(Dragging out my soapbox ’cause I’m short)
Kristen Houghton published an article a few days ago called “The New Trophy Wife” that essentially suggests the new definition of a trophy wife is a woman who’s got looks AND brains AND power.
Overall, while it’s encouraging to see anything that remotely supports women’s success and intelligence… It’s hard for me to cheer for this specific message. At best, our inclination to accept it just highlights the dearth of positive messages about women, particularly married women.
This isn’t new.
The fact that people choose to marry intelligent, successful, beautiful women is not news.
An expose on how popular narratives have intentionally obscured the truth about women’s power, brilliance and accomplishments for centuries would be news. An expose on how policy limits women’s success and promotes hyper-sexualized views of girls and women is news. An expose on how women’s oppression has reacted with racism and classism to destroy lives all over the world is news.
Especially because so many of us women have been conditioned to avoid rocking the boat on our issues. God forbid I’m not only a woman, but a black woman as well the challenge is even greater. How dare I choose the wrong movement at any given moment? In fact, every moment of every day I live out the movement, demanding black lives matter. Yes all women. Bring back our girls.
We can see the eyes rolling, hear the uncomfortable silence, anticipate the dismissive counterarguments. Success, power, and a platform should empower us to support other women, particularly those who haven’t achieved a type of popular success.
Not to mention, why reinforce the idea that wives should be “eye candy”? We should absolutely be healthy and demonstrate self-care and self-love. I actually tried for years to convince myself objectification was a compliment (it’s not.) So how is objectifying a woman while saying the age of objectification is ending even logical?
Why promote the idea that a professionally successful woman is more intelligent, powerful and equal to a man than a domestically successful woman? This kind of limited standard setting, which deceptively reinforces status quo by suggesting certain marginalized groups are inching towards mainstream definition of standard, does us all a disservice. As a result ideals are consistently set below the true mark and we remain trapped in a cycle of patching up the problem of coming up short.
The fact that we live in a patriarchal society simply does not, by default, mean that the privilege of those in power is an ideal all might benefit from attaining. Accepting this default enables the mindset that women who fail to attain what men do are less than. A short step away from that is the mindset that women who fail to be what men want are less than.
We should absolutely value and celebrate the contribution of wives who are mothers and household managers. We should absolutely value and celebrate the contribution of single women who are caretakers, missionaries and students as well as those who are successful in the marketplace.
What if we celebrated strength of character and values, integrity, determination, overcoming, creativity and commitment… Instead of some version of dollars, beauty and stilettos? Huh. Dollars, beauty and stillettos.
What does that image conjure? Do we judge and condemn women for failing to meet the patriarchal ideal of the moment? Or do we reject other’s definition of success, beauty, and achievement and walk in our true power?
What example are we setting for our little girls who will grow up to be the “New Trophy Wives” and for our little boys who will become men seeking to become one’s husband?
If the article seemed more about celebrating womanhood and less like, “Hail the new and improved Barbie! She thinks too!” it wouldn’t feel so distasteful.
These are the messages we’re tempted to hold on to, because they seem so encouraging. At what expense? When we examine what this line of thinking asks us to accept about ourselves, our husbands and sisters, is it really presenting the best version of us that we should aspire to embrace? If not, do we really agree with all of it?
Okay I’m done.
Now, will someone ask my new husband to help me off this soapbox?
I need to get out of the office.
Within the last ten weeks I’ve celebrated the birth of my nephew, married the love of my life in the best wedding ever, honeymooned, celebrated my birthday, and celebrated the birth of my niece… Then suddenly, we were grieving the loss of my newborn niece suddenly at one month old, and again mourning for my grandmother who passed away two weeks later.
But it’s not about me, right? Surely if I just lift my head and look at the world around me perspective will shift, truth will emerge in focus.
In other news… Apparently grand jury indictments for homicide have become a rare and elusive gift. On a good day injustice aches and burns, but these days?
I need several hugs.
Because maybe, it really isn’t about racism.
When will this genocide in America be called what it is? When, since the holocaust, has a nation so willfully authorized mass murder?
Mike Brown. Eric Garner.
I never imagined personally mourning loved ones’ deaths as I have recently. Nor did I imagine grief would be compounded with wounds reopened by injustice, for men, women and children I’ve never met.
Throughout my family’s mourning it has been so comforting to feel unconditional love and support from friends, family and even strangers during our time of grief.
But then, my sweet niece’s single month of life was undeniably innocent and perfect.
The justice system is sending the message that hers is the only kind of black life worth protecting under the law.
The death count’s rising.
There is a genocide unfolding at the hands of law enforcement.
I don’t know how to have space for that kind of pain simultaneously.
As it all unfolds, I can’t imagine how maddening it would be for grief to be infected with blame, for my loved one to be vilified and demonized… Then as the struggle for closure, understanding, justice in the face of such genocidal tragedies continue…
To watch in new and different horror again, as the hands responsible for their death are held up..
In a shrug.
I can’t breathe appears to be exactly the point. It appears the justice system is not broken, in fact is working perfectly: If the mission is genocide.
Apathy is worse than hatred. Apathy and injustice are the language of racism. Death is the language of genocide.
The insidious void of justice in far too many deaths of fellow human beings who happen to be black, is the worst mask our country can wear.
My heart aches for fellow grieving survivors of loss. I can not fathom their pain, strength and anger.
Like I said, several hugs. Pass some ’round.
Having an 11/5 birth date in the US has made for some interesting news over the years. The 11/5/08 headline showed citizens of the same country whose original constitution didn’t consider slaves human, had elected a black man president.
Somehow, today I’m still reading about what laws are needed to make a human legal in the same country.
By contrast, this year had great life moments: getting married, welcoming cousins, nieces and nephews. Life is full of great moments when we choose to see them: Like, while continuing a half-century old year family vacation tradition, having lunch with an elderly stranger. As small talk ranged from weather to news and eventually drought and other disasters, her simple words summed up the truth of life well-lived:
Over the years the same things happen over and over. There’s always some big scare, the Great Depression, the war, the tornadoes, the earthquakes, the plague. You just want to hold on to your peace and ride it all out no matter what.
We can choose turmoil or peace.
Fear or love.
My birthday gift this year was a pair of blistered dancing feet. They say life isn’t about weathering storms, but learning to dance through the rain. How true.
It’d be easy to feel achy and sore but instead, why not smile about symbols of joy, love, health and longevity? Life is hard. And gets harder. It’s easy to get fearful, frustrated and angry. It’s much harder, more audacious, more courageous to be loving, hopeful, faith-filled. In every moment we choose what to focus on.
What will you focus on today?
I hope it’s something good.
Like bubbles. Or kittens. Or babies. Or whatever it is that makes you grin.
The other day I was listening to a song about trusting and relinquishing control when I started thinking about the one thing we probably all agree on: Nobody can control the world. No animal either but they tend not to care so much. We may be able to master and manage some things, but never will we be able to control, predict and explain everything that happens in the universe we inhabit.
So why do we struggle so hard to do it anyway?
Especially when just about everything magnificent and phenomenal that ever was came to be not because of, but in spite of the hands and will of a single person? Believing in something that defies the laws of medicine, physics, human nature, economics, etc. is only ridiculous if we forget those laws only attempt to explain history and in doing so, reasonably predict the future with the understanding nothing is certain.
Be aware of when you’ve settled for the comfort of knowing you’re in control. Conceding what you can accomplish for something beyond imagination is scary. But if you’re not hoping for or reeling from a miracle, chances are the need for control has limited life to surviving instead of thriving.
Mind you, I believe forgiveness is a miracle. And friendship. And trust. And overcoming. And rain. (Can we get some RAIN?!?)
Anywhoo, let go, and let yourself believe in miracles.
Don’t worry. The worst that can happen is you’ll mess up.
Life goes on.
German blood runs through my veins. And I just don’t understand how violence and looting is supposed to solve anything. I’m an upstanding citizen and my family is deeply respected. Why do I need to focus my energy on something happening to black people in neglected communities? It’s not my business and not my fight. Enough people are fighting already.
The blood of Africa fuels my heart. How DARE you, lying and pretending this gunshot wound, this prostrate body is different than the noose dripping rotten fruit from a Southern tree? I will scream. I will stand. I will fight. I will give my living breath to speak the truth. Are you listening?
Both of those stories are mine, and are true. They’re the truth for a lot of people. Sometimes, knowing we’re not alone, and being reminded we can make a difference helps change the way we think about things. So as you read, please know I’ve been torn about racism, unsure of where to begin.
In many ways I identified more fully with white folks all my life, having been immersed in the culture of privilege literally from preschool through college. White folks are my people. Not in a put-on, confused awkward way but because we happened to be around and like each other. Simple. As it should be. Undeniably, the color of my skin and environment I and my family live and work within (impoverished, neglected area of Watts in LA) means I identify with black people, ultimately self-identifying as black.
My grandma was a white woman who married a black man from Mississippi (rest their souls). They married in Tijuana because interracial marriage was illegal in the US. I’m getting married in October and all my mother keeps saying is “Chocolate babies.” Don’t ask.
My fiancé is a beautiful man with symmetrical, classically handsome features and an even, glowing skin tone the color of rich, warm wood. Mine is golden pale if I keep a good tan. And yes, my white girlfriends routinely out-tan me. Annoying.
Anyway, chocolate babies.
I love babies and love. Love, love! I used to think I was naive, or crazy for being so happy all the time. But then I learned my joy came from the everlasting truth that God is good, all-powerful, all-creation, all Creator. So especially when it didn’t make sense, the choice of joy was an act of power.
Kinda like when you see an adorable baby and your mood changes for no apparent reason. Being a deeply spiritual person has come to mean I label a lot less. Truth is, we’re all conservative in some ways and liberal in others. Narrow-minded in some ways and open-minded in others.
Case in point, I remember the supremely awkward moment where I had to defend my white friendships to my black schoolmates. I’d been going to school with some of my white classmates for over a decade at that point, and a group of mostly newly-enrolled black kids asked me why I hung out with them? Implicit in the ask was why I didn’t hang out with my black classmates more. Again, my answer was simple. We know and like each other, and are friends.
I thought to myself, “I can get to know you guys, but we’re not starting off on the best foot, honestly.” It was not lost on me that the social effects of racism are very much learned.
How unexpected that my fiancé would have the exact same experience… In New York? He went to privileged, mostly white private schools so together we move seamlessly through just about any social setting.
I’m sure we’ll have boys, maybe girls too. I’m sure our boys will carry the quiet dignity their father lives in, that scares me sometimes because I’ve learned to shuck and jive a little too well… Despite my best efforts.
I’m sure they’ll face the same heart-breaking fear from strangers who respond to my son’s blackness as though he were pointing a loaded gun at them. I’m sure they will share their father’s grace and wisdom, trying to crack jokes, to soothe, to say or do anything to dissipate the fear caused by that invisible gun.
And I’m sure that over the years, as they grow up surrounded by rich white kids as their parents did, they will learn the balancing act: Learn, master, befriend but always, always manage your expectations. Always remember the spotlight is on you, and if you have the strength wield it without sacrificing authenticity, use that to your advantage.
I pray they will be voices of truth and power.
And I pray we will be fearless enough to let them live freely.
Because the sad pattern of history says that if you fight for racial equality, and fight against poverty you get killed.
If you fight for freedom you get beaten and put in prison. If you are perceived as a threat to a civilian or an officer of the peace, you may just get killed. The trouble with that is, I know how people look at black men and women: Like we are holding a loaded weapon pointed at them.
It does not matter who that black man or woman truly is or what the context of their interaction with others has been. The same country that believed black people were not fully human has born a bitter, rotten fruit of racism.
It is heartbreaking to see that look in another person’s eyes. It is murderous to take action to shoot or senselessly beat someone because you feel threatened by their skin and what it represents. And if my outrage at the truth of that injustice is left to fester in my heart, and burn my mouth as I make a two minute public comment… To singe my fingers as I cast a vote, to stain my cheeks as I cry silent tears of futile rage… At some point I might just destroy something.
To release the insides, to shatter the sickeningly perfect reflection of lies people tell to cover up the truth:
Too many Americans prefer slavery because they could legally treat black people like animals.
The Ku Klux Klan was formed after slavery was abolished and full of judges, law enforcement officials and elected officials who wanted to enforce their own law in their own way. Blacks and women were not allowed to enforce the law. The Ku Klux Klan is currently raising money to reward the police officer who killed Michael Brown.
Is it any wonder then, that when a white police officer takes the life of a black civilian it causes outrage? We can blindly ignore history as much as we want to, but we can’t close our eyes to it and condemn those who act with it in mind. Law enforcement is one of the pillars of structural racism in America and when it bursts into flames of rage we can’t talk in code about what went wrong.
I don’t know what I would do if my child were murdered at the hands of the police, or if my mother were savagely beaten in the head by a uniformed officer. When I try to consider it the ache of paralyzing loss grips me. I’m a black woman living in Watts, and went to private schools in the most privileged areas of the country with (mostly) white people all my life.
When the 1992 revolt happened here in response to another injustice related to law enforcement/civilian brutality with the Rodney King case acquittals, I stayed home from school. My friends, with no real idea of what was going on asked if I needed a place to stay, if my family was alright. My friends. My family’s friends.
We truly loved and cared about each other, and it wasn’t about anything other than choosing to get to know each other, bond, and become friends. They didn’t pretend I wasn’t black, nor I that they weren’t and we formed deep and lasting relationships that changed our lives forever.
Would that have happened if I and my family weren’t able to travel 20 miles to get there every day and for social events, plays, concerts, and games? Would that have happened if they treated me like a criminal all the time, or made bigoted comments? Of course not.
We came together regularly, and were ourselves with one another. We decided who we did and didn’t like just healthy people should, based on personality and integrity not race or class. Had we not come together, how else would we have befriended each other? How else would we have learned about and accepted each other?
It wasn’t their fault their community was pretty much entirely white, just as it wasn’t my fault my community was pretty much entirely black. But had we rejected each other on sight, or ever refused to enter or learn each other’s worlds that would have been our fault. We cared for each other.
More than anything right now, I miss that care and concern. It is far too easy to judge, dismiss and avoid war when it rages at home or abroad. Once we open our minds and hearts to consider we should care, that paralyzing ache grips and we freeze. And usually run back to comfort.
Who wants to be crying all the time? Crying drives me crazy, and I am such a crybaby. My sinuses act up and I’m decommissioned for weeks. So inappropriate.
We don’t have to do anything to perpetuate racism, but we do have to be active to change bits of it, and ultimately dismantle the beast. One of the other pillars of structural racism is segregation.
Segregation doesn’t show up in the old signs of the Jim Crow era of No Dogs, No Blacks, No Mexicans. It shows up in the denial of loan applications for homes. The exclusivity of country clubs where professional connections are made and deals brokered. It shows up in disparities of the quality of education, infrastructure, and investment.
Segregation shows up when we feel inexplicably more comfortable in environments that inexplicably represent only one color of skin.
Yes, the incidents of late are happening all over the country, and mostly in impoverished areas that unfortunately have very little draw for folks other than those who live there. I’m not suggesting you should have gone on a poverty tour (though my grandpa did take my father and his colleagues on one a few decades back-enlightening).
But you can fight segregation by simply stopping by online to read unbiased news reports, to see what’s happening for yourself from the privacy and comfort of your home or office. By allowing yourself to care.
You’re no bigot and certainly not some racist KKK member- Ugh. But if what you’ve been thinking about Ferguson sounds anything like this, maybe you should learn a little more about what’s going on: “We know that Michael Brown was nothing more than a punk. The media and others are painting him out to be a ‘good son’ and ‘great kid.’ The blacks of Missouri are showing their love of him by rioting, attacking and shooting people. Nothing new.” (Full article.)
Just about every problem we will ever face is a problem of apathy. Not enough caring, and not enough doing. What will it cost you to care? To express concern? You don’t have to be a celebrity or a politician to express a human emotion of concern for something wrong. And I guarantee you, in the wave of events surrounding each of these exchanges there was wrong committed. It isn’t hypocritical to care or to say so.
It’s as easy as a single word, photo, or symbol nowadays that you can post online. Be brave enough to learn, to care, and show it in whatever way you can. Maybe it’s a one word post (hashtags annoy me too) #WeCare or #Ferguson. Or maybe it’s sharing an objective, analytical and well-written article. Just don’t be silent.
Look, just from this post you can get informed and do your part to make this issue visible, so it can’t be avoided or swept under the rug. At some point, when it is clear this isn’t a divisive issue but a unifying cause, a solution that works for all, not just some who are most angry and vocal, can be brought forward.
Please do your part.
An abbreviated list of unarmed black people of all ages, male and female who have nearly all been killed by uniformed officers.
- Mike Brown
- Eric Garner
- Jonathan Ferrell
- Oscar Grant
- Marlene Pinnock
- Kimani Gray
- Ervin Jefferson
- Kendrec McDade
- Timothy Russell
- Ramarley Graham
- Amadou Diallo
- Patrick Dorismund
- Ousmane Zongo
- Timothy Stansbury
- Sean Bell
- Orlando Barlow
- Aaron Campbell
- Victor Steen
- Steven Eugene Washington
- Alonzo Ashley
- Wendell Allen
- Ronald Madison
- James Brissette
- Travares McGill
- Tarika Wilson
- Aiyana Jones
- Miriam Carey
- Shereese Francis
- Renisha McBride
- Shantel Davis
- Sharmel Edwards
- Rekia Boyd
- Tyisha Miller
- Yvette Smith
When it hurts, burns, aches and you know that if you cry out no one will hear you… At least not anyone who will stop the burning ache of pain, it just seems like curling into a ball of tears in the corner of an unlit room is the only thing that will grant release. But then you realize the burning is the fire of a lion’s roar demanding to be sounded, like thunder cracking skies.