The Problem of Keeping Order

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More than most people, as a Black woman, I wish that social structures meant to make things better worked as advertised. Unfortunately, depending on what the people living and working in those structures are doing and what the people in charge of maintaining those structures are doing, they rarely do what they’re supposed to do. The structure and the people.

Now that I’m an employee for the school district, an employee that deals directly with

  • maintaining order,
  • aiding the students,
  • and disciplinary issues

I see the failings of social structures like the school system more clearly than ever and from the prospective of an adult who grew up in those systems. As a child, I was afraid for my life and future because I knew from experience that the system doesn’t do what its supposed to do. Now I not only worry for myself but the kid I work with and the employees who are are put in my position.

For the past two weeks, I now have two jobs and am under an incredible amount of stress. At the school, it has become glaringly obvious that my students, about 500 of them, by and large cannot follow simple directions. The only disciplinary action the administrators offer…

Detention.

And yelling at them and making empty threats.

The problem with this is that detention is not a deterrent to bad/defiant behavior for many of the students. They are are not threatened by it. Many students walk out of detention and go to recess and play anyway.

Fellow co-workers ignore their behavior or don’t care at all. They’re on their phones, waiting to leave, or coddling kids who break the rules with smiles and treats. For them, its a popularity contest or earning a couple of bucks. These coworkers frown at me because I’m actually doing my job and more. I go above and beyond my pay grade and what is required of me. Because I care about the students and I care about their education. Even the principal and the vice principal treat me as if I am reporting things that are of little consequence when I’m only doing what they told me to do.

I’ve had elementary school students make racist remarks to me and commit violent acts against me. I’ve had students cuss at me and threaten me. The principal and the vice principal’s response to any of these given situations?

Detention.

The system is broken.

It undermines the entire purpose of my job when it comes to reporting discipline problems when there are no real consequences for breaking the rules. When the students do not respect my position as a staff member or respect adults in general. My job has no purpose when the principal and the vice principal don’t see that small acts of disobedience like following simple rules meant for everyone often create bigger issues during the school year. My job has no purpose when the principal and the vice principal do nothing to support my authority as an employee and allow students to do whatever they want.

It is tearing me apart and driving me crazy. My students do not understand or respect consequences for their behavior because there are none. My students do not respect adults or other children because they are being taught passively and actively that they don’t have to so they don’t care to. And I also, as much as I care about the kids, have to stand up for myself. The lack of support from my supervisors and coworkers means that I have to choose between myself and the education of students that I care about.

To add stress to insult and more stress, I go to my other job as a government clerk and have to deal with ADULT CHILDREN who never grew up or learned to respect others or their environment. When they started messing with my paycheck, I got so mad I had to go set some stuff straight. If I can help it, they’re not going to take my time, my sanity, and the money I have my time and effort to earn.

The world is mad. Straight up crazy. All I want is a little peace and quiet in a little corner somewhere I can pretend to be away from it all.

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Mixing Business & Sisterhood

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Sooo…I’m an author. And I kinda got myself an editor. I am actually too poor to pay her but she’s working with me. We have a friendship that developed after we signed our editing contract and before I started actually paying her.

But I wonder if that’s getting in the way. Of one thing or the other.

Because of my financial situation and her interest in my work, our contract is very relaxed. We are working on my manuscript bit by bit.

Is our personal relationship also our professional relationship? Is there really any way to separate the two?

We do more talking like sisters do than actual “professional” work. We are basically the voice note equivalents of pen pals. I’ve told her things about me that no one else knows. In a way, we’re still strangers. So maybe that’s why I feel there’s nothing to lose by attempting to be my whole self around with her.

Our differences come to the surfaces. She’s mixed, wealthy, business-owning, and is from Canada. Whereas both my parents are unmistakably Black, I have no white relatives directly, am poor and grew up poor, and was born and raised in the United States. Her privilege shows. A lot at times, and I find it grating. Like when I explain what its like to grow up in an abusive home situation and have an abusive, negligent family–she completely does not understand that and insists on treating me like I’ve chosen to be poor or like I’m seeing my family’s behavior the wrong way. It reminds me that no one is from where I am from and survives together and rises together. That’s hard. With this sister, also my editor, I am constantly amazed at how different two people’s lives can be and how differently they can view the world. Or, in her case, choose to view the world regardless of how much I want her to understand what I’m going through. Some people have privilege blinders too thick for anything to penetrate.

Sometimes I see sides of her that make me doubt our professional relationship, like how laid back she can be about certain things, like not getting invoices to me on time or saying she’ll be done reviewing this chapter on Wednesday (never super late but still) and I don’t see it to go over work for another few days. I don’t want to make excuses for any of that, nor am I missing signs that I might need to break my contract with her. She could indeed be “softening the mark”. I wonder if my financial situation makes me a charity case to her and working on my manuscript is a back burner, chump change thing for her. On the other hand, I do view her for the most part as professional who knows what she’s doing and isn’t trying to get over on me. Our arrangement is unusual, again, because our agreement doesn’t match her usual mode of operation given her willingness to work with me on a chapter by chapter basis.

I often enjoy hearing from her and interacting with her through our messages. Even with the differences and misunderstandings between us. She has been a positive influence for me in my personal life, business, and writing. I can ask her anything. But as we work on my book, I’m keeping an eye on her.

the white elephant in the room

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Let’s Talk About White Privilege is a six-week series running here in Fresno, every Wednesday evening. Title speaks for itself. I have attended the first three meetings.

This Wednesday, however, I did not ride the bus nearly an hour to the meeting spot. I did not smile and sit at a table full of white people and listen to them talk

I gave up. I am tired of listening to white people’s astounding excuses, self-centered prattling, and “innocent” ignorance.

The facilitators of Let’s Talk About White Privilege specifically asked that People of Color be present. Honestly, I saw the talks as a chance to tell white people about themselves and poke my head out and see if their delusions were worse than what I experienced in college when I gave these kinds of conversations all my fury and passion in the hopes that white people could begin to understand the issue of white privilege. But I ended up being much kinder than I imagined. I did not utter one unkind word to them at any session. My truth, my presence, was enough of a shock for their white asses.

Which is sheer ridiculousness in and of itself.

How do you live your whole life with everything you have built on the backs of others then look at the victims of your privilege and say “WOW, gee, I didn’t know!” ?

“I work as an educator in the Black community but I don’t live in a community where there aren’t any Black people.”

“Are Black students just bad or is it something else?”

“You’re my new best friend!” (The lady who said this to me never came back as far as I know after she and her husband gave me a ride home the first Wednesday.)

“[Black people] should stop being so sensitive.” (To which, I replied, “I’m not being sensitive at all”.)

“I’ve never thought about my privilege at all. [I] just never saw it. Never wondered…”

Their ignorance of their white privilege made me absolutely sick to my stomach. As important as these talks are, I couldn’t sit through another one of them. This is the reason I hesitated to attend in the first place; it wears on you eventually, no matter how positive an attitude you come into it with, no matter how much you want to help. It always does.

Watching the number of attendees shrink. Eventually being one of only two Black people in attendance. Seeing whites who were friendly with me last Wednesday, even gave me a ride home, disappear from the meetings completely or hightail it out of the meeting room without so much as a backward glance. Walking and catching the bus home after sundown in the dark with all that toxic, disgusting white bullshit swirling around in my head.

I think about the white faces I saw at he first meeting but not at the second. I think about the dwindling number of attendees by the third Wednesday round of Let’s Talk About White Privilege and I think, At some point, they get tired of facing the harsh, unrelenting reality their white privilege rains down. Whites retreat back into their comfy, white fantasies where I do not exist. Where they can pretend the white elephant in the room doesn’t exist. But I don’t have the luxury of retreat. I don’t have the privilege. Nor do other Black folks and People of Color.

WeBuyBlack.com vs Etsy

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Recently, I started a private Instagram account that is solely for following Black businesses, news outlets, artists and writers. That’s @Taviante, though I’m not really looking for followers nor am I trying to be concerned with anything other than watching the feed of the Black businesses and artists I follow.

I came across WeBuyBlack.com through a white woman, believe it or not. We Buy Black describes themselves as “the Black Amazon.com” and is reportedly filled with Black sellers and buyers. I was encouraged to join there with my small handmade business.

I am an author and I am currently a seller on Etsy, with no support. It is hard to stay motivated, given my living situation and failed attempts at getting help to leave an abusive, toxic environment. But I’m still trying. So feeling like I can be successful within my community is a real lure for me.

On Instagram, We Buy Black basically laughs in the face of Black Etsy sellers, taunting them to join We Buy Black instead. When I made a comment on a post asking how We Buy Black is different from Etsy, in terms of how much the seller is charged nobody answered me (that I noticed at the time). I’m mainly skeptical because it doesn’t look any different than Etsy and there’s no guarantee my handmade crafts and books will do any better over there. Other than Black sellers and buyers (which in itself is incentive enough for me to consider it seriously), why should I give them the little bit of money I have when I currently have no income and am stuck in a hopeless situation after many years of battling it?

The WeBuyBlack.com founder is Shareef Abdul Malik. He can be seen in photos with famous Black celebrities and with Instagram posts espousing the greatness of his business, but I’ve learned to be cautious of any kind of man put on too high a pedestal. Not wanting to accuse him of being a con artist, just saying that I am concerned and anything that looks too good to be true usually is. I’m not looking to pay for anybody’s house, car, and new sneakers while I’m down here suffering and struggling. Oh no not I. This is not a reflection of how I view my race, it is a reflection how I feel about people, business, and capitalism in general.

WeBuyBlack.com might be a good way to engage with my people after struggling with abuse and much disappointment. To see myself flourish and be successful around people who care about what I do. But I just do not have the heart to be disappointed again. I’m barely holding myself together and getting my hopes up is foolish.

That One, Rare Person

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When that one seen you and they walk right up to you.

You have all these assumptions about what “all” people are like. And they’re like “Don’t tell me what I think. What’s up?”

And they’re not being arrogant, not really. They are challenging the prospective that you have that they, specifically, are like everybody else. The prospective that they are like all the people who have let you down and abandoned you.

But they sincerely want to get to know you. No matter what.

Those are the only kinds of people who have gotten through to me in my life. People who can see I’ve been through a lot and I need that special attention.

Not for lack of trying do I not have a stellar track record with dependable people in my life. Unfortunately, I find that the most dependable person in my life is me. Everybody else comes and goes. Then disappears.

Many Happy Returns

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Late birthday post. Happy Birthday to Me! Even with people trying to screw it up, I manged to make my day as decent as I could.

The fact that Father’s Day is around my birthday is ironic:

Because I don’t have one. I don’t have a father.

Never, not ever, has a male figure been in my life who was worth saying, “Happy Father’s Day” to. And not for a lack of wanting one either.

What I have is a sperm donor. And a woman who gave birth to me in an attempt to keep this sperm donor in her life. And it didn’t work. So my life is hardly charmed. I grew up poor. In the hood. With a messed up family and no loving parent, not even one. When it comes to my conception, I ain’t got nothing to be thankful for and no one to be thankful to.

I have no doubt that there are people out there who have perfectly wonderful fathers.

I am just not one of them.

My truth is just as valid as theirs. Maybe arguably even more so. No sparkly illusions about daddy dearest fill my head. I am proudly not groomed to worship the ground men walk on. I see horrible men for what they are.

What makes me the most mad about growing up fatherless wasn’t the part where I grew up fatherless. No, what makes me the most mad about growing up without a father was finally meeting the man who called himself my dad.

I had hoped he was a better person and it was all a mistake that he wasn’t in my life.

He wasn’t. And it wasn’t a mistake. Another story for another time.

What makes me mad is how people treat me: Like my life is worth less because I come from a single-parent household. Like I’m pitiful because I don’t know the love of man. Like I’m damaged because of I’ve lived without the love of a man. So I’m not angry about my fatherlessness nor am I bitter: I’m offended.

I am a survivor. And I became a good, smart, passionate, beautiful person on my own. Without a father. Without one man in my life who supported me. I did that. There’s nothing pitiful about me.

So Happy Birthday to Me.

 

 

That White Privilege

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At work, I was talking to co-workers about what kind of books I write and like to read. One of these co-workers was an older white man, we’ll call him Tim. I said the words,

I like writing and reading about Black women characters and characters of Color in fantasy fiction and romance. There is a real deficit of those kinds of characters in the media because people don’t see us in the those genres because the market is still white-dominated.

Tim said he understood what I meant and liked reading anything that was engaging. The comment sounded innocent but translated as Race doesn’t matter or We’re all human. Which, to me, is hardly ever an appropriate response to what I said because it sounds dismissive and like something a colorblind racist would say. But I dropped it and moved on.

The next time I came around that day, Tim said, “I hope this doesn’t sound offensive (Me:<__< *gives side eye*) but don’t you think things have changed? There are more Black people and people who aren’t white everywhere” as he gestured around the office at all our Mexican and otherwise non-white co-workers.

…Which is ridiculous to even utter because we work in a city that’s predominantly Mexican@.

No, white Tim did not just go there with the “White people are becoming a minority, white people are oppressed” argument. So you notice more People of Color than you’re used to? So you’re a minority now? Smh. Lose any degree of privilege, any little inch, and the complaining starts. White people, overnight, in an instant, become just as oppressed as everybody else.

Tim, my white co-worker, engaged me twice more that day, asking if I watched shows like Luke Cage and Empire. Or films like 12 Years A Slave and Roots, which he said was educational to him. To which I replied–

Some people get educated. Other people get reminded.

The fact that these are the only shows and movies he can name SPEAKS IN VOLUMES.

Tim went on to say that, “I know a lot of Black people. None of them really like fantasy fiction like that.”

To which I replied,

You’re talking to one right now. People think we don’t exist but we do.

We get corralled into certain genres by a white dominated industry, that tells us we’re not marketable in this area or that genre. Yet we’re just fine in some dark broom closet of academia at a university constantly explaining ourselves to them in thesis papers and quirky little cultural awareness workshops. Or playing football and rapping. Or writing ratchet drama and slave narratives. As a result, this is what happens: White people treat me like I’m a [magical, instigating black] unicorn when I come around.

Everything Tim said to at work that day me came off as confrontational. Argumentative. And it reminded me of the situation I’ve been placed n so many times. That situation–

When white people act like they want to talk to you about your experiences and views but they really just want to argue with you about it

Likely to make themselves feel like the society white conquerors built and continue to enforce has changed more than it actually has. And to make themselves feel better and like we live in a just society.

Ultimately, I felt like I was put on the spot, Like I, once again, had to be “the Black voice”. It was tiring and anxiety-inducing. And totally infuriating.

Black Women Characters–some things change a little, some things stay A LOT the same

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Where before there were none, the media landscape is now littered with very targeted, very selective images of Black people and of Color peoples/characters. OR people who are very racially ambiguous. So things seem to change…only to actually stay the same. I think about this…

Every time I read a book where the only Black woman you see is one who is light-skin or obviously mixed. If there are any at all.

Every time I watch TV and I see a dark skin Black man with a mixed or lighter-skin Black woman or a woman of a different race.

You got three options when you read most books, watch a movie or TV, or even in ads:

  1. Racially ambiguous–very popular, very deliberate
  2. White–the racist standard
  3. Tokens, sidekicks, and stereotypes–the fallback for ignorance and bigoted comfort

Black woman/Black people and of Color peoples and characters might be appearing more frequently in the media. But has how they’re being portrayed really changed all that much? #Blackcharacters #charactersofColor

 

#343: Number Again

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I’m a number again. A different number this year but still a number.

I am not a machine. I am a person. Unfortunately, I live in a country where people seem to need money so I have to work. Hopefully, something will come out of this. And not just endless amounts of frustration, anxiety, and empty pockets.

This time around, I do feel like I’m handling things better. And I feel more confident. So here’s to people treated like cogs in the machine and doing my best.

Just Business?

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Today, I attended a breakfast meeting hosted by the Black Chamber of Commerce. I am an independent author and I own an Etsy store that I don’t talk about on this blog. The volunteer coordinator that I work with suggested I attend this meeting after I told her about my online store. Sooooo…I went to their monthly breakfast meeting this morning.

It wasn’t very comfortable for me. Lone, Black independent author and textile artist sitting in room full of people belonging to “legitimate” businesses and organizations. When I introduced myself, there wasn’t a sense that very many of them cared about what I do. And I printed business cards and everything *sad face* I’m not some big name. I have literally no connections. I can’t get them funding for their organization’s interests and I cannot fund them. Those business people didn’t give a damn who I was. That’s how I felt.

And do they really think I can afford to join? $85, $150 a year and up. Girl, please. The struggle is real. I would have to be sure an investment like that is worth it.

I don’t think of myself as a business owner. What’s more, business feels like a dirty word to me. A cold, dirty, cutthroat capitalist word. As a child who was on medicaid, Section 8, and attending public schools, I grew up at the mercy and whims of such faceless entities such as non-profits, government, and businesses with all their talk of money, budgets, and “funding”. Now that I’m an adult that hasn’t changed. These system people are still failing me after an entire childhood of watching them value, revalue, and devalue my life.

Everyone at the breakfast was a little curt, to the point, and looking for useful names to add to their digital Rolodex. Pretty sure I wasn’t one of those names. On the one hand, its a use and be used system. I’m not sure if I want to fit directly into something like that.

I want to say something empowering or helpful to anyone reading this. Smh. Too tired.