I grew up in a predominantly white, rural town. Some people identified as Latino or Hispanic, but in every single class that I was in, whether it be dance, school, gymnastics, or karate, I was always the darkest one. There would be another Black person occasionally, and it wouldn’t be until I was able to explore more around town that I finally saw the rest of the community. The ones with darker skin like mine were, quite literally, segregated on the other side of town. None of the people I hung out with even knew about it. My classmates would even freak out when we got another Black boy in class.Continue reading “Why I Kidnapped My Friends”
The first call came moments after I let my small group of friends know what was going on with me.
“Hey—are you okay?” The pause and uncertainty behind the ask told me that she was concerned.
“Yes,” I said with a sigh. “I’m not sad. I’m just disappointed.”
After 23 years of memories and conversations, I decided to end a very one-sided friendship. It was a relationship fractured with seeds of ignorance that I, unfortunately, let grow and take hold—a mirage of trust with no understanding. I asked for years for only one person, in particular, to show up, educate themselves, and do the work, and when I was reminded of my pleas for help last week, I was, again, met with nothing.
Friends from all walks of life reached out in support. They tirelessly talked to their friends and family about the issues thrust back into the media today. They all stood up for what was right on the correct side of history and ensured that I was safe and protected. The friendship that I ended—I realized that my friend wasn’t able to do that.Continue reading “Disappointed”
The first time I ever had to use four-wheel drive was when I carpooled with a friend to a wedding out of town. Margaret (the name of my vehicle) climbed what seemed like a full 45-degree angle up a rocky hill. I was wearing dress heels, a floral-patterned cutout dress, and had to brush the hair that got stuck in my lipstick to watch all of the other cars behind me struggle to reach the top of the hill where our friends were getting married. It was a beautiful ceremony. However, there is something that happened on the way there that has stuck with me.
My friend and I ended up meeting in Bakersfield since it was in the middle of where the two of us lived. It was easier to meet there since both of our parents were still living in Buck Owens’ paradise. Before getting on the freeway to leave town, my friend pointed out the gigantic Confederate flag that used to wave alongside the busy long stretch of road.
“How does it make you feel seeing that?” she asked, referring to the flag that was designed to represent a divided nation, and that turned into a symbol of hate.
“You know what?” I said, still barreling down the stretch of road out of town. “I don’t like to see it, but I rather see boldness and honesty when it comes to racism than those who are quietly racist behind my back.”Continue reading “Why It’s So Important To Have Your Friend’s Back”
I went to work on Tuesday after Labor Day and engaged in the usual banter with my coworkers. We spoke about our weekends, what we did, and about how much we all wanted to be comfortably back in our beds at home. I talked about how I went to the beach before I went on the second hike that I lead as a co-ambassador of Hiker Babes LA Chapter. However, when we circled back onto the subject of water, a coworker made a comment that was a little out of touch.
“YOU—go into the water?” He said to me after looking at dark-skinned appearance all over again. It was as if for the first time he had ever considered that black people went in the water.
“Yes, I go in the water,” I replied. “I love the ocean, swimming in pools, learning how to surf, paddleboarding, kayaking, and sipping beer sometimes on boats wading out in the middle of lakes.”
“Oh, I didn’t think you did.” A bit of confusion washed over his face.
He had rarely seen black people out in the water, but that wasn’t because they weren’t there. It was because those images of black people, both professional aquatic athletes and everyday lovers of H2O were rarely shared in larger marketing campaigns, revealed in popular media, or even reported on in the news. The lack of imagery reinforced the negative stereotype that black people can’t swim, don’t swim, or hate water. When in reality, the truth can only be told by revisiting history.
Although the stereotype can be traced back to the years during the Transatlantic slave trade when black bodies were dumped over the rails of ships as they were dragged from their homes in Africa and brought to the already inhabited lands of the Americas, it is most notably recorded during the Jim Crow Era that followed. Black and white people were segregated, but when it came to the communal public pools, black people were banned, bleached, barred and harassed out of the pool. If black people wanted to learn how to swim in their city’s public pool, they would be risking their safety or even their lives in order to do so. More black people never learned how to swim because they weren’t allowed to do so.
Although it has affected the rate at which black people learned how to swim, it never stopped them. Many fought back and taught themselves in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Other found less violent pools, and what we see now Simone Manuel, Cullen Jones, Nick Gabaldon, Montgomery Kaluhiokalani, Mary Mills, Andrea Kabwasa, Rick Blocker, Michael February, Ashleigh Johnson, and a host of other black aquatic athletes. This wasn’t easy, but as we see more black faces gracing the covers of magazines in these roles formally unseen by the general public, we inspire more black people to enter a world where they were initially barred from completely.
Organizations such as The Black Surfers Collective and Black Girls Surf aim to change that. The group, Black Girls Trekkin, that I went kayaking and to the beach with also try to change the minds of people stuck on stereotypes. I commend artists and influencers such as @wildginaa who go out of their way to make sure black and brown faces are also seen out in spaces in nature. We’re clearly out there. The mountains are also a melting pot of a variety of different people hiking native lands, and yet we are only now barely seeing these faces in popular media. So, yes, black people all over the world swim. It’s just that many people have been led to believe that we don’t.
I watched as peaceful protests marched down the street. They held signs encouraging equality and protection of America’s most basic civil rights.
“It feels as though time is repeating itself,” I said watching faces of all shapes and colors float by. The sun, at that point, had already set leaving those marching passed me to appear as though their image was waning in and out of the darkness that made up a strange dream. It was surreal. “It’s like the 1960s all over again.”
I found myself a couple of years later at the Women’s March. I stood next to like-minded people of all genders, of different race, faiths, and orientations. They held similar signs like the marches from that night a couple of years before and marched down the streets of cities all over of the nation. A few older people who were in the crowds couldn’t help but make the comparison again. Continue reading “More Than Just A Repeat of the Past”
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. -Elie Wiesel
“It has gotten to a point where I am genuinely annoyed at everyone else’s annoyance – be it social, political, or otherwise. It’s the week before Christmas, folks. Make some cocoa, sing a song, and get on with life.”
I saw the post on Facebook. An acquaintance had typed a message meant for peace, but rooted in disgust and ignorance. I couldn’t help but think, yes, it’s Christmas, but what are we going back to? Our “annoyance” was for police brutality, the injustice that has occurred in our “justice” system, and the racism and prejudice that has been embedded deeply into our society.
So, I read the comment on the Facebook status below. Continue reading “Be Quiet, It’s Christmas”