Mommies in Black and White

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Tag: diversity (Page 1 of 2)

Valarie Kaur Speech: An Opportunity to Listen, Learn, and Reflect

Immigration is HOT right now. As a blog written in half by an immigrant we are extremely in tune to the rhetoric and current cultural conversations related to the topic.

We don’t speak to every issue, every story, or debate. We try not to judge or spread hate or disrespect by attacking others’ perspectives or ideas. We do, however, encourage our readers to listen, reflect and learn…about each other, about diversity, about ways that you can engage and make a difference in your daily life by being an informed, open and compassionate person.

The video below is a passionate perspective from one side of the immigration debate. It’s worth watching because it provides insight into a life experience, a reality that you might not truly understand – unless you’ve lived it. Jebeh has lived it. Her experience was her own. It was emotional, challenging, heartbreaking and exciting all at the same time.

Every time I listen to Jebeh and open my heart to her experience, I learn and I grow. Every time we can see, truly see the world through someone else’s lens, we become better. We become smarter, stronger, and more empathetic people.

So, I encourage you to watch, to listen, to grow. I encourage you to see an immigration story through someone else’s lens.

WATCH: Valarie Kaur Speech

 

Assume Nothing

Last month I was interviewed for a documentary depicting racial bias and stereotypes in my community. The interviewer asked me what advice I would give to citizens in my community regarding the subject. I shared two words…assume nothing.

I want citizens in our community and citizens of the world to resist their own biases and approach each other as human beings and not as stereotypes. Let me give you some scenarios:

  • When you see my children playing in our yard and they wave to you as you cross the street with your dog, don’t ask them if they live there in a condescending tone…Assume nothing.
  • When I was test-driving at a car dealership the dealer tried to find the hip hop radio stations. I do love my hip hop, but I bet he wouldn’t have found those stations for my white husband… Assume nothing.
  • When I was hired for my dream job someone asked, “how did you ‘swing’ that one?”…Assume nothing.
  • When recognized for accomplishments some people have hinted it wasn’t on merit but because “I was the token black person” in the company…Assume nothing.
  • When we bought our dream house someone questioned, “How’d you get a loan?”….Assume nothing.
  • When I changed my hairstyle some people assumed I was going through an identity crisis…Assume nothing.

I could go on. And on. So many interactions are burdened with racial biases and assumptions. When we all realize the importance of framing a question from a kind hearted, bias-free place our interactions will become less burdened. And, their value will increase exponentially as we break down tensions and barriers that too often characterize cross-cultural interactions.

Instead of asking, “Do you boys live here?” Ask, “Are you little guys new to the neighborhood?” Instead of assuming that because I’m black I like hip hop, ask, “What kind of radio station would you prefer?” Simple congratulations on work well done, a new home, or a promotion can go a long way. On the subject of hair and black women, just commend us for keeping our styles fresh, no identity-crisis intervention team needed.

If you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask. But ask from a place of compassion, free of assumptions. Ask because you care, because you genuinely want to understand. Ask in a way that squashes negative perceptions and allows civility to reign. And, if you have to assume. Assume the best. Always.

 

 

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.

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