Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Traveling While Black

I frequently find myself in some of the trendiest/most expensive restaurants in a city when I travel for work.  The beauty of having a job that makes you travel is the blank check that comes along with it.  All of my expenses are covered by my job so I tend to live it up.

Unfortunately, I am not always treated nicely in these trendy, expensive places.  Depending on where I am traveling, I am often the only black person or the only single person in a restaurant.  I know that some people hold a bias against black diners because they believe that black people don't tip well.  Now let me say, I definitely know black people that live up to the stereotype but I also know a lot of white people who are bad tippers. 

I've also been told that black women are finicky diners who complain about their food and try to get things for free.  If my food is bad I might complain but if the service is crappy I might just suck it up to get the night over with.  But these biases put me in a terrible situation. If I receive bad service I shouldn't leave a big tip but if I don't leave a big tip it just feeds into their bias and makes them treat the next person even worse.

Tonight I dined alone at a trendy restaurant in a major city.  I saw people who arrived after me get served before me.  My drink order never came so I had to ask the person who brought my food to check on my drink.  My waiter never checked on me after he took my order.  I'm pretty sure I was overcharged for my dinner but it took so long to get the bill (and remember it's not my money) that I didn't want to risk sending it back. 

Not that it should matter but I was dressed in my work clothes.  A nice blouse and slacks.  My wedding ring is kind of big and I carry a designer purse.  If you were going to stereotype someone as cheap it wouldn't be me.  That's all I'm saying.

So what did I do?  I left a big tip and walked out feeling discriminated against.  I will mention the bad service on my Yelp review but the food was good and the spot was trendy so that won't keep people away.  If I mentioned to management that I felt their waiters discriminated against some diners they wouldn't believe it.  This is a very diverse big city with an equally diverse clientele.  But I was there tonight and I know what I experienced. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fix My Reality TV Please

I have always had a weakness for reality TV.  I have happily binge watched from the first season of the Real World through the Biggest Loser and any home improvement show.  Over the years a lot of shows have lost their spark and fallen off my radar but they are usually replaced with another show that grabs my attention.  Two of my favorite guilty pleasure shows are on their way out.  I have no power over them, but talking about how I would fix them makes me feel better. 

The Voice  

Part I- The Auditions
Keep the blind audition concept.  Show more videos of people who don't get selected for the show.  Cut back on the banter and make sure every audition for people who make the show is seen in full on the TV broadcast. 

After a team is half full, that person is no longer able to choose people.  They will sit through the full performance and assign that person a score.  Once all of the auditions are done, the coaches will call back their highest scorers and fill their teams.  Initially, this will favor the judges who still have room on their teams since it will remove part of the competition.  Eventually they will all be half full and will have to listen to full auditions before filling their teams.  People who audition late but have great voices should have an equal chance of making the show.

Part II- The Battle Rounds
Each singer will be given a score on their performance.  The highest scores will move on and the 2 lowest scores will have a sing off for the final spot.  The team designations are irrelevant.  If one team has 2 of the best voices they should both remain in the competition.  Mediocre singers are allowed to flourish under the current format.  The judges do not get to know the scores of their fellow judges, only cumulative score of all of their votes. 

I'm fine with the way the rest of the show goes as far as these earlier parts are fixed.

Married at First Sight

The first season of this show was fantastic.  Every season since, the show has been a little worse.  This season is probably my last season watching.  Pleas fix this show.  It is a great concept and must see TV when it works.

During the first season, the viewer was introduced to a number of singles looking for their matches.  You knew some of them were going to be picked for the show but you weren't sure who was matched up with who.  As  you watched the experts interview these people, you started to put together couples in your head.  You were shocked when they revealed which singles would be matched.

At this point you are emotionally invested in the show.  You feel like you have insight into each of the singles and can't wait to see if these matches work or not.  In later seasons, they have removed this part of the show.  You only meet the singles that they have picked and they tell you ahead of time who is paired up.

I'm assuming the initial process is the same.  The experts do extensive screening of the applicants to make sure they are making good matches.  None of the couples have stayed together expect for 2/3 couples from the first season.  I think this is because FYI knows it has a hit on it's hands and doesn't need to put the work they used to put in to get people to watch.

The show feels very hollow at times with forced activities to meet the script of the show.  Oh you are all going on your second honey moon this week.  Oh we're going to have dinner with a best friend and have them tell us our faults.  Of course this is all going to take place in the same episode.  These activities are so clearly forced and unnatural. 

Each episode is about 50% new material and 50% re-hashing the same issue over and over again to create drama and suspense where there really is none.  You know they have hours of footage of the couples.  Why not share more of that with the viewer instead of the mindless drivel that we are fed?

At the moment there don't seem to be any new shows in the wings that are going to satisfy my reality TV needs.  I hope things get better soon!  Netfilx is helping but it's just not the same. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another day, another video

It is hard to know how to feel these days.  Watching OJ: Made in America in the midst of the weekly videos of police brutality towards brown people and an unapologetically racist candidate for president makes me want to stay in bed forever and pull the covers over my head.

The OJ miniseries reminds me of where I was when all of this happened.  I was in college.  I remember being shocked and outraged when I saw the Rodney King video.  I remember thinking in my ignorance that surely these police officers would go to prison.  Police were there to protect you.  They were the people you were supposed to run to in a crisis.  These cops in the video weren't real policeman.  They were anomalies.  They would be punished and all would be right in the world. 

Well of course that's not what happened.  How blissful I was in my ignorance.  Now 2 decades later I can't count the number of times I've seen similar videos of police brutality.  I don't even hope for a trial or guilty verdict any more.  Not only has it become commonplace for police officers to kill black people, but it is also okay if you're just a citizen.  You don't even have to be a cop.  You see a black person.  Make an assumption about that person.  Even if that person is minding their own business and poses no threat to you at all.  You can kill him.  No one will care.  No one will notice.

What if all these videos were of white people being beaten and murdered?  Every time I hear a story about an innocent person being mistaken for a criminal I don't need to hear the race of the person.  I know it is only on the news because that person is dead and likely unarmed and black.

My hope is that eventually such a heinous crime will be caught on video that people will be shocked into action.  I don't know what will be worse than police severing a man's spine or shooting an unarmed man 20 times on his wedding day but I know it will come.  That the end of slavery, desegregation of schools, etc.  all came eventually.  Eventually cops will think twice before killing someone because they know that they will be punished for their crime and go to jail if they are wrong.  

I am so sick of hearing the daily justifications for these actions.  Oh, it's okay that they killed this innocent person because he has a criminal record.  No, he wasn't breaking the law when they shot him but the mere existence of a shady background makes it okay.  Or maybe they were breaking the law.  Maybe they have a warrant for their arrest.  No they didn't have a gun and weren't threatening the police in any way but they might have.  See we killed a bad person.  Eventually this person would have done something so we were doing a public service.

Not that this brutality is new.  It's just that in this age of social media and everyone having a camera in their pocket that they are caught on tape and made public.  People who think there is a sudden surge in police brutality are naive.  The brutality has been going on forever and will likely continue to go on.  It's just harder to ignore now. 

Every time I pass a police officer I have irrational fears of being pulled over for speeding and then being pulled out of my car and being beaten.  If I walk into a store and there are police there I worry that I might look suspicious.  That my big purse will make them think I'm carrying a weapon. That if I talk too loudly or get too close to them they will accuse me of something.  But them I worry that if they don't notice me and I suddenly sneak up on them by walking around a corner they may be surprised by the sudden appearance of a black face and draw their weapons.

I know that these fears are irrational but that doesn't stop me from having them.  I can't imagine that any of the innocent people who have been killed thought they were about to die. 

So yes, OJ was obviously guilty.  The evidence should have been more than enough to put him away for those murders.  But he got off.  He beat the system.  He was a black man who committed a crime and wasn't punished for it.  It feels like a victory in the face of all of the cops who killed black people and got away with it.  I can understand why so many people wanted to believe that OJ was innocent. 

I'm happy that in the end karma came around and he ended up going to jail.  Sure, it wasn't for murder but it still feels like justice.  I can only hope that one day karma will come around for the rest of us too.    Until then I won't make the mistake of running towards police for help.  I will take my chances with whoever is chasing me instead. 

Monday, June 20, 2016


I've had a lifelong battle with other women.  I don't feel like I fit in with large groups of women.  It always feels like they are obsessed with trivial things that I don't care about.  In my experience, women seem focused on making other women look/feel bad and not on supporting each other.  When I'm traveling, I've learned that I will enjoy my night much better if I spend it alone at a restaurant or in my hotel room.  The alternative of going out to dinner with a bunch of women who I can't trust and don't have anything in common with.   
I met a woman through mutual work friend.  She worked for a local engineering firm and was the only women of color in her office, much like me.  During a conference we ended up spending a couple hours getting to know each other.  We found out that we both loved running, dogs and Asian food. We agreed to meet together once a week to walk our dogs.  We ended up running or having lunch together once a week as well.  She had some annoying habits but overall she was someone that I enjoyed hanging out with. 

One morning I got to the park at our designated time and she wasn't there.  I texted her and she responded: "It's raining.  I don't walk in the rain".   Were her dogs aware of this?  Apparently they no longer need to go to the bathroom or get exercise when it's raining.  Let me be clear, this was not a monsoon.  Here in Syracuse, we are known for some really terrible weather.  This was a light rain on a beautiful spring day.  A lot of other people were at the park working out.  No one else seemed to think this was stay at home weather.

The fact that she didn't have the courtesy to call me to let me know she wasn't coming and that she would just let the time pass and assume that I would be okay with it because it was raining is ridiculous.  I hung out with her a handful of times after this.  Each time I saw her after that was less enjoyable than the last.  Suddenly her flaws become hard to ignore.  She was a bad dog parent.  She was materialistic and obsessed with impressing the other wives of her husband's co-workers.  She was trying to use my connections to gain traction at work.  I'm sure these problems existed before but I let them go because there were positive things to balance them out.  Eventually I stopped hanging out with her completely.  She ended up moving across the state when her husband got a better job.  I haven't spoken to her in years but she does occasionally pop up in my Facebook feed.  Every post reminds me of why she and I could never be friends.  

I have met several women through online running groups.  I love these groups because we are all going for the same goals and everyone is extremely positive and supportive.  As a person who typically runs alone, these groups give me a sense of community.  Every once in a while I meet these women in person by running in a relay together or having dinner before/after a race.  And every time, I feel left out, annoyed, bored, etc. 

From women "forgetting" to pay their race/hotel/rental car fees to women being selfish and not considering the needs/wants of other people in the group, they are consistently unbearable.  This has been easier to avoid since most of the groups also have male members.  I find that I am often the only woman in a group of men or that I am waiting/commiserating with the men in the group while the women are being annoying.  I am generally the wife who is hanging out with the husbands at weddings, Christmas parties, etc. 

I'm sure there are great women out there but my life has been full of unreliable women.  Even in cases when I have women that I would consider to be my friends, I can never completely let my guard down with them.  I cannot cry on their shoulders and count on them to support me the way that I support them or the way that my male friends support me.  I'd like to think that there are other women out there like me but really, at this point, I don't care.  I'm too old for this shit.   

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year, Same Problems

For most of my life I have been in charge of managing my brother's life.  Anytime he got in trouble or couldn't handle the stresses of life it was my job to make sure that he didn't hurt himself or someone else.  This became exhausting pretty quickly.  I started to resent my brother for always needing attention.  For not being responsible for his actions.  For needing the rest of us to tailor our lives to making sure he was okay. 

As he has gotten older my brother has been less destructive to himself physically but has not made any progress towards managing his life as an adult.  On Christmas Eve I found out that my brother is in yet another financial crisis created by him being careless and assuming that the rules of the world don't apply to him.  It has been less than a year since I saved him from the last financial crisis. 

Part of me wants to step away.  He's in his mid thirties.  He lives in another state.  At some point he has to step up to the plate and take care of himself.  But then I think of the other times that I have stepped back and I worry about things becoming worse.  As unfair as it is, this seems to be my burden in life. 

I have never had any desire to have children.  But I feel like raising my brother is a job that I got when he was born that will never go away.  It would be so much easier if my brother had a disability that was visible.  People would understand.  But with mental illness people can appear completely normal to friends and co-workers and be a complete mess inside. 

You can't force an adult man to see a therapist and go back on meds when he isn't a danger to himself physically.  And honestly, even if you could, I don't have fond memories of his time in therapy.  Weekly office visits and lots of drugs but no real progress.  Violent episodes.  Suicide attempts.  Jail time.  I am grateful that those days are over but still hopeful that there is a better alternative. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

BET Takes A Giant Step Backward

On the season finale of Being Mary Jane, Mary Jane ended her relationship with "The White Boy".  Not really a surprise since all of her relationships are unhealthy and end in a ball of fire.  Fans expect at least one new love interest per season and, subsequently, one epic breakup.  Usually the relationships have a honeymoon period and the viewers get sucked into thinking this one might last before the hammer drops.  But the difference between the other break ups and this one is that nothing actually happened this time. 

There was no argument that lead to this breakup.  Just Mary Jane deciding one day that she was black and could not maintain her blackness if she dated a white boy.  She spouted off all kinds of BS about how black men got her in a way that white men never could and that she couldn't date a white man because of this because it was some sort of betrayal to her race.  WTF.

So all black marriages have a 100% success rate because they just get each other?  Or 0% of interracial marriages last because they don't?  Shame on BET for this sort of ignorant 1950's mindset.  Black people and white people are different and they shouldn't be together.  Stay with your race.  Never stray from what society tells you is best for you. 

Relationships work when people listen to each other, respect each other and let their guard down enough to open themselves up.  For all the single women out their who cheered when Mary Jane ended the relationship and in the next breath complained to their girlfriends about how hard it is to find a good (black) man shame on you too.  I'm so over media telling me who I'm supposed to be.  The last place I expected to see racism promoted was on a network that is supposed to make me feel good about being black.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

Weak Women in Print

It feels like every book that I have read lately revolves around a collection of weak women.  They are either victims of some sort of abuse or completely dependent on men for every aspect of their lives. This is the narrative:

My husband doesn't respect or treat me well but I'd be lost without a man to do everything for me.  I don't know how to navigate this world without my big strong husband to make me feel safe.  I am of course the mother of daughters who are somehow strong and independent despite not having a strong female role model (like their mother).  I am resentful and bitter.  But when I am left alone (husband leaves me either tragically or voluntarily) I must learn to survive without him guiding me.  I went to college and had a career but I left all that behind to support my man.  Now I've been out of the work force for a decade and am not qualified to do anything but whine and lament the loss of my rock.   How much is our mortgage? Who is the insurance company? Oh woe is me how to deal with all these things alone.  No, I didn't work or pay attention to household finances.  I was planning parties or hanging out with the other PTA moms at the gym/ Target/Starbucks.  Gimme a break.

I'm so over the weak female lead in every novel.  The supporting female characters are generally catty, hateful bitches who are just as weak and inept as the main character, making it impossible for them to be a good friend to them.  The worst of it is that most of these novels are written by women.  Seriously, is that how you view women or worse yet yourself?  Is this the image of women that you want to put out into the world?  Are these the only type of women that you think people will find interesting or believable?  This weakness is rarely important to the story.  But yet it is always there.

I often find myself running a Bechdel test in my head.  Can two female characters have a dialogue without talking about a man?  In my own personal take on the Bechdel test I also look for conversations between women that don't revolve around their children.  Enough already.  Women are not weak, baby-making waifs whose can't tie their shoes without a Xanax and a man.  I like my characters likable, maybe even relatable.  What I don't like is hating a character and celebrating all the bad things that are happening to her.  Hoping the next book I read breaks this trend.