Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"My Eyes are Green....."

"...because I eat alot of vegetables, It don't have nothing to do with you and your new friend"~ Erykah Badu.

....Sure it doesn't. And I am sure that your Beyonce length-weave doesn't either. But lets get real.

Sorry Erykah. While I know that your lyrics are sarcastically misguided; it's a microcosm of what's wrong with society. Having spent over 2 decades nesting inside the body of a sort black girl whose heels and hair alone add about 4 inches to her actual height (for some reason the refuse to let me list that on my Drivers License); It was only recently that I could stand that tall-no pun intended. Why? Because of the insecurity that has plagued me. Yes, at some point, many points in my youth, I was tripping (figuratively) over the girls with straight weaves and contacts that made their eyes light. Over a decade later, I actually feel sorry for those people. Because in reality, most of those people wake up every morning faced with crippling insecurity. A number of us would blame that on society, but far fewer of us would blame that on themselves. Which begs the questions, where does insecurity come from? And what's the proper remedy? An impenetrable outer shell of self-awareness? Or a life built solely on overcompensation? Finally, how do we recognize overcompensation before it turns into self-deception? I'm sure there's the meaning of life formula wedged somewhere in these answers.

Being the "dark skinned black girl" has been something that I have been conscious of, or made conscious off for quite sometime. It's has been too long to tell. "You must be smarter because you are darker." "You must do better, be better, because, well, the world hates you." Seriously, I've heard these things. I think that such thinking can poison a healthy sense of self-confidence all while trying to build self-awareness. The entire identity and self-worth of a child who is told these things can be built on a sense of overcompensation instead of a drive for natural excellence. Is excellence natural anyway? (Beside the point :-/)

I'm really tired of being the angry dark-skinned girl. I'm tired of my life (the world for that matter) looking like movie School Days. If you haven't seen that movie, it's full of stereotypically angry dark-skinned people. I'm tired of thinking that the world is against me when in reality, most of our own insecurity comes from what we are told and what we believe.Finally, I'm tired of overcompensating. It's tiring. Besides, everyone doesn't hate us. According to the bible, we even have fans:

"How right they are to adore you! Dark, I am, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am by the sun" ~ Song of Songs 1:5 & 6

In the words of Kanye (no biblical likening or reference). Take that! ... Haters....:-)

But still, I cannot get away from my infatuation with the "dark girl" mentality. Frankly, dark skin folks have, for a long time, been a relegated faction of the race. That explains alot. Even amidst the lighter skinned folks who claim that they see no difference, I don't really believe them. That explains the rest, I guess. I've been told on numerous occasions that I am pretty....for a dark-skinned girl. I've had cousins who have wanted to get out of the sun so that they don't get "black." I've heard people say "I mean, she's nice and she doesn't have to be" (In reference to some person who has light skin and long hair). My only response (without seeming like the angry dark-skinned girl) is "Really??" Since when did the human decency associated with the expression of kindness become an option for those whose who are good looking? Recently? I'm guessing not. Usually, I would completely disregard such an absurd comment, but it has been said, in my presence, one too many times.

So, with that rant, I'm through. Or, finished, I should say. I'm tired of this inferiority induced overcompensation and people talking about it with no real remedy or intention to fix it. I'm tired of people having to rant via blogs like this one or Spoken word night about the plight of girls darker than a brown paper bag. JUST BE! Stop bleaching your skin, stop avoiding the sun, stop refusing to cut you split ends because you are afraid of have having short hair, stop changing your eye color in the name of prescription lenses. Just stop. Because, if anyone, you are only fooling yourself. Self-deception is just that, it doesn't matter if it comes from the words of your mother or your own paranoia. Instead, find richness in your very being. I know that there is a collective suffering shared by ALL black people. Noticing the difference in social positioning and authority based on shade doesn't make us any more divided, the actualization of the theory is what does us in. At the end of the day, it makes us more aware of the distance we still have to travel in the "struggle."

"Pharaoh, O' Pharaoh, let my people go."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Design on a Para-digm

You've seen the show Design on a Dime right? Though your leisure channel surfing won't fess up to such things, I'd bet you've watched at least a final reveal or two. The premise is this. A team of designers, come and transform a room based on the perceived tastes of the person and their overall personality. The rate of successful, participant pleasing reveals, is pretty high. Point of reference: the participants are often quite budget conscious but want to work wonders with a room. They are usually content to let the rest of the house look pitiful. I believe that such is the same about life. We think that by changing one thing about our appearance or job or finances that we can somehow change our whole lives. Never quite, realizing that a complete, life transformation requires a metaphysical demolition and not new curtains and a refinished bookshelf. We are victims of an overdose of surface treatments. And for many of us, these surface treatments become the paradigms on which we operate our lives. For example, some center their lives around money. The paradigm: "If I had more money....life would be better." As a result, our entire lives turn into Grand Hustle Central. Or this one. "If I was in a relationship....I'd be be happier." We're all familiar with the painful consequences of this paradigm.

Truth is, we are all designed on a paradigm of sorts. For some of us. Our belief rests on the divine paradigm of creationism and living a purpose driven life. For others of us, it's traumatic life experiences and upbringing. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people (good read), the author talks a great deal about how our lives are based on a mixture of assumptions and universal principals. The reading is quite intense, but it left me with one, unanswered question. What paradigm am I designed on/around? Seems corny, but I think that it is this: The world would be a better place if people helped people. There no real spiritual, political, economic mysticism about it. Its fundamental. It's true. I like it. This paradigm. This belief, is what ties me to community organizing. What causes me to have unwavering respect for fellow organizers and local volunteers regardless of their views on religion. It would cause me to take a job that paid less and bettered society rather than one where I could look down on poor people from the window in my corner office. It's the choice to establish a life long friendship with someone who doesn't believe in God but believes that the seat of government should be one of accountability. It may just seem like a set of choices where any one with a conscience would make the right one, but really it's all about the bigger pictures of how and why we arrive at certain choices. I'd say its our chosen paradigm. Wouldn't you?

So in keeping with the idea of paradigms we find that the problem really is how we define the problem and our positioning in it. I'll give you a hint, according to most people's paradigms, the are never apart of, or anywhere near the problem. But the next time that we are having trouble seeing through the proverbial windows of life because they have been clouded by the ignorance and bad habits that prevade the whole house. Don't just get Windex. Kick the windows out. Remodel the whole house....(Dramatic, yes). Fact is, the world is built on a set of paradigms. Some shift, some don't. Most are problematic. As agents of social change, we are to gather an army of folks who will keep the paradigm in line, or, if need be, shift it. It's not unheard of and it's definitely necessary.But most of the time not easy. For example, in the face of troubled times, thousands of people were willing to shift the paradigms of their lives from a place of "Money is the means and the end" to a place of financial conservation and spend-thrift style political activism. That, in my opinion, makes a much more balanced society.

We are apart of the problem. In fact, we cause it. The good news is that that isn't the bad news. But rather its the realization that helps us move to the place where we we can do something about it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Swag Surfing

It's not the kind of thing that you would set to a Beach Boys tune. No, not even to easy listening. It's the kind of stuff that you do when you "Hop up out the bed.....(you finish the sentence)" Yes, ladies and gents it's the skillful art of "swag surfing." Urbandictionary.com defines it as:

Swag Surfing 2 up, 2 down love it hate it (These thumbs came from the dictionary, no rating of my own)

To be fly and be able to move through matters in an easy manner or to be able to go through your life solely on your swagger.

Ex. I've been just swag surfing for the past few days
I'm usually not a follower of ridiculous urban phrases and cultural trends, but I've encountered a number of people in my life who fit the bill and I'd like to be able to properly diagnose them or anyone who thinks that a stellar jeans collection and some Old Spice will get them through life. And really, some people take this phrase literally and center their lives around the very idea. Like some stuff you would see listed under Religious and Political views on Facebook.

Depending on your cultural habitat swag surfing can almost rival Olympic sports. It's that really cool dude on the block or in the burb who is leasing an SUV and wears the tinted shades. He may be college educated, he may not be. In the first moments of meeting him, it doesn't matter. He's captivating. You could listen to him all day without so much as even a blink or a flinch. You'll even let him buy you dinner, if he can afford it. He'll probably talk you into something slightly indecent. You'll probably concede. Despite your lifelong reinforcement of wholesome values (life, liberty and the pursuit of social climbing), you'll readily abandon your common sense for a guy who's future plans, current spirituality, dating history, and social preferences you've never even inquired about. Yup, it's swag, and if you aren't careful, it'll GET you. Problem is, none of this is new. It's all recycled, from terms like COOL, FLY, FAR OUT, RIGHTEOUS, OUT OF SIGHT, DOPE. It's like FLY 2.0.

So, what does Swag surfing not do for me? In all it's efforts, and swag it fails to give me any hopeful perspective on dating/settling down. Why? Because it would have you to think that any man with one ounce of suave is more concerned with moving through cultural mediums with no effort rather than really seeking a meaningful relationship. Going on that assumption, we (women) will do one of two things: (1) Resign ourselves to a fling with these guys and expect that he'll never call. We rarely even try to tame them. (2) Instead we go for that guy who looks he too has "Get married by thirty" on his to do list. Luckily, I've had the opportunity to witness the reverse. Truth is, I know many "swaggalicious" men, who have decided to do the whole married with children thing. Not sure exactly how you turn a swaggart (noun form) into a husband, but it can't be as hard as turning a you know what in housewife. However they get there, they set the STANDard for at least those in their sphere of influence.

Sure, they still get the once over by women who can only wish and the occasional look of sheer and utter disappointment that they have been locked down. But, bump what cha heard, being fly isn't everything there are far too many people who can prove it. The lesson here? Fellas, the next time, you turn your swag on and it's so loud that it drowns out all voices of reason, turn it down just a little, because swag is like cologne. When used in excess, it starts to stink, reek even. You will repel ladies who can no longer see through the tinted shades that you insist on wearing in the building. :-/

After all, man cannot live on swag alone, or can he?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Slavery of Desperation and the Art of Surrender

Once upon a time, there was a man accused of a crime. When he was released on bail, he violated terms by acting erratic, compulsive and foolish. When asked why he would do such a thing, he responded, I was DESPERATE. It was evident that his desperation had enslaved his own free will, an enslavement that incarcerated his body. His desperation caused him to gamble with his life. Risk loosing his family. His livelihood. Desperation in and of itself is only a human emotion, but often, too often, it manifests itself in action.

I don't like desperation too much. Not the kind that has spurred the escape of slaves, the fight of South Africans fighting Apartheid, or compelled Anne Frank to stay alive and pen her memoirs. I'm talking about the kind that has time after time, made a fool of people that I love dearly. You see, when we act out of desperation we risk what we cannot afford to. Let's face it, desperation would probably sell it's grandma for a buck. Everything beneath it is just motivation for the cause.

Often, we equate desperation with passion, believing that any cause worth fighting for requires a desperate state of mind. Frankly, I'd say that a desperate state of mind is quite dangerous and often ends in tragedy. In saying that I find it disheartening when people say that they are desperate to achieve something. Getting a certain job, finding a certain mate, seeing their name in lights. I'm sure that anyone who has traveled the highways and byways of desperation call tell tales unfathomable to most people. Desperation, I think, brings out the worst in us. Or as Kanye says, makes "the prettiest people do the ugliest things, on the road to riches and diamond rings"
It poisons that which is good about us, perverting it into a drive that pushes us past decency.

But desperation is STRONG. Why? Strong because it borrows its strength from good intention. Borrowing strength, as I've learned from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, only makes us weaker in the long run. (Let me give you a hint. Our weaker, more shameful selves are usually left in the aftermath of desperation.) What's funny/scary is that we start out doing something that we really believe in, or opposing injustice, or chasing a dream, or, dare I say, changing the world. Somehow it becomes a beast all its own.

I both reflect and write about such a topic because we are in desperate times. Doesn't CNN remind you everyday? People who have are fighting, scheming, cheating to keep it, and those who have not, are still caught the the crosshairs of the beast known as social climbing. Desperation is the name of the game. So, what do we do instead? Rise above? Much harder than it sounds. Fall prey to this thing called desperation and let it eat at us? Certainly not. I can only propose this. Surrender. Come out with your hands up. Not because you are a punk or a quittter. Because you are a STANDard, therefore you must HAVE STANDards. Desperation =compromise. Surrender is recognizing the lure of desperation and putting your hands up before you get your hands cuffed. Feel me? Whether it's surrender of the religious variety or a self soothing of sorts, the art of such surrender involves (you'll like this) a retention of dignity, a firm resolute mind, STANDARDS, and a road map that will help you navigate life, avoiding the the dark alleys, potholes and quicksand know as desperation. This type of surrender makes us strong because it uncovers that thing in us that won't trade self respect for a meal ticket. That thing that wild ambition can't cover.

So, The next time life traps us in a corner or reaching for the stars seems a farther stretch than you had ever imagined, look at your options. Weigh them soundly. Get mad, get tough, get smart. But please, please, please, please, don't get DESPERATE.