Black Mom’s Burden.

I am the mother of an intelligent, articulate, talented rambunctious 13-year-old boy.  As a mother my natural expectation, barring any unexpected illness or accidents, is that I will see him grow, get his heart broken, break hearts, learn to drive, graduate high school, go to college, start a career, get married, raise a family, raise children … in short my son should bury me; not vice versa.  An inconvenient truth in these great United States is that as a black mother of a black son there are other things I have to factor in like:

1. Getting him through a public school system that does not instill in him any cultural sense of self and within which I have to do battle to ensure he receives the basic knowledge he needs to survive adulthood.

2. Teaching him the realities of institutionalized racism.

3.  Keeping him out of the back of a cop car.

4. Preparing him  for the reality that he may end up in one any way because he “fit the description.”

5. Keeping him ALIVE in a society where black boys like Trayvon Martin can be murdered simply because he fit the fear based convoluted description in someone’s head.

… and this is the short list.  I have to fight this fight within a society that refuses to acknowledge any of it or either chooses to lay the blame at the feet of the “black community” and its “leaders”, whoever the hell that homogenous group of folks might be; this society that views the election of a black president as a “game over” for racism, all the while ignoring the rise of neo-racism in the form of “ultra conservatism” that has resulted from that election.

One foot in front of the other, one day at a time; I’m am raising a self sufficient, independently thinking black male that can not only be a productive member of society, but who can also be a vital asset to any community he chooses to be a part of. I pull from as many resources as I can to make sure he gets what he needs. I do everything in my power to instill in him a base sense of morality. Damn it, I am doing my part. It is so fucked up and utterly frustrating that I cannot rely on the society within which I live to do its.

No matter how  hard we as black moms of black sons try it seems we’re still behind the eight-ball. It’s the reality of our situation, but it is by no means a reason to sit in victimhood.  We have to continue, along side our men and any others who would chose to be a part of the solution, to engage and empower our boys. We can only hope and pray that one day society will catch on.

During our ride to school chat yesterday I asked my son how he felt about it all. Unfortunately this type of racism did not shock him. What did bother him, and me for that matter, is the rising level of “anger” and threatened violence surrounding the situation.  To use his words, “What is fighting gonna do? If they wanna get angry and do something there are plenty of other things they could do besides fight somebody.” So true.  I cannot begin to fathom life without my son. Today, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin have to.  They have my deepest sympathies.



“The Help” and other elephants in the room.

Cover of "The Help"

Cover of The Help

I started to write this as a review of the film “The Help”  then I remembered that I’m not a film critic.  I’m an artist with an opinion. That’s it.  I can share it.  You can agree, or not. It truly does not matter. What I share here then will be observations made while watching the film “The Help”.
Now that my pre-amble is over…

The Help.  There was a lot of talk about the film.  I tried to avoid most of it so I could form my own opinion.  Overall, the film to me was “good”, whatever that means.  It addresses the almost exclusive American entity, the Mammy, more directly than any film has in a while. What I think happens after the proverbial horse is lead to the water though, is that it’s only allowed to sip when it really needs to drink the entire body. The general ugliness of the life of the black laborer is looked at, but then the films falls back into the “but it wasn’t THAT bad” trap by presenting the “good redeeming white folks” who have some how jumped out of a southern conservative womb without being in the least way prejudiced. I died, just a little after seeing that they’d drug Cicely Tyson out of Tyler Perry’s closet to play an endearing old Mammy, and of course, during  the “I love fried chicken” scene.  Sigh.

Another opportunity missed while squandering time on an irrelevant boyfriend character and the white trash girl with a heart of gold, was the chance to take an honest look at white privilege.  The stakes were never really that high for the the story’s main character Skeeter. What did she have to lose?  She was already ostracized in her southern bell world. The maids stood to lose their freedom, and possible their lives by telling their stories in such a  public format.  Skeeter gets to head off to New York and begin a bustling writing career.  Aibileen, in turn, loses her job, loses the ability to get another job in her city, and will more than likely end up staying in the same town that allowed for the veritable murder of her son. At least her story is out…right?  At film’s end Skeeter still holds on to the advantages afforded to her by her white heritage and Aibileen is still saddled with her plight as a black female in an America of the crux of a bloody civil rights movement.

Here we are in post civil rights America and cinema, one of the remaining viable means to reach the masses, fails time and time again to take the risk to tell the truth. The whole truth. I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising considering so many are pretending that the out right disrespect of a sitting American President and this sudden burning desire for social conservatism and it’s bastard child the Tea Party has nothing to do with race. Sigh…again.

Dr. King is quoted as saying  “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I’ve always believed the function of the artist was to speak up about the things that mattered boldly and truthfully. Change is brought about through audacious bravery,  not cowering timidity. We cannot afford to worry about polarizing our audience. Sometimes that’s what the truth does.  Sometimes we have to “fall slap out” as my Nana would say, in order to fall back in. The Help shoots itself in the foot  in my eyes by bringing the lion to battle and at the last minute substituting the lamb.

This is only my opinion though. You know what those are supposed to be like right?

Peace y’all,


A Lesson in Watermelon Consumption.

Yesterday Afternoon:

I’m at a patient’s house.  She is polite and southern. I am…well I’m a Jersey girl.  Anyway, I walk into her home and I am welcomed…I mean REALLY welcomed. Greetings are had and I sit down for the business for which I came.  I’m digging her so far. Sweet woman, a lil on the saccharine side, but she means well. Then she begins her story:

“If you smile, the whole world will smile with you.”

I humbly agreed. It’s true. Optimism is awesome.  I smiled, trying to stay on track as I am already way behind and the heat is beginning to make my head swim a little.

“I was at a restaurant one day, and a small lil’ white man behind me said ‘You have got the most beautiful smile!'”

Red flag! I have “a shit ton” of experience in conversations like the one that was getting ready to go down. That experience has taught me that 9.5 times out of 10 when people begin to identify skin colors during anecdotes it’s a segue  into “inadvertent” racist land. We were going there, and we would have having lunch with the mayor.

“A tall black man in front of me in the line paid for my lunch.”

She grinned.

I wanted so badly for her to stop.

“When I got all my stuff I walked right up to him and said. ‘Well, since you bought my lunch, I’ll sit here and eat with you if you don’t mind.'”

The remainder of her story is a bit of a blur. Something about him working on a golf course as a caddy and he’s in his 60s. There were sepia toned pictures of lunch counter sit-ins dancing through my mind. The slide show ended just in time for me to hear her say:

“They gave him two huge slices of watermelon, and he says to me ‘I’d like you to share this with me.'”

I died a little. It wasn’t over.

“Yes, that was a great experience for me. My neighborhood is multi-cul…what do you prefer to be called?”


I whimper.

Why is this happening?

“I’m part Cherokee Indian.”

If I could kill her legally, I would.

“You should bring your kids over here.”

Kids?! She’s assuming I have kidS plural! And that I would dare bring said children to her home!  I’m done. I block out anything and everything she says and shot gun through paperwork as she goes on about giving the neighborhood coloreds rides to the store and the lil nigglets calling her Grandma.  Well, I don’t know if she actually said “coloreds” or “nigglets” but it’s what I heard.

Okay, so she’s probably slightly crazy, and her case is a little extreme, but sadly I’ve had conversations like these with perfectly sane white folk. Why does it happen? I’m not sure. My best guess? It’s that unspoken residual racial awkwardness that we as a society continue to refuse to deal with.  The preconceived notions that we all carry about race and racial identity. If you feel the need to prove that you’re not prejudiced, then you might want to take a look at the fact that you might be.

This does not instantly make you a monster, it just makes you a product of the society you were born into. We are all given information by our parents, by society, whomever, that we use to get us through life.  There comes a time that we have to reassess, look honestly at that information, and determine whether or not that information is still useful to us.  Process that shit, work it out, let it go, and stop assuming I got a house full’a pickaninney’s I’m just dying to bring to your house!

Ok. Alright. I know she’ll never read this. So I’m digressing.