Monday, December 6, 2010

Mr. Disney isn't racist, really we swear.....

I work hard not because I want to, but because I know it's the right thing to do. I know that my parents, who spent over 80 years in the field of education (My father a history teacher, my mother special education). I know that if I don't work my ass off, I would let down my co-workers, my employees and my friends. Running a nonprofit organization, being an Assistant Director for the Telephone Outreach Project (TOP) does not allow time to slack off. But I also work hard because I know that people still think Black people are lazy. I mean, Obama's president and he works hard, but in the back of our minds aren't we still thinking "Great, another Black guy asking for (spare) change?".

But really, the fact of the matter is this: It is 2010, nearly 2011. Race is still an issue. Whether we like it or not. Last week, I was eating Pecan Pie (wow, it was tasty)and my boss's boss said we needed to get cotton balls for a project we were doing. "I'll pick the cotton!" I said. It wasn't that funny. It was moderately funny, but I was hoping for a few laughs. "Wow, I just felt really uncomfortable," he said. The fact that my boss, who is a twenty-something year-old Caucasian man from the east coast felt uncomfortable (and probably 30% of the people in the US would be too) is an important talking point. My joke was not that funny. But the fact of the matter is, we as a country are still hesitant to talk about it. It's a big, white elephant in the room.
In my opinion, sometimes humor is the best way to go. When I say, I need to pick cotton, it's not because I think Black people should be picking cotton, it's because let's acknowledge the fact that we don't all look the same (unless we live in Maine, oh snap) and we aren't all from the same place. Let's be honest here, diversity isn't just a black and white thing. It's race, gender, age, disabilities, religion, job title, physical appearance, sexual orientation, nationality, multiculturism, competency, training, experience,and so on. So then, the following day, when I mentioned to my other boss that we needed a more diverse workplace, it is not that I want to fill the building with black people. It's that I walk around the building I work in (where we have about a half dozen non profits) and I ask myself "why is the only Hispanic person in our office the man who takes out the garbage? Why is the only Asian person the one that comes into the office for two hours a week to open mail? Cannot we do better?
I know the argument. Hire people who have skills. So what if they happen to be all one race. Employees perhaps cast broad nets and what if it so happens that not a lot of diverse candidates are hired. But the problem is, we can do better. We can find both minorities who qualifications and experience. I don't believe that we should just hire people based on race. But I believe that we have to actively seek diversity. I want to walk down the hall and mistake my work place for the United Nations, not the backwoods of Maine. I want different religions, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, you name it. And I blame lack of workplace diversity on Mr. Walt Disney.
Time and time again, Mr. Disney has created lovely stories that appear innocent enough. Does anybody remember the 1941 Dumbo film with the black crows sitting on a live speaking in "jive talk"? They were pretty stupid, lazy and ignorant. Oh really? That's not racist? It isn't? Ok, then how come the lead crow was named "Jim"? Come on. My personal favorite was Uncle Remus, a happy, fun loving black man who happily lived on a Civil War plantation. He did whatever he was told (that's a nice thing). But he's very slow and cannot think for himself. I could go on and on with examples. But the fact is that Disney movies made people not want to talk about race. It becomes such a part of our society (racism that is) that we don't talk about it, we feel uncomfortable joking about it, and in the end are so afraid of it that we play it safe. By play it safe, I mean not want to, or not willing to hire more diverse people. I know. It's a stretch. I know. But,the fact of the matter is this: in 2011, we have a black president. But we only have 4 minority senators, only one state where both senators are women (Maine) and the heads of the organizations are still White Men. Just saying...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The thing about Dr. Laura is....

The other day I just got out of work and I was waiting for the 57A Bus from Kenmore Station heading home to Allston. It was pretty late, and I was tired, but not so tired that I couldn't help to overhear a conversation of the two women standing next to me. The older woman, well not that old, no more than 35, with short hair and clearly a little tipsy. The younger girl, who was just maybe not quite 20 was listening to every word. When the bus finally came, the driver, a youngish, black man got off and went into the bus station to take a break, the older woman told to the younger woman that "Those black people, they never seem to work hard. They always need a break, they need to rest." As inaccurate as this is, I almost thought it was really funny. I mean, we're the ones that picked cotton for years and then the bus driver took a 5 minute break and all of a sudden, we're lazy?

Of course, Dr. Laura is my new favorite thing. Apparently,Sarah Palin endorsed her and you know how I love Sarah Palin. So, Dr. Laura came under fire after saying the N word 11 times. A Black female caller called into her show and said that her White husband's friends always said insensitive things like, "How do you black people feel about this?" or "Why you black people do that?" Dr. Laura cut off the caller, saying she was overeacting, and then goes on to say the N word claiming it was okay because black comedians say it. The next thing I know, Dr. Laura decides to retire from radio, claiming she is losing her first amendment rights.

But here's the thing. It's not about first amendment rights. Just because you CAN say something doesn't mean you SHOULD say it. I'm not going on a radio saying gay slurs because I can. Is Dr. Laura racist? I don't know about that, but here's the thing. I grew up in an area where I constantly got the "How do Black people feel about ..." Because I have to speak for 12% of the population. Dr. Laura was insensitive by saying "You shouldn't marry someone outside of your race if you can't take comments." People should be able to marry whomever they want. They shouldn't have to be the spokespeople for millions of people. And they should learn from others. Not try and break them down. Take that Dr. Laura....

30 things you don't know about me :)

1. My favorite color is yellow
2. If I could buy a house in any country it would be spain or italy
3. Alicia Keys and the Beatles are two of my favorite songs
4. I am deathly afraid of snakes
5. I am a certified reverend
6. I published two books before I was 19
7. My favorite movie is Crash
8. I lived in the same house since I was 5 weeks old
9. I was adopted at that same time
10. I love writing poetry, and my favorite is 13 ways to look at a blackbird Wallace Stevents
11. I played rugby for 2.5 years
12. I never mastered downhill skiing, but I can outski you cross country style
13. I have five names (Laila Sarah Dylan Sholtz-Ames)
14. I speak English, Spanish and a little french, but I want to speak at least 5 languages
15. I collect coins and postcards from every place I travel to
16. I spent 13 summers volunteering at Acadia National Park (in Maine)
17. I have been vegetarian for 18 years
18. I love pasta, and therefore love Italian, Thai and Chinese food
19. Law and Order SVU is my favorite show
20.I love reading the dictionary
21. I love jewelry and also buy at least a necklace, bracelet or earrings when I travel
22. I am obsessed with facebook
23. Boston sports are in best ever
24. My friends mean the world to me and I'll do anything for them
25. I don't seem it, but I am actually very intriverted and vulnurable.
26. I hate laundry and would gladly hire someone to do it for me
27. I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, but I love tea
28. My favorite type of alcohol is Malibu Rum and also Pina Colada
29. My parents have 9 cats, and I love every single one of them
30. I was never raised a particular religion, but if I had to choose, I would pick Buddhism

Friday, June 4, 2010

Big City

In Boston there are people from Nepal. Not, Nepal, Maine but actually the country of Nepal. I live in Allston, thirty minutes from downtown Boston (where I work). When I walk the 5 minutes to the T station, I walk by no less than a Brazilan store, a Nepal restaurant, a Vietnamese, a Thai and an Indian restaurant. One of my co-workers, Sarah and I were talking about restaurants and I told her it's just like Maine. Only 180 degrees. And it's true. I don't hate Maine. I just love places where you walk down the street and you hear Spanish and Italian. I love sharing a subway station with an Asian person and shopping in a store with Jewish and Hispanics. It is the things that people take forgranted. So when I walk down the street and no one stares at me. People don't look at me like "What the hell are you doing here?" In fact, I'm just like everyone else. And I loved it. In my office, I'm also a minority. Many of my co workers are Jewish. My co-director is black, but most of my other coworkers are white. But it's not like in Maine. People don't walk up and try and touch my skin. They don't ask me about my hair and they don't wonder why I don't listen to rap music all the time and if I live in the ghetto. When I got out of work, a strange guy did come up to me and said he liked my skin, but the fact is that people are just very cool about things. I love the city, not just the food, the sports, the nightlife. But I love it because I can just be myself.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Do you want White toast with your OJ?

When Arizona passed the immigration reform law, allowing officials to stop anyone they deemed as “possible immigrants”, I decided that we had gone too far. After Obama was elected in 2008, everyone was screaming for a new, “post-racial” America. But it’s not true. If we were in a post-racial climate, we wouldn’t have people stopping other people. We wouldn’t have a person calling 911 on a Greyhound bus because they heard someone speaking another language and thought they heard the word “bomb”. We wouldn’t have American citizens being forced to carry around passports to prove they are citizens. And as for me, well, I wouldn’t have to feel like a second class citizen in the airport.
I was flying home from my trip to Spain, waiting for my luggage at Boston’s Logan airport. It finally came up the conveyor belt and I grabbed it, ready to bolt for the door. I was in a rush because I had to catch a bus back home; also because I saw a TSA agent lurking around and I knew that because of my skin color, I was probably a person of interest. And I was right. The agent approached me, just as I had my hand on my big, black bag. “What is your nationality and country of origin?” the TSA man asked me in a bored tone. “I’m American.” I handed over my passport. “How long have you been a US citizen?” What kind of a fucking question was that? I pay taxes, I go to school here, I am a contributing member of society, I have spent all of my life in the US and I sing the National Anthem just as loud as everyone else. But I didn’t say any of that. “I was born in Dallas, I live in Maine, I was gone for a two week vacation.” He didn’t say anything, he just gave me my passport. This was after being frisked and double frisked in Dublin, after having my bags searched in Barcelona and having to go through security twice in London.
I had had it. That night I was staying in Portland, ME with my then-boyfriend and his roommate Sean. My boyfriend Dylan was white, his roommate Sean was black. He was always talking about black issues and watching black comedians and the whole nine yards. That night the topic of OJ Simpson came up. The thing is, nearly everyone I have ever talked with is understand the impression that I, like many blacks, think it was good that he got off. I thought he should have been convicted, he should have gone to jail. Sean disagreed. “Think of all the times that white people have killed black people and they got off. It’s not that I think OJ didn’t do it, it’s that you know blacks have been prosecuted for so long.” I understood this. But when you do something, when you commit a crime (we all know he did it, guilty or not guilty) one deserves to bear the punishment. But, I was the sell out, I was the one that didn’t want to be black, that wasn’t embracing my culture. And instead of standing up for me, my then-boyfriend took his roommate’s side. It wasn’t even about OJ. It never is. The next week, Dylan broke up with me, citing my new job offer and the two hour long distance.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Money Makes the World go round...

In Bangor, Maine no one dies. That is, not from drive-by shootings. There are no gang wars on the street, no pimps and Hos. It's quiet. I went down to Thai Lounge at 1:20am and no one worries about getting shot. I read on a blog that Maine was the 3rd safest state in the US. And that, according to a comment, it's because of the lack of minorities. I'm not going to say that it's wrong. But, the fact is, the most dangerous state should then be Mississippi, because of that has the largest number of African-Americans- 38%. But it's not. The most dangerous state is Nevada and there are 8% blacks. It doesn't follow.

I hate it when people think that the only criminals are blacks. And I hate that I've lived in Maine so long that I jump to the same conclusion. I'm sitting in class and my white classmate's telling our TA a story about how he had a gun held to his head when he lived in New York, and he's talking about being stuffed in a van and I remember thinking, wow, I bet those guys were black. But I couldn't tell from the story if they were or not. But we have this idea that all the evils of society are caused by minorities. But yet, I've spent 20 plus years in Maine. In my town, alot of people don't go to college, much less finish high school. Drugs are surprisingly easy to get. More girls that I knew growing up are pregnant than graduating. Some of the people in my town have bad grammar and drink cheap beer instead of Grey Goose. Everything that happens in "black communities" happens in my town. Everything that is supposed to be attributed to blacks (laziness, sexual promiscuity, drugs) happens in Maine. I'm not saying Bangor is Compton, because it's not. Nothing's perfect. But people should be looking at socioeconomic status, not so much race. Stealing for example. It's not that blacks steal.

At UMaine, everything from cars to bikes to jewelry to cellphones were stolen. But it's not blacks. Generally, people steal because they have nothing. Poor people steal. Often black people are poor. But that doesn't mean all people who steal are poor. It's not valid. It's not realistic. It's liking saying all white people are like reality show people on "The Hills". And we're also supposed to be stupid. The problem is segregation is still huge. Minority schools do not have money. When there is no money, there is no books, no teachers, no education. I didn't go to high school ( I was homeschooled). My local high school is majority white. But there is little support for academics. Students rarely graduate from a 4-year college, and there is no AP or Honors programs. If this were a "black" school, people would say the students are lazy and dumb. But it's not. So they don't say anything. But I just did.

Are you down with BDR?

Nothing in life is ever completely black and white. Perhaps it seems that way, the ever passing faces learning in to get a glimpse. But it's not because we want to learn about others. No, it's because we're noisy and we're curious and we're eager to figure out everything about that person. We look at someone for a second and decide if we want to be there friends. Sometimes we guess wrong, but we don't even know. My friend Greg is a tall, skinny white guy with a green backpack and loves the environment and making the world a better place like I do. But we were eating dinner and we saw a tall, black football player with the school sweatpants on walking past our table. Greg told me that he wouldn't know what to say this man, because he thought they wouldn't have anything in common. But we don't know that because we make snap judgments.

That's why I fail at the dating game. It's not self-pity or loathing, it's not even a call for attention. It's the truth. Because if you live in a place where I live and you look the way I look, you're not going to get a boyfriend. I about 12 when one of my then friends Marissa started "dating". She had a boyfriend,an "older man" at 14. She was my height, but thinner and blonde and cuter and her boyfriend was the most popular guy. Then, my friends in Girl Scouts started to have boyfriends and I liked boys and I wanted to date, but I wasn't that person.

I wasn't lucky like that, because I wasn't blonde enough or white enough or cool enough even. The idea that a black girl could find "love" in Maine seemed impossible. But I never had a problem with the idea of interracial dating. But people think that we're so different, that no one has anything in common and it's not true. My joke is that interracial dating works for white guys and asian women, black men and white girls. And it's because of the stereotypes that goes with both subsets. But for black women, we don't have anything. We're supposed to loud and fat and in your face and angry. Ok, maybe we can cook fried chicken. But I'm vegetarian. So I can't do that.

I was 17 when I went to college, and I knew that going to a school with 10,000 people I was sure to find someone. But the problem was this: I dated, sure. I went to parties and made out with some guy to make my self esteem higher, but I couldn't have bought a boyfriend. I dated a guy named Ben freshman year, but in truth he loved the ladies and would have dated any race. The next guy I dated was also named Ben. But he told me his parents wouldn't be cool with him dating a black girl, yet he was interested in at least trying it out. Just to see what it was like. It mustn't have worked well. He was still in love with his (white) ex and he broke up with me. There were several boys that I had a crush on, but I either knew they wouldn't like me or I figured they wouldn't. I was too dark, my hair wasn't right, etc. etc. Even black men didn't like me. I wasn't lucky. In fall 2009, I began dating a guy I fell in love with. Though he was white, I jokingly said that he was blacker than I was. He listened to black music. He had a poster of a black person on his wall. He played basketball and his best friends were minorities. And for the first time, race didn't matter. But then, as couples do, we broke up 5 months later and he started dating a girl the following week. And the first thing I wondered was "is she white?" But I never asked.

Interracial dating shouldn't be as big a taboo as people make it out to be. It shouldn't change the way people date. I know that black people, not just white people are often against it. I think the black argument is that we should "keep it in the family." I think the black women especially yell at white chicks for "stealing brothers." I don't agree with that, but I understand it. I've always been attracted to guys outside my race. Always. So I think we should be able to date who we want. But I also understand the argument. The black men in Maine get way more play than I ever will, possibly more than some white guys. It's because they're tall and strong looking and they allegedly have...well we know what they have. So by all means the white chicks can date them. But the worst thing is when they think they know everything there is to know about black history and black people just because they are dating a black man. Recently, I almost got into a fight at a party. A girl who will remain nameless (but only because I don't know her name)was what my friend Leta and I call a "Stove Piper"- check urbandictionary for def. She was all over every single black guy at the party- including one of my black guy friends. "Hey, hey look at me, I wanna talk to you," she said, trying to get my friend's attention. I was a little drunk and we had had past non racial issues at a previous party. So I said, "You know what, I don't think he's that interested. He's ignoring you." She looked at me and gave me her best white version of a black girl finger shake. "Oh no girlfriend, you better believe he's into me. They (meaning black guys) are always into me." I walked away. Mainly because I wanted to spend my weekend graduating, not in a jail cell for assault. She wasn't worth it.

So what's the message that we should take away? We, as humans, need to get over ourselves, get over the idea that everything is face value. It's not. We can't judge a book by its cover. I mean, we can, but it's not worth it. Girls can go BDR (again, urban dictionary) and I don't mind. I don't judge. We shouldn't judge.