I’ve had to use a few tissues, my toddler’s sock, the edge of my bed sheets (whatever is nearby)…to soak up my tears. Why do you ask? I’m listening to the audiobook “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. Check it out, if you can. Especially before March 29th. Khan-Cullors will be on Facebook Live Book Club to answer questions/chat about her work 🙂
A week or so ago, I saw this posted on the internet:
When I saw it, I had a good chuckle. I thought “ain’t that the truth, Ruth!” Then I grew somber. It really was the truth. The job market is ridiculous right now, and because there is still a significant amount of people desperate for work, employers literally have the pick of the litter.
It’s even worse for Black folks, as the saying goes we are the last hired, first fired.
Since, I’ve gotten a graduate degree, I’ve been hustling to find steady work. There was a period where it was hard to find work due to being pregnant, but I was still open to answering phones, something. What I’ve come to realize, despite the rhetoric leveled at Black folks to get an education, stay out of trouble, etc. Is that, we still have to show up to interviews Black (if you get that far, sometimes they discard your application on name alone).
It’s always been amusing to me that white folks (and some non-Black folks) who are anti Affirmative Action, accuse the practice of favoring Black folks. Studies show it is actually white women have benefited the most from Affirmative Action.
I see this truth every time I have an interview. The majority of times I’m sitting in front of a white woman manager/supervisor. In my city, Portland, usually this means they are a self-described hipster/feminist/alternative/progressive who are for the empowerment of all women. Ironically, these white “progressive” women can be the worst. In that, they tend to take a paternalistic approach towards women of color…particularly Black women. Because Black women have historically been used as the antithesis of white womanhood (to justify our abuse/rape/exploitation during slavery), the majority do not know how to engage with Black women as equals.
I have sat in interviews with white women who had smirks on their faces, looks of amusement, or surprise that I was friendly/open. The stereotype is that Black women are rude/combative/joyless people. I have a friend who is a full-figured, dark-skinned woman. She once shared that her employer told her she couldn’t believe how sweet she was. My friend stated, “I guess because I’m a fat Black woman they expected me to be mean.”
The reason why I decided to write this series, is not because I like telling my business, but rather my housing situation has truly been surprising to me. I thought I did everything the “right” way. I got the degrees, I didn’t have a child until I was in my 40’s, and I have stayed out of trouble. I have applied for job after job after job, yet I struggle.
The fact that I experienced homelessness for over six months was frightening to me. Even in my 20’s, when I was the brokest of the broke, I still found a way to keep a roof over my head. It’s not as easy these days, with increasing rents, gentrification, and unsympathetic landlords excluding working poor communities.
In my current city, Portland, Oregon the displacement of communities of color, especially Black folks has been alarming. I relocated to Portland spring of this year, after my ill-fated attempt to make home in the Deep South. When my roommate and I were given an eviction notice due to an accident, I had had enough. I tried to get acclimated to my new southern town, it was hard. Like most kids who were raised in the north, but shipped to the south during the summer months to spend time with family, it was different living there full-time as an adult.
The “red stateness” of it all made it unbearable. The limited access to social services, poor public transportation, and proud “rebels” was a bit much. I had to witness a pro-confederate flag rally once a month, when I rode the bus to work. The rally was held right next to the civil war museum downtown. I’m sure you can guess which side the museum wished won.
I decided to return to Portland, after our landlord was committed to kicking my roommate and I out. I packed up my son and our belongs and the little money I had saved and got out of dodge. But as the saying goes, “jumped from the frying pan into the fire.”
SEE ME Housing Support https://www.gofundme.com/woczinefoundersupport
In August 2016, I moved in with a friend. The end of 2014/ all of 2015 had been a chaotic/scary time of running around trying to secure stable housing while raising a new baby.
I also got a job. It was an opportunity given to me after successfully completing a class on poverty. The organizer arranged for graduates to meet with human resources at a local business, and we were interviewed on the spot.
The next eight months were pretty uneventful. I tried to make the most out of my employment situation. It wasn’t ideal for me. I was grossly underpaid for my education/background, but since I was in a town fueled by hospitality dollars…the job was as good as it was going to get. At the very least, the job made it able for my son and I to survive.
More than 20 percent of Americans spend over half their income each week on rent, a number that continues to rise, recession or not. https://newrepublic.com/article/132159/americas-eviction-epidemic
Then one morning in March 2017, I was preparing to go to work. My roommate sat on the couch with a grimace on her face. I asked her what was wrong. She stated the night before, she had accidentally fallen against the window while trying to put on her shoes. My roommate had poor health/bad knee problems, so it was difficult for her to stand without support. She miscalculated leaning her arm against the wall, and instead pushed her arm through the window. It had broken. She had cuts all over her arm. We chuckled about it, because we often poked fun how clumsy she was.
Neither one of us thought more about it. She stated she would let the manager know what happened and I hurried off to work. Later, that day, I received a text message from my roommate. The manager had been angry about the broken window and wanted to evict us. I was floored. Why would she do that? It was an accident.
When I returned home from work, my roommate explained to me that the manager believed the window had been broken on purpose. She alleged it had been broken in a fight. We couldn’t believe it. The manager maintained other tenants had told her that there had been a loud ruckus the night the window was broken. Supposedly, my roommate (who could barely get around most times without her breathing machine), had been in a knock down/drag out fight with a mysterious someone, as she couldn’t describe what the person looked like.
The fight was to have started down the hill near the manager’s apartment, yet she admitted she hadn’t heard anything. Then the alleged fight had moved back up the hill, near our apartment, and that’s when the window was broken.
“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women,” Desmond writes. “Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eviction-matthew-desmond-book_us_56e996e3e4b065e2e3d82403
My housing problems started three years. It was December 2014. I was about to graduate with a Master’s degree. It was an exciting time. It had taken 2 1/2 years of sweat, tears, and sacrifice. I was finally going to be free from the rigors of graduate studies. However, I made a mistake. I didn’t have a back up plan for my after college life. I relied heavily on student loans and an on campus job for living expenses. I was so focused on my final project for my degree, I didn’t devote enough time to job hunting. Plus, I figured I would find a job easily, anyway. I had a Master’s degree, right?
I was in for a rude awakening. I found myself dead broke when school money dried up. I lost my job since it was for students only. I applied for several jobs, but nothing came up. I couldn’t afford to pay my half of the rent with a new roommate. The roommate tried to be patient, but I knew I had to be fair and leave so they could find a more stable roommate. It was during this time, I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I was older, and never really wanted children. Also, I thought my childbearing days were almost behind me, as my cycles were thinning out.
I moved in with someone I thought was a good friend. It turned out to be a disaster. I was living in a hostile situation and the stress was too much. I decided to give my city the finger, and move back to the south were the majority of my family resided.
It went fairly well the first couple of months. I stayed with my biological father. Soon it turned another dramatic situation. I’ll just say, I’ve gots no love for my step-mother. Four days after the birth of my son, we moved into a homeless shelter for women and children. We lived there for seven months. I was forced out after a new director thought I should be doing X,Y,Z since I was “highly” educated compared to many of the women in the shelter. But she didn’t take into account I was a single mom with a small baby, struggling with childcare issues like most parents. I was “highly” educated in a mostly service-industry town, where most people barely had GEDs. I was seen as over-qualified. I had nowhere to live if she kicked me out. What good is a degree when you are in crisis mode?
“When people show you who they are believe them…”-Dr. Maya Angelou
On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 the majority of (white) Americans decided to ignore the common sense message of the late goddess…Maya Angelou. Now we are stuck with Donald John Trump for president. Le sigh. Of course, there’s been an avalanche of articles on how could this have happened. Particularly, a focus on the “disappointments” and “anger” of the white working class. Most folks of color (including myself) don’t understand why we are supposed to empathize with the problems of working class white folks over working class communities of color. From what I’ve read, many of their concerns are the same (livable wages, good education for their children, etc.) Also, more bizarre, why did white working class folks think a billionaire (who has every opportunity ever handed to him) would be able to relate/improve their lot in life?
I had the misfortune of happening upon Fox News “The Trump Revolution” and all I could do was shake my head. A bunch of confused white folks not quite sure why they voted for Trump, other than he wasn’t a woman/colored (okay, they didn’t say this, but that’s the underlining vibe I got from watching the program). One man broke down in tears and stated Trump would be able to help his improved elderly mother. Umm, okay. The irony of all this, despite the legitimate concerns/fear of folks of color when Trump takes office in January, it will be white people who find themselves struggling the most. The thing about folks of color, we are survivalists. We have learned how to navigate oppressive times. Not all of us made it, because we are only human and the body/mind can only take so much, but overall all the majority of us are still here.
Many white folks have shown they can’t handle stress/hard times. Think The Great Depression where suicide rates skyrocketed. Where, even now white folks tend to have the highest suicide rates when things go amidst. Hell, the election results themselves show how white folks can’t handle change. Instead of embracing the growing diversity of our country, how it could empower us all with folks different talents/contributions, many see it as a threat. Most would rather hearken back to a time of blatant violence/hatefulness of folks who don’t look like them. I currently reside in a red state. I see/hear this mentality all the time. I have to look at a confederate flag everyday. It’s sad and alarming.
But in the end, its white folks I wish luck to. They are going to need it.
Back in January, I signed up for the workshop “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World.” Next week, I will be “graduating” with fellow classmates. The graduation is really just an opportunity to celebrate the completion of the 16-week course.
The “Getting Ahead…” workshop looked at the underlining causes of poverty. Folks tend to tell those who are struggling to “get a job” or that “McDonald’s is always hiring,” but these comments don’t acknowledge the fact that many poor people are employed. They are called the working poor. These are people making low-wages and still need help from social service agencies or other community resources.
The class resonated with me on many levels. Despite being a person with a degree, I have often found myself riding up and down the poverty line. It has become even more complicated after having my first baby, last year. Extra expenses I never had to worry about before haunt me on a daily basis (daycare costs).
The only thing I would change about the course is that I would have liked if we talked more institutional oppression. Racism, sexism, and other isms can affect who gets what jobs, access to educational opportunities, etc. For example, LGBTQI folks of color tend to have high rates of poverty due to blatant discrimination.
Overall, an insightful workshop.
I love The Walking Dead series. It has all the elements of drama, suspense, and gore that an Apocalypse obsessed woman like me needs. I have finally watched all the new episodes…I was a season behind. The death of Tyrese, Carol threatening to feed a little boy to zombies, the tower crushing the “unbreakable” walls. Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. The show always has great twists. I can’t wait to see what the crew does when the new season starts in February. I’ve been wanting to read the graphic comics, but was surprised to learn there are over a hundred issues. Umm, never mind. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The show will do for now.
I have also finally caught up with the The Hunger Game Trilogy. Well, I still need to watch “Mockingjay Part. 2,” but I get the gist of the final film. “The Hunger Games” movies have worried me. There are sci-fi/futuristic films that come off as unbelievable, but there is something scary about how real”The Hunger Games” movies feel. It’s probably because the current gap between the rich and poor is alarming. And the fact that the elite seem oblivious/even hostile to the plight of the poor.
Recently, a friend shared a video where a guy conducted a “money suit” experiment. He pinned a bunch of $1 bills all over his jacket and walked around with a sign that read “take some if you really need it.” As he strolled through a well off neighborhood, folks wearing/carrying designer outfits/bags would silently walk up and snatch the money. The guy would ask “do you really need it?” The people would ignore him, stuffing the cash into their Burberry bags. He then walked down a public street. A homeless guy read the sign a couple of times before hesitantly approaching the guy. He quietly asked for a couple of bucks. The suit man was surprised. “You’re not going to take more?” He asked. The homeless guy said no, he just wanted few bucks to get something to eat. In the end, the guy doing the experiment gave him some extra funds.
The experiment made me think of “The Hunger Games.” The 1% percent taking more than what they need/hoarding resources, while the have nots too nicely ask for what is rightfully theirs. As with “The Hunger Games” films, it’s beyond time for an uprising.
The film “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” popped up on my Netflix line up. I decided to watch it, since it’s rare to see films about black youth. I was a bit disappointed to see it was a cliché film of a low-income black kid with a drug addict for a mother, the absentee father, the scowling local drug dealer/pimp (Anthony Mackie wearing a laughable Rick Ross beard), and a tough azz nails police officer. *sigh.*
Despite my disappointment, there were some good moments in “The inevitable…” The young actors Skylan Brooks (Mister) and Ethan Dizon (Pete) are too adorable. They do a good job of carrying the film by themselves. Pete was the stereotypical silent Asian character, though.
Hopefully, one day we will get a fun black kid’s film (like The Goonies) were there isn’t so much despair. “The inevitable…” was depressing as hell to me.
I usually like to get my summer movies on, but this was another flat summer of sequels (why in the world is there a Transformers 4?) and white male superheros (while the stories of Spawn, Storm, Black Panther, etc. sit on the sidelines). I figured I might as well keep my money in my pocket.
However, there was one unique film that peaked my interest, so I decided to go see it. “Snowpiercer” is a sci-fi film based on a Korean film based on a french graphic novel.
“Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1706620/
The film had some good action scenes and original moments. My one beef with this film, like majority of films set in the future, there are rarely any people of color. Which is strange, when it’s a known fact populations of color will dominate in the next few years, let alone in 2031. Okay, I guess you can argue most die in the snowstorm, but 99% of them?
Octavia Spencer plays Tanya (you know I loved that name 😉 She is the lone black character who lives in the tail of the train, where the poor folks reside. Well, I take that back. She does have a son, so that makes two black folks. Oh, then there is a random black character introduced later, so three total 😦 And dammit to hell, why did they have Spencer’s character hollering about some chicken. The other folks of color are basically Asian sidekicks, who are drug addicts.
A good friend thought “Snowpiercer” was an amazing film. I wouldn’t go that far. There were times when my mind started wandering, because I didn’t know what the hell was going on. And there were so many plot holes, I lost count. But I would still recommend the film. It’s something a bit different compared to the other summer films. Also, I love films that look at the break down of civilization, class warfare, etc., because that’s where we are headed. These films give you some survival insights.
Welp, that wraps up my summer recaps. Have a good weekend!