So, why bother: Why work and walk, when being who you were born still hurts?
1994 Baltimore, when I had finally secured the protection of a job at Space Telescope Science Institute, and was trying to make friends with co-workers, and forget my origins:
“There are people here who will not want someone who looks like you on their land.”
“The races don’t mix.”
Apparently, the South had risen, again, up in northern Maryland.
Why bother, again?
Because Adulting includes the responsibility to strive for better. Better from oneself, and better from and for our world.
Though many up north do not recognize those of us whose families have always officially been labelled “colored” (as my birth certificate reads), yet called “mulatto families” informally, the resentment remains, and so does the pain. Brown parties were real, but so were efforts to use our light skin for the good of our people. Like my maternal grandfather, light enough to pass, but who kept his OB/GYN practice in SE when most DC doctors were avoiding the area, while other Black families, as my paternal grandfather did with his second family, left for white neighborhoods. Both men fought in WWII and attended Howard University, yet both of their children, my parents, were rejected for being too light-skinned. One parent railed against this rejection by both sides (particularly by the Puerto Rican commuity in DC), while the other parent went north and passed for white. Mostly.
The common good, or the general welfare, requires that we rise above our childhoods, rise above how we may have been treated, what we may have endured, missed, never had, and or had to do to survive to adulthood. And being a true Adult requires that we commit, in my humble opinion, to making this world more fully inclusive and safe for all of us. To do that, we must continue to learn from our past, collectively and individually. Earlier this week, I stumbled across something I wrote a while ago, that I am still working on striving to figure out how to use for the greater good:
This is an off-the-cuff post, as I need to get this off my chest in order to concentrate on the book I am reviewing and the one I am writing, but this cuts into both like a hot rusty knife. The jagged edges left from the taunts of the kids in kindergarten and 1st grade of how I must be white because my mother is dating a White man, and my skin is so light, I look like a little wild indian.
Of dark-skinned girls saying how I had “that good hair” while not letting my play double dutch with them, and of feeling grateful to the one girl who “took up for me” in school for a short while.
And for another short while there was my mother’s Jewish roommate Susanna, the 18 year old who took me everywhere, while my mother was out with her White boyfriend every weekend, and often weekdays as well. The one adult who never said “stop asking so many questions!” Yet the one adult who really showed the fear I lived with: a NY police officer pulled us over and she looked at me
-don’t say anything smart alecky, because this cop is going to think you are my daughter, so he is going to think I’m dating a Black guy.
A that moment, I knew. There really was no place for me in this world, and there never would be.
Through all of the moves to different projects and evictions, through sleeping in cars, begging to be let back into the school program I’d been in before … then even while staying in a professor’s apartment as she traveled to Africa, grateful to have a place to stay that week before my internship, I knew I had no place in this world. And I knew that it would always be that way: too light-skinned to be included by most of my fellow Black people, even within my own family (“you know your grandmother only tolerated your mother because she was so light-skinned” -thanks, Uncle…), but always reminded by the white folks, like my first day of school in VA, that I am a “nigger,” and nothing will change that constant outsider-ness. Not even fleeing to another …
But I can try to help make this world a place where skin color and connections matter less. A world where no one ever sleeps on the street or fears for his or her safety, and thus a world where who you were born only means who your friends might (or might not) be, but doesn’t mean you are out on the street or fear for your safety.
So I work and I walk: I work for the Universal Basic Income that Dr. Martin Luther King called for, so that no child, black or white, ever has to fear the police just because of skin color, and no person ever has to sleep on the street for any reason, or go hungry, or come with hat in hand to ask anyone else for food, clothing, shelter or money for basic needs (and yes, a basic phone is also a basic need, as is free decent Public Transpo and Universal Health Care).
And I walk because a car (which I will admit to having fears of driving due to my PTSD, but I could usually keep that under control enough to pull over, back when I used to drive) also divides us economically, and any car takes money from public transportation. Yes, I am also lucky to be able to walk. And grateful. Ok, back to reading and writing…
Destinie (Shira… ? really?)
Back-posting this so it shows only to my Readers… Written on Monday, March 11th, 12019 HE…
So, it turns out that a sense of belonging doesn’t magically appear with a good job, or upon graduation with a degree, nor even upon completing a major thesis. Living among people who never missed a meal (involuntarily), nor had to worry about where they’d lay their head that night after the library closed or after finishing the grave-yard shift at People’s Drug Store in Dupont Circle, which meant dodging the dodgy folks on the way to and on the Metro platform. Yet feeling their pity when finally opening up. That alien sense that no one really gets it, and that those who do, still feel you to have been more lucky than they were:
you got out.
1.) Search for two different books, articles, blogs or stories, like Passing, perhaps, that show or tell the experience of being outside looking in…
2.) Share them with us in the comments, here, please.
3.) Share your thoughts on how we can build inclusive thinking to change this situation,
4.) Write a book, blog post or tweet that uses those thoughts, tells a good story, and makes a difference. I’m working on that through my historical fantasy #WiP, #WhoByFireIWill. If you write a book, once published, please consider donating to your local public library.
Dear Readers, ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness, #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind?
Support our key #PublicDomainInfrastructure & #StopSmoking for CCOVID-19:
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare, and
4. good #publictransport
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