Civil Rights Fraud

It's always sunny in Austin, Tx.

Yesterday, being Martin Luther King Jr’s day and all, I felt like I should post something. Being the mama of a child who is essentially “African American” I think that it’s expected or something. It’s kind of silly, these expectations I put on myself, because in all reality, I don’t think anyone is really looking around wondering what I have to say about MLK that any other white American woman might say.

Yada, yada, yada, MLK was awesome. He wanted peace. He would be proud of us today for electing a black man as president.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hiding behind this mask that I’m somehow more enlightened or open-minded or something or other because I have family who doesn’t have the same skin color as my own. People give me acknowledged smiles or say vague things about race that I’m not always sure I understand. The longer Annika has been alive, the less I think about the differences about our skin color. And when it happens, I’m jolted back into the reality about how others view us, especially me, from both sides of the racial divide.

I often feel like a fraud when it comes to issues surrounding race. Just because my daughter is black, doesn’t make me an expert. Nor do I feel any closer to the black community because of her race.

Honestly, I felt closer to the issues surrounding racial tension when I lived in Detroit and worked as a reporter (even though I didn’t cover racial topics, necessarily.)

As a mom to a child of color, living in largely white Austin, Texas, I don’t feel as connected to the black community in the way I did when I lived next door to, worked with and befriended a wide swath a people with skin tones darker than my own.

It wasn’t just that I was near them, but I heard them. I heard their complaints. I saw the injustices piled upon a city left ravaged from historic racism and white flight. Detroit is still fighting for its life. And the city is losing.

But here in Austin, I don’t really have many black friends. And the friends I do know, I rarely see. And black folks are seemingly different here, than in Detroit, anyway.

The racial divide is unspoken in Austin, where I’m surrounded by white liberals who talk the talk. We are open-minded and we love Obama. We actively seek out diversity in our schools. We welcome people of color into our inner circles. And amongst my white liberal friends, you will never, ever hear something about a black person that you wouldn’t hear if one was nearby.

After living in Detroit and hearing racial epithets tossed about casually when white was the only skin color around, it’s refreshing.

We white liberals use lots of subtext when we talk about race. We don’t say “those people.” We talk about being proud to live in this day and age. We make casual references glossing over racial discussions. The vague, but strictly pointed subtext lies below. We are open-minded. We are not racists.

But I’m a civil rights fraud. I don’t actively work toward a better future for the racial divide. Other than being open-minded enough to screw outside my race, I haven’t really ever stepped outside my comfort zone to work toward equality.

I know there is still work to be done. Perhaps I could write my senators about laws that need to be passed. The DREAM Act, would be one such law I could support. I could join in the voices complaining about how black men are disproportionately jailed vs white men in the United States.

I could find some displaced youths to attend to. I could join local groups and write letters. I could actively work toward inclusion in our schools and community groups. I could be a mentor. I could point out that white Americans have it better because of history and that the same hard work doesn’t always spell out the same success. It also depends on where you started. White Americans have had a leg up for years. We don’t understand because we didn’t start in the same place.

I could spend more time writing rants about the ridiculous stereotypes I’ve encountered. I’ve only learned about some since Annika was born. One such is the notion that black women are less attractive than other races. This one pains me because Annika is already questioning her looks because of her skin color.

But I don’t. I don’t do these things because, well, because we live in a really nice world. I don’t see the injustices day-to-day. I do think that our country is moving forward. But I think we still have a lot of work to do.

But it’s really hard to do it when I’m surrounded by summer sun, nine months out of the year, public pools, margaritas and breakfast tacos.

We live a good life here in Austin, Texas. While the city is still divided along many racial lines, the intentions are good. It’s hard to remember that in other parts of the world, it’s not so great. I live in my bubble.

So I’m a civil rights fraud, with my biracial baby living in my mostly white world.

A Yearly Reflection of my Final Moments of Freedom

Annika’s birthday is tomorrow. Every year around this time, I have very specific

Luckenbach, Tx
The summer before I got pregnant in Luckenbach, Texas. Not a care in the world.

memories of the week leading up to her birth.

It was quiet week of reflection, worry, and in hindsight, pretty self-centered. Not overly selfish, but the self centered-ness of a person who is not in charge of another human being. It’s something I miss sometimes and allow myself the yearly indulgence of pondering those moments. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever get back, because even when she’s not with me, I still feel her. I am never really alone anymore.

But that week I was. Only, I didn’t realize it.

Even though it was early May, the heat was already flattening down the air and being so large, all I wanted to do was sit in air conditioning or lounge in the pool.

My biggest worry during the week was not impending motherhood. Strangely, that still seemed a long way away as my only concern was my upcoming labor.

With mildly high blood pressure my doctor recommended that we induce a week early. I was terrified of pitocin and my pro-natural-birth doctor promised we’d do everything we could to avoid it. (She broke my waters and that was all it took.)

It was the final moments before my life was going to be completely upturned. I had no idea. I had no clue! All I worried about going into labor. I  was right there in the midst of my final moments of pure, unadulterated freedom and I completely missed it.

I was completely free. I was done with work. I could sleep as late as I wanted. Eat when and what I wanted. Do whatever.

So what did I do?

I practiced hypnobirthing and every day listened to my meditation CD while  envisioning the ripening of my cervix. Along with this I was downing as much raspberry leaf as I could muster.

Oddly, my most vivid memory is going to Taco Bueno every single day for lunch and piling jalapenos from the nacho bar onto my food, hoping that if I ate enough peppers, I would induce labor. While I ate, I read a book. God, when was the last time I ever actually sat in a restaurant and just ate without fussing over a child? Admittedly, eating out has gotten much easier, but still.

That week my daily spice was the main thing I looked forward to every day. Otherwise, I was so groggy every morning, from being large and tired and hot, that I could barely roll my huge body out of bed to dress myself and take the dog for a walk.

I went to the doctor to have my membranes stripped.

I walked, even though I hated ever moment of it as my feet had swollen to the size of footballs. I am not kidding folks, it was the second most hideous thing about my body during pregnancy.

That week, as I look back on it. I can taste the freedom that I had and never even knew it.

It might seem selfish, but every year around this time, I think back on that week and I wonder what/if I would have done anything differently if I had known just how all-consuming motherhood would be.

There are many moments in my life that stand out. But that time is not so much of a moment, but a state of mind that I’ve missed somewhat in the last four years. It’s the tiny bit of selfishness that I hoard and hold in my brain, wondering if I will ever truly feel that freedom again and I wonder if next time I will taste it, savor it and delight in it more than I did before.

International Women’s Day? Wtf

Today, March 8, is apparently International Women’s Day. I had no idea. Never heard of it. For years I said that women needed a day that was separate from Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. That was before I became a mom and I was full of spitfire and vigorously challenged all traditional notions.

Now, I’m just happy to make it through a day where my clothes are still clean and my kid is happy.

Having been a regular news junkie for many years and feeling like I could eventually get to a point where I might actually read the news consistently again someday, when I hear of things like this, I feel disappointed in myself for not having known it was coming and receiving my news from my Facebook newsfeed and mistaking IWF for IUD when I did read it, I am just annoyed with myself for not knowing that the non-uterus-challenged species has finally gotten their own day. Yes, I see the run-on. It feels justified.

So I looked it up.

Apparently IWF was originally a socialist holiday and only made it to the U.S. mainstream in 2010, hence, why I didn’t know it existed.

It’s kind of nice knowing that we have our own day and all. But really, it’s kind of stupid. Who’s going to get it except those of us who are too damn busy and/or tired to give a shit.

It only cemented my realization of that fact when the second post I saw on Facebook about IWD was from a guy who said in honor of IWD he was putting on his best dress. Thanks. Thanksss a lot.

Then there’s this, a man who actually wore dresses aplenty, and probably understood just how misunderstood women often are, was a man named Leslie, who ironically, has died today. He will be missed here in Austin, TX.Thank you, Leslie, for putting on a dress for us and forcing people to watch. You are truly one in a million and deserve your own day.

Leslie died in Austin TX

Pray for Rain

Texas has been on fire since Sunday. Wildfires have been spreading all around Austin, thousands of people evacuated, you can’t throw a stick without hitting someone who has been affected.

Having grown up in west Texas, dry summers aren’t anything new to me. Disasters happening all around were not uncommon growing up and they generally had something to do with bad weather. Violent tornadoes ripped through Texas regularly during my childhood. Drought was just something to be expected.

All summer long, this year, I’ve had this image floating through my brain of a tattered, yellowed, hand-written sign that I saw all my life, all around Texas, posted in store windows, “Pray for rain.” Those signs have always haunted me.

Because of this, I have always loved rain. Yes, I love the heat, probably a little too much. Frankly, it’s got to the point where I was complaining along with everyone else after hitting over 70 days straight of over-100-degree weather.

I love rain too. I love it when it sprinkles. I love it when it gushes. There’s nothing quite so beautiful to me as a darkened sky, rolling clouds, and a loud thunderous clap just before wetness falls from the sky.

Right now, we could really use the rain. I mean. Really. So pray for us, everywhere else in the country.

Perhaps God is pissed off at Texas because we have a governor who’s a complete prick and is going around using God’s name to get votes. But some of us don’t like Rick Asshole Perry. So, make sure you toss that in when you’re mentioning us. God might not being paying attention to the tiny liberal pocket since we aren’t all that vocal with him. Or maybe he’s pissed at us because we ignore him. Either way, for those of you are in good with him, perhaps he just needs a reminder. Or she. I should say she, because I like to imagine a female God. Maybe she’s tired of getting called a boy. Or maybe this all has something to do with scientificky stuff like airflow and wind patterns. But either way, a little collective energy toward the heavens couldn’t hurt us right now.

Luckily, my life has not been directly affected by the fires except that I can smell the smoke. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, and praying,which feels like the most we can do, other than donating to the victims. Doing a rain dance wouldn’t hurt either, if you are so inclined.

At this point, many/most of you have probably gotten a good lead on places to donate and help out the fire victims, but if you need any more leads, here’s a comprehensive list from one amazing Austin mama blogger.

If you want to read more stories from Austin mom bloggers, here’s a post that links up to lots of other blogs. We’ve all got our stories.

And finally, a special shout out to my friend Heather, a crafty mama who is supporting an effort to make handmade quilts for fire victims. They’re going to need something special to cuddle.