Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bmore Bashing

I am a Baltimore Native. Yes, I grew up in the county but when I moved out from my parents, I moved to the city. I was educated in Baltimore (by way of Loyola and University of Maryland Law), got my culture from Baltimore and had many a good time there. While I no longer live in Baltimore I find a need to stand up for it. So what's there to stand up to, you ask?

Upon my exodus from Baltimore, I cannot tell you the number of times I will tell someone where I'm from and get everything from a raised eyebrow to a "are you packing?" to a "but you don't seem/sound/look like you are from there".  What does that mean? It's so annoying! shocked animated GIF

As if my life in Baltimore was just one long episode of The Wire. It doesn't matter if the person I'm speaking to came from a not so spiffy neck of the woods or are not living so comfortably, they still feel in a place to judge. Why the hate towards Baltimore? I've had people recount many a tale about an unfortunate event they have had in Baltimore and summarize the whole town with that event. Usually said event is in a less than savory area or club.

Sure, there is crime but there are also great things about this town.
  • It's accessible because its small, which for me is a great thing. I love a manageable city (Florence, Amsterdam).

  • It has some really cool areas. Fells Point (cute boutiques, good places to eat and drink), Federal Hill (fun bars), Harbor East (fancy and trendy shopping and eating),Mt. Vernon/Charles Village (hipster), Inner Harbor (touristy but fun for shopping/nightlife), Hampden (quirky).
  • Its artsy. I know people, especially in the music area, who have left their cities to come to Baltimore because of the art scene. (Check out Mt. Vernon and Charles Village area)

  • Movies love us. Sure The Wire, The Corner and Homicide were filmed here. But Wikipedia "films shot in Baltimore" and you will see a host of notables you didn't know were filmed here. Mostly because its a town that has locations that can mimic other cities. Step Up 1 and 2 were filmed here. House of Cards, He's Just Not That Into You, Sleepless in Seattle...

    Just to name a few. If this city was so dangerous, I doubt so many stars would risk their lives coming here.

  • It's a great place to learn. John Hopkins, University of Maryland Grad Schools, Loyola are all top tier schools and there are many others (Towson, Morgan, Coppin, Notre Dame, University of Baltimore...).

  • The people. Sure some folks are "special". But Baltimoreans are a chill, down to earth, non pretentious, fun bunch.

No city is prefect. Not every city can be glamorous. But one thing is certain, judging someone based on where they are from is absolutely ridiculous and you never know what great person you are missing out on by dismissing them because of where they came from.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Traveling While Black: Barcelona

I absolutely love to travel. In my pretend life I'd love to be a black female version of Anthony Bourdain, except with more focus on shopping instead of food ;-) .  But as a female I can't just pick up and go. I don't have a camera crew with me and although certain places sound awesome, when planning a trip I don't just look at what sites there are to see but what the culture is like towards women and African Americans. I'm not into spending my money in a city in which they will go around calling me the N word, nor a town where I fear for my safety.

Regardless of anything, traveling the world as a black female is markedly different than as a white male. If you thought we faced racism and stereotyping in our own country imagine what
a country that is not as diverse or not raised in our history must think of us. How one sided would a person think if their only experience with black people are what shows and news were exported to their country?

I've been traveling overseas, off and on, for almost twenty years (since I was two, yeah two years old) and my experience has changed over time and depending on the countries. I am fairly certain that there is a link between the media's images of black women and how I am treated.

I will be doing a series of posts dedicated to my experiences traveling overseas as a black woman and would love to hear if others experience things differently or the same regardless of race and gender.

First up:

Barcelona, Spain- my first time experiencing out in your face racism. I loved my time in this country (the shopping, the history, the food) but the racism I experienced will always mar my memories of this place. I hope its better there now. But at the time that I went, the 90s, there weren't a lot of exports of black people in the media. Further some European countries that saw an influx of African immigrants did not appreciate it and extended that negative attitude towards tourist of the African diaspora. It boggles my mind how people can just treat others they don't know poorly.

I came to Spain as part of a group of students and we lived in the homes of the locals. I am not sure my Spanish teacher told the couple we were staying with that we were black. She shouldn't have had to but sadly, these things matter. The couple did seemed surprised to find we were black and showed quickly that they were not comfortable with us there. We never had dinner with them, instead they served us after they ate. And the food was not good (some of the meat was bleeding okay?). Deciding that we didn't deserve that, my roommate and I just ate out every night for dinner. They told my teacher we were messy (I was not and the clothes on the floor they claimed were ours were sometimes theirs). We ended up spending the last night in a hotel so we could have one good night there. On our way out we gave the family flowers and a thanks because we were raised right. In response they just asked us for the key to the house.

In contrast my other classmates were fortunate enough to stay in good homes so I won't blame the whole country. It is just sad that we were off the start treated like second class citizens without having done anything wrong. There were other events (being called a monkey, having some club goers throw ice at us in the club) that really tarnish my memories of the place.

In that same time, I also experienced local males (adults) being overtly flirtatious with us, to the point of harassment in some cases. I was a teenager so this was scary. I still blame this on the export of rap videos which, at the time, featured an array of scantily clad black women. If that's all you see of black culture well, if you're closed minded enough, you act on that.

In sum, would I steer black people away from visiting Barcelona? No way. It was a nice time and most of the people were friendly. It's just interesting to note  that even a time of rest and relaxation can be uprooted by people who feel entitled to mistreat you based solely on your race.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What would you do?

The other day I caught a segment on the today show regarding public verbal and physical assault between couples and how bystanders would react. They discuss the difference between most of the public response to Solange/Jay Z on the elevator vs. Ray Rice and his wife. For the former there was laughter and an SNL skit, for the latter, there was outrage and what appeared to be more of a hunt to punish athletes who had assault charges pending.

In the segment they showed fake scenarios where a man was verbally assaulting a woman and then visa versa. In the first, people intervened to stop it. In the second, people did nothing, some took photos and recordings and one even joined helping to hit the guy when the woman was hitting him. It is clear as a culture we have a different standard for violence when it comes to men and women (I'd even venture into race but I'll save that for another day).

So what does that mean? Is it right to let women go around assaulting people unchecked? If there was a video of Syrena Williams kicking her man or knocking him out with her shoe (or whatever) and then getting her bodyguard to drag his body out the elevator would she be suspended from tennis? Even if she was defending herself against his aggression?

How much should we get involved if we see verbal/physical assault? Is it none of our business? I remember some friends and I were out one night and we saw this couple arguing. She was storming away and he kept following her. This went on for a while and she looked extremely upset and he was not leaving her alone. Eventually, one of my friends went up to her and asked if she was ok and needed any help. The woman kind of brushed her off like she didn't want to be bothered. I feel like my friend was being a good human being and the fact that this woman didn't want her help is irrelevant. Whether you are the couple involved in the argument/fight or not, we as a society need to stand up against it all. All types.

This includes letting the victim know that we don't approve either. As support and also as a message that violence is not an action our culture is tolerant of no matter who the aggressor is and how the victim chooses to react to it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Judgement

Someone posted on facebook that, to paraphrase, women who wear weaves and fake lashes are hypocritical and lack confidence. This got me thinking. The whole issue of black women wearing weaves etc.  and the idea of beauty is big in the black community. I haven't witnessed this as much in other communities even though other races are not strangers to cosmetic changes (coloring hair, implants, tans). We are women, we experiment with different things to make us happy. However, it seems that no other group gets criticized for it more than black women.

The hard core naturals want us all to rock our hair unaltered. The main stream wants us to have long straight hair. If you do one or the other something is wrong. We as brown women are inundated with images of fair complexions, long, straight (mostly blond) hair with hazel/blue/green eyes. We are told that is the beauty norm. This is why I get so excited to see brown women (in positive lights) in the media. It was everywhere when Lupita was on the cover of People's Most Beautiful. And Shondra Rhimes has put brown women in starring roles on TV. Kerry on Scandal and Viola on How to Get Away with Murder and the new character on Grey's Anatomy is a natural girl. Love it.

But let's be clear, these are instances and still not the most popular norm of beauty. In the black community, the men are not chasing after the Lupitas as much as they are the Beyonces
or those of other races. I can love my natural hair but many black men have vocalized that they do not care for it as much as my straight hair or say they like my curl pattern but not more kinky patterns that other women in my community might possess.

We struggle for acceptance from the very men who say "I don't like women with all these weaves or all that makeup" then turn around and say BeyoncĂ© or Kim Kardashian are so hot. I do not in any way state that this is all of the black community but it is a significant enough topic. I threw this up on a board on facebook and got a lot of feedback from women who had encountered this before. Heck even my dad made comments when I cut my long hair super short in high school and upon seeing me lately puts his hands in my head to see if my hair is real or not. But-

Who cares?
How are we defining a black woman on the inside based on what she looks like on the outside? There are numerous reasons a woman will wear a wig, weave, contacts, lashes and many of them have little to do with confidence. We want to put our best face out there to the world, we want to experiment, we want to give our real hair a break from the heat damage, we want to cover hair loss (not just from mistreatment of hair but alopecia or cancer), we just want to be!

And if there are women out there who feel they are not as beautiful because they are not light skin, long haired, light eyed women we can't be surprised based on what media and men of color (be they famous or not) at a larger rate seem to run to. Instead of placing a judgmental post, instead post about the type of women you do like without throwing shade. Black women cannot be all things to all people. We cannot change our color, no matter what the creams say (unless gray is a color you want), our hair may not dry straight. We may want to glam it up. We may want to be "wash and go". Whatever we do to make ourselves smile, let it be just that. Instead of an indictment on our self esteem and values.  


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Should You Teach a Man?

I’m a girl so by definition I will gripe. It’s what I do, it’s why females make the best talk show hosts. We gots thangs to say and we say them…often. So after numerous email, brunch powwows, girlfriend get togethers, soliloquies, I decided once and for all to do a post about a topic that has been haunting me since I first started dating. To teach or not to teach a guy about proper dating etiquette otherwise known as “things his mama or papa should have told him growing up”.

K, so I get torn between the school of “you can’t train/change a man” and the school of “well if you don’t tell him how will he know?”. I feel that women are used to the former but if you think about it a lot of men will say the latter. I don’t think I can change a man BUT I do believe that you can tell a man what you want and if done the right way and with a man who actually cares, you can “inspire” him to change. I seent it (she says in her Craig Robinson voice). The trick is to do it in a way that is not demanding and gives a guy the desire to want to do it because he wants to see you happy not because he doesn’t want to be nagged or fight with you.

So here are some things I and some other females believe a guy should just know especially by the time they hit 30.

 · Walk me to my car after the date
 · Call me on the phone instead of texting all the time
 · First date should be somewhere close to me or at least a middle distance, not close to him
 · Plan a few dates instead of the last minute “what are you up to tonight”, particularly for the first couple of dates
 · If I’m in a jam (car broke down, sick with a non lethal illness) offer to help.

You might have other pet peeves but these are just the ones that grind my gears. So what’s the fix for these? Do you put up with it and gripe to your gal pals or do you tell the guy?
Turn the page.
Tell them!

If they don’t change, then walk away if you can’t deal but at least give them the benefit of being put on notice. And not in an angry way. All they’ll end up hearing is the Charlie Brown teacher voice with a view of the proverbial “angry black woman”.

So here’s my unsolicited, unprofessional advice to the above pet peeves:

 · Mention that it makes you feel safe or special that he is escorting you
 · Mention that you are a better conversationalist via the phone and that texting doesn’t allow you focus your full attention on the conversation since you can be distracted or not hear the text alert
 · If he plans a first date that is close to where he lives mention the extra distance it takes to get there, that you want to devote more time getting to know him instead of cutting the date short due to the drive there and back and offer another area/place to meet with promises that you’d like to try his first spot in the future when you aren’t so pressed for time.
 · Mention that you like spontaneous guys but you also feel really special when a guy takes the time to plan a date for you. Also mention that you are a busy gal so sometimes last minute rings for dates don’t work out because you try to make plans early in the week (especially for weekends)
 · If I’ve been dating a guy a while and I call him with a problem, while it’s nice to think he’ll be all superman, some guys need to be asked.

Scenario One:
 Me: my car broke down
 Him: that’s horrible. Did you call triple A?
 Me: yes
 Him: good, keep me posted
Old me: thinking- seriously dude? You don't want to offer to pick me up or send me a cab, something?
 New me: I have to figure out how I'm going to get home now from here (hint , hint, then ask him directly if that don't work)

 Scenario two:
 Me: cough cough, I’m sick
 Him: oh no. get plenty of rest and take something for it
 Me: I am….
 Him: Ok cool, well keep me posted, I’ll text you later to check in on you
 Old Me: thinking- he don’t care nuthin bout me (yeah in my Ms. Sophia from the Color Purple voice)
 New Me: Well I could use some chicken soup (or more medicine or a burger whatever you need to help). I’m just too weak to go get it. (hint, hint)

 Morale of the story, it’s not so much about teaching and more about sharing. I expect a person not to rob me but there are plenty of robbers out there. We can’t expect everyone to be raised like us and we definitely can’t expect everyone to value the same things as we do. With that in mind, let a guy know so he’s in on what you have going on in your mind.