Wetback American

I'm educated but brown so no matter where I go I'm a Wetback American.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Why do you always talk about race?

So I follow a great writer who goes by Ally Henny.  If you follow "The W American" facebook page, I often repost her daily insights.  She has a great way of condensing down the massive topic that is race relations in America to a quick but powerful read.  If you don't follow her work and you believe in progress then go find her.

In recent months, my DH has also started a new project: Tattooed With Children.  He, Flava Ray, and his blood brother, The Dred Pirate Benjamin, have been friends for about 9 years and are just able to have conversations that most interracial friendships can't withstand.  They are a great listen but I often find myself arguing with them.  While my husband is willing to talk about race relations, he always seems to pull back on the topic.  That being said, in their last episode: Patterns, DPB mentioned that people had mentioned to him that they FR and DPB spend way too much time identifying people as Black or White.  I saw red and flushed with anger.

Poor Flava Ray has been hearing my thoughts on this one little phrase for hours.  Now, I understand that FR isn't pulling back on race talk.  However, I needed to talk it out and since he is who I have easy access to well he gets the ear full.

My first inquiry/assumption was Who is saying you spend too much time on identifying people?  Are they White?  I ask this for a couple of reasons, Wight (as Ally Henry spells it) people are quick to shut down conversations about race.  If we don't talk about it then it is obviously not a problem.  You can't help to talk about problems ergo if we can avoid the topic of race then race isn't an issue.  WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?  Just because it isn't a "problem" for you doesn't mean that it is not a problem or issue that others face.

Flava informed me that the majority of listeners are European.  Dude I went off.  Fucking We Don't have Racism here that is an American problem Europeans!   Once upon a time, a former friend told me all about her English cousins' favorite pastime, Paki Bashing.  In this game, you drive around with a bat and beat the shit out of any Pakistani person you come across.  Maybe 15 years ago, France was closing the immigration route for people from Angola because they were taking French jobs.  Do we need to talk about the Germans?  The final solution?  But of course, Europeans aren't racists.

My second inquiry/assumption: Why are you trying to change anything about your podcast unless you think it needs to change?  Now Flava did set me straight.  They were having a conversation not making changes and conversations are just that.

I saw red for many reasons but the top one is that I'm tired of the conversations being shut down.  I understand that one of the privileges of being Wight is not having to think about race much.  In the United States of America, the standard is White.  Flesh-colored anything means peachy/beige.  Unless you put "Black" or "Ethnic" Google search results for haircuts, skin rashes, and so many other things pull up images of White people.  There isn't any extra effort involved.  White just is.

I am a Mexican woman, married to a Black man, and raising 2 beautiful Blaxican daughters.  When my oldest breaks out in a new skin rash and I want to try to confirm what that rash might be, I have to work to find an image of a rash on darker-toned skin.  I know when buying nude colored pantyhose that the bitches are going to give me beige legs rather than highlight my beautiful brown legs.  I know that unless I tell people my husband is black or they see him with me, people will assume they can talk shit about Black people.

Unless a person of color opens a door to discussion, the standard of White is the standard.  Why make band-aids in darker colors, they will protect the same, right?  We need Hello Kitty and Disney du-jour but a professional person of color needing to cover a wound can just use a highly visible "flesh-colored" bandage.  Maybe I don't want to explain that I got my flu shot or cut myself shaving but shit I have an exclamation mark on me so of course people are going to ask.

Look, dear Wight people, race is not a dead issue.  If the conversation makes you uncomfortable, then ask yourself why you are uncomfortable?  Dig deep.  Dude, I still struggle.  I'm still evolving in my own thought and feelings on the topic.  I catch myself making assumptions and have to stop and go, is that true? is that prejudice?  Did that thought just jump out of my thoughts?  I thought I was better than that.  Guess what I'm not.  I progressing but am far from perfect.  As Ally says, "progress not perfection" is what we are striving for.  Let's talk.  Let's roll in the shit storm and then hug it out.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Brown professionals working in a White standard

"She has to work twice as hard as others to meet the standards of the dominant culture which, have, in part, become her standards." - Gloria Anzaldua  Borderlands pg. 71

I started this post a few weeks back and just had not come back until today.  Why today?  Today, we got official word that SACSCOC is pulling Bennett College's accreditation and essential putting the dead nail in her coffin.  Who is Bennett College?  They are one of the few single-sex colleges created to educate Black women. 

So who cares?  Well I do.  I attended Hollins University an all-women's university.  My husband attended Howard University, the HBCU.  I work at Wiley College, which is a HBCU.  Between undergrad and grad school, I have spent 12 years in institutions of higher education as a student and I had 1 Hispanic professor.  ONE! 

Again, so?  Well a recent survey of recent college graduate conducted by STRADA tells us that college students want mentoring by their professors.  Those who were mentored where more likely to finish/graduate and go on to graduate school/work.  Students thrive on relationships with faculty and guess who the faculty are?  The majority are White, middle to upper class men.  While I did have a White Middle-Class Male professor to mentor me as an undergrad, I also attended a small private college.  I was not completing with many other people.  I was a History major at college with a strong department.  Even with that, my dreams were to be a public school teacher.  I didn't really think I could do more.  Just finishing my BA was going to be a huge achievement.  I couldn't dream bigger.

What if I had had that 1 Hispanic professor during my undergraduate days instead of in my 2nd year of doctoral work?   Meeting him, having him as a professor, was the 1st time I realized I wasn't so alone in my pursuit of a doctorate.  REPRESENTATION MATTERS!  Would he have changed my path?  Doubtful but maybe I wouldn't have been so afraid all of the time. I saw people of color cleaning the colleges and universities I attended, they did not teach or run them.  I saw limits not opportunities.  Having Dr. SME was the 1st time I saw a limit shattered.  He had crossed a line and survived.  I did not know we could do that.

Okay back to the title, I am a Brown profesional woman and thankful for the moment I am working at a college that is majority colored people.  But I haven't always worked in that kind of an environment and even now I worry if I am living up to the standard of professionalism before me.  Are those standards self-imposed or are they in reaction to the standard of "White" colleges and we just trying to keep up?   We are told to dress the part so that our students know how to dress when they are out there.  We know that out there means the Standard White American World.  I don't just wake up and dress in my starched white collared button up and black slacks and head in.  No, I need to do my hair and now I have an added make-up routine.  With this comes the question of what is professional hair and make-up?

See if you grew-up watching Mexican Telenovelas, like I did, you know curly headed women are crazy.  (This is a different topic to go into so just roll with me for the moment.)  So until I started here at Wiley, I straightened my hair daily.  I had to look like the professionals I had seen on TV and even on standard American television, the standard for professional female hair is straight. 

The make-up is a horrible thing to tolerate.  I don't like wearing any.  I feel like it is a mask.  But if you read blogs and articles about professional female dress, they all say foundation, lipstick, and mascara are the minimum.  On a good day (around here that is Tuesday - Chapel Day), I wear black eye-liner and red lipstick.  I can't stand foundation and I rub my eye so much that mascara and I don't mix.  But who set this make-up standard?  I am beautiful without the crap and I am still under pressure to wear it. 

Until the majority of the professionals we see are representative of our nation's actual make-up then I argue those of us who are professionals of color are just trying to catch the bus by "looking" as white as we can.  The standard in this country is White.  My look is measured by how close to pulling off Ivanka Trump's look I can get.  If I was in Mexico, I know I would still have to live up to some standard but maybe it would feel less oppressive if the standard was a little darker like me and had natural curls and waves that they would let fly every once in a while.

This picture is from the day I interviewed with Wiley.  Note the straight hair and lipstick.  Now a days I sport crazy waves and curly on the days my hair works with me.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Running and Reflecting

Trigger Warning: Rape, Rape Culture

I tend to scroll my Facebook feed to give myself a mental break and I'm usually just scrolling looking for interesting news items and good things happening for my friends.  Today as I quickly scrolled past a posting and then backtracked a moment and then burst into tears right at my desk.  I'll post the drawing itself at the bottom of this post so you can see it or avoid it if you think it will trigger you.

Like a said I was crying at my desk and it was 15 minutes until my lunch.  I couldn't help it.  I finally got myself under control and then it was lunch time.  I usually run/walk during my lunch break so I headed out ready to move and the post came back to mind.  I was running and crying and trying to figure out why.

The post/drawing is about rape.  That in and of itself is sad and traumatic.  But the post eludes to babies being raped.  Even now, I'm on the verge of tears.  The hurt, the horrible things that people do to the smallest and most vulnerable.  It makes me feel powerless.  How do you protect babies from the people who are supposed to protect them.

So why was I crying?  Maybe for my girls who I know I can't fully protect and that more than likely at least one of them will have to fight and protect herself from an attempt or deal with the fallout of being raped.  Maybe for the women that are silent even now, maybe silent even more so now because the fallout of telling is more traumatic than the rape/assault itself.  Maybe for myself and my #metoo moments.  I ran and I cried and I fumed.

What can we do?  We women can learn self-defense.  I am supposed to teach my daughters to fight back and dress right and on and on but there isn't a movement to teach people not to rape.  The fault lies in the woman.  She was asking for it.  She didn't protect herself.  What about the ones, the little ones, the disabled ones, that can't talk, defend, fight off?  If you don't/can't say no then free-for-all? 

Are we supposed to reward the men that do the right thing?  Are they being congratulated for being men or do other men look down on them for not finishing the job?  I am reminded of a time I did all the wrong things.  I was at the club alone, I walked out of the club alone, I had flirted with a dude I had zero intention of ever going home with, I'm sure I was dressed in some version of sexy.  All the wrong things and nearly paid for it.  The guy followed me to my car.  I was half a block from the club.  I was on the street in clear view of everyone and he followed me to my car and then I did the exact wrong thing, I opened the car door and all he had to was push me in.  He instead pulled me out of my car.  He saw the fear in my eyes and suddenly let go and left.  I see how close to disaster I was only years and years later.  What if anything does he remember?  Should I congratulate him for not raping me when he had the chance?  Hey dude, you saw me as a human, thank you!  Does he wish he had pushed instead of pulled?  Does he have shame for not finishing equal to my shame in having done all of the wrong things?  Rape . . .

Monday, January 7, 2019

Between the World and Me

Today, I finally started listening to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I obtained the unabridged version read by the author.  I'm going to be honest; I have been avoiding it.  I work at a HBCU and this book is the chosen Freshman reader so I need to read it.  I was avoiding it because after reading the summary, I knew there would be new truths about life in American I could not escape.  Coates did not disappoint.

I am about half-way thru Disc 1.  I've already dried many tears.  I have already begun to internalize and re-evaluate some past life experiences, reconcile the new information with the experiences shared with me by my husband, and project forward for life for my own biracial children.  I wonder if I am strong enough to raise strong Black women who can survive not only being Mexican in American but Black as well.  If my experiences are of otherness then theirs even more so.  I can turn to the words of Gloria Anzaldua for comfort; who do they have?

Not only do I worry about my girls but I think back on the past 17 years of marriage with my husband; share life experiences that of course root in our lives before each other.  Coates provides visuals that are real and graphic that mirror those experiences my husband has shared with me.  However, Coates does not know me so he is not holding back the bed stuff.  I know my husband is.  I know he knows I can only handle so much of his pain as a Black man in American so he shares selectively. 

As Coates is based in Baltimore and my dissertation research had me in Baltimore, I am realizing that my husband was ready to move to Baltimore when John Hopkins came calling but he knew I was not.  He was raising to survive on the streets and I was raised to survive on a rancho.  I am already ready to lend a hand, trust anyone who approaches me, I was not raised to protect myself at all times.  I would not have survived.  Even now, I am probably not ready for the big city.  I'm a small town girl without an every present coating of protection.  I say I want to move to Houston but would I really ever be okay with that move?  I don't know.  For now, I'll continue with Coates and try to listen for lessons that I can use to help my daughters.