Saturday, March 31, 2007
For me, it could possibly have just been knowing next to nothing about homosexuality while I was growing up. When even the people telling their stories say that they were gay even before they knew what it was, that doesn't apply to everyone. I do think I have always been not straight. I thought girls were pretty on TV all the time, and my sisters used to tease me about that. I remember always liking girls who were not really pretty by society's standards. They were more average or plain and slightly nerdy-looking. Forgive the lack of black in my list, but I don't remember seeing many black women on TV when I was a kid: I liked girls like Tracey Gold from "Growing Pains" and Kellie Martin from "Life Goes On." Apparently, I have always liked smart women, because these were the kinds of characters those two women played. I also liked Jennifer Grey from "Dirty Dancing."
I remember liking boys on TV, too, though. And trying to jive that with my feelings towards men and women today, one of the most likely conclusions I come up with is that I engaged in a little bit of brainwashing. I didn't understand "gay" or "lesbian," but I understood that women and men were supposed to like each other, and I always thought that was natural. It wasn't that I didn't think being gay was natural, just that I almost totally had no concept of being gay existing. I do think I always liked the girls on TV more, though, looking back.
I connect my childhood with today by recognizing that I do, and have always been able to, know when a guy is good-looking. All the women listed above starred with heartthrobs, and I was aware that they were heartthrobs and good-looking. So I thought they were good-looking and voiced that. I still think Kirk Cameron is good-looking, even though he's off on this religious cr...thing. And even when I didn't agree with my female friends about a famous guy, I would act like I did. On "Beverly Hills 90210," all the girls seemed to like Luke Perry. I preferred Jason Priestley, but whenever my friends talked about Luke Perry, I'd agree with them.
Today, there are guys whom I find really attractive and would probably go on a date with if asked. In celebrityland (well, kinda), I think Justin Guarini from the first season of "American Idol" is just sooooo...wow. I mean, I know he's kind of a joke now, but everything about him is adorable to me. At school, I see good-looking guys all the time. One of the interesting things about me is I often end up with crushes on guys who are gay. Two of the cutest guys, to me, at my law school are gay. But there's another cute, nice guy who has a fiancee. And anytime I'm on the main university campus, I see a good-looking guy.
At the same time, I can't really imagine having sexual relationships with these guys. I have spoken to women who act over-the-top when it comes to men's private part, as if it traumatizes them. I can't imagine being like that. I'm also a female chauvinist, but that just comes with my personality--I hate everybody and, yet, I love everybody. There are good things about men, and there are bad things about men. All in all, I find them more preferable to deal with than women...but, for some reason, I'm more attracted to women (probably because I'm masochistic). There are so many good-looking guys, and I have liked guys before and still get crushes on them. But it's not the same as with women. I think this has always been true, but there were times when I didn't realize it...perhaps because I didn't have the context for realizing it.
Before I ever met a girl I liked, I met a boy I liked...and then another one. So I didn't notice anything missing or have the context for comparison. Then I met a girl I liked, and I didn't know if she was just an aberration or what was going on, but I went with it and didn't really question it too much. I had known her for a year when I went to college. And at college, I was definitely checking out the guys more than the girls. I had a crush or two (or three), but I still liked the girl. Nothing happened with those guys, but that's because they never asked me out. One really didn't know I existed. One flirted with me, and the other seemed interested and asked for my phone number but never called. Had any of them asked me out, I would have gone.
I really envy those times, not really because I was more "normal" back then, but because I had more self-esteem in the relationship department. I hadn't yet been mistreated by women, and men have never mistreated me. If there's any reason why I wish I were straight, it would be that--men treat me better than women do, and they are so easy to figure out. Back then, I would think a guy is cute, walk up to him and start talking. And guys, not being the snobby little things that women are (unless they're gay), would talk to you back. I can speak badly about men with the rest of 'em, but I must say that I don't like when lesbians put men down, for some reason. I feel as if they think not having to deal with men is a blessing and that dealing with women is so much better, and I really would beg to differ. I'm scared to death of women and would approach a man before I'd approach a woman for anything romantic.
By the end of college, I had realized that I had another crush on another girl (finally getting over the first one) and understood more that, okay, the first girl wasn't "special" in that sense. Ever since then, I have been more focused on women than men. Initially, I don't think it was because I liked women more, but more because this was something I felt I had to explore and learn more about. But I was going right back to the little conservative nothing from which I'd came, and so my only option for exploring was the internet. For months, I was addicted to lesbian chatrooms. It was fun, because I got to live out all my stand-up comic dreams in the chatrooms...I always love it when I succeed in making people think I'm funny. But, you know, people act crazy online.
One thing a few of the girls that I became "friends" with outside of the chatrooms could tell about me was that I was "decent," and this actually resulted in my breaking a few hearts. Some girls online became interested in me because I was a "good person," and I just didn't return their interest. After growing tired of the jerks in the chatrooms, I started staying away from anything related to the chatrooms, including the decent girls I talked to on instant messenger outside of the chatrooms.
I skipped something--before I left school, I went to a lesbian bar with two straight girls from my class on sexuality. I would bet anything that this was a tame bar in comparison to other GLBT places. People were basically just dancing and drinking. It was a very awkward environment for me, still, but the one thing that made it so much better was the DJ played the exact kind of music I like all night. I bet that is even different from how the typical lesbian bar is, because the music was so incredibly mainstream. Or maybe bars in the South(east) are just different, because I've never been to any kind of bar or club that fit the description others across the nation give or depicted on TV. They've always been somewhat enjoyable--not too drunken, not too raunchy.
The lesbian bar, though, was clearly a white lesbian bar. There were some blacks there--one was a gay black guy I knew from school. And I have to add this little story about him. One year at the beginning of the school year in college, I was vaguely interested in becoming more involved with the GLBT community, but not necessarily as an out person. I walked up to the GLBT student activity table, and he said very happily, "An ally!" Hmmm. Ally. I always thought that was funny, even when it happened. I wonder if he seriously thought that, if he ever suspected me or what. Back to the bar. There were these black lesbians, one of whom tried to hit on me. At that time, it was just too awkward for me since I wasn't used to women hitting on me. I knew I liked women, but I wasn't acknowledging labels at all for me. I was still thinking of myself as primarily preferring men.
Once I started trying to focus more on interacting with and dating same-sex-loving women, I pretty much never turned back. Like I said, I do find men physically attractive and would go out with certain ones. But I know now that it's not the same. I am more attracted to women, and I am more curious about what it means to be a lesbian. I question whether or not the fact that I am not certain that I could have sex with a man means I'm a lesbian. But to be fair and honest, I don't know if I could actually go through with sex with a woman. So maybe I'm just nervous about sex. I now think about women more than men and check out women, at least, more than I used to--but probably more than I check out men, also. I do think (i.e. fantasize) about having sex with a woman, which is something I don't really do with men. And gay scenes are more exciting to me than straight scenes, usually, whether they are girl-girl or guy-guy.
I think we all--even people who are straight--have a tendency to think sexuality is the same for us all. I perceive this as one reason why people have such a hard time accepting the concept of bisexuality, as well as why many straight people have a hard time accepting the concept of homosexuality. As gay people, you're put in a position to know and understand there's an "other" and that, yes, some people experience sexuality differently and some people grow up with a burden in their minds. But this is one of the reasons why gay people frustrate me so much. I would expect gay people to generalize less than they do, not only about bisexuality but about what it is all gay people go through as they grow up and what coming out means to every gay person.
As someone who has been able to compare growing-up stories, reasons for not coming out and the like with other gays, I am easily reminded that I am, once again, made an "other"...only this time with respect to other gays. I think this is so for bisexuals, but, for me, I mean because my story differs in so many ways. There's no "I knew I was gay at age 6," "I played doctor with other little girls and had my first kiss with one when I was 13," "I lived in fear of my secret being found out and being rejected by everyone," or "I played the part to fit in, pretending I liked men and having sex with them, and that's how I conceived my child."
I mean, to hear gay people talk, you'd think we all had the same story. And I think this is one of the reasons why so many gays assume we do all have the same story. That makes it hard to understand any gay person who doesn't have that story, or to believe that any other gay person doesn't have that story. But the fact is some of us really do like men and women, some of us basically don't like women but do like men, some of us would swear up and down that we don't like men at all and love women only, and so on.
And so I've had lesbians stop talking to me once I revealed that I am--as I thought at the time--bisexual. I understand not wanting to be dumped or cheated on in favor of the "other." I understand that, from a story like mine, you can question whether or not one day I'll change and like men more, and what of the poor woman whom I'm in a relationship with then. I know there's always a risk with relationships, so speaking strictly on the GLBT tip--there are so many "others" within this "community" that you just never know. There are bisexuals, trysexuals (i.e. straight girls experimenting), "real" gays who end up attracted to someone of the opposite sex, gays who only want sex when you want a real relationship, a partner you trusted for years and years who cheats on you or even who grows apart from you, and so on.
There are so many ways to get your heart broken in the gay community alone, and those ways are generally not contingent on whether or not the person is a bisexual. Being left for someone of the opposite sex might be the ultimate for you, but why all the petty sex battles? Because that person can give him/her something you can't? That would actually be a reason why I'd feel less hurt. The fault is not with me. There's nothing I did wrong or could have done to prevent her from leaving, if that's the case. The fault is not with me. It's like being rejected by someone you ask out who says she's not a lesbian. It's not because you're inadequate, or at least that's not what she's saying. If I'm going to be rejected, that's the easiest rejection to swallow, for me anyway.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
You see, when you attend law school, you are expected to work over the summer in the legal area. Essentially, you don't get a summer break. You just live and breathe law for 3 years, unless you're like me and take the semesters off by not attending class as often as one should.
I started the school year off by doing on-campus interviews with the snooty, lily white, highest paying law firms. They weren't a good fit for me, and, despite my school's prestige, they weren't trying to hire me. I think that was a good thing. Those places made me dread practicing law and had me thinking law wasn't for me. I still essentially think that. But I noticed that when I started targeting smaller law firms that do civil rights, as well as civil rights organizations, I got more interest and better results. My resume has entertainment all over it--which, I was interested in intellectual property/entertainment law...unfortunately, so are seemingly half the law students on earth--but it also has civil rights interests all over it, too.
I got one job offer last semester that I turned down. It wasn't with a civil rights organization and wasn't anything I wanted to do after graduation. It was in Los Angeles, which was the last place on earth I wanted to go. Unfortunately, it seems like there are so many opportunities in LA and NY. I wanted to be in the best place on earth, i.e. Chicago. I found one opportunity that would be perfect for me there and sent a resume, not really expecting anything. I told my friends and family that Chicago was looking out of the picture. Most of my family lives in Chicago, and my best friends at school will be in Chicago this summer, as well as many other people from my school. So a lot of people were disappointed.
Eventually, I heard from the place, a civil rights organization, in Chicago. We interviewed, and the interview didn't seem great. I've given better interviews at places which I didn't end up getting an offer to join. So I kept sending resumes and doing interviews. I got an offer from a place in the area of my school and had started looking for an apartment in the area to stay in. Another place around here had let me know that they'd like to set up an interview later. Neither of these places specifically do civil rights, but I would have been happy to stay here for the summer.
Then, suddenly, the civil rights org in the best place on earth called and offered me a job. Everybody around me is happier than I am. I mean, I'm happy...I'm just not an emotional person. I guess I'm borderline monotone, perhaps even catatonic. ;)
I sent out so many resumes and did so many interviews. I worried I wouldn't get a job and kind of regretted passing LA up. I was kind of pissed that I paid all this money for a school's name and, yet, I was having to do all this work to get a job. But I (kind of) got over it and just pounded the pavement. Anything I saw in civil rights, even if it wasn't somewhere I'd like to go, I applied for. Anything I saw that seemed like it was interesting or that I had a chance for, I applied. I kept going, and I got exactly what I wanted. Plus, I ended up with multiple offers.
Woohoo, I'm spending the summer in the best place on earth, fighting injustice! ;)
And I must clarify that, for me, "hanging out" basically ended when school let out--I was friends with people in school but not outside of it, for the most part. I would talk to kids on the phone (I had way too much for a kid my age, including my own telephone line), but that was it. My mother is anti-social and anti-people (and, yes, that has kind of rubbed off on me), and by 6th grade I was defeated...I knew that she didn't want to deal with kids at our house or with taking me to another kid's house. My mother was also overprotective, so she wasn't going to let me walk to another kid's house.
So I had three groups of kids to hang with, as far as I can remember. Naturally, I had the most fun with the boys. There were these two white boys who were really good friends, and they would always talk about--ding, ding, ding--music. During that time, we had just gotten the best radio station my hometown has ever known and will ever know. Alternative rock music was just blowing up, but I had been kind of into it even beforehand by watching some of the shows MTV had dedicated to that genre. So, we got that station, and it was playing The Cranberries, 10000 Maniacs, Belly, Hole, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Soul Asylum, Smashing Pumpkins...just stuff like that.
At this time, I was attending a school that was very mixed both black and white, so there were plenty of black people around to think I was crazy for liking that music. But the two white boys and I would just talk about music all the time, and they would bring CDs to school and let me make copies. And our teacher was cool, too--he loved that music, as well, so he would talk to us about some of these artists. I loved to read, too, and he noticed that because I read all the time during class, even when I was supposed to be listening to the teacher (it's kind of crazy to get yelled at for reading in class). I remember he mentioned this one book to me by my favorite author at that time and said I could read it someday when I get older...because it was a more sexual book...and I was like.......because I had already read it. ;)
Hey, it was my favorite author! I wanted to read everything by her!
I think when two people are really close, sometimes people don't understand that. So, even though I was kind of like their third, the two white boys got a little teasing about being gay and liking each other. I really don't think they were gay. But in this same class, I got just a tad of the same thing with this girl who was kind of my friend--I'll just call her Lynn.
This leads me to the second group, which was a group of black girls. Oh, wow...a group of black girls. I just took a big sigh. They were ruthless. I tend to block bad experiences out, so I don't remember as many details about my "friendship" with them as I do about my friendship with the white boys, or even with the white girls who consist of the third group of friends I had. I just remember these were the kind of girls who pretend to be friends with you, but they say bad things about you behind your back and pit you against other girls in the group by telling them lies. People would always try to tell me it's about jealousy. I was smart, I had "nice hair," teachers liked me, I was light-skinned. I don't know, and I don't care what it was about--these little girls were bitches.
There was always this battle between these girls and me over Lynn. I think they didn't like or want Lynn and me being good friends. So they would lie and act possessive over Lynn, and it essentially worked, or so it seemed. So I focused more on the white boys and the white girls. I didn't want to be friends with the other black girls, necessarily, but I did want to be friends with Lynn. I could tell that she wasn't the typical, trouble-making black girl. And when I think about it now, I realize that Lynn was probably my first interest in a girl...but that's something that took so long to realize. Back then, I used to think about her as I laid in bed trying to get to sleep.
So, for some reason, this group of white girls in the class embraced me as their friend and accepted me into their group. I think they were the kind of kids who really wanted to have, like, a babysitter's club/TV kind of group friendship, so a lot of the time that's how they acted. It was really cool, because I'd never had anything like that. And, to look at them, these weren't the kind of girls who would have a good black friend. They were just very blonde, blue eyes, thin, except for one who was known for looking like a little blue-eyed Julia Roberts. They discussed country music songs quite a bit, and so I started listening to the country radio stations. And so, for years, my favorite music was alternative rock and country. How opposite. I remember telling the white girls I liked country music and their not believing me. They quizzed me and asked me what my favorite country station was and what country artists/songs I liked. But I was prepared for the quiz and passed.
A couple of the girls really seemed to like me, so I got closer to some of them than others. Michelle and I used to talk all through class and get yelled at. Winter and I used to sit in class and just write notes back and forth to each other, and she started calling me all the time. Julia Jr. invited me to a slumber party at her house. But Winter tried really hard to be my friend and even started considering me her best friend, and so I tried hard to replace Lynn with Winter. But something just wasn't the same. I still tried to be friends with Lynn, but it was hard because she acted kind of icy towards me. I thought maybe it was because I was close to white girls, or maybe because of some of the things the black girls were telling her, or both.
Where I'm from, people move in waves to the same few areas. Generally, white people start running first. Then the black people follow. So a couple of the girls in my white group started moving away. Winter moved during the school year, and Julia Jr. moved during the summer, I believe. Winter didn't move to one of the hotspot places at that time, though, but Julia did. I was one of the relatively few blacks who moved with the whites. I went from being one of the richest kids at my school to being one of the "poorest" kids at my white high school a year after I moved, because we moved to a rich white suburb. I tried to keep in touch with Lynn, but she acted like she didn't want to talk to me and as if she was upset that I moved. I gave up.
When I was in my first year of college, I got a phone call on my parents' phone line. I was home for Christmas break, I believe, but I still had my own phone line in my bedroom. It was Lynn. I think I was 18, so, at this time, I liked a girl and understood that I liked her in a "lesbian" way. But I still wasn't far removed enough from how I grew up to really understand lesbianism, bisexuality or anything like that. I still didn't know whether or not my liking a girl meant I was bisexual or a lesbian, because she was the first one whom I liked and understood that I liked at the same time, unlike with Lynn.
It's hard to explain. But there were these white girls at college who would flirt with me, and I still didn't really "get" it, maybe because I wasn't thinking of girls sexually at that time, for the most part. I think any other queer woman would have reacted to a cute girl undressing in front of you on purpose, throwing her clothes at you, placing herself in your lap, kissing you on the forehead. Alas, you're talking about me, a woman who is about as dense as most men are. I just wasn't very "gay" back then, and I do like women more now than I used to...which is probably disadvantageous. Other than the fact that more people are partnered up now, I think people--particularly women--like you better when you're harder to get. I also got hit on more, by both guys and girls, when I was wearing my hair in its naturally curly form rather than straightening it like I do now. Hmmm...ideas...
So when Lynn started going on and on over the phone about being harassed at her college because of her friendship with another girl we grew up with in the early years, being called a lesbian, etc, and telling me she's not a lesbian...again, I missed the boat. Even more of an alert should have been how she mentioned her and her friend having arguments that were related to me...
We went to the movies, and I did notice she was a little on the more masculine side. She's not butch. She's not feminine, and she never has been. But she was in this big SUV, blasting rap music, one hand on the steering wheel and kind of laid-back "chillin"...and just the way she dressed and talked...I should have been thinking about it. The whole thing was awkward to me, because I was essentially with someone I didn't really know and who had a different personality than mine...a kind I didn't really deal with since I was used to white people at that time. And I think back then, I was more feminine, so the contrast was greater.
So she called me a couple times after that and e-mailed me, as well. One time when she called, my father wanted me to get off their phone because I think he was waiting for a phone call. I told her I'd call her back, but I didn't. And she called a couple days later and, with a bit of an attitude, pointed out that I didn't call her back and asked why not. Remember, I'm still clueless here. So I think I went back to school, and she sent this weird e-mail apologizing. I remember responding something to the effect of not knowing why she was apologizing, because I really didn't. I just knew it wasn't over the phone thing, because she wasn't over-the-top or anything when she asked why I didn't call back. And after that, we didn't really communicate anymore.
A bit later...maybe a year or two...I started thinking about whether or not she was a lesbian. I got online to the site where her e-mail account was and pulled up her profile. Boom--she had it all over her profile that she was, in fact, a lesbian. What can I say--I'm a dumbass.
Here's what I think--and given that I'm so stupid, I could be totally wrong:
I think that when we were kids, she let the other girls pull her away from me and/or pulled herself away because she was more clued in than I was and was probably kind of freaked out by it. We probably liked each other back then. But it seems like she didn't get over it, and I did. Knowing that she didn't get over it, Lynn and her "friend"--who probably really was her girlfriend or, at least, playmate--probably argued about it. Lynn called, trying to get a feel for whether or not I was into girls. Being as duh as I was back then, I wasn't giving off any of those signs. So she gave up.
Even had I known or if she contacted me today, I could never date her. I'm kind of bitter about what happened in the past--I don't care what the reasons why were. I don't like the way I was treated by her, and I would probably want to spit in all the other black girls' faces if I saw them again. When she called me during college, I was so...whatever about the whole thing. If we hung out, that was fine. If we didn't, that was fine. I really didn't care anymore, and I wasn't excited to hear from her. I'm sure she picked up on that, too, not that I'm a person who ever acts excited about anything...I don't. But things definitely weren't working out however she wanted them to.
She's also just not my type. As mentioned several times on this blog, I like really feminine women, for some reason. As far as other things...it's so hard to explain. You know, in the environments I've been in since leaving home, it's as if year after year the people sound dorkier and dorkier. I'm just around nerds all the time. And as irritating as sounding overly-intellectual is to me, it's better than sounding under-intellectual. Now, Lynn is smart and has always been smart. But her speech is just not the best.
And I hate to say it, but people where I'm from just tend not to stack up against the rest of the nation intellectually. The college I attended and the law school I attend are a big deal to a lot of people from there, because most people from there just don't go to schools like these...they can't. I would almost argue the need for affirmative action on the basis of geography. White people whine about blacks getting into schools with low test scores, as if we're just dumber than everyone else. But where I'm from, almost everyone made low scores...even many of the privileged white kids. And my LSAT score is not only in the top percentiles period and the top 10 percentile for blacks across the country, but I would bet it's in the top percentiles for everyone taking the LSAT from my area. Compared to the rest of the country, we're not that privileged. I've had the opportunity to see that there are so many people from other regions who got a vastly better education than I did, had and knew about more resources than I did and were in environments where it was understood that they were to attend a really good school.
I know Lynn was pre-med, so I hope she stuck with it and went on to medical school...though I can't imagine her being a doctor, especially with the way she speaks. I really shouldn't be talking about it, because I know I am nowhere near as nerdy-sounding as people around my current school are. I also don't like when people speak with vulgarity and curse words. I curse a bit, but it makes me uncomfortable in general and I try not to do it too much. I know she has been kind of vulgar in the past. I wish her well, but I'm completely over the crush I had on her.
By Tracy Stokes, BET.com News Staff & Wire Services
Posted March 28, 2007 – In Paris, Texas, last year, a 14-year-old White girl burns down her family's home. Her punishment? Probation. In the same town three months later, a 15-year-old Black girl, Shaquanda Cotton, is sentenced to seven years in prison for pushing a hall monitor at her high school.
Shaquanda had no prior arrests, and the monitor, a 58-year-old teacher’s aide, was not hurt, according to Black leaders in the northeast Texas town of about 26,000 residents. But in March 2006, the same judge, Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, who let the White teenage girl go on probation, convicted Shaquanda of "assault on a public servant" and sent her to prison at least until she turns 21.
Officials at the Texas Youth Commission declined to discuss the case with BET.com, citing Texas law.
"State law forbids us from acknowledging whether we have any youths are in our system, despite the 50 million issues of print that's been run," said Jim Hurley, a spokesman for the Texas Youth Commission. "We’d have to break the law to talk about it."
Civil Rights Uproar
While the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the incident, the case has civil rights groups in an uproar.
"I don't understand the judge's rationale for his decision," Dr. Howard Anderson, president of the San Antonio Branch of the NAACP, told BET.com.
In highlighting what he called an egregious miscarriage of justice in a town with a long history of civil rights abuses, Anderson pointed to the case of the 14-year-old convicted arson (whose name was not released because of her age), who was slapped with probation, and the case of a 19-year-old White man in Paris, convicted of killing a 54-year-old Black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck. The latter, he said, was also sentenced to probation and told to send the family a Christmas card every year.
"Then you have Shaquanda's case,” Anderson said. “She pushed a hall monitor, and she gets seven years confinement? If I look at all three of these sentences, and I'm not a lawyer, I have to wonder what the judicial system is doing. In this particular case, what is this judge doing?"
Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who heads the state NAACP branch, told BET.com that Shaquanda was merely trying to defend herself.
"All she (Shaquanda) did was grab the aide to prevent a strike,” Bledsoe said. “It's like they are sending a signal to Black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated.”
And keeping Blacks in their place is nothing new in Paris, say leaders, who remind that it’s the site of the first highly publicized lynching of a Black by a large White mob. In 1893, fugitive Henry White was captured in Arkansas and brought to Paris, where he was tortured and burned alive on a train bed as more than 10,000 angry townsfolk cheered and jeered.
Activists say that the Shaquanda sentence is nothing more than a modern-day lynching.
Cotton has been incarcerated at a youth prison in Brownwood, Texas, for the last year on a sentence that could run until her 21st birthday. But like many of the other youths in the system, she is eligible to earn early release if she achieves certain social, behavioral and educational milestones while in prison.
But according to The Chicago Tribune, officials at the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex repeatedly have extended Shaquanda's sentence because she refuses to admit guilt and because she reportedly was found with contraband in her cell – an extra pair of socks.
"She's not admitting any guilt, because she doesn't feel that she did anything," Anderson told BET.com. "Not to mention, who saw the pushing, if it did occur?"
Cotton's mother, Creola, who Anderson describes as "strong-willed," said her daughter was singled out because she accused the school district of racism on several occasions.
In fact, 12 discrimination complaints have been filed against the Paris Independent School District in recent years. District officials dispute the charges, but the U.S. Department of Education, which is still investigating the case, has reportedly asked the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved.
In 1998, Paris, Texas, was named the "Best Small Town in Texas" by Kevin Heubusch in his book The New Rating Guide to Life in America's Small Cities.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
AI Season 6 General Comments
I hated this season when it first started. I wondered why this show keeps coming back. They already have the best they're going to get in Kelly Clarkson (arguably). No one else they produce is going to be as big as her (and I can already hear the gays, especially the girly gay guys, scrambling to point J-Hud out to me). Now I think this season is tragic-ly talented, as I will explain more as I go along through this post. I think they made a few mistakes in who they let through to the top 24, but I am betting a lot of the people they mistakenly left out would be gone by now anyways had they made the show...
I've got to be my usually un-PC self and just break it down: the black people are runnin' it this season. There are a couple white people who are starting to step up, and I think that's great. But I still think the blacks smoke them all. Even the black guys who got sent packing were better vocalists than the white dudes left standing. Jared Cotter just happened to be this annoying pretty boy who didn't have the good fortune of being featured a lot prior to the top 24. Brandon Rogers wasn't featured a lot, either, plus didn't really have anything particularly memorable about him to help him out. I think not being played up by the AI crew has quite a bit to do with who gets cut early on--I think this was AJ Tabaldo's problem, despite being really good.
That said, AI always has one major surprise elimination around 4th place. So I'm looking at LaKisha Jones, Jordin Sparks, Melinda Doolittle and--just for good measure--Blake Lewis. Who oh who could end up our surprise elimination? Well, possibly two of them, because usually the 3rd place honor goes to someone who is not worthy (not true with Season 4 when Carrie Underwood won and Vonzell Solomon ended up in 3rd place), which all four of these people totally would be. I would bet on, with the way things are going right now, LaKisha and/or Blake going home before their time. I just hope 3rd place doesn't end up Haley Scarnato or Sanjaya Malakar. Then again, the finale would look weird without a male/female showdown...not that it hasn't happened before (Ruben Studdard/Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino/Diana DeGarmo).
Melinda Doolittle is going to win. I feel completely confident saying that. To me, the only real difference between her and LaKisha is that Melinda is being played up for this modesty thing that everyone finds so adorable. That's what's carrying her straight to the top. Otherwise, they are both equally...well, vocally talented, no question, but boring performers. They don't bring the all-around package like someone like Blake does. They are singers who would never get the time of day from a major record label without this show, because there's nothing mainstream about them...not really even their voices (they sing too well for the mainstream). Blake and Chris Richardson would be getting signed, and will be even when they don't win this show.
In case you want to fight me on this...I used to work in the music industry. I know quite a bit about how it goes. ;) I think that's the downfall of people who tend to do well on this show, though...they are so talented, but they aren't the total package. That's one of the reasons why they will never achieve Kelly Clarkson status. I see people like Melinda and LaKisha as singers who would have done well in R&B in the 70s and especially the 80s. For some reason, Melinda really reminds me of Stephanie Mills...not that I should really even be considered old enough to be "reminded" of her, but...yeah, I am. I was a kid, but I remember her.
Bad song choices all over the place throughout this season. I just don't know what people are thinking. I can't tell you off the top of my head what a lot of these people have sang, and, you know...I think that's part of the problem. If you're going on AI, you have to pick songs people know--it makes the performance more exciting and, for your sake as someone wanting people to vote for you, more memorable. Pick songs that require actually being able to sing well...but not too well. I don't know why these chicks haven't learned this, but you don't need to go on AI singing Celine/Whitney/Mariah and other diva songs. It's kind of arrogant to think you can even pull those songs off the way they need to be, not that some AI contestants haven't done it. More often than not, AI contestants can't do it. Finally, males don't need to sing songs that are originally sang by females...it just never works out on AI. The judges always hate that. Phil Stacey covering LeAnn Rimes? What...the...freak? And I vaguely remember Anwar Robinson getting scolded for doing, I think it was, a Chaka song.
And now to cover specific contestants...
I saw on a sidebar on Keith Boykin's blog how surprised he was that Stephanie didn't receive enough votes to remain on AI. But, really, it wasn't surprising. I loved, loved Stephanie...personally, probably more than Melinda and LaKisha. But...same problem Sabrina Sloan ran into--too many talented black women, too many people splitting the black vote. I think I preferred Stephanie because she's just "younger" to me than Melinda and LaKisha are. Some people called Stephanie boring on other blogs I saw, or something to that effect...didn't stand out, or whatever. And Stephanie had started becoming a tad disappointing. But I'm still not over her performance of Beyonce's "Dangerously In Love."
Another reason I wasn't surprised that Stephanie went home was because I cheat. Every week, I check AOL's AI poll to see how people voted and who has the least amount of votes. I noticed ever since the top 12 had been assembled that Stephanie was near the bottom consistently. It was ridiculous to me, but then Jordin Sparks started getting better and...along with LaKisha and Melinda...there are just not enough people in the country who are going to vote for all of them.
I think it's a shame, because there's no such thing as a "white vote," really. Black people will notice good white singers and vote for them. I certainly voted for Carrie Underwood and Katharine McPhee (no matter how disappointing Katharine was in many of her performances...the talent was there, and I knew she had more mainstream appeal than Taylor Hicks). This is not to say there aren't non-blacks voting for some of these black women, but I don't think they (on the whole) open-mindedly support black contestants like many blacks will support white ones, kind of like with politics. And out of those five black women, Sabrina and Stephanie were the least memorable. Jordin has that annoyingly sweet personality, LaKisha and Melinda the big vocals. Any other season, they would have gotten farther, but this is what I mean about this season being tragic-ly talented...
Oh...my...freakin...G-d...can someone please phone that boy and let him know he is not Justin Timberlake?! I mean, damn! Having one Justin is bad enough...we really don't need him, too! And this one dude was on TVGuide's "Idol Chat" last night--come to think of it, I think the guy writes AI reviews for TVGuide--and he called Chris Justin Timberfake. I am so stealing that. You have no idea how passionately I hate Justin, so Chris just makes me want to hurt somebody, particularly when he sings. Nothing drives me crazier than guys who think they are so sexy, and his voice is just so trying-too-hard-ish. I mean, when he came on to sing No Doubt's "Don't Speak," I was like, "Oh, great--'Don't Speak,' the Justin Timberlake version." As my mother would say, "Lord, deliver me!"
Because I cheated by looking at the AOL poll, I knew he was going home tonight. I like Chris Sligh...I think he's very talented. But he messed up many a good song and potentially very good performance by not having his timing down with the track. All I could think last night was, "How white of him--he has absolutely no rhythm!" Not that I buy into that, you understand. But he had become a letdown, and he paid for it tonight.
I have been seeing a lot of people put Phil in the same category with Haley and Sanjaya. He doesn't belong there, and I think last night he showed some people why not. He is a great singer. I just think he has been coasting, as well as making incredibly bad song choices. Last night was the perfect song choice for him (The Police's "Every Breath You Take"), and he sang it perfectly.
She can sing. But she doesn't compare to the other females in the competition.
Honestly, she has become my favorite female of all the ones whom I know have no chance of winning. She might even be my female favorite, period. I think she was a tad overrated last night on The Pretenders "I Stand By You" performance. Someone on AfterEllen actually said she thinks Gina did as well as Melinda did last night. Um, no. But she is definitely the best white chick this season.
And this has become my favorite male and might just be my favorite, period. Like I said, total package--no one else this season has it, no one. He's completely original, and he could go into a studio right now and come out with something commercial, creative and unique that many of us would like to buy. He looks white as crap, but he has some R&B for you. He's the best performer, and there have been a few performances that I wish he would release on a CD. I think he was unfairly chastised for his rendition of Diana Ross's "You Keep Me Hangin' On"...um, anyone remember (or know about) Kim Wilde's cheesy dancepop version? Blake's was a thousand times better, and he needs to put that on a CD for me just the way he arranged it. I first thought Blake was so overrated, but that performance, as well as the Beatles "Time of the Season" performance, totally turned me on to him.
He could stand to step back on the beatboxing thing, which, apparently, some of you white people don't understand (eh-hmmm, points at Justin Timberlake, as well as Blake) is so two decades ago. But hey, we, as black people, have our things that we'll never catch up to whitey in (oh, like education, employment, housing, just generally being considered human beings)...and, apparently, white people have their things they'll never catch up to us in. ;)
I've thought about it, and, for me, the politics of being gay just don't matter. The "You'd be happier" or substitute ___ with any other word gays use, i.e. authentic, honest, etc, arguments just don't seem to apply to me. Basically, I'm interested in coming out for more selfish reasons, not because others think I should based on their experiences or what it would do for other gays.
In the past, it definitely hasn't been so that dating someone would make me think about coming out. Then again, two of those women weren't out, either, and I was never pressured by any of them to come out. But I'm older now, and I'm aware that if I get approached it will be more by women who are out than women who aren't.
I had a piece written up on my lap top about this topic, and normally I just take directly from that piece when I post exclusively on a topic related to my not being out. But I'm doing something different this time. I still want to make sure I get the ideas I expressed in this post, because they are still true. So, here is that portion of the piece, plus more thoughts:
I see people as the reason for coming out, for me—particularly someone you fall in love with. I’m not sure this will ever happen to me. But I find myself thinking that the one thing that could make me come out, without somehow being forced, is finding someone whom I feel is worth coming out for. I also somehow feel like finding someone would kind of clear up some of my other problems, such as not knowing exactly what my sexual orientation is…but I can’t be sure about that. Either way, I don’t think it’s fair to ask someone who is out to run around hiding with you. And if the person is great, you tend to want to get on everyone’s nerves sharing that bit of information. That person deserves that. If it’s a serious relationship, then you can’t be anything other than out. Of course, I’d feel kind of bad if the relationship ends…I’d be alone in gayland again.
Incidentally, I tend to feel the same way about gay acquaintances who know I’m also gay, too. If we are together and someone I know who doesn’t know I’m not straight pops up, I don’t want the person I’m with to lie. The few times I’ve been in that situation, I’ve sort of stood there like, "Well, this is probably it." For that reason, I’m sure there are many people who either assume I’m gay or question it among themselves. I laugh every time I think about it, so I think that kind of speaks to the "You’re ashamed" or "You’re insecure" arguments, at least for me.
My biggest concern is my family finding out. As for most other people, they don’t tend to have enough guts to come right out and ask, "Are you a lesbian?" So I don’t really worry about how I can explain myself to someone who asks me that, other than my family. If others think I am and tell other people I am, I am pretty fine with that. If they ask me to my face, I will probably just say "I don’t know, and I don’t care" because that’s basically true. And I’m a straightforward person.
I wrote this quite a while ago, so a few things:
I don't know that I'm "hiding." I do and say things all the time that should make people wonder about me, and I think it's hilarious. I'm definitely hiding it from my family, though. But with other people, I don't care as much if they know or suspect. I guess I encourage people to be suspicious, or I just do/say what I want to and let them wonder since they are not going to come right out and ask. I am not one of those people who is going to volunteer the information, and I don't think I ever will be. There are people who have to drop "my girlfriend" or "being a gay person..." into conversations or even classroom discussions...someday I might do the former if it's really pertinent, but not so much the latter.
That brings me to my next big point. If a relationship or a special someone is going to be my reason for coming out, then, quite frankly, I don't ever see it happening. I don't really even know how to talk about this, so I tend to avoid it. But basically, I just think that I'm supposed to be alone, and I don't see why anyone would be interested in me. I don't see a mutual interest ever happening, either. I'm one of those people who, in life, tends to get everything she wants. But when it comes to relationships, it's the total opposite, and I think I've accepted that. If I am interested in someone, I don't even think about the possibilities. Automatically in my mind, she would never give me the time of day. If someone's interested in me, I honestly kind of think he or she is nuts. ;)
I don't know what people look for in others. I mean, I know the kinds of things people say. Often, the things they say and the person they end up with aren't the same. Plus, someone can have everything you theoretically want and the chemistry is just not there. That's why I think it's a funny question to ask someone what they look for or what their "requirements" are and such. I think there's quite a bit of "falling in love" that is beyond your control, beyond your checklists.
I'm mentioning this because, in a lot of ways, I'd meet someone's checklist. I'm allegedly intelligent, pretty honest, talented, funny, loyal, ambitious. I'm in law school and, theoretically, going to be a lawyer (I'd prefer to be a writer, so that's probably going to happen). So I'm going towards a good career. I have no idea what I look like to most people, but, in my opinion, worse-looking people attract mates, so...I probably could, too. I have a lot of strengths and, in general, I have good high self-esteem...just not when it comes to relationships, which is one reason I tend to avoid that. As mentioned, I don't think I'm good-looking--though I'm not ugly, I guess--and I don't know why anyone would take a particular interest in me. So these are things I try not to think about. I prefer feeling great about myself and to focus on what's great about me, and I usually do. I hate when people bring up relationships and dating and anything related to that.
The bottom line is I don't take the idea of me and a relationship or "the one" seriously, and, most of the time, I never even think about it. It's very interesting how that tends to play out, particularly with women since they are always looking for signs that you're into them and giving these subtle-as-hell signs that they're into you. If I feel comfortable enough with a pretty woman, I might flirt with her. The thing is that "knowing" that she's not interested in me makes me feel free to do that without fearing rejection. So I only initiate flirting when it doesn't mean anything.
But if a woman's flirting with me, sending signals or looking for signals, I'm clueless because that's the farthest thing from my mind. I'm not thinking about dating her, and I've already presumed she's not interested in me. The few times I pick up on what she's doing, I kind of dismiss it as, say, a joke or playing games or something like that. She's in an impossible position, and women eventually get annoyed and give up in these kinds of situations. I don't really tend to give signals that I'm interested in someone, and I think just about every woman I've dated has pointed that out to me in some form. I remember one woman whom I was dating just came out and asked if I was interested, because I didn't act like I was.
The direct approach works best with me, but most women aren't going to do that. But, at this point, that probably wouldn't even work anymore. I just don't trust women anymore in a relationship context, and I can't really imagine being in a real relationship. I'm so selfish and set in my ways, and I feel like even gay relationships are lopsided, i.e. one person sacrifices and does more than the other. That person has traditionally been me, and I don't really want to go back to that. It's really weird to say, but...I like women, I just don't feel like I can have a good romantic relationship with them. Discovering that I can be friends with (some of) them has been miracle enough. When I think about stuff like this, it makes me want to like men romantically...
Oh, and final point--I would hesitate to come out over a woman, especially since there's no guarantee we'd stay together. I would go through everything with my family, and then she'd be gone. My only real link or place in the "gay community" would be gone, and I'd be back where I am now. This is why it'd take some serious thought and why she'd need to make me think she's it for me.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
For those of you who have wondered what exactly "the gay lifestyle" is supposed to mean, I went in search for you and found something that pretty much says it all. To be quite honest, it's pretty much what I expected was meant by "the gay lifestyle," and I wondered what was up with people even questioning "what the hell" that's supposed to mean. You know what that's supposed to mean. At the most basic, basic level, it means you're someone who likes, pursues, dates, has sex with, maybe eventually lives with someone of your own sex. The difference there is straight people are probably saying that with a negative connotation attached the majority of the time, and we're not.
As always, I can't speak for anyone else, but I want to tell you what I think of when I think of "the gay lifestyle." You frequent, or used to at some point in your life, GLBT spots--clubs, bars, etc--and you know pretty much all of the ones in your area...even some of the ones in places where you don't live. You have many GLBT friends. You have--or used to--lots of sex, particularly meaningless sex, with people of your sex...and if you weren't, you were longing to something awful because, you know, we're more obsessed with sex than everyone else is. Or, very opposite of that, you're in this never-ending relationship...if you're a lesbian, particularly with someone you essentially barely knew when you met her. You enjoy large-scale GLBT events, such as Pride, conventions and whatever else we're all allegedly supposed to know and get excited about.
You're up on gay news and media, including who's gay in Hollywood (not to mention in your neck of the woods) and what shows/movies have gay characters and themes, as well as what heterosexual (or so he/she says) made a "homophobic" remark to the media today. You might even live in some "gay mecca" or other places with lots of openly gay people, like LA, SF, NY, MA, or used to. You're overly-concerned with people coming out or are not exactly out yet but really want to be and fit (at least some of) the stereotypical reasons why GLBT individuals stay in the closet. And by "overly-concerned," I simply mean my view that it's none of your business whether or not someone else is gay or out, but you still insist that we should all be out anyways or even go about exposing people who are not ready for it. You engage in slamming people, even if just in a drive-by comment as opposed to on a regular basis, who don't speak out on their sexuality or "admit" it. You might even defend gay people when they're wrong or partially to blame. So many things are about gay vs straight, keeping us looking good, the other person is a homophobe, etc...things become ridiculously political.
I think those are just about it, or at least the biggies. It might not be the most flattering description. Some points come from heterosexual society, yes, but many of these have come as the result of exposure to more GLBT individuals. In particular, I tend to keep the ideas about over-the-top sexuality and partying, knowing and adoring all things gay, gay vs straight doctrine and the rather fascinating lack of understanding and tolerance for those who aren't out at the forefront of my mind when I think about gays.
I didn't think the way I thought about fellow gays was so different from the way those "homophobic" heterosexuals did...until I found the first link referenced in this entry. Normally, I would be very meticulous and painstaking in copying & pasting nonsense from the site and debating it piece by piece. Looking at what this, no doubt, guy has to say just makes me tired (also, today is just one of those days). Gays have unstable relationships? There's no evidence of a biological basis for being gay? Oh, okay.
So the class I took in college on...wow, I'm so out of it right now that I can't even remember the name of the class. But it was a class in which we read research and findings pointing to various biological indicators, as well as the possibility of there being an interplay between biology and environment. You're talking stuff that was showing that a maternal twin is a homosexual in 50% of the cases in which his/her twin is also a homosexual and markers that appear on the 28th chromosome in too many homosexuals to be a coincidence while not appearing in heterosexuals.
The unstable relationships and promiscuity thing, as well as the sexual deviation the little chart points to...even I wouldn't go that far. You know, heterosexual black women are probably the most affected by AIDS...you wanna say that somehow relates to their unstable relationships and promiscuity? It's not that you can't argue it. It's that who is going to do so? This is almost one of the times in which I'd be willing to back down and say white gays have a point when they say it's alright to pick on gays and no one else. Almost. I'm sure if whites knew or cared or had some agenda wrapped up in the fact that black women have HIV and AIDS in alarming rates, they'd, at the very least, think some of the same things about straight black women as many of them do with gays...make that, verify what they were already thinking, since a lot of people apparently see black women as promiscuous anyways (this has been news to me, but so many people say it that it makes me believe...)...and I can attest to the fact that too many straight black women tolerate unstable relationships.
I don't see gay relationships as unstable, in general. Yes, I do believe gay people tend to be promiscuous. Then again...who the hell is not promiscuous? My mother and I? Because, admittedly, that's sometimes how it feels--the only people on earth who are not obsessed with sex and out there trying to screw every hot person we can get our hands on are my mother and I. On the other hand, when I see stable relationships that have endured, they tend to be homosexual relationships. Sado-masochism is not just a gay thing, either...neither is sleeping with people you don't even know. Nor are STDs, clearly, or drug use. I mean, just ignorant sh!t. Apparently, this person thinks that neglecting to find and/or report statistics on how many heterosexuals fall into those categories means that they don't.
And, I've got to tell you, some of those numbers look unreal. They're either made up, or it's a skewed sample. Take it from someone who suffered through psychology classes on researching and sampling in undergraduate school, on the way to a psychology degree. It's not hard at all to conduct studies and/or pull up data that tell you exactly what you want to hear. If they'd only asked gay people like me to participate in their little nonsense, they would have had zero percent or n/a straight down under the gay community column, except for the life span question.
High death rates from suicide?! Wow, who'da thunk it? And why do you think that is, Mr. Homosexuals-are-worse-than-everybody-else?
Wow, I've got to tell you, I'm not even as obsessed with being gay as the people who run this site are. It's amazing. You know...I feel like going back to bed now (yes, alone, not with my 38 sexual partners whose names I don't even know).
But the thing is, clearly, there are differences between how I define a gay lifestyle and how these people define it. Is one more offensive than the other? Is one offensive, one not? If so, why--because one comes from someone is who is gay and one doesn't?
Personally, I don't use phrases such as "the gay lifestyle," but I do think in terms of living as a gay person and not living as a gay person...which I'm not really sure is different from thinking of "the gay lifestyle." I say that I don't live as a gay person, and the reason is essentially that I don't do most--if any--of the things I list in my thorough definition of the gay lifestyle, or even many of the things in my very basic definition. And obviously central to my not living as a gay person is not being out. And as basically mentioned, I don't do the things listed on that site in association with the "gay lifestyle."
Essentially, I question what exactly does it mean to be gay, GLBT, queer, etc. What's the difference between me and someone who is just "questioning" or "curious"? I think this is actually a problem a lot of queer women would have with me if we got to talking and they were looking at me for romantic purposes. Could this be, then, one of the reasons that is unspoken for why a lot of GLBTs would like to demand we all come out? Maybe I don't appear authentic enough, and coming out would help...notice whom it would help, though. Maybe you can't really be gay without taking on the struggles gay people who've come out have faced and continue to face as people who are out out there everyday.
What about other people who don't engage in the factors in these varying definitions of "the gay lifestyle"--are they really gay? Or is this kind of like the question of being "black enough," a question that is ridiculous simply because if you're black, you're black--no changing that, no measuring that. But, as always, you have differences between being black and being gay. One can argue that blackness is a bit more tangible. So that doesn't help me work through this.
So I tend to work through it by asking myself, "Do you like women?" The answer is "Why, yes. Quite a bit, actually." Sabrina Sloan, when she was on "American Idol" (G-d, I miss her), was singing every song directly to me, especially En Vogue's "Don't Let Go," i.e. "don't you wanna be more than friends?" Ummm...UH HUH! "Hold me tight and don't let go..." Your wish is my command. I smiled like a big dork through all her performances...still do when I just think about them.
Ding ding ding--gay.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I've been reading this book about black lesbian coming out stories, and, with few exceptions, I've noticed that the focus on family response has essentially been that of the mother. This could be for several reasons, such as the mother often being the only parent in the household during most of the growing years, particularly in black families, and/or that we relate to our mother more so because of shared gender identity. But in one of the stories, this woman wrote something to the effect of having always been a "momma's girl" (I spell it "mama," but "po-TEY-toes, po-TAH-toes"). And I paused at that and thought about the other stories in the book, as well as other coming out stories I've heard from women in general and what I've heard from other lesbians about their families (the few I know).
In the majority of the stories in the book that discuss family, it's mainly or only the mother being discussed. In reading Linda Villarosa's coming out story published in Essence, I noticed that the focus was not only on her mother, but her mother was also invited to write on Villarosa's coming out experience in the magazine. And whenever LA Girl mentioned her family to me, it tended to be her mother. She mentioned others, of course, but I couldn't help but notice she never spoke of her father.
So, what I want to know is do us queer women tend to be mama's girls growing up rather than "daddy's little girl"? If so, could this be added to the long list of idiotic signs used to discern lesbianism, particularly in little girls? And could this have some relation to us preferring women? By that, I don't mean does being a mama's girl "cause" queerness--I mean does our queerness "cause" us to be mama's girls...so, related to my question about the idiotic signs.
Personally...I am 100% a mama's girl. I think, when I was a lot younger, I was "daddy's little girl" for a bit. I don't really know what changed. Well, maybe I do...and I hate to even think about this, let alone publicly admit it. I mentioned in another post very briefly that when I was very young, I didn't like darker blacks. I also mentioned in a rather drive-by way in that post that I have a white parent--miracle of miracles, it's the male, for a change. So, do the math--my mother is darker than I am. Now, I hate referring to my father as white, so most of the time I just call him French (which, yes, his family is ridiculously French, save one Italian surname...otherwise, French names even I can't pronounce).
It's kind of comical that I have gone from having a problem with my black parent to having a problem with my white one--well, that's not technically true. I don't have a problem with him. But I have a problem with thinking anyone in my family is white, because when I think of "white" I think of white Americans. And when I think of white Americans, I don't think pleasant stuff a lot of the time, particularly when I'm thinking about white males. And neither does he, because his family is not American and because...well, a lot of foreigners don't think of good stuff when they think of Americans, period. And he doesn't think of himself as "white" or "white American," either. So I don't.
And I definitely feel more solidarity with white French people--and, in some sense, France--than white Americans--and, in some sense, America. To make a long story short, even though I grew up in the South and in a southern culture and am kind of conservative, I also grew up learning a bit about French culture and living it a little bit. It made my home environment and, in some sense, my thinking a bit different from other southerners...because some people are a little surprised by how unsouthern I am, even though some of those elements are definitely there in my personality. But, to just break it down, white Francs just don't tend to be the assholes white Americans tend to be. There's such a difference when I tell white French people that my family is French--immediately, I'm accepted on so many levels that I'm not in the US. Oftentimes, all it takes is for them to hear my name and they usually comment on how it's a French name, and that's how it gets started...not because I'm bragging to these people.
In relation to that point, I saw on, I think it was, Rachel's Tavern's post about prejudices that someone commented they are prejudiced against mixed-race females because we go on and on about our diverse ethnic backgrounds, particularly to our "non-white" friends. Hmmm. Funny. My rather drive-by mention of my father, once again, and the brief sketch of my French background above. It reminds me of how, in the US, a black person can talk about being mixed-race, and people don't want to hear it or acknowledge it. Or they think you're trying to opt out of the more disadvantaged background to which you belong. Dude, you see how much I write about being black, okay? And I know that's all most people consider me as, even the people I've actually told about my background and have even told a little bit about some of the ways in which I grew up in this odd split poor-liberal-agnostic-French/black-southern-rich-white-religious-republican culture. Nope--still just black.
For the record, I almost never hear mixed blacks talking about it. They either mainly identify as black and hang out with blacks, or they identify as who-knows-what and hang out with everybody but blacks. This tends to be a function of upbringing. Since mine was a very odd cultural experience and somewhat varying but generally mixed environments over time, I'm a little more balanced than those two extremes. My point is, with French people, the choice forced on mixed kids in America is not there. Plus, French people tend to care more about your being one of them, i.e. French, not the racial background. There are Asians, Latinos, Africans, etc, in France who are considered and call themselves--guess what--French. It's kind of nice when it happens to me, knowing it's something that will never happen in America. I'm never going to just be American, nor will I ever be black and white (and Native American).
Is all this relevant? Well, getting back to where I originally was, I used to be more fascinated as a kid with being a "different" black. I remember asking my mother if my father was white. Apparently, the only one of us who didn't ask that was my oldest sister. And I took it upon myself to mark "other" on school forms for race, and then I would see that teachers would change those forms and mark "black" for me. So I stopped. But I developed a lot of French pride...candidly, more French pride than American pride, which is still true today. I also remember telling my mother to her face that I don't like darker blacks. My mother, it turns out, has always been bothered by the skin color thing. She's not actually "dark," but she doesn't pass the paper-bag test, i.e. she's not the tone, or lighter, of a brown paper bag.
When I think back on this, I come to two conclusions. One, racism isn't always learned. I would say that my entire immediate family consists of equal opportunity haters, like I mentioned in my last post, some of us worse than others...eh-hmm, my mother and I, actually. We are the big bigots in our family, and no one else really openly rants and raves about people the way we do. After growing up and knowing full-well all the negative things she thinks about black people, I know that she--and no one else, either--did not teach me to dislike blacks who are darker than I am, because she doesn't have that prejudice herself (and my sisters love dark black men). And my father is not someone who puts people down--the judginess thing I have comes completely from my mother--but when he does kind of get into that or making improper jokes about people, it's usually white Americans and Latinos (as opposed to blacks, gays, Asians, Christians, etc).
You could maybe argue the media taught me to dislike dark skin...but you're talking about a kid who is, oh, probably not even in elementary school yet, though, and who loved to watch stuff like cartoons/kids shows and Nickelodeon all day solely. My story is one of the reasons I really believe that, as humans, we just naturally discriminate against people who are different from us. I truly believe that's our nature. Think about all the ways we discriminate, too--it's not just on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, nationality, disability and religion. We discriminate on much smaller scales against people who are different, as well. I'm not saying racism is never learned, which brings me to my second point...
Today, I would probably say my mother is one of my best friends. Like I said, we rant and rave about race, and a lot of the time we do it together. We get along, even though we are pretty different. In general, we have gotten along throughout my life, although we get along best now. I don't tell her everything, obviously, because I haven't told her I'm queer. But I don't tell anyone everything, or even most things. But she definitely tells me more than I should know, as her child, and I have often felt like my parents' marriage includes me. I am a loyal person (all of a sudden, since the past three years or so), and yet there is no one whom I will be more fiercely loyal to than my mother. I'm always on her side, which I know bothers my father. She knows everything (which is one reason why I'm relatively certain she must know I'm queer), so, with few exceptions, if she says something I believe it or do it or don't do it (whatever the case may be).
I think what brought all this on is...fathers are just different from mothers, and kids know this. But that doesn't always stop, for example, little boys from wanting their dad's approval. Some of the stories I've read about with little gay boys is their relationship dynamic with their father growing up, which often seems like it wasn't good. Still, I think most kids, regardless of orientation, know that their mother is the go-to parent for needs. I'm spoiled, yes. But my mother has spoiled me way more than my father has. I think I realized early on that there were some things I needed or wanted or that would have been helpful that I just wasn't going to get from my father. With the exception of wants (and relatively few of those exceptions), I learned that my mother was the parent who was always going to do anything for me.
And, particularly with my mother, family means too much to her for relatively little things to get in the way. This is why I could say with certainty that my coming out wouldn't really be all that bad, at least with respect to her. In fact, I probably think more about what her reaction would be than anyone else's.
What I learn about race from this is all of us have to fight our natural prejudices, even starting at a young age. I think at the most basic level, being as young as I was, that the reason why my relationship dynamic with my parents changed was because I learned it was "wrong" to dislike people for things like skin color. Although I don't remember being directly told that, I'm sure I was. After all, I was telling my mother I didn't like her because of this. And so I vaguely remember, as a kid, trying to stop thinking like that until, eventually, I really did forget all about it--probably more so for the reasons listed above about parents than understanding why hating people is "wrong," but also just getting older and forming more of an identification with black people rather than just with lighter skin tones like my father, his family, and my sisters and I have.
I also remember being mean to darker black kids, particularly darker black girls. I didn't want to play with them, and I didn't want them touching my stuff. And I think what happened there was I kind of came to realize, on some level, that I was never going to have any girl friends if I kept this up. At this time, I lived in a neighborhood that was becoming more black, even though the pre-school I attended was almost entirely white. And the girls my sisters would bring home were generally black, and all the little girls on my street who wanted to play with me were black girls who were darker than I was.
I didn't live near the white kids who attended my school, and I wasn't accepted by them anyway--I knew that young, and I remembered wondering why they liked the other black little girl but not me. From what my mother says, it's likely because they knew her father was white--he would come to school to retrieve her sometimes. But my mother was always the one who would pick me up from pre-school. So my options for friends in life, as I saw it back then, were going to be people who were darker than I am.
These are some really selfish reasons, if you think about it. But they worked. I'd forgotten all about how I used to be this way. My mother and I have been close for years and years and years, and it has been very clear that I have been closer to her than to my father, especially these past few years. In fact, I find myself trying to make more of an effort to include my father, because I know he feels left out.
I think part of these ideas for how I overcame my racism against darker blacks is the question of whether or not exposure to certain kinds of people matters. I think that it can be helpful and has been, in my case, at least with regards to darker blacks. I had a mother who was darker than I was, lived in a relatively black neighborhood during a good portion of my youngest years in life and started out at a majority black elementary school. I couldn't be in these kinds of environments all the time and keep disliking the majority of blacks. I was going to have to get used to them, and I did...right up until the black kids started picking on me. Luckily enough, I had unlearned my prejudices by that time. Imagine how kids like I was can--and do--turn out in majority white environments, whether or not they are mixed-race, white, Asian or anything else. It's scary.
Exposure can cut two ways, though. You can develop more stereotypes or even have ones you thought previously reinforced. It's not a sure thing, but it's worth a shot. I can also speak from personal experience about having stereotypes reinforced and developing new ones, particularly with regards to the GLBT community.
I have one last question I want to explore about mama's girls--does being one have any correlation with how we treat women and/or what kind of woman we look for? For me, my family is clearly oddball. I grew up with parents who are very different from each other. And though I can't sit here and list off without hesitation, as if I have them memorized and set in stone, qualities and attributes that I want in a woman--nor can I say with any definitiveness that these are the same things present in my mother--I have recognized over the past few years that I am hopelessly attracted to women who are almost nothing like me. I see two connections--my parents being different from each other, and my being opposite my mother in most ways.
When I meet women, even as friends, whom I can sit and have a "yes" party with, i.e. we agree on so many things and find so many similarities to each other, I find that two things tend to happen: I get bored, and I get annoyed. I can see all my flaws in this person while simultaneously gaining essentially nothing new from interactions with her. But with women who differ from me significantly, the differences both frustrate and intrigue me. It's like the more incompatible we seem, the more interested I am. Part of that might just be my personality, i.e. liking to solve problems and challenges. But I think this also goes back to how I wrote about most of my close friends being different from me and balancing me out. I think I'm so extreme that I need that. And we're different but we just love each other so much, and that's how I know it can work...I've grown up my whole life seeing it work and not really understanding how or why.
Wow, I just started to write that I don't treat women like I treat my mother or look for such women, and then I realized that I totally do! I do the teasing thing with my mother. And she's sensitive and emotional, and, apparently, those are the kind of women I keep attracting and becoming attracted to. And I screw up with them because I'm not sensitive and emotional and don't think about feelings, and I try to apologize. The difference there is my mother lets me apologize and takes the apology; they don't. Then again, I also think that because I know her so well, I can anticipate her reactions better and, thus, do think about her feelings more. She's feminine; they're feminine. She talks a lot; they talk a lot. And I directly told my best friend at school that she treats me like my mother does, i.e. taking care of me and treating me like I'm a baby, and I love that (even though I said it as if I was complaining)!
There's more, but I can't think of it right now.
So...are we mama's girls?