Biracial, Racism: What My Mom Said About Experiencing Racism

In my previous post, I said I never asked my mom about her experience with racism in this country. So I decided to ask her, I sent her an email (note: we email each other in English, simply because it takes too long to type Chinese, but we speak to each other in Chinese, so the syntax comes across as what we call Chin-glish, in other words, a bit awkward but we understand each other perfectly:

Hi Mommy,

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this before.
When you came to America to live & work etc., did you experience any racism and if you did, how did you feel about it? Did it bother you deeply or scar you deeply?
In America now, the issue of racism is rearing its ugly head again and all races are talking about ways to tackle racism. And I just realized, we’ve never talked about it.
I hope all is well.
Love, Me
Her Response, which is very true to her character: short, succinct and to the point:

I do not remember any issue about racism during my working period at LA. First of all, I worked for Chinese bosses and a Jewish boss. They liked Chinese workers. And then I lived in Vancouver [Canada] where it is a peaceful place.

Why did you ask?

My Reply:

Well, in America, the issue of racism is at the forefront now, and in my writing and my networking, it’s a big topic especially among minorities. And I do not recall any racist incident but plenty of sexist ones and I thought I’d ask you.

And this will be the extent of our discussion on the subject. My mother is not a woman of many words, to honor that, I will keep this blog short. Also, my initial guess was wrong, I was sure she experienced some type of racism, but to her recollection, she didn’t. But she also can be oblivious to the obvious.

Biracial, Racism: Part 3: Words Matter

Note: For the purposes of simplicity, I will assume myself to be 100% white for this blog post. In reality I am not, I am half-white and half-Chinese, but I have been told recently that basically makes me just white. So, just for this post, I’ll indulge that theory and intentionally ‘pass’ myself off as 100% white. 

In my new racial awakening, I realize words and labels do matter (a little late to the party), especially the more nuanced and ‘replacement’ words. Words such as ‘thug’ can be a euphemism for the ‘n-word’ and ‘thug-like’ behavior also a justification of the killing of black men by law enforcement. Using the word ‘ghetto’ to describe the behaviors, appearance or actions of a white person is a way of degrading Black people as it refers to a lower socio-economic class. I have piggy-backed off of another writer(s) who is more articulate on this subject than I am.

Contributors for The Huffington Post Emma Gray and Jessica Samakow have compiled a list specifically for ‘White people’ so that we don’t inadvertently offend the sensibilities of Blacks and perhaps other minorities. Here is the list of 11 things in its entirety (my comments are underlined and italicized):

Here are 11 things every white person who doesn’t want to be Part Of The Problem should know: I sure hope I am not part of the problem but part of the solution.

1. Everyone has a race — even you. 

“Racism is the fact that ‘White’ means ‘normal’ and that anything else is different,” writer John Metta wrote in a blog published on HuffPost. Because whiteness is viewed as the “default,” white people have the privilege of distancing themselves from the concept of race or denying it altogether. The first step towards combating structural racism is acknowledging its existence — and the ways in which cultural ideas about whiteness prop up those structures.

I know that. I don’t think White means ‘normal’ or the ‘default’, and also White doesn’t automatically equal arrogant, racially oblivious maybe, but not arrogant. The denial or White privilege or not acknowledging it exists at all is still quite prevalent among White people and that needs to be addressed.

2. For white people, talking about race is uncomfortable. For people of color, it’s a necessity

No, talking about race isn’t fun. Confronting privileges and structures far larger than yourself — ones which you may feel you have little-to-no control over or no idea how to change — will always be uncomfortable. But… tough shit. “The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings,” wrote Metta. (See: “white fragility.”) Many people don’t have the ability to ignore these issues, because they worry that the color of their skin could mean dying in police custody after being pulled over for a routine traffic violation, or being killed for walking down the street wearing a hoodie, or being massacred by a white man in their house of worship. Discussions of racism can’t be dictated by the emotions of white people.

I can’t disagree here, it’s damned uncomfortable, especially if everything feels like an accusation, and I know, it’s not about just ‘you’, it’s the ‘collective’ White race and it’s not meant to sound like an accusation. And I learned another new term ‘White fragility’, discussion of race centered around being concerned about the feelings of White people. Hmmm, I am confused by this one, if you turn on any channel and when in discussion of race, feelings of White people is rarely a factor nor consideration, nor should it ever have to be. Also, any person, White, Black, Latino or other, do not like to be accused of something in which these authors say have ‘little-to-no control over or no idea how to change’. The police killings of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and all others were carried out by White cops, in which all other White people had no control over nor took part in that decision but yet we are made to feel we are complicit simply by being ‘White’ and therefore we must subscribe to the White culture’s belief of Black and Latino’s are criminal by nature? Or am I making it personal and about me? Lastly, they never offered any tips or advice on how to dismantle the current unjust system. To just say ‘don’t participate’ in it is too vague. 

3. You’re not “color blind.”

You do see race. You make snap judgments. Pretending that you don’t see race simply means that you haven’t had to. Guess what? That’s the epitome of privilege. People who are discriminated against don’t get to just wake up and decide race doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t exist. Neither do you.

I totally agree with this. No one is color blind. I know racism exists even though I wasn’t the recipient of it. 

4. You need to recognize that you benefit from white privilege in order to move the conversation forward.

As one student in the documentary noted, as a white person, “you don’t have to prove you’re one of the good ones.” Think about how often that applies. If you’re pulled over by a cop, your innocence is assumed. If you’re looking to move, your neighbors will believe you’re a good person without any proof. If you’re shopping in a store, you won’t be followed by an employee. You don’t get to choose whether you benefit from white privilege or not — it’s the structures in place that automatically grants it to you. Denying that only makes you complicit in continuing that cycle.

I do benefit from white privilege, I didn’t pay attention to it before, but I do now, guilty as charged, I am ready to move the conversation forward.

5. #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t suggest that other lives don’t — it’s about making sure that black lives do. 

Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley learned this lesson after he said that all lives matter at the Netroots Nation conference. Of course they do, but declaring it misses the point.

Do not assume that Martin O’Malley speaks for all White people. I don’t assume that Al Sharpton speak for all Black people. Most white people I know support #BlackLivesMatter and are appalled at the treatment of black people at the hands of law enforcement even though we (collective white people) are part of the problem. 

6. People of color are allowed to be angry about racism. Don’t dismiss that anger, take it in. 

Social change requires making some noise. As the Black Lives Matter protest at the Netroots Nation conference proved, activists of color are going to hold all influencers — allies or otherwise — accountable. And doing so probably will involve “disruption,” fueled in part by (righteous) anger. As white people, we have to accept that anger is a natural response to being systematically oppressed. And it can be an effective tool. “Frustration. Anger. Silenced. Talked over. Ignored,” reads a post on Eclecta Blog, about the Netroots protest. “Every single one of these emotions are felt acutely and painfully every single day by racial minority groups in our country.”

This sounds condescending, I don’t even know the point of this edict, people can feel whatever they want to feel and express that feeling any which way they like. Just because White people ‘respond’ to the feelings of anger is no way ‘silencing’, the White person is just stating his/her view on whatever is being discussed, last I checked, that was still allowed. 

7. Everyday racism is subtle and insidious. 

Blatant racism is easy to recognize, and easy to separate ourselves from. As President Barack Obama stated in a June podcast, “It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.” Racism is everywhere — black actors and actresses are sidelined in Hollywood. In the workplace, the wage gap hits black women and Latina women the hardest by far. And people of color experience racial microaggressions on a daily basis. (Comments like: “What are you?” and “You don’t really act black.”)

Yes, yes and yes. This is the front line of fighting racism in the 21st century. The quiet insidious almost unseen racism that seeps into everyday American life. The subtle stereotypes, the polite ignoring of people of color because they are ‘not like us’. A group or herd mentality that seeks to oppress those who aren’t the same by social ostracization. This can only be fought fully when ‘white privilege’ is recognized, acknowledged and accepted as daily part of American life and accepted without making excuses for it, only then can subtle latent racism be fought. And the so-called ‘racial microaggressions’, and asking people questions like ‘what are you?’ and ‘you don’t act black?’  and ‘Can I touch your hair’? This to me speaks more to lack up proper upbringing and ignorance than a ‘racial microaggression’, you don’t ask any person questions like that. And you never ever ask to touch another person unless you are invited. Period. Not another person’s hair, not their pregnant bellies, weird birthmarks or anything that strikes your curiosity. 

8. Words matter. 

Before you speak, think about the impact the words you choose could have on the people around you. At one point in “White People,” a black student breaks out in tears when a white girl doesn’t understand why casually calling her white friend’s behavior “ghetto” was a problem. As BuzzFeed’s Tamerra Griffin put it, when a white person says “That’s ghetto,” black people hear, “That is a negative thing I associate with blackness and/or the working class.” See Griffin’s list of 14 Words That Carry A Coded Meaning For Black People for more phrases you should consider banning from your vocabulary. (Yes, describing a trend as “urban” is racist.)

I have a few choice ‘words’ on the subject too. I will elaborate later.

9. The conversation about race implicates you, but your voice should not be at the center of it.

As Taylor Swift learned from her recent Twitter back-and-forth with Nicki Minaj, when people of color criticize structural inequality it’s not about you, personally.  Again: It’s. Not. About. You. Personally. So don’t try to make it all about you. White people need to take responsibility for the big and small ways we perpetuate racism. But often that means taking a step back and listening to the people who are impacted by racism day in and day out. If you’re going to add your voice to a dialogue — which you should — make sure you’re adding value to the conversation, and not just silencing the grievances of people of color.

This I don’t get, since this whole list is directed at specifically White people, how are White people suppose to take it in and accept it without making it personal? You are talking about me and my race and the beliefs, actions and a whole slew of unearned privileges associated t0 my race but it’s not personal? About Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift’s twitter ‘spat’, just to provide context, the comment ‘skinny white girl’ who gets all the VMA nominations, all the nominees were black in the category except Taylor Swift, so of course Taylor Swift in the heat of the moment took that to be personal to her. And she graciously apologized on Twitter and called Nicki Minaj on the phone to apologize again. I think she’s done her duty as a conscientious and responsible skinny White girl. I am not defending Taylor Swift nor am I a fan, but to use a twitter ‘conversation’ between 2 entertainers to make a point about race relations is a bit absurd. And by the way, both Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift are EXTREMELY privileged people in more ways than one, so they are hardly good examples for the case they are trying to make here. Also, Nicki Minaj’s voice was no where near silenced, I don’t think she can be and that’s why we love her.

10. “Reverse racism” isn’t a thing. 

Watch comedian Aamer Rahman debunk the term (really, do yourself a favor and watch this):

I know that, I didn’t watch the video, don’t need to watch it. Reverse racism was invented by disgruntled White people who didn’t get into the college of their choice because their ‘spot’ was handed to a minority due to affirmative action. 

11. Don’t think you know it all — or even most of it. Listen, listen, listen. 

Self-explanatory.

Lastly, about No. 8 – ‘Words Matter’, yes they do. So, here are my ‘words’. I am not a hapa, half-breed or any word that includes the word ‘breed’, I am biracial. I identify as biracial Caucasian-Chinese to be very specific, but biracial will do. There’s nothing wrong with the word hapa, I just don’t like it, I’ve never used that word to describe myself, it’s just not ‘me’. I don’t look in the mirror and go ‘there’s a hapa’. It’s not a derogatory word or a racial slight, I get that, I just don’t like it. So I am not a hapa. I am biracial.

Biracial, Racism, Part 2: My Parent’s Story

So the floodgates have opened, I wrote one post about being biracial and what it meant to me, in my life and in the space I existed in and a flood of thoughts have come to my mind. I became newly educated about words like ‘post-colonialism’, and a whole working theory existed of which Asian and Eurasian men have been routinely emasculated by Western Society and compounding with that, the rejection of Asian women in favor of white men, all supposedly due to internalized racism and self-hatred. Hordes of Asian women will breed with white men so that their offspring will be partially a part of the superior white race, thereby creating a generation of Eurasian children who are confused and angry about their race (applies mostly to male offspring), masculinity (when compared to white males) and their place in Western Society (they are neither this nor that).

There is blog after blog about the supposed evils of Asian women being brainwashed by post-colonialism about race and will throw themselves at any white man who will have them. He doesn’t even have to be a good man but as long as he’s white and heterosexual, that will do. And the reverse of that, Asian women are seen by white men as subservient, sexually available, having low standards and are willing to throw themselves at any white man. In the end she is ultimately disposable, when he’s done with her he will go on to marry a respectable woman in his race and social class. But that’s not enough, the Asian woman then throws her arms around his ankles and digs her claws in further, she is willing to do anything to make him stay, get pregnant, crawl around the floor like a dog, bark like a dog, anything. I found the content of these blogs offensive to say the least, so offended by the disgusting stereotype that I feel compelled to write about the unremarkable story of my parents. My father who was Anglo-Irish white and my mother is Chinese.

Over the course of my life, some people wonder how my parents met and some assume that my father was in the military and my mother was the local floozy that threw herself at him, and I was possibly conceived out of wedlock and my dad married my mom as a result. Well, NOTHING IS FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. Not one iota of their story resemble the above. And I believed for a long time only the truly ignoramus would hold such narrow and stereotypical view of Asian and Caucasian interracial couples. Smart, worldly and educated people (or people who at least want to appear smart and worldly) would never believe this. How wrong I was.

Firstly, I was not conceived out of wedlock, my mother was not knocked up and unmarried. Not that there is anything wrong with conceiving out of wedlock and marrying as a result. But in this context and the story of my parents it’s important to make that distinction. So, no shotgun wedding. And again, nothing wrong with those either, it’s just not my parent’s story. And if it were, I’d proudly own it too.

Next, my parents got divorced when I was just 4 years old. I don’t know the real reason but I hear from my relatives that he got too friendly with his secretary, the accusation was unsubstantiated and I never asked my parents why they got divorced. My dad claims he’s got no clue why my mom wanted a divorce except that she was insistent and he followed her wishes. I didn’t wish to pry as it was their private business and neither was willing to share much. There were all these wild stories told about my mom post divorce about how ‘distraught’ she was by her siblings and parents but I took their view to be biased against my father and her sister and mother have a tendency to exaggerate and are prone to hysteria. What is clear is my mom didn’t wish to discuss it and I respected her wishes and she was never ‘distraught’. And ultimately it didn’t matter why they divorced, it’s done and is part of my reality and I dealt with it. So, no, my mom didn’t cling on to my dad for the sole purpose of being married to a white person, she didn’t wrap her arms around his ankles and dig in her tenterhooks. She didn’t accidentally get pregnant on purpose with a second child so he’d stick around some more.

A little bit about my mom, she was the youngest of five children and was born to a conservative but loving Chinese family. My grandparents fled to Taiwan after the communists overran China and my grandfather was a trusted member of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek’s private team until Chiang’s death in 1976. My mother like all her siblings are college educated, a rarity in those days. The educational system in Taiwan then was rigorous and very difficult examinations were required to move on to the next level of education. The college enrollment rate was only 10%. She graduated college one year early and begun working and exploring her future options, whether to study abroad or pursue higher education in Taiwan. During this time she met my father, fell in love, got married, started a company with my father where she was the majority owner and ran the business on an equal basis with him. I was born roughly three years after their marriage. We lived a comfortable lifestyle which she co-created with him. She was and still is a very smart and capable woman. She was not a desperate woman dying to escape her family background so she married a white guy. Lastly, she wasn’t self hating, post-colonial or whatever, she was and is proud to be Chinese and never worshipped white culture. In fact, it was a bit of the opposite, she found American culture to be philistine and lacking in richness and history, compared to the culture she came from. So, imagine my surprise when I discover that there are scores of Asian people who have disdain and contempt for their own culture.

Throughout my life, I’ve met some Chinese Americans who pretended they were white. They deliberately never speak Chinese and try their hardest to forget any Chinese they’ve learned in their childhood. They pretend that they are culturally white. They eat white people food, do white people activities, and at the end of the day really convince themselves that they are white but by some accident of birth they look Asian. I used to find these people to be pathetic, after all, who are they kidding, they can consult the mirror and see very clearly that they aren’t white and no white person will really take them to be like ‘one of us’ and yet they delude themselves. I never believed their motivation for doing this was due to self-hatred, but rather to try to fit into white mainstream culture in order to get ahead professionally and socially and if they have to pretend to be white, then so be it. Maybe this will lessen the blow of racism they may experience.

About my father, I touched on his childhood in the piece I wrote about my grandfather’s alcoholism. Due to his father’s alcoholism, he wasn’t able to finish his schooling and he didn’t go to college. To get any decent white collar job in America in the 1970s one had to be a college graduate, so he went to seek his fortune elsewhere. Taiwan was just opening itself up to foreign investors and he went there to try his luck in business, which he was brilliant at. Without a college degree, no connections (usually forged on college campuses), he wasn’t able to make much of a headway in the US, so he went to Taiwan. He found his niche in the garment business, met my mother, got married and they started a business together. Somewhere in between all that I came in to the picture. I am their only child. They divorced after a few years of marriage and each went their separate ways. I saw my dad sporadically when he was available to see me and we maintained a connection throughout my childhood and adulthood until he passed away a few years ago. It was a warm and friendly relationship though I wouldn’t describe it as close. I knew that he loved me and that’s more than enough.

My relationship with my mom is peppered with up and downs, like all mother and daughter relationships, regardless of racial makeup. She taught me that Chinese culture is something to be proud of and not something to be ashamed of. There are problems with every culture and its customs, no one culture is perfect but she is proud to be Chinese.

This is not to refute that post-colonialism racial identity complex which exists amongst some Asians. What I object to is how Asian women, Asian men and white-Asian interracial relationships are being portrayed. There is not one monolithic paradigm of interracial relationships. Not all Asian women marry white men so then can have half-white offspring and not all white men get together with Asian women so they can have someone to ‘serve’ them. And not all Asian women deliberately shun Asian men in favor of white men. And not all Asian men are seen as pathetic losers in bed and other areas and that’s why Asian women have abandoned them. These are crude generalizations about peoples of a vast geographical area, who speak different languages and have diverse local cultures.

As for Eurasians of both genders, I think our numbers are big enough now where we are a race unto our own, and we don’t need to be compared to or defined by white culture, Asian culture and Western Society. Our femininity and masculinity doesn’t need to be based on the standards set by Western Society and how that runs contrary to Asian cultures. Yes, our looks matter, how we appear to people racially on the outside matters and it determines how we get treated and how society responds to us but it doesn’t have to mean everything. We do not have to hand over our power and racial identity to ‘Western Society’. And I realize I am saying this as a ‘white girl’ who’s supposedly been handed everything on a platter. But my views are the same.

I have been told recently (over and over again) that I part of a ‘privileged’ racial group, I am privileged because I look white and can pass myself off as a white person and the other half of me happens to be the ‘model minority’, a status which Asian Americans enjoy and that I needed to ‘recognize’ and ‘own’ it. Don’t you love being told how to feel and how to think? I am privileged and blessed, but not for those reasons only. I wish to my younger self that I knew this then when I really needed a confidence boost and a step up after too many adversities in my way. I might have actually used this unearned privilege to my maximum benefit. But alas. (Sarcasm).

The Mob Goes Trophy Hunting

This is a well thought out nuanced piece about the death of Cecil the lion, it’s a piece that would do justice to Cecil’s life.
Big game hunting is cruel and dehumanizing (to the human and animals alike) but the internet lynch mob calling for the ‘hanging’ or some other horrible death for Dr. Walter Palmer and the total destruction of his livelihood is beyond the pale and is not putting the death of Cecil, a lion in perspective. His death is horrible and as a animal lover and specifically a big cat lover myself, his death is nothing short of tragic to me. But let’s keep in mind of all the other ‘tragedies’ that are ongoing in this world.
There may be refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea right now, Syrian refugees who managed to make it out alive are facing lives in refugee camps, in countries that don’t want them living from hand to mouth everyday. Women and children are at risk of being exploited for their labor and bodies. Iraq is imploding and exploding at the same time creating a second wave of refugee crisis. There are genocides of minorities being carried out in Syria and Iraq, and these are people, human lives. So, a little perspective everyone. Let’s pay our respects to Cecil and all other big game that are legally and illegally poached and hunted every year in a more appropriate and proportionate manner.

The Axis of Ego

CecilTheLion2I don’t hunt and — at the risk of losing my “Real American” bona fides — I also don’t own a firearm.  In fact, I have never pulled the trigger on anything more powerful than a pellet gun.  I can’t drive a stick, either, but that’s a different article.

I love animals and have no interest in killing them, but I am definitely not opposed to hunting, per se.  I agree that a distinction can be drawn between hunting animal populations that pose a threat when their numbers get too great, on the one hand, and hunting rare or exotic animals purely for sport on the other.

Even with no sympathies at all for trophy hunting, though, I found myself rushing to the defense of Cecil the Lion’s “murderer,” Dr. Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist. Not because I agree with what he did.  Quite the opposite.  But because I disagree…

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A Decade In: My Reflections as an Asian American Teacher in Harlem in These Times

A Decade In: My Reflections as an Asian American Teacher in Harlem in These Times

A must read from an amazing Chinese-American teacher in Harlem. A nuanced piece about sensitive subjects. Please someone nominate her for Teacher of the Year Award.

subversive mommy

Note: I was trying to go for a much shorter read about criminal justice prison reform but this post transformed into something else much longer. Anyway, this is my first post on my teaching philosophy and my reflections on my positionality as an Asian American teacher to predominantly “Hispanic” or Latino and Black students in Harlem for the past 10 years. I’m filing this under “Stuff I Teach.”

I got into community work just as California was revving its youth criminalization engine with Prop 21 (lowering the age of felonies and upping the punishments and amassing investment in the private prison machinery) back in 2000 (even though SF county voted against it; it was overwhelmingly approved by the CA voters.) Engaging in actions against Prop 21 further politicized me, humbled me and made me confront my rather insular interactions in my hometown of San Francisco and it allowed me to…

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Biracial, Racism in All Its Glory et al.

I came across another fellow WordPress blogger under the name ‘subversivemommy’ and read her post: 7 Things My Biracial Sons Will Be Asked Because They Look More Asian Than White, of all the posts about racism, discrimination and all that comes with it, this one spoke to me because I too, am biracial, in the same combination as her sons, caucasian father (Anglo-Irish) and Chinese mother. As an only child, for as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve never thought about what it would be like for my brother if I had one. What his life would be like and more importantly, what he would look like (more Chinese or more white) and how that would impact his life.

Contrary to her sons, I am the opposite, I appear more white than Chinese and it’s not helped by my frizzy mop of curly untamable brunette locks, which I hate. I wanted my mother’s shining black hair, but she tells me if I got her hair color with my skin and eye color combination, I would literally look like a ghost and that’s not a good look, so she put that thought out of my mind. I love my mommy. But besides that, I inherited Irish skin, which means I turn bright red after a short amount of time in the sun with zero prospect of tanning, my eyes are brown, but brown in the caucasian variety, and when the sun is shining in the right angle, my eyes can appear translucent causing great concern to my Chinese relatives. At a quick glance, I look caucasian to most people but for those with the most discerning eye to detail. But to give it proper context, I will post her entire blog entry below for my readers and comment after:

July 14, 2015: Disclaimer: I’m no expert, but I’m a mom and teacher operating in my spaces situated in history. I’m not here to invalidate anyone truly willing to dialogue with me, because:

1. I am a real person.

2. My sons are real people.

3. My politics are personal and the personal is political. There’s context.

4. I work and exist in many spaces: Asian American, Toisan, Chinese, immigrant, feminist, straight, LGTBQ, brown, black, liberal, even some conservative, mostly post-colonial and my most new spaces are white spaces. because life… but I am not a cultural relativist. Nor am I an Anglo-phile or an imperialist sympathizer. Nor do I hate my Asian American brothers. Accusations of that nature will not get the light of day on this blog post. (Nor do I hate being Chinese American or Asian American or Asian and want to infect my sons with internalized racism and self-hatred.)

4.5 (and as for Asian American woman privilege, I do want to expand on that critique and also give space in my responses about my relationship with my kids’ white/Italian NYC type of father…but, why colonize my life with your presuppositions about me? And to respond to the many comments about my rejecting Asian men “all my life”; I have never dated a white dude prior to my kids’ father.  I only dated Asian American men by choice (personal and political) and social geography helped–Yayy Area! Moving to NYC really changed my social geography and because LIFE! ) Please, complicate the shit! For those that have or have tried to, I appreciate it…honestly ( even if I may have incensed you with this post–I’m a blogger who posted like 3 posts prior to this one…so I know there’s room for growth.  So, there is so much room for dialogue and context building if anyone is actually interested in that…I’m unsure as of right now.)

5. My time here is limited as I am off the summer running after my sons who are napping right now. I’m also new to this universe. My Android phone is like 2nd generation old and has no memory and I just learned about Reddit, like a few months ago.

6. So this blog post is definitely limited–so that’s why I’ll respond more in-depth in a later post if anyone actually cares–kids’ naps are almost up.

Thanks for reading thus far.

My biracial sons are turning out to be quite Asian looking. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like for them had they looked more white, like their dad. I won’t lie and say, while these babies were growing in my belly, that I hadn’t hoped that they would come out a racial melange. What if they looked straight Chinese, like me?

As they get bigger each day, it is becoming more and more apparent that they look like two cute little Asian boys.

Boy, did we miss something BIG here? Did my sons miss the chance to snag the coveted golden ticket of whiteness?! So close yet so far?! Did they win the ticket to the chocolate factory but forget to wake up in time for the tour?

Edit: If I ever imagined I’d be spitting such tragic colonial rhetoric, I would admit that I never knew fear until I had kids.
Do I think my kids’ will have an easier life as white men as opposed to being seen as Asian? Yes.
Is this fucked up? Yes. Racism is fucked up.

For instance, what if they grow up to be short but they LOVE playing basketball like their father did as a kid?  Would I be blamed for this due to my 5’ 1” stature in their myopic adolescent tirades?  Their Chinese grandfather barely clears 5’ 3”. And yes, their father is southern Italian, so not much of the tall genes there either, but we all know the Asian will be blamed for this genetic demerit. Man, my sons will be pissed once they realize they’ve inherited my physical stature, right? In due time, they will be reminded of this.

These were the common thoughts a subversive Asian American mommy like me pondered as other mothers-to-be were planning what sheets they wanted to buy for their babies’ cribs to match other window coverings.

Mothers of color worry about these things. We worry about crib sheets too, but we do not have the option to be colorblind in either case.

I’ve even uttered the common refrain that mixed Asian + white kids are just the cutest and always a winning combination to stay status quo.  Now that I see my sons look more Asian, have I somehow upheld the racial status quo, or do I work consciously to subvert racial hierarchies?

So I pose the thought:  how will perceptions of my biracial sons shape their experiences? What will they be asked throughout their lifetime as perceived Asian men as opposed to white men? The inspiration behind this post came when I read an account of this white father who shared (In light of the emerging mass protests against the murders of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.) what he could do as a white man that his black son may not have so easily accessible to him. And this reporter who penned a letter to her daughter to prepare her for the inevitable experiences with discrimination, captured the melancholy of racism. Then what about thesetwin sisters, one white and one black but twinnies nonetheless!

What These 2 Girls Have In Common Seems Impossible, It's So Unlikely!!!
Twin Sisters. For Real.

Here are 7 things my biracial sons will be asked throughout their lifetime because they look more Asian than white:

  1. Being asked if they speak English.

This may not happen until they look old enough to know how to explain directions to someone. Furthermore, this will only need to happen once for them  to realize that to some people, they don’t look like they belong here in America.

  1. Being asked if they speak Chinese or Japanese or Korean…

My two sons have an Asian-looking mom who speaks broken Chinese.  Most people will think my sons are either Chinese, Japanese or Korean. At some point in their lives, they will be asked if they speak any of the trifecta of East Asian languages. It pays to be on safe side and have all bases covered when one makes cultural assumptions. I’m not sure if my sons will learn Chinese on their own, but I’m quite sure that they are not going to learn the language from me, as sorry as that may sound.

  1. Being asked to be the expert of all things Asian.

Since they look more Asian they are then by default the expert on all things Asian.  They will be asked why people at “Chinese food” places don’t eat the food they cook. They will be asked what the weather is like in China and why Chinese people eat that weird shit. It won’t be a surprise to me if they’ll be asked if they are sympathetic to communists. They may be asked what snuff jars are or who Li Bo was. They may even be asked to quote Confucius, every Chinese person’s dad. Maybe they’ll even know the answers–which would be awesome, but it’s likely they may even be chastised for not knowing any of the answers to the questions for which they are being asked.

  1. Being asked if they eat cats, dogs, rhino’s, and dragons.

Okay, I’ll make a half-hearted concession. For the average American palate, Asian cuisine contains some weird shit. Stuff with bones it in, scales, eyes, necks, vegetables, creepy crawly things that you dry and mash up with a mortar and pestle and then drink it up in the name of health. And yes, there are regions in many parts of Asia where the consumption of what the average American treats solely as pets as opposed to food in the meat aisle, is rather normative.  So, it is likely, my sons will be asked whether they’ve tried canines or cats because it is a joke so often echoed under the breath of the person ordering that sesame chicken or General Tso’s. Ha. Ha. It’s a knee-slapper. Racism is so funny! What my sons will have to learn; however, is that such questions are really just declarations confirming how otherworldly or unassimilable the people making the food or behind the counter, appears to the customer. My sons may be that person behind the counter or at least look a lot like him frying up that rat.

  1. Being asked if they have small penises.

We can measure (excuse the pun) the likelihood of this happening by the level of how “Asian” they look. The inheritance of the trope of the emasculated Asian man born with a small penis depends on what is on the surface more than what’s under those tighty whiteys (excuse the pun).

  1. Being asked if their penis size is attributed to their Italian side.

Say they are heavily endowed. Their partners may, by default, assume that their European genes gifted them with generous genitalia. That would explain it. End of story.

  1. Being asked where they are from (and they don’t mean what city).

The question that starts it all. They may develop a nervous tick because of this question. Again, being asked this is just confirmation that my sons’ facial features remind people that they look like they may be from somewhere else…like Shandong, China or Kamakura, Japan. My sons will have to develop creative responses to this question like, “New York City.”

Because that’s where my sons are from.  Because my sons are as much white as they are Chinese. Because it doesn’t matter. Because the answer is so beyond simply being American (Please don’t lie to them and say “We’re all the same.” while ignoring the awesome benefits of being white.) And because America is so “colorblind”, we’re left in the dark even as we explain ourselves until we’re blue in the face.

640px-President_Barack_Obama
President Barack Hussein Obama: Our 23rd Irish-American President!

Back to my story:

Full disclosure: I’ve not kept up with what’s going on in the young Asian American community, in fact, I never felt part of it when I was in my late teens and early twenties, it’s probably because of my very caucasian appearance and as a result, my experience with racism and discrimination was minimal compared to theirs. When I say that I suffer the same pressure from my family to get straight-As and go to a good college, the reply to me is always along the lines of, ‘it’s ok for you because you are white, you’ll get ahead regardless’. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now but who was I to invalidate someone’s point of view? And I didn’t get straight-As and I didn’t go to an Ivy League college and I could have gotten along further in life if I was more confident about myself but that’s unrelated to my race, that was about the relationship I had with myself.

Next, I cannot recall one incident of racial discrimination in my life that really scarred me, perhaps it never happened because of my caucasian appearance, though I experience plenty of sexism (unrelated to my race). However, I am also told that I can be oblivious in the most obvious situations, like when my college boyfriend was ogling the waitress while I was right there and trying to get her number when I wasn’t looking. My girlfriend was aghast, at me not noticing his behavior. So not noticing racist behavior towards me could be a case of my being oblivious.

Growing up, I hear a lot from Asians of all ethnicities about how lucky I am that I look more white than Chinese. And they always lamented over the other unfortunate biracial children who looked more Asian than white. I found it offensive. My mother is one of the most beautiful people anyone could meet, she’s an amazing woman. I find it perverse that Asians spend thousands on skin whitening creams and caucasians spend thousands on tanning beds or hours laying out in the sun to get that tan. It’s downright convoluted. The whole Asian worship of European facial aesthetics a manifestation of self-loathing for traditional Asian facial features. The amount of skin whitening creams on the market across Asia makes my head explode. When I say this to Asians, they tell me it’s easy for me to say, I am white and I look white, in their minds the ‘preferred’ race in beauty and success. I don’t even have to convince people I am half-white, I have to do the opposite, convince others that I am half-Chinese.

I was born Taiwan, I began my schooling there in Chinese schools with other Chinese children, not an international school like what most kids like me would have gone to. I received my early education only in Chinese and as a result I ‘forgot’ my English and to this day speak fluent Chinese. Also, my parents divorced so I no longer saw my dad regularly and as a result my English suffered, my weekly English tutoring lessons to maintain my English wasn’t enough. So, I was an ‘American’ looking girl who spoke almost no English in Taiwan. I also stood out like a sore thumb at school and I was teased for it. My frizzy birdnest hair combined with the humid climate didn’t help matters either. It was kept short for convenience and on most days it stood straight up. It was then my mother knew that my home would be in America, regardless of what her situation with my father was. I looked American so I should live in America. She didn’t want me growing up sticking out like a sore thumb amongst my peers. She was a pragmatic woman.

So to America we came, I was amongst my ‘kind’, at least I looked like the majority of the people. Only one problem, I had forgotten how to speak English, I was the white girl that didn’t speak any English but my mom refused to put me in ESL classes, she said that I knew how to speak English, I just needed to recall it. It was my mother tongue along with Chinese and people don’t forget their mother tongues. Again, she was right, my English came back within months, just like that. I spoke like a native American, it was as if I never forgot it. I didn’t waste one year in ESL. I love my mommy.

I never talked about race or racism with either of my parents. With my father, it’s the WASPy reserve that kept him from talking about it. It was also uncomfortable and impolite, you silently acknowledge it but don’t act like a racist and that was how he went about his life. He actively avoided situations that might turn ‘racial’. He didn’t want to be called a racist and he hated defending himself (another WASPy thing). He told me to ‘celebrate my unique heritage’ and that was it. My paternal relatives treated me normally, as their grandchild, niece, cousin with a Chinese mother, they love me for me. With my mother, she told me that I had the unique opportunity to combine the best of East and West, to pick the best traits of each culture and apply it. We didn’t talk about racism specifically, not because it’s not there but her life’s philosophy is there is no point talking about something you can’t control. You can’t control racist jerks, if they want to be racist and have racist viewpoints, what can you do about it? She always told me to ignore the ‘noise’, concentrate on myself, do my best in all my endeavors and let life take its natural course. Very good advice which only recently I’ve begun to follow. I never asked my mother if she’s ever suffered any racial discrimination in America, I am sure the answer is ‘yes’, but we never had this discussion. She also has the tendency to be oblivious to the obvious.

I am not sure if my parents not discussing race and racism was a good thing or not, it may have contributed to my general obliviousness. I’ve certainly never thought about the racism my children would face when they grow up while I was pregnant with them or even now. I just let them be kids, it’s too great a burden to them to think about racism at their ages. I have subconsciously adopted my mother’s approach and for now that’s working. If they encounter any racist incidents, I would be the first there to fight that battle with them. However, those are hypothetical situations, which has yet to materialize.

The most common question I get asked up to this day by non-white people (white people are too PC to ask) is ‘do you feel more Chinese or White?’ The answer is both, equally passionately, depending on what day of the week and what situation it is. There are some mornings I wake up and all I want to do is wolf down a plate of pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausages with a hot mug of coffee. And there will be some days where I just want to eat all the supposed ‘crazy’ shit the Chinese eat and they include ‘fins’ and other body parts. Dim Sum is always my firm favorite. I can never get enough of hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants with questionable hygiene in the middle of Chinatown where the whole restaurant staff watch me, an American girl, scarf down their dishes with a pair of chopsticks. Panda Express and Panda Inn are an abomination to me. There are parts of my life philosophy that is undeniably WASPy and some undeniably Confucian (my family are big Confucian believers) and I find equal value in both, but the religion I practice is Catholicism (my dad’s religion). My extreme coffee addiction is definitely a trait inherited from my dad. He mainlined coffee, I don’t think he drank water, much to the chagrin of my mother. ‘Of all the things you inherit…’ she would say. She thought coffee was god awful, smells good, but tastes horrible. ‘The awful bitterness” she’d say.

The times when others make fun of Asians, I get real angry and speak up and point out their racist views. I do not tolerate any racist jokes in my presence, there will be no ching chong chopsticks or any other kind of racist jokes in my hearing, I don’t tell racist jokes nor do I find them funny. I try my best to not say anything that can be remotely construed as racist in front of my children, whose heritage are even more complex than mine and I celebrate them for it.

Now to subversivemommy’s 7 Questions, which I read with a giggle, here are my comments:

  1. Being asked if they speak English. – Not applicable to me. I get looks of shock when I speak Chinese, usually by other Chinese, and they proceed to prod every detail of my life as to why I speak Chinese and why I speak it so well. To avoid retelling the story of my parentage over and over again, I have at times pretend I don’t speak Chinese. Sorry mom.
  2. Being asked if they speak Chinese or Japanese or Korean… – Refer to above. 
  3. Being asked to be the expert of all things Asian. – Rarely, most people (Chinese or not) don’t realize that I also read Chinese, schooled in Confucianism and ancient Chinese history and I am now studying to become a qualified court interpreter. 
  4. Being asked if they eat cats, dogs, rhino’s, and dragons. – Yes, a polite and firm ‘no’ is my answer. Though I acknowledge that some Chinese people do eat weird stuff, it’s not the norm.
  5. Being asked if they have small penises. – Wrong gender. Not applicable to me. 
  6. Being asked if their penis size is attributed to their Italian side. – Refer to above.
  7. Being asked where they are from (and they don’t mean what city). – I do get this a lot, but like subversivemommy, I say the city I was raised in and lived for most of my life. 

I found it disheartening that she had to write a series of ‘disclaimers’ so that her readers wouldn’t accuse her of all sorts of vile things. In 21st century America, it shouldn’t be such a big deal if we marry outside of our race, regardless the combination, nor should anyone be accused of self-hating when their choices veer out of the norm.

Articles, magazines and blog posts about racism in America has been popping into my reading stream lately and I take it as a sign that maybe it’s time for me to talk about the obvious but uncomfortable. I’ve been told to ‘confront’ my white privilege and on top of the white privilege the Asian privilege as well. I do, thank you very much. I look at the mirror daily and know that I have a charmed and blessed life. And I also know that for all that I’ve achieved, it’s not only just down to my hard work, my race plays a part in it too. I don’t know how my life would have looked like if I didn’t look more white than Asian and I won’t know so it’s no use postulating. I am grateful and celebrate the life I have now.

I suppose what I want to say to subversivemommy is to have her sons celebrate their heritages to the max and to revel in that. I believe one way to counter racism is to celebrate your heritage, whatever that may be. Racism will always be an issue in this country, after all, this country was founded on the back of racism where blacks were enslaved. The conversation will always be tough, uncomfortable and at times unbearable, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had in order for this country to heal and move forward. When I see children of different races in my local high school gather after school and hang out together, doing what teenagers do, it makes me so happy. As I know that’s what my children can look forward to when they grow up, but then I start to think, will this same group of diverse kids still be friends after they go on to college and their paths diverge into different professions? Will they still be friends or will each of them revert to the status quo of being friends with the same race?

Redefining Atticus Finch

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was a book that affected me deeply when I read it as a child, though it was an English assignment, it was a book I read with great interest. I read it multiple times during different stages of my childhood and early adulthood and it affected me profoundly each time, I found new meaning each time I reread the book. I wanted a father like Atticus Finch.

‘Go Set a Watchman’ shattered that illusion for the reader. Atticus Finch, was, after all, a product of his time, a racist white man who despised the NAACP and the Supreme Court for infringing on state’s rights and would have preferred a sort of ‘de facto segregation’ of neighborhoods, keeping the centuries old status quo. What’s up for debate is which is more preferable? Atticus’s brand of quiet unspoken racism or the raving, foaming at the mouth, George Wallace style of racism? Who can forget his inaugural speech when he was elected as governor of Alabama:

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

Needless to say, poor Jean Louise Finch was aghast that her father and her childhood sweetheart and possible future husband Henry ‘Hank’ Clinton were racists and that this whole time they were just pretending to be good.

Jean Louise Finch (childhood nickname Scout) was always a late bloomer in every stage of life except for her blazing intellect fostered by Atticus at a very young age. In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, school to her was boring as she learned all that she needed to learn from her father, he read to both of his children whatever he was reading, whether it’s a legal book, non-fiction book, novel, anything. The seminal defining event in Scout Finch’s young life was when her father Atticus Finch defended a black man Tom Robinson, wrongly accused of raping and beating a white woman. Atticus took this case on knowing the kind of vitriol and backlash that he would experience from the town, he took it on because he knew for a fact it was impossible for Tom Robinson to have raped that white woman as he only had one arm and other physical limitations. The implication was that the sex was consensual which was even worse than rape in the Jim Crow days of the South. A white woman could never in her right mind ‘consent’ to sleeping with a black man so to cover that shame she will always cry rape.

By taking on this case Atticus Finch was risking his family’s personal safety as reprisals from the accuser’s family and others was very much a possibility. Especially since Atticus was implying in open court that the sex was consensual, thereby tarnishing the good name of a white woman, which was worse than the possible rape itself. The all white jury ended up convicting Tom Robinson of rape and was sentenced to jail. Everyone knew this would be the result even Atticus, but in the face of that he still defended the man to the best of his ability because it was the right thing. Atticus earned the respect of everyone in town and after the verdict was read, as Atticus was leaving the courthouse, everyone stood up as a sign of respect for his valiant effort.

Jean Louise Finch took this defining event in her childhood to mean that her father was ‘different’ from all the other bigots and racists in Maycomb and so it made living there more tolerable, Atticus never used the n-word that was bandied about from everyone’s lips. Atticus gave total respect to Calpurnia, their maid who served as surrogate mother to Scout growing up. Since Scout’s mother died when she was 2, she sees Calpurnia as the woman that raised her and Atticus gave her that respect. In the first chapters of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ it is revealed that Calpurnia finally had to retire from her job because she was getting so old and Atticus was doing more of the housekeeping than Calpurnia. It appears that Calpurnia was well taken care of by Atticus and was retired with financial security.

Just like with the defining event of her childhood, the shattering moment of her adulthood was when she catches Atticus and Henry Clinton attending a ‘council’ meeting which was a meeting where the town racists congregate once a week to discuss the ‘negro’ problem and all were welcome, Klan members, your local common bigot even white trash along with distinguished citizens like Atticus and Hank were given a place at the table and a platform to air their grievances about the NAACP and decisions the Supreme Court was handing down regarding black people’s rights, though it was couched as ‘infringing state’s rights’. Jean Louise was aghast at what she saw.

Scout Finch with her superior intellect wasn’t  quite as astute when it came to observing human nature and human behavior. She didn’t have the capability of picking up on the emotional nuances of the people she grew up with, she was a very black and white kind of girl. It was right or it was wrong because Atticus told her so. There was no gray with her. To the modern reader that it was perfectly reasonable or normal for Atticus to defend Tom Robinson and still hold racist views. Just because he is racist and believes in segregation doesn’t mean that a black man should go to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, as an attorney, the idea alone could offend his sensibilities. In his mind, one’s got nothing to do with the other. Black people have rights, same rights as whites when it came to criminal law and that one shouldn’t be punished for a crime he didn’t commit, regardless of race, but when it comes to civil rights, the right to vote, bringing an end to segregation that’s a whole different story.

Defending a black man in court doesn’t affect Atticus’s private life, he still gets to live in a white neighborhood, where he doesn’t have to deal with black people, except the help, it’s a world he is comfortable in and sees no need to change it. As for his views about the black race in general being in its infancy when compared to the white race, that was a commonly held viewpoint at the time too. The black people weren’t ready to vote for leaders, they weren’t ready to receive equal education as whites, they weren’t ready to live, work and play alongside white people, they weren’t ‘there’ yet, developmentally. And the pesky NAACP has no business coming into the South and causing a ruckus by registering black folks en mass to vote as they have no idea just how backward their people are.

To go back even further, the great emancipator President Abraham Lincoln, though he freed the slaves, he was not ready to grant them the same equal rights as white citizens right away, if ever. President Lincoln freed the slaves because he knew that an advanced progressive nation cannot be enslaving its people and it was morally reprehensive to own slaves but it was for the survival of the Union that he freed the slaves. While he believed slavery was wrong on principle and should be outlawed, he was far from believing that black people were equal to white people. The book,“Colonization After Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement” asserts that Lincoln didn’t believe that blacks could totally assimilate into white society and sought to ‘repatriate’ black people back to Africa or other places such as Belize, Guyana, Haiti etc. Some believe that this was the promise he had to make to the Northerners in order to get the Emancipation Proclamation through Congress and others say that Lincoln didn’t believe that black people should be assimilated into white society and believed that social mayhem would ensue so he wanted to avoid the racial strife that would result from the emancipation. The motive for repatriation of black people was unclear but the one thing is clear is that he didn’t view black and white people as equals. Freeing the slaves was a policy issue, it had to be done in order for America to maintain its credibility as a legitimate nation and one can’t do that if a part of the population is enslaved.

Children adore their parents unquestioningly, our mothers and fathers are our heroes, they can do  no wrong until we discover that they are human and make mistakes, then we get to a certain age to where they can do nothing right (teenage years) and then after the turmoil of teenage years and early adulthood, we settle back down and reconcile the fact that our parents are only just human and aren’t perfect but we love them anyway, just like how they love us with our flaws. And on this score, Jean Louise Finch was late to the game too, she was 26 years old when she found out Atticus wasn’t perfect like the god she worshipped, he was flawed like all of the others, but what’s worse she felt cheated, like he presented one side of himself to her and another to the rest of the world.

The truth is more complicated. Atticus’s strength as a father was to let his children be who they are even if they are contrary to his views. Even Scout acknowledged as much, that her father always let her be and never tried to change her, to the chagrin of their relatives, especially Aunt Alexandra. This is far easier said than done, to let your children be, accept them as they are without any hint of disapproval. It could also be that he knew his daughter worshipped him like a god and he didn’t want to shatter that image. He was also not an overbearing father with the obsessive need to control every detail of his children’s lives. He imparted his vast knowledge of the law and the ways of the world to his children and he let them run with that. During their ‘showdown’ where Jean Louise laid out all of her grievances with her father attending those council meetings, the climax of the conversation where Atticus asked her if she felt blacks and whites were equals, Jean Louise said she didn’t know but she knows that black people are human beings (not subhuman like her father and Hank believes them to be) and from one fellow human being to another, they deserve respect, hope and adequate education. Jean Louise knows that she has gotten this far in life, living in New York City is because of her superior education by the local public school and of course from Atticus.

The release of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ came a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Though we are no longer facing the kind of racism like the Jim Crow South, there are still significant hurdles we face as a nation when it comes to race, especially the issue of police brutality and mass incarceration of blacks and latinos, often for nonviolent drug offenses, which have blighted a whole generation. In this current election cycle, you have candidates like Donald Trump who openly deride immigrants, other candidates who are suspicious of minorities but using other issues like feminism and religious liberty as a cover for the covert racism. Like Atticus Finch, the old order is changing and they don’t like it, they find ways to preserve the old status quo to suit their comforts. America is changing and it’s changing at a faster pace than it was in the 1950’s and many though not vile racists by definition, they are still uncomfortable with the change.

Not a Parenting Post

I don’t write parenting blogs nor do I submit entries to parenting blogs, those proliferate the internet and what’s needed to be said on the subject has been written, rewritten  and expounded on for any run of the mill parent to rehash modern parenting issues. I consider myself a rather modern parent who do not subscribe to any ‘style’ of parenting except my own and what feels natural for my children.

On the popular parenting blog ‘Scary Mommy’ , it’s a look at parenthood through a lense of humor, a place for moms and dads (mostly moms) to release their pent up frustrations, joys and everything else that comes with parenting. It rarely gets too serious and is relatable to the average mom. It’s much preferred than those sanctimonious sounding ones run by the breastapo and attachment parenting advocates who go out of their way to make other moms who don’t breastfeed until their child is in first grade and not wear them in a sling feel like failures.

But I came across an entry called ‘A Plea for Boyhood and Rough Play’ by Celeste Brinson, and it talks about how little boys differ from little girls when it comes to play and the roughness and messiness involved. I interpret her view as ‘boys will be boys’ and to socialize them to be more feminine amounts to cruelty (my words not hers). And she’s quite sick of askance looks she gets from mostly mothers of little girls who play differently. This topic is relevant because there is now a lot of discussion of gender identification and socialization and what makes a boy and what makes a girl. With the transgender movement in full swing, many children (some as young as 5) are coming out as transgender and are demanding to dress in the gender they identify with not the one they are born with.

Of course the debate rages about boys and girls and is it a nurture or nature phenomenon or is it socialization by the parents. The comments section of this entry were peppered with anecdotal evidence agreeing with or the contrary of the Brinson’s assertions and some were downright nasty and judgemental as to be expected from parenting websites. Some went so far as to call her kid an ‘asshole’ whom she couldn’t control, that’s taking it a bit far.

As a parent of one girl and one boy, my belief is that kids are kids, they do what they can get away with, whether it’s rough play, table manners, bath and bedtime routine, manners etc. This particular article addresses the issue of boys who tend to play rough are treated like a pariah in play groups, especially one dominated by little girls, and you cannot blame other parents, if you have kid that plays rough, perhaps then you should find another kid or kids who also play rough as a normal way of play then you will have no complaints from the parents. Parents have a legitimate concern to anyone ‘playing rough’ with their child. Playing with sticks, splashing water and throwing rocks and fistfuls of dirt isn’t most parents’ idea of fun play, and for me, it’s the goddamned mess. I hate mess. I spent the last three years of my life cleaning up little people’s messes, so no please no mud throwing, mud eating over here please. Brinson also mentioned that some parents discourge that type of play because it’s an inconvenience to the parents. You are damn right it’s inconvenient, I don’t want to clean mud and crap off my kid because that’s how your kid plays. And if that is a ‘deprivation’ to my child, that’s just too bad. They can work it out in therapy later.

It’s unclear that if that is a ‘boy’ thing as equal number of people can probably tell you that they have the roughest little girl ever and I’ve seen a few myself. My daughter is older than my son by almost 2 years, when he learned to walk and when they are able to play together I noticed my daughter begun to shove her little brother, she was playing and didn’t mean any harm but he didn’t think it funny as he was a bit unsteady on his feet still and would fall over. I would correct her behavior and to be gentle with her baby brother. She listened, most of the time. When my son got closer to the Terrible Two’s he started shoving and pushing his older sister thinking I wasn’t paying attention and I told him that he cannot push his sister just because he is younger. My daughter by this point was old enough and trained by me to never shove, hit or push her little brother and she has become a sitting duck for him which I didn’t allow either.

In post-feminism parenting, gender differences aren’t ‘allowed’ to be pointed out or addressed for fear of gender stereotyping, the whole experiment where you give little girls trucks to play with and little boys dolls to play with is met with mixed results at best, which leads many child development experts to conclude that children should develop at their own pace (no really? I didn’t need an ‘expert’ to tell me that). For every girl that rejects the truck and turns the truck into a doll, you will have another girl who can’t get enough of leggos and trucks. For every boy that rejects a barbie and somehow mutiliates the barbie doll into a toy gun, you have another boy who sleeps with his barbie at night, and it could all just be a ‘phase’ until the next thing comes along.

Mothers are the harshest judges, they reserve the worst and harshest judgement for themselves, we think we are failing our children if they don’t know their ABCs by the time they can walk and talk, and if we don’t read bedtime stories to them, we are stunting their vocalbulary and cognitive advancement. Every other day we have a study telling us ‘kids whose parents read to them or spend x amount of time with them reviewing vocabulary does better at school or their IQ is higher’ etc, to which a gullible mother (it’s always the mom) goes out and buy every popular bedtime story to read to their child in hopes of improving his or her future prospects.

‘Parenting’ is a legitimate money making industry now, the number of parenting books written by ‘experts’ explaining why their parenting method is best and the amount people that line up to buy this stuff is alarming. What happened to trusting our own instincts and know what’s best for our child? What’s best for our child is a confident and relaxed mother, not a ‘perfect’ mother.

Orange is the New Jacobite

Orange is the New Jacobite

I love this retelling of the history of European Monarchy. As a history buff myself, I had great joy reading it. I wish I could tell it like this.

The Social Historian

The Glorious Revolution, 1688.

James II should have been one of Britain’s best kings.

His brother Charles had brought stability after the Civil Wars. Christmas was back, soldiers had gone. Puritans had shut the hell up and were allowing everyone to play football again. A trade boom had left the Crown with more money than you could shake a sceptre at (and Charles had a famously long sceptre).

For once, an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman could walk into a bar without killing each other. It was a golden age for British comedy.

Admittedly, there were some ominous signs. People were drinking coffee and reading newspapers, which made them opinionated and excitable (until they needed the loo). Quakers and other dissenters were being persecuted, and people worried – still – about where the limits of the King’s authority were and how far he could ignore Parliament like the rest…

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Rebuttal to ‘Beyond the Model Minority Myth’

Asian American writer Jennifer Pan wrote an article for the Jacobin Magazine called ‘Beyond the Model Minority Myth’, which is her take on how Asian Americans have contributed to white oppression and white supremacy by being ‘model’ citizens. The tone is almost apologetic, which I find objectionable. She quotes “Yale’s Asian-American alumni, jazz musician and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer said, “To succeed in America is, somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America — which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.” And this translates to:

“upward mobility of large numbers of Asian Americans, which, he argued, came at the expense of other people of color.”

As a person of Caucasian-Chinese heritage, I find this logic puzzling and a little bit offensive. Pan made inferences and conclusions while comparing apples to oranges. She makes assumptions such as “The criticism of Asian Americans’ complicity in a power structure that disregards black life has emerged as a significant theme among young activists eager to ally with the Black Lives Matter movement.” 

Firstly, it is unsure that any ‘criticisms’ of this sort are justified, if linking Asian American’s achievements through their own hard work which resulted in other minorities (blacks and latinos) being left behind?  How is it the fault of Asian Americans through hard work and dedication to their studies and profession and see success as a result complicit in the oppression of blacks and latinos? And the ‘young activists’ that subscribe to this kind of thinking are seriously misguided and need to read up on our ancestors’ journey to this country, which I’ll get into later, and it was no picnic. Asian Americans didn’t get a free pass from racism and discrimination from the white establishment.

Having a white American father gave me direct access and knowledge of white culture and the ‘system’ and though I don’t agree with all of it, it’s certainly not a giant machine that seeks only to oppress, and having a Chinese mother gave me direct experience of traditional Chinese culture and I was primarily raised with my mother, my parents as my parents divorced when I was young. I had no racial identity issues growing up, I easily identified with both cultures and was proud to the product of both cultures, I feel equally Chinese and white, my white half doesn’t ‘oppress’ my Chinese half. Having said that, I will explain why comparing Asian American achievement and how that contributed to the suffering of blacks and latinos is a complete fallacy.

Pan being Asian American herself totally disregarded the cultural differences between Asians, blacks and latinos. Most Asian cultures, especially Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Indian cultures value education to the exclusion of everything else, they believe that education is the gateway out of poverty and to a better life, it doesn’t matter what social class the parents are from, even if they are restaurant owners, laborers, shopkeepers, laundromat owners, they impart the idea to their children to study hard so they don’t have to take on labor intensive low paying job like them. Specifically to the Chinese culture, due to Confucian influence, pursuing higher education should be the the goal of every person that is capable and able to do so, it’s what makes the foundation of a peaceful and harmonious society and this also runs true across all social classes, even amongst the FuJian Chinese, which are on the lower socio-economic ladder than other Chinese, according to Pan. Therefore it shouldn’t come too much of a surprise that Asian Americans do well academically and I can attest that most is not by choice, our parents harass, threaten, harangue us into getting good grades (‘or else you’ll end up working at McDonalds’ is a common retort). Asian parents like all parents don’t want their children to suffer injustice and poverty, they want their children to do better than they and achieve more than they. Having said all this, I am not suggesting that black and latinos do not know the importance of education or do not apply themselves, I am only explaining from the Chinese family’s point of view, which is the one I am familiar with.

Next, Pan doesn’t address the family issues that plague a lot of black families, and that is 70% of black families are headed by a single parent, usually the mother. Due to high incarceration rates, many black and latino children are fatherless and if they do have a fatherly presence it’s an inconsistent and not always a positive one. This fact alone contributes to all sorts of problems in families which bleeds into school performance and future achievement. This is not to say all Asian families are two parent families and are ‘normal’ by any stretch of the imagination, far from it, and I am not asserting that the only ideal family structure is a two parent home, but the lack of consistent male presence in many black and latino homes is a serious problem and contributes to low academic achievement.

On the subject of racism and racial discrimination, while it is true that Asian Americans don’t suffer the same level of discrimination and brutality by the police as black and latinos, and partly is because Asians are viewed as the model minority, the one minority group who are able to lift themselves out of poverty into high paying jobs, Asian Americans are not immune from discrimination. From my own personal experience with my family, we (my cousins and I) were raised to be suspicious of police and to stay away from them unless you need them, which translates to don’t get in situations where police need to be involved. And I suspect this is how many Asian Americans view the police, stay away from them unless you have a real emergency. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve interacted with the police, most were traffic stops where I was handed a ticket.

Asian American achievement is not done by stepping on the heads of blacks and latinos, not directly, indirectly or remotely complicit. And it also doesn’t mean Asian Americans do not suffer from racism or discrimination, they very much do. An uncle of mine, who could probably be categorized as the ‘Model Minority’ came to this country, got his masters degree in electrical engineering at a very good university, got a good job as an electrical engineer but he felt the glass ceiling before the term was invented and used for women who don’t get ahead at work. He became disillusioned with the ‘American Dream’ as he knew (but couldn’t prove) that he was being discriminated against because he was Chinese.

Pan doesn’t make this direct assertion that Asian Americans got ahead by stepping on the head of others but she implies it. She quotes Taiwanese-American author Kai-Ming Ko, ‘we messed up’, and that Asian Americans contributed to the ‘system’ that supports mass incarceration and oppression of black people. Ko wrote an impassioned article called ‘An Apology to Black Folks’ and states that Asian Americans by participating in American life such as paying taxes which contribute to mass incarcerations, shopping and eating out in affluent areas contributes to the white supremacy and for that he apologizes to the black folks. The sentiment is kind but he doesn’t offer any solutions to dismantle this ‘white supremacist’ system and replace it with a more egalitarian one, certainly not paying one’s taxes isn’t a good solution. Ko also asserts that until recently, Asian Americans didn’t do enough advancing the rights of minorities, which may have a ring of truth. Asian Americans until recently are not known to be strong community activists, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care. The Model Minority Myth is just that, a myth. Asian Americans aren’t model minorities and it’s wrong to use the achievement of Asian Americans to justify racism against blacks and latinos, that’s comparing apples to oranges. The black and latino experience is totally different to the Asian American one and it would be remiss of anyone to make that comparison. I know plenty of Asian Americans and myself included who do not fit into the ‘model minority’ category, mostly because I refuse to be categorized in any way. Many Asian American friends I know do not see themselves as model minorities, though they’ve all gotten on well in life.

Lastly, a bit of history of how the first Chinese came to this country, in the 1850’s, Chinese migrants came to this country in search of work: 

“[To] work in the gold mines, but also to take agricultural jobs, and factory work, especially in the garment industry. Chinese immigrants were particularly instrumental in building railroads in the American west, and as Chinese laborers grew successful in the United States, a number of them became entrepreneurs in their own right. As the numbers of Chinese laborers increased, so did the strength of anti-Chinese sentiment among other workers in the American economy. This finally resulted in legislation that aimed to limit future immigration of Chinese workers to the United States, and threatened to sour diplomatic relations between the United States and China.”

And the cherry on top came with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882:

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which, per the terms of the Angell Treaty, suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers (skilled or unskilled) for a period of 10 years. The Act also required every Chinese person traveling in or out of the country to carry a certificate identifying his or her status as a laborer, scholar, diplomat, or merchant. The 1882 Act was the first in American history to place broad restrictions on immigration.

This also meant that the Chinese that settled here were not able to bring their families caused many forced separations between men and their families, which gave rise to various bordellos in Chinese neighborhoods (Chinatowns) and the Chinese then became a ‘moral’ concern to the greater good of America. The United States government felt that the first exclusion act wasn’t enough so they went ahead and passed an even stricter exclusion act:

In 1888, Congress took exclusion even further and passed the Scott Act, which made reentry to the United States after a visit to China impossible, even for long-term legal residents. The Chinese Government considered this act a direct insult, but was unable to prevent its passage. In 1892, Congress voted to renew exclusion for ten years in the Geary Act, and in 1902, the prohibition was expanded to cover Hawaii and the Philippines, all over strong objections from the Chinese Government and people. Congress later extended the Exclusion Act indefinitely.

It was only in 1943 where all Chinese exclusion acts were repealed, since China was an ally of the United States during World War II.

This is in no way comparable to black slavery or genocide the American Indians faced, but the Chinese didn’t get special treatment as a ‘model minority’ when they first arrived in this country. There is a lot of literature, in prose and verse, written by Chinese migrants about the heartbreak from being away from their families, culture and living in a hostile land where they are mocked and ridiculed, so no, the Chinese didn’t get a free ride into the middle and upper classes of American society. And Asian Americans shouldn’t have to feel apologetic about their achievements, they should be celebrated without feelings of guilt.

Greece Bailout: Goliath Won

Under pressure from the troika, Greece buckled. Alexis Tsipras accepted a bailout package of roughly 82 to 86 billion euros in order for Greece to stay in the Eurozone. The final deal was far worse than what was offered to them before Tsipras decided to take a chance and hold a last minute referendum in Greece. It became David versus Goliath tale of who would back down in the end. Would the troika back down for fear of being branded cruel or would Greece buckle under the pressure of possible Grexit and accept any terms that was thrown at them.

The latter happened. Goliath won. Tsipras backed down because he knew that Greece was ill prepared for a possible Grexit as they’ve no central bank, they’ve no new banknotes denominated in the new currency, presumably the New Drachma and logistically it was impossible to implement as former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis wrote in a column for The Guardian in which he says that a Grexit is logistically impossible and Germany knows it and is determined to punish Greece to the breaking point:

To exit, we would have to create a new currency from scratch. In occupied Iraq, the introduction of new paper money took almost a year, 20 or so Boeing 747s, the mobilisation of the US military’s might, three printing firms and hundreds of trucks. In the absence of such support, Grexit would be the equivalent of announcing a large devaluation more than 18 months in advance: a recipe for liquidating all Greek capital stock and transferring it abroad by any means available.

Varoufakis also claims that “bailouts had nothing to do with rescuing Greece (and everything to do with ringfencing northern Europe),” who “had adopted Grexit either as their preferred outcome or weapon of choice against our government.”

In the new ‘bailout’, Greece will submit to reforms and even more public spending cuts immediately.

The reforms include: streamlining the pension system, boosting tax revenue – especially from VAT [sales tax], liberalising the labour market, privatising the electricity network, extending shop opening hours.

Greece has also agreed to set up a trust into which it will place €50 billion worth of assets.

While it will not lose control of the assets immediately, in the long term they will be a way of Greece to eventually pay off the bailout loan, with €25 billion will be used to fund recapitalisation of Greek banks and the other €25 billion set aside to pay off Greece’s massive debts.

The troika knowing that Greece will never be able to repay its loans based just on economic productivity and tax revenues alone, they’ve forced Greece to select some ‘assets’ and put it into a 50 billion euro trust fund for the creditors to tap, and ‘assets’ include sale of Greek islands or handing over some Greek islands to the control of their creditors. This seems to be a cruel joke, it wasn’t enough that the Nazis cruelly occupied Greece during World War II, now it’s happening all over again, under a different set of circumstances.

This bailout agreement is so strict that even some German commentators are voicing concern, ‘there is a fine line between saving Greece and punishing Greece.’ Many believe that this set of bailout conditions could turn Greece into a failed state whereby basic government services expected of a developed nation will cease to exist. Needless to say, Greeks are crying foul and bloody murder. The misdeeds and corruption of their politicians have come home to roost and it’s the people that suffer. The contempt that the Northern European nations and Germany have for Greece is palpable, whereas before it was just hinted at, now it’s all out verbal war. Greece has been declared ‘irresponsible’ by the European Commissioner. Christine LaGarde, the head of IMF said that she doesn’t feel sorry for the poverty in Greece (as opposed to the children in Niger) because Greeks don’t pay their taxes and so they somehow deserve this.

There is no question that Greece is a country that is not only resource poor but poorly managed. Their inefficient labor markets means they rely heavily on imports rather than exporting their goods and services to boost their coffers. The previous Greek governments built a socialist haven on borrowed funds. Tax evasion is rampant, almost a national sport. A nation where over half of the people are pensioners (retirement age is 60) with one of the most generous pension packages in Europe without any tax revenue to pay for it. Benefit cheating is rampant as well, especially disability benefits. An example of such cheating which is symptomatic for the Greek situation is the scandal of the island of blind people. The island of Zakynthos, whereby 650 people are registered as blind, which would entitle them to welfare benefits from the state, and these ‘blind’ people include taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and farmers, people with jobs that would require sight. It is precisely this mentality that erodes any sympathy from Greece’s creditors and the fact that the Syriza government failed to take any responsibility for the failure of the collective Greek governments before them makes their creditors very angry.

On top of the benefit cheating, their refusal to reform their labor market, which is one of the most inefficient, crackdown on tax evasion, privatize their protected industries to make it more competitive is also driving their creditors up the wall.

It is said that by the time the third bailout is enacted, Greece’s debt would balloon to 200% of its GDP, which makes it near impossible to repay without any write downs. It’s estimated that at this rate, there would need to be a write down of 90% in order for Greece to become solvent on its own again, which will never happen. Angela Merkel didn’t grant any other nation a debt write down, so there is no way she could grant Greece the same and also, it’s politically unfeasible.

In a perfect economic scenario, Greece would leave the Eurozone, effect a Grexit, default on the debt denominated in euros, print its own currency and hedge it against the euro, create a Greek central bank to control the currency and then export its way out of debt. The Khan Academy recorded a series of videos explaining how the Greek debt crisis came to be and how it could be solved. It’s explained in economic terms only without any political implications and it goes a long way explaining to the uninitiated: https://www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/core-finance/money-and-banking/greek-debt-crisis

The future of the euro and ‘European project’ is in doubt, it’s credibility and legitimacy seriously questioned. They’ve integrated the economics and finances of the member nations without integrating them politically and they are trying to solve the Greek crisis with political solutions rather than economic ones. The central bank of any country (such as The Federal Reserve in the US) needs to operate independently from the government. Central banks need to do what it needs to do regardless of the political climate. They need to be able to act unilaterally without consulting government and that’s what’s sorely missing with the European Central Bank. Though it’s called a ‘central bank’, it doesn’t have the power and authority of a central bank. It cannot act unilaterally based on what the economy needs without consulting the individual parliaments of the member nations, which makes economic policies very hard to implement and carry out. And by the time the consent is there, it could be too late.

Another Cultural Appropriation Row – This Time by Two Little Girls

The kids are at it again, Amandla Stenberg (the actress who played Rue in ‘The Hunger Games’) accused Kylie Jenner of black appropriation because Kylie Jenner uploaded a picture of herself with cornrows and liberal use of bronzer. These kids are not even out of their teens and they get into a debate about cultural appropriation. Oh dear.

These public and nasty rows about cultural appropriation (usually black culture) carried out mostly on social media is a rather new phenomenon. I came of age when hip hop went from underground street music to mainstream music and the word ‘appropriation’ was hardly uttered. There were many white artists of all genres who are huge fans of hip hop and has done many collaborations with hip hop artists, the most memorable being Run DMC collaborating with Aerosmith for a remake of the Aerosmith song ‘Walk this Way’, which paved the way other genres to collaborate with hip hop. The white artists who collaborated with hip hop artists showed nothing but deference to the artistry of hip hop and no one ‘appropriated’ anything. There have been thousands of hip hop and non-hip hop collaborations since and now any such collaboration is almost a sure fire hit.

However, the tide begun to change when white people became rappers themselves and became huge successes, the one that comes to my mind is Eminem or aka Marshall Mathers III, he was a white rapper from Detroit but I suppose he hung with a black ‘crew’ and was a protege of Dr. Dre and subsequently used his fame, fortune and influence to bring to prominence other black hip hop artists (most notably 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks and others) so he was viewed on kindly by the black and hip hop community as someone who didn’t only ‘appropriate’ their art form and not give back to black people. The fact that he is a raging misogynist who fantasizes about raping and killing his wife and then putting her body in the back of his trunk and dumping her somewhere seems to be all right with everyone and explained away as ‘artistic expression’. Russell Simmons calls him (and all rappers) ‘poet(s)’ and poets’ voices should never be stifled no matter how offensive the content, everything that comes out of a rapper’s mouth is ‘art’ in its most raw form. So if stringing together sentences laced with the f-bomb and throw in ‘bitch’, ‘hoe’, ‘money’, ‘ice’ here and there, that makes you a poet. Oh dear, I think John Keats just turned over in his grave. The poetry section of English departments should just close up shop and go home, there’s no need to teach poetry anymore.

Macklemore and Lewis got a pass for the cultural appropriation accusation simply because they spend half their time apologizing for their success and how unfair it is for black hip hop artists who are better than they at their craft to not see their level of success. What a bunch of baloney and very disingenuous, the record company saw a hit, promoted them and they ran with it, that’s how they got successful, that’s how everyone gets successful. One would think that imitation is the highest form of flattery…unless money and accolades are exchanged in the wrong direction.

(Sarcasm) To Eminem’s credit, he is after all not like that odious Iggy Azalea, a lily white Australian girl rapping in a southern accent and appropriating black culture to her personal benefit and didn’t give one red cent to back black causes or bring attention to black issues, she just took and took from the black culture and never gave back. But at least Iggy Azalea speaks in her native Australian accent, doesn’t pretend to be black (cue Eminem), she raps in southern accent probably because it’s weird to rap with an Australian accent? I don’t know, I am not well versed enough with hip hop nor am I a fan to know these subtle nuances. Should Iggy Azalea post a photo of herself on Instagram or Twitter tomorrow wearing cornrows with heavy application of bronzer, I can imagine the kind of shit that would hit the fan. She’s already been accused of everything in the book.

Let’s turn this argument on its ear and say what if a white person or black person decided to wear the traditional Chinese Qing Dynasty dress (the qipao) or the Japanese Kimono and added their own twist to it, would they be appropriating traditional Chinese and Japanese culture and not giving it proper reference? Or what if a non-Asian person decided to do slanty eye makeup to look like Chinese or Japanese women dressed up in their traditional garb, is that racist appropriation or just admiring another culture’s aesthetics? Where does cultural appreciation and admiration begin and when does it become ‘appropriation’ whereby due credit isn’t given? And when did little girls decide what is culturally appropriated and what isn’t?

So it’s acceptable to like rap music, emulate the styles of hip hop artists, purchase rap music and all the other consumer goods associated with hip hop but you can’t become a rapper if you aren’t the right sort? What about jazz, blues and rock and roll music, they were all pioneered by black people too and appropriated to the maximum benefit by white people, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, I can go on and on, they all said their musical influences came from black people and their music, where are those ‘cultural appropriation’ accusations?

Put your poison fingers down, you’ve hardly had enough education or life experience to even know what ‘cultural appropriation’ really means. Amandla Stenberg should leave Kylie Jenner alone. She’s not appropriating anything, she’s experimenting a new look like she does everyday and yesterday, it was cornrows with heavy application of bronzer, tomorrow it may be a Demi Moore like buzz cut like when she was in ‘GI Jane’, who the heck knows, she’s 17 years old, she may look back at this when she’s 27 and be totally aghast she inflated her lips three times its original size, wore 8 lbs of makeup everyday and spent an ungodly amount of time in front of a mirror taking selfies. Whatever she is doing, it isn’t cultural appropriation of any kind, just teenage silliness and self-importance, which she’s entitled to do.

No More Shame, Blame or Guilt.

2015 is a pivotal year for me. I decided to take stock of my life, my past failures and successes and examine where I went wrong. Things, events, thoughts that I pushed to the back of my mind because I was too embarrassed and too ashamed to think about them were excavated for post mortems. Some of these recollections would provoke a physical reaction that that awful feeling at the pit of my stomach, as if it’s happening all over again. It got so bad that I had to ‘pretend’ that some events never took place so that I wouldn’t think of them.

I examined why I have not excelled more in my life and why I haven’t achieved what I set out to do and why I always abandoned by goals mid way through them. I realized that my follow-through ratio was appalling and I was ashamed about that too. I was basically ashamed of everything that didn’t go right in my life and I always took the blame for it because I believed in total accountability of one’s actions. I didn’t do the victim thing where I blamed everyone and their grandma for my personal failings, I blamed me, the buck stops with me and that’s a mark of character. But as I took on the burden of shame, blame and guilt, it slowly consumed me over time. It’s one thing to accept blame and responsibility and move on but another to embody and become that shame, I was the latter. I became a shell of my former self because I was so overwhelmed by my feelings of shame and blame. It seeped into everything in my life, even in areas where it didn’t even seem applicable.

I begun to examine why I was so hard on myself, why I gave everyone else’s failings a pass except myself. Because I took the ‘personal responsibility’ thing so seriously, it hit me like a thunderbolt, that is why everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) had no problem sticking the blame to me for almost everything, whether it had to do with me or not. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because I gave off that energy, that energy of I’ll take the blame, I’ll take the responsibility whether I should or not, so other people had no problem doling it out to me. When I say people, I meant everyone from my family, friends, co-workers, bosses, random people, everyone, and it pissed me off.

But nothing pissed me off more than when I was suddenly made responsible for the stupidity and incompetence of others, especially at work. When I was training a new employee, when I told him specifically NOT to misplace a very important document, he threw it in the trash by mistake, it somehow became my fault because I didn’t take it from him and keep it on my desk, despite my repeated warnings of being very careful with that document. When the temp girl couldn’t locate the FedEx drop box so she stuffed FedEx parcels in the regular US Mail outgoing mailbox for the postman to pick up, and when it was discovered that the FedEx parcels didn’t make it to its intended location on time, I was blamed because I didn’t take her by the hand, walk her downstairs and show her where the FedEx drop box was, oh and by the way, it was in the same mailroom as the outgoing mailbox, a room that was 5×5 but she somehow didn’t see the big orange and purple letters that said ‘FedEx’ on it but she saw the small outgoing mail slot. This shit actually happened, you couldn’t make this up. People blaming me for their shit because I didn’t tell them. If you are a college grad and you can’t locate a FedEx drop box, there’s officially something not right there, it’s certifiable. So I became hyper-paranoid, I was more paranoid that my co-worker was going to screw up his work and it somehow being my fault than I was doing my own work.

The last three years were tough, I had to juggle new motherhood with full-time work and all the changing dynamics that came with that. The responsibilities that I had to juggle nearly broke me, and going on the same vein of shame, blame and guilt, on top of being a new mother, we were also living with an elderly relative of ours who depends on me for transportation as she didn’t drive. But with a new baby, full time work I wasn’t able to take care of her the way she wanted me to, and I was blamed for that too. Well, in that particular situation, it was more of shaming than blaming, I was shamed for not being a dutiful child and put up with bullshit. This last cycle of shame, blame and guilt sent me into the depths anxiety, depression and near physical collapse. I thought I was going to pass out one day in the kitchen while I was washing dishes, after a long work day, no sleep as I had an infant and doing more chores at night before I get to rest, I thought then, now will people lay off me, now that I am about to collapse on the floor in the middle of my kitchen? Of course they didn’t.

When my sole income wasn’t enough to support all of our expenses and we fell behind on bills, guess who got the blame? Yep, yours truly. It was as if I had a sign on my back that said ‘blame me’, ‘kick me’, ‘shit on me’. I was so angry at everyone, when did everyone’s problems become mine? Why am I responsible for everything? Until it hit me one day, because I permitted it. My guilt and my shame for ‘not being good enough right now, as I am’ had seeped through every aspect of my life. Because I felt badly about myself, so everyone else felt they had license to shit on me. Because I took the blame for things I shouldn’t to appear tough, accountable and to appease the feelings of others, I became target for everything that’s gone wrong. I was just existing through life, not feeling, not being mindful or even aware of myself, my feelings and what’s going on with me internally. I was also suffering from a long term, mild to moderate depression in which I took no treatment for.

How I felt about myself on the inside manifested my life on the outside. So, this year, I made no New Year’s Resolutions, those are pointless anyway. I just wanted to work on myself, to become mindful and aware again and to not be a walking cliche. I am determined to not be plagued by mediocrity and later on in life wonder what the hell happened to me? Why a smart and resourceful person such as myself led such a mediocre life? I have potential to do anything, I know that, I always knew that but why was it obscured by my negative thoughts? I couldn’t live with that. But I was in a psychological rut so deep that I didn’t even know how to dig my way out. I was existing on fumes day to day, taking care of my daughter, pregnant with my son and working full time yet I was totally lost and directionless. I am a mother, it’s my duty to guide my children, to set a good example to them, to show them how to live a fun, carefree and productive life, how the hell am I going to do that in this fucked up mental state. I had much work to do and I had better do it quick. Children are sponges and can absorb all kinds energy and vibes. I didn’t want my vibe to them to be a negative one. I don’t want them growing up saying ‘mommy loved us but she was sad’. I wrote in my previous post about how I wasn’t empowered enough as a young girl so it led to feelings of low self-esteem and willing to settle for anything. It took me so long to even figure out what I deserved in life.

The saddest part for me was when I realized that I didn’t even deserve respect. I let everyone walk all over me, my family, my husband even my kids (both are under 4 years old). And it’s not their fault, I let it happen. I never accepted myself as I am, right now, in this present state. I always told myself that I would accept myself ‘when I accomplish A, B or C’ never now, just as I am. So what could I expect from others?

To learn mindfulness, I had to do a series of guided meditations everyday. It was like I learned to breathe all over again, to listen to my breath, to be mindful of how I breathed. Before my breath was shallow and fast, as if always in a huge hurry to nowhere. Now they are drawn out and long and I’ve rediscovered my intuition, to learn to respect and trust my ‘gut’. It was always right, always, every time I ignored my gut, it came back to haunt me, without fail, every single time. And lastly, in one of my meditations and prayer sessions, I decided right then and there that I will never be enslaved to the emotions of shame, blame and guilt again, EVER. And all the past events that made me so ashamed, I decided right then and there no more. I will not feel shame and guilt for things that happened 20 years ago, regardless if I had any control over it or not. It’s over and done with and if I’ve hurt anyone with my actions, I apologized to them and sent them God’s love and light.

It’s not to say that I will not admit my mistakes and pass the buck, but it’s that when I make a mistake, I’d take accountability for it and move on and not let it linger in my consciousness. Like it’s done and over with, move on. I look forward to a new chapter in life, a chapter of achievement, wealth and abundance. I am going to find my higher purpose and calling and execute it with precision without anything holding me back.

The Confederate Flag and What It Means to a Non-White, Non-Southerner

I attended college and lived in South Carolina from 1999-2002, I had preconceived notions of what it was like to live in the deep South but I was open minded enough to put those aside and to try and enjoy Southern living to the best of my ability. The average Southerner of any color is friendly, hospitable, kind and Christian. Most are conservative in their views, conservative in every way. The first kind of prejudice I experienced there wasn’t my mixed race background but the fact I was from California, and not just anywhere in California, but specifically from Los Angeles, California. Some folks I met thought Angelenos were vain, narcissistic, are all on prozac and do not know how to drive in the rain, which isn’t totally unjustified. It gave me a good chuckle. I never took special pride in being an Angeleno so I can laugh at it. People not acclimated with Los Angeles and it’s greater areas think of only Hollywood when you say Los Angeles, and that was the other thing, I had to say ‘Los Angeles’, if I said LA some presumed I meant Lower Alabama and proceeded to ask me where my accent went and whole other level of confusion ensues. They’ve no idea that ‘Hollywood’ is just a very small and privileged part of Los Angeles where people live in this bubble and parallel universe and not even people from other not so posh areas of LA can understand.

If you went to any town or city in South Carolina for a weekend visit and left, you’d think it was a lovely place and everyone was so friendly and kind and that’s true. However, if you live there for a protracted period of time, the more subtle details of Southern living come bubbling to the surface. The first thing you can’t help but notice is the prevalence of the Confederate Flag, once I started paying attention to the details, it was everywhere. someone’s belt buckle, gun holster, bumper stickers on the back of trucks, shop windows, baseball caps, bandanas, people flying them openly on their front porch on private property and last but not least, on the State Capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina. I had always believed that the Confederate flag was a symbol of a bygone era, an era which has no place in society today. The flag to me symbolized racism, oppression, treason and  all around backwardness. Many Southerners argue to the contrary and believe that it was part of their heritage but it was a heritage built on hate and oppression, I believe the significance of the flag to so many Southerners today is because it symbolized a time of the old social order, whites of any social class on top, black and every other non-whites on bottom. It was a time where life was nice and comfortable for them. During the antebellum South, most white people were poor farmers known as ‘crackers’, but the idea of their racial superiority over the black slaves even if they didn’t own any made them feel better about their poverty and plight. The lone fact that they were white made them better.

I am a naturally inquisitive and curious person and I love to educate myself on subjects and matters of which I am unfamiliar with, but I found the subject of the Confederate flag so uncomfortable that I never once broached a white Southerner asked them about what it meant to them, I was afraid of not liking what I might hear. When they brought up the subject themselves, I would listen and nod politely and never ask any follow up questions.

The flag aside, I found that beneath the Southern hospitality lay a subtle nagging distrust of outsiders. Year 2000 was also the year that Bob Jones University officially dropped it’s interracial dating ban, causing a lot of hoopla in the media and even made it onto late night TV jokes. Bob Jones University was a small Christian college in the Greenville area of South Carolina. It has a strong liberal arts program but its school and rules are rooted in fundamental Christian values and they include women dressing modestly, there is a curfew for students, they do not watch TV and they are not allowed to visit the cinema and finally interracial dating isn’t allowed because of some obscure passage in the Bible about different races not mixing. Most people didn’t know that interracial dating was banned at Bob Jones University, in fact most people didn’t know this school existed, but for when former President George W. Bush went there in 2000 as one of his campaign stops and the school’s racist past was exposed.

I must stay this was the first time in my 21 years that I felt remotely conscious of my biracial background. Where I come from, Los Angeles, biracial families are many and diverse, we are celebrated, in the south, it’s a novelty. Anyone with a thinking mind knows that the Bob Jones University interracial dating ban has more to do with making sure black students and white students don’t intermarry rather than anything the Bible said. By the way, the Bible verse that refers to not intermarrying another ‘kind’ is Deuteronomy 7:3: “and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. 3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.” The intermarrying banned here is marriage between a believer and non-believer, not races. The other passages that refer to not allowing one’s sons and daughters to marry ‘them’ are, Genesis 24:3, Exodus 34:15-16, Joshua 23:12, Judges 3:6, Judges 14:3, 1 Kings 11:2, Ezra 9:2, Ezra 10:3, Nehemiah 10:30, they all refer to the same idea, to not marry non-believers for they will turn your sons and daughters into worshipping their gods and turn away from the True God, nothing about race. If they must use Christianity and the Bible to back up their racist policies, at least choose the right passage.

It’s about time that South Carolina is taking down the Confederate flag on their state capitol building. There is no place for this misplaced symbolism in the modern era. We are hardly in a post racial society and won’t be there for a long time, but removing these symbols of hate is a good small first step towards a post racial society.

On the last note, the Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought on US soil. There were 1,100,000 casualties, and 620,000 deaths and an astonishing 504 deaths per day each day the war was fought. These numbers are higher than all the deaths in World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War combined. So, yes, those who perished in the Civil War, regardless of which side they fought for deserve respect and commemoration, they were doing their duty, probably against their wishes. The Confederate flag isn’t the appropriate flag to commemorate the Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War, the Stars and Stripes is the most appropriate flag, whether they knew it or not, they were fighting for their version of America.

Response to the Anonymous Anti-Feminists on Whisper

I was just made aware of an app called Whisper and it allows its users to anonymously ‘confess’ their innermost deepest thoughts and secrets. Whether it be confessing to an infidelity, feelings of jealousy, envy or anything that is deemed taboo whereby the user may feel judged if he or she said these things out loud to their peers. They can download the Whisper app for free on their phone and unload their innermost feelings without fear or judgement. The most current stream of confessions are the ‘why I am not a feminist’ sort by female users and they range from the mundane to the nonsensical:

‘I’m not a feminist because I don’t believe in man hating and having gross hairy armpits and bad hygiene. I believe we should be respected no matter what gender. Without both we all wouldn’t be here.’

‘I’m not a feminist because I would be perfectly content not working and living off a rich spouse’s money, as bad as that sounds.’

‘I’m not a feminist. I’ve never felt oppressed as a woman, on the contrary I’ve gotten many perks for being female. I DON’T want to be treated like a man, but like a lady.’

‘I’m not a feminist, I plan on getting married being a virgin, I will cook and clean for my husband, and I am a Christian. If you really have a problem with that then hey just don’t talk to me.’

I have choice responses to each of these well meaning but misinformed ladies. First of all, in order to become a feminist, you are either born with that consciousness of unequalness between the sexes or you become one through your own life experiences and I am of the latter, so I will impart them here:

‘I’m not a feminist because I don’t believe in man hating and having gross hairy armpits and bad hygiene. I believe we should be respected no matter what gender. Without both we all wouldn’t be here.’ – Feminism isn’t about man-hating and poor hygiene, it’s a crude stereotype, which some radical feminists have come to epitomize. I recommend you read Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ and Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and a good anthology of Gloria Steinem’s articles and books. To go back even further, read the writings works of early suffragettes who fought for our right to vote, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood so that women would have some control over their bodies and how many children they wish to have. There is nothing ‘man-hating’ about their work and activism. They simply demanded equal rights for women as they already exist for men, which include the right to vote, the right to equality in the workplace, the right to control our reproduction and most importantly bringing awareness to the inequality women as a gender have suffered throughout the history of humans. To make aware the misogyny that we are faced with if we don’t conform to standard ideals of beauty, or if we don’t do what society expects of us.

‘I’m not a feminist because I would be perfectly content not working and living off a rich spouse’s money, as bad as that sounds.’ – I can’t argue with this one, it is nice to live off of a rich spouse, but there is a price to pay for every choice you make in life, and I will give this girl the benefit of the doubt that she’s very young and watches too much reality TV. The rich spouse can leave you and trade you in for someone younger and firmer and leave you on your ass with possibly children to support. You’ll be viewed as a ‘has-been’ or the pathetic ‘first wife’ and have to start over again. With divorce rate hovering at 50%, the chances of this happening is very good.

 ‘I’m not a feminist. I’ve never felt oppressed as a woman, on the contrary I’ve gotten many perks for being female. I DON’T want to be treated like a man, but like a lady.’– The ‘perks’ you talk about are only present for you because you are still young and perky. Wait until you are of a ‘certain age’ and see where those perks go. Ask any woman over 40 and see if she gets any ‘perks’ for being a woman. As for being treated like a lady, it’s got nothing to do with feminism, it’s how you demand to be treated. One last thing, women still earn less than men for the same work, I hope you don’t consider that a perk too.

‘I’m not a feminist, I plan on getting married being a virgin, I will cook and clean for my husband, and I am a Christian. If you really have a problem with that then hey just don’t talk to me.’ – This one, believe it or not, actually applies to me so I will speak openly about this. I too, am a Christian, Catholic to be specific, married, a work-at-home wife and mother, and it’s what I always wanted too when I had children but now I am more of a feminist than ever. There is nothing that can kick your feminist consciousness into high gear than when you spend your days cleaning up messes of your 3 year old and 20 month old, wiping their butts, changing their clothes umpteen times a day because they can’t help spilling everything they touch, cooking all the meals, cleaning the home and never getting any acknowledgement for it, and occasionally you get the odd complaint about the food, the untidiness or anything else. There is nothing which lights the feminist fire more than being a work or stay-at-home mother, when you are treated like the help sometimes and your days revolve around small messy people who don’t yet realize what a big mess they are, and on a bad day you think if this is what you went to college for, to be up to your eyeballs in kids and their messes, you become a feminist. You begin to demand respect in areas you didn’t even consider before. You speak louder and demand to be heard by everyone and you don’t take bullshit, not even from the little darlings you spawned.

You see dear Christian virgin girl, once you become a mother and adopt the role of a full time mother, you are viewed differently by society and your peers, and it’s not different in a bad way but different nonetheless. Prior to becoming a full-time mother you were perhaps a full-time professional, a productive go-getter, you get things done, you make things happen, you had drive and ambition but as a mother it’s a different kind of productivity and a far more strenuous one. When you are viewed solely as a mother in the eyes of others, people tend to forget that you were not always a mother and that you once partied, drank, swore (or swore more) and had a job that didn’t include wiping anyone’s bottom. You become this more tame and mundane version of yourself because of the demands of motherhood, and it’s precisely at this time, I chose to become a full-time feminist.

Greece: The Piper Arrived to Collect

GREECE

Greece has been told that in no uncertain terms they are to get their house in order by this Sunday, July 13, 2015 and by that, they are to get their stuff together, hunker down, bite the bullet and accept the final deal offered by the troika, if they do not agree to the terms ‘the troika’ laid out for them in order to receive much needed bailout funds to keep their country’s banks afloat and make a payment on their debt to the IMF, they are basically out of luck and will be ejected from the euro currency and their membership to the EU may be revoked as well. Greek banks will no longer issue currency notes in euros, IOU will be issued instead and that is code for going back to the drachma. The European Commission apparently has laid out all the groundwork in the event that this happens. Right now, there are no more ‘negotiations’ or debt hair cuts, the Greeks have been forced into a corner and the only option they have on the table as far as Chancellor Angela Merkel is concerned is to accept the deal that is offered to them or get out. The negotiators on all sides are exhausted, exasperated and ready to stop flogging a dead horse. The trust between Greece and its negotiating parties have been eroded and there little time and goodwill to build it back up before the deadline this Sunday.

So it begs the question (rhetorical), how did it come to this? How did an advanced European country be the first to default on its debt to the IMF? What does it say about the EU and its founding principles? To go back a bit, the European Union was created to ensure peace and prosperity on the European continent and they decided to do this by becoming economically integrated, the logic is that if countries have economic and financial ties, they are less likely to go to war with each other. And the eventual goal was for European nations to join a common currency known as the Euro. After two world wars and countless lives destroyed, the continental Europe felt that it was best that they begin to integrate their economy to ensure prosperity so that the likelihood of another war is very slim as noted on their website:

“The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founders are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.”

The idea is noble, it’s founded on the idea of creating lasting peace on the European continent, which if you look back in its history, it is blood soaked with various religious wars, civil wars, wars between nations or kingdoms for influence, power or territory. There were very few periods of lasting peaceful prosperity. Such that the last time the European continent had lasting peace was during Pax Romana, during the first to the third century of the Roman Empire and if you consider early glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire as a time of relative peace and stability, most other eras were dotted with intermittent peace depending on who was in power and what influence was at play. It’s fair to say that the European continent is a huge graveyard. And on a side note, the ‘European Union’ rather awkwardly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 and its win was based upon “the stabilising role the EU has played in transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.  The EU’s most important achievement, according to the committee, has been “the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights”.The work of the EU represents “fraternity between nations” and amounts to a form of the “peace congresses” cited by Alfred Nobel as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will. And I say awkward because it came at a time of economic uncertainty in its member nations, in particular the PIIG (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece) nations which were still reeling with high unemployment, tough austerity regimes at the behest of Frau Merkel in exchange for bailout funds and dramatic shrinking of GDP due to the austerity measures. It appears they achieved peace without the prosperity.

With all grand noble plans, it’s the details that get you. The EU aim to unite European countries politically and economically, with each member nation giving up a little of sovereignty for the good of the whole continent without taking into consideration the vast cultural differences between the different European nations. And this is not to stereotype but it is fair to say that Scandinavian countries are run very differently than their Southern neighbors, Germany and France though being neighbors have very different styles of government and labor structure. Germany was divided during the Cold War between East and West Germany and fallout from that is still keenly felt today, France decided to turn itself into a socialist government with bloated public spending and strong union for their labor. The Southern European or countries bordering the Mediterranean are known for its laid back atmosphere and friendly people, full of lovely beaches and prime holiday spots but their governments are notoriously inefficient, at times corrupt, bloated and tax evasion is the norm. This is not to say that Scandinavian nations, Germany, France or Great Britain are without corruption, tax evasion or government waste, but it’s not as prevalent and not viewed as the norm. From the expressions on Frau Merkel’s face, it’s clear she’s very frustrated with the lack of movement on tax evasion reform in Greece, to a German, having a pervasive and entrenched problem like that is just beyond her comprehension and what’s more, the lack of urgency from Greek politicians to do anything about it until now is even more exasperating for her. Tax evasion, in her view is the biggest problem, without tax revenues, Greece cannot support its own very generous obligations to its people.

Many economists including Paul Krugman believe the ECB (European Central Bank) and the European Commission in general reacted too slowly to the the global recession. Whereas Great Britain and the United States immediately put measures into place to stop the banks from failing due to stock market losses, the ECB dragged its feet. It slashed interest rates but didn’t implement any monetary policies, i.e. they didn’t go print a bunch of Euros to stabilize the banks, instead they went the other way, they decide to tighten the monetary controls. This is largely a kneejerk reaction on the part of Germany, which due to its history is deathly afraid of printing money and contributing to hyperinflation like it did during the 1930s, which resulted in economic ruin, social unrest and gave rise to Nazism the rest that followed. Many believed that the PIIG’s problems could have been partially alleviated had the ECB decided to print euros to support its banks like the Fed did. Krugman also contends that the euro was created on the basis of “politics and ideology, not a response to careful economic analysis (which suggested from the beginning that Europe wasn’t ready for a single currency). The same can be said of the turn to austerity: All the economic research supposedly justifying that turn has been discredited, but the policies haven’t changed.”

Now back to Greece, prior to them joining the EU and the euro currency, they were already known to have certain ‘issues’ when it came to government spending and taxation, in particular, the ability to collect the taxes. Tax evasion in Greece is a national pastime. It’s a country in which almost no one pays taxes but they have a lot of obligations they need to fund or what we call entitlements. The public sector in Greece accounted for 40% of its economy and public sector workers have generous salaries and even more generous pensions with a retirement age of 60. Another shocking figure is 52% of the population depends on public pension as their income but only 11% of the people pay taxes. In order to join the EU and the euro, there are GDP to debt ratio standards that each prospective member nation must maintain and it cannot be more than 60% of the GDP, which Greece on its best day has never achieved, and in 2009, when they’ve run out of accounting tricks to cover their massive deficit, they sheepishly admitted that they fudged the books to get into the EU and have ‘understated’ their deficit for years. When Greece gained entry to the EU and the euro, it was the time of free money and they borrowed money from the ECB (Germany) to fund their lavish public spending and they didn’t bother to reform their tax code and tax collection system. The ECB and Germany, to their credit had been very patient with Greece, asking them multiple times to clean up their corrupt tax system and cut back on their unsustainable public spending, which they didn’t do but continue to borrow at astronomical rates. And we fastforward to 2010, they are in dire need of a bailout or face ejection from the EU, the European Commission, IMF and ECB (known as ‘the troika’) created a bailout package for Greece which in turn asked for immediate cuts to their pension, welfare and tax increases across the board pronto. The average Greek citizen felt the pain straight away, GDP dropped, mass unemployment ensued, and in the past couple of years, there are signs of radicalism and social unrest. Political parties from the extreme left and right came out of the woodwork, angry with the pain that Germany is inflicting on them, bringing back bad memories from the brutal Nazi occupation during World War II, many went so far to call Angela Merkel a nazi, posters of her with a Hitler mustache were everywhere as she became the symbol of their pain.

Simply put, it’s time to pay the piper and the piper is coming to collect. This is not to minimize the pain of the pensioners desperately waiting for their next pension disbursement or the 50% unemployed youth and people who were formerly middle class and respectable and now reduced to penury and existing on soup kitchen handouts, their government has failed them and perhaps Germany stuck the knife in further. They made Greece a socialist haven on borrowed funds in which they have no way to repay. Socialism is expensive, as Margaret Thatcher noted “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend].” Other nations that have made socialism work such as the Scandinavian countries and Canada, they pay huge amount of income taxes, an eye watering 50- 60% of one’s income goes to the state to fund all these lavish entitlements due to every Dane, Norwegian, Swede or Finn. It doesn’t come cheap and citizens of most countries do not like to hand over 50-60% of their hard earned income to the state coffers to redistribute to the masses in the form of free healthcare, free education until graduate school, free government funded childcare, free government funded employment training etc., it’s not really ‘free’. To make socialism work, the rich and super rich pay especially punitive tax rates and make no mistake, people didn’t become rich so they can hand over their hard earned money to the government. Also, rich people have the expertise and resources to legally dodge paying taxes by transferring their wealth out of the country of their domicile.

The Greece v. Europe (Germany) is now a David and Goliath tale, what was originally about money and finances is now about morality. How much does one punish the Greek people for their government’s mismanagement of public finances and profligacy, which, according to Frau Merkel, they are still not willing to give up. The major sticking points in the bailout negotiations is pension, sales tax and minimum wage, to which Greece and the troika cannot come to an agreement on. Especially this current prime minister Alexis Tsipras was elected on the promise of no more austerity. Tsipras so far, for a political novice, has played a tough and impressive game of chicken. The referendum vote was rather brilliant, that way he won’t be the bad guy for whatever he does and it further reinforces the notion that Greece was the founder and inventor of democracy and they proved it by hobbling together a referendum vote at such short notice and what Germany is forcing them to do is undemocratic, unethical and immoral. The message was received by Frau Merkel but it hasn’t softened her stance about the subject. After all, Frau Merkel is from tough stock too, she was born and raised in the former East Germany under tough Soviet occupation, she’s risen to the top of German politics, stayed there and earned the respect of her peers and world, she didn’t do that by being nice, accommodating or even likable. She got there and stayed there because she’s tough.

It is now Friday, July 10th in Europe, they have 2 more days to come to a resolution. It is the wish of Greece and the troika that Greece remain in the EU but they are not letting them retain their membership without a cost, the question is, is the cost worth the reward?

Sweet Cakes – How when something so trivial gets taken overboard

A Christian couple, former owner of the bakery Sweet Cakes has been fined by the Oregon Labor Commissioner for $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple. Under Oregon law, a business establishment isn’t allowed to discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation. The full statement from BOLI reads:

“The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the Complainants. Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007.”

Needless to say the business is ruined and so are the owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, $135,000 is a lot of money for a small business and the commissioner was clear that these funds are of their personal funds not business assets. Also, as a result of the fallout, other businesses they’ve worked with such as caterers and florists have refused to work with them and they’ve now closed their shop and is operating out of their home.

The lesbian couple Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer involved said that they suffered from emotional stress while being turned away by Aaron Klein after she told him what the cake was for a gay commitment ceremony. By all accounts it was a polite exchange and Rachel Bowman-Cryer left the bakery with her mother that day without any emotional display of upset. A few days later Aaron and Melissa Klein received a letter stating that they are being investigated for discrimination.

This could have ended a number of ways that would be less costly than it is now. First, they could have just made the damn cake, what good business owner turns away good business, who cares what it’s for? Since they are Christians and even quoted from the Book of Leviticus, would they say turn away someone who was ordering a cake to celebrate Satan? Or if an atheist person came in and was to order a cake to celebrate National Atheism Month (I made this up, I don’t know if there is such a thing) would they care or is it specifically the issue of gay marriage that’s got them so against it? What if it was someone’s second wedding, would that be a problem? Regardless, it was a stupid move from a business perspective, you don’t walk away from good business.

Secondly, was it necessary for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer to file a complaint with the Oregon Labor Commissioner? So, you got turned away and it made you feel icky, judged, humiliated, stressed, and you were ruminating about it for days and days and you lost sleep over it and it’s caused you untold emotional and psychological pain, were there no other bakeries available to order your cake from? You had to know that taking this step could potentially ruin a small business and the business owner’s livelihood? Was it worth all that to avenge your hurt feelings? And before I am called a bigot, I like to say that I am in full support of gay marriage, that’s not the point here. And I like to point out that refusing to bake a cake for a gay commitment ceremony is not the same thing as refusing service to someone on the basis of “race, sex, disability, age or religion”, being against gay marriage is a personal belief, it’s not the same as being openly racist, sexist or prejudiced against people who have disabilities. And Aaron Klein made it clear that as a Christian, he cannot be involved in any gay marriage related events. Was he wrong? The laws of Oregon seems to think so, but it’s been blown way out of proportion. It was not a rude exchange, he explained himself clearly and Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother seemed to understand at the time.

Now battlelines are drawn, between the LGBTQ activists and the religious freedom activists and I am afraid the latter will win publicity battle because it looks like that LGBTQ community is taking advantage of a nice Christian couple who are living by their convictions, they are now financially ruined, reputations in tatters and unable to continue in their chosen profession which is running a bakery. This upsetting episode has now made the papers and each side will have their say, it’s not going to be about the cake anymore but about LGBTQ rights and religious freedom, which will win? Do business owners need to be careful how they turned down business now, should they ever find themselves in a position needing to do so? Should business owners not give any reason for why they would decline business for fear of getting in trouble. I believe that Aaron Klein explained his position to them that day so that they would understand and not have it be used it against him. He technically didn’t have to give a reason or just make one up, like they can’t make it in time or they are too busy or what not. It would have saved him a lot of trouble.

The Crazy (Trump) Train has Officially Arrived at Grand Central Station

The Donald – what a gift on a silver platter for the Democrats. They couldn’t have dreamed of such a gift, the best things in life are truly for free. One can’t count on The Donald for much, but he is good entertainment. His business record is sketchy at best, he’s a self-professed billionaire but several of his businesses (not him personally – you have to make that distinction or else he’ll sue you) have gone belly up and has had to declare business bankruptcy several times. Now Donald Trump will tell us in his very condescending tone that business bankruptcy is just a ‘tool’ that big businessmen like him use as a negotiating tactic and that it’s nothing we amateurs can understand. Sure, whatever.

He announced his presidential bid in style, with all of his children and some grandchildren from his three marriages on stage to support him, they range from mid-30s to about 10 years old, all of them beautifully turned out, those gleaming Trump smiles on full display cheering him on, with his eldest daughter Ivanka Trump delivering an introductory address. He was in a way, a breath of fresh air, who didn’t obsessively bang on and on about God – what a relief and very refreshing. He was after all, married three times, been caught out cheating on his first wife, it would just be a tad hypocritical (even for a Republican) to speak about God and family values. He feels that he’s been a great father as all his children are successful and have stayed out of trouble, and to him that’s a testament to his parenting and most are inclined to agree. He was going to be a secular candidate focused on the ‘business’ that is America, not the ‘values’ that created this country, not whether if ‘God’ had a say in the Constitution, just business. Balancing America’s checkbook and making it boom again, Trump style.

Then the crash came, in the form of his racist and incendiary remarks about Mexico and Mexicans, this is the full quote to give it context: 

“They’re [Mexico] sending us not the right people,” he said, adding: “The US has become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems.

“They’re [Mexico] sending people that have lots of problems and they’re [Mexico] bringing their problems,” he said. [Mexico]“They’re bringing drugs, [Mexico] they’re bringing crime, [Mexico] they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, after these comments in his inaugural campaign speech, Trump’s poll numbers surged to the number 2 position, right behind Jeb Bush. Pollsters say that the ‘older angry white males’ of this country identified with Trump’s remarks and that our country is taken over by gangs of drug dealers, rapists and criminals. And that Trump spoke to the the hearts of the older angry white people who feel left behind by the country’s cultural shift away from the white mainstream culture and the demographics of America is becoming more brown and though this has been happening for decades, the election of our first black president in 2008 really sounded the alarm for these people. And the other GOP candidates, instead of demanding he apologize and drop out of the race stat as the Republican Party has no place for people like him, they’ve just issued brief statements repudiating what he said. None has called for him to drop out, none have seriously berated him for saying such racist hateful things. Trump’s defense is that he’s just saying what everyone already knows and is thinking but are too afraid to say it because of political correctness.

For all his business acumen, he should know that just because something is true and perhaps a lot of people feel the same it doesn’t mean it’s suitable for public consumption or that it should even be said. These are the types of things that are said behind closed doors, inside a private members only club and even then you have to make sure the wait staff doesn’t have a cell phone recording what you are saying or else you run into the Mitt Romney ‘47% of Americans….’ again.

It seems that the Republicans do not learn from their past mistakes and that alienating people who don’t look and think like them isn’t a good campaign strategy to get into the White House. Mitt Romney said that if we make lives so miserable for immigrants here, they’ll then ‘self-deport’ themselves back to Mexico or wherever it is they come from. What Romney doesn’t realize is that no matter how difficult conditions here are in the US, it’s still scores better than where it is they come from and that’s what all the anti-immigrant politicians fail to understand. Making immigrant’s lives miserable here in the US won’t deter them, it’s the unstable political, economic and social conditions on the ground that drive people to migrate north. Living in poverty in the US is better than scrounging and scraping for a life in their countries of origin.

Illegal immigration wasn’t always a ‘problem’ that was in need of a political solution. Illegal immigration whereby people came in from the southern border had been going on for decades, if they were not detained at the border and were able to successfully get to the US, law enforcement always looked the other way as long as the violations are not too egregious. Illegal immigrants provided the cheap labor that kept the agriculture sector going, illegal immigrants were employed under the table for domestic work such as landscapers, gardeners, house cleaners, cooks, caretakers, nannies etc., they are an underground but vital workforce for the average middle class family in America who like to maintain a certain lifestyle without paying an arm and a leg for it. It’s long been against the law to employ illegal immigrants but it’s not stopped people from doing so as it is well known that illegal immigrants work for cheaper, longer and harder all without complaint. But of course, immigrants don’t just come on their own, they have families, often large families and immigrant minorities have higher birthrates than white families, so now the number of illegal immigrants is a headcount problem in which that needs to be solved. And now politicians are playing political football with it and no one quite knows what to do about it. To deport 10 million illegal immigrants is unfeasible and near impossible if we take into consideration all of the legal due process that is required. Giving them anything that has a whiff of amnesty or ‘pathway to citizenship’ is political suicide and would ignite other problems of its own, in particular the immigrants who are immigrating to this country legally and are patiently waiting for their visas to come through in their country of origin, with some waiting 10 years or longer. It would them appear that they are being punished for following the law.

Needless to say, anti-immigration sentiment is at an all time high right now. When there is an economic boom and jobs are plentiful, no one pays any attention to illegal immigrants supposedly taking the jobs of American citizens or legal aliens, but when times are bad, like they’ve been for the past 7 years, people start to look for a scapegoat and it usually lands in the lap of illegal immigrants, they are after all easy targets. Nevermind that they most do work that no American citizen would go do on their worst day but the claim is always made that illegal immigrants take the jobs of the unskilled workers in the US, work that should go to high school dropouts, high school graduates etc., Many studies were conducted to see just how many jobs illegal immigrants take from US citizens, depending on who’s doing the study, the results are different. At best the results are inconclusive. It’s very hard to do an accurate study on people who like to stay in the shadows for fear of deportation and will most likely not tell the truth if approached by researchers or survey conductors.

So it is with this anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiment that Donald Trump is trying to tap into for his presidential campaign. He’s not wrong that many people, white people in particular feel aggrieved at the fact that our country is turning browner and the cultural shift that comes with that, it doesn’t necessarily make them racist as that’s a very strong word and I use it carefully, but rather a discomfort a feeling what once was your country your culture may no longer be and the unease that comes with it and you add high unemployment in the mix, it’s volatile. The irony is that Donald Trump may find many Mexicans (illegal and legal) working in his hotels.

So the crazy train has arrived in full force at Grand Central Station, the other GOP candidates have a very short window to condemn Donald Trump and basically chase him out of town. They don’t have the luxury of waiting until the first debate to lambaste Trump and his words. It just never fails to amaze on how little the GOP have learned from their lessons and their hatred of Obama, Hillary Clinton and his legacy has thwarted and blinded them to everything. They are willing to become a party of racists and bigots just to counter the Obama legacy.

The old Republican values are dead. Social conservatism, against gay marriage, having children out of wedlock, too bad, it’s happening. Fiscal conservatism which today translates to punishing the poor for being poor, that won’t fly either, the electorate is smarter than that, they know that most are not poor through choice. America is by no means turning into a socialist country but the Ayn Rand social ideal is no longer, our economy doesn’t support that nor do our values. As for belief in the Christian God, America is becoming more and more secular and it no longer matters if a person practices any form of religion at all or not. For Gen X and Gen Y, it doesn’t matter to us anymore and it’s boring hearing candidates drone on and on about God. Save it for confession. Pour your heart out about the Glory of God there not at the campaign podium.

SCOTUS – handed a huge leap forward for Progressives

The last few weeks, the Supreme Court handed down decisions that highly favored Progressives. That itself isn’t too surprising as President Obama is on a good streak lately. What’s surprising is the angry Republican reaction. With each embittered response to each social change and progress, they are handing over the keys to the White House to the Democrats. In the last 10 years or so, it’s clear American society has moved on from the traditions of the 1950s’. Gay relationships are no longer frowned upon, even Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, transgender rights have improved along with gay rights so legalizing gay marriage is the logical next step. Even the more conservative bloc of Gen X and Gen Yers do not wish to oppose or interfere with the personal choice of others, regardless if they agree with it themselves or not.

I am a typical Gen X, though not a LGBTQ rights activist and I don’t much think about LGBTQ issues except that they should have the same rights as I do, whatever they may be. They shouldn’t be discriminated based just because they are a member of the LGBTQ community. I don’t know many LGBTQ members, I do not have close ties with that community but I do care about their rights and it matters to me that they get treated equally and fairly under the law. To all the people that are so grossed out and offended by the lifestyle of LGBTQ, they are here to stay, and if you dislike them so much, which is within your rights too, you can easily stay away LGBTQ people and activities. Whether they marry or not does not affect the sanctity of your ‘traditional’ marriage. And most of the people railing against the Supreme Court decisions, politicians and regular civilians alike, they themselves have probably behaved badly in their ‘traditional’ marriages, and I don’t just mean infidelity; I mean the full range of bad and unacceptable behavior, anger, passive aggressiveness, emotional blackmail, emotional manipulation, financial blackmail, acting with bitterness and resentment, all while being in a ‘traditional’ marriage. And last but not least, divorce rate is still hovering over 50% in this country with silver marriages (age 50 and over) crumbling faster than any other age group, so grandma and grandpa are getting divorced too. It’s about time to get off that pedestal.

Historically (since written history at least), a legal marriage is recognized as between a man and a woman. It’s been such for millennia but it’s more to do with social power structure than what God did or didn’t say about what constitutes a marriage. Also, if we must get technical, the institution of marriage initially wasn’t about God or spirituality or even love, marriage originally created for economic reasons, for powerful and influential families to consolidate their power, wealth and influence for the next generation. For the average folk (the non-wealthy, influential and connected), marriage was a social and economic contract, men married women so that someone would bear his children and maintain his home while he brought home the bacon to feed and maintain said children and home. And the goal is generally to marry ‘up’ or at least marry the same social class as yourself so that when you move from daddy’s house to husband’s house, not much changes. It’s all very technical and unromantic.

Most marriages until the 18th century were arranged by parents, and people generally prefer to marry up, to make sure their sons or daughters are in a better economic position or social position, very few people married for love. In fact the whole idea that one married for love was ridiculous until 17th and 18th century. And marriage between a man and woman is so that they could have offspring, which obviously same-sex couples can’t naturally do. Many gay and lesbian people in antiquity continued with same-sex relationships after their marriages to the opposite sex, and it would appall them to leave their spouses so they could ‘marry’ or cohabitate with their same-sex lover, it just wasn’t done, they’d lose their social standing, which is more important than any love affair same sex or not. This was especially common in the Greek and Roman Empire, there were many same-sex relationships were going on while married and it was not seen to be a big deal if conducted discreetly and the social order was not upset. When Christianity entered the picture and as the Roman Empire slowly became evangelized, same sex relationships became a sin, but it was at the dictum of the Pope, not the Bible and Christians prior to the Reformation didn’t read the Bible for themselves, it was preached to them in church. The Bible specifically speaks out against adultery but only made inferences to homosexuality. It was just assumed by scholars that Christ or God condemned homosexuality where almost no Biblical text specifically refers to same-sex relationships. God talks about man and woman becoming one and going forth to multiply etc., and the Bible speak plenty about cheating on your opposite sex spouse though, the conservatives might want to read up on that part in the Bible. The Bible just about warned mankind everything to do with sex, marriage and women. The Samson and Delilah story, Delilah being a maneater and took Samson’s powers away. And to be wary of seductive, attractive beautiful women, for those women are the ones that bring you to sin, etc., there is plenty of sexist crap in the Bible but very few passages specifically refer to homosexual relationships, it certainly doesn’t deny that they exist but there is no strong condemnation of them either, it didn’t make the Ten Commandments.

On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court further affirmed the Affordable Care Act by allowing residents of states that refuse to adopt the ACA to apply for health insurance with the Federal Insurance Exchange (healthcare.gov), this ruling is significant in that over 6 million people got to keep their health insurance. There were so many asinine challenges to the ACA that I lost track, but this one got my attention because the 34 states that refused to adopt ACA, which would mean that their medi-caid wouldn’t be expanded to cover the people that couldn’t afford health insurance otherwise but at the same time they are forbidding them to sign up with the Federal Exchange because it infringes on states’ rights? Chief Justice Roberts came through for Obama on this one again and was the swing vote to affirm the ACA. These 34 states, all of them led by Republican governors, most have high levels of poverty in their state where many people are in need of health coverage, yet these governors deny them federal subsidies yet they won’t provide for the citizens in their states. It’s just another way to shame and humiliate the poor. Now many conservatives and Republicans question the motives and intentions of the Chief Justice.

The last win and one that got the least attention but equally important was affirming the Fair Housing Act in its original form, which tenants don’t have to provide specific incidents of discrimination in order to file suit and get compensation, this was huge win for minorities and poverty campaigners because it’s very difficult to prove specific incidents of housing discrimination, most landlords are not so dumb to be explicitly discriminatory. America is rapidly becoming more self-segregated, white flight is at epidemic levels, in the face of it, it looks like it’s about race but it’s really about class, though race and class are intertwined due to centuries of oppression and discrimination against black people. America likes to fancy itself a country that is a melting pot and tolerant and is welcoming this wonderful mix of cultures and customs in our communities, and to a certain extent that is true, as long as it doesn’t encroach in the backyard of white people. There is a very strong ‘not in my backyard’ mentality in America. Helping the homeless is great, organizing outdoor picnics for them on weekends is a great and charitable idea, as long as it’s not in MY neighborhood park or in MY public beach. We, as a nation, want to be inclusive of all people, regardless of race, color or class but not in my backyard, not in my public school, not in the areas that I used my tax dollars to pay for.

Everyone except the top 1% got squeezed in the Great Recession, the question is just how much, the families that didn’t experience unemployment and downgrading of lifestyle and hanging on to their old live by their fingernails and thus are less inclined to ‘share’ or feel charitable with their ‘tax dollars’. The Republicans and Fox News waste no time telling people that poor people don’t pay taxes, therefore they don’t get to enjoy the things that people who do pay taxes enjoy. People in poor neighborhoods mostly likely don’t pay taxes so when their roads go to ruin, they don’t deserve to be repaved or fixed. The fact is the poor do pay taxes – sales tax, they just don’t pay ‘income tax’ because they don’t make any income.

This is a pivotal time in our politics and policies, do we want to create policies that empower everyone to get ahead or keep the status quo where only some can get ahead. There is a long tradition in our history of which the belief God helps those who help themselves, and while that’s valid but some people need more help than others in the form of opportunities, information, knowledge and access. Minority communities who are racially segregated and isolated do not have the same access to the aforementioned as a well funded affluent (most likely white) communities and those said affluent communities are less inclined to share than before.

New Frontier of Feminism: Empowering Women

Compromise. I hate this word. It means that someone gets to shit on me all over again, someone gets to nicely ‘steamroll’ me over into agreeing to something I don’t want to agree to, on the pretense that I would be doing them a ‘huge’ favor and that they’d be eternally grateful. Bullshit. The minute I agree to this ‘favor’ nicely asked of me against my wishes and execute said favor, it’ll all be forgotten, like it never happened, and should I come and collect on this favor (like all men do with each other), I’d be given looks of disdain. How dare I come collecting on a favor that I originally made a ‘compromise’ for?

Ladies, the new frontier of feminism is female empowerment. Feminism is not just about ensuring and guaranteeing women’s rights to birth control, family planning services, good medical services, access to education, jobs and opportunities that are available to men and of course equal pay as men for the same work. All of these are necessary to guarantee women access but teenage girls wouldn’t get pregnant by the first boy that paid any attention to them thereby thwarting their future goals and ambitions if they felt empowered. And empowerment comes from within a person. Standards of which girls and women set for themselves on what is acceptable and unacceptable to them. To decide between what is a fair compromise and emotional blackmailing. Girls today, in spite of all the advances made on our behalf are still being brought up to be ‘nice’, ‘likable’, complimentary and accomodating. It’s still how girls are being socialized as how they should behave as grown women. In short, it’s to not be a ‘bitch’ by speaking your own mind, knowing your own mind, owning your own personal truth and possibly make everyone else’s life hard in the process. Women are still socialized and taught to put the needs and feelings of others before our own, and I supposed if we get all Darwinian about it, it’s part of evolution and biology, as most girls will become mothers or some sort of caregiver when they grow up and part of being a mother and caregiver is self-sacrifice. However, I’d argue that when one becomes a mother or caregiver, the self-sacrifice will come naturally, girls don’t need to be socialized from a young age to ‘self-sacrifice’ their feelings, needs, wants and desires to prepare them for possible future motherhood.

“I think that what our society teaches young girls and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world. That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that is bullshit.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The ‘disease to please’ has plagued many women, including Oprah Winfrey, and the disease to please can lead girls and women down a path of emotional ruin and devastation. It’s why young girls cave into premature sexual activity and end up pregnant or emotionally scarred, it’s why women marry the wrong men even as they are walking up the aisle but didn’t want to cause upset so went ahead with the wedding, causing herself many years of misery. It’s why women keep compromising and agreeing to what they know is wrong in their gut to please their husbands and families so that they won’t rock the boat, so that everyone but they can be happy and satisfied. All this is because women, though have many rights today, are not empowered at their core. This lack of empowerment and creating boundaries for ourselves, physical and emotional boundaries have caused untold suffering to women. It’s not an accident or surprise that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men, the pressures on the modern women are incredible, we wear many hats, fulfill many roles the last thing we need is to not speak our personal truth and be asked to do things against our wishes.

To empower women is a task more subtle and involved than just legislating anti-discriminatory laws and equal pay laws, though equally important. Women need to be empowered to speak up for themselves and to not accept anything less than what they deserve and that work has to start young. The most ideal is of course in the home but it should be encouraged in schools, along with sex education about the birds and the bees, it should also include lectures about self-empowerment, not compromising oneself to please boys, to set personal boundaries.

I grew up believing I was poor, though my family was middle class, but I was poor. That was the message that was imparted to me due to my parent’s divorce and my father’s spotty child support payments. My mother worked full time to provide for me but my shelter, food and necessities were provided for by my maternal grandparents and though they were amazing and kind to me, they (and other relatives) made me acutely aware of my ‘situation’, which was not like other children. Beyond the necessities, which they will make sure I was fully provided for, anything extra is not part of the equation. This meant I often wore clothes from second hand shops or castoffs from rich family friends, which were often mismatched. School trips and anything that cost extra money was out of the question. I didn’t even bother asking, I just knew. And this would have been fine if our family had been ‘poor’, it would have made perfect sense in my young mind but we weren’t poor, only I was. I felt like a charity case and this over time led to me believing that I didn’t deserve nice things and that I only deserved hand me downs from whomever that had them. There was a really wealthy family friend who once a year gave us trash bags of used clothes that was worn by her grandchildren and they no longer wanted them because it had gone out of style and their mother already restocked their closets with clothes from the new season. Though some of the clothes were really nice brand name clothes, some even still had tags on them, I felt embarrassed to be in receipt of such ‘charity’. I felt humiliated that I was wearing hand me downs of rich kids who were no better than me except for their parent’s bank accounts. I would have rather bought clothes from Target or Walmart, at least they were brand new and of my choosing. My family, though kind and generous, failed to take my feelings into consideration. As I grew older, I became bitter and angry about my ‘situation’ as I felt that I didn’t need to be made a charity case. I was embarrassed and ashamed at the position I was placed in, which I believed was unnecessary, I knew that I had to take out student loans or grants for college, there would be no college fund. Throughout my upbringing, it was made abundantly clear to me that because my parents divorced and my father failed to provide adequately for me, I deserved second best. I had to take what I could get, I would get no VIP treatment anywhere.

My feelings of shame and embarrassment led me to make a series of decisions that were detrimental to my well being and it set me back emotionally and financially for many years. I got into bad relationships that were unhealthy and looking back, I entered into them to escape my suffocating home environment, which due to imposed personal restrictions, my world and opportunities were limited. Now looking back, I realize that the worst thing to come out of my upbringing was not the bad relationships I entered into and other poor decisions I made but how I felt about myself and how that led me to limit myself and my potential. I squandered many academic opportunities in college because of my low self esteem and self-perceived mediocrity. Though the irony is that deep down I knew I was smart, smarter and more perceptive than my peers. I had a gift for math, languages and writing but I’ve never exploited them to my benefit, it was hidden beneath the thick and impenetrable layers of guilt, shame and mediocrity. After college, I accepted jobs that I knew were beneath me but because I had to earn my way in life, I accepted them instead of following my passions in entrepreneurship and writing (my interests are diverse). I accepted low paying, paper pushing jobs that didn’t provide any advancement and was made to feel I should be grateful to have them. My soul was telling me to follow my passion but personal blocks prevented me from following them. It always struck me as strange that each time I start a new job with hope and enthusiasm with lots of ambition, within two years or so, I grow bored and tired of it. I was good at almost every job I had and I worked in many different industries, but there was no passion, it was my soul’s way of telling me that I am doing the wrong thing. I was never personally empowered to follow my passion. I was encouraged to be mediocre. Get a degree, get a job – preferably with the government, do your 20 years and get a pension, stability, which was what everyone strove for in my family and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I am now in my mid-30s, following my passion for writing and still exploring entrepreneurship, I am getting inspiration from the Universe and inquiring my soul on what my real purpose in life is. I’ve started to empower myself, I’ve vowed to live my truth, tell my truth as I see it, unvarnished, even if hurts some feelings might get hurt or feathers ruffled. Law School 101, don’t ask a question in which you don’t already know the answer to, if you do, prepare to be surprised. I am no longer ashamed, I refused feel or be ashamed or guilty about anything and since I’ve come to that realization, my spirits have lifted, my energy has increased, my intuition and inner voice have come back full force, my occasional bouts of depression and anxiety have gone and replaced with passion, drive and self-belief that I will succeed on my own terms. Mostly, I want to set a good example to my children, especially my daughter, to not follow the herd and to always follow her passion, speak her voice, speak her truth and never yield to what others’ version of what her truth is. I don’t want my children to suffer the crippling shame, guilt and self-doubt that I experienced due to lack of empowerment. Those negative emotions have derailed the first half of my life and my children deserve better and they will get better.

Note: This is not to criticize my family and my upbringing. My family, especially my maternal grandparents were amazing to me and I learned so much from them. They stepped up and took care of me and I adored them, but like everyone, they had their limitations and they imparted to me their best wisdom based on their experiences and worldview. It wasn’t a good fit for me but it’s not their fault as it wasn’t for lack of trying.