Category Archives: Am I Doing This Right?

Should I Always Answer?

* * * I struggle to push these posts live. I wrote this one several years ago. I’m trying to be brave. Trying to publish more raw, unedited posts. Here goes. * * *

In May, I participated in a small, intense Civil Rights tour. We followed some of the path that the Freedom Riders took back in the 1960’s. The group was diverse in age, personality, profession, and about 50/50 black/white, and male/female. We all learned a lot. We all continue to process what we saw and experienced.

About a month after the trip, I visited my parents in Georgia with my son and husband. It was a challenging trip. There were a lot of questions asked in accusatory tones like, “Why is it okay to say HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and not HWCU? That’s racist.”

When someone asks me a question like that, I assume they want an answer. Usually, though, they don’t.

Charleston AME Church Massacre 2015

* * * I struggle to push these posts live. I wrote this one a very long time ago, obviously. I’m trying to be brave. Trying to publish more raw, unedited posts. Here goes. * * *

“If we were to compare culture with an orchestra, and envision each instrument representative of a particular culture, then we can begin to see the benefit of listening to different instruments. The purpose of the orchestra is to produce music that is pleasing to the ear. This can only be accomplished if the musicians are reading from the same page, and are allowed to fully participate in the musical composition.”
— Tina Jackson-Williams

My chest is tight and aches because I am so deeply sad on so many levels and for so many reasons. I have only clumsy thoughts from partially processed experiences at this point. However, “God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9) So I reach out to express sorrow.

“As the #Charleston police deem this horrific act a hate crime, we pray vigorously that this person’s hate does not cultivate more hate.”
–@TheKingCenter

As I read some of the sharply negative responses to TheKingCenter’s prayerful tweet that the hate might stop with the shooter, I was finally able to see the deep wounds behind the anger. This was made possible by the courageous people of color who have offered me the gift of seeing their intense pain that they keep walled off from the “general public.” I have said before that I am honored to receive that gift. I take the responsibility of receiving it seriously. Though, at this point, I don’t know what to do with it. Or how. Or where. So, I pray. And read, and learn, and hope, and pray. And accidentally say the wrong things at the wrong times. And fumble. And stumble.

As the time for me to stand up begins to present itself, I cling to this Scripture:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” — 1 Corinthians 1:17

Grandma Lee’s Funeral

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

My weekend might have been worse than yours. We flew to Athens, Georgia, for my grandmother’s funeral. Reed calls me the velcro member of “The Family” (the core family: my two sisters and our parents). I am the detachable/re-attachable obligation.

24 hours until the funeral:
Reed, Luc, and I arrive at Bob Hope International Airport relaxed, ready for caffeine, and determined to make the best of a funeral weekend. Michael, our Southwest ticketing agent, cringes as he breaks the news that we are at the wrong airport. Our flight will leave from LAX as scheduled, and we would need teleportation to board on time.

22 hours until the funeral:
The Great Wrong Airport Debacle of 2015 resolved (thank you, Southwest!!), we scuttle through security where I nervously present an expired driver’s license and my antique passport. A text from my sister pings that we should not stop by our parents’ house (both of my sisters are staying there) when we get to town because Mom is stressed. I figure she must only want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait. I am family.

11 hours until the funeral:
We hobble into the Holiday Inn of Athens, Georgia, at 1am. Luc is asleep. I am 18% alive. The empty bottle of saline surprises Reed anew, and he makes his monthly dash to a 24 hour drugstore.

4 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should not go to our parents’ house today before the funeral because Mom is overwhelmed. I figure she must want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait…

3 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should absolutely be on time for the funeral. The Family will arrive promptly at noon, and I’d better be there waiting. Or else. I silently question 5 hours of flying, 4 hours of laying over, and 3 hours of driving for this.

1 hour until the funeral:
The hotel iron is a union member who already worked 40 hours this week. My dress, covered in wrinkles and large ovals of iron juice, has reached a new level of suitcase chic.

11:15 AM:
We arrive at the church and debate parking in the spaces marked “Funeral.” My husband insists we can’t park there because “those spaces are for family only.” Really? Really?? Velcro Girl growls.

Noonish:
The Family arrives. Mom moves and speaks with a quiet fluidity. I think she is medicated. We file into a gargantuan sanctuary. Ambitious choice for a 99 year old’s funeral. Surprise baptism! My sister scheduled an adult baptism for herself. Today. An hour before our grandmother’s funeral. The Family is pleased and does not offer an explanation.

12:15 PM:
Miraculously, energetic, excited-to-see-each-other-after-a-whole-year 5 and 7 year-old cousins remain quietly pretend-somber. Sort of. Mom invites everyone to view a short, silent slide show of Grandma Lee through the years. It loops. And loops. For 45 minutes.

Grammy promises her fading grandchildren tiny, mysterious presents if they behave. Desperate parents hiss time-outs, shoot stink-eyes, and issue death threats to bring the impossible to fruition: happy, hungry, bored, quiet, calm children.

Post Funeral:
The service lasted in the neighborhood of 136 child-years. We file into a room with finger sandwiches and cookie platters. Luc takes a finger sandwich for show, and then shovels 80% of the cookies onto his plate. I pretend not to notice because, frankly, he deserves them.

Eventually we are dismissed and return to the hotel for food and swimming. A stressful, mandatory, The Family style dinner closes the day.

24 Hours Post Funeral:
Reed packed with an air of time abundance. We arrive at our gate hungry and just in time to board. Hopefully trail mix will satiate us for the next 5 hours. “Attention please: we have a passenger on board with a peanut allergy. No peanuts or peanut products will be permitted today. Thank you!” We survive on millions of pretzelito packs and thimbles of orange juice.

Was my weekend worse than yours?

Hammy the Hamster: My Inner Demon

Hammy.

Hammy.

Hammy is the belligerent, alcoholic hamster who runs on my brain-wheel. He claims his “PTSD vet” status excuses the violence, blackouts, and emotional abuse. (It’s especially offensive because he was never in the military. He’s an imaginary hamster in my brain.) Hammy suggested I compose my “blog prattling” in Word to avoid accidentally publishing “so much typographical puke.”

The folder with all my would-be posts is like a zombie cemetery. Hands of unexpressed ideas burst out of graves and try to wave me over. Meanwhile, at The Only Stupid Question, crickets and tumbleweeds…

I’m resuming writing directly into the blog. And I’m giving myself a time limit.

Hammy: “So what? Who cares? Why did you write that?”
Me: “Zip it, Hammy. I need to make excuses for my writing.”
Hammy: “You are a loser.”
Me: “I know.”
Hammy: “Grab me another bottle of whiskey.”
Me: “Okay.”

HBCU is okay, but not HWCU? Why?

“For most of America’s history, African Americans seeking a college education could only get one from an HBCU.” –Thurgood Marshall College Fund (tmcf.org)

HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) were established through Title III of the Higheer Education Act of 1965. “Congress officially defined an HBCU as a school of higher learning that was accredited and established before 1964, and whose principal mission was the education of African Americans.” (tmcf.org) The United Negro College Fund website claims Cheyney Univeristy in Pennsylvania as the first HBCU founded in 1837.

In my opinion, the “H” (representing “historically”) removes wiggle room to argue discrimination in the term HBCU. On top of that, HBCU’s do accept non-black students.

HWCU would indeed be racist for many reasons. Many, many, many reasons. First, most colleges and universities are historically white. In fact, they only admitted white students until the 1960’s. More progress is still needed to achieve equal opportunities for people of color at most colleges and universities. In addition, to HWCU being redundant, highlighting “White” would send a message that only white people are welcome.

We white people don’t even need to acknowledge the existence of white priveledge to reap the benefits. And it is that white priveledge that tricks us into thinking that HBCU’s are in some way offensive or dangerous.

More (better) reading:
Howard University’s First Students Were White And Other Little Known Facts About HBCU’s

Do We Still Need HBCU’s?

** Please comment with your opinion. Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? **

Everything Bagel Life

Raisins ruin Everything bagels.

Raisins ruin Everything bagels.

I want an Everything bagel life. When onions, sesame seeds, salt, poppy seeds, and garlic each add their unique contributions, the result is an extraordinary bagel. The world is a richer place because of that collaboration.

But sometimes I feel like the raisins. Raisins aren’t invited to the Everything bagel party. Everybody knows that raisins would ruin the Everything bagel.

I found an interesting group created for inclusiveness in literature. It was thrilling to read their mission statement. “We recognize all diverse experiences…” They understood that having more books with a rainbow of characters would benefit everyone! This was the Everything bagel I’d been hoping for! But as I read about various grants and contests, I kept bumping into a familiar exclusion:

“Please note: … Being … a parent of … a diverse person will not qualify an otherwise ineligible applicant.”

It made me feel like a foolish raisin for once again trying to find acceptance in an Everything bagel.

My situation is tricky. I’m white, and so I have all the privilege that goes with being white. Is it because of white privilege that people judge me negatively for adopting a black child? We are routinely stared at, yelled at, scolded, mocked, threatened, harassed, bullied, dismissed, and excluded (see above).

What do I want? I’m not sure. My bio says: “An adoptive mom and former comic strip creator, I want to add to the diversity on the bookshelves by telling silly stories through a family that looks like mine: transracial and full of love.” I want to be a part of desensitizing people from the curiosity of uniqueness, and sensitizing them to a life of collaboration.

But, I keep getting scolded and told to go back to my Raisin bagel. On top of that, the Raisin bagel isn’t too sure about me anymore either. The raisin bagel thinks I wish I’d been born a poppy seed.

It always leaves me wondering, “Am I doing this right?”

Life Questioned: Did You Buy Luc?

When a conversation seems headed toward "orphanage," Luc shuts it down. Firmly.

When a conversation seems headed toward “orphanage,” Luc shuts it down. Firmly.

The other day, Luc and I were hanging out with a 7 year old family friend. Kind of out of the blue, she asked a blunt question. For the rest of the conversation, my only thought was, “Am I doing this right?”

Julie: “Did you have Luc in your tummy, or did you buy him?”

Me: “God brought our family together through adoption. Luc was not in my tummy.”

Luc: “I don’t want to talk about this.”

Me: “Fair enough, Luc. Is it okay if Julie asks me questions with her Mom when you are not around?”

Luc: “Not if she’s gonna come to me afterward with even more questions.”

Me: “OK. Julie, can we promise that I’ll answer your questions, and that you won’t try to talk to Luc about this unless he says it’s okay?”

(Silence.)

Luc: “She’s not promising.”

Me: “Julie, have you ever been through something in your life that was really hard, and you don’t want to talk about it?”

Julie: “Yes.”

Me: “That’s how Luc feels about this subject. Does that make sense?”

Julie: “Yes.”

Me: “So, can you two agree that you won’t ask each other about the hard stuff you’ve been through that you don’t want to talk about?”

Both: “Yes.”

Me: “Thanks, y’all. And by the way, Julie, I want to be clear about one thing that is absolutely true. I love Luc exactly as much as your Mom loves you.”

Julie: “I don’t know about that. My Mom loves me the biggest number.”

Me: “I know! And that’s how much I love Luc, too!”

Then Julie and Luc argued over which amount of love was bigger: infinity or googleplex. But how many zeroes does googleplex have? We would need to google it. “We need to Google googleplex.” Giggles. And we closed the conversation giggling about Googling googleplex.

Frye’s Higher Geography (a textbook from 1895) – Page 33

Since I am a cartoonist, I understand my mental processing this way: Hammy (the abusive alcoholic hamster on the wheel that is my brain) is a cynic to say the least. He allows me to believe horrific truths only to a point. Even if I want to believe. Hammy forcibly blocks my access to emotional reality by throwing whiskey bottles at my “Medulla Incredulla.”

For example: When my uncle’s body was discovered two weeks after he died, I found myself compulsively Googling body decomposition. It took me months of research to fully wrap my head around what had happened.

Now that I have explained the inner workings of my brain, let’s move on…

My brother-in-law and his wife cleaned out the family storage unit. They found boxes upon boxes of very old family photos, books, letters, death certificates, and more. While visiting them this past week, I got to dig in, and I found “Frye’s Higher Geography: Georgia Edition” by Ginn & Company. It was written in 1895.

Finding a textbook that my husband’s family has been holding onto for over a century was a gift to me, and a blow to Hammy. I have been able to touch the pages and see with my own eyes a book that actually taught human beings to oppress our own kind: human beings. The method seems to have been based on grouping humans based first on global location, then flesh color, and then on similarity or dissimilarity to European culture.

A "negro" baby seems to be riding an ostrich in Africa.

A “negro” baby seems to be riding an ostrich in Africa.

“Illustrations: Nearly all the pictures in this book were engraved directly from photographs. To the selection and grouping of subjects for the photographs, the author has given fully as much time and care as to the text itself. The aim has been to present characteristic or typical forms that are educative.” — Alexis Everett Frye, Former Superintendent of Schools of Cuba

A "Negro." It looks like the young person who belonged to this book drew the "Negro" spitting up a white man's nose?

A “Negro.” It looks like the young person who belonged to this book drew the “Negro” spitting up a white man’s nose?

"If the long rivers of Africa were open to ships from the sea, the poor savages might more easily learn how the white man dresses, prepares food," etc.

“If the long rivers of Africa were open to ships from the sea, the poor svages might more easily learn how the white man dresses, prepares food,” etc.

"The Negroes of Africa have broad flat noses, thick lips and black frizzly hair..."

“The Negroes of Africa have broad flat noses, thick lips and black frizzly hair…”

“Such natives are very ignorant. They know nothing of books; in fact, they know little, except how to catch and cook their food, build their rude huts, travel on foot through the forests, or in canoes or on the rafts on the rivers, and make scanty clothing out of the skins of animals or fibers of grasses or bark.”

“Millions of black people have been taken from their homes in Africa and sold as slaves in other lands. The climate of their native land fitted the Negroes to work in the warm regions of the earth, and there they have been most useful, chiefly to the white people. In most places the slaves have been set free and have generally settled where they worked.”

One of the crimes of abuse tends to be the denial by the abuser of wrongdoing, or even of any injury at all. I hope that relief and vindication will accompany the deep sadness these excerpts cause. With that hope, I will continue to put posts together based on this textbook.

Still “Processing”

I am still trying to download my notes in an orderly manner into neatly compartmentalized blog posts. It’s going way more slowly than I’d hoped.

Last week, during a phone conversation, my mother said, “I think you are still processing this trip. You need to be careful who you talk to … and how you talk to them.” Maybe it comes across as a little harsh, but I totally agree with her. It was so much to take in. If I say yes to God for trips like the Civil Rights Tour, I can expect fundamental truths in my world to be obliterated and replaced with actual truth. It has left me questioning EVERYthing.

Helping Vs. “Helping”

The more I learn, the more I want to be helpful. “Helpful.” To me, that means I am busy physically helping things get better. At this point, I don’t think I’m supposed to dive in. I don’t know enough. Right now, I need to learn. Maybe apprentice. Watch, read, ask.