You’re Black? No. Really? I thought you were Italian

I’m not turning on the news today because I don’t want to hear more information about the crazy man who murdered 12 people in DC. We, as a country, aren’t going to do anything about it anyway, so why all the fuss. Unfortunately, what I did read were some of the texts coming out of the crowning of Miss America. Miss 7-11, Miss Arab (pronounced A-Rab), Miss Muslim. This is Miss ‘Merica not Miss India. I hope she doesn’t read the paper for a week or so either. By then, I’m sure the short-attention-span bigots will have found someone else to attack. Meanwhile, I want to share with you my thoughts about race and how it has affected my life.
• When I was a little girl, I was riding with my mother in her Cadillac to the grocery store. We were approached in the parking lot by 2 police officers. They asked my mother for her identification. When she inquired what she had done, the reply was that she didn’t look like she should be driving a new Cadillac. She told me to be quiet. I was crying. They suggested she was part of a stolen car ring and we needed to get out of the vehicle and into the police car to be taken to the precinct for questioning. I remember the ride to the station. I was terrified. My mother was pissed. My mother called our lawyer, Leroy Vital (Google him). I remember the chief, feet up on his desk, asking my mother where a Negro lady got the cash to buy such a nice car. He said HE couldn’t afford a car like that. My mother replied that it wasn’t her fault that he was a failure. Our attorney arrived just in time to have us released just as two deputies were about to remove me from the room and away from my mother.
• My father’s sister told my father that she supposed it was okay that he married my mother, as long as they didn’t have children….
• In college, some kids were in my dorm room. I had a photo of me with my parents on my desk. I was asked why I had a picture of my dad and the moulinyan maid. I didn’t even know what that shit meant. Someone wrote “Half-breed” on our eraser board on our room door. I brought it to the attention of the RA, also warning him that when I found out who was responsible, I would be beating their ass.
• My husband and I entertained friends for dinner one evening. Our friend asked to bring along a relative who promptly told us he had to leave early before the niggers came out. Much to my dismay, our guests apologized to me, as if I was the only one who should have been insulted.
• My mother was shopping for groceries and I was standing apart from her at the meat counter. I overhear some men laughing about the nigger lady who was buying pork ribs. I was too small to respond to them, so I cried and never told my mother why.
• I was shopping in Nordstrom at Oak Brook with my mom and my Aunt Ruth Ewing. We were followed all over the store. We had a lot of bags, but so did everyone else. We were approached by security and asked to step in to a back office. My Aunt Ruth called her husband, famous investigative reporter Russ Ewing (who cracked the John Wayne Gacy case) who came down to the store with a camera crew. THAT was fun to sit back and watch.
• Walking with my girls when they were little, a lady asked if they were my daughters. My goodness. They are beautiful but look so different. Do they have the same father? My reply was Shrug: “I don’t know.”
• Not too long ago, I had a women grab her purse when I passed her grocery cart. I responded, “Bitch, please”.

For most of my life, I have floated virtually undetected through the mysterious world of white people. I have had the opportunity to observe, from an insider point of view, what makes people tick. First of all, when it comes to race relations, many white people I have encountered are passive aggressive, displaying their feelings through hostile jokes and negative commentary. I have listened to rants about Malcolm X, Al Sharpton, Muslims, Michael Vick, OJ, professional sports are too black, President Obama, The Butler, Django, Paula Deen, race mixing and the horrible effect it has on the children. It seems that all their fears manifest into these tall tales about how black people are taking over our country. Well, we only make up 13.1% of the population, and most of that is Detroit and Jackson, MS. Once it is determined that I am not in agreement with this silliness, I am quietly kicked out of the club as too risky a security breach. Consequently, my husband and I are not invited to as many parties.

My favorite of late was suggested to me that white people need civil right activists for all the wrongs done to their race. Yet, I have yet to meet someone who has actually been able to articulate any facts to substantiate this argument. Yes, it is an opinion to which everyone is entitled. Yet, we have to agree that it is pretty shitty when a young man can’t walk to the store for Skittles and iced tea and make it home alive. Shouldn’t you be able to knock on a door to ask for help after being injured in a car accident without fear of being shot 10 times? But I digress. My point is that we all should be able to admit that it is much easier to be white in the United States than any other race. As Chris Rock so eloquently put it “No white man would ever switch places with me, and I’m rich”. Quit your complaining.
Now, black folk will usually claim everybody of color. When we find out you have a trace of black in your family, you’re family. To name a few, we claim The President of The United States, Tiger Woods, The Rock, Halle Berry, Slash, Mariah Carey, Pete Wentz, Chris Humphries, Wentworth Miller, Maya Rudolph, even Carol Channing (yes, Carol Channing). White people share this same sentiment. You’re black. Here’s one that will make your head to pop off: Steve Jobs, half Syrian.
The racial objection many blacks have with white folks comes from a place of inequality and distrust. In my case, I will add low self-image. Growing up, some of the black girls thought I had better hair which, as a child, was a bone of contention. I recall seeing them make the imaginary scissor fingers at me and mouthing “after school”. Also, being “light skinned” wasn’t always my darker sisters’ invitation to befriend me. I imagine all this has something to do with being bombarded by images depicting the American beauty standard as fair skinned, stick skinny with long hair. I get it.
When someone tells you “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand”, they’re telling the truth. Unless you can contribute a story like the few of many I have highlighted above, you really have no idea what it’s like to be judged on a daily basis by the color of your skin. Ask ANY black man, rich or poor, when, not if, was the last time they were discriminated against or profiled. Okay, if you’re gay, you probably get this. If you’re black and gay, heaven help you. Oh wait. You’re not going to heaven. Hahahahaha. I can joke. Some of my best friends are gay. Seriously.
My parents were the ideal role models for seeing people for who they are. What I have learned from them is that no matter what your race, we are all stewards of the human race. It is your responsibility to act. Don’t let others get away with biased language or behavior- speak up and out.
Take a position against hate and take a Stand Against Racism.

Imagine what would happen if we found the strength not to tolerate intolerance. Your silence defines you.
Which will you choose?

Patriot Day

I hope everyone is reminded that today is Patriot Day, a holiday of sorts that was sadly created to remember those who were injured or perished on 9/11/2001. Many will recall where they were, what they were doing when they heard the news and how this day would change our lives forever.

Today, we mourn friends, loved ones and souls we never met because we are all Americans. We are all Americans that stick together and feel the pain when so many of our citizens are hurting, grieving and quietly reflecting. We respect one another.

Somehow, we have American citizens who didn’t get that memo. For them, today has become some sort of political soap box to see who can scream the loudest about what disagreements they have with our government. Today is the day to use graphic images of someone’s father, son and husband bloodied and dying in Benghazi. Today is the day to show the Twin Towers collapsing at the very moment thousands would die to show disdain for our current administration. Today is the day to exploit the deaths of those in the Pentagon and Flight 93. These Americans Do Not reflect the true spirit of this great country of ours. They also do not deserve any more of my attention, for it is wasted energy.

I spent the day remembering old friends, trying to recall their faces and times spent together long ago. I also found myself thinking of all Patriots of this great country that have perished at the hands of the enemy, both foreign and domestic. I thought about the souls in Oklahoma City, Yemen, US Embassies in Beirut, Kuwait, Madrid, Pakistan. So fresh in our memories is Boston. So deep in our hearts, Pearl Harbor. I remembered the souls on the flight from Lockerbie Scotland, the hotel patrons in Mumbai, my dear friend and his fellow compatriots on their way home from a peace keeping mission, only to forever leave a hole in our hearts in Newfoundland. So many, we forget.

So today is Patriot Day. Not I Want To Complain About This Country Day. Use it to remember, unite and respect those who have paid the ultimate price.


Teenagers, You’re Kidding, Right?

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times. I can’t control my teen’s behavior. I can’t be there all the time. The usual excuse given is that kids will sneak if they want to do something bad enough. I also know that, for the most part, they are really bad at devious behaviors, and can be thwarted by a parent paying half the attention. I laugh in the face of these pompous teenagers who believe they are too smart to get caught. Child, please. I’ve watched the idiot teens next door try to hide a cooler full of alcohol, a pink cooler mind you, in the bushes behind the house. Numbskulls. I’ve heard the whispering about whose house they are all saying they are going to. Dim-wits. How about the ole “the parents are going to be home” trick. Brainless. My favorite, “I didn’t know that was going to happen”. Knot heads.
Really, it doesn’t take much to foil a dense teenager plot. All you need is to activate the Required Responsibility Gene. The RRG, as I refer to it, is the primary genetic material that makes up parenting. It is the DNA and RNA that drives you to pay attention to what your kids are doing. It is that extra little push that gets you to make a phone call to the parents’ house to determine if an adult will be present. The courage to say “No, you cannot go”. It is the guts to walk down the hall and open their bedroom door. It’s the perseverance to hire a tutor, stay up to help with that project and meet with the teacher. Without it, your kid is doomed to make mistakes and take risks that you can otherwise help them to avoid.
The RRG will often cause debilitating headaches. Other side effects may include sleeplessness, nausea, uncontrollable urges to choke someone, exhaustion, feelings of helplessness, diarrhea and sometimes confusion. Also, you may experience moments of overwhelming joy.
Let’s face it. Teenagers are dumb. Your teen needs boundaries and rules. Your teen needs consequences for good and bad behavior. Stick to them, no matter how dreadful, tiring and frightening it may seem. Remember, you’re not their friend. What grown person would want to be friends with a teenager anyway? OMG. That would be like, so gross.

The Birth of Listen Sistah

I was raised by a strong, black mother (and a great dad, but he isn’t nearly as entertaining). She was a powerful woman that everyone was drawn to for advice, care, nurturing, safety and love. My mother rarely addressed me by my name, Jessica. In fact, most of her sentences began with “Listen, Sistah…”. She was a fiercely spirited woman who was determined that I be well educated, well mannered, competitive and in charge of my life. Most of all, I learned from her that common sense is the answer to all of life’s questions. Problem is, most people don’t want to hear the truth, are in denial or have been taught to be diminutive and not speak up for themselves or others. That’s where I come in. Listen Sistah is about stating the obvious, sharing my opinion and telling you the way I see it. Just like my mom. Although this time, I won’t hear “Sistah…Ya Grounded”.

An Honest Letter to Moms with Daughters

I have read the letter from Mrs. Hall and I have read one of the many responses from a woman named Rebecca I have to say, Rebecca, you aren’t even in the ballpark.

Let me break this down for you. I have daughters and a son. I have very candid conversations with my girls about their responsibilities as a female. In a perfect world, these conversations would not be necessary, but let’s get real, ladies, it is most definitely a reality. When my son is old enough, he will understand this as well.

Ladies, whether you like it or not, our daughters ARE responsible for themselves, their behaviors and actions that may result in being sexualized by men. Blaming our “toxic culture” or the media can only go so far. If you are not willing to teach your daughter to have high self-esteem, good self-image and personal responsibility, then you are dealing with a time bomb. This is YOUR responsibility. If you believe that photos of your daughter in her underwear, back arched, standing in her bedroom with a pouty look on her face is a result of media pressure, you really need to wake the f*ck up. YOU are allowing her to contribute to this “toxic culture”. If you feel helpless, take away the phone, for God’s sake. Who is the parent and who is the child?

I believe we are dealing with a “toxic culture” of parents who are so careful not to upset or hurt the feelings of their precious children, many of Generation Y are turning into a bunch of spoiled brats that do not live with consequences for their actions, just parents who are most willing to point fingers at everyone and everything else they can blame.

The sexualization of women has been present since the dawn of time. The same rules apply. Cave boys didn’t bring home cave girls who wore their animal furs too short and tight. Today, boys are not going to bring home girls who twerk online. Whether we like it or not, we are the fairer of the sexes, which will always make us the target of the double standard. So, we teach our daughters not to parade her vagina around in public, kiss other girls for fun or dry hump a foam finger on National Television.

Here is a quote from Rebecca’s article:

Our boys MUST be taught these lessons. They must know that when a girl engages in sexually provocative behavior, her behavior does not give boys a “pass” to dwell exclusively on the girls’ sexuality.

The answer to this is YES it does give them a “pass” to dwell exclusively on the girls’ sexuality. If you put it out there, that’s what you get back.

The famous philosopher (okay, he’s a comedian), Dave Chapelle, once told a great story that I will paraphrase and share with you. He was in a club one evening and several girls walked by in skin tight skirts and tops exposing cleavage that pushed their boobs pretty much up to their chins. When the guys began to make comments about their figures, the men were met with the statement “Just because we’re dressed this way doesn’t mean we’re easy”. So, the next day, Mr. Chapelle went out dressed in a costume that resembled a policeman’s uniform. Soon enough, someone came along yelling “Officer, Officer, I need your help!” His response was “Just because I LOOK like a policeman doesn’t mean I AM a policeman”.

Do we understand each other?

Too Much Ger

I have to say that I am disappointed that I will not see Paula Deen on Food Network anymore. I liked her show. I’d just turn down the volume because, to me, her voice is equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. Despite the worst Southern drawl in recent history, we cannot deny that she is one hell of a cook.

Am I surprised by this story? Not in the least. This is a woman who was born in 1947 in Albany (pronounce AL-Bany) Georgia. Ni**er was probably the example for “N” in her childhood alphabet book, complete with a drawing of a little nappy, big lipped baby eating watermelon. So, when she was working as a bank teller, the bank was robbed and a black man held a gun to her head during the entire robbery. Did she have a right to express herself as she did by calling him the dreaded “N” word? Damn skippy, she did. I would have called him out of his name and his mamma too. Was it the best path of anger to take? Probably not. However, we cannot deny that people do say things out of anger. When are we all guilty of this behavior? That would be behind the wheel, my friends. I have been known to call people things that would make Katt Williams say “what the?”

Which brings me to the elephant in the room; Why are black people allowed to use the “N” word and nobody else? My response is that we should not. Our culture seems to be of two mindsets. Those who understand the pain that comes from the word and the generation that thinks it is an acceptable way to address one another. My mother was arrested and jailed on many occasions as she fought for our rights that so many take for granted.  That said, this generation is totally unfazed by niggah niggah niggah. Apparently, if you use the GAH pronunciation, it’s acceptable. Perhaps if Paula had only said nigGAH instead of nigGER. Too much GER, Paula. Too much GER.

Guide to an easy Pregnancy & Delivery

It’s early Saturday morning and I was just reading an article on Yahoo! entitled 10 Steps to an Easier Birth. I laughed out loud and woke up the family.

The first step, according to this article (which doesn’t name the poor misguided writer) is to massage yourself for 10 minutes every day. I suggest you go have a massage for 60 minutes! Throw in a mani/pedi for good measure. Your hands and feet, no matter how swollen, should still look cute. Which reminds me, go buy yourself a gigantic CZ diamond ring. Your normal rings won’t fit by month 6, so you might as well have a giant rock to stare at on your pudgy finger.

Other gems include Rehearse a Plan. Let me tell you about plans. God says “Ha!” My trip number two to the hospital was more like Formula One night racing. My husband suddenly decided that speed limits and road signs did not apply to him.

Here’s a good one. Follow a diet that makes the birth passages soft and slippery and an easy space for the baby to slip out through. 37 shots of olive oil ain’t gonna help push a watermelon out of your Who-Ha. Incidentally, don’t push too hard after the baby has been born. My doctor asked me to give one big push and he was hit with the equivalent of an exploding dye pack right in the face.

Last, but not least, Trust in Nature. Listen, I’m all for these Super Women who want to experience birth as natural as possible. Just kidding. If we’ve learned anything in life, it’s not to trust Mother Nature. She’s unpredictable and scary. By baby number three, I had this birth thing figured out. I scheduled an induction. First thing, I insisted we hook up the epidural. Next, I watched a little television, then, casually and painlessly pushed him out. My doctor actually sat on the bed next to me during delivery. Then, we just looked at the baby like, oh, he’s here. I was told that I hold the record for the most uneventful labor & delivery ever. Score!

My advice, eat what makes you happy. Keep your air conditioner on 50 degrees for the full 9 months. Tell people not to touch you. Buy handbags. Take naps. Play the tired pregnant lady card to get groceries carried, quicker seating at restaurants and to get out of going to functions you would rather skip anyway. You’ll have enough excitement after that little person arrives.

In Response to A&F

Last week, I read an old interview with the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, dated in 2006, where he basically stated that the store was only meant to cater to cool, skinny teens. You can imagine the backlash from those comments. Everything from videos showing people giving A&F clothing to the homeless, to Ellen DeGeneres giving Mike Jeffries the verbal beat down of the century.

Every retailer has a niche. Lane Bryant caters to larger gals, Gap to hipsters and bebe to the dreadfully tacky.  Mr. Jeffries made a wrong turn when he equated weight to the coolness factor. Somewhere in his misguided life, I bet there’s a little fat boy who wasn’t very well liked. Not because he was fat, but probably because he was just an asshole. Grown up Mr. Jeffries just hasn’t figured that one out yet.

Now, in defense of clothing size. I don’t know where this idea came from that we women should be able to wear whatever we want. It simply isn’t true. When a pattern is created, it is created with a form in mind. This is why there are different cuts that flatter different shapes.  A pair of short shorts in a size 6 does not translate well into a size 18. Nor should they. Pleated pants should be outlawed. Petit women should avoid full length anything. If you are over a size 20, bikinis don’t look good on you. You have every right to wear them, but face it, it’s not a good look, nor was the bikini designed for your body type. Spandex is a privilege, not a right. It’s as easy to dress like a skinny ho as a fat ho. The list is endless but keep in mind, the do’s far outweigh the don’ts.

This is not about positive self-image; it’s about the reality of knowing how clothes should properly fit your body and being conscious of correct styles that flatter your shape. You’re not proving a point to anyone by squeezing into booty shorts when the booty is hanging out all over the street.  This rule applies to all sizes. That’s not sexy, it’s embarrassing.

Listen, clothes are all about proper fit, not popularity. However, I can guarantee you will be a hit for all the wrong reasons if the top you choose pushes your boobs up around your neck.

Your clothing choice is your calling card; your first impression. Make a positive one.

Who Turned on the Blast Furnace

It’s 9:30pm, it’s barely dark, I’m wearing long sleeved cotton pj’s, socks, carrying a hand towel, it’s 44 degrees and the fan is blowing on high facing the bed. I know it sounds like a weird remix from The Blues Brothers, but welcome to Peri menopause.

It’s 9:30 because I am exhausted and plan my whole evening around my face hitting the pillow. The pj’s, not sexy but utilitarian. Someone needs to invent a pair made of that wicking material. Socks, because my feet are freezing… for now. They will eventually come off and join the others in the sock holding facility that is under my sheets. Now, the hand towel is the most important accessory in the nighttime ensemble. It gets shoved between my boobs to keep them separate and absorb the night sweat. I know, I’ve taken “hot” to a whole new level.

As I settle in for a good night’s sleep, I yell goodnight and I love you to my husband who is way across the California King. I notice he is wearing a hoodie.  Meanwhile, someone has apparently turned on the blast furnace. Thank goodness I have the oscillating fan set on high three inches from my face.

I drift off to sleep, 17 pillows strategically placed between my knees, behind my back and under my neck, dreaming of the days when I just rolled into bed naked, needing only a few hours of shut eye to fully function, crawling all over my husband like a jungle gym. With this comes a peaceful smile of being thankful I don’t have to keep that up. I slide my foot over to that man who is snoring like a lumberjack and a few hairs coming out of his ears, who is equally as content.