Mommies in Black and White

Two Moms. Two cultures. Lots of Laughs. Join Us!

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Stuck landing: Lessons from the Olympics

For two weeks every two years the world comes together to celebrate diversity, hard work, sacrifice and perseverance. We rally behind athletes whose stories bring tears to our eyes, who have overcome odds, injuries, personal struggles, and often political and social conflicts within their home countries. We see the common struggles. We see the desire to work for something and achieve something greater than ourselves. We see the best in people.

This lens into humanity has profound power. Power to transform our own lenses even if its only for a little while. I love the Olympics for this reason. We see what it means to be human. We feel the anxiety, disappointment and elation along with the athletes. We cheer and we mourn along with others who may or may not “be like us” on the surface.

Athletes on the Olympic stage have tremendous power to remind all of us how connected we are. How the human experience is a common experience. Whether they choose to speak out or actively engage in conversations related to diversity (religion, skin color, sexual orientation), each and every athlete influences those who watch.

The Olympics are also ripe for commentary, negative attention, poignant remarks and critiques related to coverage and portrayal of athletes, diversity issues, and gender issues. I applaud those who are willing to push, explore and bring attention to these issues.

But for now, I want to focus on the positive…

As my white skinned five year old swings from our play set, drops to a stuck landing and announces, “Simone Biles sticks the landing!” I have to smile. For today, Simone is her hero. For today, we are united in the struggles and glory of our country’s and the world’s athletes. For today and the two weeks every two years that bring nations together, we celebrate diversity. We honor common struggles that make us human. We listen and we feel. We are united.

IMG_7193stuck landing, simone biles

What it means to be a Loud Black Girl in America

Loud Black Girls or Courageous Women?

Case #1

A group of African American women celebrating their book club in Napa Valley last August were kicked off a wine train for being “too loud.” Their night out turned into a degrading event that prompted them to act. They just settled an 11 million dollar racial discrimination lawsuit. Racial discrimination lawsuit settled

I understand the hurt of the women on the train. I recognize a desire to be myself while also being conscious of social norms and stereotypes that might stifle my authentic self. 

Case #2

Bianca Dawkins made an appointment at a high-end salon in Minnesota. She felt humiliated when the stylist complained about her natural hair saying it was a “wild animal that can’t be tamed.” She used her voice to call out the salon on social media. Minneapolis Salon Slammed

I understand the struggle to find a stylist who is sensitive to your hair texture. I am blessed to have a stylist who treats me and my hair with respect. There are few in my city who are qualified or experienced in this area. 

Twitter has exploded with the hashtag #LoudBlackGirls. Many tweets include negative comments about black women speaking up.

Why can’t I, a black woman, speak up for what I believe in without being seen as a threat? Those who know me are comfortable with my humor and outgoing demeanor. Often, though, I hear a voice in my heart that holds me back from confrontation about race in my community. I fear that I will get a reputation as ‘that angry black woman.’ So I stay silent. In turn, I feel guilt or I walk away thinking about my rebuttals or what I should have said.

The choice is daily. To speak up or to take it. To engage or walk away. The challenge is in knowing when and how so that the effort is not only perceived positively but can actually make an impact. I am constantly searching for the courage to speak up when I see things that affect my family and me.

I comes down to this: As a mother, I owe it to my boys, to the generations after me to be a voice for CHANGE and for understanding. My fear of being perceived as a “loud black girl” is superseded by my desire to lessen the burden on my children. My goal is to have those brave conversations without jeopardizing my moral principles or integrity. I will be loud with a purpose. 

I will be loud with a purpose. 

I took a step forward in this regard. If you remember my comedian post, you’ll know I left that situation without saying what I wanted to say. I have since reached out and met with Mr. Hoodie “Comedian.” I told him exactly how I felt and I’m working with the comedy club owner to make sure that type of “humor” doesn’t make it back on stage.  

This voice that I used was frightening at first. But by using it I’m feeling stronger. I’m not afraid to get a little loud in order to make a difference. My children depend on me to do that. I’m proud to say that I will be a Loud Black Girl if I have to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She lives black, she lives white in America.

jen and jebI made a decision to not use this blog to comment on social injustices, blatant ignorance, or racist and violent actions that play out in national and international media. Those stories feel so BIG. They make me feel hopeless, powerless and they push a button deep inside that says our problems, our issues as a society are so large that I cannot affect them. I cannot make change. I cannot FIX it. And all I want to do is fix it.

So, I’ve avoided the BIG issues. The scary stories. The headlines. By talking and sharing about the little things, the day to day, the minutiae of an interaction, I feel like I have some power, some control. I feel like we make progress toward breaking down barriers, eliminating stereotypes and seeing each other as human-beings.

I CAN make change in those daily interactions.

Our hope is that each of our readers feel empowered in the same way.

But, this story, this week is just too big to ignore. As our state, our communities and our country mourn, make sense of and grapple with the fear that continues to control actions, Jeb and I wanted to try to make clear how our same, but different lives feel.

Jebeh and I were born in the same year. We grew up 10 minutes from each other in very similar communities. We met at college and found out we shared childhood friends. In college we had the same major and overlapping social circles. We married Andy(s) and had kids at the same time – our firstborns 12 days apart, our second children only minutes apart. We now live a mile from each other in very similar homes and neighborhoods. We have similar socio-economic status. We are in the same social circles. We are both educators, communicators and are engaged in our community. But our realities are different…


She Lives: 

Jeb: I fear driving down my street. I’m hyper conscious of my blinker, stopping completely and following all the traffic laws.

Jen: I don’t think twice about throwing my kids in the car, buckling as I pull down the street and rolling through the stop sign if no one is coming.

Jeb: I get followed when I walk into a high end clothing store. They don’t ask if I need help.

Jen: I get approached when I walk into a high end clothing store. They ask if I need help finding anything.

Jeb: I’m asked if I’m the nanny.

Jen: I’m asked if I’m a stay at home mom.

Jeb: I’m scared for my sons. I’m scared that others will judge them for the color of their skin. I’m scared that they will be targeted because they are brown.

Jen: I’m scared for my kids. I’m scared that they might get hurt playing or make poor choices and suffer the natural consequences.

Jeb: I teach my kids to respect authority. I tell them to always do exactly as a police officer or other law enforcement person tells them. This is SO important.

Jen: I teach my kids to respect authority. I tell them if they ever need help or are in trouble they can run to a police officer or other fire and rescue personnel.

Jeb: People stare at me.

Jen: People smile at me.

Jeb: My blackness is challenged when people see that I’m married to a white man.

Jen: My marriage is accepted at face value because we “match.”

Jeb: When I’m by myself with my children, people question whether I live with my ‘baby daddy.’

Jen: When I’m by myself with my children, people smile and tell me I’m doing a good job.

Jeb: I fear that someone I love might be the next hashtag…

Jen: I fear that my kids will learn about hashtags and social media when they are too young to understand the dangers.


We are the same. But we are different. I do not live as Jebeh does. I do not fear as Jebeh does. I do not carry the weight of my skin color as Jebeh does. I live free. I live white.

That awkward moment when you are the punchline at a comedy club

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good joke. My family members tease me and say that “Jebeh has no shame.” I’m a beautiful, black, confident woman. But, some things are entertaining and others are just offensive.

Last summer, my friend and I went for a much-deserved ladies night. We ended up at a local comedy club we’d both frequented before. We knew the unwritten rule: do not sit in the front row or  you’ll be part of the comedian’s set. We chose to sit at the table furthest back.

It didn’t save us. Some random guy dressed in a grey hoodie, who was inebriated (so I thought) sat at our table (uninvited) and said to us, “Oh man I can’t do this, I feel like sh**.” That random guy then headed to the stage. Surprise! The drunk hoodie guy was the headlining comic. I looked at my friend and we agreed, it wasn’t going to end well.

He was not funny. He grasped at straws and got only nervous laughter in response. Then, Mr. Hoodie-Comedian went on a racist rant: “I wonder what it would be like to be a slave master?” “You could get anything you wanted and wouldn’t have to pay them.” The crowd went wild. Just like that, he was the next King of Comedy.

Just like that, he was the next King of Comedy.

My friend and I felt like we were at a Klan rally. Mr. Hoodie-Comedian then pointed at me across the audience and said, “There’s one black lady in here and she’s in love with me. She would be my slave any day.” The crowd roared with laughter. After his set, he gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry.” I pushed him off and left in disgust.

I was so angry at the white man who decided to offend me for a few laughs. More disheartening was the crowd’s response. I know comedy is not for the faint of heart, but that kind of comedy was not worth our time or anyone’s time for that matter.

At moments like that I try to reflect on my life and the people in it. I remind myself of what I have accomplished, of the family I have built and the friends that have my back. If I compare those things to where that comedian was in his life, the anger just melts away. My laugh is the one that is heard. Next ladies night, we’ll hit up a movie instead.

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