I’ll tell ya what I want…

What I really, really want…I want to be doing something that makes a difference. I want to be good at something. I want to be good at something that makes a difference. I want to be good at something that makes a difference and that feeds me, literally and figuratively. I’m not sure if that’s too much to ask, but I’m asking regardless.

I was just out with my dog, and she had already pee-peed and barked impressively at another dog walking by, and I was hoping for a poop. She was sniffing, and then…here comes some jaunty younng man with two labradoodles, one of which didn’t seem particularly impressed with my frantically alerting psycho-dog. I was in the process of gathering up my little bundle of joy, and leashing her, and dude just starts walking into the play area with his furry ones, both of which weighed at least 40 pounds. Fortunately, I was able to get doofous and we vacated. Dude kind of tried to smile and mumbled some pleasantry, but I was feeling none too friendly at that point. Pushy bastard.

Anyhow, back to me. I am feeling non-productive. A little stressed about feeling like my life is closer to the end than the beginning, and I don’t have all that much time left to do whatever the hell it is that I’m going to do. And yeah, I have some kind of grandiose fantasies about making it big some kind of way. Left to my own devices, I’ll make it big with my mug shot on the nighty news for punching somebody who screws with my dog. My 15 minutes of fame and glory, wasted on 15 pounds of chihuahua mix. Lovely.

So, I’ve been writing a lot, but lately I feel like it’s crap. It’s drivel. It’s stream of non-conscious consciousness. It’s let me get out a bit of energy, though, which is a good thing. Of course, if I expend all my energy doing that, I’ll resemble Jabba the Hut from Star Wars in no time and need some Princess Leia type to vent my lasciviousness upon. I suppose my bar is lower than ever these days.

I applied for a job a couple of weeks ago, and they said if I was selected for an interview after they’d gone through all the resumes, they’d let me know. Well, they haven’t let me know so I don’t know if I should assume I have not been selected for an interview or assume they are just slow as hell. Whatever the case, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bed, wastin’ time, wastin’ time….looks like nothin’s gonna change, everything still remains the same. But I digress…I digress into Otis Redding. That’s not good.

I suppose there are a couple of other things coming up, which are sort of related to me finding a way to make a difference, feel like I’m worth something. (that sounded horrid to write, but I own that) Anyway, ever since I had that weird interaction with the guy in this getting-to-know-each-other group in my Fellowship, the one about me claiming my identity as a light-skinned Black woman, I’ve been looking at the whole skin color issue a little closer.

There are times when I definitely feel as though people don’t see me, or even want to see me, as Black. I was raised in the Black community, and I sure as hell know I’m not white. People don’t see me as white, either, but some would seriously rather believe I’m Latinx or something else. I don’t like to make a deal about it unless there’s some question about their tolerance level, or about their intercultural competence. Translation: unless I feel like they iz racist.

Maybe I need to be more self-accepting at this point, but I’ve always felt like I have to work pretty hard at my identity. I have no problem identifying as Black/African American. Again, I was raised in the Black community, and I am well aware that I am not white. Over the course of my lifetime, though, I’ve had many accusations from other Black folks about wanting to be white. Trying to be white. Not being down with the cause. Truth be told, I usually feel like I’m on some different page in another book and another library when I am in all-Black situations.

When I got sent to private mostly-white school in the 6th grade, I learned how to survive in that world. I learned how to talk the language, talk the talk. It took a chunk out of me, but I didn’t realize it until much later. I didn’t realize that I had begun to internalize the racism, the intolerance, and distance myself from the community I had sprung from. In a way, I am still putting those pieces back together.

I went to a college that was mostly white, Jewish in fact, and I mastered the art of fitting into that community as well. In both high school and college, I began to feel like such a damned fraud, however, because I was poor and they were wealthy. I could talk like them, wear the clothes they wore, fix my hair the way they did, read the books and take the classes they did, but I was never going to be part of them. I was living in two worlds, and couldn’t be my whole self in either one of them.

Sometimes I feel the same way. My social niches are still mostly white, mainly because of my spiritual identity and my interests. There are a few people of color, and Black women, that I run across in social circles, but not many. Most of them are happily heterosexual, so there’s a natural separation there. I don’t usually have to be concerned about acceptance on that level in mostly white communities.

But, it’s really not quite home base for me anywhere. In my Fellowship, white people are very, very, VERY well meaning. They like me. Many of them respect me, for my writing, for my music, for my tenaciousness. I’ve been there long enough they know they’ll have to sweep me out with the trash if they want to get rid of me. And I don’t think there is a real desire to get rid of me. There’s just a basic syntax error, like in computer programming.

Maybe what’s brought this up today is a Zoom call I was on earlier. It was a call with some older people I know from the Fellowship, who reside in one of the swankier retirement communities in town. They are OK, most of them really get the racial equity issues and they know me and what I’m doing with social justice at the Fellowship. Their topic for the call today was a recent social justice book you’ve read, and tell a little about it. OK, groovy.

Things were going well, and I was interested in some of the works others were mentioning. Then, it happened. A woman I don’t know, who is not a member of our Fellowship (there were a few on the call who are not members, which is fine) shared about a book she had read. It was a fiction work, about a set of twins, who were women of color. OK, no problem. The plot brought them to be separated at some point, and one of them migrated to the west coast, leaving the other one in Louisiana where they were born. OK, still good.

Then…miss storyteller began to speak about the one that had migrated being “the white one” and the other one being “the real Black one”. Uh-oh. And she went on, and on. And on. And on. OK, that was bad enough. Then her effing husband starts talking about how he’s a retired professor or something, and he just doesn’t compute with the word black, because sometimes it’s used with a small ‘b’ and sometimes with a capital ‘B’ and he’s just confused and needs to know what the word even means in both cases and how it’s supposed to be used because he is just confused about it.

Then another white man starts rattling on about some crazy thing he read, and I did know him and he’s one of those “I don’t see color because my goal is to be totally color blind”. My hand had been raised before he even spoke, but this is how it goes at times. I think I was still smiling. I think.

So, when it came time for me to speak, I had to – i just HAD to – say something about the “real Black one” and “black with a small b vs. Black with a capital B being confusing for a white guy”. I think I said only a brief thing about those comments being somewhat “concerning” because I had to assume that when she said “the real Black one” she meant that was a darker skinned woman, but “black” is not just a color, it’s a culture, it’s an identity. Whether it is spelled with a capital letter or a lowercase letter. SO THERE.

I went on to talk about a Michael Eric Dyson book I had started reading (a while back, but they didn’t need to know that) and had not finished. It’s What The Truth Sounds Like, and it’s about the 1963 meeting between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin (and a group of Black intellectuals like Lorraine Hansberry and others). Kennedy thought he understood the racial issues in the country, assumed he knew how to handle those issues with well meaning gestures and compassion and understanding and a little charity. Baldwin corrected him, unapologetically, and let him know that wasn’t good enough. To resolve the issues facing the country, there would need to be laws and policies and fundamental change in human rights for Blacks. Kennedy was stunned, and the meeting was contentious. It was a seminal moment for race relations, and we’d have never gotten to the March on Washington, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, or any of it without that. Not a lot of people know about that part of the history of the civil rights era, but it was huge.

So, I suppose I got my knickers in a bit of a twist on that Zoom call. I don’t feel that I handled it badly, but I hate that it happened to begin with. Those two folks, the husband and wife, were so incredibly clueless that I realized I’ve gotten spoiled to Unitarians who’ve at least read all the right books and the right articles, and if they are still clueless they know enough to keep a low profile.

So. Another bunch of words. Another stream of thoughts and some feelings and a lot of questions. I suppose one of my biggest questions, and I have this on a bumper sticker, has always been…where are we going, and why am i in this handbasket? Somebody answer that, please.

OK, is this a time when I’m supposed to leap and the net will appear?

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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