Archive for January, 2011

Provin’ and Defendin’

It’s a scene that I won’t forget: Kim, one of my high school friends, was involved in a heated argument with her older sister Karen. They were going back-and-forth about an incident that occurred between Kim and a girl named Natalie, who was Karen’s best friend. Kim was vehemently denying Natalie’s version of the story and incensed that her sister was taking Natalie’s side rather than hers. I even tried to help Kim out by vouching for her statements. After listening to all the protests that went back and forth like a volley of tennis balls, Miss Mae Jessie (Kim and Karen’s 82-year old Grandmother) looked at Kim with vexation and finally spoke up.

“Awwww, SHADDUP, Gal!” she said irritably, making a shushing motion with her hand. We all jumped and instantly became silent.

Quit all that provin’ and defendin.’ Ain’t no use in you tryn’ ta convince that gal. She don’t believe you no way.”

Needless to say, at that point the argument was moot.

Not too long ago I had occasion to think about Miss Mae Jessie’s statement about “provin’ and defendin.’” I became embroiled in a Facebook “discussion” that started out weighing the merits of an article that appeared on www.theeconomist.com entitled “Sex and the Single Black Woman” (http://www.economist.com/node/15867956). I won’t go into all the points of the article (after all, Reading is Fundamental – if you care to you can read it for yourself. And yes, I love you, too).

Someone commented that swirling was an option, and (channeling my high school days of piping in and supporting) I made a comment about what statistics show about the rate that Black men inter marry, how they don’t seem to worry about making that choice, and how Black women are reluctant because when they intermarry they are accused of abandoning the race, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  (Want stats? feel free to read a very long report here http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1616/american-marriage-interracial-interethnic. There are tons more reports I could provide links to; but hey!  I’ll do us all a favor and shout “E.L.M.O.!”).

[Sidebar: Um, for those of you who didn’t read last week’s blog, E.L.M.O. means:

Enough!

Let’s

Move

On!

You see, I tend to over-explain sometimes – hence this sidebar and hence the title of this post. If you continue to read this blog you will probably discover that I’ll have to call on E.L.M.O. at least once during most of the posts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

Suffice it to say that the temperature of the discussion very quickly moved to the boiling point (for me) when one of the guys made the comment, “Remember Massa,” and then (in my estimation) tried to dominate the conversation and do exactly what I’d stated in the first place – make Black women feel guilty for choosing to go into interracial relationships.

We wound up going back and forth about Massa; why we should remember him (or not); be aware of our history and yet move on (or not), Ad infinitum, Ad nauseum.

And suddenly, in the midst of the bickering back and forth, the “provin’ and defendin’” on both sides, came the voice of reason. A very wise Sistah on the boards known for her no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip ability to get to the heart of the matter and tell it like it T – I is, made a couple of comments that made me wonder if she was somehow related to ole Miss Mae Jessie. Sistah-Girl stated that Sistahs need to make like the Brothers and just do it. In essence, she thought it was foolish to waste a lot of time (and keystrokes) trying to justify or explain who we loved, or why – just love your man and keep it moving.

In other words, “Quit all that provin’ and defendin.’ Ain’t no use in you trynna convince [them]. [They] don’t believe you no way.”

I had an epiphany, I tell you.

Guess what? Everybody doesn’t need “enlightening,” or an “explanation.” Not only do they not need it, they don’t want it – and sometimes, truth be told, they didn’t ask for it. Explain for what? Sure, there will be some who will have questions and genuinely want to know more – and the people in this category are grown enough to inquire. Those who want to live in the past, denigrate an entire race of people for things that happened before any of us were born, or choose to let the long, hurtful arm of the past reach over and taint their present and their future, will continue to do so. Others who elect to build on the foundation of the past, infused with – and inspired by – the resilience, strength and grace of their ancestors, and move forward embracing the joys of today and the promise of the future, will continue to do so. There’s no need for either side to engage in provin’ and defendin’.  At worst, we can shut each other down and shut each other out, and not believe each other no way. At best, we can live in peace and harmony, agree to disagree – and keep it moving.

January 28, 2011 at 8:06 AM 6 comments

The Things You People Do

Yesterday I stopped to pick up a few items at Target. You know – the big box store that markets itself as an upscale place where you can one-stop-shop. The store that does its level best to distance itself from Wal-Mart, its country bumpkin cousin. You know – Wal-Mart – the cousin that is so country and so bumpkin that it has spawned websites such as http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to land on the e-mail list of someone who gleefully forwarded photos of these interesting-looking-and-interesting-dressing people, or had the  cajónes to visit the site yourself, then I’m sure you understand why Target attempts to distance itself.  Hmmm . . . well, unless you’re country and a bumpkin, or better yet, one of the people in the photos . .  in which case, I have terribly digressed and need to move on).

Elmo

Enough!

Let’s

Move

On….

Moving right along . . . .

When I got up to the registers I was treated to a fine spectacle. I actually heard him before I saw him – somebody’s 3-4 year old alarming the store with very loud screaming and crying. You know the kind of “crying” I’m talking about: Not the “Oh! I just fell and hurt myself” or the “Oh! I’m afraid of that man from Wal-Mart” kind of crying, but the I’m- a-bad-little-brat-and-my-Mother-doesn’t-discipline-me-and–I-prove-it-every-time-she-takes-me-out-in-public-around-people-who-are-appalled-at-how-she-allows-me-to-throw-loud-temper-tantrums-and-bite-scream-and-kick-her-to-get-the-toy-or-candy-that-I-want kind of crying.

[A side note: I like to stare down the Mothers of kids like this. After all, since this is the means by which you allow your child to pull your puppet strings and have his/her way – why should I not stare at you until you’re ready to shrivel with embarrassment? Shucks, I want your son/daughter to get whatever it is he or she is screaming about so THEY CAN SHUT UP AND STOP THEIR VERBAL ASSAULT ON MY EARDRUMS].

(looking around for Elmo . . . .)

Anyway, I joined the other appalled people in the line just in time to overhear a brief conversation between two ladies who formulate the same Mother/Daughter combo I make when I take my Mom to Target (Mother: wants to shop every aisle = stay in Target a minimum of three hours. Daughter: likes Target but does not like it enough to shop in there for three hours = will do it because she loves her Mother).

Mother (in pretty much the same disapproving tone my Mother would use): “That’s just a sin and a shame before God! Don’t make no sense; a child carrying on like that! Wish I could get my hands on his lil’ bad behind. I tell you what; you wouldn’t even know he was in here.”

Daughter (snorting as she thought about how she would have been picking herself up off the floor of Target’ if she had even remotely dreamed about behaving like that in public or anywhere else): “Hmpf. Mama, you know how White people do. They let their kids carry on like that.”

I snickered to myself in agreement, knowing that if my fiancé  had been present I probably would have had a field day. You see, we keep a running tally of what we call “The Things You People Do.”

See, it all started when I first told my Mother about my  . . . um . . . Swirl Man.

My Mother (in a wary tone): “Does this mean we’re going to have to watch everything we say around him???”

Me (amused): “No! Y’all can say whatever you like. If we’re all gonna be family, then we’re not going to play the censorship game.”

My Mother (relieved): “Good. We don’t want to have to walk on eggshells around him and worry about what we say.”

Me: “Well, you won’t have to. Everybody can just be themselves and say whatever they want to say. He’ll just have to deal with it – just like I will. He can handle it.”

My Mother: “Well, I hope he doesn’t come here and pick up food with his bare hands instead of using a napkin or something. You know how White people do.”

At that point, the conversation ended . . . because I was laughing too hard.

I waited until we went out to dinner before I told him. Sure enough, The Swirl Man had reached for some of the appetizer we ordered and used his hand instead of a fork. That night, “The Things You People Do” was born.

Fortunately, my guy has a great sense of humor and wasn’t offended in the least. In fact, we wound up having a great discussion about what we’d been taught and what we’d heard about other races. I won’t go into them here because I want you to think about the ones you’ve heard – or even said – down through the years. So often the images we see on television, in movies, or in the news project certain races and ethnicities in a negative light. I swear it seems like every time the local news interviews witnesses to a crime or neighborhood happening, it’s as if they deliberately seek out individuals who I’ll describe as being “less than polished” or inarticulate. Sure, talking about “The Things You People Do” is amusing, but it’s hurtful when we allow ourselves to lock races of people into critical, judgmental, and stereotypical boxes. Stereotypes are crutches that distance people from one another and, if left unchecked, can ultimately generate intolerance and even hate. Instead of resorting to the easy way out and attributing specific characteristics to certain groups of people, let’s keep an open mind and take people just as they are – one person at a time.

How bout we let that be “The Things We People Do.”

January 21, 2011 at 8:07 AM 2 comments

Just so you know: I’m posting EVERY WEEK in 2011!!!

I want to share my story!

And to do that, I will have to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog at least once a week  for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but I know it will be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful! Therefore I’m promising to share with you every Friday my joys, sorrows, ups, and downs in The Swirl World.

As you read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Smooches,

A Swirl Girl

January 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM 2 comments

Well, I Never!

The Urban Dictionary defines swirl as “two people of different ethnicities hookin up.” Now, after a wonderful time in undergrad at a prestigious HBCU (historically Black college/university), marriage to a Pentecostal pastor (who passed away after 10 years of marriage), and dates with various brothers. I find myself in the unlikely state of being “a SWIRL girl.”

Yes, me.

ME!

The daughter of an Army officer Father who lived and traveled all over the US and abroad with her Mother and two brothers.  The first (along with my brothers) to integrate the schools in the small town in Louisiana where my Mother grew up.  Soul-Sista, feminist –  ME! Power-to-the-people – ME! Angela-Davis I-love-your-fro-and-I’m-rockin’-natural-hair-right-now – ME!

All-of-that and more describes me, the girl who I can honestly say never seriously entertained the idea of an interracial relationship and was never really down with swirling. In high school a couple of  White guys (very hesitantly) approached me , and in college a Puerto Rican classmate (I’ll call him Darren) had a bona fide crush on me. I dismissively laughed off the high schoolers (and was even somewhat insulted!). I really liked Darren as a person, but just could never wrap my head around actually dating him. I certainly never thought I would be the ME that I am today, “a SWIRL girl.”

Yes!  I’m now  “a SWIRL girl” – all booed up with a White guy.

In a word, WOW.  Mama always said, “Never say never” – and I guess she was right.

And so the journey begins! Please join me here each Friday when I share my views on life, love, and culture as I traverse through “the SWIRL world.”

Feel free to “like” The Swirl World on Facebook and join the discussions there. Talk to ya Friday!

January 14, 2011 at 1:01 AM 6 comments


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