My color is Ecru Cream

Alternative title – A Roze by any other name is still a Roze

I Have Been Weary

The other day, Jill Dennison of Filosofa’s Word posted “A SHARED OPINION …” in which she shared an article by Charles M. Blow of the NY Times, titled “You Have a Right to Weariness.” As usual, Jill’s comments to this article echoed my own thoughts.  It is a great opinion piece for our time of unsettling barrage of news stories. I have been weary.”   It’s not in my nature to ignore world events around me.  My eighth grade Social Studies teacher taught me, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Winston Churchill.  Unfortunately, watching current events unfold makes me feel like I’m watching a train wreck about to happen, but I’ve no superpowers to stop it.

I thought I was Over It

As I attempt a smooth transition to my “Third Act of Life,” I am dealing with feelings and frustrations that I thought I had overcome or mastered years ago.  You see, I am a woman of color, I like to say it’s “Ecru Cream.” I describe Ecru Cream as a very light beige, like raw linen- almost white, but not quite. I lived most of my life that way-almost white.

I  am No One’s Anchor

I was conceived in Puerto Rico, and when my grandparents found out that their 22-year-old, unmarried daughter was pregnant; they sent her to Pennsylvania to stay with her married older sister, Evangeline.  Evangeline had migrated to the States a few of years before when her husband returned from his tour of duty for the US Army.  They bought a house and started a family.  My grandparents decided that Evangeline would be a good role model to help her sister in this situation, and so my journey of life began just outside “the City of Brotherly Love.”

No, I was not an “anchor baby.” My parents were born American citizens in Puerto Rico, and my grandparents were granted citizenship as young adults in 1917.  My grandfather was drafted to the US Military shortly after, just in time for WWI. Brooklyn

Nuyoricans “Passing” for an Opportunity

After I was born, my father came to see us at Aunt Evangeline’s house, and since my mother was “the love of his life;” we moved with him to New York City.  We joined his older sisters and brother who migrated and settled in Brooklyn. My parents seemed to quickly become accustomed to the new culture and way of life while maintaining and blending the traditional customs of the major holidays. We used to tease my mother that she learned how to be “American” by watching “I Love Lucy” and Days of Our Lives.”

My parents socialized very little with friends outside of work so that we spent our weekends and holidays with family.  For the most part, my family is very light skinned; my cousins and I grew up without accents, and our last names did not end in “Z.”  These characteristics gave people an opportunity to get to know us before realizing that we were just an illusion of whiteness.  Yes, we were “passing” as a means to have a chance.

In school, at the church and in the neighborhood, our friends were not Puerto Rican. Our friends were the first or second generation of immigrants.  They were Italians, Irish, French, English, Polish, Canadian, Brazilian or Middle Eastern. Most spoke a second language at home.  Together we navigated the Melting Pot culture of NYC and were absorbed into the American Dream.

Celebrity Magic Shows and Miracle Excelsiors

It wasn’t all easy peasy as my granddaughter likes to say and when I hear the rhetoric, I can’t help but feel a bit of fear and frustration.  I continue to say that DJT is not the problem. He is who he is and who he has been. He didn’t get more obnoxious on the campaign trail. He did gain more visibility. I was not a fan of his before, not as a businessman or as a celebrity. I never watched his reality TV show and rolled my eyes whenever he did a cameo in a movie that took place in NYC.  I was one of those that would have bet my last dollar that he would not get into the White House.  The American people would never vote a con-man into the highest, most powerful office in the country.  By Election Day, I had changed my mind.  I watched how Americans adored his bravado and his magic displays with smoke and mirrors.  I was not surprised by his win at all.  Mostly though, I was hurt.  I continue to feel betrayed by friends and family.

A Christian Education 

I knew race tensions existed, and I was aware the KKK was still alive and well, but the events of the past couple of years reach me at a very personal level. I am reminded of my years as a young adult, my first year away from home in a Christian Bible college.  It was a small Bible College in the North East, about an hour outside of The City.  In was presented as “interdenominational” in promotional events and material.  The leader of my city wide “interdenominational” Christian high school club recommended it highly.  Interdenominational meant that all Christians around the world were welcome. Even though Baptists founded it, the school welcomed students from Presbyterians to Pentecostals in all shapes, sizes, and color.  We had to include a photo with our application.

By the end of my first semester, I learned that indeed all that glitters is not gold and whitewashing walls is a quick, effective way to cover up dirt and imperfections.  We learned that the school accepted minorities and international students of color in pairs, one man and one woman.  It was preferable if they were already married.  One of our friends was “spoken to” because people saw her around campus accompanied by a Brown student.  To be truthful, I don’t remember what country he was from, but in my memory, I recall him as perhaps from India or Pakistan.  The girl was so upset by this situation that she did not return next semester.

The Founder and President of the school taught a class on Dispensations. It was in his class that I decided not to come back after my second semester. I did not go back to my local church either.  His beliefs did not resemble the Christianity I learned at home.  His lessons were peppered with digs and condescending, derogatory remarks about other denominations that were not entirely in accord with Baptist dogma. I questioned my beliefs, my faith.  It was years before I returned to an organized religious community.

Who Are My Friends?

There were many other things about the school that made me uncomfortable,but the most hurtful thing occurred after I left the school.  I had become close friends with my roommate and a few of the girls in my dorm.  Gwen, Margaret and I were inseparable.  Margaret and I made plans to visit our boyfriends at a Christian College in New England next semester. I continued to correspond with the girls by snail mail.  One day I received a letter from Margaret.  One line in the message hit me like a gut punch.  “Gwen and I miss you so much; we had to adopt another inner-city girl.”  Wow! I thought we were friends, real friends.  I thought she was my friend because we had a lot in common because I was smart, witty and fun to be around.  She saw me as an inner-city-girl who went to her school on a partial scholarship and lived in her dorm.

Disguised, They Came For the Immigrants…

Years later, I was working at a psychiatric day services program is a New England city nicknamed “The City of Immigrants.”  One day, after the clients left, and we were meeting to review the day’s events and planning.  There was construction going on around us, and the noise prompted a co-worker, Doug, to make some awful comments, similar to DJT’s views, about the men who were working on the project. 

The workers were mostly brown men if I had to guess they were probably from countries in South America and the Caribbean.  “I can’t believe you just said that,” I told him. His response to justify his words was worse. I explained that these men could very well be my cousin, brother, or father.  While he had never been disrespectful to me or made racist comments of our clients in front of me, it hurt me that he thought this way of these people he didn’t even know – just because of the color of their skin and their accents.

Doug was a man that I worked with for several years; we co-facilitated successful groups, we walked together at lunch, had our coffee together, I considered him a close friend.  He finally said, “I’m sorry, I  just wasn’t thinking.”  It didn’t make it any better if anything, it made it worse that he wasn’t thinking about the impact of his words.  Things were never the same between us.

Then They Came for Me…

People forget I am not “white,” I am a woman “of color,” Ecru Cream is my color.  If our country were to continue to erase all the progress made regarding equality for all people; if as a nation we lose respect for basic human rights what is left for us?  What becomes of me, of my family?  If someone comes knocking on my door and drags me away because of a flippant comment I made on Twitter, will my friends stand up for me?  Will they say, “Well, you shouldn’t have said that after all, he is our President.”  I remember the words of Martin Niemoller, “… Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

All this rhetoric brings all these emotions to the surface. DJT did not get to the White House on his own merits.  Witnessing day after day that our lawmakers condone and defend his actions is very draining.  I am reminded again: “…and when an experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  — George Santayana

Hope for Rational Government

The recent elections bring some hope that people realize that the current events are not just politics and business as usual, nor are they healthy for our Democracy.  On the flip side, the recent election shows that there is still lots of work to be done. The numbers were too close for comfort, and there were too many mistakes and too much irregularity at the polls. Yes, I am weary, but I am hoping that tempered and rational thought comes with the new legislators to Congress before we resort to “Hunger Games” for the dignity and survival of the 98%.  

With the Mouth She Kisses My Kids

From the movie Analyze This                                                                                                 (Robert De Niro as a mob boss Paul Vitti and Billy Crystal as a psychiatrist, Ben Sobel)

Dr. Sobel: What happened with your wife last night?

Paul Vitti: I wasn’t with my wife, I was with my girlfriend.

Dr. Sobel: Are you having marriage problems?

Paul Vitti: No.

Dr. Sobel: Then why do you have a girlfriend?

Paul Vitti: What, are you gonna start moralizing on me?

Dr. Sobel: No, I’m not, I’m just trying to understand, why do you have a girlfriend?

Paul Vitti: I do things with her I can’t do with my wife.

Dr. Sobel: Why can’t you do them with your wife?

Paul Vitti: Hey! That’s the mouth she kisses my kids goodnight with! What are you, crazy?

I wanted to add the clip for a better understanding but I couldn’t isolate the clip of this scene. I’ve just added the dialog.                                                                                                   

adorable animal animal world cat

Think about that in light of the events of this week.  The situation is not a joke.

Stay tuned for my next post to see why it matters

Cause to stumble?

This post is written with a sincere heart, but I realize it may be objectionable or even offensive to some.  For that, I apologize, but I did not have it in me to “self-censor” these thoughts.  The Bible is filled with warnings to Christians to be mindful of their actions so as not to cause another to stumble or fall in the faith. If at any point this post becomes too much, please stop reading and carry on with your life.  I will understand.  Since I started writing this, I have heard that a few Christian community leaders are speaking out against the Administration’s Family Separation policy for asylum seekers.   I am grateful, but it’s not enough, not yet.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

I sat at my computer several times over the last few days trying to write about what is heavy on my soul.   Each time I sat down to think about a way to start, an image presented in my brain.  It is the image from the Gospel according to Luke chapter 19 at verse 41.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                        41 He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it,

This verse talks about Jesus as he is approaching near to the city of Jerusalem.  He stopped to take it all in and then he cried.

Over the years I’ve heard different preachers give sermons about this verse.  Different people chose to interpret the chapter as they saw it in their hearts. Based on a cross-reference of verses, some people said that he was crying for the future of Jerusalem, others expressed that Jesus was crying because he knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem; others explained that Jesus cried because he knew the people of Jerusalem had hardened hearts.  I believe all three are correct, but given the circumstances of our own country today I feel that our leaders have hardened their hearts to the pain of humanity.  

Matthew 23:37 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                37  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!”

To love, then, is to obey the whole Law 

I was in a bit of shock the other day.  In response to critics on the Administration’s implementation of the immigration policy, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions got to the podium and “for our church friends” explained that the reason for coldhearted treatment of persons seeking asylum was because the Bible said so. Sessions, with a smirk, went on to read such scripture to support his claim.  He read from the book of Romans 13, the first verse, which as a side note was also used by the slave owners in their attempt to justify keeping slaves during President Lincoln’s time.

Romans 13:1 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                    13 “Everyone must obey state authorities because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.”

Even Steven Colbert pointed out that Sessions should have kept reading because verses 8-10 could have proved fascinating to hear.  

    8 “Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. 9 The commandments ‘Do not commit adultery; do not commit murder; do not steal; do not desire what belongs to someone else’—all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 10 If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.”

God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm

What has shocked me the most is that Jeff Sessions and later Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had the audacity to use the Bible to give credence to the current Administration’s policies and interpretation of the law.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the United States of America is not a theocracy.   When the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution, they wrote: We the People.  They had come here to get away from a government-sponsored religion.  I understand that we have grown accustomed to the fact that everything in this administration is “unprecedented,” but we cannot be fooled to think God ordains this.  God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm.  We need to stop using religion to excuse bad policy or bad behavior.   

John 18 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                              33 Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.   36 Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!” 

Is God good enough?

I have often said that some Christians seem to create a God in their image.  If we take the Bible as a starting point, the Bible says that God created us in His image.  Where is the disconnect?  Is it faith?  I’ve noticed that the “conservative” movement feels it’s their responsibility to get God’s work done one way or another.  They think they can use the government to move God’s timeline.  When Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, many Christians were posting on social media “even so, come Lord Jesus.”  I saw people posting things like “ok it’s done, we are ready for you to come.” Did they think that their God could not figure out a way to get things done? Did they think they had to elect Trump to do God’s work; to get things done? God wasn’t good enough to do it on his own? 

When Evangelicals support Trump, it seems to me that they are re-creating the story of the Passion of Christ when the High Priest in Jesus time, instigated the crowds to demand Barabbas be released.  If you have read the story of the Passion, you may remember that the crowds yelled and screamed asking Pilate for the release of Barabbas and to crucify Jesus.  The High Priests didn’t want someone who was going to take away their power and bring the people closer to God; they wanted someone who was going to get them out from under Roman rule. They wanted self-government which gave them the power and control over the people.

In my experience, whenever someone quotes the Bible for a political purpose, very rarely have I heard anyone quote something that Jesus actually said.  Trump’s entourage of evangelical advisors often quote the Old Testament histories or they bring up one of the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to one church of a specific place and time.  They don’t however, bother to explain the historical context.  If I’ve missed it, please do comment here, it is not my intention to spread wrong information.  There are many examples of Jesus teaching using parables.  One the most well-known perhaps is the story of The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke chapter 10 verses 25-36. This parable teaches that spiritually is not bound by race, ethnicity or nation of origin but rather by a love of God and His creation.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan                                                                                                25 A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?  ”26 Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”  27 The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”  28 “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”  29 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  30 Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.  31 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side.  32 In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side.  33 But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity.  34 He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”   36 And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?”  37 The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”  Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

To get the full meaning of this parable, one must understand that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along; similar to racial and ethnic differences and tensions in our country.  According to the parable, while a priest and a Levite, saw the injured traveler, neither one stopped nor did anything to help (in a nutshell, a Levite was an assistant to the priests and caretaker of the temple). The Samaritan, however, was filled with pity and took action.  How does this passage compare to our current day issues? As Christians, how do we compare? Do we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan from the pulpits in this country?  The Samaritan used his own money to take care of someone in need; even though they were strangers.

The reason I bring these things up is not that I want to point fingers at anyone but to bring up one of the teachings I am most respectful of.  Throughout the New Testament, we noticed that new believers are compared to children; children in the faith. 

Matthew 18 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                   18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”  2 So Jesus called a child to come and stand in front of them,  3 and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.  4 The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.  5 And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.  6 “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.  7 How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen—but how terrible for the one who causes them!

There is nothing more for me to add to this. There are plenty of verses admonishing seasoned Christians to take care of those struggling to believe, struggling to keep the faith. I hear it all the time, Christians who want nothing to do with organized religion because the image of Christianity projected in our society is not Christ-like.  I ask fellow Christians to do an honest self-exam.  I know there are true believers out there doing their best.  They are my friends, they are my family.  They radiate the love of God in their lives.  Is that you?  Are you careful not to cause your brother or sister to stumble, to lose faith?  Only you and God know if your life is demonstrating all the love of Christ. That love that makes people realize that God is real and a peaceful spirit can be found in Him. 

John 13:35 Good News Translation (GNT)                                                                                      35 If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Peace be with you. Blog Jesuslove-1221444_960_720

Roseanne, Samantha and Free Speech

 

Critique does not come easy for me.  I try to be careful but truthful with my words.  I don’t like to be rude.  I don’t want to hurt anyone.  I consider myself a moderate in many things.  I prefer to look at both sides of an issue, as I know that circumstances can appear different to each of us. We all have experiences that color our perception of the world around us.  I’m one of those who believes in “being nice to someone no matter what because you don’t know what they’ve been through.”  When there is a bizarre statement trending on social media, I try to look it up before I pass judgment or share inaccurate or misleading information.  I have voted for political candidates on both sides of the aisle, taking into consideration which person I feel is best for the job. That being said, when push comes to shove, I lean to the left.  My reasons?  That’s for another blog post-stay tuned.

Today let’s talk First Amendment, specifically regarding Freedom of Speech, Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee and Colin Kaepernick.  I have never been a fan of Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee, and I have had a passionate dislike for reality television since its inception.  I don’t care much for professional sports where the tickets are financially out of reach for the average family.  In my opinion, both women are the type of comedian who does or say anything outrageous just for laughs.  Reality stars are a peculiar bunch whose behavior is motivated less by real emotion than by the drive to affect the ratings and stand out from the rest by being dramatic or outlandish.

Samantha Bee’s statement about Ivanka Trump falls into the comedic arts category.  I think there were other ways she could have addressed Ms. Trump’s apparent lack of empathy for the families separated at the border.  The offensive word Samantha Bee used was not funny and did not advance her message, but the “wow factor” did get her media attention.  Should she have been fired? I suppose some might argue that foul language and off-color remarks are acceptable as part of a comedy routine. In the general population, some people use swear words like others use punctuation marks.  I have been known to unnecessarily spice up my language to make a point, but I am never in favor of anyone using disparaging statements to describe another person or to lash out at someone. 

Roseanne Barr, also a comedian, woke up in the middle of the night, sent out a racist tweet and tried to backpedal by saying she was under the influence of prescribed medication. There is an old expression that says, “a drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”   Is that comparable to a woman on Ambien?  I called out a colleague at work once for a scornful comment he made. He apologized saying that he said it without thinking; this admission on his part told me that derogatory thoughts were part of his belief system.  Had he been thinking, he would have filtered his words. I don’t believe medication, alcohol or Bipolar Disorder makes a person racist.  It is something taught early in life, and some people never learn anything else.  Should Roseanne Barr have been fired?  I’m sure she is not the only racist in Hollywood, but because she does not hold political office, she does not have the right to call people apes or fat or ugly or cowards or losers or sons-of-bitches. Ms. Barr doesn’t have the right to change the facts or make fun of disabled people or ethnic groups or even to say white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are made up of good people.  Although she is a celebrity, she is not the President of the United States and does not have the same rights sanctioned by conservative groups that the President has.  Instead, Roseanne Barr is an actor who worked for a family oriented business, and an angry racist is not kind of image Disney wants to be associated with their brand.

Since some in the media have linked Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee, and Colin Kaepernick, in the same First Amendment debate, I will address it here as well.  Colin Kaepernick, a young athlete of African-American descent, decided to use his position, his celebrity status if you will, to advocate for change in the justice system, specifically concerning racial profiling and use excessive force often leading to death.  We teach our children that one person; one small act can make a difference.  One NFL player “took a knee” to bring awareness to an ongoing problem in our country. He lost his job and was blacklisted from the sport.

According to a Snopes fact-check published September 28, 2017, former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer, educated and advised Kaepernick and former teammate, Eric Reid to “take a knee” instead of sitting out the National Anthem in objection to current civil liberty violations.  The three agreed this was more respectful,  “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect…”  Eric Reid is quoted as saying “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”  The “take a knee” demonstration was a thoughtful form of silent protest.  It is protesting social injustice, not the flag, not the military or the country or whatever other theories are out there in the media. 

Divisive politics and fear-mongering have tried to skew the facts and turn the story around to question the integrity or validity of the complaint; to question the patriotism of protests in general. It is sad to me that the government has stepped in to coerce private companies to make employees behave in a way that is acceptable to the Administration’s agenda.   The NFL’s new policy about the etiquette during the national anthem is an example of this.  Last year it was indirectly suggested that perhaps the Administration should look into the tax breaks the NFL teams were getting since they were disrespectful to the flag and country.  Why these teams need “tax breaks” is beyond me, but that’s a topic for another post.  The point is the suggestive language worked.

According to Britanica.com “In the broadest sense, totalitarianism is characterized by strong central rule that attempts to control and direct all aspects of individual life through coercion and repression.”   I find it upsetting to think this is happening in our country.  People complained about political correctness, an idea that attempted to invoke fairness and open-mindedness but what I see now; is an agenda to make sure everyone is behaving and thinking in the same way.  This plan is based on one group’s interpretation of Judeo-Christian traditions or the Constitution or whatever else they can use to manipulate the masses.   

How does this change?  It changes when everyone takes an interest in being well informed and challenging the ideas that limit our freedoms.  It is disheartening to know that a significant number of people in this country stop at the headlines they see in social media. They don’t read entire articles nor do they cross-reference sources.  That’s why it is easy for foreign powers to influence our politics or how we look at the world around us.   It changes when citizens of this great nation stand-up and give a damn to research the candidates beyond the sound bites.  It changes when well-informed citizens get out to vote. 

Day Twelve: Critique a Piece of Work or Write an Opinion Piece   #everydayinspiration