Cleaning House

I moved this month. and on top of moving physically, I’m taking this moment to do a major purge of the files and folders in my office. I’ve got a zillion crates of files – crates that only take on the “appearance” of organization. As I mentioned in the last entry, Im dumping tons of files from years gone.

I’ve managed to gain quite a collection of readers from all of my years in academia. I came across this one from “Women as Agents of Social Change” course by Nancy Rose, PhD. This class changed my way of understanding myself as a woman and gave me my first introduction to Women’s Studies, Gender and Feminist Theory. freakin 1994!! I’ve been reading, studying and writing feminist theory since then! wow. That does seriously make me an expert. Im claimin it.

During the move, I also happened across this. Now clearly this wasnt in my files. Where it was is of some interest – as it was in what my mother would call my “hope chest” and what I call “the cedar chest”. Its from a boy, lets call him Matt (not his name) from Tacoma Baptist School in Tacoma Washington. When I was growing up, I had crushes on lots of boys, starting when I was probably in like 4th grade or whenever that shit started to happen. When I was in 6th grade, I moved from Central Lutheran Christian Day School to TBS. Let me just state for the record, I hated TBS. When I first arrived, I was not an outcast, and I was on some level actually well liked by my friends. But every semester I was there, it seemed I got blacker and blacker. It seemed all my teachers saw was a black girl, and treated me as such. My brothers (white and birthed to my parents) both went to TBS with me, but they were in the high school, and quite seperate from my experiences. It was at TBS, where my understanding of myself as different from the other kids at school began to become very, very real. It was at TBS where I began to see the cracks in “Christians” and “Christianity”. It was at TBS where my skin began to reveal itself to me as a ‘problem’. There was incident after incident with students and teachers, until at some point around 9th grade, I began skipping school, hanging out at the mall, running away from home or simply hiding at lunch time inside a classroom where I wouldnt have to be with the other kids.

In 6th grade, all of my friends seemed to be “going with” someone except me. I look back at my journals from this time and its not pretty. Private school, all white church, all white friends, all white camps. I felt ugly then. I thought I was ugly, I hated my hair, I hated how it wouldnt stay curled, how it just got frizzy. I never had boys like me and I thought it was just because I was ugly.

and Matt. Blue eyes, jet black hair. cutie. I had the biggest, most raging crush on him ever. I was in love with him for over a year before he paid any attention to me. When he finally ‘decided’ that it was ok to like me, or to even try to like me – he made sure he had permission from the other boys at my school. He actually asked them if they thought it was cool. We ‘went together’ for two days before he broke it off, saying that he was ‘afraid of getting black on his hands’ – direct quote from on of my boys Craig (not his name) and verified the next day.

So here’s to you Matt. Here’s to the pain and confusion you caused to a little black girl who was surrounded by white boys – all of which whom she later learned didnt like her and would never like her because … well, they were afraid.

Bite me.

Update:  I started thinking heavily about this post, after I posted it, and I want to make clear my intentions. This post is not just about me releasing pain and demons from my past. This post is about every single little black girl out there adopted by white parents, whose parents refuse to acknowledge the isolation they impose upon their little girl (or boy – except when little black boys get older there’s an entirely different sexualization of them by little white girls, but dont get me started here either). This isolation is completely about them not wanting to move their asses out of their neighborhoods to a more diverse part of the country, state, city whatever. I dont care what you think your child is getting at the school you are sending her to – what I am arguing is that her sanity, her self esteem are paramount here. There is no way you can tell me that your daughter doesnt feel isolation, that she doesnt hear racist comments (just because she’s not telling you doesnt mean its not happening) or that she doesnt wonder at times where she fits in. Just because you acknowledge that racism exists, and that you tell her those people are ignorant or stupid – doesnt suddenly then make it okay for you to continue to keep her in an all white community. Get over yourselves and think about the best interests of your child.)

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5 thoughts on “Cleaning House

  1. High fives! Here’s to positive changes.

    I recently did a similar purge before my last move. In a lot of ways, it felt empowering to get rid of crap I’d been dragging around for years. Not to mention is was less for me to move. 😉

  2. Mark Olsen? Mark who? Girl, you WERE, ARE, and WILL BE so much better than his raggedy butt even knew. And you didnt want to hold his old funky hand anyway. We all know what raggedy 6th grade boys do with their nasty ole’ hands anyway! That hand was the best hand that ever held his hand. I’d love to talk to him today…and ask him what he is holding now! HUH? LOL!!!! Please dont get me started. You know I love you and I love that you are passionate about what you do. Keep rockin’ it. You get much love from me and mine always…..MUAH!!! the Sunshine State!!!

  3. I know this is an older post, but I had to respond. We are getting ready to move (in about a year) for those exact reasons. I have 4 multiracial children, two of whom are visually of color. We stayed here in the White northeast long past our plan because of job/work/money. We always intended to leave, and now we are really (hooray!!!) going–for our children, for ourselves, for our family. I grew up in a big midwestern city, and the lack-o-diversity here is about to choke me some days. I am struggling lately to connect with my local friends/acquiantances (in monoracial and multiracial families) who think this is a GREAT town to raise kids in, and who just don’t want us to go. We ‘color’ their world, but that’s not our job.

    The ‘Bite Me’ paragraph is awesome.

    My Sky ~ Multiracial Family Life
    http://www.multiracialsky.wordpress.com

  4. Hi, Lisa…

    I found your site by accident. First, I want to tell you that your words moved me. Second, I relate somewhat to the pain of being treated not as a person but as an “it”. I’m biracial and all my life I’ve had to deal with hate because people see me as different. I’ve never been an adoptee but I see what you’re saying. White foster parents can be as terrific as any other. However, it sounds like in your case they overlooked your need for a more diverse environment. One that had people of all ethnicities, nationalities, faiths, and walks of life. On the flip side, I grew up in a fairly diverse town but I still encountered racism from all kinds of people…whether they were white, black, or Latino.

    I was often told that I had “nigger hair”. That my hair was “ugly” and “nasty”. These cruel comments didn’t come from white people, either. Blacks and Hispanics were the ones saying this to a fair, near-white, mixed girl. It was painful and my eyes would fill up with tears when I would recall the hateful expressions, the evil words that were intended to hurt me. Mark Olson was likely a product of his environment. He might have been brought up in a racist home. That, coupled with the peer pressure of other white children, is what created the mentality of not wanting “black on his hands”. My hat is off to you, Ms. Lisa, because all this needed to be said.

    You were a lonely, lost little girl who felt like a zoo animal in the midst of white people who didn’t see you as a person like one of them. Now you’re one fierce woman, honey! Continue to write about your experiences as eloquently and honestly as you did there. *smile*

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