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A Mostly Center-Right Place For Those With Irritable Obama Syndrome and Diversity Fatigue

Finding Your Inner Skank May 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Women — afrocity @ 10:55 AM
Tags: , ,

At the risk of sounding like a prude, may I ask what the hell was tennis superstar Venus Williams thinking when she wore that horrible outfit to the French Open last Sunday?   That could not be a Wilson sanctioned piece!  Black lace and neon yellow tennis balls do not make for a good match…Pun intended!

During a recent ride on the “L”  in which I had to brave some of Chicago’s dangerous neighborhoods, I noticed a number of young women in clothing that was less than zero on the lady scale.   Shorts in the booty crack, tall stiletto high heels pushing a double decker baby stroller- all the while speaking loudly on the “pay as you go cell phone”  with baby’s daddy.

And please, do not get me started on the sad, sad tattoos some of these women were sporting.  Multiples!!!! On one women.   A picture of Obama on the left shoulder, another of a rose above the ankle.  Ah, how clever a arabesque bracelet tattooed around the wrist! Gee now why didn’t I think of that?  I could have saved all of that money I spent on jewelry.

But wait! As the train pulled into the 63rd Street station, the pièce de résistance boarded in bright”cum fuck me”  red shorts, white 4 inch heels and  weaved hair kidnapped from a Barbie doll- Suntan Barbie.   There is kind of a natural inner scream that wells in my stomach whenever I see someone touch their feet in public.   The young woman dug into her purse, took out a bottle of green lotion and began moisturizing her feet.  Her toenails were painted Liquid Paper white.  There were some sort of designs on them.   While the foot fetish show developed,  I imagine what I would say to her if she were my friend.

“Girl, I love you but…”

I am being too rough on these women.

Perhaps becoming a lady is a transformative work in progress.

Maybe at 40, I have forgot what it was like to be in my teens and 20’s.

There was a time  in my life when I worked pretty damn hard to achieve  the Madonna look.  Headband round my hair, short pink neon mini-skirt, lace leggings.   My own history teacher once told my mother that by idolizing Madonna,  I was destined to be a slut rather than the budding young historian he saw in me.   My decision to wear white spandex leggings and a short fluffy yellow angora sweater to typing class on a 10 degree January day was the talk of the teacher’s lounge.  That caused my high school’s resident pervert “Mr. J.”  to saunter up to me in the hallway and calmly but creepily inform me that some of the teachers found my attire to be not lady like.   Mr. J  was kind enough to mention that in his opinion I was “HOT” and the other teachers were just being “uptight”.

I went home and mentioned none of this to mother- who by the way,  approved of many of my outfits on the weekly basis.  How could I be slutty when I was a virgin? None of the teachers’ concerns apply to me.   I knew who I was.  Clothing was an expression of my inner….skank?  No, no, no.  I was just being creative and experimenting with different looks.  Cut me some slack.  When you are on welfare and do most of your shopping at the Salvation Army it is not like you can afford to look like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club !!!   So I wore tight leggings. I was about 80lbs and drank a vanilla milk shake at McDonald’s every day just so I could grow a butt that the boys would stare at during gym class.   Don’t I at least get some credit for not wearing mood lipstick or leather gloves with the fingers cut out?

I continued to wear my spandex white leggings mostly because the teachers told me not to.   Because I was a dumb seventeen year old, I could not intellectually understand the metaphor of skanky clothing and girls with restless open leg syndrome.  My hymen reported intact and ready for duty every morning. As long as I knew this, I would not identify with what the others were saying about me.

Over the course of the semester, I found an ally in my music teacher.  Oddly, I was helping her tidy the classroom one afternoon and we began talking about boys.  I told her that I was a virgin who believed in abstinence (with occasional fixes of heavy petting) .

“I knew it!!!”  she smiled.  “I told them you were too nerdy despite the clothes. Anyone who chooses to recite “The Bells” as a soliloquy in World Lit is a nerd. “

That was music to my ears.  Someone actually understood that I was not a skank.

“When you are young and a woman,” teacher continued. ” you like to dress up, wear short skirts, too much make-up.  The mirror never tells you that you look anything less than beautiful- neither do the guys. “

My appreciation for her acceptance of me as a nerdy skank was inexpressible.  Only a huge smile was on my face. What was surprising about the entire moment was that my music teacher was the most proper dressing woman in the entire Chicago Public School System.

“You will grow out of it one day,”  she assured me.

And I did.  Now I only wear legging with tunics or over-sized sweaters.  My wardrobe is de-spandexed.

Miracles do happen.  One day you may wake up and your inner skank is gone.  Did not even bother to leave a note.  All you found was a pile of clothes sitting at the door labeled “DONATE”.

So here’s to you Venus Williams.

You are a tennis icon.

Who cares what people think of you!!!!

Embrace your inner skank.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Sunday Soliloquy: King Richard and the Chicken Hearted May 23, 2010

King Richard Daley II of Chicago, Illinois

Taking refuge in my apartment is how much of my summer will be spent.  When it comes to violence and murder, Chicago has definitely seen better days.  With the sexual revolution of the 1970’s came freedom in the bedroom but we raising our inhibitions in every other matter.

“There was a time that you could sleep all night in Lincoln Park under the stars,”  mother would say while shaking her head over some rape or murder that was reported.  “No one would bother us.  Kids could go trick or treating without checking for razors in their fruit. A stranger could give you a ride home.  Now look at what things have come to.”

Again, Chicago has seen better days.  Unlike myself, mother  did not have to worry about being shot by a drive by on a nice summer day.

Yes, better days indeed.

The same goes for the people the  citizens of Cook County elect to its highest office. Chicago has seen better leaders in its past.

Or has it?

On the evening of Monday December 20th, 1976, an emergency bulletin diverted my mother’s attention as she prepared my dinner in the kitchen. Our component set radio was tuned to ABC news in the living room where I was playing with my calico cat “Taco”. We had developed a game of chase the Fisher Price person. I would fling the piece across the linoleum – usually the father piece- I always abused him. The cat would chase him to some narrow corner and roll him about. The radio was of no concerned to me. It was only news and for some reason, mother loved to hear the news during the evening. She preferred to receive her daily dose of happenings by radio- as if we failed to possess a television. Never quite understood why she was like that but even at night, we would listen in the dark to old broadcasts of “The Shadow” or another station that played ghost stories.
“Listen and picture what they are describing in your mind,” she instructed.

I would nestle in bed and close my eyes.  Some nights, the stories were just as frightening as if they were on television.  Others, they would make me go to sleep.  I was indifferent.  I could take it by sight or sound.  But for my mother, something about the sound of the radio satisfied her.  She liked to create her own photo-journalistic pictures without help from the restraining eye of the media.

On December 20, 1976 she saw a powerful man- who was either loved or hated -dead on a sofa in his doctor’s office. Her vision needed no assistance. Just the sound words told the story.

I smelled smoke coming from the kitchen. Taco stopped playing with her captive toy.  Mother came running into the living room.  At first, I thought she was angry with me for not having changed out of my Catholic school uniform but once she kneeled down by the radio,  I realized that something bad must have occurred.

The gruff voice on the radio was saying that Richard J. Daley, our mayor, had died of a heart attack in his doctor’s office.  He had been in office since 1955–the year my brother was born which was a long time ago.  Chicago had lost its father.  He was 74.

Funeral for Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Cardinal John Cody pictured Daley's widow Eleanor and her son Richard M. Daley. Chicago Tribune photo by Michael Budrys

This is a big deal, I thought to myself.  The mayor was the king of the city.  His name was on everything from garbage trucks to the big tall concrete apartment building where my cousin lived.  A sensation of excitement and fear could be heard in the announcer’s voice.  My mother was clearly shaken.   Chicago would never be the same ever again and depending upon through what lens one looked at things, that could be a good thing.   Daley’s death would herald the end  of the ” Chicago Machine“- a system of political patronage and corruption.  Dependency upon the machine would be a hard habit for Richard J. Daley’s chicken hearted cronies to break.

Though the impact of the mayor’s death upon my mother was not as directly felt as that of a Chicago politician, I could see that she was having a difficult time processing the tragedy.

“What will I do now?” she asked herself aloud.  “I was thinking of paying that old man down at the City Hall to let me sit for a test to be a caseworker.”

Mayor Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. Daley- who would be the future mayor of Chicago

Mother had wanted to be a welfare caseworker for sometime.  She was convinced that you could only get jobs with the city and state if you knew or payed someone on the inside.  Often, her assessment was correct.  Nepotism was an essential component of the Chicago Machine.  It was about who you know and how much you paid them.  Feeding the machine was essential to your ability to rise in social stature on the waves of the mighty “big shoulders”.    Your job relied upon it as well as the schools that your children attended- particularly at the high school level.  A dramatic sum of cash was not easy for a mid-thirties single welfare mother to come up with.

The following Saturday was Christmas Day but for the city,  the death of its King burdened the normally happy day.  But for a child, there is very little that can ruin Christmas.  Gifts were opened at home and later we rode the bus to Grandmother’s house.  Upon entering, I could smell bay leaves and sage.  Grandmother was singing, which was not like her at all.

Somehow the  holiday was extra special for Grandma.  Our visit would later reveal that my mother’s concern about Daley’s death was not a meeting of the minds when it came to the reaction of her own mother.

“The machine is dead!!!”  Grandma exclaimed, laughing, chopping celery.   She did not have any teeth and had a gummy smile but it was still beautiful .  “I bet ol’ Daley is down there with Satan fit to be tied,”  she continued. “Fussing about ‘who gonna take my place?Lordy be’ “

“I feel sorry for his family,”  mother said taking her seat at the kitchen table. “Losing him during the holiday and all. What family wants to deal with that?”

Grandma twisted her lip and rolled her eyes,  “Hmphf!! That man is responsible for more dead men than anyone in the city.  Running ’round with mobsters, the likes of Sam Giancana, blockbusting.  I don’t feel one bit of sorry.”

Mayor Richard J. Daley overlooking Chicago

“I bet they gonna have to torch his name off every building in Chicago.”

Grandma saw the war against the infamous Machine as one that had been won.  The king was  dead, lying in state downtown.  His loyal subjects were powerless.  Without Daley, there would be no machine, no antagonism, no forced patronage.  No Irish blue collar thug bosses.

“The machine will never be dead,” mother injected. ” What makes you think that?”

“There are lots of folks that want things in this city to return to the honest way, ”  Grandma replied. ” No threats on your property taxes if you don’t vote how they say.  That is why I clean homes. I don’t want no part of those city jobs.”  Grandmother got up from the table and walked over to her backdoor which led to the porch where she kept vegetables in bins to stay cool.   She needed some potatoes and onions.  The porch was enclosed and adjoined by a flight of stairs to porch of her landlord Mr. Brown,who lived upstairs.

My mother followed her onto the porch and taunted, ” I bet your perfect landlord who works for the mayor ain’t feeling too good about his job.”

“SHHHHHH!”  Grandmother hissed. “Their door may be open.”

Mother continued by whispering “Mr. Brown is always out there ‘Vote for Daley’ -“

“Cause he has gots to,”  her mother whispered back.  “That is what you have to do when you get them city jobs. Campaign day an’ night for Daley and his peoples or they fire you like Mr. Watson.  Even when it comes to the President of United States you had to do what Mr. Mayor say. Vote for Kennedy.  Vote for Mr. Johnson.  Mr. McGovern.”

Being stubborn, my mother threw her hands and walked away from the porch, leaving the old woman standing there with a handful of potatoes.  She returned with a metal stockpot  and began taking the potatoes from Grandmother’s arms.   Each potato, one by one made a loud clang in the pot.

“Some people do what they have to do momma,”  she said.  She looked cross.  Her mother was often the source of her irritation.  She had abandoned her and her seven siblings to live with another man in sin.  Despite my grandfather being an abusive ass,  mother never quite forgave her mother for leaving her to raise her younger children.    “Isn’t that why you scrub the Jews floors?”

1974 photo of Mayor Richard J. Daley giving a press conference at City Hall taken by George Quinn

Now the Browns were a respectable black middle class family.  A complete family.  Father, mother, two sons, pet Siberian Husky.  No food stamps in that household.  They were Catholics, which was rare during that time in the West Side neighborhood.  Mr. Brown worked for the city of Chicago. Doing what I cannot exactly recall.  He was a black man with a job  who wore a three piece suit everyday and for my fatherless butt , that was all that mattered.

Mrs. Brown worked as a nurse at Illinois Masonic Hospital.  They owned a yellow Pinto, barbecued most weekends, and shopped at Sears – Roebuck Department Store.

I was insanely jealous of them but expressed my class envy rather positively by inserting myself into their lives at any given opportunity.  Running upstairs to knock on their door for nothing. When it opened , I would peek around them to see what sort of furniture they had.   This was about as close as I was going to get to a real complete black family.

Every moment with the Brown’s counted towards my “black middle class” patch.  A patch I wanted desperately to sew onto my history as if it were my very own life.

I watched them from the Viewmaster of my sagging self-esteem.  I could not stop looking at them.  They were fascinating because they were not me.

A Brown family backyard cookout was sure to get crashed by Afrocity.  I would plop in a lawn chair and sit there watching them eat until they offered me a hot dog.   Grandmother would come to the yard and rescue them after she noticed I had gone missing.

“Afrocity stop bothering the Brown’s,” she laughed with a tinge of embarrassment.

“Oh she’s no bother,”  Mrs. Brown lied.

Grandmother would steer me by my shoulders back into the house. That was not the end of it.  I would continue being psycho kid by gawking at them from porch window. Watching them eat, laugh, playing badminton the entire time they were in the yard until they retreated inside.

My perfect black family.

If they could have fit into my back pocket, I would have never washed my jeans.

Now grandmother’s portrayal of Mr. Brown as a city employee contradicted the image I had of him as a strong black man.  He sounded more like a slave to the white man’s machine.  Are all black men weaklings even when they do have a job?

Young Afrocity did not know any better but the Chicago Machine ate the balls of plenty of white men as well as Latinos and women. Chicago was no liberal’s haven.


The public librarians, court clerks,  dog catchers.   Even kids are not spared when you think about the role city politics plays in the control of crime and racial segregation/

My mother was correct. The machine never died.  It only went on a short hiatus until one day Richard J. Daley’s son Richard M.  would be king. Heir to the Chicago throne.

Chicago just couldn’t quit the Daley influence. Everywhere you look, the name is there again on buildings, signage. Burned in by years of sun and sub-zero temperatures, as if by blood oath:

HERE REIGNS KING RICHARD!  LONG LIVE THE MACHINE.

Pity those who question the machine, you may be told to stick a gun up your butt.  As King Richard instructed this reporter who addressed his highness about Chicago’s failing anti-gun policies.

Why Chicagoans?  Why do you continue to elect this man term after term?

(sigh)

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Diversity Fatigue Friday: The Unknown Historic Moment Quantity May 21, 2010

From I own the world

Barack Obama campaigned for his presidency during a time that the majority of Americans wanted anything that was the antithesis of George Bush. Couple that desire with the juxtaposition of the Obama persona with such African-American icons as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, one can surely understand how the combination was a winning David Axelrod formula.

The climate wave was change, hope and the promise of a historic moment.   My PUMA counterparts did not buy into it. They had found a suitable candidate in Hillary Clinton.  Hillary offered the promise of brains, experience, substance and of course- a historic moment.  Hillary offered something in different forms . She was the best man for the job and she would have be the first female President of the United States of America.   It was clear that Hillary was more qualified than Barack Obama. Yes there was baggage but I can argue that one can expect baggage with experience.  I can tolerate some baggage depending on what kind it is.  Okay so, Hillary voted for the war on Iraq.  For me, that was a moot point.  We were already in it so let’s finish it.  I can accept that over a vote for TARP.  It was not like Obama really cared about foreign policy. Besides, Barack Obama was not in the U.S. Senate  when the vote on Iraq was taken.  How did we know what he would have done?  He was an unknown quantity.  Yes there was some information out there. The kind that was only broadcast on Fox News. The kind that Obama supporters did not want to hear about.

How were we supposed to know how Obama would have handled 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina? An economic crisis?  A major oil spill?

How did we know that he was not the same ol’ Washington Politics? Business as usual?

Now we do.

From this article at Townhall.com:

Over the Rainbows

by Jonah Goldberg
May 21, 2010

…He came into office promising rainbows and puppies for everyone and has, like Pizza Hut during a blizzard, failed to deliver. Now, before some intern at a left-wing media watchdog outfit spits Diet Snapple out his nose in outrage over my “fabrications” and “distortions,” and fires off some canned protest e-mail, I do not literally mean to suggest that Obama promised voters rainbows and puppies. Rather, I mean it figuratively. He did literally promise to change the way Washington works, unify the country, govern from the center, work with Republicans and operate the government in a fiscally responsible way. That hasn’t happened. You could look it up.

The White House desperately wants the story to be “Voters Mad at Washington,” not “Voters Mad at Democrats” or, heaven forbid, “Voters Mad at Obama.” But the simple truth is that all three things are true, and Obama deserves much of the blame.

Jay Cost, an indispensable election analyst at RealClearPolitics.com, has it exactly right: ” ‘Change that you can believe in’ has gone from an over-worked campaign slogan to an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Vote for a Dem, you support the President’s agenda for change. Vote for a GOPer, you support the President’s agenda for change.”

This spin has been a long time in coming. After the Scott Brown victory, the White House claimed that the Republican’s win was a manifestation of the same political forces that brought Obama to power, even though Brown opposed Obama’s agenda, and despite the fact that Obama lustily endorsed Brown’s opponent, Martha Coakley. Who, by the way, wasn’t an incumbent. She promised to advance Obama’s “change” agenda, and she lost. But Obama’s just so awesome that what would be political losses for lesser mortals must be more winning proof of his supercalifragilisticexpialidociousness. Because as far as this White House is concerned, nothing is ever Obama’s fault and everything is proof of how much we need him.
It’s an odd position given how the people who need him least are candidates from his own party
.

For those of you who claimed to have voted for Obama because he was a fresh, unfettered, unknown quantity – a historic moment… Tell me.  how do you feel about your choice now?

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

From the New England Conservative

 

“Brown Power”: Like Desert For Chocolate May 19, 2010

"African Tsunami" political cartoon by Alfredo Sabat of Argentina- won first prize in the United Nations Correspondent’s Association Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Award 2006.

Such definitions as African American, Latino, Native American, Mexican American, Asian American, Hispanic- all encompass the multi-layered, mega population of America’s minorities. I failed to include women and gays because I’ve often been corrected and told the politically appropriate phrasing is: “women, gays and minorities”.
However you choose to characterize those who are not of white and men, minorities are all underdogs.

We are not the majority.

We are not privileged.

Please understand, I do not agree with the aforementioned reasoning but there are many who invest quite heavily into identity victims especially when it concerns people who are ethnically diverse and the politicians who claim they want to rescue them.

This Arizona controversy has many African Americans in the state of flux.  I am experiencing two responses.  Some blacks are ready to fight against the alleged racial profiling contained in the Arizona immigration reform law.  Others are unapologetic and rather apathetic concerning the fate of illegal immigrants.

“They are taking jobs from us,”  said one African American acquaintance of mine. “They outnumber us now and really many of them are just as racists as whites.”

Should African Americans be concerned about the Arizona law which enforces our federal law to protect its borders and clamp down on illegal immigration?

From this article in the Black Agenda Report:

Revisiting the Immigration Reform Debate: An African American Perspective
by Dr. Ron Daniels
Black Power will necessarily be affected by Brown Power.”
The anti-immigration law passed by the Arizona legislature, which essentially legalizes racial profiling of Latinos, has reignited the national debate over what to do about millions of undocumented people, the vast majority of whom entered through America’s porous southwestern borders. Despite the progressive stance of African American civil rights/human rights and political leaders on this issue, if you tune in to Black talk radio, one gets a sense that large numbers of Blacks are intensely opposed to granting legal status to the undocumented. This is an interesting phenomenon because in general Black people tend to advocate for the oppressed, particularly people of color. In this instance there appears to be a disconnect between Black leaders and a substantial segment of their constituency. I suspect this is because, in the legitimate quest to remain the “conscience of the nation” on matters of injustice to human beings, Black leaders reflexively and to a degree uncritically embrace a pro-legalization stance for the undocumented. The problem with this posture is that it does not take into account the serious concerns expressed by many Blacks on this complex issue.

For the record, I am absolutely in favor of fair, equitable and just immigration reform. And, as Africans in America, we certainly cannot accept the racial, ethnic or religious profiling of any group under any circumstances. So, I am totally opposed to the Arizona law – which should be rescinded or repealed immediately.

La Gran Tenochtitlán, 1945, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City by Diego Rivera

You see, I am not certain that I agree with Dr. Daniels.   I do not have a problem with the Arizona law because it only enforces what is already allowed by federal law.  If you are stopped for let’s say a traffic violation, even if you were a Caucasian, you would have to show some proof of identification.  Arizona is having huge problems with the lack of border security, I find it reasonable that the state is asserting its right to alleviate the problem.

Also, what is this “brown power”?  I assume that Dr. Daniels is referring to blacks and Latinos.  Are Middle Easterners included in the “brown power” movement?

Dr. Daniels continues:

...Despite the successes of the Black freedom struggle, large numbers of Black people are still confined to the bottom rungs of the social-economic ladder. In large measure this is because racism is alive and well — and Blacks are the least preferred people of color minority in this country. “If you’re White, you’re alright, Yellow mellow, Brown stick around but Black get back” is still a reality when it comes to the struggle for opportunity in this country. Therefore, Blacks are understandably nervous about anything that threatens to undermine our fragile social-economic and political gains, particularly when vast numbers of our people are still locked out and left out. To suggest that somehow millions of undocumented people have no impact on the social-economic and political standing of African Americans runs counter to what millions of our people see and experience in their daily lives.

Hmmm, do African Americans feel threatened by Latinos?

Why should we be? Aren’t we all on Underdog Island, Brown Island, Minority Island?

Or are Americans feeling threatened by people who are not Americans exhausting our resources?

Liberals believe that minority status is tracked back to antecedents of any American wrong doing canonized as exploitation of those who are somehow lesser than. Images of slave ships, shackles, internment camps, women’s suffrage, five and dime counter sit-ins, migrant workers all follow the American cookie cutter of the downtrodden minority figure.

Michael Tropea/National Museum of Mexican Art

But does one size necessarily fit all when it comes the the liberal victim caste system?

At a fairly young age I learned the answer.

When I was nine-years old, I was living in the North Lawndale section of Chicago.  My Catholic school was entirely African American as far as the students were concerned. Little fourth grade brown legs with knees barely covered by plaid skirts bought during the third grade.

The nuns and priests were all white. Old, wrinkled and white.  We all made quite a meeting of the minds.  Nubby pink hands twisting our black cheeks whenever we stepped out of line.  At times the nuns could be sort of maternalistic;  sparring the rod if they saw that your legs were covered in scabs from a whooping you received at home.

Those women in habits who swore there lives to God, were mostly of Czechoslovakian and Polish descent.  Sister Mary Ann who had been at the convent since the neighborhood was predominantly a Jewish ghetto,  and now since the mid 1950’s a black ghetto swayed back and forth from disdain to tolerance for her black students.  But if you were of the lighter persuasion say like my classmate Paulina, then Sister Mary Ann liked you.

Paulina was Mexican and the only person in my class who was not black.  All of the boys crushed on her.  They would chase her around the school yard just to grab at her long thick ponytails.  We, the common brown girls, were terribly jealous of her.

“Her face is not that pretty,” we would whisper during mass as Paulina giggled and squealed.

She passed notes back and forth with drooling little wolves like Thomas White that I had a terrible crush on. The nuns never caught Paulina.  She could do no wrong. If it were one of us, we would be in the corner faster than you can say teacher’s pet.

I became obsessed with the transfer from Immaculate.  This was my turf since the first grade. I was at the top of the class academically and Paulina was at the bottom.  So why does Tommy like her? He once walked me home faithfully everyday.  He would even take the long way when he could have chosen a shortcut through the vacant lots. Now he won’t  save his seat for me during lunch and ignores me.  What gives?

“She is not black.”  See I could always count on my mother to give me a great biased answer. “Black boys like white women anytime they can get one.”

“But she is not white. She is Spanish and lives on 26th street,” I corrected mother. ” She is like us – not a white person.”

“But she will be treated like a white person before you will ever be.”  she warned. ” The closer you look like a white person, the more you will be able to pretend to be one of them. “

"Portrait of Mrs. Natasha Gelman" by Diego Rivera, 1943

Great, I am doomed, I thought.  My hair was not straight like Paulina’s.  I had nothing going for myself except my good grades. That is the only reason why the nuns did not hit me as much as the others, because I did my best in school and won competitions.  Despite my brains, I am still gonna be alone when I grow up with no man in the house like my mother. All because I am not light-skinned. Oh no.

“Just like Lena Horn,”  Miss Mother lectured. ” If you are yellow skinned, whites love you.  Back in the 50’s some could pass for white. They would work in jobs where no one knew they were black.  At night they would take the train home long after everyone was gone…They did not want anyone to know that their family was black.”

“Can cousin Latrina pass for white?”  I asked.  Latrina was my mother’s sister’s youngest daughter. She was quite light complexioned, or “high yella” as grandmother would say. Latrina was a favorite among the family and like Paulina, could do no wrong. I was beginning to see a pattern here.

Mother shook her head.  Latrina had light skin but Negro features. ” Her nose bridge is too wide,” she surmised. Latrina was not a good candidate for passing.  “You must look like Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, be mixed with black and Puerto Rican.”

Certain that I was as black as a Hershey’s candy bar, I looked in the mirror.  I was not too dark, sort of orange-ish brown. “Could I ever pass you think momma?”  I asked as I pulled at to corners of my eyes to look Asian. “Even for a Mexican or Puerto Rican

Mother laughed out loud.  “No, you are a nice tan color. You know when you were born, you were very light.  So light that they mistook you for a Puerto Rican.”

“What happen to me?”

“You got darker and darker.”

“Oh.”

From that point on, I decided to make Paulina my friend. Perhaps if she taught me Spanish, I could help her with her reading.  Seems fair enough. I can help her get better grades. In return she can help me seem more exotic and not just plain ol’ African American.

But there was a problem that I did not anticipate.  Something that mother hinted at but I did not understand or maybe I did not want to understand.  In my attempt to establish a friendship with Paulina, she made it obvious to me that while we were both not white, there was a minority totem pole. Guess what my position was on the pole?

“Don’t put your hands on my book,” Paulina said slapping my hand.  Our reading books all had numbers on the spine for identification. Paulina’s was #25.  I was only handing it to her so she would not have to reach on the book cart for it.  “You are all dirty and thieves.”

Immediate hurt and shock kept an emotionally bruised Afrocity standing in front of the book cart.  Did she just say I was dirty?  She is the one whose uniform collar had a black ring around it.   Thieves?  At least we don’t have as many kids as the Spanish people do. And they called them greasers like in West Side Story.

By afternoon, Paulina was my arch enemy.  I told the others what she said to me, knowing that some of the larger girls were just itching to pick a fight with her.

“She ain’t white,” said one classmate. “Mexicans stink anyway and they have roaches.”

Comic book featuring Memín Pinguín a character from Mexico. Created by Yolanda Vargas Dulché, popular during the 1940's

“The nuns only like Mexicans because they have so many kids because you can’t take the pill if your are Catholic and Mexicans are the only ones who listen to them,” said another classmate.

“I will mess her pretty face up to look like a taco…I wish she would say some shit like that to me,”

“They swim in the water on their backs to get here. That is why they call them wetbacks.”

” She had better take her Chico and the Man ass back to Me-hee-ko”

For days, tensions were high.  Paulina noticed that she was being stalked.  Her lunch tray would suddenly end up on the floor. “Ooops, did I do that?” from a snickering black classmate.

Reading Book #25 went missing.   “Maybe mi madre took it,” the students laughed. “Or her pet goat ate it like Julio’s on Sanford and Son.”

“CHILDREN!!!!”  yelled Sister Mary Ann.

Knowing that my spilling the beans about Paulina’s remark to me caused all of this sudden Paulina-cott,  I felt guilty.  Now there was no stopping it.   With the nuns in place, maybe it would die down.  Paulina’s mother did not want to take that chance, especially after her daughter was shoved several times in the bathroom.  They dared her to push back.

She did not.

Within a month. Paulina had been withdrawn and transferred back to a Catholic school in the Latino neighborhood near California Avenue.

None of us were white.  None of us were privileged or rich. But that did not keep us from talking down to one another. Later, I would learn that Paulina ended up in our school because the parochial schools in the black neighborhoods were cheaper than the ones in her own. Her father had left her mother. It was difficult for the family to pay Paulina’s tuition. This may have explained why Paulina felt she was above us because at one time perhaps she was- at least financially.  Now after the way we treated her, I can imagine the ways in which we affirmed her negative opinion of black people.

"Black Spanish Family" by Alice Neel

There was nothing I could do.  It was over. The wicked princess from 26th Street was gone. My classroom was back to normal.

A sea of chocolate and caramel. Fudge and cinnamon.  The boys began to chase us again. The white nun lorded over us as we learned about diphthongs and silent “e”.    One day, I would take my allowance and purchase a hula hoop and small book from Wool-worth’s  entitled “Say it in Spanish“.   It contained pictures of fruits and vegetables, cars, people, and animals with the Spanish words for them in bold black letters.

Mother looked at the book with not so approving eyes ” Why would you want to buy that? They should be reading “Say it in English

I shrugged my shoulders and sat at the bus stop reading the book, mouthing the words as we waited for the #52 Pulaski.  I just simply wanted to understand what the Spanish people were saying- that’s all. There was no harm in that.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

 

Sunday Soliloquy: The Unforgiven May 9, 2010

Joan Crawford and adopted daughter, Christina. June 1944. Getty Images

On this day of all days, we as some woman’s child, cling to  an understandable pre-occupation with visual representations of women who embody the perfect mother. Smiles, candy, roses, an ornate $7 gift card that sings when the recipient opens the pink envelope.   Our mothers are all special today- whether they deserve to be or not.  Next to Christmas and Thanksgiving, I am willing to bet an FTD floral arrangement that Mother’s Day follows closely behind its autumn and winter competition when it comes to holidays in which we are inclined to turn a deaf memory towards a dysfunctional family member.

Recently, I was watching the movie The Lovely Bones. The mother in the film is portrayed by Rachel Weis. Without giving away too much of the plot, a young girl “Susie” is murdered by a serial killer (Stanley Tucci) which sends her family into an emotional black hole.  Each  family member deals with the tragedy in their own way.  The father played by Mark Walberg becomes obsessed with finding his daughter’s murderer. The mother has the opposite reaction and wants the family to move on with their lives.  Finally, the mother can no longer take the stress and abruptly moves  away…leaves…yes leaves her family- her precious children to deal with this loss all on their own.  In what sense does a “good mother” leave her own family?  Cursed was she, that awful character, for me throughout the entire film.  Good mothers don’t leave.

But I was wrong.  Why would I find it more acceptable for the father to have walked out on the family rather than the mother?  With its emphasis on the “good mother” what does Mother’s Day really communicate about the reality of motherhood?  Are we to forget the failings of the women in our lives who serve as  mammary gland in chief?

1953 photo of Actress Judy Garland with daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft

What about mother’s who experience postpartum depression? Are there any Mother’s Day cards that come with a sample of skin salve for chaffing breasts?  Any IOU cards for 3AM feedings that you pass on to your nanny?  Some mothers steal their son’s credit cards.  Does Hallmark have anything on the shelves for that? Other moms  only call when they need their daughter to send money.  What about the mothers who fail at society’s demands?  Sterling in American iconography are the June Cleavers and Carol Bradys.  Florence Henderson with six kids in a case study-esque house.  She  fawns over Marsha’s golden tresses while Alice cooks pork chops and applesauce. Dutifully waiting on the AstroTurf  lawn as husband Mike creates architectural masterpieces at work.   Those pictures of motherhood were remote for Afrocity.   What about when the realities of motherhood transform from black and white fantasy into technicolor pain?

Scene from the movie "Precious". Actress Monique protrays an abusive mother.

The first time my stepfather fondled me would be the last time.  The 1980’s was the beginning of the sexual and child abuse revolution.  ABC After School Specials relentlessly chipped away at the pressure to uphold images of the ideal family.  Secrets leaked from beyond the grave.  Mommie Dearest brought all of the skeletons out of Joan Crawford’s closet which hung by their wire hangers.  Soon stories of Judy Garland and others followed.  It is impossible to imagine that the women behind those beautiful visual representations  of motherhood were unfortunately amateur photographers when it came to child rearing.

For a moment when my stepfather rubbed his hand across by breasts which were really training bra nubs, I sat paralyzed.  He smiled his Kenyan smile of white teeth which contrasted with his dark blue black skin.  I was eleven years old at the time; old enough to know that his hands were not where they should be.  Pushing his hand away, I pretended not to care.  Whatever was playing on the television in front of us did not matter. I needed a focal point, something to forget that he was sitting next to me on the bed.  A container of Vick Vapor Rub was on the floor lying on its side.  The room smelled stagnant with cough syrup and funk from the chest cold I was getting over.  Where was my mother?  Isn’t she just in the next room being depressed or making his dinner?   Isn’t this the part where she is supposed to dash into the room, kick him in the balls and rescue me?

Nicole Kidman as a distraught mother in "The Others"

No Afrocity, you are in the wrong tele-drama.  I could not verbalize my protests to my stepfather who put his hands on my breasts again.  Somehow, I managed to find the courage to rise from the edge of the bed and leave the room.  For some time I stood in the railroad hallway of the apartment.  This was my fault. I was not wearing enough clothes and this is why this happened.  How inappropriate of me to wear only a tank top and some panties in front of a grown man.  Having dug through a closet of black trash bags, I found a thick sweater that was stored away for the season. It was May but I did not care.  I had to cover my breasts.   I am so sorry, so sorry. I am such a stupid girl.  What a dummy.   For the next several days, I stayed away from my stepfather and rarely spoke to my mother.  I should tell her, I thought. She always told me to tell her if a man was bothering me.  Did this only apply to strangers?    One morning as I prepared my pet rabbits’ meal of shredded carrots, I stupidly felt I could trust her.  So I told her what had happened in the bedroom.   She did not react with any emotion.  Why was she starring at me as if I was some child she did not know?  It was awkward.  She promised me that she would confront him about the matter.  This not what I wanted to hear because I wanted her to throw his clothes  and smelly cheap Pierre Cardin aftershave out on the streets of Oak Park, Illinois.

"Rabbit" by Wayne Thiebaud

But being a reasonable child, of course I knew that Rome was not built in a day and families probably were not torn apart in a day either.  He would be kicked out later, after their confrontation I thought.   Later that evening he came home and mother cooked dinner as usual.  During the meal she motioned for me to go into the kitchen with her head.  This is it, I thought.  Eagerly, I jumped off my stool and went into the kitchen. My rabbits’ large green wire cage was in the corner by the back door.  I looked at the gray and white  bunnies hopping around; one was  drinking water from the silver ball dispenser.

Did they know how I felt?  Why couldn’t my life be simple like theirs?  I would always feed them and make certain they were never hurt.  They would always have shelter and be warm.  My thoughts were interrupted by what should have been yelling and anger but was instead laughter. Loud mocking laughter.  I remained crouched by the rabbit cage.  What the hell was so funny?   They should not be having a good time.   Hearing their footsteps approach the kitchen,  I went to the refrigerator and grabbed a carrot.  Appearing to do something besides wait was my best defense in case my stepfather said I was lying.  I did not want to look him in the eyes even though I was telling the truth.   Now, there they both were standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Afrocity,” he said with a huge smile.  I will never forget his face or the deceitful smirk.  Mother was just standing there like some mannequin.  “I was only playing with you when I touched you.”

Silence was all I could give them.

“You know that I was only messin’ with you,” he went on. “You crazy girls nowadays think everyone is out to rape you. Crazy American tee-vee poots too much crazy thought in girls.  In Kenya, a girl would never think such things.”

He turned to my mother who was not looking at me.  This almost never happened.  Her being silent. A dummy with his words coming from her mouth “You are too sensitive,” she accused. “You have no breasts anyway- just little nubs.”

They both began to laugh.  After that moment, I had no subsequent reason to ever believe that her only duty in life was to protect me.  I hated her and in a very non-Afrocity moment, I threw the carrot in my hand at her.  They both ducked.

“Bitch!” she yelled.

“You see how American kidz are?  Ungrateful…In Kenya we would hang them upside down by their feet-“

I ran past them into the bedroom, closed the door behind me.  Why don’t these apartments ever have locks on doors like they do on TV when Jan Brady locks herself in the bedroom?  Soon they were in the bedroom.  Mother grabbed me and started shaking me as I screamed and kicked.  “I do not know what is your damn problem, ” she said throwing me on the floor. I don’t know if it is those Stouffer’s meals with MSG that make you hyperactive but you have a problem.”


Silence was all I could give her.  My chest was heaving from the fight. My  hair had freed itself from the Goody barrettes and now stood on my head.  Stepfather was in the doorway smiling.  He liked it when mother and I argued.  We were friends until he came along. That was when everything changed.

"Mother and Daughter at Penn Station, New York City, 1947 " By photographer Ruth Orkin

“Do you want to move back to Chicago?” she yelled. “You should be thankful that you are here in a nice suburb. Now we are around these white kids and you are acting ungrateful just like them. Cursing at their mothers.  I won’t have it.  Now you stay in here and think about your homework which you never want to do lately.”

With that, they left me in the room alone.  My tears dried, my knee was skinned from hitting the hardwood floor. It was getting dark outside, still I did not move from to turn on the lights. The rabbits were probably hungry. She would not feed them.  Soon I would have to swallow my humiliation and face the grown-ups.  Maybe in a few moments, I could move again but for the time being I  sat there in the dark.  Perhaps an hour passed by before mother opened the door.  She had some ice cream in a Parkay Margarine container.  We used them for bowls when they were empty.  Handing me the ice cream,  she said nothing and we did not look at each other.  What occurred was unspoken of.  Slowly I stood up and sat on the edge of the bed.  The same edge where my nubs where violated, tasting the sweet ice Neapolitan cream mixed with dried salty tears.  This was to some degree, her way of apologizing, this eloquent mother ,her daughter forsaken for a man’s love.  She went back out into the living room closing the door behind her on her little brown rabbit in a cage.

Still loved. Still mother. Still unforgiven. Still, silence is all I can give her

Autographed Letter Signed,

Afrocity

 

Liberal Hypocrisy Files: You Can Choose to Where to Abort but not Where to Educate May 8, 2010

My mother could not bring herself to consent her daughter’s education to Chicago Public Schools.  On my first day of school, I sported a nifty chocolate plaid pleated skirt with matching yellow blouse and brown button down sweater.  This was all due mostly in part to the financial generosity of my grandmother.  It was expected that this was the best thing for any child in Chicago’s inner city, to send them to a school where the teachers were good and the influence of the streets were diminished.  It was rare to see a single mother on welfare send her child to a private school but I was the exception.  While African American like me, most of my classmates came from two parent families  in which mom and pop had jobs.  They were bus drivers, postal carriers, retail salesmen, factory workers- they had skills.  Food stamps or welfare checks were never spoke of in front my classmates and my father died in Vietnam.  That is what we told the nuns when I was admitted.  Uniforms were a good front for having few clothes. The nuns hardly let the girls speak to boys as to insure our virginity.

The word of God according to Catholics was taught at least one hour a day.  Religion and morality could be found in everything from arithmetic to why I must share my tater tots with fat, clumsy Theresa who tripped and spilled her lunch tray on the floor.  Yes the nuns engaged in corporal punishment by twisting our cheeks and paddling us with a two by four but we were in the minds of our parents, safe from the failings of Chicago Public School.

Private education is of course a luxury that comes with a price. A price that my mother could no longer afford after my grandmother had a heart attack which lead to her retirement from housekeeping.

In 1981, the feet of young Afrocity touched public school ground for the first time in her eleven year life.  Now granted this was Oak Park, Illinois- a suburban school so it was not considered the true hell that I would later experience in Chicago Public School.   Although young, I knew that my choice to a top notch education was locked.  My mother was poor, hence the quality of my  education would be proportionate to her income.

If there were educational vouchers then, mother and I did not know about them.  I would have loved to be the recipient of one as my grades slid into an abyss once I was enrolled in the Chicago system. The teachers thought we were all lost causes except for myself and several others.  Our reward for being “teacher’s pet”  was a daily dose of ridicule from envious classmates.  High School was somewhat better than junior high as I had tested well enough to attend a “school for the gifted”.   Magnet schools provide a marginal escape for ghetto kids.  Black faces peppered  a sea of Caucasian, Asian and Middle Eastern grammar school superstars; often it was futile to compete for the instructors attention.  If you were African American and ran tops at cross country meets then and only then were you likely to be a teacher’s favorite.   Afrocity disappeared into the sea of faceless kids. CPS student # 1453768235 and so on and so on.   She did not reemerge until graduate school.

I remember the entire experience with sadness and anger.  First through fifth grade in parochial schools, sixth through 12th in public schools.  Truthfully the former was the better of the two halves. Imagine my feelings when I notice this article in the Chicago Tribune:

Illinois House kills school voucher bill

Fervent lobbying by unions sinks idea to give students $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools

May 5, 2010

SPRINGFIELD — A measure to let students in Chicago’s worst-performing and most-overcrowded elementary schools use taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private schools was defeated in the Illinois House on Wednesday, giving teachers unions a major victory.

The landmark legislation would have made Chicago Public Schools the site of what experts said would be the nation’s largest voucher program. Up to 30,000 of the district’s 400,000 students could have left the weak schools they now attend, setting up competition for public schools.

The legislation got through the Senate in March after being championed by Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, and suburban Republicans. But by Wednesday, teachers unions had regrouped and its supporters found themselves pleading with opponents to overcome a furious lobbying effort to stop the bill.

“Think back to why you ran for office,” said sponsoring Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago. “Was it for a pension? I doubt it. Was it to protect the leadership of a union? I doubt that. Actually in all cases, I believe each and every one of us here got involved to try and make a difference in the lives of our fellow man.”

Joyce could muster only 48 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that would have allowed students to get vouchers worth about $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools beginning in fall 2011.

Joyce said the bill would have passed if it had not faced the union opposition. The bill got support from 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats, fewer votes than Joyce had expected from his fellow Democrats.

Fighting back tears during the lengthy debate, Rep. Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine, called on fellow lawmakers to “search your souls” to support the measure because “we have failed these kids in the inner-city schools.”

“I’m pleading with you,” said Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who represents an area with four public schools where students would have been eligible for vouchers. “I’m begging you. Help me help kids in my district.”

A bit of background here.  Democrats like President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are notoriously opposed to educational vouchers. Both men hail from Illinois.  This decision to kill the Illinois voucher program is of no surprise to me.  Like most liberal hypocrites, the Obama’s daughters attended not Chicago Public Schools but nice comfy private schools. On the issue, the Democrats never practice at home what they preach to their voters.  Unions and the need to improve  Chicago Public Schools should come second to the welfare of the children.  If a child wants out now, then I feel that the child should be allowed assistance to attend whatever school its parents pleases. What if that voucher is a matter of life and death?  What about Derrion Albert? Remember him? The young boy that was beaten to death in a public school last year. I wonder if his fate would have resulted in a happier and longer life had he not been in a public school ridden with gang violence and drugs?


Here are a few comments from opposing sides of voucher assistance at the Tribune blog:

“Under different economic circumstances, I might support school vouchers for private schools, but during these bleak economic times, public dollars should be spent on public education. Rather than providing school vouchers to a small number of CPS students, however deserving, city and state policymakers should be concerned with providing schools with the funds needed to prevent cutbacks in teaching staff.

Pry more money out of the Obama administration. Raise our taxes if you must. Otherwise prepare to have an even greater proportion of Chicago’s public schools classified as “low-performing.””

Woman in Chicago

Voucher questions

As many as 22,000 or more children who go to the weakest Chicago Public Schools could be getting vouchers to go to private schools (“More kids, more choices,” Editorial, April 28). Why have the staff members at these schools not been fired and replaced with better teachers? Also what part does the parent play in the failure of the student? How will these children get to the new schools? What will happen to the children who stay at the poor-performing schools? Will those schools still be left open and have to be funded?

Yes the voucher program seems nice. But as a taxpayer, a lot of questions still need to be addressed.

Autographed Letter Signed,

Afrocity

 

Zonation on African Americans and the Arizona Compromise May 6, 2010

African Americans came to this country as slaves…And this has what to do with the illegal immigration situation? AlfonZo Rachel attempts to answer the question because one of these things are not like the other but the illegal immigrants would like to think they are.

 

 
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