*TBT Thoughts: Tommy Hilfiger

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In 1996, I heard that Tommy Hilfiger said that he didn’t make his clothes for black people. I admired Hilfiger’s clothing, but there was no way I was going to purchase another piece, if indeed, he was going around making racist comments.

So, I didn’t.

Four years later, Spike Lee’s satirical film, Bamboozled, criticized America’s race relations. In it, Lee also ridiculed America’s fascination with brand-named fashion and alluded to Hilfiger’s alleged racism, with a parody he called Timmy Hilnigger.

As an avid Spike Lee fan, I was amused. I thought it was clever, and I was happy to be on the “right” side of an issue. My position remained, and I didn’t buy any more Hilfiger clothing.

That is until Saturday, September 14, 2019.

On that weekend, I was looking for something appropriate to wear to a tea that I’d been invited to. The host was going to wear a dress, and according to Google, I should too. I ended up at TJ Maxx because I had no intention on spending a bunch of money on clothes I may or may not ever wear again.

img_1646After several minutes, I found a cute, classic navy blue and white dress. The only issue is it was by Tommy Hilfiger! Yes. Twenty-three years later, I was still holding out on my Hilfiger ban. But I tried it on anyway because like I said, it was cute.

It looked even more fabulous on, and I had no hesitation. I was buying this $40 dress, racist Hilfiger or not.

The next day, I showed Dwight, who also agreed it was nice.

“Too bad I’ll be wearing clothes by a racist,” I said. “I’m choosing to exert my willful ignorance for fashion.”

Dwight pushed back a little and wondered what Hilfiger had actually said decades ago. His point was nowadays, people take things out of context, so how did it come about that Hilfiger allegedly said he didn’t make clothes for black people?

Unlike 20 years ago, this time I could Google it. That’s when I found this: Did Oprah Winfrey Throw Tommy Hilfiger Off Her Show for Making a Racist Comment?

And this, Tommy Hilfiger Addresses those Racist Rumors from 1996 One More Time.  

And finally, this, The Racism Scandal that Rocked Tommy Hilfiger.

In case you don’t have time to read these, here’s what I found out. Tommy Hilfiger never said those words, ever.

<sigh>

This revelation is a little more than disturbing. I can’t imagine having built a company, with a primary goal of being the best in my field, having succeeded in that goal, and then having an untraceable rumor ruin my reputation and decrease sales.

What’s equally disturbing is how quickly we will stop supporting businesses with little to no facts. It’s called cancel culture. While I’m not opposed to boycotting businesses with verified questionable practices or opinions and morals not aligned with what I believe, I am opposed to canceling a company or brand simply because of a rumor.

After this incident, it’s clear that I have to do better. But I’m starting to believe we all do.

*And oh! Welcome to my new category…#TBT Thoughts 😉

Monday Notes: My Bisexual Daughter

My daughter has a lot of positive qualities.

She is intelligent. I first realized just how smart she was when she was three-years-old. I begged the teacher to put her in the next class, but she disagreed, that is, until she interacted with her for two days.

“You were right,” she apologized, “I just thought you were like all the other parents who think their child is brilliant.”

The next day she was in the four-year-old class.

Her intelligence was reaffirmed years later at the end of third grade. I’d received her first state standardized test results. She’d gotten all the answers correct. Even with my background in education, I’d never seen marks like that.

She is caring. I remember when she cried because she was saving a lizard that had somehow entered the house, a frequent Florida occurrence. His little green tail fell off as she used a glass to capture him. She immediately burst into tears, but soon calmed down when I reminded her that lizards’ tails regenerate. She dried her face and released him outside where he belonged.

She is socially conscious. She loves being black and championing for black people in different ways, like when she assured her dark-skinned friend it was okay to stay in the sun; she had no fear of “getting darker,” and neither should he.

She can also be found telling her father and me about her new choice of water, why we shouldn’t be buying McDonald’s, why we should stop eating ‘carcinogens’ (e.g., meat), and why we should sign a petition about parolees.

She is kind. When she found out her big sister wouldn’t be able to attend our last trip, she offered to save more of her own check so that her sister could go. Of course her sister declined the offer, but my point is she offered. She also considers her friends and frequently stands up for them in different situations or is there for them when they need someone to listen.

She is trustworthy. This is why we had no problem passing my car to her at the age of seventeen. She drives to school and back home. She drives to work and back home. She drives to her friends’ houses for parties. She drives back to school for extracurricular activities. She drives to complete her service project once a week during the summer. She spends the night over friends’ houses, and when she doesn’t feel comfortable where she is, she texts me…and comes home. We trust her and her judgment.

These are the qualities that come to mind when someone asks me about my daughter. The last thing I consider is her sexual identity. I just wished society felt the same.

Standing for Something

On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, when everyone else engaged in a social media conversation about Nike, Colin Kaepernick, and the burning of shoes, my husband and I were in Gainesville having a late lunch with our daughter, Kesi and her friend.

Afterwards, we also took her shopping. That’s when a conversation with her friend ensued.

“Do you want to go to Walmart?” friend asked.

Kesi laughed because she already knew the answer.

“I don’t wanna go to Walmart.”

“Well, then you must not wanna save money,” friend replied in a persnickety kind of way.

“It’s bigger than saving money,” I said.

“She won’t go to Chick-fil-A either,” Kesi added.

Friend was completely confused by this point. “What?” “Chick-fil-A has the best chick,” she said. “First, tell me why you won’t go to Walmart.”

I told her it was too long of an explanation because it really is. Twelve years ago, I read a book called The Wal-Mart Effect, watched two documentaries, and held a lengthy conversation with a respected friend, who called the company fascist. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been inside a Walmart since then, and it’s mostly to accompany others.

Still, I began with my reason. Walmart mistreats their employees by not hiring them as full-time workers, so they don’t have to pay insurance. For example, they might ask an employee to work 35 hours, just shy of a 40-hour work week. Dwight added that they use prison labor to make their products. Kesi chimed in and explained that the reason most stores operate the way they do now (e.g., importing cheap China goods) began with Walmart at the helm.

“Well, maybe when I get older I’ll shop somewhere else, but for now…”

I told her I understood. Many people who are older than her still can’t afford to shop somewhere else because they don’t make enough money, they’re retired, or on a fixed income. It’s just something I do because I can.

That answer was sufficient. Now she had to know why I avoided Chick-fil-A.

“You know those people who believe you can pray the gay away?” I asked.

“Mmmhmmm,” friend, who self-identifies as a lesbian answered.

“I stopped going because the owner uses part of the business’s funds to support those type of organizations. And I don’t think that’s right.”

I was driving so I couldn’t look back, but friend, who up til now had an answer for everything was silent for a second. And then, “Whaaaat? Oh, I’m definitely not going there anymore.”

Then, a few seconds later, “But that food is really good, though.”

We all laughed. But that’s it right? It’s hard to boycott something you like. And those of us who want to be moral people are faced with these decisions more and more because companies are sharing their personal values. Sometimes those ethics aren’t aligned with who we think we are. Or in the case of friend and Chick-fil-A, they are completely counter to your lifestyle.

What do you do? Do you fall back into willful ignorance, knowing the truth, while pretending you’re not part of the problem? Or, do you take your salary elsewhere, hoping that company doesn’t support something you’re against?

img_7740In the early 2000s, giving up $.97 items and waffle fries was an easy choice. I haven’t missed either. But what happens when you like the company but they inadvertently become a spokesperson for something you’re against? A couple days after the Kaepernick situation, another shoe story from 2016 re-surfaced. Two years ago, New Balance opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement Trump also opposed. Consequently, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists deemed New Balance their official shoe. Yikes! New Balance quickly made a statement that reaffirmed their stance against “bigotry” and “hate,” but I certainly don’t want to be associated with the official Klan shoe! I love my New Balance and it took a while for me to find an affordable, cute workout sneaker with arch support. Furthermore, their shoes are made in the States, a rarity nowadays. For the first time, my decision is cloudy. But I’m leaning towards willful ignorance on this one.

So, tell me. Have you ever boycotted a business? If so, why? If not, why? In the long run, do you think it matters?

Giving Back to the Community through Book Sales

1521808695783I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but 100% of the proceeds from the book, Daddy (from June 16, 2018-June 16, 2019) will go to a nonprofit organization near and dear to ten of the authors’ hearts. When you buy a book, you’re also giving back! A list and explanation follows:

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Toliver, Black Girls Code. The owner hopes to “provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Price, the Marjaree Mason Center. The organization “provides emergency and longer-term safe housing, along with a wide variety of support services for victims of domestic violence in Fresno County.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Scott, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The Foundation’s mission is to “provide optimal care and services to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses and to their families and caregivers.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Wright, North Florida Freedom Schools. Operated under the Children’s Defense Fund, “the goal of CDF’s integrated curriculum is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Hagan, The Rhode Island Center for Justice. This organization partners with community groups to protect legal rights and to ensure justice for vulnerable individuals, families, and communities. The Center provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Rhode Islanders, engages in key impact litigation affecting the rights and wellbeing of thousands across the State, and conducts legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of the communities. 

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Thomas, the March of Dimes. According to their mission statement, “Prematurity is the #1 killer of babies in the United States. We are working to change that and help more moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Jefferson, Vista Maria. The organization’s mission is to “deliver innovative care, support, treatment and education to vulnerable youth so that they heal, believe in their worth, and build the skills needed to succeed.”

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Kollar, The Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Their mission is to “improve the lives of women and girls through celebration and support.”

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A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Carlyle, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund provides critically-needed medical facilities for treating United States military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health issues.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Roxanne, Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project supports veterans who’ve served on or after September 11, 2001. They help veterans transition to civilian life.

Be sure to order a copy for you or a woman you know who might benefit from understanding that she isn’t the only one with “daddy issues.”

Or, order a copy for a father who might need a nudge towards healing by reading about  other men’s imperfect father-daughter relationships.

 

Monday Notes: Update #2

Around the first week in May, I was contemplating applying for a job. The job was semi-perfect. It’s here in Jacksonville. It’s at a university. However, it is a bit of a stretch for my field. The job is for reading education, and really I’m literacy and English Ed, but I was going to try for it anyway. Maybe. I kept going back and forth about it, mainly because I’ve learned the hard way (repeatedly) not to make myself fit into a job that’s not for me.

WomenSingBookShot9bWhile I was stewing about the application, I got a call. It was from the editor’s assistant of a book where I have a chapter, All the Women in My Family Sing (which I’ve mentioned here before). She wanted to know if I would be willing to participate in a radio interview in Tampa. I could’ve sworn she said radio interview. But when she sent the information, it was for a television interview!

No matter what, my answer was yes because like I said, I rarely refuse opportunities. In that moment, I decided not to apply for the job. I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t be wasting my time fitting myself into another imperfect for me position. I should be preparing for something I’ve never done before, a prerecorded morning show interview!

NBC_interviewI drove nearly four hours on adrenaline and anxiety. Morning shows don’t give you questions ahead of time because they want you to naturally converse. So, from the night before, up until the host, Cyndi counted down, I was quite concerned about what we would discuss. Because it’s an anthology, it could’ve been about the book in general, my specific story, or how the other stories related to motherhood, because umm, it was a Mother’s Day episode.

Luckily, my goddaughter was there with me. We talked about other things, like the people in the green room and the process itself and that calmed my nerves.

During the interview, I learned a lot. I didn’t know that when they pan across the studio to other things going on, those things are actually going on while you’re talking! Like, there’s actually someone making waffles and another person creating little knick knacks and there’s even an audience! Sheesh! My nosey-ness kicked in high gear. But luckily there are editors and producers who cut away when I started staring at the waffles.

If you have four minutes to watch, then here it is: Daytime Interview.

 

*Mothering Violence

My friend’s middle son was shot in the head in a McDonald’s parking lot here in Jacksonville, Florida six weeks ago.

His mother and I became friends years ago because she was my hairstylist. When we met, she had two sons. He was the youngest at the time.

I remember picking him up and taking him with the girls and me to wherever we were hanging out that summer’s day, his lanky body shifting in the backseat, his dull eyes peering out of the window. I wonder if he saw his future. Because his mother worked twelve-hour shifts, standing on her feet, making other people beautiful, I thought I’d help by keeping him with me.

I remember how quiet he was. Sometimes he’d speak up and say, “Ms. Kathy, can I have some more” whatever it was we ate. But most times, he was silent.

Years do more than age us; they change us. And he was no different. His mother lamented about the crowd he’d been hanging with. She’d told me recent stories about him being in and out of jail for this or that. He was twenty-one. His life had become less than either of them expected. When the plain-clothes policemen came to her home, at four in the morning, showing a picture, and asking if this was her son, she never expected them to say we found him…dead.

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We found him drunk in the back of a building.

We found him sleep outside of a convenience store.

We found him belligerent behind a restaurant.

That’s what she thought they were going to report.

She didn’t expect for someone to post a picture of her son’s freshly murdered body in the middle of the McDonald’s parking lot, blood spilling out of his head on social media. But since they did, she thought it would be evidence of an apparent crime, from a crime scene, from someone who knew what happened.

She thought they’d be able to find something from the restaurant’s surveillance camera. But the car was too dark, with Florida tinted windows beyond traditional codes. This too is evidence but not enough to convict anyone for the murder of her child.

Instead, she’s waiting. Waiting by her blinds because she’s paranoid. Waiting for sleep because his recent memory haunts her. Waiting with stapled flyers posted to lamppost where he used to loiter. Waiting for her youngest son, who is barely six to grow up and become a different version of his older brother, proving that she wasn’t bad at single parenting.

This, my friends, is how we mother violence in America.

*Written for my friend, but shared for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Monday Notes: Nail Salon Thoughts 💅🏾

I’m sitting in a nail salon.

Every time I go I feel guilty. Sitting here while Vietnamese women rub my feet and pamper my body seems wrong. Couldn’t I do this myself? I used to. I used to cut my own toe nails and paint them too, with vibrant reds, oranges, and purples. But now? I act as if I don’t know how to reach my toes. They do it better. I’m convinced.

As I sit, I listen.

I want it round, not square. She has to help her because only she knows reflexology. I don’t like this color; can I choose something more nude? This last one comes from a six-foot woman, with a thick accent whose feet were already submerged to her lower calf in the tub of bubbly water. She expected the nail technician to stop working, walk to the front of the salon, and get a new polish for her.

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This image doesn’t belong to me.

Every so often, I ignore my book’s pages. The overweight woman in front of me eats her Taco Bell bowl and slurps her over-sized drink  as someone scrapes the bottom of her heels. The middle-aged woman two seats down mmmhmmms and ahas her way through a conversation. She must be going on vacation because she speaks of taking her suitcases down from wherever they’ve been hibernating, while someone massages the tops of her feet with hot stones, turning them cherry red. Another woman lies flat on the black massage chair. An employee shuffles over to slather thick, yellow wax on her eyebrows, eventually ripping it and her tiny hairs off one strip at a time.

I just messed up a toe, another woman whines as she walks towards the front of the salon, with her black terrier leashed beside her. All of the patrons exchange glances. No one knew a dog was there until that moment. Her nail tech says something in what I assume to be Viet-Muong and briskly moves ahead without her.

I wonder why we do it.

Why do we get caught up in consumerism that somehow turns to a perceived necessary part of life…mine and yours? Today it’s pedicures and eyebrows. Tomorrow it’s something else society will have convinced us we need, something women need. It’ll always be something because we women are always in need of improvement. Right?