Hey Gene! What about the poor white kids?

At a certain point, it gets really tiring having people who have never experienced a moment of poverty pontificate about poverty and how they would deal with it. Of course as a Black woman, I get even more bugged by upper middle class white folks who appear to have the cure for what ails poor brown people. To that I say: Really? Then why haven’t you helped out poor white folks?
See, if you were a Martian who landed in the United States and turned on the news, you would assume that most of the poor in this country are Black. Never mind that Blacks are still a minority, nope the take away would be “wow those Black folks are sure as shit deficient.” It seems the women can’t find mates, the men are either locked up or having closeted gay encounters, and they don’t have jobs, and on and on it goes. There are bits of truth in that but let’s be clear it’s not the entire truth by a long stretch.
Yet it’s what creates buzz, as Gene Marks a writer for Forbes this week did with his piece “If I was a Poor Black Kid”, well the internet put the smack down on Mr. Marks and handed him his ass. None of what Marks said was particularly inspired and frankly much of it has been said before; problem is Marks is not a poor Black kid, nor was he a poor White kid and his so-called advice came from a douchebag paternalistic place where in the end anything good turned into that wawa voice from Charlie Brown…just static.
I don’t want to spend much time on Marks and that piece, what I do want to discuss is, how is it that Marks appears ignorant of the fact there are plenty of poor white kids in the U.S.? See, thanks to being a black girl in Maine who works in social services I see em daily. In fact due to my move here almost a decade ago, I often joke in many ways I have become an ally to poor whites. Not something you expect from someone with an undergraduate degree focused in African American studies whose professional aspirations were to get a Ph.D. in African American Studies and whose major area of interest was media representations of Black women. Not exactly the poster girl for championing poor white issues. Funny thing though the universe moved me to Maine and my eyes were opened wide.
Turns out many of the behaviors that pundits, sociologists and others ascribe to poor Blacks are identical in poor whites. Down to men who just leave, though one odd twist that I have seen more of in Maine (so not sure how prevalent it is elsewhere) is moms leaving. More than a handful of families have come across my path where it’s dad and kids, or dad and a new lady who is not bio-mom.
Now schools in rural states like Maine may not rival an inner city school in say my hometown Chicago, but in less moneyed communities the schools don’t have a lot to offer. To be honest the schools aside from say the metal detectors looks identical.
The thing is why is so much damn time spent on highlighting differences? Why can’t people like Marks look broader and think about poor kids in general? One of my growing pet peeves is how people section off the poor, yes there are some historical differences but in modern times, poor people and especially poor kids need help. They all need access to good schools, healthcare, they need parents who are in good shape and ready to parent. Drugs? Well drug use runs rampant in white communities too, very much like the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s…drug of choice in communities that I serve trend towards prescription pills and meth and even the new bath salts. Here in Maine drug stores like CVS and Rite-Aid get robbed on a weekly basis. Yet aside from a few pieces here and there, the spotlight doesn’t shine much on this crisis. As I have said before on this blog the worse part of my job is because this is a predominantly white and rural state, funding for programs like the one I run are harder to come by. Never mind that with each passing year, the numbers of people we serve are on the rise.
To some degree I believe we are all still stuck in the days of yesterday where it’s easier to see race as a barrier rather than class. We need to start having an honest dialogue and talk about the fact that poverty and its ripple effects are bad for all kids, not just poor Black kids!

White Ken cannot love Brown Barbie but he does dig on Ted!

Many times over the past few years I have had well-meaning friends and acquaintances question me on the wisdom of raising a child of color in a predominantly white area and often times I have acknowledged yes it may be rough but today the reality of that task punched me in my soul.

Look, I went to predominantly white schools in Chicago in the 1970’s and 1980’s which many times were no walk in the park. In fact I learned early on that girls like me often were simply not seen due to the permanent tans we sported. Yet as awkward as school was at times, I went home to a family where we were all various shades of brown and the weekends were spent with various relatives who also were of the darker hue. In some ways now that I am old enough to look back I can see that those times with my family helped fortify me to go back into a world where no one looked like me. I always knew there were spaces and places where I did not stand out.

My eldest was born in Chicago and until the age of 6 was a full time resident of Chicago where he got to know my family and start building deep connections, some that still hold to this day. Despite the fact he left Chicago at 6 only to return 35% of the year until I made the decision to move to Maine. Now at 19 and after having spent a few years in the Midwest, he sees Maine and New England as his home but it seems the foundation that was laid when he was a young lad built stability. My son while he admits it is lonely at times being one of just a handful of people of color at a very white, conservative private college in WI he is secure in his brownness

However it’s mini me, my youngest, my precious girl that I worry about and lately am wondering if it may be time to blow this pop stand. It started with Barbie and Ken several days ago when during play time she told me that white Ken can’t have brown Barbie as his lady love. I brushed it off but today I finally asked her where was this aversion to white Ken being with brown Barbie coming from…after all, her own Mama aka yours truly has her own real life Ken know as father of mini me and he happens to be white.

It seems at the tender age of six, my girl has noticed that there are no other families like ours, yes her bestie is a precious girl with two Papas, one who is not white but overall she sees a world where parents and units only come in one shade…that shade being white. Turns out that makes her sad that we don’t fit in and that she wonders if there something wrong with us. To hear my baby utter those words brought tears to my eyes. I questioned her to make sure no one had said anything to her that put ideas in her head but it seems she is an inquisitive kid who pays attention the world around her.

In an ideal world we could back up and leave but in these tough economic times, that is not possible since most larger cities cost way more cash that we have though we are toying with some ideas though the reality is we are at least eighteen months away from being able to pack up and go. Though we don’t really want to go anyplace else; sure we like the idea of big city living but the reality? Hell no. However we are starting to wonder if a larger city in the area where most of the diversity is might be preferable to our current town.

Funny thing is how often white parents put off talking about race but once again I am reminded that for children of color difference is noticed early on… and when they do while Ken can love Ted, Ken cannot love brown Barbie.

Hotter than Hot, what makes me hot

Not sure about you but it is sure is hot in my little corner of the world. It would appear that July has arrived and with it, some damn uncomfortable heat. Add in a super busy work schedule and dealing with the trials and tribulations of going bankrupt, plus all the other minutia and well it’s enough to make a Black Girl in Maine just not have the time to write a proper blog post.

This week is crazy but I will have to say the news is filled with all types of things that are really making me quite hot! For starters, ole Dom aka Dominique Strauss-Khan is free on bail, no restrictions. It seems the case is falling apart, turns out the victim is not the pure wholesome type of woman that the powers to be, deem worthy of needing protection for predatory louses like Strauss-Khan who many say never learned the preschool lesson of keeping his mitts to himself. So what the victim may or may not have told a few half truths or even out and out lies, frankly she could have been a sex worker and if she said no to Khan’s advances, guess what? No means no and if he continues it’s a crime plain and simple.

Yet the reality is in America only certain women are considered worthy of protection and frankly, if you are poor, non-white, come from a less than ideal background, our culture finds ways to take away your personhood plain and simple.

This leads to the next hot story, Casey Anthony, found not guilty of murdering her own child! Look, as far as I am concerned this is the new millennium OJ Simpson case plain and simple. The jury found her not guilty only because the rule of law requires that guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and well the jury couldn’t do that. But nothing in that woman’s actions leads me to believe her to be anything but guilty. I suspect had Casey been a less attractive woman or a non white woman, her ass would have been found guilty. Fuck having an American Express card; in America, white and attractiveness can still take you places.

So these are just a few things that are working to make me hot, the next few days will be quiet around here as I settle into my summer work schedule. Also trying to fit in quality time with my college kid, in fact we are hitting a Sade/John Legend concert (have no fear, I am frugal, the tickets were gifted to me) so this is a week I need to be spend being off line, though I can always be found on twitter if you miss me. Catch ya soon!