Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

I come from a family of medium brown to passe blanc Creoles. Unlike most of my cousins, my hair doesn't just lie down on my head in soft waves. If I'd had light skin or straight hair I think I would have been more accepted, but I had neither. My kinky, Mother Africa bush just laughs at flat irons. In my family, I'm "dark-skinned" and my older brother (with skin so light that he had freckles, even in the winter) never let me forget it. He used to taunt me with the children's song

"Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for my master,
And one for my dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane."

and he'd stick his fingers in my hair when he got to the third line. It always made me burst into tears. I grew up thinking that I was the ugliest creature to ever walk the earth. I was the darkest of all my childhood friends and felt the brunt of the (self-)hatred for all things deemed "black" that these girls learned from their parents.

It didn't make me hate other dark-skinned people, but it did make me want to have nothing to do with light-skinned folk. I didn't want them as friends, as lovers, as co-workers, or anything else. I had a child with a guy from a similar background: the darkest in his Creole family. Throughout the pregnancy, I envisioned my deep-brown baby only to birth a girl that was lighter than either of us.

Her birth forced me to confront my color issues and I've come a long way since then, but it's a lifelong process. It can't be separated from socio-economic class, gender, et cetera. So, I try to learn to love myself more every single day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Romney as the First Latter Day Saint Presidential Nominee

I was raised in a religious minority with around the same number of adherents as the Latter Day Saints and we also have some common roots with them. My family was very conservative, Christian, and evangelical. So, even though I'm a progressive, I don't think that all conservatives are bad people. I think the GOP is rotten, but not all conservatives. Anyway, even though I'd never vote for Mitt, I remember how it felt seeing President Barack Obama elected that first time around and being able to show my daughter that someone like us (mixed-race people of color) could become President. For similar reasons, I think I'd have been just as happy if Hillary Clinton had won the nomination and I hope she'll run in 2016.

Anyway, I didn't want Mitt to win, but if he had, the one consolation prize I could think of was that little LDS kids could grow up knowing that their religion wouldn't be an unconquerable impediment if they wanted to become President some day. It really made me kind of sad to see him behave so dishonestly and classist and arrogant during the campaign.

With my parents' strong belief in the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" philosophy, they always taught me that if I was ever blessed enough to make it further than any other person of color in whatever I pursued in life, then I had a responsibility to make sure that I didn't make it hard for the next person like me who came along in the future. Romney could have still been dead wrong with his political beliefs without resorting to slimy campaigning.

I feel like it will be a long time before another LDS person will make it as far as he did, because he was absolutely nasty in his campaigning and, on top of that, he lost. Even though I'm not a Republican, that still makes me a bit sad. I want all kids to be able to pursue their highest aspirations without things like religion, race, gender, or political affiliation making that impossible for them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Advantages of Urban Living During Natural Disasters

Today, I read a blog post called "Cities--to big to fail?" The writer uses the events during and following Hurricane Sandy to question whether urban environments should be encouraged. It used hospitals as a case study for perceived weaknesses associated with urban living.

I think that the writer would have benefited from examining how these issues played out in the Gulf, when Hurricane Katrina hit. I noticed several other problems with Logan's post. There was a great deal of ableism and classism, as a matter of fact. Logan gives virtually no consideration to how these PWD would have likely fared if they weren't in an urban area when a natural disaster occurred. After all, we do know that natural disasters don't just strike cities. When Logan finishes using the challenges faced by PWD during Sandy, she seems to have no more use or consideration for us. She switches to planning for a world where we don't exist. Alas, this is usually what one sees when non-disabled people try to imagine or describe or write about disability issues.

I'm glad that the writer mentioned electronic medical records. When Katrina hit, I was basically living in two cities: Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The reason was that I have a rare bone cancer and the only orthopedic oncologist in all of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas practiced in New Orleans (at Tulane hospital), but the only hospital that had IMRT was in Baton Rouge (Mary Bird Perkins Cancer center). I'd started my cancer care at  Medical Center of New Orleans (a.k.a. Charity Hospital).

When Katrina hit, Charity was still in the process of going from paper records to digital. Tulane was already digital. To make a long story short, the records at both hospitals were lost thanks to the hurricane. Now, all that exists are the post surgery records that were already in Baton Rouge. My current and future doctors will never be able to see how the tumor originally looked. Because of that experience, I actually do think that electronic health records are the best option. The only problem is that back-up records need to be stored off-site, so that they can be accessed by other medical facilities if patients need to be evacuated. It simply isn't feasible to stick with paper records. In times of disaster, it just isn't possible to make sure that every relevant sheet of information in a person's health record can be retrieved and sent with the patient.

When natural disasters strike, I think that urban PWD fare better than those who are living in a rural area. Even when there are no disasters, it's much easier to be disabled in the city than in the country. If you're disabled, you may already be reliant on others and the chances of someone coming to help during a disaster are just a lot better in the city. Support systems for PWD are much easier to create, find, and maintain in urban areas. 

From what I've learned so far, during and following Sandy, it wasn't much of a problem for many PWD to get the help that they needed. In one case I know of, friends and neighbors of the couple (both are PWD) were able to stop by the fire station right down the block and pick up the recharged medical batteries and then drop off the ones needing to be charged when they left out again. Urban living made that possible.

Rural living is just too risky for many people like me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Being Poor Doesn't Mean You're Stupid or Wasteful

I saw this on Facebook today and started thinking about my childhood.

My mom had done things "right". She was a married church-going mom with 4 kids. She sewed most of our clothes and cooked every meal from scratch. When I was 8, my dad got a great job offer to transfer to a new city. Unfortunately, the bastard used that opportunity to tell his wife he'd been having an affair and was leaving us behind.

My mom found a job, but had to work overtime just to keep the lights on. Our house went into foreclosure and we moved into a rental.

She never took the welfare cash, but did apply for food stamps. And why the hell shouldn't she?! She'd done what society says a woman was supposed to do, but still got screwed. Food stamps didn't enable us to get the sort of food that we used to eat when my dad was around, but it kept us from starving.

My mom kept seeking better work. She got a job at Marshall's and the employee discount allowed her to buy me clothes nice enough to avoid getting teased. My brothers were so tall that they wore sizes that aren't carried at discount stores.

We practically stalked the local second-hand stores. If you've never been to one, you'd probably be surprised just how much brand new stuff you can find. Some of the stuff still had the original store tags on them.

As an adult, I'm in a better financial state, but I still the second-hand stores are my first stop when I'm looking for clothes. I can't tell you the last time I bought a shirt for more than $10. My daughter bought her gown for the homecoming dance for five bucks and it was prettier than any of the stuff we saw at Macy's.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

This Sadness

I've felt this before.
It was right after my cancer diagnosis.
The pulsing, sucking sadness
that pulls everything that has ever made me happy
into some dark chasm of my heart
that I can no longer see or feel.
It's a canker in my chest
and I can't hug myself tight enough
to seal it closed.
If this grief had some mass,
a delineable shape,
I could reach between my ribs
and tear it from my bosom,
ripping away every sinew
and cracking every bone,
until the bloody, seething protuberance
could be inspected and scrutinized
objectively by those with knowledge
about these matters.
But this abyss has roots.
Through foramen and lacunae it probes,
expands, extends and exposes
every slight and mistake,
once covered by abundant love.
This twisting, pulling anguish
infects my muscles, my tissues, my cells.
My spine is no match for it.
There's no one here to save me,
no one to wrap my wounds.
I have become the sadness.