After George Floyd’s death, the first thing I did was search for a way to be more active in my city. My journey began with contacting the editor of one of the Black newspapers. I was taken aback by three things: 1) every other one of her words was a cuss word; 2) she denigrated Black citizens by calling them “lazy”; and 3) she was dismissive of White people. Even though my decision was pretty clear, I slept on the meeting I was supposed to have with her and decided it wasn’t the best place to use my skill set and talents. I also reached out to a civil rights activist that I’d once interviewed to ask how I could be of help, but he never returned my call.
I’m sharing these situations because I want you to know that it wasn’t easy just because I was Black and motivated. Even in the midst of everything, it was challenging for me to find a solution that was a good fit. That’s when I took my own advice and joined Color of Change. What has been reinforced in each meeting is the importance of unity and direction. Thus far, we’ve been asked to use an app to be sure that people are registered to vote (at the least). I’ve also learned about how specific organizations are connected to why Black people do not receive justice when murdered by the police. I’ll discuss that later.
Next, I decided to lean into hard conversations centered on race. Part of this includes speaking up when I feel someone has made a statement that seems to fit in the covert or overt racist category. For example, when an IG acquaintance posted about how her church fed police as a way to demonstrate “unity” during global protest focused on how police were killing Black men, I asked her a simple question: Has your church supported the BLM movement? Her answer was a disappointing no that she wholeheartedly stands by, but I feel better having broached the subject, as opposed to ignoring it altogether. And I don’t have to assume where she is on the subject. It’s quite clear.
A third thing I’ve done is begun attending our homeowners’ association meetings. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. How can I say I care about a community (e.g., our city), but not be active and care about a microcosm of that community (e.g., our neighborhood)? Guess what happened? During the meeting, I witnessed firsthand what some White women think about breaking laws or rules, and how they end up being the proverbial “Karens” we’ve seen in videos. For example, a board member’s response to college kids caught swimming in the pool at one in the morning was to call the police. Her response to people who are able to walk onto our property because there’s no gate at one entrance was to call the police. I was surprised. One of these activities is illegal, and one is not, and the consequences of calling the police depend on who the police or perpetrators are. I plan to address it from a place of concern in a letter to the Board.
The last thing I’ve done is educate myself. While some White people have been reading up on racism, etc., I thought I’d learn a little bit about two topics: voter suppression and the Fraternal Order of Police. I’ve written about voter suppression here. But FOP was new to me. Basically, elected officials sometimes take donations from the FOP. When they do that, then it makes it easier for policemen to cash in on favors, and more importantly for union leaders in different cities to speak unfavorably of the victims (unarmed Black people), as well as to deny that the killings are racially motivated. The FOP literally shapes a specific narrative. You can read more here. These two concepts have been enlightening to me, and at the least I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned with my social media community.
I think that’s about it.
What have you done since George Floyd’s death? This is more of an accountability situation than it is bragging. Plus, we can help one another do more than we’ve been doing.
If you haven’t done anything, then that’s fine too. I mean it took me eight years and several more deaths to be more involved. But one thing I realize is the only way we can do better is to actually do better.
Most of you know me to be a “reasonable” person, so I hope you will listen to this story with your “reasonable” person ears:
July 11th my 18-year-old daughter texted me and apologized for not coming home in time to drive with Dwight and me to help her sister move. Her best friend had been kicked out of the house and she and another friend went to help him. The three spent the night together at the first friend’s house.
July 12th she sent a frantic text to me saying she’d reconsidered all of her 18-year-old choices and would be doing something different with her life. The reason why? The best friend’s dad was in the ER with COVID-19.
Cue wtf responses.
July 12th my daughter’s best friend supposedly had an expedited test (48-hour return) because he was in contact with his father.
July 13th my daughter was able to be tested because she’d been in contact with the best friend. Her test was due back within 6 to 10 days.
Prior to this, I had planned a solo trip to another part of Florida for some peace, relaxation, and solitude. Shelter-in-place, etc. had gotten the best of me and I needed to leave my home. The trip was planned for July 17th-20th.
Part of my trip would include stopping and spending the night with my goddaughter, whose friend had also been staying with her. I’d decided to alert my goddaughter of the happenings and let her determine what she wanted to do. We’d wait for my daughter’s best friend’s test results to plan next steps.
Are you still with me?
Time moved slowly. While you’re waiting for a COVID-19 test, you’re supposed to self-quarantine.
Because my daughter lives with us and her best friend had been to our home, Dwight said that should include us, too. I agreed, but I wanted to take my trip…just saying.
July 17th came. My daughter, husband, and I had been home 5 days by then. Neither my daughter nor her best friend had received their results. I decided I was still going on my trip. My goddaughter said it was fine to stay with her. (Just for the record, I offered to stay at a hotel). We wore our masks at the restaurant, as required, and she made breakfast the next day. The friend stayed at least 6 feet away from me…for the most part.
July 18th I left my goddaughter’s home, headed to my vacay spot, and received a text from my daughter. Her best friend was positive.
His dad was back home and building a new porch for their home. I also found out his father had been coaching high school basketball this whole time. Why? His family needed money.
My goddaughter’s friend was supposed to go back home with her parents. She decided not to in case she’d been exposed. My daughter still hadn’t received her results. I briefly had a thought: what if our whole family is asymptomatic? What are we to do…remain in the house socially inactive, until a trusted vaccine surfaces?
Oh…and my daughter was supposed to begin a new job, but they told her to wait two weeks.
July 18th-20th I had a great time on my solo trip. I sprayed Lysol in the hotel, wore my mask, ordered to-go, socially distanced, and otherwise relaxed.
July 21st my goddaughter’s best friend was tested.
July 23rd my goddaughter’s friend’s test was negative. She was safe to travel to her parents’ home, so she did.
July 24th (11 days after her test), my daughter received her results: negative.
I decided to share this anecdote for a few reasons:
- The only narratives we’ve had are those of people dying, which I do not take lightly. However, like many things in this society we don’t seem to realize there’s a range of stories. We’ve been led to believe that we can either catch COVID-19 and die or stay home and not die. But there are many in-between situations. I’m not saying we should remove our masks and visit the nearest bar. I am saying we should begin to make decisions based on our respective perspectives and states.
- Being critical of the world is different than being judgmental. I’m critical of the consumerist, capitalistic society we’ve agreed to participate in. Unfortunately, the entire world relies on businesses being open. However, I do not have any judgment about my daughter’s best friend’s father having to work a job to support his household. I just don’t. I do think we all have personal responsibility. For example, if I had a basketball-playing son, he would’ve sat this season out.
- I know it’s fun to point fingers at those Florida beach photos, but testing is a huge problem here. Around Day 5, when my daughter was restless, I asked her a rhetorical question: How is anyone supposed to do the right thing? If my life (and others’) depends on a positive/negative test result, but it takes 11 days to receive…how can you expect an adult person, who may rely on their minimum wage job to pay rent to make the “right” choice to stay home and self-quarantine?
Finally, I hope you saw yourself in one or more of these situations, kind of like a real-life John Quinones What Would You Do if you were any of us? I’m looking forward to any comments.
kg ~ 7/27/20
I began Mental Health Matters with the acceptance of my own mental health issues, and so, as I shift to share how I’ve developed healthier coping mechanisms, I’m returning to acceptance.
Accepting my adoptee status has been no easy feat. I was ashamed for a long time that I didn’t know who my parents were. Everyone around me seemed to be raised by their biological families. Why wasn’t I? Also, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, where we watched TV shows like, Diff’rent Strokes and Webster and movies, like Annie. Each depicted adoption by wealthy benefactors. My mother was a woman who went to dialysis three times a week and received a disability check; my father was a pharmacy technician at Northwestern Memorial. Many times, I questioned why I got the seemingly short end of the adoption stick.
Accepting my mother’s death and my father’s abandonment has been challenging. I frequently wish that I had “regular” parents and a typical situation. I understand that many families are dysfunctional, but I also know that some familial relationships function with what most would deem normality. Some people have two living parents who call, visit, and have healthy relationships with their grandchildren. I know this exists because I’ve seen it with friends and other family members. Again, I believed I’d been gypped.
Accepting I don’t belong with my biological family has also been tricky. While I didn’t think each would hold me in a long embrace, I did think most would recognize me as part of their “family” and attempt a relationship. I figured they’d want to know what I’d been up to the last forty or so years. But I was wrong. I ignored the fact that I was entering the middle and end of their lives. With my father, specifically, it seemed I’d disrupted the carefully crafted
lie man he’d constructed himself to be. For his wife and three of his children, my existence symbolized indiscretions and his flawed human beingness. It was too much for any of them to face.
But by the time I’d found my biological father, I was too grown to be ashamed of anything else.
Years ago, I began unravelling who I was and how I got here as a way to accept myself and my narrative. We…all…have…a…story. And each one is different. My story includes a schizophrenic mother. I mention her mental illness a lot because it’s a part of acknowledging her existence as a part of my own. Without my mother, Joyce, I wouldn’t be here. Equally important is my father, Jerome. During our initial phone conversations, he apologized profusely for inviting my mother up to his apartment that day. I assured him just as many times that there was little reason to feel regret. Without his lust, I wouldn’t be here.
In 2011, I decided to stop interacting with my adoptive father. He’d never understand my point of view or be the father I thought I deserved. Before I ceased communication, I created a ritual to forgive and accept the way he cast me aside during adolescence. A year later, he developed Stage 4 throat cancer. Two years before he actually died, he offered a face-to-face verbal apology. Accepting his “I’m sorry” helped me to accept our circumstances. My adoptive father was who he was, with his own set of challenges, and our lives had intersected and happened the way they were supposed to. In kind, I accepted my adoptive mother for who she was. She wasn’t always physically fit or financially secure, but she was mentally sound. And who am I to judge anyway? The same way I bore children with my imperfect an unhealthy self, she chose to adopt and raise me as her own with her imperfect and physically unhealthy self.
Accepting each of these parental parts has made it easier for me to accept myself. Additionally, acceptance for me has meant acknowledging my origin story. It doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I do accept the reality of it. Every now and then, I relapse into dream-like thoughts of the “perfect” family. But the majority of the time, I now know being me is nothing to be ashamed of.
This week, I speak with one of my dearest blogging friends, Dr. D! We discuss all things anxiety. She explains the difference between anxiety disorder and situational anxiety. Dr. Dinardo provides 3 strategies to help us cope with situational anxiety, especially because it may be heightened during the pandemic and times of racial unrest. Oh, and I reveal a real-time experience that was causing me a bit of anxiety. I’ll have to write about the results later.
I also have to warn you…if you don’t want to hear us dote on one another, then you should begin this episode around the 7-minute mark. Our conversation can be viewed on YouTube or listened to on SoundCloud, Buzzsprout, or Apple Podcasts. I hope this is helpful as we seek healthier ways to engage with and support one another.
Be sure to also check out Dr. D’s blog: drandreadinardo.com, google her TEDx talk, or follow her on IG: dr.andrea.dinardo. You’re bound to learn something and be a bit more motivated.
A democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”
Sounds simple, right? The people have the power and we vote in elections so that other people can put in place the things we care about and want.
Well, just a second. I learned years ago that the United States of America is actually more akin to a republic, which specifically has an elected president, not a king or heir, and is “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.”
Tomato…tomato, eh? I don’t know and I won’t bore you with more definitions. I’m just confused about what we’re doing here in America, which is supposed to be a democratic republic.
As I’m writing this, Kentucky successfully removed 3,530 polling locations. Closing polls made little sense to me. Even if this were a COVID-safety move and the government was concerned about social distancing, I don’t understand why the state would have fewer polls, instead of more. Wouldn’t more polls facilitate an easier process?
But you know what people in Louisville and Lexington did with one polling place? They stood in line for hours. The Kentucky primaries have ended. Joe Biden won. Charles Booker, a Black representative from Louisville, who ran to be the democrat on the ticket for Senate, lost. Was closing the majority of polling places purposeful? Will Kentuckians demand their polling places re-open, or will this be the norm for not only that state, but also others?
Furthermore, whether we live in a democracy or a republic, I’m concerned that voter suppression, a common occurrence in our country, continues to be a thing even though supreme power is supposed to lie with the people, not its leaders. Is supreme power of the people an illusion? Did we ever really have this power?
Maybe we’ve acquiesced our power for something more entertaining. For example, what else happened when Kentuckians found out there would be one polling place? Did people complain a little bit and go back to binge watching their favorite online show? Listen, I don’t want to bash the good people of Kentucky. And I’m not a sky is falling kind of person, but we are living in critical times. Life is exhausting. We are experiencing all of the things all of the time, but we still have to use our collective voice to attain fair and equal treatment within our republic. Don’t we?
Poll closing is a form of voter suppression and can occur anywhere, in any state. So, I have a few questions: What would you do if your state closed 95% of the polling places? Would you stand in line for six hours and hope they didn’t close more in November, or would you demand that your democratic right to elect officials be easier?
Think this can’t happen in your state? Here is more information about voter suppression and how it effects specific socioeconomic classes, races, and ethnicities.
The word ally has been thrown around the last few weeks. And I wanted to clarify a few things about the idea.
An ally, according to Merriam Webster, is one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.
But what does this mean when we add the word white, as in white ally?
Loosely speaking, a white ally is someone who stands with Black people and our quest for equality and equity. However, I still want to go a little deeper.
Here’s what I’ve observed from decades of interacting with different types of white people in predominantly white spaces.
White allies speak up when something is “wrong.” Remember when I wrote about the girl who ordered a Jimmy John’s sandwich while I was teaching? Well, when I told the program coordinator about it, she called the student into her office and reprimanded her. This made space for the student to apologize and for me to handle it in a very upfront and authentic manner with the entire class. That same colleague also stood by and with me as we resolved the situation of the other student who’d failed. White allies do not shrink when faced with adversity that can be deemed wrong or read as racist.
White allies educate themselves about racism and then act accordingly. Many of the white people I personally know are either in academia or in academic situations. Consequently, my colleagues don’t ask me to recommend information; their reading lists are already extensive. These allies not only read, but they also apply information. During the first week of protests, a co-editor of a book I’m in process of publishing reached out to me and asked if she or the others could lighten my load. She recognized the trauma of watching a Black person murdered on video and offered a supportive solution.
White allies use specific language. Words matter. As I scroll through all of my socials, I can tell who is with me in the fight for dismantling systemic oppression and who is not. #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter are hashtags that symbolize a lack of understanding of Black issues and create separation of the larger issue. Churches and organizations that sponsor events to feed the police, while never mentioning how they can or have supported Black families who have lost lives due to police shootings send clear messages. Instead, allies share useful resources. Allies don’t say, “but what about…” Allies use #BlackLivesMatter with confidence and as a way to decenter themselves.
White allies are aligned even when there is no headline. At the risk of sounding cliché, many of my good friends are white. One of my friends is a woman who, during our teen years, lived less than eight blocks from me surrounded by Black people. She recently campaigned for Beto O’Rourke and has been a champion for social justice issues all her adult life. I have a Facebook friend who I’ve known since first grade; he is constantly raising issues about the injustices that Black people face in his California community. Another friend is a woman I met during my first job in academia. She has spent much of her 30+ career teaching Black children in culturally diverse ways and modeling how to do that for other educators. A fourth person is a white woman who has collaborated with others to diversify Oklahoma’s curriculum to include lessons on the Tulsa race massacre. White allies use their voices at all times because they realize systemic racism is a persistent part of American life.
Finally, for those of you who are still subscribed to this blog and sometimes comment with mutual understanding or add your new perspective of a social justice lens, I appreciate it. That’s my 5th example. White allies seek first to understand, not to advance their pre-established privileged perspective.
What else would you add to this list?
I also want to note that I have friends who are not allies and I know allies who are not friends; the terms are not synonymous.
When you live in a capitalistic society, then everything is commodified. Everything is for sale. Everything hinges on selling or not selling something. This hasn’t seemed truer than the last few months.
May 2020: Reopen everything!
In May, Florida began Phase I and Phase II reopening. There is no doubt in my mind (and I’m guessing anyone else’s) that this had little to do with people and more to do with stimulating the economy. Businesses that hadn’t already closed permanently were excited to get back to “regular” operations. I sent my husband to grab some guacamole, but he came back empty handed. According to his observation, our local Chili’s, as well as other restaurants that sold Mexican food, was well over 50% capacity on Cinco de Mayo. I’m guessing it was because these places wanted to make as much money as possible post-lockdown.
Profits over people? Right?
June 2020: Buy Black!
After George Floyd’s death, there was a huge push from the Black community to start “buying Black” because if one is buying Black, then that means that one is not putting money into mainstream American products. The idea is to remove money from one system and put it into another, thus negatively impacting the typical distribution of money and its operations in the country, because when you live in a capitalistic society, where everything is commodified, then removing dollars is an effective plan if everyone participates and if there are enough places to replace current operations.
Don’t stop spending money. Stop spending money in non-black spaces. That was the message. Right?
June 2020: Boycott!
In addition to buying Black, a list circulated that outlined which businesses have supported Donald Trump’s campaign. Off the top of my head, this list includes Walmart, Wendy’s, and Marvel. I remember these because my family and friends love to shop at Walmart. My oldest daughter supports herself by working at Wendy’s. Aaaand, my husband and youngest daughter have enjoyed most Marvel movies. I wondered how any of them (or other citizens) were going to boycott the things they admired so much. For Americans, these staples have made society wonderful. You know how much restraint you need to boycott businesses the American people have deemed essential?
The list includes Planet Fitness, where we have a gym membership, New Balance, my athletic shoe choice, and Shell Oil, the place where we sometimes pump gas.
What in the entire f…?
I apologize. I’m losing focus. The point is if we collectively boycott, then we can affect current circumstances by not supporting these businesses, which implicitly support a bad president.
Implicit financial support = complicit support of a politician. Right?
June 2020: MASKS!
I have nine masks. I bought two by the end of March that display one of my alma maters. I have another that I purchased at the UPS store in April; they have typewriters on them and include my favorite color: red. I’ve ordered another that has banned books on them because that seems kind of cool. Dwight bought us a couple that are African themed and four others, which are black. A friend I went to school with has a bedazzled one. It’s fabulous. She also has one that says, “This sucks,” because yeah, even though it saves live, wearing a mask does suck and nothing says it better than a statement mask. I’ve seen others that have matching head wraps. You know, like a scarf and matching mask? Who doesn’t wanna be Corona chic?
The person who sold me eyeglasses described another mask she saw someone wearing that looked like his dog’s mouth. Every time he spoke, it looked like a dog was speaking. She snort-laughed at the thought.
Not only can I get masks online, but also at *Old Navy. Let that sink in. The store where I used to get my most comfortable jeans just six months ago figured out a way to sell us fashionable cloth masks. Isn’t that nice of them?
Usually, I have something witty to say at the end of a blog post, but not today. Today, I just want to reiterate what I said before: When you live in a capitalistic society, then everything is commodified. Everything is for sale. Everything hinges on selling or not selling something.
*Honorable mention to Banana Republic’s new line of loungewear because who doesn’t need a pair of $80 joggers in which to do their Zoom meeting?
Following your intuition can be a scary thing because many of us have been taught to listen to family and friends, walk with the crowd, or attain external validation instead of listening to ourselves. We’ve literally been taught to not trust our gut instinct, which can sometimes be detrimental because we end up living by someone else’s rules, as opposed to our own.
If this is you, here are four ways to ease into following your intuition:
1: Be impulsive. A blogger once asked me to differentiate between intuition and impulse. I don’t remember what I told her, but today I have an answer. Being impulsive has a negative connotation. No one wants to be impulsive. Impulsive purchases can create debt. Impulsivity can lead to destructive lifestyles. Romeo and Juliet were impulsive and look what happened to them! See how we’re shaped to believe a thing each and every moment?
But what is intuition, except knowing you should do something right then?
If you’re not used to following your intuition, then I suggest making a small, impulsive, low stakes move. For example, have you ever felt you should call a person? Go ahead and call. Have you ever talked yourself out of buying a piece of clothing in a new color? Go ahead and buy it. Making low stakes moves will build your confidence and pretty soon, following your intuition will become second nature.
2: Don’t overthink it. After you’ve decided to do something, you may feel inclined to overthink it. Don’t.
I have done quite a few things in my life without thinking them all the way through. *The latest idea was the Mental Health Matters interviews. My initial thought was I’m not equipped to answer readers’ questions about mental health issues; I can only write about myself and how I’ve handled these concepts. Wouldn’t it be cool if I invited mental health experts to discuss one issue with me in a brief amount of time? That was it. That was the idea. The next thing I know I’d compiled a list and was interviewing experts and having videos edited. The editor then asked me if I wanted an audio for podcasting, too. My answer? Sure. Next I found myself figuring out where to upload audio versions of the interviews.
When I shared the idea with Dwight, he gave me the slow blink and said, “So you’re going to have a podcast now?”
“Maaaybee,” I laughed. That leads me to the next way to follow your intuition.
3: Don’t listen to others’ opinions. There are two reasons why I would suggest not listening to other people’s opinions. The first is if you don’t have supportive people in your life. Instead, you have naysayers. You’ll know who these people are by their past responses. For example, if you’ve told a friend about your idea and their response is why would you do that or how would you do that (but not in a helpful way), then this is the beginning of a subtle naysayer response. The second reason you may not want to listen to the folks around you is because of the opposite. They will have a million different ways for you to enact your idea. Don’t use WordPress. Use Medium. What about Tumblr? Other people’s opinions may send you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and non-productivity, which could lead to never manifesting your idea.
If you need advice about how to make your idea a reality, then use Google, read a book, or take a class. The only exception to this may be if your friend or family member is someone who has done what you want to do. I say may be because that person will still only speak from their experience, which could be totally different than yours.
4: Adopt a playful view of life. Most of the time I view life as a playful experience. When I conceptualized and edited Daddy, I thought of it as playing with other people, you know, like when you were a kid? I envisioned being in a room with the other women and pretending to be authors who were writing a book. And now, I thought, we’re going to go around the country and tell people about the book. Doesn’t that sound like fun? With a little planning and agreement, it happened. We actually did the aforementioned things and impacted lives at the same time. Trust me, pretending is not just for children. Kind of like being impulsive, we’ve been told it’s not something we should do as adults. But not imagining, pretending, and playing are for adults, too.
I hope being impulsive, not overthinking, listening to yourself, and adopting a playful view of life helps to guide you toward a happier and more intuitive life!
*Update: My latest impulsive act was co-creating a petition to stop Florida public schools from reopening in August. If you’re concerned about this issue, then you can view and sign the petition here: Safe Return for P-12 Florida Teachers.
This week, I had the privilege of discussing adoption, adoptees, adoptive parents, and foster care with Marchita Masters, PsyD, who not only has worked with foster care children in several settings, but who has also adopted a child. Our conversation can be viewed on YouTube or listened to on SoundCloud or Apple Podcasts. I hope it is helpful as we seek healthier ways to engage with and support one another.