Okay, here we go. Every few months I write a blog post where I wring and squeeze out my tiny little Texas heart like a rag. It’s therapeutic. It’s the equivalent of a good old-fashioned blood-letting, but instead of blood, I pump out opinions, big emotions, and stories that won’t necessarily change your life, but have definitely changed mine.
So, here it is. Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.
My upbringing has not been the most traditional. In the early 90’s, I was raised on 29th street in Port Arthur, TX, past the railroad tracks on the other side of the cemetery, the one where the bones of an old Apple Tree Grocery still sit and rot along with many of the other empty buildings and failed businesses in the area. At the time, the Ivy’s were one of the few white families in the neighborhood. My babysitter was a beautiful black cheerleader from Thomas Jefferson. My brother’s best friends were all black. And though my brother and I were homeschooled because of my mother’s sometimes strict, conservative Baptist “scared-of-the-secular-world-phase,” she never once taught us to see ourselves as different from our friends. Our house was lively. My brother Josh went by “Woody,” a nickname and term of endearment given to him by the neighborhood boys he played basketball with. Have you ever seen “White Men Can’t Jump” (circa 1992) with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes? My brother was a hell of a basketball player.
Some key moments I remember from this time period revolve around my mother. I remember her ripping the guts out of my TLC tape because Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes wore a condom over her eye on the tape cover. Yep, this one here:
I remember getting in trouble for singing SILK’s “Freak Me Baby,” I remember my mother, nearly nine months pregnant, letting the entire neighborhood dance to Wreckx-N-Effect’s Rumpshaker in our den. I remember Marquis and JJ and Derek and all of the young black boys that gave me my first opinions of black boys and their families.
When we moved away from the neighborhood because we bought a house in a different (much whiter) neighborhood, I remember feeling very out of place. I started public school. It was frightening. At 15, my walls were plastered with posters of Tupac, Ginuwine, and Maxwell. My new friend’s walls featured Hanson and Andrew Keegan. I’m not saying in any way that I thought I was black or had deep-seated racial identity issues, but the boys I was attracted to at the time definitely weren’t white, and the music that shaped my childhood wasn’t written by white artists.
So why am I sharing this? Because I’m lucky. My view of race and racism is charged by these experiences. I can get very passionate about discrimination and what some deem to be light-hearted jokes about race. What happened last night in Ferguson makes me so sad. Verdict aside, it is a reminder that there is still so much fresh pain in the world, so many racial and socioeconomic divides that keep us from working towards common goals that could greatly benefit the whole of society.
And what makes me sadder than the implications of Ferguson is joking about Ferguson. I’ve just never understood joking about another person’s pain. That can’t be the way that we handle such a sensitive subject. Over 1,000 pages of court transcripts and documents were released yesterday regarding the Ferguson case. If you have an opinion about the trial, I just hope it’s informed, and I hope you’ve come to your personal decisions based on facts. You can read about it here.
Earlier I texted my Mom: “I’m so glad you weren’t racist. You made me a cool human. Thanks.”
She replied: “Your grandpa taught me not to be. He told me if I ever said the “n” word, he would spank me. I never did and still won’t ever say it. His fellow musicians that he loved were all black. Somewhere there is a picture of one of his first bands. He had one of the first bands in the area that was of mixed race.”
So, what’s the purpose of this post? Well, it was mainly for me, a subjective way for me to get out all of those “feels” from last night. But, while I’m at it, I guess I’m asking all of you to simply teach your children well. Love others. Be empathic, and try not to make light of another’s pain, even if it something you won’t or can’t understand. Be informed. Be compassionate. Be considerate. And in the wake of any tragedy, please watch your tongue and how it lashes out. Words have power. Use them for good, not evil.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. And, thank you, momma, for raising us right.
And by no means am I suggesting I have something as multi-faceted as race relations all figured out, I’m just trying to work to mend the rift that I see. For me it’s personal. It’s a choice that I think is better than doing nothing, better than just watching and commenting as something busts at the seams.