Category Archives: Parenting

Why I Will Continue to Support Black Lives Matter Even Though I’m White

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First ofblack-lives-matter all, I shouldn’t have to write “even though I’m white,” but I feel that it is necessary because I’m hoping that this will reach at least one white person who doesn’t think it’s okay to support the Black Lives Matter movement as if it will harm their white privilege in some way. Secondly, I will attempt to refrain my anger and sarcasm as much as possible, but I can’t make any promises. These are my disclaimers.

As a teacher, I have witnessed many forms of oppression in our society, especially against black people. I see that the public school system reinforces many of this oppression. What do I mean? Let’s look at desegregation. When black children were finally allowed to attend “white” schools, how much did the schools change to include their culture? Did the history books change to include positive attributes made by black people? No. Did literature books change to include a fair amount of black writers? No. The only thing that changed was that they were allowed to attend. When I look back on my education, I think about how much I did not know about black people as a child. I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Toni Morrison,  Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, etc. All that I was exposed to was the “norm.” So, looking at this from the perspective of a black child (if I may venture to do so), what would this tell me about my race? As a white child of a racist mother, I learned that white was normal, good, accepted. I was taught that black boys were rapists and violent. I was taught that black women were bitches. And, I was taught that all black people were stupid and did not belong in our society. My mother would say that she wished that black people would be sent back to Africa. I want to add here that I have long since departed from these teachings, but I’m afraid that many people still have this mentality. So, in 2016, has the public school system changed? No. They simply added a month to celebrate Black History–the shortest month of the year. Yes, they have included more black people in history and literature, but the narrative is ultimately the same. EXCLUSION OF BLACK PEOPLE BEGINS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

As a college English teacher, I emphasize the fact that we are all basically bilingual. When I’m at home, I sometimes say things like, “He done started something,” or “She gone get in trouble.” This is our dialect. I know that it is technically incorrect, but I do not dismiss dialect because it brings richness, culture and identity to people’s voices. My black students are not used to this. They are not used to their speech being accepted as a language. They look at me like I’m an alien. EXCLUSION OF BLACK PEOPLE CONTINUES THROUGHOUT HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE.

Don’t get me wrong, black people are strong. I admire them for their perseverance. They have made tremendous strides considering the lack of acceptance in our society. They don’t need my support. It’s the white people who need to know that it’s okay to support them.

In fact, white people could benefit majorly from true inclusion. Look at the school system again. Now tests are the ultimate basis of knowledge. If a student doesn’t pass the test, the student is judged, the teacher is judged, the school is judged. The problem with this is that not all student knowledge can be measured by a test. And, ultimately the tests do not reflect the differences in race. This is a difficult subject because it may sound bad, but hear me out. When black people were allowed to attend white schools, they had basically no education besides the little bit that other black people could teach them. They were not up to white people’s “standards.” So, instead of changing the system and letting the black students catch up, they just kept going in hopes that they would give up. Then, legislature is passed that says that all schools must be performing. These black students who couldn’t catch up were hurting the numbers. What happens? They lower the standards. Now middle and lower class white students are also suffering. And, this is pretty much where the education system is today.

Also, some black people did give up. They recognized that they couldn’t survive this system. This system NEVER really let them in. So, what do they do? Turn to ways to survive that don’t include getting an education.

Another form of oppression is the welfare system. The welfare system was set up initially to help people get back on their feet after the Great Depression. Now, it reinforces a cycle of slavery to poverty. I once overheard a conversation among a couple of black seventh graders (ages 13-14). They were talking about naming their babies. I heard one of them say that she hoped that she would have twins so that her grandmother would get two more checks. When a person only knows one way of life, it is difficult to break out of it. It is the norm. It is a cycle. I’m going out on a limb to say that I’d bet most of our politicians know this, which is why welfare continues. I’m not saying welfare should disappear because I understand its important in helping people in need, but it should be a means to an end, not the end. So many white people disagree with me on this point because they are jealous that the government gives black people money. This is so stupid because 1. white people get welfare too, and 2. a life depending on the government is not a good one. White people say “I wish I could drive a Cadillac and get on welfare,” but that Cadillac does not make up for other hardships, and this is just nasty ass stupid prejudice assumption. Think of it this way: Do I want my daughter at 13 to be thinking about naming her child, the child that she is having so that her grandmother can get another check? Nope.

I could go on and on about the systems of oppression (a.k.a. slavery) that are thriving in our society, but this is supposed to be about Black Lives Matter. I’m writing this in response to white people trying to diminish this movement by using the term Blue Lives Matter as a rebuttal. NO NO NO! This movement was not established as a blow against police officers. It was established as a cry for help. Mothers of victims. Mother of victims. They lost their children. They lost their children to the violence of our society. Our society excluded their children, and they ended up dead at young ages. This is the problem. Stop trying to stifle their voices. Stop ignoring the exclusion. Stop saying that they can’t speak up for themselves without taking away from white people. Do white people need black lives to not matter?

No one said that blue lives don’t matter. No one said that white lives don’t matter. When a police officer shoots a black man sitting in his car unarmed, he is saying that his life doesn’t matter. When a white man shoots a black teenager for wearing a hoody and playing loud music, he is saying that his life doesn’t matter. When a child is gunned down for having a toy gun, it shows that someone believed his life didn’t matter. There are methods for preventing this violence, but they are not exercised. Are all instances of police violence about race? No. Am I saying that police officers should not protect themselves? No. I am saying that racism and oppression exist and cannot be ignored. I am saying that black lives do matter, but that does not have to take away from others’ lives. I am saying that if there are instances where a black person is targeted, then there need to consequences and recognition.

I don’t worry that my son will get shot because of the color of his skin. I don’t worry that my son will be excluded in school because of the color of his skin. I don’t worry that my son will be profiled because of the color of his skin. I enjoy white privilege in this way. I do not want to have to worry, but I want to share those same privileges with my black neighbors. I want my students to feel accepted in my classroom. I want my students to succeed and become productive members of society. I want to live in a society where we stop lying and start fixing the problem. If you want to say ALL LIVES MATTER, fine. THEN ACT LIKE IT! Until then recognize that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Fairy Story Reveals Social Commentary

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a1ffac38-681f-48ff-8992-986c22d2c028-large16x9_PLT_Shrek_HeroLast night my wife and I took my kids and her niece to see Shrek: The Musical at the Pensacola Little Theater, and it was a treat! The costumes were fantastic, the setting was amazing, but what I loved the most were the hidden meanings that made me like this modern fairy story in the first place.

My favorite song was “Let Your Freak Flag Fly.” In the play, most of the characters are “outsiders”–the “Big Bad Wolf” is dressed in drag, witches are “not so wicked,” and many of the others are part of the B list fairy stories. What do they tell us? That we should celebrate our differences, and that being divided makes us weak and vulnerable to tyrants and society.

Of course, these characters are the side story, and Shrek and Fiona are the main protagonists. Shrek is definitely not the prince charming, although he rescues Fiona. He does so without violence. He is actually very logical. His whole analogy that ogres are like onions is hilarious yet meaningful. Fiona, as we soon find out, is also an ogre on the inside. She tries to be the typical princess. She shows us that little girls are given expectations based on fairy tales that do not come true. Shrek and Fiona are real life: reality.

One of the most evocative parts that I wish I could have recorded even though I know that’s not cool was when Shrek was mad and hurt and retreated to his swamp to build a wall. A giant green ogre dancing around on stage singing about how a wall was a solution to his problems was just too reminiscent of Donald Trump to go unnoticed.

However, the best example of irony was636053273925510881-Shrek-The-Musical-Farquaad-3 Lord Farquaad–the tyrant who wants to kick out all of the “freaks” so that he can have his perfect kingdom. His size is a realistic portrayal of his brain more than his body.

I appreciated this play, performed mostly for children, so much that I felt compelled to share. Please share your thoughts as well. 636053273954059064-Shrek-The-Musical-Shrek-Fiona-2

 

 

 

 

What Have I Done to My Kids? No, Real Question. Please Answer.

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While visiting my sister today, my son and I were sitting in the floor playing princesses with my 3 year old niece when my 10 year old said something like, “Let’s talk about ‘How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.'” I was taken back for a moment, then I realized that this is, of course, my kid, and he has not been sheltered. First of all, he doesn’t know how to make love like a porn star. On our recent trip to New York, he saw a copy of Jenna Jamison’s book on the shelf. We had a conversation about it. No biggy, just the title of a book, right? Well, I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about how to raise my kids. Should I shelter them? Should I expose them to things and have conversations about them? I went with the latter because I feel that it is better for them to hear it from me than someone else. I also feel that the more stigma or taboo we put on things, the more curious kids and teens become about them, driving them towards experimentation. So, we have regular conversations about sex, drugs, addiction, religion, crime, etc. My question is, am I corrupting my kids too early?

      My daughter has a friend who is forbidden from reading things like Harry Potter and Twilight, while I encourage them so we can talk about it. Last year we read the entire series of Harry Potter, and we talked about the implications of religion within the books. We discussed the attractions that the characters felt. My kids were 9 and 11. My daughter read the Twilight series, and we watched the films when she turned 12. We talked about how Bella and Edward waited to have sex until they were married, even though this is not realistic in our day and time. Other parents know this, and I can feel them judging me when we share a bus to field trips.

      My thing is that I am trying to be realistic. I know the statistics. I’ve taught middle school. I’ve heard 13 year old girls talk about getting pregnant and how cute their babies would be. I’ve also taught those girls who get pregnant and never finish school. I’ve seen kids on drugs, and I’ve even known kids who did sexual favors for drugs. So, I want my kids to know how real things are in this day and age. I want them to be informed about everything I can possibly think of.

     We live in a very conservative state (Alabama), and abstinence is taught, which is good but unrealistic. Most of my friends lost their virginity around age 15, and that was 15 years ago. Today, the average age of girls losing their virginity is 13. So, I want my kids to be well-informed before they make that kind of decision.

      In my own experience, I had one “talk,” and it went something like this, “Sex is something that should happen between a husband and wife.” My mom told me that she had raised me (I was around 13), and she hoped that I would make the right decision and tell her when I did. Luckily, I had a smart boyfriend who took me to the clinic to get on birth control. However, when we broke up, I wasn’t so smart, and I ended up pregnant my senior year of high school. This wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened to me, and in fact, I truly believe it was the best. My daughter changed my life for the better. Ignorance is not bliss when you’re a bored teenager in a small town. I was hanging out with a bad crowd and headed down a scary road filled with parties and drugs. Getting pregnant made me straighten my act up. But, like I said, I know that it could’ve been worse. Not having discussed the consequences of stupidity as a teenager, I was making horrible decisions. I put myself into a lot of situations that could have ended my life, and I now feel like it was mostly because I was a stupid teenager, but also because I was lectured instead of informed. There is a difference, especially for teens. Teens do not want to listen to adults telling them what to do and how stupid they are. Teens need guidance.

     Ultimately, I know that in the end I will probably have screwed my kids up anyway because I am human. I’d just like to know someone else’s opinion on my parenting skills.

Universal Studios Orlando, Florida

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Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida“The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.”–Audrey Hepburn

<<<Taylor, Preston, Perry and I soaking up the stardom of one of my favorite actresses…loved her in Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

Last summer, we loaded up the Nissan and headed off for Orlando–me, my kids (Taylor and Preston) and one of my favorite people in the world…Perry Jones. Being the huge Harry Potter fans that we are, we were craving some theme park experience of the wizarding world. The eight hour drive took us from our small town in Alabama through Tallahassee straight down the Turnpike into Orlando. Nothing really interesting happened on our way although we did go to Starbucks to promote gay marriage and we boycotted Chik Fil A all day due to the rage against gay marriage that they had started at the time. We were also tempted by Club Risque–a nude restaurant advertised for by at least 13 signs, but we decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea with the kids and all.

Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, was only one and a half miles from the park. Right after we checked in, we went down to enjoy some $6 big girl drinks and let the kids take a dip in the pool before heading out to Emeril’s in Downtown Universal. Emeril’s had the hugest wine rack I’ve ever seen, so we of course had some to pair with our delicious pizza. A little walk around, and we were exhausted.

The next morning we all headed out bright and early to Harry Potter Wizarding World at the Islands of Adventure. Little did we know that everyone else had the same idea. It was so crowded, we could barely move! However, it was still awesome! Walking into HogsMeade with the theme music playing made me feel like we were walking into the movie! My favorite ride was Hogwarts: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey where you walk through the castle and then get into a flying cart and follow Ron, Harry and Hermione through an adventure. We also went and ate at the Three Broomsticks and drank Butterbeer–fun, fun. We waited at Ollivander’s for our wands for an hour, and we were disappointed to find that the choosing was only for one lucky person in the crowd. After we’d had our fill of the crowd, we ventured out into the rest of the park to find more thrilling roller coasters such as The Hulk and Jurassic Park’s Adventure Ride. Once again, we were exhausted by the end of the day and went back and crashed in our room.

Luckily, we’d paid the extra bucks for the park hopper passes and we had the choice to go back to Harry Potter Wizarding World after our tour of Universal Studios. Our favorite ride hands down was the Mummy. We rode it at least five times. Perry and I were amused at the test seats at the beginning of the rides–don’t ride if you are at risk of getting stuck, but just in case you don’t use your common sense, here’s a seat to test before you get stuck and cause everyone else to have to wait. The kids liked the Hollywood Rip Ride Rock It, but it jerked my neck around too much. Perry and I waited forever on them to ride it, and I thought they’d been kidnapped until they finally came running out. My theme park experience is never complete until I lose a kid or two!

We ended up back at HogsMeade for dinner and shopping that night. I spent $75 on candy–chocolate frogs, every flavor jelly bean, tongue tongue toffee–totally worth it. Preston got Dumbledore’s wand, and Taylor and I bought tee-shirts. Of course you can’t spend a summer’s day in South Florida without a torrential downpour, which we got stuck in for a good hour while we were trying to make our way to the gate.

Unfortunately, all vacations must end. On our way home we stopped at a truck stop to purchase one of the best travel necessities I’ve ever found…the Pastor Brown series of mysteries on audio CD. (Complete sarcasm)

This will definitely be a revisit when they complete the rumored renovations to Harry Potter Wizarding World.