Race Is Not a Card…

Image result for free google images of deck of cardsImage result for free google images of deck of cards

Does anyone know what a race card is? Surely you’ve heard this term thrown around quite often, especially in the media. It implies that an individual of ethnicity, is somehow using his/her own race to attain some type of advantage as a result. But, here’s the million dollar question: How can a person’s race, be considered a card, that a person can flash or present at will, whenever the occasion seems suitable? Yet amazingly, people are accused of this all the time. In fact, every time I hear the term, I am astounded that it has gained so much momentum and attention over the years and is often viewed as a valid concern.

Now it would be unfair of me to speak for other ethnicities or make generalizations concerning my own, but I do think it’s safe to say that being that one cannot change their race at will, (and why would they want to) any more than they can stop the sun from shining or the rain from falling. But for me, ‘race’ consists of a full deck if you will, that people of various ethnic backgrounds reflect 2-4-7. They represent the entire ‘deck’, all day, every day, whereas a card can be pulled, changed, and altered as often as need be.

Furthermore, would you agree that by accusing a person(s) of playing the race card, also implies that there is some disadvantage that would inspire the use of this so-called card in the first place, in order to level the playing field? If everyone had the same opportunities, the proverbial ‘race’ card instance would be non-existent. Interesting that the very people who often tilt the field in their own favor, then audaciously turn around and accuse the unwilling recipients of these accusations, who in spite of so much adversity, still manage to embrace the life-long hands they’ve been dealt, with both resilience and acceptance. Kind of reminds me of the thinking behind affirmative action. Lets start the conversation. What say you?

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

Racism 101 – An Unsolicited Introduction

Evidently, I am no different than most mothers out there. From the moment I first laid eyes on my son as a baby, I knew I would do anything in this world to protect him. I truly thought I could protect him from all the things that could threaten his tiny little world. Little did I know that my incredible desire to shield him from all negativity would not only last throughout his life, but increase by leaps and bounds over time.

Being the African American mother of a male child, is no easy task, especially when doing so alone. The careful shaping and molding of a young boy into a man without any handbook or instructions to refer to. After all, I am not a man. My main hope as a young mother, was to instill the vital morals and values within my son that would later manifest and help to solidify his manhood. There always seemed to be so much to share and make him aware of and that is still true today. I often wish I could pour my knowledge and experience into him as a kind of ‘heads up’ to the many storms that life can unexpectedly rain down on a person. But we all know that it’s impossible to make our children aware of every little thing, try as we might. Trial and error has proven to be a constant teacher in my son’s world and to this day he is still an unsuspecting student.

In spite of some kicking and screaming, my son made it into manhood. It’s so interesting to watch him evolve a little bit each day. There are times when I am stunned by the level of growth and transformation taking place. Sometimes life allows him to ease into situations and adjust at a comfortable pace, while there are other times when life slams him hard, forcing him to face the oftentimes deafening music of real life.

A couple mornings ago, my son woke me up at 6:00am to tell me about an incident that happened while he was delivering newspapers on his route, one of two jobs he holds. I was stunned by what he was saying, so much so that I sat up in bed with a spring-board like reaction. He proceeded to tell me about his encounter with a man in the wee hours of the morning during his delivery. It didn’t take long for my son to figure out that this man was a full-fledged racist. This particular morning, my son was late delivering the newspapers and as a result, he crossed paths with an ugly evil that he was not expecting. My son said he asked the man three times if the paper he was about to deliver belonged to him, as the man would not move out of his path. The man just stood there like a statue, not moving left nor right, backward or forward and not responding in any way. My son finally gave up and carefully maneuvered around the man and threw the paper past him.

This action seemed to set this peculiar being off. He started yelling at my son while to calling him a monkey and threatening to report him for throwing the newspaper to close to him. Really? This man then proceeded to grab the paper up from where my son had tossed it and began to dismantle it. My son asked the man AGAIN if it was his newspaper. The man started spewing the word monkey and other racial slurs in an onslaught of negative rapid fire. Thankfully, the man’s words were not bullets, or my son may have met with a very different outcome.

No doubt the verbal attack penetrated my son as a human being far deeper than any bullets could have. I’m sure my son didn’t tell me every word that was exchanged between the two but I’m sure he had some choice words for the bigot that stood before him. My son did express that this is 2015 and that here this man was with these ignorant prejudices and distorted beliefs of years long since passed. Years that have transpired yes, but unfortunately have left their relative behaviors and backward thinkers behind.

I have to say that as his mother, I felt my heart breaking twice over as he told me this story; once for the pain and shock it must have been for him to encounter this hatred full on, and secondly for the pain of knowing that the one thing I wish I could spare him from the most, blatantly introduced itself without warning nor provocation. There was nothing I could do about it. If only there was a channel I could change and flip to another station. Unfortunately, it’s an ugly life truth that exists in full living color on a seemingly never ending wide screen. Everyone plays their role in life and then in walks an unwanted extra, onto the scene without solicitation.

How do we prepare our children for the outrageous and vicious behaviors of others that can break out at any time? I don’t think anything really prepares them until they’ve actually met this ignorance face to face. I’m just thankful that things ended with my son walking away. In spite of the nature of this incident, he handled the situation like an adult and didn’t allow it to provoke him into doing anything he might later regret. I couldn’t be more proud of him. As ugly as this incident was, I am confident that it has cemented a much needed awareness in my son that he will definitely need as he continues to walk out his life journey!

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

How Do I Do It?

 

I posted a piece during the wee hours of the morning on June 17th 2014 called, “When Silence Isn’t Golden”. Believe it or not, I contemplated for quite a while on whether or not I should share this article. I wondered if it was a bit too much and I certainly didn’t want to offend anyone. After much thought and consideration, I decided to share it, and I’m glad I did.

A ‘Twitter’ friend of mine read my post and posed a few very interesting questions to me. Firstly, he asked why I didn’t mention anything about the struggles of the African American Woman as a single mother? My friend spoke of his disgust and anger at the prejudice that is so rampant and that seems to always boldly point in the direction of the African American woman; which led him to his next question. He wanted to know how I, an African American woman deals with all the negative push-back and resistance on a daily basis? In his words, “How do you do it, Sylvia?”He pointed out the double whammy situation that I’m in; not just being a woman, but an African American woman. Thirdly, he wanted to know why the many defining characteristics African American women share collectively, are not highlighted in a more positive light?

As I read all the great points he brought up, I could only shake my head. I wish I had all the answers but I don’t. I would be happy to have even 1 answer. Thanks to my friend’s prompting questions, I am now going to attempt to respond to all of them as best I can, though I can and will only speak for myself. So, please bear with me as I try to paint a picture that will hopefully shed some light on the struggle I experience regularly as many African American women do; single motherhood. Here it is…

Why didn’t I include in my post, the issue of single motherhood as it pertains to the African American woman? In all honesty, it never occurred to me to include this aspect in this piece. Not because it wasn’t or isn’t important. It most definitely was and is. However, I wanted to focus on the main issue that I was dealing with as an African American woman at that time. Unfortunately for me, it was a time of hopelessness and despair, as I tried to fit in to a world where I was not wanted; the corporate world. My fitting in or not, determined whether or not my livelihood would exist or cease to. It became the primary focus of my attention. Being a single mother, I was the sole bread-winner. I put up with a lot of nonsense in order to keep food on the table.

How did I and how do I deal with all the negative push-back and resistance that I face daily as an African American woman? At the time I was dealing with the workplace situation, I continued to go to work, even though I knew I had to fight and that I was in it alone. I was not at liberty to quit, so it was a no-brainer. No work – no food, no home, etc. I was responsible for my son and myself, so I had to go on. Looking back in retrospect, I now know that I stayed in that situation much too long. Now, when faced with the in-your-face boldness of prejudice and racism, I stand firm in knowing that I have just as much right to work, to play, and to simply ‘be’, just like anyone else. I guess you could say, I’ve found my voice, and I’ve learned to use it. Maturity has provided me with a very thick skin that helps me to deflect the many bullets I often have to dodge. I never know where they’re going to come from. But instinctively, I know that they will.

Lastly, why are the attributes and defining characteristics we share collectively as African American women, not highlighted in a more positive light when they should be? I revert back to that old adage: “You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. We as black women can only continue to be the strong, resilient, intelligent beings that we are. Others recognize our strengths and talents, but until there’s a general consensus if you will, or willingness to support and include African American women in every way, the question(s) will always remain, “why?”

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

 

Sundown Towns

 

 

 

injustice-files-sundown-towns

 

Last night’s edition of filmmaker Keith Beauchamp’s The Injustice Files: Sundown Towns on Investigation Discovery refocused attention on what is now known as “sundown towns,” places where African-Americans were not welcomed “after the sun went down” and, in some instances, purposely driven out altogether.

I had never heard of the term Sundown Towns until I recently watched a documentary on the subject on Investigation ID.  Unfortunately, this kind of ignorance is alive and well today, according to this documentary. In certain parts of the country this way of thinking seems to be thriving but has been kept hush,hush by the media.  Evidently, black people were warned by signage that they could be killed if caught after dark in these “Sundown Towns”.

A sociologist by the name of James W. Loewen, strongly believes that these “sundown town” situations occur predominately in Northern states as opposed to Southern states as he explains in his 2005 book called “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. Being a native of Illinois, Mr. Loewen focused heavily on this area and believed that this subject had a huge presence there.

The documentary I saw aired on March 21, 2014. One of the places noted in the segment was Martinsville,Indiana where a black woman by the name of Carol Jenkins was murdered at the age of 21 simply because she was caught in town selling encyclopedias ‘after dark’. Miss Jenkins had come to the home of a couple seeking help on the night of her murder. According to this couple, she was very afraid because she was being followed by a car with two men in it. The couple tried to get Miss Jenkins to stay at their home that night and pleaded with her not to go back out but she insisted on leaving and didn’t want to bother them further. Besides her murderer(s), this couple was the last to see her alive. The wife of the couple said she felt Miss Jenkins knew she was going to die that night. Tragically, that’s just what happened on September 16, 1968.

Is this as much a surprise to some of you as it was for me? Please share your thoughts on this subject.

 

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