“Your numbers look great”: non-human solutions to very human problems

working-lifeWhen the twins were in kindergarten they were separated between two classes across the hallway from each other. Victoria’s teacher was a soft spoken, cardigan wearing woman with great patience and tenderness. Vanessa’s teacher was a loud, hostile, bitter old lady with no patience for little kids or the learning process. As the school year wore on, Victoria would come home happy, holding up a finger painting she’d done and talking about how she couldn’t wait for school again tomorrow. Vanessa would come home with her head bowed, somber and clingy asking if she can stay home and never return to that mean place again.

I thought Vanessa was simply having trouble adjusting; after all, some kids don’t take to socialization as well as others. But then the phone calls from Mrs. Bitter started to come in. Daily, I would get a call from a gruff, inpatient voice telling me how my daughter was hiding under her desk and refusing to come out or crying in a corner and cannot be swayed to move. Another time she called and said that Vanessa just wouldn’t stop crying, so Vanessa was separated from the group until she stopped being disruptive.

I finally had a meeting with the school and here is what they told me: “Mrs. Bitter can be a disciplinarian, but her numbers are through the roof; she forces her students to do the work by any means necessary, yes, she can seem a little harsh but she gets the job done.”

the-flourishing-classroom

The school cared not that my daughter was frightened out of her wits by this overbearing, unnecessarily harsh woman. Mrs. Bitter yelled at the children without cause and humiliated them by calling them names and getting the other children to join in. I knew this from witnessing it myself when I came into the class to monitor Vanessa’s behavior. Mrs. Bitter was horribly impatient and totally unqualified to be a kindergarten teacher – she had no patience for the job. But out of fear and harsh punishment, her students had the highest academic performance rate in the entire school.

After months of being a confused first time parents, my husband and I finally told the school that we wanted our daughter taken out of that class immediately. Yes, Mrs. Bitter squeezed out high tests scores but she also crunched the spirits of tiny kindergarteners and that was not okay. The school loved this lady because her numbers were great, never mind that she abused the students.

 

I find this mindset prevalent in America. The most successful are the most abusive. This mindset has to stop. Abuse is not okay, even if it gets the job done. The job can be done with compassion, levelheadedness, grace with respect for humanity. The twin with the nice patient teacher did just as well as the twin with the mean impatient one, so why are we rewarding destructive pathways to success?

girls-in-demanding-class

 

Our web-based lives further perpetuate this idea that cruelty as a strategy to produce perfection is okay. Increasingly our lives are maintained by algorithms, these complex applications choose our meals, mates, books, toys, fashion, schedules, careers, doctors, diagnoses, and prescriptions.

Technology is helpful and does create the feeling of ease and efficiency, hence my ability to post to this very blog right now. But computerized technology sends the message to its users that they can be as mechanically efficient both on line and off line. Educational systems are built entirely around the idea that pupils perform at the same scientifically established level. Exams transform human students into data elements that either successfully or unsuccessfully navigate algorithms.

We utilize computerized tools to demonstrate performance but the data is only half of the story. At work my performance is based on how well I navigate complex algorithms, not giving any thought to my humanity. If my report was done with accuracy, I’m good; no one cares that my grandma died, a colleague stole my idea, and I just found out that I have a serious medical condition. Human emotion is in play forever and always, yet our technological world turns a blind eye to the things that truly matter offline.

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Social media is thought to produce a layer of humanity for us but it is really insufficient. Our social media profiles are heavily curated advertisements of ourselves. There is really no humanity in our social media. There is really nothing authentically social about it. We post our stances, arguments, and position on issues but we are not really socializing. We are gathering data and arranging pseudo committees to further digitize our lives. I hear that some authentic friendships are made through social media and this is encouraging. Some people really do get married as a result of meeting online. However, speak to these people and they will likely tell you that their relationship was “set up” or “initialized” online but it blossomed offline. Therefore, our online activity serve as a tool to be used to live our lives not to be lived through

 

Bottom line: your numbers, on paper, on social media, on spreadsheets, on data reports, can look awesome, but you as a human being can be doing horribly. It is everyone job to continually remind each other that our “numbers” don’t represent us fully. It is fine to use data as guide but data will never replace humanity.

Bad Magic

Critical thinkers are actively looking for redeeming qualities in our campy, Twitter troll President. I am among those fair minded individuals who like to give people the benefit of the doubt. However, as a black person in America, my vantage point is slanted toward the feeling of alienation that falls around “building a wall”. This calls up feelings of racism.

Donald Trump is like a really lousy magician. We all see the shiny silver coin sticking out between his fore finger and pinky. He then, with a troubling sense of confidence and annoying persistence, tells us he’s just pulled the coin from behind our ears. Many of us just blink at him, wordlessly, afraid to say that we totally saw the coin. The audience members who call out, “sir, we saw the coin”, he tells them to shut up, calls them a derogatory name, and then turns back to the silent ones, throws up his chin and declares without any irony or self-awareness, “I pulled this coin straight from your ear.” His team placates him and pretends to be delighted by this sloppiness.

So he deals in blatant lies. Is this okay? We all know that this is how you become successful in business. This is not a virtue. This is not a complement. Why would white Christians vote for a man who deals in blatant lies? Do they have an agenda of their own? Is it for the best? Do they enjoy faking enthusiasm? It is a vast mystery to me.

price

We are well aware that Mr. Trump is not a paragon of virtue. It is frustrating that white Christians have given him a pass but it is not surprising to me. I am a black Christian and I’ve sat through eight years of hearing “liberation from Obama” ads run incessantly on evangelical radio stations and podcasts. It was incredibly uncomfortable to be listening to the message of Jesus Christ, which is acceptance, love, and forgiveness, and then suddenly be interrupted with an angry ad about how Obama is taking white privilege down a peg and how whites should show their displeasure about this. These groups have been courting white Christians since day one. I thought that educated, thinking white Christians would see through this divisive talk and reject the impulse to “save their economic status” at the expense of appearing racist, but boy was I wrong. I’ve learned that many unintentional racists have been unveiled. If they had to choose between their money and human dignity for their dark skinned neighbor, they would choose their money. They just want affordable healthcare and job stability. We all want this. But having to go through a morally corrupt, carefree, rich white man should not have been an option; and yet it is.

The question we all need to ask ourselves, if we have to choose between money and discrimination, which would we choose?

 

 

Good Article

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-live-under-an-unqualified-president

Identity

 

thesearchThe most painful part of being a Black American is the fact that our history stops at slavery. Many African-Americans know nothing beyond that their people were once slaves. We don’t know our African tribal languages or rituals. Our ancestors were so terrorized by slavery that survival was the only imperative. Documenting their past wasn’t high on the agenda of a black American slave. So the past went undocumented and soon unspoken of and then completely lost.
Because of this stoppage, this unknown component, it is so easy for us to develop low self-esteem. Jewish people can hold on to a time before and after Hitler. They have a lineage to reach back to and know that they functioned with pride prior to being dehumanized by the Nazi regime.
Black American’s have tried to reach over the sea to the African continent and use African traditions as a foundation for a declaration that even before slavery we proudly existed and thrived.
I am Black American female and my ancestors, no doubt, were taken from somewhere from the shores of the African Continent. Where, exactly? I have no idea.

soul soup: a poem

writing

When I am not writing
I am not thinking
Not breathing
Not pushing out
Invisibility
That thrives within
That corrodes my insides
That eats
away
At my lungs
My brain
My heart
When I am not writing
I am not me.

black despair

thesearch

the search

The black American has a lineage that was washed away in the ocean.  A history that died on boats and in fields, on plantations, and in streets that brought despair.

We work during our lives to move past this historical hiccup.  We are damaged and aimless but we sober up and began a path to living.  Except some of us get stuck in the despair and cannot live a life of brightness so we scrounge and dig deeper into the underbelly of true life.  Addictions, illicit sex, a cloud of smoke follows the downtrodden wherever they go.  Some of us are cool and we wrap our bravado up in weed papers not knowing all the while our blunt is laced with despair.

The astute writer, Bell Hooks says, “It has been easier for everyone to focus on issues of material survival and see material deprivation as the reason for our (black america’s) continued collective subordinated status then to place the issue of trauma and recovery on our agendas” (p. 28).

There is overwhelming despair, grief, and trauma that has been poorly addressed with equal opportunity laws and governmental initiatives.  You cannot heal a heart with a law.  We cannot soothe the broken souls of black America by providing welfare checks or open door employment.

Money and riches doesn’t make you forget, cash doesn’t heal and it will not fulfill your soul.  Billionaire blacks still have to live with the reality of black despair. 

We should all do our work to move towards healing from our ancestral past that severed us from our heritage and left us scraping for a good life in a foreign land that we’ve now made our own.  

its possible to be happy

its possible to be happy

It is not about victimhood.  We are not victims. We have proved this. 

We are smiling and dancing and working and laboring and decorating and writing and living our lives.  We are human beings that have a complex history and deserve real freedom, which is in the mind.

Our bodies are free; we must now go about freeing our minds.

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

hooks, bell, 1952-. (c2003.). Rock my soul : Black people and self-esteem. New York : Atria Books.

mind changing is allowed; hypocrisy is not.

Many people don’t use hypocrisy in the proper context.  They’ve muddled the meaning.  A hypocrite isn’t merely someone who says one thing but does another.  I am very slow to assign the label of hypocrite to others because human thought expands and shifts frequently.

hypocriteyes

hypocrite eyes

 

Some of the things I believed as a teenager, I no longer believe as an adult.  I allow wiggle room for beliefs updates, converts, and maturity.  Mind changing is allowed; hypocrisy is not.

 

True hypocrisy always involves a blatant lie.  It denotes known deceit.

When my uncle would puff his cigarettes then blow the smoke in my face and say, “don’t you ever start these things…they’ll ruin your life.”  He wasn’t being a hypocrite, he was being honest.  He didn’t hide his use of cigarettes while bad mouthing the habit in public. He used openly and bad mouthed openly. He was not a hypocrite.

Sometimes we can slowly drift into the hypocritical realm without being aware like accidentally giving donations to a slaughter house because you didn’t read the form right and you are a known animal rights advocate with a website and everything and recently updated your site condemning meat eaters.

It is very rare that one is unaware that they are being hypocrite.  Most of us know, rather acutely, when we have veered past the beliefs that we’ve pretended to live by.

The girl who preached to me about the wickedness of premarital sex whilst having it herself yesterday is a hypocrite.

If you scold someone for a sin and then find yourself in that same sin a year later, I do not consider you a hypocrite.  You are simply a misguided individual who spoke too soon.  If you however, continue to scold people for the very sins that you regularly indulge in, then you, my friend are a fabricated, fictitious, master of the stage, worthy of an Oscar, bona fide hypocrite.

 

Flying birds

Hypocrites are typically the double-lifer’s; you know, those people who live in two opposing worlds. People like the president of a rape prevention organization, who rapes women in his spare time, and the upstanding preacher who casts out homosexual demons yet maintains a homosexual relationship in private are the paradigm of hypocrisy.

The thing to remember about hypocrisy is that it is based on contradiction.  It is not based upon changing your mind (truthfully), learning, growing, or changing perspective.  I guess this is why it is not a good idea to be judgmental, preachy, or disparaging towards others.

You may find that you feel differently later and people will mistake you for a hypocrite.

 

 

Attitude: the shield of protection

How did black women get their attitude?

 

blackgrlsThe origins of snappiness come from slave life in America.   Black women were brought and sold right beside the male slaves.  Many slaves were naked as they were auctioned; their body parts appraised and audited shamming them in front of crowds.

 

 

 

 

 

price

The black female body was a commodity.  The white female body was considered pure and feminine and worthy of protection.  Black female slaves had no right to claim femininity, thus they warranted no protection.  Black women were property and did not own their bodies which meant that anyone could do anything they wanted to a black female and not face any punishment at all.

 

 

 

 

 

foxbank-plantation-houseIf the slave master wanted to have sexual relations with a black female slave he did it without question or protest from anyone.  And as historical legacies go, a subculture that included the sexually ferocious black female was born.

 

Black women were considered uncivilized workers with vagina’s.  Anyone who wanted to quell their human urge for sexual pleasure could take up a slave girl who didn’t have a say in her own life.

 

 

As time passed the Constitution was updated, slaves were freed, civil rights were heard, and progress towards equality in America started to take shape. All the while black women were still being objectified.  Black feminist issues were not dropped in the American bucket of issues.  Our stories did not change much from slavery.  Black female issues still take back seat to racial profiling and other issues that deal with black males.  Even in modern times, black women and children are still being raped, touched, groped and fondled secretly in their homes and at their gathering facilities.

No one is paying attention.

Many black females will tell stories of their childhoods where they were repeatedly molested and taken advantage of by both strangers and family members.  Not to suggest that every black girlhood includes sexual exploitation and degradation.

Many black females have healthy molestation free childhoods. But many people will look at these women and assume that they have lived a horrid life comparable to Sapphire’s “Precious” character.  But one thing most black woman can identify with is being tied to a stereotype of having an “attitude”.

nene

This attitude was formed out of necessity to protect oneself.

 

Linking our ancestry back to slavery times we see that we had no recourse. No one shielded black woman from the force of brutality and labor. Black woman worked hard and maybe even harder than the male slaves in the cotton fields.

Since no one took us in, we took ourselves in.  We internalized our struggles and use the pain to fuel our verbal and physical attacks.

 

 

slaveladyBlack women slaves were brutalized and abandoned. Today I can say that we feel the same.  At least I do.

 

We still think that no one loves us and we have to “look out for our own”.

Today black woman are still viciously combating their attackers with tough language that makes even a manly man fall back.    We’ve learned that a “don’t mess with me” attitude aids in deterring unwanted people from our presence.  But there is a down side.

This use of power has expanded to any and every one.   We’ve turned on each other.  Girl fights in clubs and jealous rages have become the norm in black girl world.

 

I’ve spoken with many black women who said “I don’t let nobody disrespect me.”  I truly understand this.

 

 

attitude1

But we must be careful to remember that  Respect is earned.

 

The horror of slavery has shaped our ancestors thinking and behavior, thus shaping our grandmothers, and then our mothers. Now us…

I can see and feel the change in the American air.  Some say we are in a post-racial society, with the black President, black first lady, black kids in the white house, and self-actualized black women all around the country. I’m not sure if we are in a post-racial society or not but what I do know is that the fragile black female is a beautiful relevant member of American society and she can be herself without an attitude.

I am not against sass. I am against unresolved anger.  We should extinguish our anger and move forward.