These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: November 2016

Fierce Kindness (or Kind Fierceness)

As little girls, we’re taught to play nice, be good, be polite, mind your manners, and speak when spoken to. Are little boys taught the same things? Or are little boys taught to toughen up, don’t cry, ‘take it like a man’? Goodness. All kinds of negative gender stereotyping, right?

My husband and I teach our girls many of these things. But we also teach them to speak up for what’s right and to help others. We’re not teaching them to be good little girls — we’re trying to teach them to be kind people.

That’s hard to do sometimes, especially considering the state of our world and our country. In the days since the election, there have been protests in many cities across the country. Some are upset that their candidate didn’t win. I’ll admit to being upset. And also sad, disappointed, and heartbroken, especially given that she won the majority vote by such a large amount. But from what I can gather, the collective outrage so many now feel has little to do with who lost and everything to do with who and what won.

Kindness didn’t win this week.

For the record, you can believe whatever you want about whether or not the other candidate is kind. That’s your opinion and you’re certainly entitled to it. But let me just say (in a nod to an Everybody Loves Raymond episode), that Hillary Clinton could set fire to an orphanage on Christmas Eve and still be a better person than him, in my book.

Whatever you may think, the candidate who won has proven with his words and his actions that he is, in fact, not kind. Bannon for Chief Strategist, anyone?

In fact, his most ardent supporters seem to view the results of the election as a sort of mandate – a free pass, if you will – to disrespect, disregard, and dehumanize those that are already considered on the margins of society.

Just this week alone we’ve seen:

Swastikas in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

White children chanting “build that wall!” to Hispanic students at schools in Michigan and Orlando.

A rash of hate crimes against Muslims and black Americans at the University of Pennsylvania and in Syracuse.

And a child in Minnesota, born in South Korea and adopted by their forever family, wondering if they’ll be sent back where they came from. (No link here. This one’s a personal and heartbreaking truth for a friend of mine.)

This isn’t the America I want to live in. Nor is it the country I want for my children.

We must do better.

Yesterday was World Kindness Day. And yes, I’m a little late with this post. Everyone is spreading memes and messages about how we need to come together and work together and not root for the next president to fail. I get that. And I agree! But while I am certainly not rooting for his failure, it is with enormous skepticism that I look forward to the next four years. (God forbid, eight.)

Yes, like it or not, he is everyone’s president-elect.

But his words and actions during this campaign season are reaping what they have sown in towns and cities across the country. As a result, I can’t help but feel a personal responsibility to call out racist, misogynistic, or hateful behavior when I see it or when I experience it. For instance, when there’s a noose hanging on a tree in my neighborhood – Halloween, be damned. (Interesting footnote to that story: Turns out, I was reported to the people who run our little community blog and my comments were flagged for being “inappropriate.” I sort of wear that as a badge of honor.)

I’m just not always sure I have the courage to do it. Why? Because I was taught to be the good girl. Don’t ruffle feathers. PLAY NICE.

I’ve always been interested in politics, but I’ve never really gotten involved with politics. Volunteering. Canvasing. Making phone calls. Lobbying. I respect those that do, but I regret never having made time to do this before. Hillary’s campaign was the first in which I actively made campaign calls in key states across the country and donated to a campaign. It wasn’t much, but I like to think it did some good.

I also became involved in Twitter campaigns, “secret” Facebook groups, and blogging for a cause. Again, small potatoes compared to what others do, but I appreciated the people I got to know and how very much I learned about policies, ideology, voting issues, and the candidates themselves.

I think the safety-pin thing trending all over the place is a good start, but this kind of symbolic gesture without any real action behind it seems a little glib. And a wee bit condescending. A safety-pin alone isn’t going to do much to help people who are scared of what a Trump presidency may mean for them. To paraphrase my online friend, blogger, and artist extraordinaire, A’driane Nieves, black and brown people (or anyone on the margins of society) don’t want or need to be saved by white people – we just need you to dismantle the oppressive system you created.

No saviors needed. Just warriors side by side.

********************

One final thought – the Saturday Night Live sketch this weekend about white people finally realizing this country is racist, when black and brown folks have been telling us this all along was brilliant. As I was posting my feelings of heartbreak and disappointment all over social media in the hours and days after the election, a dear friend of mine commented on one of my posts and actually offered me words of encouragement and comfort. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. My friend is a beautiful black woman. We’ve known her and her husband for more than 20 years. As I was ranting about how disgusted I was that we just elected a racist to the highest office in the land, she comforted me.

She.       Comforted.       Me.

I was surprised by the election. She wasn’t. In fact, she said she was sad and disappointed – but not surprised. Why? Because this has always been her reality.

We can do better than this, America. Here are some practical things – some action items – that we can all do to make our voices heard whether it’s about the Bannon appointment or any other questionable policy. We can reach out to our Senators and implore them to hold this president-elect accountable. TIP: I read that phone calls work better than traditional letters or email when it comes to reaching out to members of Congress!

And so I’m rolling up my sleeves. In my little corner of the world, whether it ruffles feathers or pisses people off. I’m not concerned with being good. I’m focused on being kind. Fiercely kind. Because I sincerely believe standing up for what’s right, really listening when people say they’re hurting and frightened, and standing up for and beside others both literally and figuratively is the kindest thing we can do.

Standing up for what’s right isn’t always pretty but it can always be kind.

Kind

Pantsuits Are Intimidating

14962706_938600109579614_5226886694669994924_nAs I was talking to my daughters today about the significance of voting for a woman for President for the first time in the history of this country, a story floated back to the forefront of my mind. I’d nearly forgotten about it.

Back when I was a wee young professional trying to climb the ranks of the Disney company in Florida, I interviewed for a job at the prestigious Disney University. Back then, it was the home to seminars and corporate training for clients worldwide who wanted to emulate the Disney service standards. I was a Disney trainer, a leader, and a VIP tour guide. I spoke French semi-fluently and I met all of the requirements for the job.

I was nervous. Back then, there was no Internet or even an InTRAnet so finding out about jobs meant you relied on other people or on the “Eyes and Ears” newsletter, which was circulated to the 40,000+ cast members with our paychecks every Thursday. I forget exactly how I learned of the position, but I remember my “lead” (assistant front-line supervisor) encouraging me to apply. He knew I was a decent speaker and I had held my own as a lead in Guest Relations.

I reviewed the qualifications, prepared my resume, and hand-delivered it to the Disney University offices. This would be a great opportunity to move to a coveted leadership role backstage. I was ready for this next step in my professional career.

Since I was an “onstage” cast member, I wore a costume every day. Are you ready for this haute couture ensemble?

I wore a beige wrap-around skirt (which was super see-through and thus required nude hose and nude underwear) and matching boring beige button down blouse (short or long-sleeved! – also see-through….so a nude bra), with a red plaid vest (SEXY), a navy blue tie BOW TIE, and matching navy blazer (like what the rental car companies wear) was my uniform du jour. In fact, it was my uniform every ‘du jour.’

The point, is I had no professional clothes in my closet. So off to Orlando Fashion Square Mall I trotted. Little did I know, about a decade later I would be the Marketing Director at said mall…but I’m jumping ahead.

I perused the racks at Burdines, passing lovely dresses and skirt suits. Nothing was jumping out at me. I wanted something that said ‘confident’ and ‘please give me the job.’ Then I landed on a navy and white pin-striped pantsuit.

(There’s a pretty funny side story about this exact same pant suit. Give me a minute.)

Anywho – I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It had a pre-sewn white dickie attached to the jacket, which buttoned into a sleek, flattering v-neck. It also gathered slightly at the waist, which I loved. The pants fit perfectly as well. I was in the petite section so hooray for no hems needed! I bought some matching navy shoes – pumps – and tried the whole thing on.

I felt sure of myself. Confident. Ready for the interview.

And then I was sitting in the conference room being interviewed by a panel of Disney leaders. They asked me the typical questions and then one person – a woman, if you can believe it – asked me this question. “Why did you choose to wear a pantsuit to the interview today?”

I froze. What did she just ask me? I had all my notes committed to memory. My qualifications, my desires for this job, my references. What the hell did my outfit have to do with my qualifications and ability to do this job?

I blinked my eyes a few times to try to process the question and formulate a semi-coherent answer. I muttered something about being comfortable in a professional pantsuit because it would enable me to get on and off the tour buses with greater ease than a dress or skirt (the job required hosting bus tours, among other things). But the whole conversation felt … weird.

Why was this relevant? Was wearing a pantsuit such an abomination?

So, believe it or not – with a smile on my face – I asked them. They sort of brushed it off and said that the women on their team wore dresses and the men wore suits and that’s sort of the way they’ve always done it.

And I didn’t get the job.

Sitting here watching the election returns (and chewing off every available nail I have), I just watched ABC news run a clip of an interview with a Trump voter. They asked him a question about what he thought of a possible Clinton presidency. His response? “A woman doesn’t have what it takes to be president.”

And there it is.

I remain hopeful as these returns slowly come in. But I’m worried. The sexism, racism, xenophobia, hatred, and fear we’ve seen and heard these last several months have unleashed a fury of rage that’s been almost too much to bear. And the fact that this race is currently as close as it is, is a stunning indictment on the state of our society.

It is sad that we still aren’t able to see people for what’s in their hearts instead of what’s in their pants.

I so desperately want to be able to say Madam President, tomorrow. I will keep believing, because I’m with her. Pantsuits and all.

It’s Not Racism If I Say It Isn’t, Right?

My mother likes to tell the story of how, when I was a little girl, I would cover my eyes and playfully giggle, “You can’t see me!”

Logic wasn’t my strong suit back then.

But really, I was not unlike every other kid who thinks the whole world revolves around them.

In fact, I remember riding in our car at seven or eight years old singing along with the radio only to have it turned off once we’d arrived at our destination. I couldn’t understand why, when we got back in the car a few hours later, the song didn’t pick right up where it had left off? Center of the world, alright.

That’s fine for kids. Life orbits around the child, at least in their eyes. And it should. But eventually we grow up, our perception shifts, our perspective adjusts, and we realize our place in the world is no more or less significant than any other.

And yet …

There are people who still think the world revolves around them.

One home in our neighborhood hosts a haunted house in their garage each year. The teenaged boy who lives there works hard to make it as creepy and scary as possible. And based on my then four year-old’s reaction to it last year – he does a bang up job. Side note: nightmares at 3am are no fun.

But this year there was something different. Hanging from the tree in their front yard was a noose. I’m going to give them the teeniest bit of leeway here and suggest that he (and his parents) didn’t know how incredibly offensive this symbol is (read: lynching). I will also give him the benefit of the doubt that his intentions were purely fright-filled and of a Halloween nature rather than a ‘let’s hang ’em from the nearest tree’ nature. So when one of our neighbors (an African-American woman) voiced her concern about the noose on our neighborhood blog, I figured the situation would be remedied. I should note that her post was way more polite and gracious than mine would have been.

I am embarrassed and deeply disappointed to tell you that her comments weren’t met with compassion and understanding. On the contrary. To my astonishment, others on the community board came to the homeowner’s defense citing the historical nature of the hangman’s knot and its presence in society long before it was ever associated with lynching.

Other comments implied that people should just lighten up and give the teenager credit for his decorating ingenuity.
Like this one: relax it’s just a Halloween decoration.
Or this: if one decoration can be considered racist, then any decoration can be considered racist.
This one: we should just ban saltine crackers because they’re racist.
Or, my personal favorite – all this political correctness is getting out of hand.

Any guesses to the skin color of these commenters? Small hint. It rhymes with shwhite.

There were no sincere apologies from the homeowner, either. Just round-a-bout statements about how ‘we’re sorry if this offended anyone, but –.’ Real apologies offer empathy and sincerity. They aren’t followed by the word “but.”

I waited until the fifth or sixth comment before sharing my thoughts on the post.

How is it possible that in 2016 nooses are still a thing? How is it possible that racism is alive and well not just on TV and online but in the neighborhood where I live? How is it possible that people still hold beliefs of superiority? How is it possible that people cover their eyes (and their hearts and minds) and think the world can’t see them? How is it possible that so many people still believe the world revolves entirely around them?

When I was in my 20s I had opinions, but I kept them mostly to myself. Oh I was vocal when I needed to be, but by and large, I was all head down, focused on work and school, and trying not to make waves. My 30s were kind of a blur as they were the early years of my parenting motherhood. But man. Something clicked in my 40s. There are memes all over the inter webs about this but dang if it isn’t true – turns out in my forties I have zero fucks left to give. They’re all gone.

You know how the terrorism thing is if you see something, say something? Well, I’ve adopted that mindset and will be saying something when I see injustice. When I see something that is wrong and hurtful. When I see behavior and actions that divide us instead of lift us up. I’m not perfect and I can be the most passive aggressive person in person and online, but I will not stand by and let stupid people (and let’s face it – that’s what they are) ruin this world, this country, and my neighborhood.

Ignorant is when you simply don’t know.

Stupid, is when you know – but you choose to do the wrong thing anyway.

I don’t believe these people didn’t know, despite my willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Covering your eyes and saying “I’m not racist!” is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

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