Words By S.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

My Love Affair With Johnny Weir.

Everyone and their mother is discussing Johnny Weir these days.  He is very much in the spotlight and consistently polarizes people, even more so with his ever popular television show, Be Good Johnny Weir.  My foray into his world is a very new and recent one – and I wish to share my story of Johnny discovery with you all.  It is one of gross misconception, ignorance, and finally becoming enlightened and enthralled. (more…)

Monday, 7 June 2010

In Which S. Joins the “Race Debate”

Filed under: Life,Politics,Popular Culture,Race Relations — S @ 12:00 am

I have a tendency to push buttons, to not shy away from controversial topics, to speak my mind without worrying (nor caring) about the opinions of others.  I’ve blogged about everything from my Atheism, to tattoos and piercings, to immigration.  One topic that I’ve never blogged about has been race.

Race is something I’ve never been terribly comfortable discussing.  As a multi-ethnicitied Woman Of Color (WOC), it should be the exact opposite for me.  I’ve spent a lot of my life (and continually do so) trying to “discover” myself and find my niche within my own race.

I am a Black Woman (BW).  I look at my brown face in the mirror every day; look at my brown arms and legs.  When I enter into public, I am seen as a Black Woman.  I’ve never been mistaken or passed as anything other than a Dark Skinned Black Woman.  It’s who I am.  Or rather, one facet of Who I Am.

I never thought much about the Black Experience, nor my own personal experience in being Black.  I’m “hip” to the lingo, a little with the experiences of others, and how the Blackness of others has affected me (which I will get into soon), but I’ve never sat and actually analyzed it.  At least, not in the way I’ve sat and thought about humanity and religion.

I grew up in a bubble.  A very suburban, celebrate diversity, 30% Jewish middle-class bubble.  My Experience, from the start, was much different from that of a large number of other Black Americans (BAs).  I always had a largely diverse group of friends, had eclectic tastes in everything, and had a privileged childhood.  I will be the first to admit that I led a charmed life.

In my family, there was a mixed dynamic.  On the one hand, I had my parents, my aunt, and my grandfather (mother’s side) who never really put any sort of emphasis on what it means to be Black in America.  Sure, we had discussions about what it was like when they were young, and how lucky I am to never have to experience outright, in-your-face racism.  I was given the basic equipment for how to handle the inevitable covert and institutional racism.  But, beyond that, nothing.  And then there was my extended family.

I was constantly “othered” when it came to my large group of cousins.  I was the “outsider”.  The one who lived middle-class, who was interested in learning, who got good grades and read all the time.  Later, who watched and listened to a wide array of movies and music.  Who enunciated my words.  To my cousins, I wasn’t Black enough.

The lessons that I was taught by my immediate family never equipped me for how I would inevitably be viewed within my own culture.  For a time, I secretly rejected my Black heritage and embraced what I had learned about my Blackfoot Great-grandmother, and later my partially Irish Grandmother, and German Great-grandfather.  I did it quietly and in such a way that no one was the wiser.  When I took standardized tests, I wasn’t S. the Black American, I was S. the “Native American” or S. the “Other-with-each-ethnicity-listed-careful-to-specify-my-Blackfootness”.

And then I entered high school.

In my high school, we had a student group (or club, if you will) specifically for the purpose of learning about and teaching younger kids about race relations and diversity.  In joining that group, I learned that it was okay that I enunciated and enjoyed learning and reading, and watching foreign films, and listening to different types of music.  I learned to celebrate the fact that I grew up differently and had different interests, and that I don’t need to have a homogenized BA experience.

In fact, it was in high school that my friends started to change and we embraced those changes and learned even more about one another.  It was also in high school that I would befriend a BW who had even more “bizarre” interests than I did (namely, NASCAR).  We would drag each other to see shows of our favorite bands and we would play “Count the Black People”.  That game also served as a real eye-opener, to know that there was a whole world of POCs that had interests like mine, and were probably “othered” at some time.

By the end of my high school career, I felt confident in who I was and well-equipped to deal with anything that could possibly be thrown my way.  Or so I thought.

If my immediate family taught me about what to do in instances of covert racism, my extended family taught me that I will always be “othered” by people within my own race.  The summer going into my freshman year of college gave me that firsthand experience.

At my college, we were assigned first year roommates based on “like” factors.  Judging by who I was paired with, my only guess would be that our “on paper” similarity ended with us both being black.  The first conversation I had with my college roommate was via telephone where we were both thrilled to get to know each other.  My excitement soon ended, however, when I got asked (almost immediately), “Are you sure you’re black?”

It was like my newly found confident world had come crashing down, and I was back to being “Not-Black-Enough-S., the Other-with-each-ethnicity-listed-careful-to-specify-my-Blackfootness”.   The first two months of college were absolutely miserable for me, until I the day I got to change my roommate and moved out.

It was also during this time that I moved, on my own, to a brand new city that didn’t have the protective bubble that my suburban home did.  It was then that I, not only got to experience being Othered by non-family members, but that I got to experience that covert racism that my beloved family told me all about.  That first year of being on my own was hellish, to say the least.

What is the point in giving all of this background?  What does my personal history of Living While Black have to do with anything?

In a word, Everything.

You see, my experiences have all occurred during this “post-racial America” that we’ve been experiencing.  My experiences tie into the experiences of so many others who are now being targeted overtly.  Each person who is affected by a racist bill, or a racist decision made by local politicians has been told by some deluded person that this is a “post-racial America”.

In addition to those isolated occurrences are the ones on a larger scale.  The studies that have been done, time after time; the racist e-mails that have been put under public scrutiny; the racist comments from the likes of Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and the Tea Party.  The fact that there are television shows and bands that glorify racist stereotypes.  The fact that the Tea Party even exists.

All of these are occurring during a so-called “post-racial” period in American history.

If we lived in a truly post-racial society, there wouldn’t be a need for blog after blog after blog to exist just to point out that racism is very much still occurring.  So, how do we combat a very serious problem?  Is making people aware merely enough?

And if it’s not enough, how does one go about making people take action on a wide scale?  Do we need more programs like the one I was lucky enough to take part in when I was in high school?

Or, is it merely too hopeless of a cause?

Think about it…

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Is this What it means to be ‘Sexually Revolutionized’?

Filed under: Feminism,Life,Local Events/Info — S @ 1:31 pm

Imagine, if you will, driving down the road on your way home from the grocery store.  Traffic is vast, but flowing quite nicely.  And then you get to a rather backed up intersection… what’s going on up here? you wonder to yourself.  And then, you see it.

At this particular intersection are two corners filled with scantily clad 14 – 17 year old girls with suckers, raising money for some unknown cause.

Is this what we’ve come to – whoring out our teenagers to raise money for our charities?

Why did feminism even happen if this is allowed to go on?

The girls eagerly ran from car to car with their collection apparatuses  in hand and suckers in mouth.  Miles of legs bared to the world.  It was like watching a nightmare in action.  Part of me wondered if the girls realized just what the situation was that they had gotten into, part of me pitied them, and part of me was enraged.

Then I had to think back to when I first realized my sexuality.  I was at around age 14 and was fond of my short-shorts, much like these girls; however, unlike these girls, I was not quite so fond of the tight shirts.  But, I digress.  There was one particular hot going-into-summer day when I donned my shorts and went to school, only to be cat-called all day by the teenage boys who were also coming into that age.

I was embarrassed!

I thought that I was merely dressing according to the weather, and had no idea that the length of my shorts (which really, were only a few inches above the knee) were articles to be enticed by.

From then on, I wore only long pants, year-round, with capris being the shortest that my pants would ever get.  Until fairly recently, I refused to even wear knee-length skirts or dresses.

I do realize that I am an example of an extreme,  but I think that if these girls were to realize the caliber of what they could be compared to, their reactions wouldn’t be so different.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

On Public Transportation.

The scene was typical: pedestrian approaches difficult to cross intersection; however standstill occurs with pedestrian, car, and bus.  Not wanting to get run over, pedestrian allows vehicles to go first, and then makes a run for the bus stop, only to have bus pull off.

And so begins “Public Transportation: A Rant.”

I realize that buses aren’t mandated to stop and wait for patrons to get to the bus stop and board.  I also realize that, as a patron, I should be at the stop before the bus gets there.  However, it is just common courtesy and decency for the bus driver to allow a person who is running for the bus to board.

In addition to the frequency of bus drivers to drive off without the patrons, the bus drivers have a tendency to range between ten and 45 minutes of tardiness.  This isn’t merely an annoyance, it’s an inconvenience – particularly when patrons have places to be… like work.

It is bad enough that the powers that be over at the Port Authority offices recently increased pricing on a very shoddy public transport system, but now the drivers want to go on strike.

Now, I may be flawed in my thinking, but shouldn’t the service be at it’s supreme before its employees decide to be demanding of whatever goods it is that they are seeking?

I find myself hard pressed to care about employees who are rude, perpetually late, and make my life all the more inconvenient as a result of that rudeness and lateness.

To the Port Authority employees, I say – get your acts together and provide a real service rather than a disservice before getting demanding and boycott happy.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Life Crisis.

Filed under: Life — S @ 9:52 pm
Tags: ,

I find it infinitely interesting to look at how our pasts form who we are as people now, and how our present situations and selves go on to shape our future selves.

I can’t help but to think of the now clichéd phrase “history repeats itself” and wonder how much of that is true of our personal lives.

If it does ring true for personal history, as well as world history, how aware are we of it occurring? Is it like the movie Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray’s character takes a while to catch on to the fact that he’s waking up, doomed to repeat the events of that particular day indefinitely?

I like to think of myself as self-aware enough to know when I am turning into something I do not wish to become, and as such, I like to think that I have full control over what my future self will become. But living according to such a philosophy would imply that one is capable of wielding power over the events that unfold.

From time to time, I find myself becoming very disinterested and underwhelmed with my life the way it is, and as such, I decide to make drastic changes to alter it. Afterall, if things are in a static state, it’s up to us to be proactive, yes?

Such is the state in which I am currently residing.

Everyone talks about the “mid-life crisis” and the tell-tale signs of the 50-year-old man driving the Porsche, and having the 20-year-old strumpet on his arm. But, does the crisis only apply to 50-year-olds?

Think back to your teens and twenties, and all those times you felt discontent, uncomfortable in your own skin, and like you needed change. It’s quite possible, I think, that we have life crises at every decade. Lately, I’ve been hearing the term “mid-20’s crisis” being tossed around casually, and I do wonder how much it rings true.

Perhaps the life crisis doesn’t get examined at other ages due to the low percentage of people that are in settled lifestyles in their 20’s and just getting settled in their 30’s. Perhaps the teen crisis is looked at as “normal” because adolescents are still developing who they are as people. When you’re in your 40’s, you’re generally still supposed to be harnessing your parental skills and/or sending your children off to college and getting re-acclimated to life without children around, yes?

It is quite possible that due to the lack of any seemingly major lifestyle changes in the years after 49 – aside from menopause and retirement – the only thing 50-year-olds have is the mid-life crisis.

How depressing of a thought that is.

In any case, I am rather optimistic that history does not repeat itself, and that it serves only to teach us lessons on how to become the people we want to/will ultimately become. And, instead of succumbing to my mid-20’s crisis and fear of having my existence become obsolete, proactivity sounds like a much better option.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Inspired By the Unlikely.

Filed under: Humanity,Life,Travel — S @ 4:06 pm

I received an e-mail from a friend who recently returned from a trip to East Africa. Something that I should be so brave to do, but that’s neither here nor there.

The e-mail chronicled her adventures and experiences – from the frustrations to the most inspiring moments. The most interesting part of the e-mail was the extremes – from being surrounded by uneducated adults unwilling to learn and better their situation, to meeting a group of children who were so excited to learn that, rather than take their winter vacation as scheduled, they requested school stay open so that they would have a chance to learn from a group of foreigners.

I think that what struck me most was reading about children who loved learning so much. The complete contrast of American children who jump at the chance to have extended time off from school.

I’ve heard that African children are amazing people in terms of their willingness and desire to learn – who hasn’t heard that story about Oprah and the girls from South Africa who wanted a school rather than a car or a shopping spree? However, to hear about it from someone I’m relatively close to makes the impact of it much greater.

It’s strange, really, that the most inspiring and amazing are the people that have nothing, and the people who consistently have the opportunity for greatness almost always let it go to waste.

It got me thinking, were I in school and I had been in a similar situation – having an opportunity to learn something from a group of visitors – would I jump at the chance to do so like these kids did?

Probably not.

But, why is that?

It’s certainly not because I don’t like to learn. I do.

I’m not particularly lazy.

Is it my culture?

But, how is there such a vast difference between these two cultures?

And, how many people can say that they would rather learn than have a vacation?

In about a month’s time, I leave for Eastern Europe. A place I’ve never been before, to relish in three different countries that I’ve only imagined going to.

I can only hope that I have as amazing a time as my friend did in Africa.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

First World Problems.

Filed under: Life,Popular Culture,Relationships — S @ 9:04 am

I was skimming the titles on my dashboard, as I am want to do when I log in or am bored and I happened upon this, “My brother: Cheapskate? Or just Frugal?” Reading it, along with so many of the comments, really just made my stomach turn. I wish I were able to say that I was “shocked” and “appalled” by what I read; but really, I wasn’t surprised, shocked or appalled. In fact, what I read there was about what I expected to come across.

It really is pathetic, to me, that “first world problems” such as this are seen as the utmost of importance. “My brother doesn’t spend as much money as I do!” “Paris Hilton finds god in her one week in jail!” “Which celebrity is spawning now?” “Who is the next big celebrity to become bulimic/anorexic/fat?” “Help! I need to lose those extra pounds so that I can wear a skimpy bikini and attract sleazy men!” It’s simply pathetic. In the days when Bradgelina, Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes, coke addicted Kate Moss, Lindsay Lohan, etc. are constantly in the tabloids and on front pages bombarding the general public everywhere, and shows like Super Sweet 16 are gracing the television left and right, it’s no wonder that people can lose sight of the bigger picture.

Perhaps the most disturbing comment in the “frugal brother” article was the one that said this:
One of the blessings of being part of a large family is that I have learned that one of my siblings is a jerk. I am under no obligation to associate with him. If “Mr. Frugal-Cheapskate” doesn’t behave the way you want him to, simply stop having anything to do with him.

To me, this statement epitomizes the state of the current Capitalist society. Person A is a “jerk” because he will not spend, therefore Person B will end relationship. How has it come to be that a monetary value can be placed on even familial relationships? And how do people not realize how ridiculous they are being?

In a place where people do not have family due to a number of different circumstances, how can a person be so willing to withdraw from a relationship simply because this person won’t behave in a particular fashion? How has money become so powerful that the amount you spend directly correlates to what type of person you are perceived to be?

It’s a shame that so many “first world problems” revolve around greed, selfishness, power and corruption. It’s hard to stomach a culture that is so easily influenced by these factors. Perhaps if more first world inhabitants were forced to face real problems, there’d be less instances of “my brother is cheap, what do I do?

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Teaching Death.

Filed under: Books/Literature,Film,Life,Ramblings,Television — S @ 9:03 am

Watching a very funny episode of The Robinsons* during which George had to teach his six-year-old about what death was, I began to think of how one would actually go about teaching a child what death is. It definitely raised a number of questions, such as:

  • How old should a child be when taught about death?
  • How does one go about bringing up the topic?
  • What is considered appropriate and inappropriate when teaching death?
  • What to do if questions about an “afterlife” should arise (particularly if, like me, you’re atheist)?

Granted, I do not have kids, so I won’t have to concern myself with this issue for quite some time (if ever) – it is a good topic to educate yourself in. Just how do you teach death?

In Little Miss Sunshine, the topic of suicide is brought up around a seven-year-old, in what turned out to be one of the funniest scenes ever in a film, and they were brutally honest. In The Robinsons, it took George days to figure out what to tell his son, and finally he gave a dictionary explanation chock full of synonyms – obviously much too confusing for a developing mind.

There are also a number of books on the subject, such as:

Butterflies: Talking With Children About Death… And Life Eternal by Rev. P William Vanderwyden (naturally, this book assumes that you want to teach your child the Christian philosophy)

My Pet Died (Let’s Make A Book About It) by Rachel Biale

Pet Death (Death, Value, And Meaning) by Sandra Helene Straub

And countless others, either dealing with death according to a particular religion, or dealing with the death of pets. But, is that all there is?

Say your child is raised atheist and without pets, then what? What “handbook” are you supposed to use for teaching your children about death?

Are you to be technical and medical at that point? Are to say, “Well, you simply just cease to exist”? Why are there so few secular books about death that do not deal with the issue of pet loss? Are you expected to just be brazenly honest?

To my readers with children – how do you teach children about death?

* = If you’ve never heard of/seen this show, you really must. It is a hoot!

Saturday, 8 April 2006

On Life.

Filed under: Life,Ramblings — S @ 9:09 am

There are several milestone periods in a person’s life. The moment you’re given birth to, that first birthday that says, “Hey, you made it! You’ve successfully been alive for one year!” the first day you step foot into school, that tenth birthday when you realize that you’ll never again have a single digit age, the year you hit puberty, the moment you turn 16 and are able to drive, the moment you turn 18 and are able to vote, the day you graduate high school, and so on and so forth. I have already had a number of my milestone periods, and I am fast approaching a new one – my graduation from a university that will give me a degree that seals my employment for the future.

While, to all of those around me, I appear to be stable and grounded with a strong sense of what I will do with the rest of my life, I must admit that I am scared as hell. Absolutely terrified.

While I’m not known to be terribly neurotic or phobic (except when it comes to arachnids), I must say that I have an insane fear of failing at life. Knowing just how possible it is for me to not accomplish all that I have worked for is a major drive and motivator right now.

Having been a part of the schooling system since the ripe young age of three and a half, I have gotten so ingrained in the system and so used to knowing the ins and outs of how it works. Every day, you have homework; every couple weeks, you have a test; there is always a large assignment; you will always get a break. Never has there been a time where I’ve thought, “Wow, I don’t ever have to go to school ever again if I don’t want to“…until now. Just the very notion of that puts my stomach in knots.

I have become so institutionalized that the thought of being de-institutionalized is a foreign notion to me. Having worked in a mental institution psychiatric hospital for a good chunk of this year (to which I will be returning), I am more than acquainted with the concept of de-institutionalization. Everyone always associates this concept with the mental patient or prisoner or some person that has essentially been locked up with a force fed schedule. What they never associate the concept with is the student.

For 18.5 years (eight-teen and a half years) of my life, I have been a member of this institution. The names of the institutions have changed, but the basis of them has remained the same. That is eighteen and a half years of having a set class, lunch, break, and homework schedule. Eighteen and a half years of basically being a drone. Eighteen and a half years of not being gradually acclimated into the “real world”. To suddenly have that cut off…well, it would be like suddenly losing a limb.

Children are never given a choice about being institutionalized. Adolescents are never given the opportunity to not be institutionalized. Young adults are essentially forced to be de-institutionalized and have to wander, blindly, into the world. It’s like being re-birthed, but not from a loving and comforting womb into a loving home. No. It’s being birthed from a cold, mechanical entity into a harsh, unwelcoming world.

School seeks to prepare you for many things, but the world at large is not one of those things. From elementary school on, the child is given test after test after test. Constantly being given a rank of how intelligent they are. If they aren’t intelligent enough, they are frightened into believing that they are doomed to work at McDonald’s for the rest of their lives. “Better get used to the grease smell, boys!

The high school student turns into the college student that is told that their degree will “be completely useful, always!” regardless of the degree, only to find out that when the time comes, they’re frantically searching for a place of employment that will pay enough for a shitty apartment and food.

The student is just thrown into the world minus training. If it is up to us to be concerned about de-institutionalizing the prisoner, shouldn’t we, first, be de-institutionalized?

That is one thing no one ever tells you when you apply for college. That is one thing they never tell you in high school. In high school, you learn that they are preparing you for college. What, then, does college prepare you for?

So, here I am, a mere three weeks left in the education system searching for shelter and employment, scared as hell about what my future holds. But then, you suddenly realize that the degree doesn’t mean much anyway, it’s about who you are connected with.

Life is a series of networks, and who you know determines how successful you become. Maybe the world isn’t so scary after all.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

The Human Condition

Filed under: Humanity,Life,Ramblings — S @ 12:39 am

I’ve had several discussions today about humanity, in general.

One was in terms of technological and evolutionary advancement. It is absolutely amazing to know, or rather to be aware of and to recognize, that humans were able to create so much from absolutely nothing. To know that billions of years ago, there was no such thing as language, and then a group of humans came up with this intricate way to communicate that began to evolve and to manifest into different forms, and into the hundreds of different languages we have today.

It is also amazing to see what Early Man was able to accomplish within the realm of technology. The idea that agriculture, hunting tools, building shelter, making clothing, coming up with a currency system all stemmed from curiosity, survival, and general intelligence. It’s amazing and admirable at the same time.

However, to now be at the point where Evolved Man is gradually destroying and undoing billions of years of work and curiosity, and evolution is incredibly depressing. And that’s what I mean when I say “The Human Condition”. Humanity has reached a point where there is the feeling of entitlement and superiority. Where we can bastardize hard work and take everything for granted. Where nothing has any sort of sacred meaning anymore.

Humanity, as a whole, does not appreciate the technology that has been accomplished. A prime example of this is the notion that in not too long from now, humans will be able to colonize Mars. Thoughts like this upset me the most because I look at how Man treats Earth and each other. How we feel entitled to infiltrate other ways of life and completely destroy it for the sole purpose of cloning our own cultures. We destroy Earth, our own planet, and decide that we’re too great to stay here and that we must expand onto other planets within the galaxy.

This leads me to believe that the Human Condition is to destroy everything around us.

Think of one of the most basic entities to come from Early Man’s beginnings of civilization – mythology. Creation stories to explain how life works. Different theories to explain natural rhythms. Yet, the Human Condition has lead us to become so egotistical and superior that we’re able to have Holy Wars to try and prove that one mythology is better than the other. And unless it comes from Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt – don’t you dare refer to it as mythology. When referred to as a mythology it then becomes trivialized, and can no longer be treated as Dogma, Religion, Doctrine, what ever it is you choose to refer to it as.

Another symptom of the Human Condition is the manner in which we treat each other. When “feeling” becomes a mere thing that can be objectified. When “future” doesn’t matter – only the here and now. How I treat you today matters only today, and only to me – there are no future repercussions, and you are merely an object to me. You are something with which I can play, brag about, and use to boost myself. “I” am the only one that matters.

We live in a time where everything exists only in terms of the Human. When if some organism exists in opposition to the Human, the Human’s duty is to destroy it. When Human becomes the “be all” and “say all” in terms of culture. When everything must look alike, act alike, think alike and exist alike (Big Brother syndrome). If it is different, then the Human must destroy it.

Thus, the purpose of the Human is to live in terms of the Human Condition – no more curiosity, discovery, trial and error – unless it is to service the ego of the Human.

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