Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adopting Across Seas And Races: Is it Ok? (Part I)

Disclaimer: I am not a parent nor am I adopted. I simply am writing based on my experiences with adopted adults and children, my brief experiences overseas, and my background in youth development. Also, I’m smart. So there.

About three months before I graduated from college, word on campus spread that the commencement speaker would be America’s Favorite Giver Away of Things, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Interestingly enough, the response from my peers was mixed. Many were excited, others were nonplussed, and some were even angered. “How dare that woman who doesn’t give back to her own people speak at our graduation? I’ve never liked that ole mammy looking woman.”

Then, as usual, the discussion arose around Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls, a school she opened in South Africa. People complained that she should have opened a school in the U.S. and helped people here versus traveling so far. I have to admit, I was a little curious as to why you’d literally travel ACROSS needy children to find OTHER needy children you’d like to help. And then, in March 2011 when I visited Liberia, I got it.

The majority of my career and volunteer experiences has been grounded in youth development, particularly for “needy” children across the US. I’ve seen kids who couldn’t participate in after school programs because they had to go “work” (read: be corner boys a la The Wire), and students wearing thin, short sleeved shirts in 40 degree weather. I know that there are real almost “third-world” (I HATE that word) conditions in America. And yet… there’s a glimmer of hope for every single one of those kids. Every child I’ve ever encountered in America has access to at least one library, whether it was a locally funded one, their school’s, or one provided by a local Boys & Girls Club. We can talk about all the obstacles that make it difficult for that child to visit a library or even read a book, but that doesn’t change the fact that the access is there. While it’s seemingly small to many, access to libraries is one of several American privileges that cracks open the window of opportunity for the underprivileged.

Last spring, I traveled with my church to Liberia to work in their schools. Honestly though, my brothers and sisters there taught me more than I was able to give them. One of the things that really stuck out for me though: Liberia does not have a single federal or locally supported library. There is not one government-funded building where you can use the Dewey system or look up your favorite Goosebumps title. The few libraries there are privately owned and can only be accessed if you are especially privileged or lucky. (Read: Ballin’ so hard the police wants to fine you.)

Immediately, Oprah’s passion in South Africa clicked for me. The type of need in developing countries like Liberia, Indonesia, Sudan (both of them jawns), is in an entirely different stratosphere than that of American kids. As bad as kids in SE DC have it, I promise you… somebody somewhere else has it worse. My life’s work is evidence that my focus is on American kids, however, I recognize why someone would feel compelled to invest their dollars and love overseas. A Peace Corps member once provided the following analogy: “The odds of a kid making it out of the ‘hood in America are like the odds of winning the lottery. But Botswana ain’t even got no Powerball.”

Are there challenges? Well of course. Parenting, particularly adopting children inherently has its own challenges; adding a new culture only further complicates things. You’ve got concerns about preserving that child’s identity, how to instill them with pride in their own country/region, the immense paperwork, and a myriad of other things. But I’m willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of kids whose parents met those challenges head on appreciate that multifaceted investment. And in the end, isn’t that what matters? Finding a home for a child who needs one?

I know many folks have issues with celebs like Sandra Bullock and Brangelina’s presumably fad-like international brood of children. Folks question their motive and wonder if there just doing it because it’s a trendy thing to do. I don’t know them, so I can’t speak on their behalf. I will say this though:

If the adopting parent(s) have a sincere desire to do what’s best for a child that hails from a different country than their own, the positives derived from providing said child a home significantly outweigh the challenges associated with doing so.

Give me your opinions, dissenting or not: I’d love to hear them. Part II will discuss interracial adopting, particularly White parents adopting non-White kids.

Also if you’re looking for an opportunity to have an amazing time while ensuring that an American (DC) kid has a great Christmas, please come out tomorrow:

Karaoke for a Cause
 Liv NightClub | 11th & U Street NW
(above Tap & Parlor)
 Thursday, Dec 15th, 2011 |6 – 10 PM
Bring a toy or $20 for a food basket at the Southeast White House
If you can’t attend, you can still donate: Donate to Karaoke for a Cause!
You can also RSVP here: RSVP to Karaoke for a Cause
I can't wait to see you there! Feel free to email any song requests! lol!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is College for Everyone?

Disclaimer: I don't think college is for everyone. However, I do think people overuse the "college isn't for everyone" mantra. This post expounds more.

I don’t ever remember thinking “What will I do after high school?” As early as I can remember, it was inevitable that I was going to a four year university or college afterwards. All that was left to figure out was which one would it be and who was going to ante up the funds. Considering that neither of my parents graduated from college (they opted for the military) - it’s actually pretty impressive that college attendance was so ingrained in me.

Now that I’ve been out of college for a few years, I wonder if I would have chosen to go to if the decision hadn’t been made for me. I’d like to think the answer is yes, primarily because college was one of the greatest experiences of my life (in and out of the classroom). You may be thinking, “Well it worked out for you, smarty pants, but what about people who weren’t meant to go to college? College isn’t for everyone.” I can agree that college isn’t a purse full of rainbows and Hello Kitty smiles for everyone. Nevertheless, I think this College Isn’t For Everyone (CIFE) theory is overstated, and I’m here to refute 3 pillars that the CIFE argument stands on.

  • “I hate the classroom setting; I learn better when I’m actually practicing my craft/talent/passion.” So lectures/taking notes/taking tests/etc  isn’t your cup of tea. You prefer to make pottery, rap over beats, portray Othello, etc. Duh, everyone prefers that. However, taking some time to really sit down and study something gives you the opportunity to learn from people’s mistakes without having to make them yourself. You aren’t the first person who wanted to paint for a living. Why not learn the history and nuances of your field alongside future colleagues versus out on the streets? If you’re going to be stuck eating Cup O Noodles anyway, why not at least be learning at the same time?

  • “College is for people that know what they want to do. I’m not sure yet and want to try out some other stuff first.” Most people enter college at the age of seventeen or eighteen. Very few people know exactly what they want to do and even fewer end up doing what they set out to do. I know many prospective doctors/lawyers/teachers turned IT analysts/marketing consultants/fundraisers. Does this mean it was a lost cause? No! The great thing about college is that it gives you four years to be in a setting where your job is to learn not only about your chosen major, but also to learn about yourself! In college, you learn what you don’t like, what the competition is like in your field, and about more careers that you may have never considered prior to.

    Two great schools. :)
  • “I don’t want to waste money paying for a degree I probably won’t even use.” This might be the easiest argument to defeat. College is more than 4 years spent studying communications or liberal arts. It’s an opportunity to meet people from different walks of life. It’s an opportunity to network with folks who may end up being your future bridesmaids or physician or psychologist. It’s one of the few places for adults where your job is to learn. Eventually, most of us will have to get a formal full-time job. So why start earlier than you have to? I went to school for psychology and theater. I didn’t end up becoming a psychologist or an actress, both career goals I thought I wanted when I enrolled at Howard U. But I use my degree every day. When talking to potential funders or angry parents, I’m using my acting and psychology skills. When volunteering with kids, or attempting to understand how I can best market to folks, I’m using my psychology degree. An infamous requirement to graduate from the College of Arts & Sciences is the swimming course. And yep, I’ve certainly used that skill. Most of the jobs I’m interested don’t care about the specifics of my college degree; they just care that I got one. While it’s not necessarily fair, a college degree in just about anything says a lot to a potential employer. It says that you dedicated four (or five) years to your education and that you’re invested in your future. Even for folks that want to be an auto mechanic or cosmetologist, college has a business class for you. Maybe eventually, you’ll want to own your own body shop or salon. Maybe you’ll create a hair product that you’ve fine-tuned over the years and you need some marketing classes to show you how to get it out there. College has a little something for everyone.

In closing, the biggest problem I have with this argument is the following:
  • It typically comes from people with hindsight vision: those who have already attended college. It’s easy to say that college was a waste of time if you got the chance to experience it. It’s not fair though to decide for someone else that it would be. It’s almost like you’re stunting their potential.
  • My other issue is… the CIFE theory is probably most harmful to minority males, who already don’t seem to be sold on the idea of pursuing a higher education. Despite the well-known fact that college graduates earn on average, a million more over their lifetime than high school graduates, only 10% of Latino males have earned their bachelor’s degree and less than 3% of students at large public universities are Black men. I’m not sure that the minority community is in a position to act as if “too many of us are unnecessarily going to college all willy nilly.”
The stories of people who don’t attend college and go on to be lucratively successful are few and far between. Attending college is simply a smarter gamble. I’m not suggesting that you’re a failure if you don’t attend. Nevertheless, the CIFE is an overstated and somewhat dangerous argument to toss out there. Consider what I’ve suggested before you decide it’s a lost cause. Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Feel free to read these articles for Even More Words:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grocery Shopping for Scriptures

One of the things I’d miss if I traveled several decades back would be grocery stores. If you live in a suburb like myself, or even a newly gentrified neighborhood, you have access to fresh produce  flown from orchards in Florida and California, more spaghetti sauce brands than you’d ever thought imaginable and the whole gamut of paper towel options (thick and soft or rough but economically priced!)

Prior to the massive grocery stores with bright, welcoming aisles, most people had access to what was immediately available like Neighbor Jones’ potatoes, and Sister Smith’s homemade solution for warts. It was pretty much an all or nothing deal. Either you got the sugar made in your backyard or you just didn’t get anything.

Our society has been spoiled. Just the way we pick some brands of peanut butter (Choosy moms choose JIF!) and leave others on the shelf, we often choose to do the same with our morality. Specifically, I’m speaking of the so-called Moral Majority, who quote scripture to justify legislation or ideals, but ignore other scriptures when it doesn’t fit their agenda. The notorious example is capital punishment and abortion. The “religious right” argues for the protection of life citing that it’s a “gift from God”, yet most fail to be concerned about this protection of life when discussing capital punishment. One of the best arguments I’ve ever heard in opposition to capital punishment was a Christian one. A dear friend of mine said, “At every opportunity that Christ had to legally exact capital punishment on a sinner, He chose mercy. Who are we to choose death?”

Another inconsistency is on the issue of appropriate sexual behavior; for the moral majority only some of the scriptures seem to be put into the grocery basket of political ideals. Many opponents to gay marriage weakly claim they are opposed to the redefinition of “Biblical marriage.” According to these folks, marriage is a religious institution, Biblically defined as between a man and a woman. But we know the truth. Gay marriage opponents are really against homosexuality, which the Bible does decree as sinful (here, here, and several other places.) However these folks are grocery store shopping again. In the same book, often right before or after the verses on homosexuality, there are passages that extol the impiety of premarital sex, adultery, and sometimes even divorce. (Examples here and here.) Jesus himself stated in Luke 16, “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” Has anyone put forth an amendment to the definition of marriage that includes making heterosexual remarriages illegal? Of course not; that’s not the brand of sin that politicians care about. Just the ones that make people afraid their sons will like other boys.

*For the record, I don’t support creating any laws governing sexuality, largely because I think that’s none of the government’s business. Furthermore, with so many varying beliefs about what’s morally or ethically acceptable when it comes to sexuality, I’m not sure the government should be in the business of making bedroom decisions for such a diverse group of people as Americans.

I’m all about consistency. This doesn’t mean I think in black and white; but it does mean that I don’t think truths, moralities, values, ethics, etc can be called upon when convenient to your existence, political policies or practices. While I’m a liberal, I believe that both the Democratic and the Republican party are full of inconsistencies. I’m all about meaning what you say and saying what you mean.  

How do you feel about the “Moral Majority” and our overall society? Do we shop for scriptures as we see fit? Thoughts?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Birth of a Nation

Yesterday afternoon (July 3rd) I attended a birthday party. There were several friends in attendance, clad in red, white and blue, and a table was heaped with delicious food. Instead of attempting to buy hundreds of candles, the party planner decided to purchase a “2” a “3” and a”5” in honor of the birthday girl’s special day.

As the attendees sang Happy Birthday to America (not the Stevie version, I regretfully inform you), they followed up by chanting USA, and dug into a steaming hot apple pie.  I watched with amusement and a bit of melancholy envy because I’ve known the birthday girl, America, my entire life but oddly enough I’ve never celebrated her birthday with such fervor.

Let me be clear. I am an American and very proud of it. I have always recognized the 4th of July with some type of celebration whether it be fireworks or a cookout; who can really complain about a holiday that is a guaranteed day off?

Unfortunately, when I reflect on our “Independence Day” from Britain, the Liberty Bell seems to ring a little off key for me. Yes, it is true that on or around July 4, 1776, the United States did move to declare her independence from Great Britain. But how did our “independence” from Britain change the lives of Black Americans? Was their freedom in any way secured? Did they toss aside the chains of slavery and march forward to citizenship? We all know the answer to the preceding questions are “not really”; “no”; and “no” respectively.

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence states “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

We’ve heard this line so many times that it almost seems rote. But read them again. You’d think it was a line from an abolitionist’s speech. When I hear “all men are endowed with the right to liberty,” my bosom doesn’t swell with pride in my country’s Founding Fathers. I’m filled with disbelief, disgust and pain. How could you pen those words and continue to support a system of slavery? How could Congress approve that declaration and not also approve the end of horrible crimes to humanity?

I know what some of you are thinking:

  1. Slavery is over; get over it already. I’m not going to get into a long drawn out dissertation about how the descendants of slaves and slave owners continue to reap burdens and benefits respectively, because that makes people defensive. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the day we are expected to look back on with moist eyes makes my wrists ache with the inherited memory of slavery.

  1. Why can’t you feel good about celebrating your own country’s birthday? Yes, America was born that day. Unfortunately, the America born that day was not created with my interests in mind. No kind thought or consideration was made about me and my family’s wish to have life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. My ancestors and their children were considered less than men, not even actual people. What else can you derive from the statement that “all men are created equal” when people of African decent are not considered a part of this group?

  1. Blacks weren’t the only group without rights. Only white men that owned land were even able to vote. Why take it so personal? You don’t see white women complaining. Well this criticism is easy to deflect. Lots of other groups were (and continue to be) marginalized. But Blacks and Native Americans -those who didn’t die of disease or run off- didn’t even have the right to life sans shackles. Marginalization >>> shackles.

I’m going to say it again because I’m sure many of you don’t believe me. I’m proud to be an American. I’m glad we’re not a group of colonies. I love living here and wouldn’t want to live any place else. Everyone, self included, reaps the benefits of being free of rule from the British. However, a holiday entitled Independence Day is quite misleading, all things considered. Independence was selective; freedom in the US from the Brits, slavery to the US for others. The so-called American dream was recognized for a good chunk of Americans that day in Philadelphia. A celebration is indeed in order. But a good deal of reflection on how America can ensure that the ideals represented in that Declaration are represented in our country today is much more productive, and in my opinion, more patriotic.

Happy Fourth. Enjoy the birth of a nation. Just don’t call it Independence Day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We're Off to See the Wizard!

I have some sad news for you all. Our President of the United States, Barack Obama is not…

A wizard. He’s also not a magician. He has no access to a magic wand that will reduce gas prices, give you a job, lower the deficit, or make your girlfriend come back to you. Sure, the POTUS is by far the single most powerful man in the country, and arguably the free world. However, our Constitution is written in a way that creates checks and balances between the 3 branches of our government. In case your civics teacher was high on crystal meth: there’s the executive branch (the Prez), the judicial branch, and the legislative branch (Congress). (Ex. “Obamacare” was passed by Congress, and then signed into existence by the POTUS).

Maybe the confusion about Obama’s mystical powers stems from the messaging of his 2008 campaign. President Obama successfully won enough of the electorate with a message of change and hope. Nevertheless, during his acceptance speech that brisk November 4th night, BHO stated:
“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem.”

Maybe you didn’t hear that because you were in the streets giving fist bumps to strangers and screaming at the top of your lungs. I recall that night vividly; I was at The Park at 14th and a close friend of mine was vacillating between moments of disbelief, excitement, elation, and tearful reminiscing on those who missed the historic moment. So I’ll grant you all a pass on missing that speech.

But what about common sense? Why do people think Obama can be any and all things to everyone? I attended a town hall on the economy with Obama about a month ago and the questions lobbed at him were unbelievable.
1. What are you going to do about the gas prices, Mr. President? 
2. Mr. President, I work for the National Zoo, and they told me I’d be laid off in July. What would you do if you were me?

    There’s a reason I will never be president. My response to the zoo lady would have been: “I don’t know... update my resume?! Look for another job?!”

    Shameless promotion
    Through a good old Howard hookup, I also had the pleasure of attending a Town Hall on the Economy with Republican-elected officials this week. The message from the leaders on the right is clear: Obama has failed (horribly) at everything.

    A friend of mine, who voted for Obama in ’08 and considers himself middle of the road, told me emphatically, “Obama has done nothing for the economy. Nothing.”

    I can think of a few folks that would disagree.

    I believe we should hold all elected officials responsible for their actions, good and bad. As my friend Trae would say, we elect them to represent the will of the American people. It makes sense to criticize policies, ideas and ideologies. It does not make sense to criticize someone for not achieving the impossible.

    At some point, we have to acknowledge that change is not embodied in one man, and it certainly doesn’t happen solely in one term, especially when you’re handed a filthy diaper of a country and expected to turn it into a glistening Thanksgiving meal. (That made no sense, but neither do folks’ expectations of Obama). We've got a better chance of getting a miracle from a Washington Wizard, John Wall. (I mean have you seen his stats??!)

    Your thoughts?

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Are We Each Our Own Dictionary?

    In the past few weeks, I've had heated debates about words that many deem offensive ranging from the N Word to female (versus woman). One argument that continues to rear it's illogical head is, "Words only have the power that you give them." For example, in Decoded, when speaking about "nigger", Jay-Z says,
    To me, it's just a word, a word whose power is owned by the user and his or her intention.

    The problem is, that's not how language and words work. Despite E-40's relentless efforts, words don't have the meanings and/or power that we personally assign them. Words come with way more baggage than Badu could have ever predicted. The "I give words power" argument gives people license to use words to mean whatever they would like, in whatever fashion they'd like with no consideration to their actual meaning, alleged power, and propensity to offend and harm others. Furthermore, it renders dictionaries, history, societal trends, socialization, denotations, connotations, and other contributing factors invalid.

    A variant of this argument that also comes from "This Sounds Good But Doesn't Make Any Sense Land", is "Words can only offend you if you allow them to."

    Last I checked, the majority of folks don't enjoy or seek out opportunities to be offended; it just happens.You can tell someone that you mean "nigga" as a term of endearment akin to brother, but it won't matter to my grandparents, because their history of the word is as a term of castigation. So this adult version of "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is nonsense. Everyone's received a text message, an email, or piece of mail from Sallie Mae that has personally hurt their feelings. You probably weren't choosing to be offended, it just happened because of the nature of the words and/or the message.

    Sometimes, I WISH that these arguments were true. I wish I could decide that, and I'm quoting a friend, "fornication really means eating mayonnaise sandwiches on Tuesdays at 11:35 AM." The words only have power argument has potential to be the greatest loophole of all time!

    So why do people default to this "Words... Power... Blah Blah" Argument?
    1. We're creatures of habit. And if you've grown up saying something your whole life, who feels like changing?

    2. No one likes being told that what they say (or do) could possibly be offensive; it comes off as a personal attack. They'd rather default to, "How dare you be offended! Stop feeling offended!"

    3. You meant the term in an offensive way and now you're backpedaling.

    4. You heard someone else use the Words/Power line, so you think it's legit. But nah. Saying something over and over (Like "Here Here! The Rapture is May 21st!") doesn't make it true.

    Rule of Thumb
    My friend Katie, who of course is a doctoral student in psychology said it best,
    If someone tells you the use of a word offends them, why argue with them? Either continue to use it and offend them or consider the variety and diversity of people's experiences and listen, learn and adjust.
    If your words are offensive to others, unless they're a paranoid anti-ism-ist on every topic, it's probably a legitimate concern. Ask questions and try to act accordingly. I explained to a few friends why I preferred slim to skinny and my pal, David, said, "That's a great point. I get that." That's all it takes. Talking. Not this bee ess argument surrounding words and adjusting power levels and what not.

    Thoughts? Submit them via Facebook or IntenseDebate below. The carpet is yours.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Dining Out Etiquette That You May Not Already Know

    The average person would probably tell you that they know proper protocol for dining out. Tip 18%, no elbows on the table, napkin in your lap, and you're all set right? That's a great start. However, as a former host and server, I can tell you... you think you know, but you have no idea. (Well maybe you do, in which case, just nod along as you continue to read.) The following are a few tips that make the dining experience more pleasurable for you, and for the staff (which in turn... again, makes it more pleasurable for you.)

    1. Make a reservation. An inside scoop: Hosts, managers, servers, and even the kitchen staff place restaurant guests into one of three categories:
    a. Walk-ins - These are the folks that usually make up the majority of the business and their numbers/disposition are wildly unpredictable.
    b. Regulars - They come in all the time and get treated like family (not exactly like a guest because there's no need to impress, but with love because the staff knows them well.)
    c. Reservations - These are potentially important folks who plan ahead. Guests who make a reservation typically want and deserve a premier dining experience, and the staff expects their arrival and is prepared for it. The best seats are saved for them, the chef and/or manager may visit your table, and special accommodations are more likely to be honored. So even if it's a Monday night, and the forecast calls for rain, if the restaurants accepts them, make a reservation!

    2. Order what the restaurant knows how to make. This may sound odd (they should know how to make everything on the menu right?), but listen carefully. Legal Sea Foods is a successful chain of 30 restaurants, not because of their steak or grilled chicken... but because of their seafood! I recommend visiting Yelp or Open Table for reviews and looking for repeated mentions of a food item. Choose wisely!

    3. A restaurant is not a lounge. (Unless it's The Park.) Why do I mention this? Because I've seen parties of 15 hang out for over 3 hours in a restaurant as they debate Starbucks vs Caribou Coffee while a line of guests waits in the lobby. I understand that folks are having a good time and I'm all about having a word or three with friends, however, you need to understand... that every minute you sit there, the servers are losing money and other guests are hungry. You may say, "That's not my problem", but I guarantee that you've been out and being extremely disheartened as the host tells you the wait is over an hour. Help prevent long waits! Eat, chat briefly, then roll. Plus, if you've just eaten a hearty meal, you can burn some of the calories by walking and talking.

    4. Speaking of large parties, large groups get a special set of rules:
    a. Either bring cash (a generous amount to cover your food, tax, and gratuity) or prepare to evenly split the check. (Your best bet is to have one credit card cover the check and everyone give that individual cash, but that takes faith.)
    b. If you are a party of 12, then arrive as a party of 12, (not 6, then 1, then 3, 2.) Carpool, coordinate watches, put it on your Outlook calendar... whatever it takes to make it so that everyone is seated simultaneously and eats together. Not only will the restaurant appreciate it, your fellow guests will.

    5. Let the hosts and hostesses do their job. They have a reason for placing you in the seat they designated. They know the layout of the restaurant, they are aware that your favorite booth is opening up soon, and they know what seats will fit you and your guests. They know if they sit you in that cozy spot you love, you'll get horrible service because that server already has 7 tables, while another one is bored to tears. In short, they see the big picture, and you don't. One of my biggest pet peeves when hosting was when people would come in, look around, point at a table and tell me where they were going to sit. Unless the host places you in the center of the kitchen, or you have some type of legitimate concern (hearing problems, poor circulation, claustrophobia, et al), then sit there and enjoy your food. If you're at a decent restaurant, they won't really have "bad seats." (Also, another way to get to sit where you want is to follow rule #1 and make a special request!)

    6. Please don't snap, prod, touch, or yell at your server. Server and servant are not synonymous. It's rude and isn't the smartest way to treat people who handle your food.

    7. Minimize your impact. There's a time and place for your Dougie (Wolf Blitzer House Party), your child's screams (Space Mountain, Disney Land), and your lax cleaning standards (Survivor Season 24). But it's not a restaurant. The restaurant is there to make an impression on you; you are not there to make an impression on them. Behave accordingly.

    Bon appetit!
    That was easy enough right? Do you have any words of advice or suggestions for restaurant attendees? Share the knowledge.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Why I Probably Won't Spank My Kids

    Last Sunday, the pastor at my church delivered a great Mother's Day sermon. He opened with a familiar theme: mothers whooping their kids. Both of my parents spanked/whooped me growing up, so like the majority of the congregation, I laughed in agreement with mixed feelings of nostalgia and relief (no more whoopings!)

    But then I started thinking about it, "Am I going to spank my kids?" Probably not. Before I go any further, I'd like to issue the following disclaimer: as a childless woman, I'm no expert in rearing children. I'm armed only with my experiences, a bachelor's degree in psychology (like 93.2% of the women on the planet), and my musings on discipline.

    I'll probably do some slaps on the bottom, particularly when my kids are really young and a diplomatic conversation isn't an option, but generally speaking, I don't see spankings and whoopings into the teenage years as a good idea, and here's why:

    1. It's not creative. It's the easy way out, not the best way. How much thought does it take to wallop a kid around who's half your size for a few minutes? None, really. Disciplining children and inflicting violence... two things that you really should think about before you engage. Usually when a kid acts out in the grocery store and the parent reaches from deep within her spirit to smack him into common sense, it doesn't seem that a lot of thought went into it. Which leads me to the next one...

    2. Discipline isn't a one size fits all practice. That kid in the grocery store will probably (but not definitely) act right for the remainder of the trip up and down the aisles of Harris Teeter, but once the sting of the pain fades, are you sure that smack is going to prevent him from throwing a Skittles inspired temper tantrum again? I doubt it. For every kid, (and every person) there are different incentives/tactics that work best. Some kids respond to:
    a. taking away privileges (no more Internet/Gameboy/dessert)
    b. adding new unwanted responsibilities (guess who's taking out the trash for the rest of May?! you Johnny!)
    c. straightforward diplomacy (seriously, Johnny, running in the street will get you squashed like a ladybug. Don't do that.)
    d. the guilt trip (my Mom was a beast at this! "Crystal, tell me what I'm doing wrong... do I not love you enough? Am I not giving you enough attention? How can I be a better mom so you can stop doing xyz")

    3. It eliminates an opportunity to teach important critical thinking skills and/or life lessons.
    When my dad used to spank me, he'd give me these long speeches beforehand explaining, "I really wish I didn't have to do this. You know what you did was wrong right? You know why? I just want what's best for you and blah blah blah." You know why I remember it as blah blah blah? Because I was too busy shaking in my Light Up LA gears to really hear or consider anything he said. I nodded and shook my head at the appropriate moments, not because what I got what was he saying, but I thought maybe it could be a last ditch effort to escape my ultimate fate. I learned NOTHING in those speeches... except how to empathize with folks being walked to the gallows.

    Sometimes, you'd be surprised by how smart children are. Teach them how to be adults and how to think keenly and logically by giving them opportunities to really see the cost and benefits of their behavior. If you're punishing them for legitimate reasons and hope to encourage good behavior, it should be easy to explain said costs and benefits.

    One of my friends told me that his father once taught him why chewing tobacco was a bad idea by giving him some to chew. I can assure you that lesson stuck with him better than a spanking would have. To this day, that friend has one of the brightest, tobacco-free smiles I've ever seen.

    So You're Still Not Convinced?
    People that support spanking their kids usually say the following when defending why they do it:
    1. My parents spanked me and look how awesome I am! Research shows that it works just as often as it doesn't. There are lawyers, felons, teachers, murderers, entertainers, and scam artists that have all been spanked. You can't say it works 100% of the time. (See here and here) for more data.
    2. The Bible says "spare the rod and spoil the child." This oft quoted Proverb is used to explain why people discipline their kids. Proverbs are there to provide good practice or advice about what we should do, and were written according to the current cultural trend. For example, in Proverbs 31, the Bible says this about a good wife:
    "She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard; She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes."
    Anybody know any women buying fields and selling linen garments? What the proverb means is a good wife makes smart fiscal decisions and provides for her household. (This could mean she cooks the meals, pays the bills, etc) Similarly, the spare the rod, spoil the child adage means if you fail to discipline your child (and in their setting, the rod was the appropriate way to do so), then you will spoil your child. I wholeheartedly agree! I'm not sure the rod itself is necessary though.

    Louis CK, a favorite comedian of mine says, "Kids are the only people in the world that you're allowed to hit...They're the most vulnerable, and the most destroyed by being hit; but it's totally ok to hit them. If you hit a dog, [you'll} go to jail; you can't hit an [adult] unless you can prove they were trying to kill you! But a little tiny person... who trusts you implicitly, %$# em. Let's all hit them."

    Like I said, a few well placed swats to a toddler are probably appropriate when you don't have a cattle prod. But alternative forms of punishment versus spanking/whooping your kids should be given some serious thought.

    Do you plan to (or do you currently) spank your kids? Why or why not?

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Country First: A Myth of Epic Proportions

    So last night (Editor's Note: May 1st, 2011) as we all know, Obama announced that "by his direction", the Navy Seals captured and killed Osama Bin Laden. I watched the news unfold via Twitter and CNN. From my home, a few miles from the White House, I watched coverage of the world's reaction. Most of the comments made were jocular and celebratory, but they all seemed to give credit to our President and his administration. (Remember when Bush did the whole Mission Accomplished joint?) And that's how things go... when bad things happen in the country, we blame the President. When good things happen... we blame the President.

    Except, not really. Almost immediately after CNN's John King announced that Osama Bin Laden was dead, a conservative friend of mine tweeted (and facebooked), "I wish George W. Bush was delivering this speech tonight."

    Sigh... if we're really country first, does it really matter which president delivered it?? But since it does matter, why won't you give credit where it's due?!?!? This conservative friend then went on to thank our U.S. troops, quote Bush, and drive to the White House in celebration (which is in direct conflict with Proverbs 24:17: Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble). She continued to profess her elation about Bin Laden's death and still.... no mention of our President, the Commander in Chief. Really?!?!' She and her fellow celebrators probably woke up Sasha and Malia with their shouts and flag waving (where did those flags come from?!!?), but not a single mention of Obama. It seems that no matter what he does, Obama can do no right, and for some people, the right can do no wrong.

    Ironically, just before Obama released the Breaking News, I got into a debate with a different conservative, who alleged that "Obama was 'too harsh' on Trump considering he's a sitting president." I guess he missed Trump's profanity-laced speech in Vegas where he dropped several f bombs and called Obama "a nobody in Washington."

    This same conservative made what I believe to be one of the most ridiculous statements of the year: "Obama faces little real scrutiny. Only far right GOP questions him." Give me a break! Are you serious! This dude gets criticized by:
    1. the left for being too moderate, (see here!)
    2. the moderate for being too left or too right (see here!)
    3. the right for being too.. Black left. (see here!) (see here!) (see here!) (see here!) Alright, alright, we don't have all day.. lol.

    Even I, tree hugging liberal, criticize Obama regularly. (I still think he could have found a way to get out of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.) But when he does something right (and if you need an example, please visit, I give the man his props. Even when Bush was president, while I was highly critical of him, I stood behind him post 9/11 and did my best to put partisan concerns aside when appropriate.

    Unfortunately.... the "Country First" team doesn't get that. I struggle to get with Republicans and this "Country First" theme of theirs when conservatives spend considerable amounts of time questioning his faith, his intelligence, his experience, and lest we forget.... HIS CITIZENSHIP.
    You don't get to say Country First when:
    1. you only support the President and the office when the President's from your camp (See outspoken folks from your team -including the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal- saying "I want the President to fail.")
    2. you yell out in Congress when the President is addressing the country (and Congress).
    3. you make people fight for unemployment benefits in the midst of a recession affecting millions and their families.
    4. you force the extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest in the country at a time when our deficit is ballooning and we still lull in a recession.
    5. You claim to support the troops but REPEATEDLY vote against bills that provide for veterans' medical care and education.
    6. you engage in what my friend calls "unreasonableness, double mindedness, hypocrisy and folly."

    Own Your Nonsense
    My friend over at Hot Biscuits And Gravy says, "I'm an a-hole, but I own it." In that vein, you know what I love about MSNBC? They have a liberal slant and they own it. Their new slogan is "Lean Forward" as a nod to their progressive and leftist way of thinking. Meanwhile, Fox News (the Republican Party's hype man) continues to put forth the most unbelievable slogan ever: Fair and Balanced. Even conservatives know Fox isn't fair and balanced. Give it up.

    Just be real with yourself conservatives. That's all I ask. You don't put country first. Republican party: create a slogan you can honestly say you mean and "own". This Country First nonsense makes about as much sense as Trump running for political office.

    Your Turn
    What slogan do you think truly represents the Republican Party? Do you believe I'm too harsh on conservatives? Do you consider the right, "country first?" Prove it!

    P.S. I'm not the only one blogging about this. Check out the following takes:
    1. One Nation Under God Incelebration
    2. Osama Gone
    3. Bin Laden is Dead; Do We Get to Celebrate?

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Journal Entry from the Guy Who Created The N Word

    Today's post was not written by me, however, I found it extremely insightful, albeit chilling in its ability to shed light on what describes as "probably the most offensive word in the English language." Please read and share your thoughts on the post. If you don't mind, also share your thoughts on the N word. Do you use it?


    If anyone ever reads this diary entry, it’s important for you to know that I’m a white man. It is more important for you to know that due to childhood polio, I’ve never had the luxury of being able to use my legs. I have endured much teasing, horrific stares, and blatant disrespect. Today, however, I’m filled with pride, reflecting on my ancestor, 14 generations before me who created the word, nigger. Just today, in Starbucks, I heard some young men in business casual attire using the word to refer to themselves and their friends in a conversation. To know that the word my predecessor created hundreds of years ago is still being used today fills my heart with joy. I bet if he had a journal, it’d read something like this:
    I’ve always wanted to leave an indelible mark on the world…you know, something that can’t be erased or forgotten. I tried a few things…
    I used violence to capture a people from their homeland and forced them to be my slaves. But, the Egyptians had slaves far before I did…so that’s not original.
    I sold them on auction blocks and ripped their families apart without recourse. Not so original either. (My children may have to allow them to be free in order to save my family and myself. Sort of the same thing that happened to the Pharaoh who dealt with Moses and all of those plagues. We’re really struggling with this originality thing.)
    What about raping their women to satisfy my lustful desires while simultaneously propagating my slave coffers, thereby increasing my wealth? Eh, seen it before.
    Hmm, what if I create a term that can be used to denigrate the people who I’ve subjected to unmitigated torture, incomprehensible suffering, and legalized brutality? Yes, I think I’ve got it.
    And they shall be called: NIGGERS!

    Didn’t I tell you he was a genius? His plan worked better than he could have ever imagined. This phraseology was widely accepted at its inception and I’m quite proud of it to say the least. The term spread throughout the slave holding states and even caught on quite well up north. Slave auction advertisements even went from saying “African Slaves for sale” to “Niggers for sale.” Unfortunately, some literate mulatto named Frederick Douglass sparked a revolution of sorts, followed by other niggers like Marcus Garvey, Thurgood Marshall, Martin King and Malcolm X. They didn’t like people calling them niggers anymore, and made respectable strides in getting us to stop calling them niggers (publicly at least). Then, there were rumblings that niggers had taken up the practice of actually calling themselves niggers. What a relief it must have been!! Initially, I 'm sure my great x10 grandfather was a bit shocked that a man would call himself a nigger. I mean, the term was meant to cast horrible aspersions upon a people he wanted to remain at the bottom of society. When we say nigger, we're saying “shiftless, ignorant, hopeless, laughable, less than human.” So I find it strange that these folks refer to themselves in that fashion. Let’s plug it in and see if it makes sense. Here’s a plausible scenario of a typical discourse between two of them.

    Scenario 1: Hey Mike, this is John. Call me back when you get a chance.
    Scenario 2: Hey Mike, this is your nigger John. Call me back when you get a chance.
    Scenario 2 Translated: Hey Mike, this is [shiftless, ignorant, hopeless, laughable, less than human] John. Call me back when you get a chance.

    I love it. Makes no sense, but I absolutely love it.

    Oh wait, I should mention that they’ve taken my family’s word and now it’s a different word. Drop the “er” and add an “a” and you have the new and improved “Nigga.” This nigga is the descendent of the nigger who my family bought and sold like livestock just a few generations ago. We’ve decided to stop calling you this word (publicly) because it’s no longer politically correct and admittedly inappropriate. Nevertheless, I’d like to thank you for keeping it alive. I’m glad we don’t have to use it anymore, because quite frankly, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. But, when it comes from you, I feel much better about it. So, I congratulate all you niggers and niggas. Your leaders say that people like me used to be known as “Jim Crow.” And now I’m “James Crow, Jr., Esquire” because I evolved into a more latent and less obvious hate monger. Well, you’ve evolved as well! You are now the “nigga” formerly known as “nigger.” Or, maybe you are “Nigga, Esquire.” I’m glad you like the word and I’m sure you’ll keep it alive. (Note to non-nigger readers: Niggers are good at keeping things alive, i.e. “hope”). I’d hate for all of my hard work to go to waste.

    Some of the more uppity niggers have told me that they’ve stripped the word of its power by using it themselves. If so, then why are you offended when I use it? I mean, we’re all equal, right “brotha?” Clearly, if you don’t want me to say Nigger/Nigga, you must find some inherent flaw in the word. I thought it had a new meaning? Don’t be mad “my nigga.””

    I must say, I am baffled by why you refer to yourself as a Nigger/Nigga, but I can relate. I’ll tell you a story about how I became the Crippled Monster. When I was growing up, due to my affliction, some of the less compassionate kids in my neighborhood called me “the crippled monster.” The name hurt my feelings, initially. But after a long period of strife and fighting, I found it easier just to adopt the name and started using it myself. My mother (much like the African-American civil rights leaders) begged and pleaded for me to stop. She told me “You’re not a cripple and you’re certainly not a monster.” She even went to my school and got into a huge fight with the principal for allowing people (teachers included) to call me this name. This was a great source of embarrassment and sadness for her. I, on the other hand, became comfortable with it. I suppose after everyone calls you a certain thing for such a long time, you start to believe that’s what you really are. Deep down inside, sometimes I really feel like I’m a crippled monster. So, I understand you, niggers. Maybe deep down inside you really feel like the niggers/niggas you are. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Exactly. I guess this diary entry was more about me than those who call themselves niggers. I wonder if any self-proclaimed niggers will read this someday and feel my pain. Wait a minute, niggers can’t read. Never mind. Goodnight.
    -The Crippled Monster (or The Crippled Monsta’)

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    It's Not as Black and White as You Think (Interracial Relationships)

    By a large margin, my most popular blog post is "Reasons to Date a Black Man". Many people presumed that I have an unwavering loyalty and dedication to dating and/or marrying a Black man. These people are mistaken.

    Every woman (and man) has a list of things they consider important when choosing their significant other. Some things are requirements (a desire to have children) and others are preferences (a college degree). For example, I prefer men taller than me (notice I said taller than me, not necessarily tall). I prefer men who like to read books. I strongly prefer men who are willing to adopt at least one child. This doesn't mean I won't end up married to a man who's 5'7" and can't make it through a magazine article.

    An Analogy
    Think of it like this. You see a notice for your dream job, you apply and you're in the last interview. The pay is more than you've ever made, the hours are flexible, the commute is steps from your house, and you're passionate about the company's mission. Your potential supervisor is just about to offer you the job when she says, "I hope this doesn't deter you, but we don't offer direct deposit." Well.... the job meets all of your other preferences, but unfortunately they won't do direct deposit. Are you going to turn the job down? Of course not! It's just a preference, not a requirement. And that's how I see race/ethnicity when it comes to what I'm looking for in a significant other.

    For some, a specific race is a requirement. That's fine; as my most recent post suggests, I advocate for everyone finding their own path to happiness. However, I do think there are a few facts that generally should be acknowledged that may allow people to see interracial relationships in a different perspective:

    1. Humans made the whole idea of race up. That's right. I don't have nearly enough time (or intelligence) to fully explain this here, but I encourage you to research the history of race. In the meantime, I'll tell you this. Race is a social construct, which is a fancy way of saying that some people decided that a good way to figure out 'who was who' was to create categories based around phenotypic traits with influence from people's nationality, culture, and social practices. The DNA within any racial group is more diverse than the DNA of a randomly selected population. Would you really decide who you want to spend the rest of your life with based on the thinking of guys who thought the world was flat?

    2. No one really fits into any one racial category. There's a reason why people are a rainbow of shades but only four major racial groups. I'm sure somewhere there exists someone whose bloodline is Irish all the way through, however all the rest of us are mutts. And as the world becomes increasingly global and integrated, we have another quandary.

    If people should only date within their race... who do biracial people date? Other biracial people with the same combination as them? Or do they get unlimited access to both races? The world is not made up of people who come in 4 colors (black, white, brown, or yellow). Most people are racially diverse just within themselves! (Don't believe me... invest in getting your DNA traced). My friend is half Fillipino and half Trini. Good luck finding another half Filipino/Trini! In practice, most people just date people who look like they're from a specific race. Which, means you're deciding who you spend the rest of your life with based on an external characteristic... sounds like prejudice to me. (If this was Twitter, I'd say #imjustsaying).

    3. Race and culture are two different things. I agree that a common culture, beliefs, etc are important in deciding who you spend the rest of your life with. But while race and culture are related, they are not synonymous. Which formula makes more sense?

    I rest my (cartoon) case.

    4. In 2050, whoever you marry isn't going to look like they did in 2011 anyway. The things that will matter most in a relationship... the things that will sustain a marriage... the things that will matter in the long run won't be the wooliness of someone's hair or their ability to tan without burning. The things that will matter are their compassion while parenting, their support during your low days, and the inside jokes you'll share. And does any of that really have a color?

    What About You?

    I'm not writing to tell you who to date; I'm simply sharing my perspective on a widely discussed issue. When I told an acquaintance that I'd gone on a date with a Caucasian man, she jokingly (I think) said, "Sounds like self-hate to me." What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Is dating outside of the race a bad idea, doomed for failure? Or are interracial relationships indicative of a more contemporary global perspective?

    Please share!