Between Privilege and Vulnerability: Social Protests

familyI said that this Lent I”d be blogging about raising a son in a faith-based home that values social justice.  I keep landing on how our identities straddle privilege and vulnerability…This post is inspired by our son’s trip with me to campus.  The university where I teach participated in a #BlackLivesMatter teach-in.  Even though I am on sabbatical it feels important to stay engaged around such issues.  I volunteered to facilitate the faculty discussion. Here is an example of a Lib Guide from San Francisco Public Schools: http://sfusd.libguides.com/blacklivesmatter)

“Mommy why are you wearing all black?”

“Well, my university had a #BlackLivesMatter #TeachIn. The teachers taught their students something that had to do with #BlackLivesMatter. Today I am going to help the faculty talk about what they did.”

“Oh. Is that what you did with Anye?” (This story has many newspaper articles, this is just the one about the actual march & rally: http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_28953936/marchers-protest-handling-lowell-high-texting-incident)

“No. With Anye we had a march and rally. We walked around the city so that people could pay attention to an important issue. It is what #BlackLivesMatter does often.”

“Oh. Are we going to march today?”

“No, not today.”

“Oh. Boo! I wanna march!”

Flash forward to after the teach-in debrief

“Mommy. Who were the people sitting on the other side of the room?”

“Those were the students. We were listening to the things they are concerned about.”

“Are they concerned about Black Lives Matter?”

“Yes. They are concerned with being treated fairly on campus and wanting to see more people that look like them…”

“Oh! Like Anye!…And like me at my school.”

“Yes, like Anye…And like you at your school.”

“That’s cool. Students everywhere want to be treated fairly. No bullies or mean people allowed.”

Our son is five. He was not quite two years old when Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Since then many people of color, especially black men have been shot and killed by police or vigilantes. There is no way to hide all the news from him (not that we want to) and there is no perfect way to explain it all to him.

He, like me is both privileged and vulnerable.  He is a black boy (one day to be a man) living in the U.S. He lives in a two-parent home with educated parents of reasonable means. He is able-bodied in a brown skin body. He attends a private school in which he is in the minority.  In his own way, sometimes with more or less guidance from us he is coming to terms with his own position between privilege and vulnerability.

The ABC show #Blackish recently covered the topic of children & teenagers and understanding racial justice and protest.  If you haven’t seen the episode, you should!  Here are some other thoughts on the issue of kids and protest movements:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-freddie-gray-children-protests-20150502-story.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/kids-at-ferguson_n_5688393.html

http://www.xojane.com/issues/ferguson-protest

 

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Thoughtful Tuesday

familyOur son was not yet 2 years old when Trayvon Martin was shot in Sanford, Florida. That night we held him tightly and I prayed that I would find the words as he grew up to talk to him about vulnerability, oppression, being a person of color, racism. My parents who were born in the south but grew up in the North and the West did a poor job of preparing me for the harsh realities of the isms. I was sheltered and protected. I believe my parents thought that because we moved out of Inglewood into Pasadena, enrolled me in private schools, exposed me to those upper-class activities that they did not participate in, I would be spared or safe from racism, sexism, etc. Otis Graham, author of Our Kind of People wrote a column about how privileged status does not protect our children from being called a N—- https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/06/i-taught-my-black-kids-that-their-elite-upbringing-would-protect-them-from-discrimination-i-was-wrong/

Since February 2012, so may incidents of racial injustice and violence have occurred that I have honestly lost track. All I know is that I am trying to remain calm, not panic, and talk to our son in ways that make sense. My husband and I have different approaches, which is o.k. I think. There are different ways to expose our children, talk to them, and prepare them as best we can for their futures. Our differing approaches collided when our nephew was elected president of his high school student body and social media erupted in racial slurs and threats of death. For the first time since our son had been born I was called to action. I participated in a rally, but our son did not go. Our nephew was on the front page of the paper and on the nightly local news almost daily. Our son is learning to read and pictures speak volumes. I felt we could not hide or sugar-coat the truth. We have responded simply or used religion or sports analogies to help.

The simplest response possible: “He won and some people were not happy, they are sore losers, and they said mean things.” And our son would say “Are they going to get in trouble? Did they apologize?” The truth was that no, those kids did not truly get into trouble and we were not sure they had apologized. So another type of conversation was had. We turned to religion: “Sometimes people do or say mean things and they do not apologize. God knows our hearts and will always protect us.” God is still a vague being/concept to our son, but he kind of got it.  IN other situations, we have turned to sports (his favorite activity): “You know how in a game there is a referee that monitors the players and when a player creates a super bad foul the player gets kicked out of the game and then later he has to pay a fee?” “Yes.” “In life there are referees who patrol our world and kick people out and make them pay fees.”

But then the news images of police, protestors, shot boys that look like him become too much to ignore. Even if we were not watching the news in his presence, he sees the front page of the newspaper as we bring it into the house, the news has a preview on t.v. as we are turning to his kid’s channel, our gatherings are a mix of adults and children and he over-hears our conversations. We cannot and will not live in a bubble under the guise of shielding him. So the real challenge is how to navigate this harsh reality without burdening his 5 year old mind, soul, and heart.

He is obsessed with playing “jail.” He also loves soccer, football, play dough, and coloring. But inevitably whatever he is building with Legos turns into a jail. His soccer players end up in jail because they cause d a foul or his play dough creation is a jail. Even his beloved TMNT are in jail! My social worker antenna is buzzing!!!! So I ask “Why is everyone always in jail?” “Because they’re bad.” “What did they do?” “They were fighting.” “Oh” I say weakly, wondering if I should continue the questioning, which I do not but instead say “I think you’ve played jail long enough, let’s read….”

Our son is very intuitive, he is smart and savvy. He listens to everything people say. He is not naïve. At the same time, we do not want to give him more information than he needs at this age. We also do not want him to be shocked (which he will be) when a classmate or a classmate’s parent says something racially cruel or he doesn’t get invited to the party because the parent doesn’t like black people, etc., etc. I also do not want to be a helicopter parent, but I can easily see how trying to protect your child from injustice based on his race or biological sex or religion or ability…could lead a parent to helicopter…patrolling the books in the library, the holidays celebrated at school, etc.

I am too often overwhelmed by that state of our country and our world. I feel paralyzed and fearful. Then I remember that I need to model what our son should be (my husband does too) and I just make sure our son hears and sees me engaged in social justice. I also remember that I have gotten through it with minimal protection and I have grown stronger, more passionate, braver.

I also just hope and pray that there are parents of every race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and orientation out there who are just as concerned as I am and are having age-appropriate conversations with their children about the same issues and about how to be an ally. I just hope and pray that there is better police academy screening and training. I just hope that the post-modernists, whom I do not always understand or agree with, are right and we reach a post-label-identity society…where we are all equal and treated as such.

Do you talk to your child about difference? Vulnerablitiy? Racism? Sexism? Current events? How do you do it?

Some of my favorite articles on related topics:

  1. To The White Parent of My Black Son’s Friends – http://www.amusingmaralee.com/2015/12/to-the-white-parents-of-my-black-sons-friends/#sthash.mZuLFa7R.dpuf
  2. Respect what black America is feeling – http://www.salon.com/2015/04/29/dear_white_facebook_friends_i_need_you_to_respect_what_black_america_is_feeling_right_now/
  3. Five recovery steps from a form helicopter parent http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/01/05/overparenting-5-recovery-steps-from-a-former-stanford-dean/
  4. What it’s like to be the only black kid in class http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-is-what-its-like-to-be-the-only-black-kid-in-class_568a847be4b014efe0dae77d

 

Our Lives Matter: Summer ecclectic blog post #2

familyMy son and I have the sweetest night time rituals. I hope that we can engage in these rituals for a long time to come, but I know that soon he will feel embarrassed by snuggling with me, and maybe he won’t tell me what was good and not so good about his day, and maybe he will get to a stage that he won’t even say “good night” to us before slipping into his room. He’ll probably also want the door closed and all the lights turned off. But for now I cherish our rituals.  Since the shooting of Trayvon Martin I’ve prolonged our rituals, I hold him tighter, and each night I am reminded what a miracle our boy is. He came late in our lives and after many challenges and losses (see other blog posts). He is the most precious person I do not own or control.  At 4 he is wise beyond is small self. He’s aware of skin color, hair texture, and facial features across races and nationalities. Without prompting he is aware that skin color matters. I did not expect to have to talk to him about his body language, clothing choices, tone of voice, etc until he was a teenager, but it’s happened now. Our son has taught me that children can be savvy and wise beyond their years; that it’s never to early to begin life lessons, and of course our son reminds me daily that HIS LIFE MATTERS.

In a similar fashion my husband’s life, the life of our son’s father matters. Our marriage is a work in progress! I think we do pretty good for two later in life getting married people. He has all the qualities I do not and then some and likewise, I balance and complete him. He was born outside of the U.S. and often tells me all kinds of stories about how he learned about the American system, especially the legal system and how to deal with police.  As if coming to a new country is not enough of a learning experience but as a man of color you also need to learn how to interact with the police in a specific way. Even though he is a smart adult with a calm demeanor I worry for him. HIS LIFE MATTERS.

Women are the fruit of the world. We bring forth new life. We heal. We bring peace. We nurture. WE MATTER. So finally, but not least of all the life of the mother of our son and the wife to my husband (ME) matters. No space for a history lesson on the abuse and exploitation of women of African decent all over the world, but suffice it to say that my life matters.  My son is learning love, respect, adoration, and care from his dad and I am appreciative of that. And they both show me that MY LIFE MATTERS.

I am no CJ scholar. I am a social work professor who is all about social justice. I am a woman of color living in America. I am a mom and wife to men of color. I teach all my students (CJ students included) why race matters AND why ALL lives matter AND how learning about others, developing acceptance and respect helps us in that process. No individual is perfect, but there is still a lot of teaching & learning that needs to be done with police systems across the country.  I often feel as if I am living in my grandparent’s generation. How much changes yet stays the same. I am originally from Pasadena and am a contemporary of Rodney King (may he rest in peace).  The issue of inappropriate policing, police brutality, etc is not just a passing hot topic it is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed and changed NOW. WE MATTER.

THE BRUTALITY AND DISRESPECT MUST STOP. WE MUST VALUE ALL OF OUR LIVES.

Tell me how your city or town rates on cultural competency within the police force?  Does specific diversity training exist? Is there training to deal with people who face mental health challenges? What do you see in your community?

Our police does a pretty good job. The hiring is getting more divers and I know they are actively involved in our community in positive ways. They also have learned and continue to learn about specific immigrants groups which make up the majority of our city: http://lowellpoliceacademy.com/

Being True to Me: I am an ecclectic sporadic blogger with average writing skills!

ecclecticIt’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ve had a lot going on – finishing the semester, getting the boy ready for summer, grieving, … Lots going on that needed to be settled and cleared.  I have spent some time pondering this blog.  I read a LOT of other blogs and know that the authors of blogs which attract the most readers (and make money) have a consistent theme/topic on which they write.  I contemplated finding one or two topics on which to write in order to be consistent and have dedicated readers.

I could blog about motherhood, academia, cultural competence, Alzheimer’s, being African American, being a mother to a black boy, being married to an immigrant, being a social worker, etc., etc., etc. Not one of those topic is more important to me than the next. So I decided that my blog will be an eclectic mix of the things that interest me.  Be prepared to read about our summer jaunts, my summer readings lists, my sabbatical, my volunteerism with the Alzheimer’s Association, my attempts to explain racial relations to my 4 year old, the adventures of my niece who will soon be here from Africa, our adventures as non-Catholics in a Catholic school, soccer, futbol, food, wine, and so much more!

Stay tuned. Be patient with my writing. I hope to post interesting stories and/or tips and I hope you’ll keep reading and leaving comments!

Sharing Your Ectopic Pregnancy Story

Some time ago, a friend and I began a research project on women’s experiences with ectopic pregnancies.  Our study has led us to solicit women’s stories for a book of hope and encouragement.  Part of what we found in our study is that the women interviewed who had experienced an ectopic pregnancy: (a) did not know what an ectopic pregnancy was, (b) were not offered any type of counseling after their diagnosis and in many cases, not even after emergency surgery, and (c) found their lives had been altered and their relationships and view son pregnancy changed forever.

The book project is open to those women who participated in the original study and to any woman who would like to share her story and offer hope to others.  Stories will be published anonymously (unless the author wishes to reveal her identity).  Please share your story or refer a friend, family member, or colleague to our book project.

Guidelines for first draft:

  • Each story should have a time-line worked into the narrative of how many weeks pregnant you were (or if you didn’t know you were pregnant), how you found out you were having an ectopic pregnancy (at ER, doctor’s office), if you were misdiagnosed and sent home, if you had surgery. The details are painful, but so important for people to read. It could save a life.

 

  • Tell the story of what you experienced emotionally, who was there for you or not there for you in the moment, days, weeks, years that followed.

 

  • Here is the main message: Share what you learned, and/or what you hope others might learn. Both women enduring an ectopic, loved ones, doctors, nurses, other professionals.   Another key is what others could have done differently to add to your comfort/support.

 

  • Share where you are now: How have you moved forward; and if you are still contemplating next steps, share what your thoughts for the future are. If you have had children, adopted children, gotten a new partner, etc. please feel free to share that also.

 

  • We are asking for roughly 5 double spaced typed pages, using MS word as a format.

 

  • Not required, but if you would like to please send a photo of yourself and/or a photo of you and your now children or someone who is mentioned in your story. Give us specific permission to use the photo by typing at the end of your story “I give Shannon and Laurie permission to use the photos attached in the upcoming book on ectopic pregnancy stories.”

 

  • A short bio on yourself (2-4 sentences), where you live, your hobbies, occupation, etc. and anything else you would like mentioned.

 

  • Deadline for first drafts is due by November 14, 2014. We will then work with you to create the final draft by early 2015 and hope to publish soon after.

 

 

Honoring my mommy: Day 10 of 75

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1.  Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed wirh with Alzheimer’s.
2.  Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
3.  Women make up two thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s.
4.  African Americans and Hispanics are at higher risk than Caucasians for developing Alzheimer’s.

Read more quick facts here: http://m.alz.org/facts-and-figures.asp

With the support and strength of family & friends today I walked 3 miles to End Alzheimer’s. It was such a beautiful event. Flower pinwheels in different colors for you to decorate & plant: orange for those supporting an end to Alzheimer’s, yellow for caregivers, purple if you’d lost someone to Alzheimer’s, and blue for those living with the disease. There was exercising, music, crafts, ringing bells, cheering young people, families, dogs, and tears. It was cathartic. I’m prepared for next year!

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Honoring my mommy: Day 10 of 75

image

1.  Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed wirh with Alzheimer’s.
2.  Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
3.  Women make up two thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s.
4.  African Americans and Hispanics are at higher risk than Caucasians for developing Alzheimer’s.

Read more quick facts here: http://m.alz.org/facts-and-figures.asp

With the support and strength of family & friends today I walked 3 miles to End Alzheimer’s. It was such a beautiful event. Flower pinwheels in different colors for you to decorate & plant: orange for those supporting an end to Alzheimer’s, yellow for caregivers, purple if you’d lost someone to Alzheimer’s, and blue for those living with the disease. There was exercising, music, crafts, ringing bells, cheering young people, families, dogs, and tears. It was cathartic. I’m prepared for next year!

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