Black Excellence, White Currency

A beautifully phrased meme graced my Facebook timeline this week. The spacing, just right, framed the words “Black excellence is still measured in white currency.” It hit home for me in the most lucid way.

  1. Stop asking black women to conform to white beauty standards.

    It’s rarely, if ever, a white counterpart wondering why I don’t straighten my hair or lay down my edges like they’re the deacons burdens. It’s my extended family, my boy on the block or the other black person in the office who imposes white respectability on my existence. Before my interview to my current job my aunt asked “you going to flat iron your hair?” My eyes made the rounds and my tongue cut her with a swift “My hair can’t do the job.” It is the ultimate passive-aggressive insult and command to conform to the white currency of beauty.  People demand the taming of black wild hair as if black beauty should be measured by white standards. My hair don’t lay flat, despite what black women on white magazine covers show.

    Magazine covers with black women are something to marvel at but in the back of my head, thanks to Values in Media class, I’m wondering: Why is she so light? Why is she wearing a wig/weave? Why is she wearing a white designer? I’m not suggesting that black women aren’t light, don’t have straight silky hair or shouldn’t don white designers but that those should not be standards to conform to. Most of the black women I see on magazine covers are covered in white designers, baked to their believably lightest tone and have a straight weave or wig. Black women with straight hair are the standard of black beauty. When myself and my curly haired peers decide to go straight and caked we notice the glow up love we receive from our black peers and our curly hair do’s become subversive messages of black excellence. It’s radical to be natural.

  2. Stop limiting the culture of black people to their knowledge of white history.

    In terms of entertainment, especially music, I could pay my student loans if I had a dime for every respectable black person tweeting the details of a classical measure, the secret signature of an impressionist or Scene 5 Act 2 of the white play. I know black people read, write and create. What I’m saying is the lack of knowledge of classical music, impressionism and neoclassical theater is not damning to ones respectability. I’m sick of black youths being expected to know classical artists but not jazz, being scolded for not knowing the difference between Manet and Monet and for not having “classical” training in any tradition. Or for being praised when they do.

    It’s condescending and exclusionary of other art and work during the period to label something as classical. (The rest of the world had art during those periods.) I’ve made jokes about my most memorable classical music experiences being from cartoons and been mocked several times over for assumed limited musical knowledge. I don’t tell those peers I’ve played more classical notes than they’ve heard because, embarrassingly, I stopped music study, at Jazz, when shit got real… hard. I’m not proud of knowing more classical music than Jazz, Soul, Folk, Blues or African tradition. I ain’t got time to validate my white cultural awareness because my excellence does not lie in my knowledge of culture not belonging to my ancestry.

  3. Stop assessing the value of black people based on their grasp of formal English.

    The Queens English is a second language. The dialect I speak on Schoolcraft and Grand River is not the same as that in my formal education. Many code switch or “talk white” as needed. Talking white has become synonymous with proper language but is very different. White talk has a different cadence than speaking properly. American language has a m√©lange (ūüĎąūüŹĹlike this one) of foreign language expressions that are used in common tongue. Black expressions though, while widely accepted for entertainment, are not accepted professionally or academically. They are deemed ghetto, hood or ignorant. Black people who are said to talk black in professional or academic environments are ridiculed.

    Conversations about how one should straighten up in the workplace and learn how to talk to white people are taking place, in this century, among black people. I am not making this shit up. There are people who still subscribe to higher respectability standards for professional white people. They are as bad as the people who speak slang only to their black leaders. Yes there is a universal language needed to communicate ideas but we live in a land with many unofficial borrowed phrases. Why do we exclude black idiomatic expressions? The height of literacy and communication does not lie in what’s commonly understood but in the dialects of the people who are misunderstood.  Moreover how is it that black people understand the limitations of education in poor black communities but cry shame every time they see they’re, their and there out of place? Take your educated ass to these communities and teach if it bothers you so.

I took care not to attack the memes and hashtags of #BlackExcellence because they are wonderful examples.  The problem isn’t that black people who excel in a predominantly white world of sports, academia and business are conforming but that those who don’t meet the criteria are deemed lacking. Black beauty, culture, and language are all worthy of mastery but to excel in areas not recognized by the white establishment well, that’s not as respectable.  It’s often a measure of white currency that comes along with black excellence. Awards, magazines, education systems and professional hierarchies are designed to be measured in white currency. I’d like to argue why we’re still fighting for white Oscars, Grammy’s and Espy’s, and medals but I have no alternative to argue for, yet.  Black excellence doesn’t rest in how well we master the rules of their game but how we live according to our own, unapologetically. If I have to change my hair, forget my culture and speak their language then I am just performing excellence in white currency.

Monogamy, it’s not that simple.

1+1=2 or 1+1=11

Logically, there is a right answer, 2. What if you don’t understand the + (universal symbol for addition) as addition? What if you think it means to connect? Then, the latter response may be logical. Ok bullshit aside, I was reaching for a concept to simplify monogamy vs polygamy/polyamory but I don’t quite have the allegory skills to connect that.

This isn’t about how one values monogamy or polygamy/polyamory but what it is, to me at least, to share with fukboys across the land. I’m not getting into who and what a fukboy is, that is a tiresome job that Twitter does eloquently. My goal is to unfukboy what polygamy and polyamory is in terms of dating in this hookup, situationship and sidepiece culture.¬†My context or expertise, if you lend me that power, is of my own dating experience. This is how I view sex and dating multiple partners.

In a perfect world we disclose our sexual history, expectations and goals. We don’t, in fear that the potential partner won’t submit. (We as in fukboys and girls, not me and you, yo Momma and …) We lie by omission or blatant falsehoods to maintain relationship… that eventually go awry because of undisclosed history, unmet expectations and unrealistic goals. The clich√© story of a lover¬†promising pseudo monogamy to get sex and attention is what happens. ¬†Monogamy, as a lie,¬†is¬†used to exploit a false¬†sense of security to manipulate someone for affection.¬†Monogamy, for the simpleminded, is the currency for sex and attention.

Healthier and happier relationships could flourish with disclosure of the aforementioned. They do in the context of polyamorous (multiplicity in romance or love) or polygamous (multiplicity in husbands/wives) relationships. The problem lies in that fukboys/fukgirls believe that disclosure alone is the foundation for polyamory. No. The relationship is the foundation. The bond, the intimacy, the connection between les amoureux is what defines the polyamory relationship.

If it’s just sex you’re having, IT’S JUST SEX. If you’re supporting goals, challenging values, building trust and integrity that is a relationship and more essential than monogamy ever will be. For some monogamy is absolute and that’s ok but I’m not that simple and I believe many of my peers aren’t either. Many of us are seeking confidants, partners in crime, motivators, soundboards, dependability, trustworthiness, empathy, adventure and loyalty. Monogamy is believed to be the path to these qualities but what happens is the superficial title is often traded for a real friendship.

It takes time and key elevator door moments for those qualities to be displayed and valued. We don’t allow time to reveal these qualities because we hook up and settle for situationships. When we allow ourselves to build connections¬†and have elevator door moments we grow¬†in love in a genuine way that allows monogamy to naturally fall in place without demand. Romantic relationships built on friendship are not as simple as those built on sex. They are complex in their fiber because elevator door moments‚Äďsupport in a time of pain, someone waiting in ER with you, someone making sure you don’t trip on that rock, someone helping you clean a big mess‚Äďrequire the intricacies of emotional intelligence and valuing acts of love.

That’s what’s wanted and needed, acts of love, NOT monogamy. Acts of love solidify the bond with trust. A¬†kinship¬†built on trust is not threatened by insecurity of extra sex partners. If you can support, build integrity and loyalty with multiple partners, I applaud you. For me, real love is so demanding that I opt to build that with one person…maybe 2ūüėČ

Dudes and chicks, who just can’t seem to date without relationship drama: Disclose your intentions¬†and state your expectations even if that’s just sex.¬†Paraphrasing¬†the wise words of Don “Magic” Juan “Let your love interest choose!” If they don’t want what you want, MOVE ON! Someone else will. Stop faking monogamy for sex. Stop lying for sex. You lame, you boo boo, you thirsty if you’re lying for sex. If you want to have sex with multiple people, disclose that and be safe. Do NOT use the expression of I love you to validate your feelings. Acts of love validate what you feel.¬†If you want sex and affection have it but don’t lie into monogamy for it, it’s not that simple.

 

Broke, Black & Bougie pt. 2: Real Friends

Broken Bonds

Having my income significantly cut injured my capacity to function socially.¬†My budget limited¬†basic essentials¬†and access to therapeutic resources like makeup and beauty items. My confidence took weekly dives depending on my account balance. ¬†I was asked to go on trips to Sephora, Ulta, dining, parks, short weekend getaways¬†etc and I declined, often. This is a normal part of restructuring finances, which I accept but one friend would often offer to cover my bill. Still, I’d say no. Partially because of pride but also¬†because I was worried about the problems at home. I didn’t just run out of my favorite¬†lipstick, my bra was old, shoes scuffed and favorite leggin(g)s had a hole. On top of that a pile of bills and bare fridge. No I was not with the shits. I didn’t want to go with a fake smile, I wasn’t happy.

My declinations caused social rifts. In the beginning I paid it no mind, I was on a mission. Then I realized some took it personally so, to those that mattered, I shared my issues which was great therapy. I let my guard down, accepted some of the offers to fit my bill  but my pride was still lurking wanting independence.

My friends, parents and Yelp Elite status afforded my social life.¬†To some, my Instagram timeline fed the false truth that I was socially at full capacity. I wasn’t. Truthfully, I wanted to do more but my pockets didn’t align with my plans.¬†I didnt always want to go to the bar, or drink gin but on someone else’s dime I did. ¬†The alcohol exacerbated any anxiety, depression and¬†mania and running was the furthest thing from my mind.¬†So I withdrew more socially.

This is when things changed. My friends got¬†it,¬†my associates didn’t. This is where I found my real friends. This is¬†not to villify those whose budgets allow for more or to crown those who are¬†open to creative budget friendly ventures. This is just were I grew closer to some and further from¬†others. I understand many¬†haven’t seen the levels of broke that I have (it’s been worse) and I don’t expect them to but for friendship I expect empathy.

Empathy is not being bothered when I don’t want to go spend $15 on an Old Fashion made by a hipster with an old fashioned stache. ¬†Empathy is accepting no but inviting me next time. It’s understanding that drinking is not a healthy coping mechanism for me. It’s understanding that my disposable income can’t go towards a trip or getaway but to a debt that would relieve more stress than 3 days accommodating several womens social needs would cause. It is not attacking my financial past because my current budget doesn’t fit your social needs. Empathy is understanding that sometimes, I just want to pay my own tab.

My friends have joined me on walks, runs, rides, and for long conversations on the couch with good food and great wine. These times provided more healing and joy than a gin & tonic and a sweaty guy dancing on me to bad EDM ever could. This is all I have needed during my financial duress, real friends.

See Broke, Black & Bougie pt. 3: Strategy

Broke, Black & Bougie pt. 1: The Math

Financially Broke

Recession 08′ is over for most, for me at least. I have a secure career/job. I live on my own with minimal supplement from outside sources and I have debt.

“So? What’s new about that? Everybody does: medical, educational, personal etc,” is what people say to me.  Yeah, I’m sure but I’m not everybody. They don’t know me that well. Solidarity in struggle does not placate me into contentment. I don’t like being broke. To be clear: Je n’aime pas d’etre fauch√©e. Pardon my (bad) french.

Broke isn’t just about having debt for me. It’s having debt so demanding and old that your check is garnished (25%). Broke for me is having a higher interest rate on a basic car. Broke requires me to be very divisive and decisive about how I spend my money. For most of my peers $45 doesn’t matter because they have resources or living check to check provides enough disposable income to last through their fun weekends. Making 30K C2C (check to check) with no savings is very different from 60K C2C. If you make more than 30K but less than 60K you’ll find yourself in this weird middle class that’s too rich to receive broke benefits but not enough to receive rich benefits.

Being in that “just enough” range is a ticket to being taxed. Health insurance, interest rates, and financial resources are all more costly because you make enough money, according to the financial gawds, to function but not enough to afford them in comfort. Interest earning and fee free checking accounts and interest rates all get better when you have more money. Health insurance is at a premium (pun intended) that doesn’t include copays, deductibles or scripts. If you pay a mortgage instead of a landlord, consistently, that would show on your credit report, increase your credit rating and possibly provide for lower rates on auto and other loans.  Some have no checking account so they pay (up to 2%) to have each check cashed, they can’t obtain loans, earn interest or must pay fees just to pay utility bills in cash. Having less money costs you more money. See the trickle down effect IS real, it’s just piss.

Garnishment at the full allowable percentage is kin to losing your lover to your enemy. I lost hair that I’m just now growing back. My anxiety attacks were aggressive and I was just stressed TF out. How does one get garnished? Yes irresponsibility and lack of financial education. In my early 20’s I had a nice used car, a new job, moved out to, then sans Fountain Walk, Novi and felt I needed a new car. My Ram Aries nature forged ahead despite my parents warnings and I signed a deal for a Chevy Aveo at a rate of 24.9%. The state limit is 25%!!! So this is where financial responsibility and education comes into play which wealthier people tend to have. After I lost my job when my Mother & boyfriend could fit no more of my bills the car was repossessed. My sense of failure overcame me and I stuck my head in the sand on that and other debts. Time passed and a judgement that I never appeared for was a default. So after school and the big job, my creditors came looking and found my $$.

This garnishment spiraled into a host of issues. I could no longer afford health insurance (employer doesn’t provide) which means I pay an annual tax. I could no longer afford car insurance, so my lien holder “kindly” insured it for me and my car note doubled. I couldn’t afford fees on a ticket issued because I didn’t renew my tabs because I didn’t have insurance (lien holders policy is not sufficient) because… well you get the point. So in addition to being literally broke, mentally I fell into a hole. Meanwhile my friends and associates were trying to cheer me up by asking me out on adventures but I couldn’t.

Financially broke is one thing but mentally I was broken. I felt like a failure for my past mistakes and I had no motivation to go have fun or cheer up. I would go home to an empty fridge, a mailbox full of bills and limited everything. Now I’m not going to front, my parents and a friend fed me, stocked my liquor coffers and fueled my tank regularly but I would have been hungry and possibly homeless had they not. My Ram Aries pride had to take so many backseats and learning humility was not optional.

I am writing this in the process of recovery. I’ve arranged a reasonable judge administered payment schedule with the garnishee. I paid several $700-800 dollar car notes which are now chopped in half. I’ve paid off all the tickets, fees, fines and sometimes I have $100 left to buy basic extras. I avoided bankruptcy, got a 15% raise and learned who my friends are. My hair is growing back and my pride is in check. I know I’m getting better but I know I have not recovered yet, so my social life is broken too.

See Broke, Bougie & Black part 2: Real Friends

 

 

 

The Fear of God

I love church.

I loved church, and God as I was taught and told to. I prayed, religiously. I was baptized, took communion, attended bible study and Sunday school regularly as my Mother instructed. I was in attendance to church most every Sunday until… 1998. I was about 15 attending a catholic all girls college prep school. There was an ish teacher (Scottish or Irish) with a thick accent, Mr. McGrane. He taught one of the required religion courses, The Old Testament. I did not know what to expect in the class but it was religion, I felt like I already had the plug so it’d be fairly easy, nope.

Mr. McGrane was woke. He taught The Old Testament as a book not as doctrine to instill. The class was focused on the making of the Old Testament. Who wrote what and how many times it was written, edited, translated and destroyed. I learned of the books missing and those added as time progressed, leaders changed and the ideologies developed. I learned the Torah (Pentateuch/The Law) was the same scripture the Jewish used and that most of my Christian bible was actually Jewish/Hebrew. (Judeo/Christian traditions) I learned who King James was and the Hampton Court Conference. I learned how each ruler switched the religion of it’s nation as they saw fit. The Council of Nicea. The Crusades. I saw religion in all of its tyranny.

It didn’t stop there, I also took a New Testament course and a World Religions course in high school. I learned that many of the bible’s stories were recycled and edited to fit the culture of the day. I learned that men, anglican white men, wrote what I read altered to their tastes.  The jig was up.  I was steadfast in my faith until I had to reconcile the history of how the bible was written and what had to happen for it to be rewritten. I began to see the bible, the church and religion exclusively as history.

I didn’t lose my religion. I held my faith in fear. Fear of death and hell. I was in and out of religion until I took an art history course in college. The art predating Christian, Jewish and Muslim tradition was much like that of the images I saw in church and the bible. The stories of immaculate conception, a trinity or three headed deity, the rituals of prayer and fasting. (Many people saw their gods after long periods of fasting when most people reach deliration and hallucinate due to malnutrition.) There were so many similarities and blatant copies of ancient practice that no passion could be had for religion knowing that few, if not none of the stories were  original. It was no longer holy to me.

To add, I began to look for monotheism in African tradition. I asked how Black Americans became so programmed impassioned to a religion not their own. Beyond the use to justify enslavement the bible is/was used to comfort the enslaved. The message I’ve gotten from religion is of salvation in death. It’s a literal placating prophesy of hope to those unhappy and living in misery to a divine purpose. The solutions to problems in the bible are often passive aggressive: messages of prayer and forgiveness and simultaneous messages of penance and reparations by acts of violence. I’d like to believe we have evolved and can mediate our problems with practical solutions. I’d like to.

Now I see the church, the leaders and its elite syphoning money from members and communities it does not support. Preaching prayer and objectives towards prosperity without a mission. There are very few missionary churches these days. I see the exclusion of people based on judgements of behavior by the hypocritical faithful. I see the falling of social programs and quality of life in the communities these churches live in tax free. I don’t see acceptance, love and forgiveness in religion. I see that in people.

I’ve stepped out on faith. I’ve taken the courage to let go of religion and the fear of god. I’m no longer performing acts of kindness as ritual but in love. I’m learning how to be a better person for the sake of others not my own soul. Although according to social media god is responsible for everything from Obama’s winning to Courtney’s sushi lunch, I promise you people are responsible. People are responsible for the good and bad in apathy and action. Prayer doesn’t solve problems, people do. No, I don’t think the world should stop praying or practicing religion. I think we should stop living for god and live for each other.

If we love the beings we connect with everyday we can heal with more power than prayer ever could.

Bourgeoisie or Selective?

Bougie. Booji. Bewgy. ‚Äď Uppity black folk and their tastes.
Being labeled bougie¬†is weird to me. I’m not rich, I’m barely comfortable.
So how can I be bougie?

Being selective.

21-willy-wonker-weight-loss

Hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes at your heels at 24 will knock you into formation. You’ll wake up. Eating fast-food and even diner or slower fast food like Bahama Breeze, Chammps, BWW regularly, led to my alarming numbers. Even the foods I grew up eating like canned food, deli meats, frozen meals all have added sodium. I changed my eating habits. I try to¬†buy¬†everything fresh including meat. I try to cook everything I eat even sweets. Preparing my own food means less sodium, fat and sugars because it’s no preservatives. I look¬†for organic and uncured options to avoid preservatives and additives. I eat boring oatmeal and flaxseeds for breakfast most days. Some¬†people come to my house see my fridge¬†and scoff at my tastes then six weeks¬†later they ask how my skin glows and how I lost 20lbs. Cuz¬†I’m bougie.

Eczema, dry skin and discoloration from burns aren’t the business when you’re trying to Nomakeup-Allnatural-Funny-Meme-Imageserve face or as the kids say #SLAY. ¬†Attempting to slay with bad makeup is worse. I tried with drug store and “off” brands. They don’t make colors for us (me) that blend well. The black brands even lean towards the darker shades. What about us octaroon and quadroon black women who are not so brown or so pink as your tin
ts? (Go ahead be offended by the usage, it’s nothing more than a¬†statement of how the fairness of brown skin is probably relative to the percentage of european ancestry be it by consent or rape.) I’m not one of the women who wants to be three to ten shades lighter in the center of my face. I WANNA MATCH! BLEND! Mascara be clumpy, shadow creasing, foundation melting, lipstick gone to soon, eyeliner running towards your ears. Nope, not the kid. Also I don’t want to feel my makeup. Quality makeup¬†better matches my tone, has less additives to agitate my skin, is consistent, and longer lasting.¬†Some people ask why I have to buy¬†high end makeup¬†then wonder why they can’t tell if I’m wearing any. Cuz I’m bougie.

 

Broke isn’t fun. Not economy car broke, I mean cell phone turned off broke. ¬†EBT card broke. No credit broke. No car in The Motor City broke. I did it, I lived it and shopped with my EBT ca1337818602981_5337135rd, riding home from Trader Joe’s on the Woodward bus with my iPhone. ¬†I jumped on the iPhone bandwagon at the 3gs model, after my pink BlackBerry was stolen.¬†I was a student on a budget and when school was done there was no job to maintain that budget so that’s how I ended up broke with an iPhone. Well that iPhone saved my ass even when it had no service. Google voice was my phone service, I tapped¬†my neighbors wifi to use it. All¬†devices have wifi now but this was new then. I applied for jobs, got one and accepted my offer without having a phone in service. I even had a decent social and dating life. People criticized me¬†having¬†an iPhone when I didn’t have a car, barely a pot to piss in and window to throw it out or a job then wondered in amazement how I got a job with no service. Cuz I’m bougie.

More often than not, I’m called bougie for my choices and tastes not for my judgement of others tastes and choices. That’s what being bougie is about, thinking your choices are better and judging others who choose differently based on their options. If they¬†are the ones judging me doesn’t that make them bourgeoisie?

Love Language

I’m dramatic. I’m clingy. I’m emotional. I like long hugs that make me lose time.
I like love.
I don’t act like it though. I’m a defensive, snarky, imagesuntrusting cynic. I’m a bitch. Quick to temper, slow to forgive, I don’t love like I used to. It is¬†easier to love with the naivet√© of youth. At 16¬†I wrote in my diary, a¬†promise that I would never be that bitch. I’ve watched someone become that bitch. She’s been disconnected and unforgiving. I didn’t want to become her, but I have.

I’ve let the pain of love past lure me from the possibility of the joy of love now. My experience isn’t new, which is why I am upset that I allowed myself to become the lover I am today. In the classic way, I am an adult child still mourning the hugs my Mother refused me.¬†She’s better now, she listens and often hugs tighter than I want. But I sometimes can’t even bare receiving love from her because I often don’t believe it’s real.¬†They’ve both changed how they treat and talk to me but I still hold back. Time doesn’t heal wounds your memory can’t erase.

As a child, I started writing to my Mother because when I came to her in tears (yes Ma, I’m being dramatic) she turned me away. I’d leave letters because that’s the only way I could get her attention. She loved my writing¬†and I¬†was forced to communicate my pain without tears. Writing became my love language.

I know, poor excuse for a 20+13 y o woman but it’s true. I’m scared to show emotion because of the possibility of pain in vulnerability. Scared that I won’t have love returned, that my touch would go unwanted, that my cry go unheard.¬†That’s how I fell in love with writing. I feel safe on paper. I can send with no expectation. Pain free process. I am a woman who loves to love and be open but because I am so open that, in fear, I guard my heart with the glass of mercilessness, the teflon of apathy¬†and the ice of distance.

I’ve loved people¬†hard and they¬†didn’t return it. When they finally did, I didn’t want to forgive them¬†because I was too scared to trust them.¬†But…I’ve always wanted to love them, I want to be in love. I miss loving. I miss giving from my heart not my head. So why would I refuse their love when they gave it?

The coward in me uses the power to turn them away, to feel my pain.¬†That’s not very loving. That’s not who I want to be. So this is a love letter to My Mother, My Father, Karmen, Gerard, Simone and Kortez I’m sorry for not believing you loved me.
I love you and no fear can change that.

P.S. Thank you Tyrell for carrying all the pain and love I was too scared to give others.