Monday, January 19, 2015

If you're racist and you know it, clap your hands



Clap. Clap.

If you're reading this, even if you're a good and kind and loving person, chances are you're a racist. 

I am. 

I'm not a hooded member of the KKK. I'm not pouring poison into my children's ears about the nature of some people predicated on the color of their skin, the language they speak at home, or the name of the God that they worship. 

But when I'm out at night on city streets and I see a group of brown-skinned young men, I pay attention. I keep an eye out. I'm on alert. I may even move to the other side of the road. And, like it or not, that's racism. 

For the record, I don't like it. But, I take heart in the fact that recognizing my internalized racism is the only way to rid myself of it. 

So ask yourself, "Am I a racist?"

Ask only that. Don't ask yourself if you have black friends or work with Latinos or smile at the Muslim woman whose son is on your kid's basketball team. Don't ask yourself if you've donated to the Burmese aid center in your city or helped to pay for a mission trip to Haiti. 

And don't list reasons that you can't be a racist. Don't say things like "Mixed-raced children are so gorgeous!" Don't mistake making out with a black guy in college for proof of freedom from racism. Don't talk about "reverse-racism." Don't pride yourself on not laughing at racist jokes.

And don't be shocked if you find you are a racist. Racism is all around us. You may not run in circles with people throwing the "n-word" around or referring to immigrants by vulgar slang names, but you're absorbing it through our shared cultural influences. Racism didn't end with "I have a dream" any more than it did with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Do ask this: If we are absorbing it as grown-ups, what are our sponge-like children soaking up?

Anderson Cooper asked that very question in a study he commissioned through his show, Anderson Cooper 360. The study, conducted in 2012, found something heartbreaking. Children as young as six years old are already making inferences based on race. Children as young as my kindergartner. Children who we, especially as white parents, think are colorblind.

We like to say that, white parents, that our littlest loves can't "see" race. I do. I like the idea that my children are too young to make racist judgments, too naive to know to how to discriminate based on superficial characteristics. But these are the same children who recognize the McDonald's logo and the Nike swoosh before they can recite the alphabet. Children are sponges, not filters. They soak up the positive and negative. Little people perceive the implied traits of people with different skin tones as readily as they understand that golden arches equal Happy Meals. 

The toughest part about being a "good" white person, is admitting that good is a grey area. It's difficult to accept that righteousness is a work in progress. It's hard to admit, out loud, that you can want to end racism, but that you provide safe harbor for discrimination in your own thoughts. 

But you don't have to say it out loud. You don't have to stand in a room of like-minded people and announce, "My name is Nicole and I'm a covert racist, someone who publicly advocates for equality, but crosses the street when I see a group of brown-skinned, urban youth." You only have to say it to yourself. 

What we do need to say out loud is that racism exists. We need our kids to know that our society does form opinions, dangerous ones, based on skin tone, based on religion, based on native tongues. Our kids don't need to be shielded from racism---you'd have as much luck shielding them from the existence of the sun and moon---they need to be taught to recognize it. They need to know how to reject it. 

But maybe you aren't a racist. Maybe you are one of the few who have escaped the inherent inequities that are predicated on a shared, sometimes silent and always insidious sense that "those people" are one way and "these people" are another. Even those of us who aren't racist, or even those of us, like me, who strive not to be, suffer under an immunity that prevents us from understanding the depth of the racial divide. It's an immunity to the experience of racism. 

If you're not sure if you're immune to the experience of racism, try this self-test. Think of a joke, an off-color, inappropriate, never-tell-it-in-mixed-company joke that makes you feel bitter, or scared, or marginalized, or threatened. If you can't think of a joke for which your race is the punchline, and for which the punchline is malicious, even dangerous, then you are very likely immune to racism. Jokes intended to remind a group of people that they are members of a powerless group, that they are weak and bad and less, only work if they hurt. And if it doesn't hurt you, if you can't find a joke that undermines your being, you're not part of the marginalized group. You're immune. 

Immunity to racism causes a true colorblindness. One that makes empathy, the necessary ingredient for positive change in race relations, impossible. If you can't understand it, if you can't conceptualize racism and accept its existence, you can't help eliminate it. 

I had an experience with this immunity recently when my friend and I compared similar stories (she's black)

When my oldest child was in pre-k she'd pocketed a pair of sunglasses from a children's clothing store. Oblivious, I paid for the clothes we'd picked out and left with my tiny shoplifter. A few stores down the line, I discovered her filched goods. I told her that taking things we haven't paid for is wrong, criminal even, and that the right thing to do is to return them to the store. We did. I was stern and serious; the clerk was accommodating and kind. A lesson was learned. I followed up by explaining that she should never do that again and we haven't talked about it since. In fact, I'd say I was glad for the opportunity for an object lesson. Don't steal because there are consequences. Today the consequence is having to give back the glasses, feel a bit embarrassed, and get scolded by mommy. Someday, as a big girl and certainly as a grown-up, you'd have the police to answer to. 

Maybe. Or maybe they'd just call us, mom and dad, and we'd take you home and be very disappointed. 

My friend, Keesha, a black woman with a brown-skinned boy, had an entirely different experience. When her son, at the same age my daughter was when she tried to steal those sunglasses, took candy from a store, her conversation was much more involved, her reaction much more panicked. Because someday, she explained, if her son were a young man stealing things, she needs him to know that there is a strong possibility that he won't be a maybe. The cops will come. He will pay. And, statistically speaking, he will pay more harshly than his white-skinned counterparts

I'd like to deny it. I'd like to say to Keesha, "No, surely you're overplaying this. Surely, so long as he's a good kid generally, even when he's older and looking more like a man, these kinds of adolescent infractions won't change the course of his life."

But, based on the fact that none of these same concerns crossed my mind, I'm compelled to admit that I have an immunity to racism. An ignorance of experience that can only be remedied by my desire to seek a better understanding of the world that Keesha is raising her son in. 

Is it so hard to admit this immunity? As a woman, in a world where rape whistles exist, I know that women are living in a different world than men do. As a woman, who was once told at an interview for a job at deli when I was seventeen, "I'm gonna put a 10 here on your application so that my boss knows you're a good looking girl" (this after being asked to stand up and twirl once), I know that I live in a different world than men do.

Is it so hard to believe that Keesha's world, as a black mother, is different as well?

You don't have to answer that last one aloud. It's only important that you answer it at all and honestly.

As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 


Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.**
If you're racist and you know it, clap your hands. Even if you're the only one who can hear you clapping.

***

*This post is inspired by an on-going conversation I've been having with Keesha, blogger at Mom's New Stage. Read Keesha's account of her son's candy theft here.

**Quote from Brainyquote.com.










Monday, December 8, 2014

Jesus Christ & This Fatso: Birthday Thieves

I'll say this, no one ever worries about getting a Christmas present wrapped in birthday paper.

Like many December babies I worry that my birthday is marginalized by Christ's birthday. I put on a brave face, but for a guy who was all about humility, he sure makes a big deal about his birthday.



That is, his followers do, all 2 billion plus of them who claim Jesus is "The Reason for the Season." I know they claim this because their status updates and bumper stickers say so. You know, those bumper stickers you see on cars parked at the mall while their drivers are inside doing God's work: shopping for a $10-or-less ornament for the office exchange.

Holier-than-thou, "Reason for the Season" folks proclaim it righteously during passive-aggressive cookie exchanges. "Well, people best remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. Just like Sue Jones best remember that she's not the only person with an old family recipe for peppermint melt-aways. We'll just see whose cookies get the most takers, now won't we?"

I'm a Christian. I get it. December belongs to a very special person. A person whose entire mythology resonates with themes like joy, selfless giving, maintaining a kind nature, supernatural powers, and cookies with milk. It's also about Jesus.

I dig Christ. His unwavering dedication to shaking up the old mores and up-ending the establishment is, like, totally awesome. However, in a month where I have to share my birthday with a morbidly obese man who can perform magic, it would be nice if the world's most famous hippie could celebrate his birthday somewhere in the vicinity of his factual birth.

It's only fair. I stick with my original birthday as verified by the state of Florida on my birth certificate. I don't have a multi-national religious machine who is able to move my celebration day around so it can subsume pagan festivals with Christian doctrine.  December 19, 1976, for better or worse, that's my day.

Jesus, according to biblical scholars like this cat, was more likely born in September than December, making him "The Reason for the Labor Season."  In other words, thanks for ruining my birthday, Jesus Christ.

Except, I can't say my birthday has ever been ruined by it's proximity to Christmas or the celebration of the Savior's birth. I've never gotten a gift intended to cover both events. A Chrismirthday gift. Nor has anyone confused me with the coming of the Lord incarnate and brought me myrrh.

I sometimes wonder if my December birthday is the reason I've never had blowout parties, a fact I've always attributed to everyone's being too busy with holiday obligations to attend my pinata-centric fete. (We have Chex Mix! Still no?) Then again, I don't know that anyone has a major social event every time it's her birthday. In fact, I have no idea what goes on during the other months. Are July babies full of school's-out-for-summer angst? Do October babies compete with masked children more interested in the next opportunity for costumed beggary than singing the birthday song?

I'll never know. I'm a December baby. I often accept my birthday gifts at the same time that I'm handing over a Christmas present. It's probably not so different than having a birthday during any other month. Except that during my month, when people see me coming, they are reminded of one more damn present they need to buy during the most spendiest time of the year.

***

While you're here: BUY SOME FUNNY STUFF. 
It doesn't have to be for my birthday, but it doesn't not have to be, either.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What to do if your turkey is jacked up on Thanksgiving


I give you this advice under duress. I, like so many patriots, want to perfect the one thing that will make me, without contest, the Greatest American. I want to make a juicy and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey that also has a uniformly crispy skin. It's how the pilgrims would have wanted us to celebrate their bounty and survival in a new world (and their future genocide of a native people). They'd want us to make a turkey that would show everyone at the table that we win Thanksgiving. God bless 'Murica. 

So, I'm loathe to help you survive a Turkey Day disaster lest you usurp my reign as bad-ass turkey cooker and most excellent citizen. I'm still living with the pain of Thanksgiving 2002, when I served a turkey that was still raw in the mid—you know what? I'm not ready to talk about it. 

But help I will. Because the Spirit of Thanksgiving, who visits all good Americans (and a smattering of Canadians), demands it. I must help you to avoid the worst. 




Here's a surefire list of turkey remedies.


  • Buy a new turkey. Once you have the turkey, get it in the oven real quick, because it's 2 pm and you need 23 hours to cook the salmonella out of this thing. Distract hungry adults with booze. Distract hunger children with candy. When the turkey comes out, they will be too drunk or too high on sugar to care that you bought it at the convenience store attached to the gas station. 
  • Fashion a "turkey" from chicken nuggets. Better yet, shred the nuggets and sprinkle them around the carcass of your original, failed turkey. Then turn on the electric carving knife and yell things like "The electric carving knife it out of control! Call a priest, we need an exorcism! I think the tip of my pink fell into the gravy!" Tell everyone that the chunks of nuggets are turkey meat that was the unfortunate recipient of a carving knife smackdown. Go ahead and let Grandma and Cousin Joan judge you. They don't' know your life. 
  • Tell everyone that you forgot to mention you're vegan now. Enjoy the leafy greens, ingrates! And blame Joan for not bringing vegan cheeses to go with the crackers. She was in charge of cheeses.
  • Order Chinese takeout and serve it without a word. When someone asks about the turkey, tell them, "I guess you didn't read my email, did you Joan? I was wondering why you hadn't brought the lo mein." Be an active participant in the feast, Joan. Would it kill you to contribute?
  • Feign piety. You didn't ruin the turkey, it never existed because, surprize!, you donated it to charity. There are people—wait, you don't have to explain yourself to Joan.  Everyone can eat the deviled eggs and be happy with that. 
  • Throw out all of the food and serve dessert. Try to convince everyone that they already ate the meal and it's dessert time. This goes off better if you surreptitiously set all of your clocks ahead two hours and load  the sink and dishwasher with dirty plates. Faking a crime scene is all about the trail of evidence, and not letting that nosy parker Joan see what you're up to. 
Better yet, don't volunteer to host Thanksgiving in the first place. Teaching you to avoid Thanksgiving responsibility is my next installment of ruining the holidays for everyone because you're a selfish sonofagun. 

In the meantime, here's hoping your turkey isn't dried out, and if it is, here's hoping you made lots of gravy. 

***

WANT MORE LOLs?

Mom Jeans and the women who will ruin them for you for all eternity. I collaborated with the greatest living internet writer, Bethany of Bad Parenting Moments, to bring you the best of mom jeans, just in time for your Thanksgiving feast. Don't thank me until you've put your jeggings on.



More fashion atrocity here!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Random Reviews (No One Can Use): Cracked iPhone Screen

Now for something you don't need!



This week I'm reviewing my cracked iPhone 5C screen. This review will be of no use to you at all. Except that maybe you will laugh. Mind you, I'm not guaranteeing that. Let's not get contractual about this. 



SPOILER: Not great. It's not really great at all.

Want to share this utterly pointless review with your friends and loved ones? Pin it!






Friday, November 14, 2014

Emojigami: The Art of Making Emoji Sentences




Emojis, everyone's doin' it. But not everyone's doin' it right. 

For example, this is appropriate, if boring. 



And this is appropriate, if over the top (and borderline over-medicated).


And this is what happens when a small child plays with your phone. 


But in this rich emojiverse, your communication options can go beyond the written word. Why, you can communicate entirely with these small icons, forgoing mundane human speech, officially marking the decline of humanity as we know it. Surely Shigetaka Kurita, who created the first emoji some time in the late 90s, would be proud that today we can express our sorrow in as many as a baker's dozen (or more!) of dreary pictographs. 

Or can we take it to the mountain? Let technology be the winky-faced wind beneath our wings? Turn our incomprehensible Autocorrect typos into incomprehensible strings of emoji?

Consider the possibilities . . .

Questions about paternity in two simple emoji strokes.


Plans for a hostile takeover of a fast food giant.


Simple reminders to keep up on personal hygeine.


Illustrate the importance of punctuation.



Ponder the mechanism of clean fuel alternatives.


SUPER POWERS.


Dessert slasher fiction.


Pet care requests.


Urgent messages to drunk friends!


Cryptic BS that makes you sound like a tripping buddhist.


Wardrobe needs, solved.


Exciting discoveries!


Spy communiques.



So, friends, don't ask yourself if you'll send an emoji to annotate your latest selfie. Ask yourself how many.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dear Nicole: When is it okay to eat off of someone else's plate?

Welcome to "Dear Nicole," the advice column that gives you advice you didn't know you didn't want.



Today I'm tackling a question that has stumped the friendless and sociopathic for years. 

Dear Nicole, When is it okay to eat off of someone else's plate?


I'm really glad I've asked myself this question. 

They say that possession is 9/10th of the law. I will say that having a plate in front of you is normally a sign of possession, but food that enters a mouth is somewhere around 10/10ths possession, except in the case of unfortunate make-out timing, when you will be forced to share custody of the food. So, as you can see, having a plate is not the same as owning the food that is on that plate. 

That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow some food-sharing protocols. But what are these protocols, I ask myself? When can I steal a bite of food from a plate that I've now decided has far superior food than what I ordered and dammit I knew I should have gotten the special? 

Allow me to illustrate times that it is acceptable or unacceptable to permanently borrow someone's food:

OKAY! The plate belongs to your child. You bought the food. You own it. You can and should eat those fries while they are still hot.

NOT OKAY! The plate belongs to someone else's child. Don't be weird. Seriously, no. 
OKAY! Eating off of your lover's plate while out for a romantic dinner for two. Hey, what's good for The Lady and the Tramp is good for non-animated humans. That's amore! 
NOT OKAY! Eating off of the stranger's plate next to you at the bar. This is how Ebola spreads. Well, that's what I heard. 
OKAY! Out with girlfriends sharing a plate of delish appys! Why, this is how an entire subset of humans eat out. I actually know a woman who has never ordered an entire meal just for herself, deftly living on shared sandwiches and appetizers for the last 13 years. Brava, food-sharing enthusiast! 
NOT OKAY! Soup sharing. Soup is a mixing bowl for blood from someone else's diseased gums, errant body hairs from sous chefs, and sneezes. Don't make it worse by dipping your saliva-slicked spoon in there.  
OKAY! At a party where plates are as limited as the seating options. Find a friend, be cool, and ask him if he would scoop some mini-wieners on his plate because as long as he's already filling his Chinet . . .  
NOT OKAY! At a party with people from work. Those people are probably disgusting. Sure, you sit across from Ed 40 hours a week, but do you really know if he washes his hands after going to the bathroom? I rest my case. 

I hope this has helped you to understand the finer points of plate-sharing etiquette. 

And remember, I'm answering the questions that no one is asking! So keep not sending me your letters! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Well done, Sister Suffragette!

Say hey, sisters! It's voting time. 



That means that you can head out to your local church or municipal building or school gymnasium and pull the lever (or touch a screen) to register your energetic support or your apathetic resignation for the new sheriff in townliterally. 

And when you do, and I know you will, realize that you've been able, as a vagina-carrying American, to exercise this right for a staggering not even 100 years. 

Yes, our country is 200 and something something years old! A country populated by religious reformers looking for the right to exercise their rights to deny rights to non-men and non-whites! What an inspirational and moving genesis of our Republic!

I, for one, am feeling, what is the word? Is it empowered? Am I enfranchised? No, I know, it's marginalized! Marginalized even still as the last of all Americans to get the vote. The last to have her turn. Way to go America! The radical revolutionaries who started an entire country based on democracy for the elite few! 

That's not to say that I don't love my country. I certainly don't want to move anywhere else, and I'll take a delayed share of the democracy over none at all. We are flawed, America, but we are worthwhile. 

But, ladies, come on. If we'd been running the show since 1776, I mean, better, am I right? Slavery would have ended sooner (oh, yes, we'd still have been slave owners, because women are not immune to squashing the civil and human rights of others), but many of our female predecessors worked hard to advance the rights of all citizens, including black women and men.  

Of course, when 
black men got the right to vote, they were less interested in helping their sisters, no matter their skin color, in obtaining the same rights. Why, no man wants to mess up his chance to participate in democracy by also supporting the voting rights of undesirables like us, gals!
It was only in the aftermath of the Civil War, when Republican politicians introduced the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution extending citizenship and suffrage to former slave men [Editor's note: That's back in 1868 and 1870, girls. Women would wait another 50 years to vote. Math is fun!] . . . Many abolitionists initially advocated universal suffrage, for both African Americans and women. When that was made impossible by the insertion of the word male in the 14th and 15th amendments, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, with support from African Americans like Sojourner Truth, campaigned against any amendment that would deny voting rights to women. Among their opponents were former allies like Lucy Stone, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Wendell Phillips, and Frederick Douglass, who argued that it was “the Negro’s hour” and that women’s suffrage would have to wait. (Source, PBS)
Still, though major upheaval in the form of a civil war, the citizenship of former American slaves (though the ability to exercise the freedoms of citizenship was squashed until well after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s) had already rocked the country. Ladies, we unpredictable creatures of hysteria and menstrual mystery, were not allowed the vote until 1920. Let's examine how not-so-long-ago that year was. 

In 1920, the following were part of the daily lives of Americans:
  • The Red Sox and the Yankees hated each other (Babe Ruth was traded from the Sox to the Spankees that year, patooey), JUST LIKE TODAY.
  • Airmail became a thing. Basically Amazon two-day shipping, plus a lot of days, JUST LIKE TODAY.
  • People went to the movies, JUST LIKE TODAY. 
  • Professional football was a thing, officially, JUST LIKE TODAY.
  • People were driving cars for realsies, not just the wealthy folks, JUST LIKE TODAY.
  • They didn't have a ratified Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and sure, some of that is due to the fact that the ERA wouldn't be written by suffragist Alice Paul until 1923, but whatevs, JUST LIKE TODAY.
What? Wait, what the hell? That can't be true. I mean, there must be some inflammatory language in that amendment, right?! Like, "Women are the rulers of the free world! Kneel, misogynist scum!" Let's take a look at that there ERA.


The Equal Rights Amendment 
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.  
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.  
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification. 


I see, that's about as radical as "all men are created equal." So, it's no wonder the amendment has never been ratified by the federal government. IT'S JUST TOO CRAY CRAY. Treating women to equality under the law?! What next? Letting them think? Letting them have opinions? Letting them vote? (Whoops, gotcha, America, naninibooboo! No taksies-backsies!) 

I think I know why the amendment hasn't passed, yet. WHAT IF WE ARE ALL ON OUR PERIOD AT THE SAME TIME, AMERICA?




Here's something that's very different from that first national election women participated in in 1920. In 1920 the number of voters at the polls rose "from 18.5 million in 1916 to 26.8 million in 1920." Sure, those aren't all women making up the roughly 8 million voter difference, but surely many of them were. Still, that's less than one-third, closer to one-fourth of the vote coming from the ladies. In the 2012 presidential election, women made up 53% of the voters. The majority. The muscle. The largest voting bloc. The bitches in britches making political process a priority. I apologize for all the alliteration, I alliterate when I get excited. 

So, today, on Election Day, let's keep it up. We were the last to earn the right to vote, so let's make up for the lag time by being the loudest. And I will be proud to call you "sister suffragette," even if you vote for the wrong people, specifically, the people I'm not voting for.