.

This turn of events took placed in 2014. Not 1955. Not 1961. Not 1970. This took place during what many people will claim, was a post-racial America. Keep in mind that during this time of workplace harassment, my daughter also had an up close and personal experience with racism. While walking to the library, with a group of her charter school friends, they were called a NIGGER by a group of white high school boys driving past them.

It was in this moment where I cried for the final time. I cried for my daughter. I cried for myself. I cried because it was 2014 and we were still dealing with racist bull crap in this country.

I talked to my daughter about the realities of the world. I told her the myth of the post racial America was just a myth. It was something you tell your kids or yourself so that you can sleep better. It’s like a fairytale. It’s like Cinderella. It’s like the fairy godmother coming in and making all things better and the happily ever after.

But our reality was that even after the civil rights movement and the glimpses of racial reconciliation that my daughter saw attending her suburban schools and suburban camps, some people would still judge us because of our skin. Because we were brown people we could never be smart, we could never have valuable ideas, and we could never be equal.

I also told my daughter that even when she grew up she would still be bullied and probably face sexism (but that’s a whole ‘nother post). But overall on that day, I told her that there was no post-racial America. A post-racial society is just a myth. It is not true and sadly if you open your eyes and your ears this is immediately affirmed for you (even now).

I moved on from that company but not from that experience.

I take that experience with me every day and as a result of it, I feel as if it has impacted my future workplace interactions. I am always on guard and waiting for the next racial shoe to drop. And I am not alone. I have a group of black girls that I mentor and we share similar traumatic tales.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. However, when I read the comment sections of blogs and articles at times when we should be coming together to figure out why black lives still don’t matter and why senseless acts of violence are happening to People Of Color (POC), my stomach always turns by those who spew their hate or those who feel POC should be silent because race is no longer an issue in America and we are just stirring a pot of nonsense.

Racism is still here and we need non-POCs to listen and truly engage in the conversation to make this country great again.

No politician can do that for us.

 

Now, what are WE going do about it?

 

 

Father’s Day Diversity

For Father’s Day, we treated my husband to Hibachi in one of the Atlanta suburbs. As we sat waiting on drinks and for other parties to join our table, my 8-year-old daughter turns and asks, “Mommy, is it possible for African-American parents to have white children?”

I sat confused by the question and responded with my usual (for this kid anyone) response of  “why are you asking that.” She said, “never mind, no reason”. Well this got MY mind whirling because with my uber inquisitive youngster there is ALWAYS a reason.

I responded that to my knowledge, biologically, I did not know of any case but we could research it (she complains that I tell her to research things a lot). But, I also pointed out that any ethnicity could adopt kids so African-American parents could adopt a Caucasian child that way. Conversation ceased soon after because appetizers arrived but it did not stop by brain from whirling and my eyes from roving.

Fast forward about 25 minutes later, after our Hibachi production (because really, isn’t that what it is), I heard loud childlike laughter from another table near us and saw it: two little Caucasian children sitting with an African-American family. I turned to my daughter and stated, “families look many ways. Those children could be friends of the family or because I believe I know that family – they could be their foster children. Let’s look it up.” My daughter’s response was short and sweet “oh.” No other questions, no arguments, just pure acceptance. And she continued eating.

Wow, so that was a lot to get to a point! If the world is filled with so much diversity, why can’t our books be. The writer in me immediately thought of how I could make this family’s story into a great picture book about different types of families. Also, why not have a MG story about an African-American family with an African American daughter and the family decides to adopt or foster a Caucasian child BECAUSE THIS HAPPENS – I’VE SEEN IT.

It is time to have stories that truly reflect the world around us. Hash tags are nice because #weneeddiversebooks and we need to recognize #ownvoices. But we have to add some physical actions beyond the hash tags. Write, edit, and submit. Your stories are needed.

2016: So far, so good

With the exception of being sick for what feels like a month, 2016 is off to a good start.

In January, I traded manuscripts with the best writing friend I could hope for. Reading her words has given me all the feels (envy, shock, and a little fear). Reading good writing and being allowed to accompany someone on their writing journey is a reward within itself. My advice for writers finding their way this year – find a GOOD writer friend. You will not regret it.

In my home life, I began the year by doing “double up” Sunday. Basically instead of cooking one dinner, I make two. Therefore we have dinner on Sunday and something to look forward on Tuesday. So far this has been working out well with my busy/travelling schedule. Last month, I also reconnected with another love of mine: baking. I had so much fun baking coconut muffins with my daughters. And bolstered by the deliciousness we stepped out I made some yeast bread.

Kitchen time is always revealing for me because it actually allows me to clear my head. There is something magical in putting a bunch of pinches and little things together and yielding something great. Cooking allows me to breath and reflect. This past month, I began to think about ways to improve my current manuscript and provide guidance on my current reading project.

What do you do when you are seeking clarity in your life? Feel free to share in the comments below. Also, if you happen to try the coconut muffins, let me know how you like them:)

2015 Reflections: My Writing

So this was supposed to be posted about a week (or 2) ago and thus this sums up how my writing went in 2015.

It was delayed multiple times. *sigh*

In my final reflection of things that transpired in 2015, I focus on my writing. I have to be honest, I really was not feeling my writing at the close of 2015. My mind and spirit was overwhelmed. I felt like I kept hitting a brick wall and nothing productive was coming out and finally the passion that I had for earlier projects JUST WASN’T THERE.

In terms of writing, here are the three major things I wrote in 2015:
1.  I worked on business writing – writing speeches, constructing social media campaigns, talking points, etc.
2.  I hit a wall in editing my finished SciFi and shelved it. I then started working on my MG. I got really gung ho during NanoWrimo but the fever only lasted up until the first day. I did some small edits throughout the month but nothing lasting. The story just stopped resonating!
3.  I blogged (minimally). My number of blog post in 2015 was 10 (and I took a blogging break between February and June). This was a major blogging slump for me.

In 2016, I want to find my passion again and I think I’m off to a good start. I exchanged chapters of both projects with my writing friend at the end of 2015 and became reignited. She has steered me back on the path of my SciFi project and we have exchanged novels. I’m actually EXCITED. Once I started reading over my work on this project again, I felt pulled back into this story and I cannot wait to give it another look and hopefully make magic happen.

Here’s to a productive 2016!

2015 Reflections: My Life

If you are still tuned into the blog – bless you! I love you for your support and for coming back on today as I reflect upon my life and more importantly lessons learned.

When looking back, I think my writer friend sums it up best: SELF CARE.

2015 literally saw me running all over the place via my main job, my side gig, and my home life. I learned that self care is not just about nails and hair (although these two are very important as my hair had some definite neglect), it’s about your overall well-being. I have narrowed down my personal highlights of 2015 into a top 3:

1. Passion Project: I reconnected to doing what I LOVE – Communications Consultant Work. I love being able to craft words and help people relay their story. Whether I do it on the political arena or for a little mom and pop that needs to build its brand, its where I feel the most alive. I really allowed myself to step outside my comfort zone in this area this year and subsequently in brought newfound swagger back to my life. I became my vocal about my abilities and more confident in my skill set.

2. Pescetarian Challenge: My health was failing from my amplified work load in 2015. I put on some pounds, was feeling tired and cranky, and just really started to feel not like myself. The end of the year, saw me rededicating myself to my health. In December I did a 21 day Pescetarian Challenge that saw me only eating veggies and seafood. I also cut back on my junk food snacking and huge desserts that were serving to comfort me in stressful time. Once a healthy stretcher and walker, I greatly decreased my activities during the fall. Thus in December, I began making a conscious effort to wake up early and meditate and stretch. HUGE RESULTS followed. January saw a 5 pound weight drop, increase in energy, and overall healthy feeling returning.

3. Feeling Pretty: Dang it,  I’m not old and decided to stop dressing like it. I changed to another department in my company that is a little more laid back and to be honest I really did not want to be here. But honey, I gave up the ghost and I wore heels like nobody’s business. I am also proud to say I have learned what clothing and shoe styles work for me. On the makeup front I tried some pink lipstick (not for me) but discovered purple tones were my thing!

Did you learn any personal lessons about yourself in 2015? What are you doing for YOURSELF in 2016? Share in the comments below.

2015 Reflections: (Harry) Potter Revisited

harrypotter

I contemplated a lot over things I experienced, lessons learned, and great moments from 2015. As with every recent year, I feel I have learned a lot about myself and hope to use this knowledge to make great decisions in the new year. This week, I will share some of my 2015 reflections in regards to books, my life, and my writing. Today, I will start with my 2015 book journey.

2015 saw me tackling two projects: one a SciFi revision and the other a MG fantasy. My life was also really busy but I didn’t want to shut out my writing -however, I lacked the motivation to really make anything work. Thus, I gave myself two book challenges which entailed rereading The Twilight Saga and the Harry Potter series.

Both were like snuggling in a comfortable blanket. When life was hectic, it was nice to revisit books that I had enjoyed. In the case of Potter, it was great to read what I consider a “how to” of children’s lit. Below I have given you a book by book takeaway of my renewed thoughts on this series:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: This is the epitome of a great book and the ultimate “how to” in writing a great MG book. I love the way JK Rowling builds this world. Also shout out to the great literary tool of foreshadowing which now after I have read and re-read the series (and watched the ABC Family movie marathon), I wonder how I slept on some of this foreshadowing. For example in chapter 6 some great foreshadowing is laid about Quirrell (and the centaurs predicted the book 7 war).

Another great thing I enjoyed was there was a good build-up. We didn’t make it to chapter 2 and Harry already had his ragtime group of friends and things were great. No sir! We get to experience life at The Dursley’s, shopping for school, and the celebrity status – all before our dynamic threesome is fully formed in Chapter 9.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Is this where we truly realize how awesome Hermione is? I think so. I feel like people may have been a little “iffy” on Hermione in the first book but in book 2 I really JUST LOVED Hermione. I mean, I was actually shocked Harry was able to save the day thus I want to officially request another 7 book series just based on Hermione’s point of view. #puttingitoutthere

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Was this the filler book? Loved the introduction of Lupin, hated Pettigrew. I mean that is the takeaway from here to book 7 how much I just despise Pettigrew and maybe because we all know a Pettigrew. He’s lurking in the shadows at school, work, or even the mommy group just trying to be apart of things but never truly loyal to anybody. Ugh!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Cho Chang. The dark lord came back and stuff which I was all excited about the first time I read this book but during the reread – man Cho Chang! JK Rowling did a great job really showing Harry’s emotion and just really all the kids as they experience crushes and first loves.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Um, can we trade in this whiney kid who has taken over Harry’s body. If I didn’t have my own whiney, sulky teenager – and thus understood this sudden mood change – I would have flushed this book down the toilet like Ginny trying to flush Riddle’s diary!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: I now hate Cho Chang and you have to understand that until recently I thought that JK got it wrong and Harry and Cho were truly meant to be but clearly the movies and my first time reading just masked that Cho was a little crazy! How the heck did I miss this!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Wow, so it just dawned on me that all of the authors of the marauder’s map are dead – like for real – that happened! I was not shocked about Dudley in this book. To me, Dudley was like Harry’s evil older brother and once you realize that your little brother may die or you will not see them again, the tears start and things get terrible. Younger siblings are just destined to get terrorized – sorry! rite of passage.

Revisit Potter for yourself and nab all the books via Pottermore.

What are your thoughts on Harry Potter? Have you revisited any series and had differing opinions of the characters? Comment below!

NanoWrimo 2015 Reflection

So here’s the dirty: I think I wrote for 2 out of 30 days but I actually prepped for about 2 weeks. I’m serious! I mean I marked up my existing draft, reordered pages, and figured out a plan for my writing.

So what happened? How did I go wrong?

Sadly its cliché but it’s my honest to goodness answer – I was busy. Work has been kicking my butt and this neglect in writing has also reflected a neglect in me. I have decreased my working out and not been taking good care of me (just ask my new expanded mid-section).

Writing, far from being the thing that could produce a book, gave me piece of mind by letting me imagine and dream and create words. It also allowed me a great avenue to blow off steam at society’s ills via my blog posts or writing crazy characters in my novels. However, things have changed and now I work long hours, come home, eat, treat myself to decadent desserts, and go to sleep. I am stifling myself mentally and physically and my hope and promise to myself is to do better – be better- in the new year.

How did you do on NanoWrimo and how do you balance writing and your life?