ain’t been right

I know we’ve added many names to THE list in the year that has passed since Sandra Bland did… but I ain’t been right since hers was added.  And I ain’t been blogging neither, so I’m gonna start back there although there is so much fresh heartbreak to explore.  Please don’t assume that the others didn’t get to me.  That I didn’t feel a punch in the gut when Trayvon went down, when Zimmerman went free, when the music stopped for Jordan, when Eric couldn’t breathe, a wrench in my heart when Tamir was ambushed while playing in the park, when Freddie’s spine was severed on the “joy” ride, when no on was held accountable, when Alton was pinned and gunned down, or when Diamond’s little girl witnessed that horror from just a few feet away in the backseat- just to name a few.  I did feel it.  I do.

But Sandra Bland, man.  Sandra Bland was me.  And I ain’t been right since.  Sandra Bland was me, not only in the universal sense that because separation is an illusion and everyone is me and I am everyone, but because in the most practical, earthly, human, american way Sandra Bland was me.

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I love to drive.  Which is great because I drive a LOT for work. I love to drive fast.  And safely. Those things, too, are not mutually exclusive.  I am not reckless, I just like a little speed.  I like forward motion.  I like advancing toward a goal.  My dosha is clearly Pitta and once I have direction, I am off.  0-60 in no time flat.  That’s my approach in all things really for better or worse.  The way you do one thing is the way you do everything. As a baby I ran first, then walked, then checked out the crawling thing.  I was born this way.  It’s my baseline.  Various life lessons and my kundalini yoga practice have taught me the art and joys of savoring, of taking time, of being still… but still, I love to GO.

My anger has been tempered through these practices and experiences, too.  But, seeing as I am human and anger is a natural emotion inherently woven throughout the human experience, I still get angry.  And sometimes it happens quickly.  Especially in the face of perceived injustice.  In that intersection between speed and anger is exactly where Sandra Bland and I are one.

I have been pulled over.  It seems to happen in spurts with me.  Thank God there usually are long intervals in between.  When I was a new driver I got pulled over a few times. In the suburbs.  I always smiled sweetly and played dumb and drove away with a warning.  Maybe I really was dumb, not playing at anything,  because I had no fear in those situations aside from “I hope I don’t get a ticket” and “I hope my parents don’t find out.”  That was some kind of biracial white privilege induced ignorance, I guess.  Or maybe it was the era.  In the mid-late 90s we didn’t have cell phones at the ready, social media, incessant news reels.  There were no images in my mind of police brutality.  None that seemed extremely relevant anyway.  Rodney King seemed like a terrible one off.  I’d seen black and white pictures from the 60s, heard my mother’s stories about the dogs being unleashed on the black people and any “uncolored” supporters, but as far as I knew that was then and this was now and we were living in a world where a black and a white person made me… and I was having a pretty good life so…

Fast forward to my next set of traffic stops.  Four years ago.  So much hadn’t happened yet, so I was more upset by being made late to work and any fines that would be incurred than I was afraid for my life…but I was angrier.  I’d had more experiences in the real world.  I knew my “place” in the minds of the general white public and I was easily angered by the slightest whiff of prejudice, racism, or arrogance of any kind. Full of self-righteous indignation.  And one of those traffic stops in particular reeked of all of that.  But I’m pretty smart, and I needed to get to my appointment, so I kept my cool, took the uncalled for amount violations, points on my license,  and the fines and I kept on going.

But what if I hadn’t?  What if I had questioned why I was getting three tickets for a seemingly minor offense that was innocently fueled by a navigation system that kept changing it’s mind and suddenly called on me to exit the highway immediately from the far left lane?  What if I acknowledged what was really going on?  What if I allowed my bad attitude to match the officer’s?  What if I had “talked back”?  Thank God I’ll never know, but all I can think is: Sandra Bland.  Maybe that’s what would have happened.  And maybe it would have taken my white dad too long to get from the middle of the country to the east coast to come in and humanize me and validate my right to decent treatment as he was called on to do when I was in the emergency room with a broken neck.  And maybe I would be dead.

So, I ain’t been right since Sandra Bland because Sandra Bland was me.  In the past year I have noticed that though I generally prefer to drive solo so I can chant mantras as loudly as I want and I don’t have to worry about making passengers uncomfortable with my confident driving (I live and drive in NYC for goodness sake, I have to be confident), I prefer to drive with white people in my car.  Cuz like maybe if I get pulled over they can vouch for my character, or their presence will validate my existence, or… anything… whatever will save me from whatever might happen.  Sometimes when I see police cars on the road, signs of physical distress manifest quickly.  Three months ago I got pulled over for speeding.  I was speeding.  No need for self righteous indignation there.  But the sheer terror I felt in anticipation of the experience as I was pulling onto the shoulder of the freeway…it’s as frightened as I can recall ever having been.  The self-admonition I doled out when I realized I forgot to take off the bandana I was wearing to keep the frizz down til I got to work was harsh.  I have since forgiven myself, even though I got a ticket and not a warning.

It’s been exactly one year since Sandra Bland.  Looking around here I think, ain’t none of us been right since because look at how much is going wrong.  But I know that isn’t true.  That doesn’t feel true.  That’s the hurt and anger and fear talking.  And I hold space for all of that within myself, within us.  And I hold space also for the love and peace that can be found when tending to the aftermath of a broken heart.  A broken heart, is an open heart.  As a collective, we are not encouraged to have open hearts.  That takes courage and awareness.  And people who are brave and awake aren’t so easily influenced or scared into buying things.  #consumerism.

But here we are, a broken hearted nation.  A nation who repeatedly has broken it’s own heart.  And things have escalated to a point where more and more of us are unable to remain ignorant. Or silent.  I’m hoping we can make the most of this opportunity to lean in and nurture our brokenness into openness into oneness.

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Anne Lamott said: “Hope is not about proving anything.  It’s about choosing to believe this one thing- that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”

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p.s. “i ain’t been right” is kind of a figure of speech.  if there is such a thing as “(al)right”, i have been it all along 🙂

 

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multiracial family man

I was delighted to be interviewed by comedian Alex Barnett for his Multiracial Family Man podcast. I met Alex and his wife during the Katie Couric debacle of 2014. Not only do I like them because they are cool, funny people, but they remind me of my family of origin. That doesn’t happen all that often.

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I think we had a great conversation about race, interracial relationships, and the ever evolving multiracial experience.

You can CHECK it out here:

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/c/5/3/c53470bfd6efc2e8/MFM_-_Tiffany_Jones_revised.mp3?c_id=8514010&expiration=1425994502&hwt=0a2cd49d00972f9ce2f6ffb01e43f568

or here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/multiracial-family-man-ep./id969793342?i=337179665&mt=2

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And if you want more Alex Barnett, here’s a link to his website where you can read his blog posts and enjoy his stand-up: http://www.alexbarnettcomic.com.

the twins

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The “Black and White” twins are all over everything I’m seeing on the internet. The trending of the story brings the opportunity to gain more awareness of what we think race is, how we allow it to influence our identity, and (hopefully) how it all really just makes no sense.

I can’t figure out what prompted the interest in this particular set of twins this week. I’ve been hoarding articles about black and white twins for years. It bothers me that when they say “Black and White twins”, they mean one of each. Below is the actual title and opening sentence of an actual post about Lucy and Maria:

Biracial Twins: Sisters Belonging to Different Races:

I’ve heard that the odds of having a set of biracial twins belonging to different races is one in a million. One interracial couple somehow beat those odds…

Um, yeah… it is actually impossible to have a set of biological biracial twins who belong to two different races. If we’re playing along with the notion that there is a race other than human to belong to in the first place, these biological fraternal twins are of the same race(s). But, even the twins themselves seem to have adopted the skewed perspective:

Lucy says,

Maria loves telling people at college that she has a white twin. And I’m very proud of having a black twin.

I may be analyzing too literally, but the simple truth is that these sisters look different. They are of different phenotypes, not races. Their skin color (which is real) is different. Their race (which is not real) is the same. Me being me, I read their title of “black and white twins” like: They are “biracial” so they are black AND white. Both of them are both of them. And both of them have mostly white genes if we’re gonna keep on fractionalizing people into halves or whatever.

Let’s see what the way we talk about and consider these pairs can help us break our rigid notions of race and identity.

First, the biology. How does this happen? Something that stood out to me when reading about most of these sets of twins is that in the case where one parent is biracial and the other is white, that is not clearly stated. I think that’s because people are still unclear on how to process us realistically, but they can’t just say “black” because the half white part is a major detail in the equation.

In the case of the Aylmers it is stated that:

The girls’ nearly opposite features can be traced back to their racially different parents. Their mother, Donna, is half-Jamaican while father Vince is white.

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Ok, so Donna is half Jamaican and half white although they don’t make define the other half. Leaving her even more un-whole.  Disappointing to me, but no surprise since most people still think of black and white as mutually exclusive.  Stories like these help us to shift those deeply ingrained tenets in ourselves.  If we’re gonna look at this truthfully, Donna is technically half white and half black.  Vince is white. So how racially different are they? Not very, I would argue.

In most of the other cases the mother is white and the father is black.

There’s one instance where both parents of the twins are biracial with white moms and black dads.

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Twins Kian and Remee with their parents Kylee Hodgson and Remi Horder who both have white mothers and black fathers.

So here’s the scientific explanation:

Million to one odds:

The odds against of a mixed race couple having twins of dramatically different colour are a million to one.
Skin colour is believed to be determined by up to seven different genes working together.
If a woman is of mixed race, her eggs will usually contain a mixture of genes coding for both black and white skin.
Similarly, a man of mixed race will have a variety of different genes in his sperm. When these eggs and sperm come together, they will create a baby of mixed race.
But, very occasionally, the egg or sperm might contain genes coding for one skin colour. If both the egg and sperm contain all white genes, the baby will be white. And if both contain just the versions necessary for black skin, the baby will be black.
For a mixed-race couple, the odds of either of these scenarios is around 100 to one. But both scenarios can occur at the same time if the woman conceives non-identical twins, another 100 to one chance.
This involves two eggs being fertilised by two sperm at the same time, which also has odds of around 100 to one.
If a sperm containing all-white genes fuses with a similar egg and a sperm coding for purely black skin fuses with a similar egg, two babies of dramatically different colours will be born.
The odds of this happening are 100 x 100 x 100 – a million to one.

Taking all of those maths into account, this family is super duper special:

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Big sisters Hayleigh, left, and Lauren Durrant, right, hold their new siblings Leah, left, and Miya, right. Scientists say the odds of their parents, Dean Durrant and Alison Spooner, having two sets of fraternal twins with strikingly different skin tones and eye colors is ‘one in millions.’

Now on to the sociology. Honestly, I’ve always been a little worried about the darker twin when I contemplate how they experience the world.  Because the world will experience each of them differently and sometimes that must manifest in drastic ways.  As a child I was frequently in all white environments and I know first hand how it feels to be valued less than your fairer complected peers.  Frankly, as an adult I am frequently in mostly white environments and sometimes the same vibes are flowing.  But as an adult I know better than to take that personally.  As a child not so much.  That might sound sad, and sometimes I was, but because of those circumstances I learned to see beauty and value in places generally thought to have none.  That is a gift.

So anyway, I was worried about the “black” twin because I thought they’d be having similar experiences to mine and thinking, “But I’m really just the same.  We’re TWINS for God’s sake.  Why are we exempt from the same regard as all the other twins in the world?  And why am I getting the short end of the stick.  Unfair.”  I was also concerned that it could cause a rift between the twins and rob them of the twin bond which I always thought would be so fun to have.

Turns out I was wrong.  According to the interviews it seems that the lighter twin struggles more and there are no traces of a lasting breach between them.

The Aylmers

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(Of her childhood) Red-haired Lucy said her pale complexion had prompted speculation that she’d been adopted: ‘My classmates used to ask if I was adopted because my siblings are all quite dark.

‘It was pretty hard, it went on in secondary school and it wasn’t very nice.’

The impact this has had may be gleaned from this recent post on her Facebook page:

…thank you so much for all your lovely comments about the way I… look. I’ve never had so much confidence. I’ve gone from spending 3 hours covering up every inch of what I naturally look like before I left the house for as little as 2 minutes. To now wearing next to no make up with my natural red hair…

James and Daniel Kelly

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James (left) and Daniel Kelly, twin brothers

When Daniel and James went to nursery aged three, the twins’ skin colour plunged the family into controversy. “They were at this very politically correct nursery, and the staff told us that when Daniel drew a picture of himself, he had to make himself look black – because he was mixed-race,” says Alyson. “And I said, that’s ridiculous. Why does Daniel have to draw himself as black, when a white face looks back at him in the mirror?  Daniel had one white parent and one black, so why couldn’t he call himself white? Why does a child who is half-white and half-black have to be black? Especially when his skin colour is quite clearly white!”

Primary school passed without colour being an issue: but…everything changed when they went to secondary school… the racism they encountered there had a huge effect on them.

It all started well, says Alyson. “The school was almost all-white, so James was unusual. But it wasn’t a problem for James – it was a problem for Daniel.

“The boys were in different classes, so for a while no one realised they were related. Then someone found out, and the story went round that this white boy, Daniel, was actually black, and the evidence was that he had a black twin brother, James, who was right here in the school. And then Daniel started being picked on and it got really ugly and racist, and there were lots of physical attacks. Daniel was only a little kid, and he was being called names and being beaten up by much older children – it was really horrible. We even called the police.”

“I was really bullied,” cuts in Daniel, his face hardening at the memory. “People couldn’t believe James and I were brothers, and they didn’t like the fact that I looked white, but was – as they saw it – black.”

It is interesting that it was the white twin, Daniel, and not the black twin who was on the receiving end of racism…”Those kids couldn’t stand the fact that, as they saw it, this white kid was actually black. It was as though they wanted to punish him for daring to call himself white,” she says.

“I started to notice how angry Daniel was getting at school, how people were provoking him and how he was getting hurt,” says James. “And when he got pulled in fights, I went in too, to help him. I didn’t want to see my brother being treated like that.” James does not look like a kid who would end up in any fight: but, when his brother was up against it, he weighed in – and, says Alyson, the bruises and cuts they both came home with told their own tale.

They’re a straightforward, outspoken family, the Kellys: all they’ve ever wanted for their children is a fair chance in life. And if their youngest twins have made anyone think twice about their preconceptions about race and colour, they don’t mind that in the least. “It’s good to challenge people on race and sexuality and other issues where there’s prejudice,” says Alyson. “If knowing my boys encourages anyone to think a bit more deeply about how we label people, then that’s just great as far as I’m concerned.”

Amen to that Alyson.  And thank you!

In terms of the impact on the family in general, in every interview both the twins and their parents recount that they had many experiences in which in one way or another (sibling to sibling/parent to child) no one could believe they were related and they had to prove it and other similar nonsense.  I’m a big believer in “a family should be something you can see just by looking at it” because I know how it feels when that is not the case.  I don’t know how to describe the feeling.  It’s jarring I guess.  It disturbs the foundation of a person.  Of a family.  And for what?  By what merit?  At the expense of whom?

I say:  For nothing.  Based on no true merit.  At the expense of all of us.

while i was away

besides hoarding articles, traveling too much for work, and evolving into a more holistic version of myself I had a fantastic time chatting with Heidi and Jennifer on the Mixed Experience podcast while I wasn’t blogging over here.  Y’all know I love me some Heidi Durrow.  She’s not only been a wonderful friend to me, but an inspiration as well! Oh yeah, there’s also that riveting novel she wrote called “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.” Such an important novel.  Period.  And in terms of the mixed experience it, like Heidi, is a true gem.  Here’s the interview if you’d like to listen.  I’ve been told it’s pretty good.  I also further explain why I had to take a break…again.

heidi and me

The Mixed Experience Podcast

most likely to suffer

I knew this, like on the inside of me, however reading it was profoundly gratifying.  Of course we are most likely to suffer…from many things.  You see, we’re not just invisible in the realm of public services and policy, but one could argue that we’re invisible everywhere we go.  Even at home to a certain extent.  Depending on circumstances of course.  And not only can we be misunderstood by teachers and health care professionals, we may very well be misunderstood by our parent(s), friends, and extended family.  Seeing as the truth of our experience has been ignored and denied, we’re also invisible in history.  Seeing yourself reflected back to you in a way that is congruent with your self-image is a “luxury” we are not often afforded.  And though there is no written rule on the subject, the feeling that our story is not valid and our voice is not wanted unless we surrender to societal expectations is palpable.

How about everybody just let us be and take us for who we say and show that we are?  Which means acknowledging, listening, hearing and imagining into some level of empathy.  Doesn’t seem like many people are interested in doing that.  Perhaps because if they did, the entire illusion would crumble.  Lots of identities are tightly wound in that illusion. So, then who would you all be?  You’d be like me.  Untethered from out-dated classifications and free to be whoever your heart tells you you are.  My heart has never mentioned race to me.  Has yours (to you)?

Mixed-race children ‘are being failed’ in treatment of mental health problems

The fastest growing ethnic group in Britain is still being treated as if it is only integrated into black culture, says report

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Children of mixed race are at greater risk of suffering from mental health problems and are not getting the support they need, says a report.

Despite mixed-race children belonging to the fastest-growing ethnic group, the research, backed by the National Children’s Bureau, found that they faced “unrealistic” expectations from teachers and other adults who did not understand their backgrounds.

While mixed-race young people are over represented in the care, youth justice and child protection systems, the authors said they were “invisible” in public service practice and policy.

The report – Mixed Experiences – growing up mixed race: mental health and wellbeing – drew on several studies and interviews with 21 people about their experiences as children.

Co-author Dinah Morley was concerned at the lack of understanding over what it meant to be mixed race, a group most likely to suffer racism. “I was surprised at how much racism, from black and white people, had come their way,” she said. “A lot of children were seen as black when they might be being raised by a white single parent and had no understanding of the black culture. The default position for a child of mixed race is that they are black.”

The report found that those with mixed-race backgrounds were more at risk of mental health issues because of their struggle to develop an identity. Morley said the strongest common experience was the “too white to be black, too black to be white”.

The 2011 census showed that the mixed-race population was the fastest growing ethnic group in Britain, amounting to 2.2% of the population of England and Wales.

In 2012, research by the thinktank British Future found that prejudice towards mixed-race relationships was fading. The report, The Melting Pot Generation – How Britain Became More Relaxed About Race, talked about the “Jessica Ennis generation”, crediting the London Olympics 2012 athlete with changing attitudes towards mixed race. “That positive role model is also seen as something very important,” said Morley.

Jessica Ennis is a positive role model for people of mixed race

Jessica Ennis is a positive role model for people of mixed race Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Image

you don’t even know me

I posted this video on the vlog the other day…

…and then I found this clip of Tia/Tamera’s brother, Taj, addressing the same issue.  And i love it!  Makes me wonder if males are less sensitive to these things.  I mean, I already wondered that, but now i re-wonder.  Skip to 4:00 to catch the clip…

 

 

 

the only ‘black’ kid

Speaking of my Oakland County days, a few months ago I came across this photo on Abagond’s blog:

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When I saw this photo I saw myself in it.  Kind of.  For me, I could have been that speck of color in a group photo of friends going to a high school dance as easily as in posing for a family reunion photo.  And I suppose that’s the difference.  I don’t think I look much more awkward than the typical teenager in the photo below.  Not that I don’t look awkward, good lord the dress, but I’ve got nothing on the guy in the picture above.

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Perhaps that’s because when (half the time) you’re the only “black” kid in your family as well, there’s less propensity to be so fraught with anxiety in similar social situations.

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Maybe there’s an extra layer of ease that comes with the inner-knowing that, no matter who recognizes it or doesn’t, you belong.  Given, of course that one is able to hold on to the truth that she belongs amidst the many dissentient voices.

only black kid in class

1937-38 only black kidsonny-clark-class-1024x705can hardly imagine what it was like for this little dude in 1937

I heart New York!

I am so f’in excited about this that I can’t even organize my thoughts. But I’m gonna try.  So yesterday, just like the first time I voted for Obama, I ran to the school where I vote to mark my ballot for…

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Now, I must admit that though I do like what little I know of his politics and am not shy about my democratic tendencies, I was really voting for…

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For the guy who prompted a good friend of mine to text, “Are those his kids!?” as de Blasio delivered his sagacious acceptance speech standing amidst his family.

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I voted for the man who once made the bold choice to give up some of his white privilege to live the life he wanted with the woman he loved.  For the guy with kids that remind me of me.  For the family that looks like mine did once.

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I voted for a future where people have learned to see this:

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and think “family.”  A friend of mine once wrote in a wonderful novel*, “What a family is should shouldn’t be so hard to see.  It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.”  That is Truth. But for some of us it hasn’t been the truth of our experience.  And that doesn’t feel so good.

Now…maybe, soon… people will see this

New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio embraces his daughter Chiara during a campaign rally in Brooklyn, New York

or this 😉

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and think Father/Daughter, and not Age “Inappropriate” Interracial Couple?

I voted for the future I always wanted to be my present.  I left that school and I skipped up the block.  Just for, like, 17 seconds cuz I am 37 years old after all, but I just couldn’t contain the joy! I couldn’t have predicted that feeling either.  I think that even though we have the Obamas, it’s not quite the same and I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that.  It just did!   Thank you de Blasio Family and thank you New York City!  xo-Tiff

*The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

P.S. Here’s a fun, and totally non-political, article.  I love what Chiara says about seeing what other people have to go through.  She acknowledges her white privilege.  Yeah, we get a fraction of that too.

Chiara & Dante de Blasio: 5 Things To Know About New NYC Mayor’s Kids

Wed, November 6, 2013  by 

The newly elected NYC mayor’s teens are just about the coolest kids in politics — and their edgy fashion senses, trendy hairstyles, and enthusiastic participation in their dad’s campaign are just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Chiara and Dante!

Chiara de Blasio, 18, and Dante de Blasio, 16 are such stylish young adults that they nearly stole the spotlight away from their dad, Bill de Blasio, who was elected the new mayor of New York City on Nov. 4. Learn more about the new first kids of NYC!

5 Things To Know About NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Kids

1. Chiara and Dante are really smart! Dante is a high school junior at Brooklyn Tech, which one of the city’s elite public high schools. Chiara, is a sophomore in college at a private liberal arts school in northern California. She plans to major in environmental studies.

2. Dante’s afro is so cool that absolutely everyone is noticing! President Barack Obama even mentioned it at a Democratic Party Fundraiser in New York in Sept. 2013. He “has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” Obama told the crowd before complimenting his look. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” Chiara loves switching up her own style, from sporting floral crown hair accessories to trying out dreads.

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3. Dante was featured in his dad’s campaign ads, and his videos quickly went viral. Chiara also expressed that she loved being part of her dad’s campaign process. “I like understanding what’s going on better. In every way I think that I’m lucky to live the life that I live,” Chiara told NY Mag. ”I don’t have a lot of the problems that other people have. It’s very important for me to see what other people go through.

4. Chiara’s fashion sense is completely new for a first daughter of New York City. She has ear gauges, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose piercing.

5. Chiara has publicly said that her dad is not “some boring white guy,” and that his cultural awareness comes from his global projects and his own multi-cultural family! Chiara and Dante’s dad, Bill comes from German and Italian American backgrounds and their mom, Chirlane McCray is African American. “A lot of people could look at him and just see the color of his skin, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Chiara told NY Mag.