Race

Art as Protest: Leila Weefur's "Dead Nigga Blvd."

This morning while scrolling through Betti Ono Gallery's Facebook feed, I came across the work of stop motion animation artist Leila Weefur. They posted a video of hers called"Dead Nigga Blvd." that is a must see.

 "Dead Nigga Blvd. exists somewhere between life on Earth and the afterlife. Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin dwell in frustration and confusion as they are forced to confront their deaths in the same way we all have confronted their deaths, through a broadcast. These three young men represent only a small percentage of deaths caused by racial injustices but their faces have become iconic in the conversation of American racism." 

You can watch it here:  https://vimeo.com/leilaweefur/deadniggablvd

and also check out her piece titled "To Be Constructed"  

 

 

 

 

Paint and Meditation: Audre Lorde's "Uses of Anger"

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"Women of Color in America have grown up within a symphony of anger at being silenced at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.

Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change. To those women here who fear the anger of women of Color more than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes, I ask:  Is the anger of women of Color more threatening than the woman-hatred that tinges all aspects of our lives? It is not the anger of other women that will destroy us but our refusals to stand still, to listen to its rhythms, to learn within it, to move beyond the manner of presentation to the substance, to tap that anger as an important source of empowerment. I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness."

-From Audre Lorde's "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism", 1981

Surviving, Living and Thriving Within White (And Other Oppressive) Spaces: A Visual Study

"An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist." -Nina Simone

I had a friend ask me last week why I was turning down an opportunity to write for their publication, and why I don't use this space to adamantly speak out against issues of injustice as I used to. Why am I not writing words about Trump and the impact of the GOP's racist, xenophobic rhetoric beyond a an occasional Facebook status? Why am I not sharing more of my thoughts on the near daily incidents of brutality against Black and Brown lives, or continuing to speak out on racism's impact on our daily lives? From her perspective it seemed to her that I've grown quiet, and she was curious to know why. "You seem more focused on painting, which isn't a bad thing...it just seems odd," she said. 

Well...she's right. I have gone a bit quiet here. I don't write about racism and brutality like I used to. At least not here, and aside from an occasional election related status on Facebook, I've cut back on doing so there as well. Where she's wrong is in her assumption that my going quiet means I've stopped caring or paying attention. I haven't. If anything, the swelling tide of ignorance, violence, and injustice churns and crashes into my consciousness daily. I'm still "woke", and couldn't close my eyes or heart to what's happening to our bodies and within our society if I wanted to. As a Black woman, an empath, and as an artist it's impossible, and even if it were, I would still encounter and bear the social construct of race upon my being. Short of leaving this life, it's inescapable. 

I mentioned before that I've been struggling to put words to what I'm witnessing. That's still very much true-there are days where I simply do not know what to say, and any words that do appear feel...inadequate. When this happens I make the choice to share and amplify the words and brilliance of others above the noise instead of adding my own. I also make the choice to follow my intuition and turn to paint to process my thoughts. 

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am more focused on creating a statement on paper or canvas than on a computer screen. Paint...feels more natural to me right now than words do. I'd much rather allow it to speak for me those things I can't quite verbalize or translate into something intelligible you'll understand. So that's what I've been doing. I've shifted my focus from the oppression and brutality we experience as marginalized people to the impact both have on us, challenging myself to communicate it visually. What does it do to our psyche, our spirits, our health, our bodies? What does the point of impact look like? What occurs inside of us as we encounter oppression, fight to survive it, and dare even, to thrive in its pervasive shadow? 

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Internal processes. That's been my visual focus and exploration as I take in the news each day, or experience something that reminds me I am an Other. As a result, much of my latest work has involved me using lots of white space. With each piece, I'm thinking about what it looks like to thrive and be unapologetically Other in white spaces, and questioning what those internal thought & heart processes look like. 

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Sometimes I have an idea, and an image will come and imprint itself upon my consciousness, quietly (or loudly) telling me its story. Other times I simply have no idea what's going to come out-it just becomes a matter of listening to my intuition and trusting where it's taking me as I work. 

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I'm still here and I still have much to say. Like Nina, I believe as an artist, it's my duty to continue using my voice and creative expression to speak to issues that are a matter of life and death for us. I have no choice but to reflect these times in my work, be it written or visual. I'm just consciously doing so these days in a different medium, still hoping to cause others to pause and think critically about what they think they know about themselves and Others. I believe in the power of visual art to spark and foster conversation around these issues just like words do. 

I could use words, sure...but it's just more liberating to process and study with paint. For right now, this is my activism and how I choose to be involved. I think as artists...it's less about the medium, and more about using what we have to create those things that challenge, empower, and set free. Write, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, orate, document a moment or event with a photo-whatever it takes. I think it's about yielding to wherever our creativity leads us intuitively. Our challenge is to reflect and give voice to the times we're in. Like Nina, I think anything less is a waste. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

"  It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."- Assata Shakur

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We ARE The Threat

I've been struggling with what to say in the wake and aftermath of the attacks in Beruit, Paris, Nigeria, and this morning, Mali. I've been watching what's taking place in Minneapolis as a community demands answers and justice for Jamar Clark and are met instead with a miltitarized police force, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and refusal. I've heard the deafening shrill of hate and xenophobia towards Muslims. I've read comment after comment, heard remark after remark from elected officials and fellow citizens, from Christians declaring a need to turn our backs on refugees from Syria. Last night, I read, in disbelief, the names of all who voted to ban Syrian refugees and withdraw aid. I sat reading it in stunned silence not knowing how to even respond to it.

I've been paying attention to all that's going on. I'm woke, but I don't know how to respond to what I'm seeing unfold every day. Words fail me, paint fails me. So I've just been quiet.  

But today I will tell you this: after all that's happened to Black & Brown lives over the last few years and after all of the racist, xenophobic hate and cowardice I've seen from our elected officials, presidential candidates, and US this past week alone? I'm far, far more terrified of Americans (and culture warring, refugee rejecting Christians) than I will ever be of terrorists.

Why? Because White supremacy, fragility and privilege? That's terrorism. Racism? Terrorism. We're living with it and dying from it every day. EVERY. DAY. Hate towards Muslims? That's terrorism. Rejecting refugees to "protect" yourself? That's terrorism. No gun control-the fact that it's easier for someone to get a gun than it is for refugees to actually get into this country or gain asylum? Terrorism. Forcing your beliefs & ideologies on others who are and live differently than you? That's terrorism. The mindset and power structures that support and enable Donald Trump and Ben Carson to be GOP front runners for the presidency of the United States, a country of refugees, immigrants, indigenous people and former enslaved people? Terrorism. Caring more about an ideology than you do about people, about their humanity? That's terrorism. White men plotting to bomb Black churches? Terrorism. White men shooting up Black churches, movie theaters, malls...those are terrorists. 

We really want to pretend that we're any better or so far removed from what a terrorist thinks & believes. We want to look at them and then look at us and self-righteously boast to ourselves and to the world that we're different.That we would never resort to such heinous and soul-less violence or beliefs. We talk about wanting to defeat terrorism, but adamantly refuse to start with killing it in ourselves, and within our own society.

Instead we purposefully allow fear and hate to seize us and and enable us to do exactly what terrorists hope and plan for when they carry out these attacks: foster an environment they can continue to thrive in. Everyone's talking about destroying the enemy like we aren't our worst one. Like WE are not the actual threat. 

News flash: We ARE the threat. 

This week has been proof of that. This year has been proof of it. Our history has been. We've been here before and we're failing to once again do the work that could keep us from coming here again in the future. I'm desperately hoping we eventually show History that we've learned from it. Until then I'm just stuck here grieving that we haven't.

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Hashtag Black

 

#WearingAHoodieWhileBlack 

#PlayingMusicInYourCarWhileBlack

#AskingForHelpAfterAnAccidentWhileBlack

#ShoppingWhileBlack

#SwimmingWhileBlack

#RunningWhileBlack

#DrivingWhileBlack

#LearningInSchoolWhileBlack

#WalkingWhileBlack

#BeingAChildWhileBlack

#WorshippingWhileBlack

#BeingABystanderWhileBlack

#BeingClergyWhileBlack

#BeingAChurchBuildingForBlacks

#HavingAStrokeWhileDrivingWhileBlack

#CatchingTheEyeOfAWhitePoliceOfficerWhileBlack

#TalkingWhileBlack

#AssertingYourRightsWhileBlack

#PeacefulAssemblyWhileBlack

Today: #LaughingWhileBlack

 "11 Black Women Kicked Off Napa Wine Train for Laughing While Black" 

"Black Women 'humiliated' after getting kicked off Napa Valley Wine Train" 

Tomorrow: ????

Historically and presently:#JustBeingBLACKPeriod 

Me: #UnapologeticallyBlackEveryDamnDay

You: ?

Art as Protest: Janelle Monae & Wondaland Marches Through The Streets With "Hell You Talmbout"

Janelle Monae and her Wondaland crew (artists I wholeheartedly stan for) are currently doing secret shows across the U.S. in support of their latest EP, The Eephus. Yesterday they were in Philly, not just for a show, but to also help lead a march and rally w/Philly's Black Lives Matter chapter. The rally was labeled as a celebration of "Black Joy" and featured many young poets, singers, and community organizers from the city. 

#BlackGirlsRock #WondalandRecords #WondalandGoesPlaces #TheEephus

A photo posted by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

150 deep, they marched through North Philly chanting and later singing a new song titled "Hell You Talmbout", which Monae and Wondaland artists wrote to protest police brutality and honor the lives of those lost to state violence. 

#SayTheirNames #TheEephus #BlackLivesMatter

A video posted by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

#SayTheirNames

A video posted by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

I followed the action on Twitter and Janelle's Instagram feed yesterday, hoping to hear the whole song in it's entirety. It was released today on Soundcloud, and with every listen, I've had to fight back tears as I sing along. Take a listen...and feel the pain and power of it as you say their names.

Let's keep fighting for freedom y'all. 


55 Years Later, A Word From James Baldwin

 James Baldwin, 1983 (Associated Press)  

James Baldwin, 1983 (Associated Press)  

"Similarly, the only way to police a ghetto is to be oppressive. None of commissioner Kennedy's policemen, even with the best will in the world, have any way of understanding the lives led by the people they swagger about in two's and three's controlling. Their very presence is an insult, and it would be, even if they spent their entire day feeding gumdrops to children. They represent the force of the white world, and that world's real intentions are, simply, for that world's criminal profit and ease, to keep the black man corralled up here, in his place. The badge, the gun in the holster, and the swinging club make vivid what will happen should his rebellion become overt. Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once. The businessman and racketeers also have a story. And so do the prostitutes. (And this is not, perhaps, the place to discuss Harlem's very complex attitude towards black policemen, nor the reasons, according to Harlem, that they are nearly all downtown.)


It is hard, on the other hand, to blame the policeman, blank, good-natured, thoughtless, and insuperably innocent, for being such a perfect representative of the people he serves. He, too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed. He has never, himself, done anything for which to be hated -- which of us has? -- and yet he is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. There is no way for him not to know it: there are few other things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people. He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country; which is precisely what, and where, he is, and is the reason he walks in two's and three's. And he is not the only one who knows why he is always in company: the people who are watching him know why, too. Any street meeting, sacred or secular, which he and his colleagues uneasily cover has as its explicit or implicit burden the cruelty and injustice of the white domination. 

And these days, of course, in terms increasingly vivid and jubilant, it speaks of the end of that domination. The white policeman, standing on a Harlem street corner, finds himself at the very center of the revolution now occurring in the world. He is not prepared for it -- naturally, nobody is -- and, what is possibly much more to the point, he is exposed, as few white people are, to the anguish of the black people around him. Even if he is gifted with the merest mustard grain of imagination, something must seep in. He cannot avoid observing that some of the children, in spite of their color, remind him of children he has known and loved, perhaps even of his own children. He knows that he certainly does not want his children living this way. He can retreat from his uneasiness in only one direction: into a callousness which very shortly becomes second nature. He becomes more callous, the population becomes more hostile, the situation grows more tense, and the police force is increased. One day, to everyone's astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men."

 -James Baldwin, Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter From Harlem, 1960

 

#BaltimoreUprising #BlackLivesMatter

Black Is...

Black is…life. 

Black is meaningful.

It is resilient. It is rich. It is love. It is home. It is beautifully resplendent in its glory and it is strong. It is important. It is human. It is living and breathing flesh and bone wrapped around heart and lungs. It is the brawn that built this country. It is the brilliance that has driven American innovation. It is dynamic, multi-faceted and nuanced in its genius. It is the creativity that’s given birth to some of the greatest art and music the world has ever borne witness to. It is proud.

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 It gets beaten and is pushed down by hate but it rises. It has survived the mass destruction that is white violence time and again and will continue to do so. It is worthy. It used to be sold at the highest price on the auction block but whether it be enslaved or emancipated, it will always be priceless. It is more than. There is nothing “minor” about it except the place your ingrained bias chooses to house it in your mind.

It is my sons. It is my mother and sister. It is my brother. It is me.

Our Black matters. Your negation of it doesn’t cancel out this truth. Our Black will always MATTER. 

America's Not Here for Us

"Mom-are we still slaves? Do people still hate us, African-Americans?" Brennan asked me this last week while driving home. A few days before while shopping in HEB, he asked me questions about Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, the Civil War, why "brown" people were slaves...the same questions he's been asking me since he learned about all of this and Martin Luther King Jr in kindergarten this year. In the store, I answered them as best I could, bearing in mind to keep it age appropriate, yet honest. I don't believe in glossing over or hiding history from my kids or relying on the public education system to tell one version of it.

However when he asked me in the car if we were still slaves, if people still hated us, I faltered. The only immediate response I had for him was "let's talk about this later with Bertski, ok? I think we should talk about it together, alright?" He agreed and went back to watching Fantastic Four, going back to being the innocent 6-year-old boy I wish he could always be but know he'll grow out of.

I faltered at answering his questions because they caught me between two parts of myself that both bear a particular responsibility. As his mother, I carry the responsibility of trying to keep him as innocent, carefree, and sheltered as possible while encouraging him to grow into who he is, be inclusive with others, and have some responsibility for how he carries himself and interacts with the world around him. I want him to enjoy the freedom that comes with being a child...yet teach him what he needs to know about the world around him in stages of understanding that aren't marred by the ugliness that can come with increased knowledge about the world he lives in and life in general.

But as a woman of color raising an African-American son who has a Puerto-Rican stepfather and half-Puerto-Rican brother, I (and my husband) also bear the responsibility of teaching him about things like racism, white privilege, equality, how black and other brown men have been and still are perceived in American society, and really just about being a person of color PERIOD in the United States of America. I have to explain to him why "peach" people think he looks suspicious even though he might be doing the same exact thing they are-walking through a neighborhood, shopping in a store, hanging out with a group of his friends, wearing his favorite hoodie.

As a mother I have to worry about my child's quality of life, his education, his growth as an individual, how he treats others, help him shape a worldview that is hopefully inclusive, healthy, well-rounded, educated, rooted in morality...I have to help him navigate the nuances of engaging with the world around him and the people in it, the ups and downs of life, and everything that comes with being a man. But as the mother of a brown boy in the United States of America in 2013, I also have to worry about how to keep him out of prison, where a disproportionate amount of black and brown males are sent to and reside these days, more so than their white counterparts. I have to worry about him walking down the street or driving in his car and being profiled simply because he is a black male. I have to teach him how to carry himself, talk and express who he is in a certain way so that he's not viewed as "threatening," "a thug" "a criminal"...."an animal" even.

I have to teach him how to work that much harder than his peers just so he can *maybe* stand a chance at having the same benefits they do. I have to teach him that he can be more than an athlete, a rapper, or some other occupation white people have deemed "ok" for brown people to succeed in. I have to teach him that even if he became the President of our United States, he'd still have to prove himself worthy, articulate, capable, and not some terrorist hell-bent on destroying the country. I have to basically teach him that when he's done his very best, to dig deeper and push harder to do even better because our society (unfairly) demands he be more than just a human being like his white friends. I have to make him aware of how our society views him, but still encourage him to not let this societal perspective define him and who he wants to be as a man and a citizen of this country.

I have to teach him that because he is not "peach" others will deem him unworthy and dismiss him just by looking upon his face; that they will still feel they have the right to call him a nigger because "that's how they were raised," they "don't mean any harm by it," their black friend says "nigga" and Jay Z & Kanye have a song called "Niggas in Paris."

I have to teach him that people will often not see him at first-they will see a preconceived, stereotyped version of him that has been engraved upon their consciousness by their culture, the media, and sadly, even those who "look like" him. I will have to encourage him to remember that although white folks have always been taught on some level that black & brown people are inherently, at their core, evil, bad, incapable of being good, lack value, and lack intelligence that he is NONE of those things. I will have to constantly remind him that no matter what is said, what laws are enacted, no matter how many jobs or promotions he's denied, he DOES indeed have rights, he IS more than a stereotype and is not less than his boss, his friend, his classmate...

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I thought about all of this as I sat in the shower this morning, hot water mixing in with the tears streaming down my face, my heart heavy. I thought about his questions to me last week, and whispered, "Yes-yes we ARE still slaves and yes, people do still hate us, my son...even our own people are still oppressed with the self-hate fostered in us when we were just property." In 2013, 40+ years after desegregation and Martin Luther King Jr's speech on Washington's monument, we. are. still. slaves. We are free, yes, and slavery is illegal...an amendment in the Constitution says so. But systematically? In people's minds? In our OWN minds as people of color? No....we are far from free. No we are not free, and since Obama started his run for office back in 2007, the hate for the color of our skin and our culture has been getting louder, bolder, and more vile than I can remember hearing and experiencing growing up. Yes. We ARE still hated, still thought of as less than human.

As my heart weighed heavy with this answer, the thought that came next was "I'm brown. I am a woman. America's not here for me. I have brown sons, a brown husband. America's not here for them either."

Somehow, in 2013, America is still not here for people of color. For men of color. And for women of color? Well..."For some folks being black and being a woman makes us less of both." -A Letter to Rachel Jeanteal (Note: You WANT to read this....and this.)

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America isn't here for me and my family because our skin is brown and we are a mixed multi-cultural family. Response to Cheerios latest commercial is just ONE of the recent events to reinforce this belief for me. Add SCOTUS' gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the defense of Paula Deen's use of racist language, her blind eye to discrimination and harassment in her own establishments, and the reaction to the George Zimmerman trial to the equation and that's what it all adds up to, doesn't it?

So my question is this: Who IS America here for?

I'll give you a hint: It's not you, citizen. Not unless you are white, straight, rich, Christian, AND male, the 2013 America is not for you and is barely better than what it was in the past.

If you are poor....

If you are gay....

If you have a mental illness...

If you are an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any faith other than "The Bible is the innerant and literal Word of God" Christian...

AMERICA. IS. NOT. FOR. YOU.

White, male dominated America doesn't care about you as a human being if you're brown or gay, and doesn't care about your rights and freedoms to make your own choices about your body and reproductive health if you're a woman-even a white woman.

America only stands for life...ONE kind of life. One that is privileged, entitled, elitist, and democratic only in theory.

FUCK THAT.

You want to stand for life, America? You want to stand for life American Church?

Stand and fight for the millions of children living outside of the womb who are hungry, homeless, abused, in foster care, neglected, and living below the poverty line.

You want to stand for life? Stand for the kids in Chicago, Philly, D.C. and even in rural areas where our public schools are failing and having funding ripped from them.

You want to stand for life? Then fund schools. Fund innovation and technology. Fund the arts. Supply food deserts. Fund your local food bank. Stop taking money from schools in the inner cities to build $400 million prisons. (I'm looking at you Philadelphia)

You want to stand for life? Get real about who can purchase a gun, what kind, how many, and how much ammunition they can have. Get real about gun safety and gun control. Care about violence in urban areas just as much as you do in the suburbs where you live comfortably encased in your "hard-earned" privilege.

You want to stand for life? Volunteer at a Veteran's home, clinic, hospital or service organization. Spend some time giving back to those who sacrificed their time and lives so you can make your "stand" for life.

Want to stand for life? Man a suicide hotline.

Want to stand for life? Stop enforcing your way of life on others and allow them the same benefits and rights you enjoy. Church? We aren't a theocratic nation-people can marry, love, and believe who and what they want.

Want to stand for life? Support SNAP benefits and your local food bank. Feed and clothe the homeless, whether you think they deserve it or not.

So you stand for life? Do you stand & vote for deep cuts to food and other welfare programs?

Want to make a stand for life, Church? Stop demanding hungry people sit through your tired ass, patronizing sermons to get the bags of food you offer every week. (I'm looking at you Black Church)

Want to make a stand for life, Church? Be just as mission-minded here in our country as you are in others.

Want to make a stand for life, Church? Be inclusive. Extend your outreach and support to those with mental illness. Stop the sexual and emotional abuse happening in your congregations and institutions.

Hear me: if you stand for the unborn who you claim are more worthy than the women impregnated with them and than those who are already living? If you're an apologist for racist behavior, attitudes, beliefs, and ideals? If you aren't here for my rights as a woman and mother of color? If you aren't here for my mixed family who works just as hard as your privileged ass despite the systematic racism we encounter in various ways every fucking day?

Well then, I'm not here for you. Or your God, or your so-called God-blessed America.

I'm here for a much different country. Maybe I believe in a different God and perhaps I AM living in the wrong "democratic" nation. Guess I should take my black ass back to where I came from, huh?

Racial Profiling: It Happened To Me Today

Finally. I was at the school. I made my way to my usual spot on the concrete bench right outside the door Brennan runs out of every day yelling "Mommie!" "Hey Alex!"; his smile so big just below his glasses it always reminds me of what I looked like when I was his age. Quirky, eager to learn, boundless energy, big glasses-we're pretty much twins he and I. I looked over at Alex sleeping in the stroller and partially covered his face with his thick Thomas the Train blanket in an effort to shield him the cold wind blowing around us.

I turned off the Prince music blaring through my headphones, took them off, and placed then in the bottom of the stroller. I glanced at my phone noting the time-2:27. Close to the usual time I arrive every day.

I turned around and leaned my body back against the brick wall, taking in long deep breaths to recover from walking and pushing the stroller up the monster of a hill that leads to Brennan's school at the top. I reached down to grab a juice box from the bottom of the stroller and heard boots scuffing the ground near me. I looked up and right into the eyes of a police officer, the same one I passed as I headed to my usual spot by the door. Considering recent events I didn't have to wonder why he was sitting on his motorcycle watching the kids on the playground-he was there, just in case. "Extra security measures," the email from the school had said. "We take the safety of our students and children very seriously," the principal stressed in that email.

"Hi ma'am. Can I ask you why you're sitting here?"

Huh?

"I'm waiting for my son."

"You actually have a son who goes here?"

"Yes. Why do ask?"

"What grade is he in?"

"Kindergarten," I said, wondering where this was going. Maybe this is one of those "extra security measures" the school mentioned. I used to be an Air Force cop-I know what it's like to have to ask people questions when there's a security threat.

"What's his name?"

"Brennan. Brennan Mills."

"And what's your name?"

"A'Driane," I said, noticing other parents walking by-the same parents I see every day-and catching their glances as they passed. "A'Driane Dudley."

"You have ID on you?"

I reached down and grabbed my wallet out of the bottom of the stroller and handed over my ID.

"This says you're from New Jersey-"

"Yea I know, I moved here back in August and that's my old driver's license-it's expired and I don't drive. I walk here every day to pick up my son."

"Ok." Hands my ID back to me. "This your son too?" he asked, tossing his head in the direction of the stroller. "Anything other than your purse underneath there?"

"Yes. His name is Alex. No. Nothing but juice boxes to drink on our walk home. I'm sorry, but can I ask what's going on? Is there a memo I missed? Am I supposed to wait somewhere else now, until my son gets out? This is where I usually wait for him-his classroom is right there," I said pointing to Brennan's classroom that could be seen clearly through the locked doors. "They are dismissed through this door every day so that's why I wait for him here," I said, noticing that another parent had shown up on the patio area, waiting, like I was for her kindergartener.

"Well, ma'am we're just checking out any and all suspicious activity we see around the school property, and approaching people-making sure they're supposed to be here."

Suspicious. I looked over at the mom standing at the base of the patio and felt my face grow hot, becoming very aware of what I was wearing: yoga pants, Bertski's hooded Vans long sleeved shirt, my headwrap. No...no. This isn't happening. Is it? There's no way this is what I'm thinking it is. He's going to approach other parents after me who are showing up too. This is just a security measure....isn't it?

"Well alright ma'am. Thanks for your cooperation. Have a good day." He turned to the other mom standing there, smiled, nodded his head, and said, "Hi-it's a cold one, today, isn't it?" More pleasantries exchanged. No ID checking. No interrogation. No asking what was in the Gucci purse hanging from her shoulder. Their laughter grated on my nerves and I stood up, angry as I watched him walk back to his motorcycle and start talking to the other officers in the suburban next to him.

I watched them and waited. Waited for them to walk to another patio down the sidewalk where there were parents gathering and make their presence known, ask questions. They didn't. No one else was questioned.

Before I could hide the anger and embarrassment washing over my face, I heard the school doors opening and turned to see kindergarteners pouring out into the patio, their chatter loud, excited as they were escorted by older students to their parents waiting in the car line.

I fought back tears as I searched for his face and big smile. There he was. The only brown face in the sea of children, making his way toward me, with his usual greeting, "Mommie!" "Hey Alex!" and grabbing me around the waist. I grabbed his hand, released the brakes on the stroller, and walked as quickly as we could away from the school. From the police. Towards the road that would take us back home, where I wasn't so "suspicious" looking.

I understand that what happened in Sandy Hook has everyone on high alert. I understand increased security at schools. But what I don't understand is profiling a woman because her skin color and attire don't look like they "fit" in a certain environment; one where others are white and their attire-whether it's workout gear, corporate wear, or designer outfits-never arouses "suspicion." I don't understand why I was the only parent questioned during that time. I saw none being questioned when I arrived and none being approached after I was.

I've tried not to let the fact that Brennan is the only black kid in kindergarten at this school worry me. There are other minority families with children who attend, but our kids are a very small percentage of the overall white population at the school.

I've tried not to give into the "I'm a black woman in an affluent white neighborhood and I need to present myself in such a way that my race doesn't matter. I'm a parent just like everyone else." I made a conscious choice to believe that despite my concerns, no one would see our blended family any different than the others that are apart of the school community. For the most part, I believe that the majority of the other parents don't give any thought to our races or what kind of clothes we're wearing.

But there have been a few times when I've gotten "the look." It's usually from women but I've gotten it from a few men as well. The fake smile they throw my way when I look them directly in their eyes and say hello....or the silence that lets me know they are uncomfortable. I know what these things mean because I've experienced them most of my teenage and adult life. I'm not stupid. Not by any means. I don't look for something that isn't there. I don't go around looking for an opportunity to pull out the race card.

No. I don't do that. But when racism makes its presence known I know how to recognize it for what it is, no matter how subtle or indirect, and call a spade a spade.

What happened to me today was something that left me feeling violated. It was demeaning and it once again drove home the reality of what my sons will have to face and my responsibility to teach them how to handle themselves when it tries to undermine their value and right to be viewed just like everyone else-human beings. Young men who see differences in others and not let fear or prejudice dictate how they treat others.

Today I was racially profiled. Just like thousands of other American citizens with brown skin, long beards, turbans, and who wear hoodies. People who "look suspicious." It shouldn't happen. But unfortunately every day and especially after a horrific tragedy rocks our nation, we go back to these kinds of behaviors and call them "security measures."

It's not right. Things like this make me lose hope that my boys will live in a society that's freer from the grip of racism than we currently are today.

I hope I'm wrong. Right now though? I see we still have a much longer way to go.