Jun 26, 2012

Representin' vs. Privilege

"I really hope nobody thinks he was with me just because I'm African-American, you know?"                                     
 Image via Flickr/LifeSupercharger

The air is filled with electricity, and it isn't just the buzz of the lights warming up. The crowd is tense. On edge. Waiting for the big game to start. "It's just little league" is a blasphemous statement that could set angry mobs of senior league pre-teens aflame. To the players, this is serious business; friends playing against friends for the championship. More importantly, playing for bragging rights that will last all summer--perhaps into the new school year.

Game faces on, ice water in veins, adrenaline amped up. Ready.

Flashes of silver light up the night as the little sisters and brothers collect change for the "confession" stand. Popping smacks of pinkness erupt from the mouths of both the players on the field and the parents in the stands. The bleachers are full. Both baselines are separated by fence and mirrored by colorful camp chairs.

The teams are announced. The national anthem is played. Game on!

And there he is...standing behind the fence. Close to home plate, along the third base line, rooting for the Guest team: in other words--in enemy territory. His baggy, ball-capped frame blocks the view to the plate and parents are thinking (at least I am), "You make a better door than a window!" But instead of throwing out that confusing cliche, a parent politely asks him to sit down so she can see. 

"I don't mean any disrespect to you all, but I will not sit down. You can't make me." Fingers resume their interlaced dance with the fence. But he's not just watching the game--he heckles the players on the field. The pitcher tries to retain focus...ice water in veins, game face on, check that adrenaline...don't want any wild pitches. Then the foulness begins--not in the batter's swing, but along the fence. Behind the umpire.

A slew of phrases that my grandmother would attribute to sailors infects the air, making parents tense about more than just the pressure on the diamond. That statement that just a  few minutes ago would've caused child rebellion and pre-teen eye-rolling is now uttered by the crowd in near-unison. No longer a diminishment of the proceedings, but a phrase that warns an inebriated spectacle that his words are not appropriate for young players, younger siblings. "It's just little league!" No need to heckle--they're just kids.

The umpire is also just a kid. Maybe in college. He's focused on the game, not on the Spectacle almost directly behind him. But then a torrent of motherf****s erupts. He must pay attention to the Spectacle because the mom brigade can no longer stay seated. Moms rise up and march forward, one firmly demanding, "You need to sit down and shut up." 

Again the Spectacle turns to the crowd behind him, "I don't mean to disrespect you all, but you will not talk to me like that. I can tone down my cussing but you cannot make me sit down."

He's walking. He's angry now, but so is the mom brigade. The sensible uncle behind them tells the moms to, "just sit down. Don't get involved." Instead of heeding sensible advice, one mom and the Spectacle circle each other, a dance evoking images of elementary school playgrounds after school when the day-long whispered threats finally boil over into a full-blown fight. The game is no longer the primary entertainment, it's tension has shifted to the stands as we wait to see if the lion mama will pounce. Instead, she sits down and pulls out her cell phone to call the police.

Shouts from the crowd, "He's gonna to have to go! Get him outta here!" goad the umpire into quietly saying something to the man (from behind the safety of the fence, of course) and the Spectacle boisterously begins the charade of leaving. After a minute or so, there is silence and the ump calls, "Batter up!"

The game continues. The focus is where it should be--on our boys. Pop-up flies are caught. A pitcher has two innings of perfection and then can't hold it any longer. The winning runs are scored and the guest team celebrates its victory, accepting high fives from both their teammates and their opponents. A secondary battle was waged tonight, too. My son played against his best friend. Brother against brother: one on the mound, the other in the box. Bragging rights are serious between these two whose friendship has only been interrupted by the recent presence of a first girlfriend. Over the years, their camaraderie has naturally led to a friendship between parents. As the season progressed it became obvious that both our families and our teams were set on a collision course for the championship---an awkward battle of the buddies. Before the handing out of medals, my friend comes over to, I assume, exercise some motherly bragging rights.  

My friend is wife of the opposing team's assistant coach. She joins me (the assistant coach's wife for the home team) while I am rehashing the season with the head coach's wife. We stand along the third base line cheering loudly for each boy who played. We are all friends, so there really isn't too much trash talking. A few jokes about how the boys will be exacting or receiving revenge for the rest of the summer (Extra elbows in their summer league basketball practice? A coup d'etat in their video game war? Pranks involving the girlfriend?) We chuckle over the antics we are sure will entertain us in the coming month, but the conversation quickly turns to the Spectacle. 

"Can you believe he was cussing like that? There are kids here! It's just little league!" Our head coach's wife was really shocked.

"I can understand wanting to drink some beer and watch a ball game on a hot night, but that was out of line. Did he really leave?" my friend asked.

I said, "Yeah, I think he left when one of the moms called the cops."

She shook her head and looked at me with concern, "You know I was sitting in the bleachers with a lot of other people. I wasn't too far from him. We were both rooting for the same team. I really hope nobody thinks he was with me just because I'm African-American, you know?"

And I didn't know what to say.

I've been in groups of white women who talk about "those people," when they don't know my family. I've been like a spy in enemy territory, witnessing the truth that comes out when people feel comfortable enough to talk openly among "their own kind." And after being around such women, I can tell you that my friend is right to think about who will judge her based on the actions of the Spectacle tonight. Some white parents, maybe even those from her own team, will think that the drunken Spectacle must've been a part of that big group of black folks in the bleachers--just because they all share a skin color. 

I've seen many drunken white men at sporting events. Some embarrassingly drunk, rowdy, and even violent. But I don't ever recall a time when my own character was judged because of the behavior of a drunken white man, just because we share a skin color.


2012 Senior League Sox--2nd place team (but champs in our book) Photo by Jen Marshall Duncan

Jun 19, 2012

Celebrating Juneteenth

This post also appears today on Multicultural Familia, an online magazine supporting modern families.

Today we celebrate Juneteenth. 

What is Juneteenth?  

It is the oldest African-American holiday, celebrating freedom and honoring the memory of former slaves. You might know that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and wonder–why do we celebrate on June 19th? The answer is that not all slaves knew they were free in 1863. Many white plantation owners wanted to keep their slaves working after the Emancipation; they wanted to continue making profits from free labor. As Union troops marched across the country, news of Emancipation spread; but it did not reach all slaves. The slaves in the state of Texas were not told about their freedom until Union troops marched to Galveston two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It took two and a half years for the United States to make sure that everyone knew: All slaves are free. That was June 19, 1865.

One year later on June 19, 1866, former slaves gathered to celebrate their freedom with music, worship, barbecue and the sharing of stories. The system of slavery and its aftermath did not permit African-Americans to attend school or learn to write, so the story of Emancipation was spread though oral tradition. Through their retelling, June Nineteenth became shortened to Juneteenth.

How Can I Celebrate Juneteenth?

Today, Juneteenth is a state holiday in Texas and in many other states. Families gather to celebrate their freedom by barbecuing, attending parades, sharing music and telling stories. Many drink red beverages or eat red velvet cake. Red symbolizes the blood shed by former slaves.

Looking for ways to teach your children about Junteenth? Many communities have Juneteenth celebrations with family friendly activities and barbecue. www.juneteenth.com has a place to search for and add Juneteenth celebrations occurring worldwide. My family will first remember history by reading some books we got from our local library and talking about them. Then we will celebrate freedom with barbecue, a baseball game and fun!

Children’s Books about Juneteenth

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Yvonne BuchananJuneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan. Published by Lee & Low Books.  Check out the Lee & Low site for a classroom guide filled with activities and discussion questions to help teach kids about Juneteenth here.

Juneteenth by Vaunda Michaux Nelson and Drew Nelson, illustrated by Mark SchroderJuneteenth by Vaunda Michaux Nelson and Drew Nelson, illustrated by Mark Schroder. This book does a wonderful job of teaching the history of slavery with both sensitivity and honesty. The authors describe how slavery began by asking children to imagine themselves in the past, “Imagine that you are playing outside. Suddenly you are captured in a net like an animal. You are packed in the bottom of a ship with many other stolen people.” They go on to describe the basis for the Civil War and the continued struggle of black Americans for equality.

How does your family celebrate Juneteenth?

© 2012, Multicultural Familia™. All rights reserved.

Read more: What is Juneteenth & How Can I Celebrate at Home? http://www.multiculturalfamilia.com/2012/06/19/celebrating-juneteenth/#ixzz1yH3G595i

Jun 15, 2012


Image Credit:Flickr/ jovino  
I apologize for my absence, and I apologize for the fact that this post is probably not up to par. You won't leave here feeling informed, refreshed, or more knowledgeable about much of anything because I've spent the last week or so wondering if there is enough facial tissue in the world to collect all the stuff that's been coming out of my head and chest. Yep, sick. At first I thought it was just allergies or a reaction to the landfill fire that burned for over 2 weeks near my community; but in the end I think it was an evil intrusion of germs. While laying in bed and wondering how my family was faring in the rest of the house, I totally freaked myself out by watching all of Season 3 of the show 24 on Netflix. The whole season dealt with biological terrorism: the Counter-Terrorist Unit was trying to recover a huge vial of a weaponized virus. The bad guy planned to release it in cities all over the U.S. causing imminent death to millions of people. The first symptom of the virus was a bloody nose, and anyone who thought they were infected first wiped their nose. A drippy nose feeling caused person after person to wipe their nostrils looking for blood. My drippy nose got wiped about ten million times a day. Virus on TV, virus in my house...what if....AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!  Way to get paranoid about my runny nose, eh?

If I wasn't freaking out about potential bioterrorist occurrences in my nose, all I could think about was this British alternative comedy that I used to watch on MTV in the 1980's The Young Ones. One episode in particular kept running through my mind because I seriously went through like 800 boxes of tissues in about 2 days. Thank goodness trash day fell in the middle of my bout with the slime, or my house would be filled to the brim with dirty snot rags. It was that bad. But not as bad as the sick boys in The Young Ones. Check out their sickness in the clip if you can handle totally disgusting, very low-brow, and outrageously funny British humor (okay, it was outrageously funny when I was a punk rock girl in high school...not so sure about now! But it is exactly what went through my mind all this week. For real.)

I am happy to say that I am now able to sit upright, and I even showered a couple of times in the past 2 days! I ventured out of my house (just to buy more tissues, of course!) but I seem to be on the mend. Now I just need to make sure that my self-quarantine to the bedroom was effective. If my kids get the crud I only have one suggestion for all of you: BUY STOCK IN KLEENEX! For real. You'll make a killing.

If they don't get sick, they are in for a rude awakening. They will be cleaning up the messes they made all week by scrubbing, vacuuming and laundering everything (and I mean everything.) Why is it that common sense flies out the window and chores come to a grinding halt when Mom is down for the count? Have they not heard that hell hath no fury like a mom whose house has been messed up? No joke, they let it go to pots.  I am just thankful that the kids didn't try to give each other home tonsillectomies again...I never could've driven anyone to the ER without passing out.

And on a side note, let me just say that I am hooked on watching 24 now. A black president? A rich political backer who is black? Criminals who are white? Talk about defying TV's racial stereotypes! Season 3 really impressed me in that way (even though it got in my head...okay in my nose...for a while.)

Here's to your health! Wishing you all a happy, healthy summer.

Jun 4, 2012

Sisterly Fights: A Home Tonsillectomy?

Image via Flickr/D.Clow - Maryland
My sister and I have these stories about fighting when we were younger. When we shared a room, Mom told us to clean it together. She would sneak out while I cleaned the whole thing, and then I'd tell Mom I was ready to have her look. When we'd get back to the room, there was my sister...playing in the middle of a heap of toys that I'd just put away. Mom would wonder why I'd called her in to check a room that clearly was not yet clean. I'd get so upset with my sister.

When we had separate rooms we'd sabotage each other's stuff. One wrong word could start a war waging. She'd do something to me that irked me, and then I would plot my retaliation. Her favorite cartoon poster came from a Fruity Pebbles cereal box, featuring the Flintstone family, and a big "Yabba Dabba Doo!" emblazoned across it in bright yellow. To this day, she has not forgiven my scribbling on that poster as revenge for whatever it is she did to me.

As teenagers, our fights centered on one area of house--the bathroom. There was only one, and we both needed it desperately. One time in particular, I was in the bathroom trying to close the door, and she was outside the bathroom in the hallway trying to get in. She pulled on the door and I pulled back. Finally, I tired of the tug-of-war and just shoved her out of the doorway as hard as I could. When her butt went through the wall, our fight came to an abrupt ending. Instead of the overwhelming need to get in the bathroom, our thoughts were consumed with, "Oh ***t! How do we tell Mom and Dad about this one?" The fear made us get the giggles and pretty soon we were laughing so hard we were crying! The butt-hole in the wall has become one of our most cherished stories, and we re-hash it regularly at family get-togethers.

I remember sisterly fights very clearly. In fact, my sister just brought up the old Yabba Dabba Doo poster while she was in town this past weekend for my daughters' dance recital. In the back of my head, I wondered what stories my own daughters would have to relive with each other in the future. 

Well, I no longer have to wonder...

Yesterday we ran a bunch of errands in between sports/hair appointments/Brownie cookouts. My youngest daughter (8) used her allowance to buy herself a big bouncy ball for $2.50. 

At bedtime, my older daughter (10) was brushing her teeth. Youngest had her new bouncy ball in hand as she walked toward the bathroom (always the scene of the crime!) Older sister decided to annoy younger sister by bouncing the ball out of her hands as she walked by. Younger sister got mad and decided to retaliate by bouncing the ball in her face. Problem?!? Toothbrush was in mouth at the time of impact.

Immediately I heard screams and looked toward the bathroom. More screams and lots of blood. I assumed a bitten lip, tongue or cheek. The amount of blood definitely warranted a trip to the ER for stitches. I tried to calm the injured one down, but I also remembered that the ball bouncer was probably upset, too. I wished I could clone myself to deal with both girls, but the bloody injury trumped the emotional injury in that moment. I yelled at my son to call his dad immediately and make him come back from the gym )he'd left just moments earlier to go work out.) As soon as I knew he was on his way, we grabbed a towel to catch the blood and tears and drove to the ER.

Luckily, there was no wait. Doctor number one checked her mouth and called doctor number two. Doctor number two checked her mouth and called doctor number three, an ear-nose-throat physician. Ear-Nose-Throat doctors and I have a long history together due to my severe allergies and hearing impairment. I wondered who they'd send down to check on my baby.

There is only one time in my life when I was so happy to see a doctor--that is when my 9lb 1oz baby boy was lodged in my cervix for the 19th straight hour, and my body couldn't open wide enough to get him out. (I wanted to marry the anesthesiologist who gave me the IV that eventually moved the labor along. My husband may even have kissed him!)  Our ER visit was another such time--I was extremely happy to have my very own doctor walk through the doorway to the room where my injured daughter and I waited. He marched right in and gave me a hug, then examined the injured throat with a lot of Tender Loving Care.  The verdict: tonsil laceration. He decided that the bleeding was slowing down enough that it didn't need stitches. The esophagus was not punctured and the airway was not yet obstructed (but I'm supposed to watch out for swelling. If it gets too bad, he may decide to take the tonsil out.) 

Now we are at home with instructions for recovery from a tonsillectomy: acetaminophen, popsicles, ice pack on the throat, don't cough too hard, don't blow your nose too hard, and rest. 

Some day, they will look back on this and laugh. Some day. Until then, we'll enforce a no bouncy ball during toothbrushing rule and make sure that there is only one person at a time in the vicinity of the bathroom. Home tonsillectomies are no fun. Seriously, if there were a sisterly fight competition, my daughters would have my sister and I beat! I hope that this is the only fight of its kind, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is only the beginning...(pray for me...)

Do you have famous stories of sibling fights? 


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