Lighter days

Oh, readers. The summer has been long and hot. I spent most of my time looking for a job. Whatever time was left over, I spent fighting with people on Facebook. In retrospect, I now believe the “anger” part of grief is real. It’s a thing. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my intense anger about the things happening in the world were a more palatable way of processing how pissed I am at the world, the universe and everything in it.

Then, I got a job and things started looking less dark. I bought some new clothes, went to Chicago. Today, I found out that Barnes & Noble in Memphis will be carrying Wailing Wall when it comes out on November 10. I’ve gotten a couple of invitations to guest blog. I’ve started to talk about what the book launch parties will look like and it’s definitely lightening my emotional load. I knew that writing the book was the only way I would survive losing Josh. Now, the book is supporting me in ways I hadn’t even imagined.

And? I’m working on another one. Sort of. It’s still all in my head, but I know the theme and structure and there are even some words written. As much fun as it is to invent characters and make stuff up, non-fiction is just plain easier for me to write than fiction. Once I’m able to sit down and start pounding out words, I believe I can still publish this one in 2016. Working title: Having Loved Many Men. I’ll let you ponder what it’s about.

Autumn is coming and I can break out my favorite sweater. Soon the leaves will change and I’ll sink in to myself for the winter. Like the old gospel song says, “All is well with my soul.”

~D

About rage

Let’s be honest – I am angry. In general. My default mood could be defined as an aggressive simmer and all it takes is one comment on Facebook, one well-placed meme to turn up the heat. I can work myself in to heart palpitations lying in my bed in the middle of the night just thinking about some of the things I read.

I’ve worked to keep a wide range of people from all aspects of my life on Facebook, including ones who hold political and social views that are different from mine. I thought it would help me understand them better, provide a point for human connection for us both. But all it has really done is reminded me every day that I share a planet with people who will “Like” the pictures of my children, but wouldn’t stop to help them if they were in a car wreck or give them the benefit of the doubt if they were lying dead and uncovered in the street for four hours. Then, I think of that little brown boy seven hundred miles away who started first grade in his white Polo and navy blue shorts. And it becomes personal. There are people in the world who will wish malice upon him because of his skin as soon as he hits puberty. And I can’t save him.

Neither could I save Joshua.

And, that pisses me off.  They’re not just stealing the life of my grandson. They’re disparaging the life of my dead son. And, I believe that rage is an appropriate response to that. And, that’s something that I’m not sure my friends who aren’t terrified for the lives of their children understand.  I get that I am not processing all that well these days. I’m not being productive. That I’m losing myself. I do. But I’ve got years of righteous anger bottled up – years of being the voice of reason and taking the high road and it it has only brought more and more opportunities to see people I love ground in to the pavement on the city streets of injustice.  And now, I’ve got grief behind it. Maybe I’m not being productive, but maybe I am. Maybe coming to terms with the fact that when my grandmother asked me thirty-odd years ago, “Why would you want to do that to a child?” she might have realized something I didn’t – the world is a despicable place to raise children of color.

And, I can’t save them.

~ D

Have it your way, but don’t get crazy

An old friend, Patti Durr (may she rest in peace) nicknamed her Deedee. My alter ego, my inner child, the person who fought for her life for so long that she doesn’t know any other way to be in the world. I tell people that I come from an inner-city background. Don’t let the middle-class soccer mom look fool you. Deedee is alive and well and living just below the surface.  She’s a lot like Bonquiqui from this Mad TV sketch.  Most of the time, I just hear her mumbling under her breath and we laugh together as I walk through the world. But when things start to feel too dangerous, Deedee takes the lead.

And she will.cut.you.

It would be disingenuous to apologize for her. When she comes out I know  something is threatening my sense of self.  It feels like a life or death situation. There is danger about and the best defense is a good offense. She’s saved me many times and I love her.

In some discussions around social justice issues, Deedee takes charge. Particularly if I’ve been arguing all day for someone to consider a point of view different from their own. Especially when the conversation has devolved to personal insults.  Especially when I feel like someone I love is in danger because of this person’s position.  She’s more brave than I am, you see. Her need to be loved and accepted is subordinate to survival. Whereas I can spend a lot of time with my brow furrowed, nodding and trying to understand why you believe that some people are inherently criminal, or that you know what is best for a population you do not belong to, Deedee will let you know.

I am unapologetic. Well behaved women rarely make history, right? Love me, love Deedee.

~D

America’s Perfect Storm

One day, I ran into a woman I knew in Target. I wouldn’t call her a friend – more of a friend of a friend. We’d been in the same social situations many times and were cordial, but neither of us ever went beyond that in developing a relationship. Still, I figured I knew her well enough that I should say “hi” when I saw her in the shoe section.

In typical polite Southern style, I said, “Your hair looks great! When did you get it cut?”

“Nigger day,” she answered.

“Huh?” Or maybe I said “What?” or “Excuse me?”

“Martin Luther King day. I was off work anyway so I treated myself to a hair cut and a pedicure.”

Did this woman know my children were people of color? Yes, I’m sure she did. She’d been in the same room with them.  So, did it still not occur to her that what she said might be offensive? Or did she not care?  I tucked it away – I had all the information about this woman I needed.

Fast forward several years and her child has returned from Afghanistan and is looking for a job. They apply to the local Police Department and I’m asked to be a reference. I’d seen this person really struggle since returning from deployment. Explosive anger. Excessive drinking.  When the PD called for a reference check, I told them there was no way I would put a gun in this person’s hand*.

I’ve been thinking about what I would have done if the person had not exhibited symptoms of PTSD – would I have given a glowing recommendation? This person had always been respectful and kind to me. Would knowing that they came from a family that referred to Martin Luther King Day as “Nigger Day” have sent off similar red flags for me?

As I watch the number of police shootings of unarmed black people scroll before me on social media, I wonder what the difference is between those officers who proudly and ethically serve their communities for 20-30-40 years without shooting an unarmed person and those that don’t.  Since research has shown that white people are more likely to perceive a black person as dangerous than another white person, that may be part of the puzzle.  (You can take a version of that study here.) When you add on a family history where racism is not only the norm but proudly flaunted and military training to dehumanize people seen as the enemy, does that create perfect storm for shooting first and asking questions later?

Add this story to the storm: In Baltimore, where Lt. Brian Rice has been charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office due to the death of Freddie Gray, allegations have been made that Psychology Consultants Associates (PCA), the firm that is the sole provider of pre-employment psychological screenings and “fitness for duty” evaluations for officers seeking to return to active duty after an incident, may not have been doing the job they were contracted to do.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been accused of being anti-police. Someone said that people who encourage hatred of police by posting the shootings of unarmed people were responsible for the death of a Memphis Police Officer (Sean Bolton). I believe that in America, there is a perfect storm brewing and we are all contributing to it. White people who can’t even consider that they may harbor implicit bias that makes them more likely to perceive a threat from a black person, much less take any action to fix it. The “unfinished business of slavery” that looms over us and limits the rights of people of color by gerrymandering voting districts and passing voting laws that – intentionally or not – keep poor people and people of color from exercising their voting rights. Unethical organizations (like PCA mentioned above) after the dolla-dolla-bill instead of performing the work they were hired to do. Officers who see other officers exhibiting behaviors that are questionable without reporting them (and worse, corroborating false stories after a tragedy happens).  Draining money out of inner cities so that children grow less and less educated and more and more poor (and thus, more likely to commit crime).

Let me be clear that if I’m angry at police, I’m equally angry at myself. I’m angry at my fellow white American who isn’t outraged that my grandson could be sitting in a playground with a pellet gun, be perceived as a threat and shot to death.  I’m angry at politicians who worry more about two women marrying than about the safety and liberty of our citizenry.

I’m angry.

And I’m tired.

~D

*I’m happy to say that the person is doing much better now – at least from where I stand in their life.