Friday, May 9, 2014

Ain't I a Woman?

Dave Chappelle is one of my favorite comedians.  He has a knack for talking about race in a way that leaves people thinking, and is only matched by few others.  He had a stand-up bit years ago that I will never forget in which he described how black people as hostages were bad bargaining chips.  The main point being, the world dismisses terrorist demands when black people are leveraged.  Dave Chappelle, you soothsayer you.

Recently, Brittney Cooper of Salon.com 
wrote a scathing piece regarding the mainstream media's lack of national attention paid to stories regarding black women.  In it, she describes how black women seem to be the only people who care about these stories.  Don't believe me? Need some context?  Let me give you a little.

In March, a little girl went missing in Washington, DC. For two and a half weeks, no one noticed. Her name is Relisha Rudd.  To this day, she has still not been found.  Is the media bursting with major reports on the latest news surrounding the search for her remains like it did 
Caylee Anthony? No.  Three weeks ago, reports of a mass abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok in northeastern Borno state, Nigeria, began to surface. Now, the international media has just begun to notice.  To this day, these girls have still not been found and returned to their families.  Yet the world collectively gasped at the ongoing coverage of the missing Malaysian plane. What do these two events, on opposite sides of a vast ocean have in common?  Their brown skin and their female bodies.

I keep wondering when black women's lives will matter to people outside of black women.  I am black.  I am a woman.   I have a 1 year old daughter who I love dearly.  I try to the best of my ability to provide a nurturing environment for her.  An environment where she feels important, and cared for and loved.  But how can that environment be sustained in an atmosphere that is directly opposite of her reality right now?

On social media, Black Twitter exploded with reports of these missing black women, these stories of Relisha Rudd, Teleka PatrickRenisha McBride, the 276 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, and countless others.   For a majority of these stories, the major networks have largely been silent.  Only recently, and through the sheer force of widespread grassroots efforts, have the media decided to pay attention to almost 300 girls being abducted.  These stories of Black women, the double minority within society, the media's silence and their collective dismissal has not been lost among us.  In fact, this collective dismissal is quite commonplace.     

Last year a piece resurfaced on R.Kelly's sex abuse allegations.  In what was suppose to be a comeback for the music legend, it was wrought with his past 
sex allegations and sex abuse of black girls.  In the piece, Jim DeRogatis, the beat reporter in Chicago who uncovered R.Kelly's abuse of young girls says,   "The saddest fact I've learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are 'bitches, hos, and gold diggers,' plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of... No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn't have a chance."

Yet, through all of this, black women are suppose to withstand the pain of avoidance, dismissal and disregard.  We are suppose to ignore the oversight, inattention and negligence of the public.  "You don't need our help", the collective public cries back to us.  I hate to break it to you, but unfortunately the "Strong Black Woman" mantra will not carry us through, should we need anything.

In her piece Cooper says, "Black women’s indomitable, unyielding strength in the face of unreasonable privation is one of our most dearly held cultural and national myths. Our ability to make a way out of no way seems like magic. We invoke this fa├žade of strength as though it could actually materially replace the lack of care, the lack of outrage, the lack of social policy that could actually help black women and girls not to repeatedly succumb to severe poverty, mental illness, plain old racism and sexism, and disability." 


These stories of missing women, these stories of girls abducted, these stories of girls getting abused and 
blamed for their abuse, are women, they are people, they are me and they should be you.  They have lives and thoughts and they matter just like everyone else.  The lack of attention to these stories, the lack of societal care for black women needs a serious reformation as it is truly a problem in the collective conscious of the world.   




Monday, May 5, 2014

To spank or not to spank, that is the question


This past weekend, I received a compliment I've been waiting to hear for years. No, it wasn't on my shoes, clothes or "getting my body back" after baby.
As I was leaving a dinner party, filled with adults and kids, a lady walked up to me and said, "You have the most well behaved kids! They are so polite and have great manners; you're doing such a good job with them."
Similar to Lupita Nyong'o at the Academy Awards, I almost broke down and cried my way through an acceptance speech.
"I'd like to thank..."
But instead, with a sheepish grin, I mumbled together something like, "Oh thanks!"
I would love to say that I did this all without, as Gwyneth would say, "forcefully disciplining" my children. I would love to be a part of the chorus that believes spanking children is not the way to go and the only thing spanking does is create more aggressive, fearful children. But since I've used it on my own children, I won't.
Look, I don't believe that spanking should be the main form of punishment for a child. It shouldn't even be a go-to. What I will say is that I believe there is a right and a wrong way to discipline your children, no matter if you spank them or not.
When I was growing up, both of my parents spanked me. There was a difference, however, in the way that my mother and father carried out that punishment. Now, before I start ratting out both of my parents, I have love and respect for both of them. As an educated adult, I understand their belief that spanking would curb certain behaviors. With that said, my father was a military man. As the main enforcer of punishment, he was often reactionary, with the thought that any misbehavior would self-correct after a good swat.
My mother, on the other hand, took a different approach. She would rarely spank, but when she did, she would often stop the wrongdoing immediately and delay the punishment -- and I always wondered why. I now know the delay was so she could have time to calm down. Spankings with her usually occurred at night, after a long explanation for the reason, so that I fully understood its purpose.
It's not necessarily spankings, or timeouts, or whatever mode of discipline is new right now. What children really need is to be talked to, starting at an early age, even if they don't understand everything right away. Understanding why you are being punished goes a lot further than passing out the punishment.
I have since tried to model my own life with my children, like my mother did with me and my siblings. I'm not going to give future predictions, but judging by the world audience, so far it has worked.

This piece was originally featured on WTOP's Parenting page.
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