Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Black Children in Pain to the Adults They Could (Have) Become

Lord knows this Jalen Rose and Grant Hill controversy (and this blog post) cuts me deeper than I can probably explain. New Orleans, where I'm from, is the ultimate case study in the effects of class, color, and cultures within the black community. I come from a family where one side has been college-educated for several generations on one side and the other side consisted of property-owning entrepreneurs who were direct descendants of French aristocrats. However, because of the rejection of social privilege, I also come from folks who know what it's like to be poor--really poor. Well, not so poor that we didn't all grow up in homes owned by our parents, but compared to some of the girls I around me we were practically paupers.

We're a mixture of several different ethnic groups, so the folks in my family range from passe blanc to creamy caramel in color and most have that wavy hair that some folks seem to think is preferable to the naps that (I am proud to say) my hair can achieve. It was mostly a non-issue between us, but there were significant exceptions. Because the folks in my family can be so light in color, I grew up thinking that I was very dark-skinned. The German and VanGoghGirl still say that I have very skewed views about my skin-color and they've provided enough examples that I'm inclined to believe that they might be right.

From as far back as I can remember, my brother (who is usually referred to as "high-yellow" in color) used to taunt me with the song "Baa! Baa! Black Sheep". I'm pretty sure that my self-perception issues have at least a little to do with that. When I became an adult, I asked him about why he used to do that to me. He said it was because he was insecure about his color as a result of all the teasing he experienced at the hands of others.

I wish I had known that back then. Maybe we could have spent those years developing coping strategies instead of fueling self-hatred and perpetuating the stereotypes that were used against us. Maybe Grant Hill and Jalen Rose need to grow the hell up and start behaving like adults capable of analyzing their own behavior and not like kids lashing out at other children who are also experiencing just as much pain.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Hurricanes to Tsunamis With my Sister

Several years ago, my family "adopted" a young adult from Japan who had moved to our city (New Orleans) without any relatives or friends in this country. She became my sister. I've mentioned her here in the past, using her nickname: Neko-chan.

She's lived with us, celebrated with us, cried with us...She even helped care for me when I was going through my cancer treatments. She was here when Hurricane Katrina struck. Afterward, before I could even get there, she arrived at our parents house to help clean out the hurricane damaged interior and collecting whatever family heirlooms and keepsakes that could be salvaged. Hurricane Katrina was one of the hardest ordeals I've ever faced. We knew people who lost their homes, people who had to beg for food and went without until the government finally decided to help, and even people who died. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had my sister there by my side.

My sister and I pause to let The German
take a picture of us while cleaning out the house.

Now, her home country is going through an even bigger disaster and it has devastated her. Fortunately, her family over there is safe for the time being, but of course she has friends, acquaintances and former colleagues who are still unaccounted for. It kills me that I can't go through this with her and feel her pain as acutely as she does. I feel as if I owe it to her to do for her family all of the things that she has done for us here.