Caution: This is a Rant

I have stopped myself from writing this for the past two days, but I can’t hold back any longer. I told my good friend, Dusty, that I am afraid to write rants because people might be appalled at what I have to say. But, he encouraged me to do so because I need to do it.

So…

I know some of you have heard about the audacity of two white men in Georgia who shot an unarmed black man who was jogging. The black man, Ahmaud Arbery, was killed as a result of this outlandish attack! They claimed they were protecting their neighbor from alleged burglary reports.

I AM TIRED OF WHITE MEN WITH GUNS AND ACTING ON THEIR SUSPICIONS TO KILL BLACK MEN!!!

I AM TIRED OF RACISTS!

I AM TIRED OF TRUMP!

I AM TIRED OF PEOPLE TRYING TO DEFEND TRUMP AND THE REASONS WHY THEY SHOULD CARRY A GUN!!

Two days ago, when I wanted to first write this rant, I had watched CBS This Morning news program, and they focused on black men who were targeted for wearing masks! It’s a damn pandemic!!!!

Two black men recorded a police officer following them in a Walmart store. They were wearing masks, and he wanted them to remove them. They both said, “No. We’re not allowed to remove our masks. We are shopping for cleaning supplies.” They were profiled because there were reports of black men stealing. The second report was about a black man (a doctor), who was cleaning out his van in front of his home, wearing a mask. His home security camera caught the police officer questioning him, put him in cuffs, and was berating him for wearing a mask! He was let go after another neighbor or friend, verified who he was!

I AM TIRED OF THIS SHIT!

I am tired of white people who are so cautious of black people! What have we done to deserve the treatment we receive from white America????? Historically, our ancestors were brought over here by white people, and now white people act like we’re a menace to society!!!

I remember years ago when my brother and I went to Dillards to buy a Mother’s Day gift for our mother. We were perusing the jewelry counter and perfume area. This woman – a white woman – did not ask if we needed anything. She stood back and gave us a seething look. I remember looking at her, and I smiled, but she turned and helped another person. I told my brother that she ignored me. My brother said out loud, “Let’s go. Apparently, she doesn’t want to make a sale today.”

That was my second time feeling the sting of racism. The first was when I was a sophomore in high school. The driver’s ed teacher was looking for something on his desk. He looked at me and another black student, Paul, and said, “Well, there are two of you in here. Did you take it?” Paul looked at me, and I looked at him in shock. I told my parents about it, and they called the school the next day, hoping that the driver’s ed teacher would apologize to us. I don’t remember if he did, so maybe he didn’t.

I don’t get it!

I don’t get why I have so many white friends, but my white friends only have one or two black friends! Why is that?

I heard about the horror stories my dad told me about his uncles who were lynched in the South. I was saddened to hear about those stories. My dad told me a story about when he was walking in downtown Tucson, he had to step off the sidewalk for a white woman and her little girl to have the entire path! The little girl said to her mother, “Look, mom, a nigger.” The mother tried to hush the little girl as she looked at my dad in embarrassment. My dad, being the educated man he was, said, “Well, she heard it from somebody!”

I have told my young African American students to not use the word “nigger” because it is degrading! They think it means “brother” or “friend.”

OH MY GOD!!!! Brother? Friend? I had to stop class once because one of the Turkish students said it in jest because he thought it was the right word!

We cannot allow this to go on!

I believe that every individual should read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The reason why is because of Malcolm X’s journey from a drug dealer to what he became right before his assassination. There is a part in the book that he explains how poverty begat violence in the black community. Since the black man and woman were not allowed to become equally educated or equally paid, they had to resort to some other means (drug dealing, prostitution, gambling, etc.). The black community became a haven for poverty-stricken, desperate measures to live!  Just as a white person who was born with money is given an inheritance, the black community inherited poverty! What can a poor, starving family give their children if they were not allowed to have it in the first place?

I am in tears right now, because white people do not understand the feeling that is inherited in the black family. The inherited fear of violence haunts us! I have nephews who I pray for that they never encounter such racism!

Sometimes, I may make comments about the white community, and I admit, that’s not good. But there’s an underlying anger and confusion because of the years of degradation of my ethnicity! Many black women had to change their looks, such as straightening their hair, lightening their skin, or their eyes so that the black man would find them attractive or that they could fit in with the white women. My mother used to hot comb my hair, burn the skin around the nape of my neck and my ears so that my hair wouldn’t be so hard to comb.

I’m not making sense right now.

I’m so frustrated and upset.

It is 2020! I bet my parents thought that by this time, we’d live in some type of harmony and peace.

I’m going to end this because I have no solutions. But, I want to say there is some hope. One of my Facebook friends, a mutual friend of Dusty’s, a woman whom I have never met in person, posted that White people need to condemn white racism. She wrote, “I condemn white racism.”

Thank you, LaDonna Joy.

I saw some white people protesting in Georgia on the news about the shooting of Arbery.

Thank you, white citizens, who protested.

I genuinely believe that this is why we’re in this pandemic: we are not healthy people; we are not mindful people. The virus can be representative of our state of mind and being. We harbor anger and hatred. It is similar to the movie Ghostbusters when the slime underneath New York City was thriving on the wrath of the people.

We are so full of anger and hatred that we keep building a brick wall that is compelling us to suffocate! We have to break these walls down and stand up against hate and anger!

We have to shut down racism when we hear it and see it.

*Yes, I am a Christian, and yes, I am angry. But, remember, Jesus got angry too, and he did some damage to the synagogue!

Peace.

 

 

Well, Yes, but Actually No

Don’t you just love that title?

It came from a student’s answer to one of the questions I posed on Google Classroom. When I opened the student’s document and read the answer, I paused. My eyes kept looking at all five words, and I tried to comprehend just those words. Of course, the student expounded and explained, but I had to muddle through the first part of the answer.

“Well, yes, but, actually, no.”

What does that mean?

If you’re not familiar with this type of answer, that means that you either not a parent or a teacher. I’m not a parent, but I am a teacher, and as a teacher, I get these types of answers all of the time.

Before S.D. (Social Distancing), when we were in the classroom, I would have discussion questions with my classes, and I would beg them to make a claim and stand on it. But, that was very difficult for this generation — they would always ask me if they could choose both sides.

NO!!

It’s either yes or no. Black or white. Choose one side!

It’s a hard lesson that no one wants to learn. I believe it’s in the Bible that we have to choose a side because God gives us free will. In fact, God said that if we are lukewarm, He will spit us out of his mouth.

Yes, lukewarm water is not good. Cold water is good in lemonade, and it is refreshing, hot water is good for tea and is soothing; however, lukewarm is good enough to gargle and, yes, spit out.

My parents used to preach, “You cannot straddle the fence.”

But, I’m not writing about taking a spiritual stand; I am writing about just taking a position. Believing things for yourself and to be upright about it.

Before I begin a debate or Socratic Seminar in my class, we talk about taking a side and finding evidence to back up their claim. The students are not to be persuaded by others; if they believe in something, then they should not waver in that belief.

“Wait, can I say yes and no?” they would ask me.

“No!”

Yes or No. Not yes and no.

These poor kids! Life might be difficult for them as they get older, especially when it comes to making decisions. I am concerned for them, and I am hoping that their parents are working with their children to help them make educated decisions.

While my student’s answer can be comedic, it is frustrating. I try to teach my students to back up their answers with evidence. I connect them to how a lawyer defends or prosecutes – they always need proof to support their cases. It’s a life lesson to choose either yes or no and back it up with facts. If you select “yes,” provide evidence as to why you agree; if you want “no,” then provide proof to help you defend your no answer.

Is it simple? No. Not really. Especially at their age, but that’s why they are students, and they are learning. This is my job to help them to think critically – to be secure in their decisions and not waver.

Yet, this is a small victory. The “well, yes, but actually no” is a win! Before, my students used to say, “I don’t know.”

I’ll take that answer over ” I don’t know” any day!

To My Teachers:

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week!

It’s great to be appreciated! I am a teacher, and I want to say you’re welcome to all of those former and current students who said: “thank you.” And to those who didn’t say “thank you,” you’re still welcome!

But, I want to take this time to say thank you to a few of my teachers. It doesn’t matter whether they are alive or dead, I want to thank them anyway. I am not sure if my teachers had specific standards they had to follow, but they made my learning worthwhile.

First Grade: Mrs. Brown

I went to University Heights Elementary School that was located near the University of Arizona. Mrs. Brown was a first-year teacher when I entered the First Grade. I didn’t go to Kindergarten, so it was my first time in a classroom with kids. Mrs. Brown was young, right out of college with a smile, long brown hair that was parted in the middle. It was 1971-72, and she reminded me of an older Marcia Brady. We had cubbies, we had centers where small groups moved around the room. We had reading time(A Duck is a Duck was the text), which was my favorite time! I loved to read, and I was eager to learn too. It bothered me that some of my new friends didn’t know a lot of the words in the book, and they struggled. I was a quiet girl, so I didn’t say anything, but I wanted to help them. I saw that Mrs. Brown took a lot of time with them when it came to reading; in fact, I noticed that some students were still in the A Duck is a Duck reader while I went on to the next reader, and I am not boasting. Again, I am pointing out that Mrs. Brown worked and celebrated with all of us – we were all at different levels, but she didn’t let on that anyone was any different than others.

The most significant memory I had of Mrs. Brown was when I had pneumonia. I was a very sick little girl, and I couldn’t go to school for about two weeks. Within those two weeks, Mrs. Brown would come to visit me twice a week in the evenings so that I could catch up with work. My parents would invite her to eat, but she refused. We sat in the living room, and she would go over the assignments with me. It was the essential assignments in reading, writing, math, social studies. She had told my parents that I was one of the highest students in the class, and she did not want me to fall behind.

Wow. That’s dedication, and I am grateful for M sacrifice to leave school in the evenings and come over before going home to her husband and dog, Max. I don’t think I can live up to be a teacher like Mrs. Brown, but I will never forget her selfless act to come to my home and help me out.

Third Grade: Mrs. Shields

Mrs. Shields was a short, feisty teacher. She was older, and she remembered one of my older brothers. Third grade was a bit difficult for me because I suffered from a bully in my class. Although her mother and my mother were friends, this girl would make me do things that would make my stomach tie up in knots. She would drop her pencil and make me pick it up. She would make me say curse words out loud because I wouldn’t curse like her or the rest of the students. She would make fun of me because my mother would make most of my clothes (which were very tailored well because my mother would get paid to make clothes from other women, including my bully’s mother). It was a trying year, until…

Mrs. Shields saw what was happening one day. The bully dropped her pencil and demanded that I pick it up. As I was reaching for the pencil, Mrs. Shields stepped between me and the pencil and said, “No, Lisa. Get back to work.” She glared at my bully and told her to pick it up. She did.

We had parent/teacher conferences, and my mother attended (my parents did not miss a parent/teacher conference in my school career). Mrs. Shields started out talking about how I am a good student, and she was worried about how I wrote so big on my paper without spacing my words out. So, my mother agreed to work with me on my penmanship. But, Mrs. Shields brought up how I was being bullied. I was at the conference, so my mother asked me about it. I cried. Mrs. Shields said that she recommended the principal to move my bully into another class for my Fourth-grade year. I felt like a brick was lifted off from my shoulders. Mrs. Shields assured my mother that my bully’s mother was informed, and for the remainder of the school year, I was not to be bothered again.

Mrs. Shields was my hero! I don’t know when she had noticed how I was being treated, but she didn’t stay silent. I will never forget that. *Side Note* I say “bully” and not a name because the person is on Facebook, and I have never confronted her about all of that. It was 46 years ago, and I have forgiven her because life did not treat her well. Who am I to add anger or revenge to her already shattered life? No, I moved on.

Middle School: Mr. Ackerly

Mr. Julian Ackerly was the choir teacher at my middle school…well, we called it Junior High back then because it was only 7th and 8th graders. Mr. Ackerly is the Tucson Boys Chorus director now, but I remember him to be so gentle and pleasant! I looked forward to his class because I wanted to sing. My voice wasn’t well-developed then as it is now, but I enjoy singing and listening to music! I remembered the time he put on a record (yes, a record album) of Edwin Hawkins and the Hawkins Singers. He told us about how this particular song was a crossover from Gospel to Pop. The song was “Oh Happy Day.” The class responded so well to the music too! I never heard of the song in my church because our minister at the time was more of a traditionalist, but it exposed me to music I could connect to as a young, black girl. Just a taste of Edwin Hawkins got me interested in listening to more contemporary gospel music.

But, the most exciting event in the chorus was our musical “Oliver!” We rehearsed and sang songs and rehearsed. I had a speaking part only, but I was part of the crowd and sang in the background. It was so much fun! Thank you, Dr. Ackerly, for giving me a glimpse of fun in those stressful two years of junior high!

High School: Mr. Carlton and Mr. Harper

My two English teachers who molded me!

First, Mr. Carlton, who was my Freshman Composition teacher. He taught that class with such finesse and ease. That man was full of wisdom when it came to writing. He wore practical clothes, nothing flashy; he was old-fashioned and straightforward, but allowed us to grow and ask questions in his class. Most of us stuck with him and joined Journalism, and eventually, the school newspaper. Mr. Carlton worked with me to become a writer – he taught me how to make sense, and he told me to not be afraid to write because I was worried!

Thank you, Mr. Carlton, for teaching me to embrace my writing.

Secondly, Mr. Harper was my senior year English teacher. He taught Rhetoric. It was a challenging class, but Mr. Harper was a rite of passage at Catalina High School. He was from the South but lived in Tucson for years. In fact, he taught one of my sisters! Mr. Harper had that Southern drawl and was flamboyant but not gay. He had colorful posters about English on the ceiling tiles in case we began to wander with our eyes; we are still reading if we lookup.

I remembered one day when he was lecturing about something, and one of the students was chewing gum, and of course, this was in the 80s, so her bracelets were making noises whenever she wrote, and she brought attention to herself. Mr. Harper stopped class to ask her about her bracelets but noticed her chewing. He said, Ms. Berger! Would you please stop masticating in my class?” Of course, we were dead silent because we heard the word “masticating.”

Nasty teenage minds!

He could see the shock on our faces and asked us to look up the word. We found that the word meant “chewing.”

Another incident was when I got bored and watched a guy walk across the parking lot from the window. Suddenly I heard students laughing, and Mr. Harper’s voice bellowed, “Ms. Watson! Ms. Watson – let’s see who Ms. Watson is looking at out there!”

I never peeled my eyes off from Mr. Harper again. But, thank you, Mr. Harper, for brightening my senior year.

Thank you to all of my teachers! From 1971 to 1983, I’ve encountered many teaching styles and abilities. Some teachers were outstanding, and some just wanted to get a paycheck; however, I believe that every single teacher I had cared enough to be there and help us through the most critical years of our lives. My parents taught my siblings and me that teachers were the next best thing to parents. We respected and honored our teachers; if we got in trouble, it was not the teacher’s fault, but ours!

Teaching in the 21st Century has changed a lot! Education is not revered as it was once before, and many parents do not side with their children’s teachers when it comes to assignments and discipline.

This is my idea of honoring teachers – there a few teachers who have changed my life – but if they changed my life, they might have touched others. As a teacher, I can only believe that if I can alter or affect one student’s life for the good – I’ve done my job.

To my Teachers: Thank you. Thank you for being in my life.

The Right Relationships

Righteousness

Being right with someone else

Does that mean, truthful? Does that mean having integrity?

Deep-hearted convictions with your eyes wide open

and there are no dark corners beneath your lips

You speak straight

to the soul

No lies

unless the truth kills

But can you tell everyone your truth?

Do you understand what you hear in your heart?

Too many questions before dawn

become a dream.

Eyes of doubt, shift back and forth,

Days of silence,

Months of tears,

Years of worry,

You are broken

like splintered wood – gashed from an ax.

Can you revert it?

Go back

and surrender the time

to feel and believe that

you are real

and as long as you are human

you must look at another human

like you look at yourself.

 

Lions and Queens

After he told her that he didn’t date black women,

She stopped eating.

She stared at him.

Honey-colored “natural” eyes

Sunny smile

Straight teeth

Her beauty was natural and clean – no makeup-but smooth, soft brown sugar skin.

She came from far away, a place in Africa, like an Eden…not a bush or Safari.

Her elegance came with perfect enunciation, her vernacular precise, and made people lean forward.

But, she left her family, her friends, her place in royalty; her blood is precious and ancient, for it is watered by the Nile.

close up photo of lion s head
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Her walks were accompanied by lions – their full manes encircled their heads like an aura of power.

Their paws hit the dirt roads in unison and paced as slow and as meticulous as they glanced from side to side, watching for prey, guarding her – their Queen.

And now, this man, ebony, strong and tall, with a variety of languages, carried a conversation about physics, and jokes; geography and music; social justice and movies,

A man she saw from afar, a man with a white shirt, loose jeans, the $150 basketball shoes, bald head, a blue backpack, and strong model-like jaws laughed before she caught his eyes,

They had one class together – and as the professor spoke on and on – he looked over at her, and she knew it.

But why did he look? Why did he approach her? Why did he ask her to lunch just to say “I don’t date black women”?

He wasn’t her king.

He cannot walk with the lions – because the lions walk with everyone who is not afraid of anyone.

The lion walks with the Queen.

Academics about the Pandemic

It has been a rollercoaster.

Correction. It is a rollercoaster. My life, that is.

I have spoken to a few people who have echoed similar words: “I’ve stopped watching the news.”

I can understand that because it’s hard to see the word “coronavirus or COVID-19” run across the television screen day and night with the numbers splattered for us to count how many people have died in a specific week. I, too, have stopped watching the national news because my anxiety rises.

man in gray sweater covering his face with face mask
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Oh, but don’t let me get started on Trump’s idiotic comments during his daily briefings! He is not a doctor, nor is he a leader. What were his last comments? Something about “ingesting disinfectant…”

And the world rolls its eyes and sinks into a more profound depression.

I have nightmares too. I wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, and the only way for me to go back to sleep is to pray and take deep breaths. I had a nightmare one night, and in this nightmare, I whispered that if I called out to my mother, whatever was after me would flee. I did. I called out to my mother like I used to do when I was a child, and she didn’t come to me. I awoke to my dog, Chuy, sitting up and staring at me.

Johns Hopkins Medicine is probably the top of the line medical universities, and their website created an excellent COVID-19 informational site. It provides true and false statements and a symptom checker. Johns Hopkins provides hyperlinks such as protecting myself and others, social and physical distancing and self-quarantine, practicing wellness; and, a link about COVID-19 stress.

Ah! There’s the missing link!

I read through the article by Dr. Joseph F. McGuire, a psychologist from Johns Hopkins, which provided guidance (mostly for parents about talking to their children) to rely on information about COVID-19 from reliable and credible sources such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The World Health Organization. McGuire was quoted, “‘Knowledge and preparation can help reduce feelings of panic.'”

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

A caveat to all of this, according to McGuire, is to manage stress about COVID-19 by limiting computer screen time and media exposure. Well, I’m a teacher, and we are online now that school buildings are closed – that piece of advice is not helpful; however, I have to be mindful, still, about how much I am on my laptop. I am slowly creating a lovely outdoor space on my patio to relax and enjoy the sun and air, but I must be cognizant of my time and provide breaks for myself.

“Take care of yourself, Lisa.” That phrase should be on a t-shirt for me to wear.

And, to you, my readers, please take care of yourself. Please be informed and educated! Don’t make irrational decisions based on half-truths and false statements. Read it for yourself. I remember my parents always told me, “don’t let the preacher be the one to tell you what’s in the Bible, read it for yourself!”

Here are the links to keep you informed.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Stressed about Coronavirus?

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

Complain Much?

My parents used to say, “Misery loves company.” They were from the old school where adages made sense.

As I get older, I realize that the more I complain, the more I find more to complain about. I have a list of complaints and no results. When we complain to others, we are seeking emotional validation; we want someone else to validate our grievances, and then the claims are contagious. Not only are we complaining, but we get our friends and family members complaining too.

Misery loves company.

There are times I feel uncomfortable when my supervisors want me to do things I deem unnecessary. For example, during this quarantine, there are specific procedures we have to do as teachers, and I find it trifling. Then, there’s a little voice inside of me that repeats, “Some people don’t have a job! Some people would trade places with you to enter information into a spreadsheet just to get paid! Your complaints are taking a lot of energy and time when you could do this task in less time!”

I’m going throw some psychology on this. Dr. Guy Winch said, “When we have so many dissatisfactions and frustrations, yet believe we’re powerless to do much about them or to get the results we want, we are left feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves. Obviously, one such incident won’t harm our mental health, but we have so many complaints, this scenario happens many times a day. This accumulation of frustration and helplessness can add up over time and impact our mood, our self-esteem, and even our general mental health” (psychologytoday.com, 2012).

Yeah, I can’t afford to mess with my mental health. I need a solution. I am complaining about my complaints. As I read Dr. Winch’s article, the best way to complain effectively is to find a solution to the issue! The answer is to ask my supervisors why do we need to do what we are doing, and perhaps provide a type of solution to make it easier on everyone. Or, I should stop complaining because it’s not a big deal! I might stand alone, but I’ll be happier!

The problem with complaining is that people will see you as a negative person, and negativity can prevent people from liking you.  I haven’t heard people say, “I’m happy being negative!” Right now, what’s happening around the world, a little positive influence and thinking are needed.

I have to take care of myself. A lot of people say that to me. It is easier said than done; however, I need to take care of my emotional health. Amid the negative news surrounding us, I need to exercise preventative mental care. I might stand alone, and I might complain once or twice, but I cannot live my life complaining.

If you’re like me and need to shift your mindset to decrease the complaining, I challenge you to find solutions before you complain about something.

Here’s a Ted Talk from Dr. Guy Winch speaking about taking care of our emotional health.

How to Practice Emotional Hygiene

Are You Satisfied?

Man is never satisfied.

We always want more.

More.

More.

But, then we are never content with more.

There is always something wrong with more.

When we get less, we complain.

What do we want?

What do we need?

If we get what we want, is it what we need?

And, if we get what we need, we will want more.

More.

More.

Are you thirsty?

When you drink a cold glass of water,

is your thirst quenched?

Or, do you reach for juice, coffee, tea, whiskey, beer, Tequila,

More?

You get drunk on more.

You want your way, but your idea is not what someone else wants.

Therefore, your way made someone  want something else – something

more.

If we are to be united, how can we be joined wanting more and not satisfied?

Slow Down

I asked God, “Why is this happening? Our lives are on pause.”

“It’s time to slow down,” He said.

“It’s time to be still and listen to me.”

We come and go. We believe, and we don’t.

We doubt. We cry. We dance. We laugh.

But, we need to stay silent to listen.

Some words are being said, but no one hears them.

We talk too much about nothing.

We want to part of the popular crowd, the crowd that goes over a cliff

because no one is brave enough to lift their heads and say, “We need to turn around!”

No. That’s not us.

We are too intelligent. We are too educated. We are too content.

It’s time to get uncomfortable in our skin.

It’s time to do some self-examinations.

It’s time to admit that we don’t know all of the answers.

We need to admit the truth that we are ignorant.

Are we half empty or half full?

God said, “Stop listening to voices that don’t listen to me.”

But, listen to those who pause to hear the birds sing, or notice the blue sky above.

Listen to those who listen to their heart more than their head,

and listen to those who don’t graze with others, but walk the road not taken.

Listen to those who’ve decided to take it slow just to listen.