Posts

Another "S" word

Image
  As a White person, my ability to speak about racism and related subjects comes up against some hard limits.* During my elementary school years (in a community that was 99% White, I might add), the Civil Rights movement was at its peak, and fortunately, many teachers and community members cared to be on the right side of history. Still, what it boiled down to was "Racism=bad! Slavery=bad! Now that we all agree on that, we can move on to other subjects."  Having read Robin DiAngelo's book White Fragility, I've come to understand how pathetically weak so much of that teaching was, however well-intentioned, and how it gave rise to so much ignorance and naive thinking that easily backfired, doing more harm than good. I'm relieved that so many activists have found their voices -- people who understand what racial justice means from the inside, rather than spectators watching from the sidelines, thinking they understand so much more than they actually do. The Washingto

The Boss With No Spine!

Image
  Back in the days of old (no cell phones, no email), I worked in a New York City sales office, for a guy who just could not stand confrontation. He told me once that he'd almost rather die than fire someone. But sometimes he had to. This is how he went about it. The occasion I best remember was the case of a woman named Pat. Ken (the boss) instructed me as follows. He wrote Pat a letter of dismissal, signed it, had me put it in a sealed envelope with her name on it. Then, he got hold of Pat and told her he'd gotten an appointment for her with a prospective client, for Thursday afternoon, around 3:30. This was a legitimate appointment; he had spoken to the prospect and it was set. However, just to cover himself, he kindly told Pat that if the prospect wasn't there or cancelled, she should "beat the rush-hour traffic" and just go home early. Who could resist such an offer? Meanwhile, Ken booked a flight for Thursday afternoon, when he expected Pat to be meeting wit

This is what privilege looks like.

Image
  My parents were your basic lower middle class white people. They "meant well," and "tried" ... sort of. But conversing with them on the topics of race and class for five minutes made it very easy to discern their perspective. An example. One day we were watching the news and they ran a story about standardized testing (such as the SATs) and how these tests were often designed with implicit bias baked right in. They interviewed a student, who read from one of the tests she'd used as practice.  "Differentiate between the musical styles of Wagner and Beethoven." She got the standard pronunciation of "Beethoven" right, but rather than pronouncing "Wagner" in the German style ("Vogner"), she used the more standard English pronunciation. I remember how my parents jumped on that. They were huge when it came to spelling, grammar, usage and pronunciation.  "WAG-ner!" they scoffed, and turned away in dismissal. As if to

Snitchin'

Image
  In my blue-collar hometown, in the early 1970s, we had neighbors named the Vs. Kathy and Kenny V. were siblings; Kathy was a year younger than me, and Kenny was about a year younger than his sister. Their mom was an extremely anxious person, always worried and afraid. She once watched her kids go down our swimming pool slide, having a great time, and let out a loud gasp. The dad, from what we gathered, was a strict "no fun is best" type of parent. These were not carefree types.  I knew this. So it surprised me, at age 11 or 12, one day at the local park, to see Kathy run joyfully across the grass and throw herself into some guy's arms. That can't be right,  I thought. This is because in some ways, my parents weren't too different from Mr. and Mrs. V. My dad, in particular. He was a bit of a drama-lover. His recipe for instilling the "right values" in me was to overreact and characterize normal adolescent foibles as a gateway to Federal prison. So when

You sure 'bout that?

Image
                          Important announcement to my faithful readers (all four of them): I'm employed again. My last gig was, shall we say, seasonal employment with a company that lots of people get packages from. That was January and since then I've been living on Social Security. There used to be two Social Security recipients in the house, but now there's just me, so extra income was needed. I had a pretty good idea of the type of work I wanted to do, and as of tomorrow, I'll be working for, well, let's call it a big-box store. This is pretty exciting. So, right after I finished the nuts & bolts part of the interview, where they get my consent to run a background check, etc., the man behind the desk said "Okay, so, if you want, we start orientation tomorrow at, oh, let's say 4:00 p.m. That work for you?" Um...yeah... I mean, you tell me, okay dude? Or should I test this and see if Orientation Dude feels like waiting for me to stroll in at 7:0

It's a North-South thing

Image
                                     Recently, an in-law from Arizona, a relative newcomer to the family, commented on the behavior of another in-law, who I've known for some time: "Between you and me, I find it very odd that one of her family members is always living with them." The person to whom she was referring had just had her brother move out after several years, and now her mother was there, sharing space with the married couple and their two young children. I know that the rental income was convenient in the first case, and baby-sitting services in the second case have been invaluable for two full-time working parents, especially in these times of uncertain school safety. I have lived in the South longer than I ever lived in the North. I married a Southerner. So it's probably no huge surprise that I "get" this aspect of Southern life: Family is Forever . Families often share their homes, and surprisingly often, they create "compounds," in

Grandma gave us pennies!

Image
  I spent July 4th with my son, his wife, her mom, and my grandkids, who are 2-1/2 and almost 5. In the typical scramble that always occurs when attempting even the most minor activity with very young kids, I found myself transferring the contents of my wallet to my pockets, in the event cash was needed for treats at the fairgrounds. I came up with a couple of dollars' worth of change, but included in that were a half-dozen pennies. Who needs pennies? Who uses them? Who even likes them? The obvious answer: Kids! Very young children still have no true concept of money or what it's for. To them, it's shiny, sparkly, jingly stuff, or interesting pictures of old men wearing funny clothes. They somehow know that it's important, but haven't quite wrapped their little heads around the concept of why. I remember my son, at a very young age, coming into possession of a handful of coins.  "Monies!" he cried, delightedly throwing the coins into the air, just to hear