Posts tagged ‘African American’

Mini Makeover Weekend

Hair coloring

Image via Wikipedia

My hair was getting to the point where I could not do anything with it any longer. I was pulling it into a ponytail every day. My sneakers (not the fancy shoes; those I only wear when I work out) needed to be replaced. I needed new contacts and glasses. Worst of all, I botched a haircolor job so badly that the top of my head was almost blonde while the rest of my hair was a medium/dark brown. It was time for a mini makeover.

So, after work on Friday I went to get a pair of those special sneakers that are supposed to work out your butt, etc. They were on sale for $20. Now I had heard that these shoes really didn’t do much beyond improving your posture, especially if you already walk heel to toe like you should. Well, bullshit, either that or my posture is really poor. I give myself a workout just walking around normally.

After I bought the special shoes I went to get my hair cut which magnified the hair color issue since I could see it more clearly in a large mirror, up close, with lots of light, and with my hair wet and parted. I looked like a skunk. The hairdresser told me my hair was too dark, and I needed to start moving toward a blonde shade so that it would blend in more with the gray. So, I got my hair cut and my brows waxed and then went to Wal-Mart and bought two boxes of something called light caramel brown. Naturally, I had to buy new makeup, too. I’m gradually going blonde. I just took the first step. The skunk issue is vastly improved.

I fixed my hair while watching John Cassevetes’ A Woman Under the Influence. I just got the DVD on my Netflix queue. I’m thinking about reviewing it in a blog entry later, but I’m going to view it with the commentary first.

I participated in Keep Austin Beautiful the next morning. We were three women picking up trash, armed with plastic gloves and large lawn trash bags. We found part of a dildo and three condoms! Woot!

Maybe I should have rethought wearing my new sneakers. An hour and a half of picking up trash over several city blocks in “special” shoes damn near killed me. An African Amercian gentleman in an SUV pulled up in the driveway of the yard where we were picking up trash.

He said, “I really admire what you’re doing. Would you like some water?”

Well, being polite, we declined, but then we rethought that and took him up on it. He gave us each a cold bottled water.

He said, “My granny lives here. Her birthday is today. She just turned 99. She walks to the Neighborhood Community Center everyday to spend time with her friends, and she picks up cans on her way. I don’t want you cleaning up any more trash in this yard. We got enough people inside to do that.” In truth, there wasn’t much trash to pick up. Granny’s yard was pretty tidy.

Granny lives in a very cute little manufactured house, fixed up with shutters and window boxes, a small front porch, and skirting. She has always lived in this neighborhood from the time that it was just a loose affiliation of black Americans who got land from a local black preacher. She has lived here since before it was a part of Austin, before the neighborhood had either running water or electricity. She came to the screen door and waved at us from the living room in her housedress.

One of the women in our small band said, “Wow. That was something. Don’t you bet that was a treat for her to see three white women picking up trash in her yard?”

I thought it probably was. The changes that woman has seen are extraordinary. She was born in 1912.

After the cleanup I went to Sonic and got a Chicago dog and some apple slices with caramel sauce. Then I went to bed and took a nap for three solid hours.

I got up and went grocery shopping. I bought only healthy food. Yay, me. Then I went to La Madeleine for a bowl of soup and later went to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

This morning I went to church with one of the Mr. Brewsters at a gay friendly church down south, and he asked me if I wanted to do the 5K for Gay Pride on June 1st, and I said, of course, I want to do the 5K for Gay Pride on June 1st. I’m doing my second 5K in another two weeks, one for the Austin State Hospital. If I keep up this exercise stuff I might not lose weight, but I will definitely amass a nice collection of t-shirts.

After Mr. Brewster dropped me off at home I went to the eye doctor’s. I got new contact lenses and paid for a new pair of glasses. I feel transformed. This is definitely one of those weekends when life is good.

April 10, 2011 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

Equal Opportunity

The current United States Supreme Court, the h...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the weekend one of the Mr. Brewsters developed a bleeding ulcer. It affected an artery, and he was vomiting up blood and bleeding internally. He had to be rushed to the hospital and have a blood transfusion. I visited him on Tuesday night. He’s doing fine now, home recuperating, but that was a close call.

I have a lot of experience in hospitals. My mother went to nursing school when I was growing up, and she works as a nurse now. We would frequently meet my mother in the hospital cafeteria for dinner when she worked the evening shift.

When I was in high school we were on one of these excursions when I actually saw someone I knew from school. It was a girl that I hadn’t seen in a while but hadn’t noticed was missing (it was a very large school). She was also eating in the hospital cafeteria. But this wasn’t because her mother was a nurse. It was because she was in the home for unwed mothers attached to the hospital.

Even in the 1980s apparently girls were spirited away when they got in the family way. God forbid that we see them walking our halls. The girl eventually came back to school after she had her baby, and I never said anything about it. I didn’t know if other people knew or if a story had been made up about her going to visit some ailing aunt, and it wasn’t any of my business. But I remember thinking that it would be bad enough to get pregnant and have to give up your baby without also having to miss a year of school. I wondered why they didn’t have a home for unwed fathers and make them skip out on a semester or two.

Last week Solomon II made a comment that went something like this: I don’t get this thing with women’s rights. Name me one thing that you can’t do. Basically, he was saying that we have equal opportunity and that if women aren’t politicians or engineers or business leaders, then that just must be because we’re not doing the work involved.

This is the lame assed argument of a brain dead, entitled man. I say lame assed instead of lame brained because his head is obviously up his ass. It’s like saying that a black man in 1880 had equal opportunity. Well, he had the right to vote, didn’t he? He can run for President. Why doesn’t he? That argument is nothing short of imbecilic.

Sure, technically he can run for President, but if the overwhelming majority of Americans are white and bigoted, and the overwhelming majority of African Americans are poor, then who’s going to vote for him and where will he get the campaign contributions he needs? Hmm. Good question. Never thought of that. But the black man had “equal opportunity.”

We’ve come a long way, baby. We have an African American President, and women run for President. The sad fact is, though, that we’re not there yet. No one, hopefully, with any good sense, would argue that racism and sexism no longer exist. You only have to open your eyes on a daily basis to see it in action. The problem is that guys like Solomon II only see what they want to see. It’s backlash. We gain six inches toward that meet you halfway goal, and they want to take back a mile.

Women are 51% of the population in the United States. There is absolutely no significant difference in intelligence quotient scores for men versus women.

So, riddle me this, Batman.

How come women wear engagement rings but men do not?

How come men ask for a woman’s hand in marriage but women don’t ask the man’s family for the same permission?

How come women make only 76.5 cents for every dollar a man makes?

How come the United States still hasn’t had a female President?

How come there are only three women on the United States Supreme Court?

How come 17 out of every 100 United States Senators are female?

Out of Fortune 500 companies in 2009, only 15 of the CEOs was female. What explains that?

Why are women expected to take their husband’s name and children take their father’s name while women’s last names are deemed expendable?

Why are only 40% of middle managers women?

Why are one in six women the victims of sexual abuse within their lifetimes when only one in thirty-three men are sexually assaulted? What accounts for this discrepancy?

Is the explanation for all this inequality and heinous treatment just that women are lazy and lack ambition? Maybe we should ask that lazy black man from 1880 who didn’t run for President. Darn, he’s dead now. I think it’s because someone dragged him in chains from the bumper of his truck after they kidnapped him while he was on his way to the polls to vote. Something tells me that someone was not a woman.

November 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm 9 comments

From the Annals of Gooseberry Bush

When I was in my mid to late twenties I was quite the raconteur. I used to have two or three stock funny stories that I would tell at parties or get-togethers. People would actually request these stories, like, “Gooseberry Bush, please tell us about the time you fell down three flights of stairs at the Collonade office building in Dallas,” or, “Gooseberry Bush, please tell my friend about the time those two boys tried to ‘carjack’ you outside the Half Price Books. Go ahead! This is good.”

The best one was definitely the story of how I drove myself to the emergency room after an allergic reaction to hair dye caused my whole body to swell and go into hives at 5:00 in the morning on a Sunday. That one’s a doozy. I’ll get around to telling it sometime. This story, though, is the story of how my car got pulled out of the mud by a bad ass drug dealer with chains.

When I was in college my mom had finally graduated from nursing school the year before. Because we were so poor before then, I actually qualified for a Pell grant for my first year of school. So, I think it’s pretty self explanatory that I did not have a car when I was in high school. We had one family car. That was it. I was lucky I was allowed to touch it, let alone drive it on my own. I didn’t get my drivers license until I was seventeen, and this happened after months of torture.

My dad had to teach me how to drive a stick shift, and he expected that I would drive it perfectly, as in Jesus himself could not parallel park on a hill any better than I could. He also did things like getting out of the car after I parked and inspecting to make sure that not only had I parked with enough room on both sides of the vehicle but that also the amount of room on both sides was equal. I’m not kidding you. He did everything short of pulling out a ruler and a chalk line.

My dad was something of a harsh task master anyway, and the fact that he had actually been a high school drivers education instructor and had a commercial drivers license that he had used to drive school busses and eighteen wheelers, well, that certainly didn’t help any. Consequently, when I finally got some freedom with a car I was giddy with joy. My parents bought a second car, a Honda civic hatchback that we later called the Munchcar, but that’s a different story.

The Munchcar was my ticket to something more closely resembling a life. Sure, I had friends who would cart me around everywhere, but now they didn’t need to anymore! The second car was purchased for me to share with my dad, who was by then a retired part time school bus driver. The deal was that when I graduated they would sign the title over to me, fair and square. I thought that was a deal! I’ll take it.

One day, with my newfound freedom, I was driving around Oklahoma City in the Munchcar when I decided to do something very stupid. Let me preface this by saying that it was dark, and it was raining. That’s just so the exact level of stupidity will sink in. I was on my way to help a friend move, and the way to her apartment required me to exit off the Broadway Extension at, oh, I think it was 122nd Street, if I remember right, and turn right.

This friend was one that I spent a great deal of time with, and so I had used this road to get to her many, many times. I was, hmm, shall we say, intellectually challenged with directions, and I was unaware of an alternative route to take to get there. However, for a few weeks now, that road had been partially closed for construction. I can see that you can see already just where this is going. I usually ignored the construction signs and drove through anyway, and I certainly wasn’t the only one that did so. But perhaps especially in the dark in the rain, driving around the cones and barriers wasn’t the smartest idea I’ve ever had.

Pretty soon, my car was stuck in the mud, the tires were turning but nothing was moving, except the tires. I was frustrated. It was dark and raining, and I was in a bad area of town, and most of all I was disgusted with myself about having done something unbelievably stupid. It was like the time that I was a frat party and accepted a drink from a strange boy who walked me up to one of the empty bedrooms and then later shut the door. It was that feeling, like, Holy shit, I have really fucked up. And I am so stupid that I will almost deserve what’s about to happen to me.

Then the next thing that happened was that I looked up and saw a family of African American kids. There must have been eight or ten of them, from the tallest who might have been a boy of seventeen to a little one who probably hadn’t started school yet. They were all walking single file in a line back to their home from a convenience store, I presume. They were carrying candy and snacks and sodas in their hands. They were like moving stair steps, with the tallest in front. It made me want to sing, “Hello, world. There’s a song that we’re singing. C’mon get happy.”

The tallest kid, a boy, noticed my difficulty, and he walked over and stuck his head in my car and smiled, “Are you stuck?”

I sighed, “Yes.”

“Let us try to push you out.”

I wasn’t about to argue with him. I had help. There was manpower, and all of them from the oldest boy to the tiniest girl, gathered around the Munchcar and tried to push me out as I followed the instructions of the oldest boy on how to drive a stick shift to rock it out of the mud rut that I’d carved for myself. Apparently, my thorough father’s instructions had left out the chapter about four wheeling in your Honda Civic hatchback.

When it became apparent that the car was still not going to budge, despite the best efforts of a clan of nice people, the oldest boy said, “Do you have someone you can call?”

I said, “My father will kill me.”

The boy nodded, like that was a distinct and literal possibility. “Come with us,” he said, “We can get you help. Deion will know what to do.”

Now I don’t know Deion. I don’t even know this kid. For all I know, Deion will murder me, then cut my body up into little parts and eat it like Jeffrey Dahmer, and this kid gets a finders fee for finding flies who land in the web of the construction zone. But what am I more afraid of? Strange and menacing possible serial killers in a bad neighborhood? Or the wrath of my father? Take me to your leader.

This whole incident in my life happened in the early ‘90s. So early that no one yet knew who George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston was. The kids all walked me, together, to Deion’s home, a small old duplex in a run down area of town. The outside looked like it had definitely seen better days. The oldest boy, taking charge again, knocked on the door.

An African American man who was somewhere between my age and maybe a decade older, answered the door, cell phone in hand, in the middle of a conversation. This was Deion. He wore a lot of gold jewelry and had a pager clipped to his waste. Now, in the early ‘90s, not many people had cell phones. And they kind of looked more like satellite phones look nowadays. I think we called them car phones back then. And the only people who carried pagers were doctors, emergency medical personnel, plumbers, and, dum-dum-dum…your friendly neighborhood drug dealer.

Deion and the kid had an exchange during which he explained my situation, and I stayed wide-eyed and completely silent. There was another man in the room, an African American guy who looked more middle class and, well, non-threatening to a little ol’ suburban white girl like me. He smiled at me as if sensing that I was scared to death, and he worked to put me at ease. The man told Deion and the kid that he had a truck and chains and that with Deion’s help, they could get my car out.

I was taking in my surroundings. Deion had a barking, snarling rottweiller in the backyard. And a man who lived in a poor neighborhood had every toy and gadget known to man. His clothes were designer. The furniture was brand new and expensive. The TV was bigger than me. There was a baby somewhere in the house. A playpen and toys were scattered all over the floor. I was wondering if I had stumbled into an episode of Miami Vice.

The kid left me alone with Deion and his friend, Deion’s baby mama, and an adorable boy baby that I assume was Deion’s son. The friend kept me company and was really pretty charming. Near as I could tell, Deion was the friendly neighborhood drug dealer, which also made him the equivalent of the “Godfatha” of the community. Presumably, by virtue of his money he could buy people out of jams and probably frequently did in order to ensure the silence and complicity of other people, given his livelihood. Or maybe Deion really was a nice man, although from the way he cussed on the phone, I wasn’t so sure.

Really, Deion’s phone conversations were the most vulgar filth you’ll ever hear this side of the hardest core gangsta rap. He made Eminem seem like Emily Post by comparison. But the funny thing is that both Deion and his friend went out of their way to be polite and kind to me. They never cussed at me. They offered me a seat. I was asked if I wanted something to drink. I was never referred to as anything other than a lady or by, “Miss.” They were almost deferential. I felt like Miss Scarlett. Forget Miami Vice. I’ve wandered onto the set of Gone with the Wind.

Once Deion got done with his business, he and his friend escorted me out, and true to his word, the friend used some chains to get my car out of the mud. Deion’s friend had undoubtedly figured out that I had figured out just exactly what Deion was. When I was ready to go, I was standing at the curb with the friend, and I said to him, “How can I ever thank you?” And he said, “Just tell people.” And so I do.

September 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

I Hate the Word Empowerment

As a feminist, I hate, hate, hate the word empowerment. It’s a buzz word now and has been for at least a decade. Ironically, it’s only used once in the entire book, Half the Sky. Maybe it’s because, like me, Sheryl WuDunn is sick of the word.

Empowerment is defined as (from to give power or authority to; to enable or permit. See how the word is not actually “empowering” at all? It’s condescending. The word is usually used in conjunction with conversations about civil rights, racism, and women’s rights issues. The implication being that “the man” (for want of a better term, forgive me) is giving us our basic right to equality as a gift or magnanimous gesture, rather than our taking and owning what is rightfully ours.

I think I hate the word empowerment for the same reason that some blacks felt the movie The Blind Side was ultimately racist and patronizing. I liked The Blind Side, by the way. I thought it was an excellent movie about a true love story between a poor young man and the family who loved him. If you take out the race factor, it would still be a good movie. But would the movie still have been made?

African Americans do have the right to be a little touchy about how often white families adopt black babies. It brings up a lot of issues, like why don’t you see movies about black couples adopting white babies? If black children are raised by white parents do they lose their culture? And why aren’t there enough black families to adopt and raise all the black babies?

Well, here I’m going to stop and say something politically incorrect. Ultimately, I’m not really interested in exploring the answers to those questions in any depth. Any time a human being helps a fellow human being to realize his potential, that’s a good thing. I don’t care if you’re black, blue, green, or purple. Love is good. Give it freely. Take it where you can get it. One day, hopefully, in a distant future that I probably won’t live to see, we will stop questioning the motivations of Mr. Drummond’s adoption of Willis and Arnold and move on to the world Rev. King described.

August 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm 1 comment

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