Posts Tagged ‘opinion’

my super eclectic 2×5 raised garden bed

I have to admit it has been mostly people of color who have been most vocal in their curiosity. “Do you live here?” “Nice neighborhood. What’s your rent like?” And if they see Steve standing about with his silvery beard and walking stick, some venture to inquire, “Are you a home health aid?” These are Uber drivers. The White drivers tend to pull up, look at the house and then at me, curious clearly, but leaving the questions unasked.

It is a 1920s wood frame two family house with good bones that need some work. Stuff like fixing holes in walls, replacing plumbing, updating the 1970s washer and dryer in the rental unit and so on and so forth and ,ah, the learnings! One small brick porch was recently repaired while the larger brick porch had to be replaced completely because, as Steve thought based on his tapping his walking stick on the bricks, the interior bricks had crumbled and there was a disaster in the making. That had to be fixed and it looks good. The exterior painting that’s clearly needed? So long as we don’t look too shabby that’s getting pushed out into the far future. I did not realize owning a home was so expensive. But as Steve likes to remind me, we really don’t own the home. The bank owns it until we pay off the mortgage. ūüôā

There was an incident on the street recently and the police arrived. I went outside by myself to inquire what was happening. In short during the course of the conversation I informed the officer I was not a tenant, I was the landlord. There followed that moment of silence and that too-familiar look on his face. I was treated with respect but the curiosity remained clear in his face, the Black officer, and later on the face of a White officer.

There are times of late on the Uber ride home, especially after a long day in Boston, and I see the question(s) forming, I am tempted to make up a story. “Yes, I’m a home health care aid. That’s why my bags are filled with groceries and flowers, so that I can take care of the people inside.” “Yes, I’ve been renting for years and luckily the landlord hasn’t raised the rent. Indeed it is a nice neighborhood and I am lucky to be able to afford it.”

I do not think of the queries and reactions as necessarily racist. I think of them as unintentionally or unknowingly biased. There is a perception of me by people of different races and backgrounds that kicks in when they see me, a small brown woman who may look a bit younger than I actually am, standing in front of a multifamily home. Is it so rare that a Black person owns a home in the Greater Boston area?

Yes, it is.

There has been much research on the subject and there is continuing work by people at many levels to fix the inequity in home ownership that has evolved over many many many decades.

I am by trade a storyteller but I will ignore urges to make up a story about our home and my presence in it. It serves no purpose to lie except to perpetuate a misconception. I am simply reminded of my research, and the research of so many scholars, with regard to systemic racism and the seeds that are implanted in the minds of people of all backgrounds as to who Black people are and what they are capable of.

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Eventually I had to mute the television. I could not listen to his voice, and so I watched him speak. I watched him gesticulate wildly. I watched him make the schoolboy faces suggestive of a naughty teen making fun of others and which brings out the naughtiness of the other schoolboys who laugh though they mostly know they should know better.¬† But since there’s no one around to hold any of them accountable, why not poke a little fun, right?

I watched the people behind him bathed in his dark light, their own eyes fiercely bright, as they gave praise to that which stood before them … this bold entity that made them feel good! Trump was nothing like them and yet in their minds they saw themselves or what they sought to be. A white man of inherited privilege and of wealth speaking crudely and with malice about all that was not wealthy and white and not American based on a skewed view of what it means to be American.

And what does it mean to be American? What would happen if every member of Congress had to sit and compose a 500-word essay on the subject? The President and V.P. could do it as well. How about everyone who is a member (so far) of the President’s cabinet? Or maybe better yet, as a writing prompt, have them each read the following poem by Emma Lazarus and respond to it in writing. Full sentences. No tweets. No emojis. Wouldn’t that be something to see?

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‚ÄúKeep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!‚ÄĚ cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!‚ÄĚ



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butterfly in herbs

butterfly in herbs

I don’t trust the incoming President of the United States, nor the people he is likely to appoint to his cabinet, nor the Republicans¬†already in Congress who supported him, nor those Republicans¬†who didn’t support him but were re-elected anyway, not the person he will try to appoint to the Supreme Court, and possibly not even the person he will hire to walk his dog assuming he decides to have one in the White House — I don’t trust any of these people to look out for my best interests as a human being let alone as a citizen of the United States and of the world. So what am I supposed to do as a human being, as a citizen of the United States and of the world?

It is rather despicable to see the likes of Mitch McConnel and Paul Ryan on stage stating that as soon as Trump is officially President they will work to repeal¬†the Affordable Care Act (why not work to fix its problems and expand what works?), cut taxes (for whom or what?), confirm conservative judges (why not find the best judges?), shrink government programs (which ones and why?) and roll back regulations (for whom and why?). They speak only to removing and wiping away President Obama’s legacy — they speak not a word about how they will unite a clearly divided country, provide support to people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds whether at the federal level or by supporting state governments to do work at the ground level. ¬†There is no acknowledgement, nor will there ever be I suspect, of how the Republicans chose to purposefully roadblock Obama every chance they could, and that roadblocking had absolutely nothing to do with the best interests of the American people. It was to prove a point, to hammer it home, at the expense of the American people.

I will not pull out the race card, immigration, fear of “the other.” Van Jones did that eloquently enough.

To some degree the issues that divide this nation are the issues that have been present since the founding of this nation Рrace, class, gender, fear, hope, desire and so on. There especially seems to be a universal anxiety about the future. If there are those who are not anxious then I wonder what bubble they live in.  Somehow or other, we have been able over time, and sometimes bloodily so, to overcome if not outright address these issues. But these issues, a part of our human nature, do not ever fade away.

I will continue to mull over what I will do positively to move forward as a human being and citizen of the United States and of the world. I personally do not feel a desire to wrap myself inside a cocoon until a better day arrives. Today is all we have. I will continue to celebrate what has made this country great¬†all along, to seek out its beauty with my camera, to share the stories of its people, past and present, and those who strive to become part of its future, and I will make a greater effort to be an active citizen. I’m never going into politics, but I am reinvigorated to go knocking at the door of those who serve the people at the local level and to ask them, what are you going to do?

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Just one of those random questions running through my head this morning as I have the luxury of sitting in my home sipping strong coffee in the warmth of my kitchen while there are those in great need of food and shelter who have nothing this morning because the politicians in the fortress of solitude in DC can’t get it together to stop being children in a playground.¬† Anyway, racism, classism, and all those other -isms are too easily used to excuse the behavior of the men and women in Washington (and those who pay them in the various ways our system allows).¬† If Obama were blonde haired and blue eyed and with the same ideals there’d still be a fight … because indeed there was one.¬† Look at the Clinton Years.

Politicians aside with their blinders, fat pockets, or indeed “righteous ideals,” what bothers me most are the people who sit back and do nothing.¬† And maybe that’s because there are too many distractions.¬† I mean, on the morning news, immediately following one story of government shutdown, there was a story of a movie star’s fight with his girlfriend.¬† Really? That’s the next important story?

One of my favorite letters in American history is Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.¬† It was not a letter written to Klansmen or segregationists or to all those others who outright hated; it was a letter written to those who expressed a desire for change but were waiting for the right moment or not wanting to make any waves or simply did not understand the gravity of the situation.¬† I fear that people have lost sense of our interrelatedness, and thus do not understand the implications – the ripple effects – of the actions (and purposeful inactions) certain politicians are pushing.¬† If you have a well-paying corporate job with great benefits, why engage in a dialogue about health insurance or food stamps?¬† But as MLK wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

I am proud to be an American, of its landscapes and its peoples and of course its opportunities.  Or at least of those opportunities that I perceived as a child growing up in Virginia.  And I was proud of its politics.  Probably using a different set of text books than are being allowed in school today, I thought I learned in World History, Civilizations, Civics and Government courses that, my goodness, what a wonderful system of government with its checks and balances, and opportunities for dialogue and debate (and yes, negotiation and compromise).  What a wonderful system.  What has happened?

Anyway, no more caffeine for me today.  Caffeine plus anger gives me a headache.  Perhaps I will be able to take another walk by the Mystic River, the source of these images.  I hope where ever you are, you find a peaceful moment too.  Have a good Tuesday.

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Stained Glass Window, Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston

Stained Glass Window, Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston

I hope my five-year old friend doesn’t stop seeing the fairies in the dandelions after she starts school.¬† Maybe, in part, it was that thought that made the following article catch my attention:¬† In Your Mind Was Once a Cathedral by Michael Michalko.¬† I am a generalist and so I have been privileged to work with people across many different fields of interest.¬† One thing many have in common is a concern that young people entering the workforce seem to have an increasing inability to think outside the box.¬† They are extremely facile with social media tools and especially texting and yet at the same time seem less capable of using their hands.¬† If answers can’t be found in a printed manual or Wikipedia, they don’t know how to take out a blank piece of paper (or lined yellow pad) and sketch out alternative ideas.¬† Or even how to ask questions.¬† Perhaps an oversimplification but I’ve seen enough examples firsthand for Michalko’s¬† article at the Creativity Portal to resonate and make me want to share.¬† Many other interesting articles there as well.¬† Enjoy.

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It might be the grandest of understatements to say that it is hard to discuss race and ethnicity in the United States.¬† It does not matter that we have an African American president.¬† It does not matter that there are African, Latino, Asian and Native American politicians at all levels from city clerks to state governors.¬† It does not matter that some of the highest paid athletes,¬† musicians and actors in this country have some tint to their skin.¬† Huck Finn by Mark Twain is still banned in many American schools, except for a sanitized version that removes the word “nigger.”

A good friend of mine called a few months ago to tell me that she was giving up her subscription to a popular runner’s magazine.¬† Now this friend is a marathon runner.¬† It is hard to describe how important running is to her spirits.¬† Why was she giving up this treat to herself?¬† Because while the articles were fine she was tired of never seeing anyone in it that looked like her.¬† My friend is a beautiful dark-skinned African American woman.¬† After talking with her I paid more attention to the magazines surrounding me in the checkout line of the grocery store, and certainly in the bookstores.¬† I challenge you to take a closer look when you go to these places.¬† What do you see on the covers? Beautiful women for sure … and beautiful women who all look the same week after week.

It’s easy to say the right words:¬† We are all equal.¬† I treat everyone the same.¬† There is equal opportunity.¬† There will be no discrimination of anyone based on skin color, gender, etc.¬† It is easy to say those words.¬† And then there is what we do and there is what our children see.¬† And right now there are too many children who do not see themselves reflected in the every day world around them.¬† Obama is President but most children are not interacting with the President every day.¬† Their sense of self¬† — their sense of beauty — is being shaped by what they see revered on tv, in the movies, and yes, in magazines.¬† People far more eloquent than I have written on this subject, and I hope they continue to do so.¬† As for what sparked this morning’s post …¬† Chancing upon the following images by French artist Titouan Lamazou, and wondering sadly why images of such beautiful women are so rarely found outside of an art gallery.

By the way, the photograhs in this post are of my skin.¬† Nothing racy, just a shoulder.¬† A brown shoulder. ūüėČ

* Shoulder Series Images by SFH

* Lamazou images can be found at Nouvelle Images and his website here.

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