Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mirrors and Inconsistencies: A Full Response

I've been thinking about how I was going to write this next post. In keeping with walking squarely into my fears, here I go...

The best way for me to address some of the conversation between me and U is to provide an example of how what U is saying and doing mirror what I've said and done already in my life. In doing this, I recenter the blog on me and my experiences and what I need, and less on her and her experiences, which she may not want to be as public as they currently are considering my blog isn't exactly anonymous and those comments aren't going anywhere. And she has already expressed not wanting to really comment anymore, although she's willing. But I'm choosing this method because I think it's vitally important that people have more background that helps them see where I'm coming from, why I'm saying what I'm saying, and how come I'm not slowly backing away from U...despite the fact that this is what I would usually do.

Not too long ago, less than a year ago...last spring break...I sat across a table at a coffee shop with my mentor. She said something to the effect of: "I'm going to tell you something, I need you to get on supportive" H, did you also say “everyone else thinks I’m crazy or is disappointed?” I don’t remember…anyway we talked about the craziness...then she said "I'm not getting a PhD.” I made a face, I’m sure. I was crushed. Before this time, I think, she had mentioned something about it, but at that time she was wavering on it and I had said “you have to, I can’t pass you up…I need you to have done it so I can see how to do it myself.” So I was crushed. She was someone who I knew was sane, whole, not faked out by the smoke and mirrors of it all…if she could come through it, with her sanity, I knew I would be able to, because she would be on the sidewalk pointing at the UFO sized craters in the street. So I lost that. And it sucked. Hard. I also remember saying something about not being able to imagine her without a PhD because it seemed so obvious…expected…that she would get it. We talked about reclusivity…about swamp living…I said I thought she was moving toward it…Gayl Jones came up somewhere in there, too, I think. Today I’m thinking about how you can be a mental recluse…physically you can stay here with us, but you can be so turned inward that people can’t get to you…that sounds both like paradise and like the end…like schizophrenia…

When I left at the end of that trip I was a little sad about it, but also in denial about it, worried about what that meant for me and my journey, but committed to being the friend I am…supportive, trying to get on board as quickly as possible, which meant that I was spending a considerable amount of time trying to understand her decision and trust that she knew what was best for her life and mind better than me or anyone else. And I promised to still come visit her, to call her, if she were living in swamp land! Soon after that I was sitting in a class here, at ivy1, and it hit me like a train. I had raised my hand and said something about something (I don’t remember) and the woman completely ignored what the hell I said and continued to talk about what *she* thought about me and “my” people….you know they. And I said, no! she’s not getting a PhD, of course she’s not. Why would she? To join the ranks of ‘these’ people? So they can tell her about her life and about the way she should write about it? So they can tell her what’s important and what’s not? She mostly talked about not needing the degree to do what she wanted to do, but for me, this moment, this insistence, that the person standing in front of me thought she know more about me and my life than I did simply because she had those three little letters after her name…letters she got by learning how to think, what to think, what to say, how to say it, and how to write about it, was a moment that made it-why she would not be getting it-CLICK! We get those letters, some of us, so that we can ‘prove’ that we know our stuff, just as well as ‘they’ do. But really, all it proves is that we survived the experience of attempted/successful assimilation. I have always been sure about not wanting to be like other academics I saw around me…but I wasn’t always clear about the whole “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” thing. I don’t know if it’s true, if it’s possible, but I was hoping to see an example through my friend. The other reason I’m adding all this background to this conversation is because I think what has happened is that U (and I don’t mean to be talking about you like you aren’t here, U, but I’m not sure if you’re going to respond and have conversation here, or wait to do so in person) thought that this whole “PhD, to do or not to do” (based on how) came about due to me being in conversation with darkdaughta about it recently, and didn’t want to see me change my ideas about a PhD based on some (perhaps nebulous, as far she was concerned) conversation with a ‘stranger’ over the internet. So, I’m pointing out that this topic, this conversation, was initiated a year ago in real time…this is just the first time U has seen me waver on it. Which leads me to a discussion about inconsistency:

One of the inconsistencies that I think might be salient to those who know me in real time, and now blog time, is that of confidence. In real time at school I come across, I present/pose myself, as very confident about my life and plans. And for the most part, I am, but there are still a lot of logistics that need to be worked out, including motives, and strategies for those plans. This is strategic. I do this because people have a habit of bringing you their stuff, trying to sell you what they think and know…leading to an inadvertent request to conform to whatever they’ve learned we should want or do…I think this is happening on my end at darkdaughta’s right now, as far as I can understand what she’s saying to me now and has said before…but anyway, so I’m very clear with people at school about my general plans (mainly, doctoral aspirations) because I don’t want suggestions about how to build a private, glassy, practice on the west end of town making X salary which will allow me to wear this kind of suit everyday, etc. Yeah, I want some money. I’m tired of not having enough. And like power suits. But I also like comfortable jeans, and white t-shirts, tennis shoes, and wearing my hair in two pigtails, and big jewelry, and saying things that are unprofessional while at work. I’m not saying it’s intentional, you wanting to change me for the “better,” I’m saying it’s subversive, meaning you don’t even realize what you’re saying that makes me feel that way. I’m saying that people come with it based on how they’ve lived. I’m saying going to a Baptist church for 18 years of my life blankets/forms/muddies/influences what I can or can’t bring to a conversation about heterosexuality and monogamy. I’m saying that where you come from does the same for what you bring to me. That’s the answer to why I am always going to place you in the context of class…I’m going to keep bringing it around to that because that’s one thing about you that makes you respond to what you respond to in the way that you respond to it. There aren’t that many more things that influence your speak the way that does…probably because I don’t know you well enough to see what other gazes you have that frame you that aren’t a direct result of class. Please hear me on this: I’m not saying that you are only your class or that that’s all I see of you…what I AM saying is that so much of the parts of you I get to see are very clearly parts that are most heavily influenced by class. That might be because of where we met and how we came to know each other. And in fact, I think we said that we probably would have never came to know each other out in the real world because we didn’t run in the same kinds of circles…I would have probably been one the “black girls who never liked [you]” I thought about that when you talked about them. Me, judgmental (but also rightly concerned about my own safety) me, woulda been right there seeing you with all them white girls, thinking, saying “hells no! there’s no way…I don’t get down like that.” We don’t have the same experiences with white people, that is clear. The way you take them into your life, break bread with them, play softball with them, hang out and party with them – trusting them to back you up if your safety while out becomes compromised, I don’t have that. I don’t know shit about that. In fact, it scares me for you, because I can only come with my own experiences and say…U…when the going gets rough, they’re going to run…and they might not even take the time to turn and tell you do the same…that madness with M at the bar comes to mind…I’d love to go there, but I don’t think it’s cool to tell it if you don’t want it told out here in blog land, but I will say this, she, passing for white, did not have your back…for the second time. Yes I’ve said it to her face, no this is not passive aggressive, and yes I did ask her about why she identifies as white instead of middle eastern, ie, why she’s passing (just in case that comes up at some point) I’m using this as an example for why *some* black girls, me included, do not trust the way you do…it’s directly related to the experiences we’ve had…we bring that with us. It’s great that you’ve had so many positive experiences with women your own age who happened to be white…but can you see how maybe class has something to do with that? Meaning where you lived was determined by how much money you had, the cars you and your family drove provide other people with a measure of what class you might belong to, and therefore affects who approaches you for alliance…and who doesn’t, for a million reasons. I’m sure you didn’t (or didn’t want to) pick friends based on that, or didn’t want people to approach you for friendship based on that, and I’m not saying that all your friends come from the same class as you…what I’m saying is that I TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT MATTERS. And this is not new, those with whatever kind of privilege not wanting to talk about it, and wondering why it matters so much to those who don’t have it. The richest of people (in monetary terms) hardly ever want to talk to those without it about money, the poor always do. We always talk about white privilege because we don’t have it, how often do we talk about the privilege that comes with being born in this country compared to those who are here “illegally?” That’s the nature of privilege, we don’t have to talk about it.

My point is that the sureness of my step at school is me saying “back off, back away from me, I’m not looking for you to tell me who I need to be because I’m already thinking about that” and that’s not something I’m doing to you or anybody else, that’s something that I’m doing for me. It’s one coping mechanism that reminds me that almost everything I need is inside of me, that I have the power to decide my destiny, not anyone else. That doesn’t mean that I think you’re trying to decide it for me (I see your ball game analogy) it means that I’m being proactive about making sure that what I want and decide is forefront because when you or anyone else steps to me with that bag of stuff they’re carrying, I need to be able to call confidence about my decisions to the forefront of my brain immediately. And you keep pointing out that you never said that I needed to change…that you don’t ask that of me…but I’m saying to you that you ask for it inadvertently, subliminally, unconsciously. Don’t you ever feel like I’m asking you to be someone you’re not, or think about something differently without actually saying it? I do that to you. And I’m up at night thinking about it. Saying, “I wonder if that made her feel like I think she should wait until she finds some perfect black man to marry?” I’m thinking about it because I know that I can imply, even when I don’t say it, that that’s what I think you should do. Isn’t that arrogant of me…I don’t want to do that to you, who am I to push that on you? We all silently ask of stuff from people, simply by showing up with our stuff and talking.

The never ending spit comment…I hear what you’re saying, you’re not saying it’s deserved, you’re saying it’s a real possibility that one has to weigh when deciding to speak. But what I’m saying is the way you said it, what/how you wrote, came across like it was something people who “mess with the wrong person” deserve. And I’ve been thinking a lot about choice when you’re back’s against the wall…and about whether or not there’s always a choice…even when you’re back’s against the wall.

You’re right, that excerpt is very telling. Why paste something from a previous post instead of typing up something fresh? Because typing up something fresh would have been my description of you without context. That link provides context about what some of our interactions look like. I picked that particular excerpt about you because it is directly related to why and how we are conversing right now. How I felt about you that night is very real, and it is definitely a salient part of how we interact, what we talk about vs what we don’t talk about, and why. I understand how it could be hard to know me in real time and in blog time. I wonder if the other folks who read me and see me at school feel that way… I think you can imagine & appreciate how hard it is to blog about an experience when people who you would normally talk a lot about are also reading and then seeing you the next morning. It ain’t easy…you’re giving up on your blog so fast…is this another reason why?


Dark Daughta said...

I just wanted to let you know that I'm following and reading and assimilating what you're communicating.

U said...

Hey Lp,

I wanted to let you know that I just finished reading your post, which for me was very helpful in understanding where you are coming from and how you see things. We'll have to get together and discuss over coffee/drinks sometime, I'll email about that later. The honest truth about my blog: it's a pain in the butt to keep up with. Let's be real, we barely have enough time to study! I don't know how you keep up with yours but God bless you, cus I can't do it.

Sarah Stewart said...

hi there, just q quick note to wish you all the best-have mentioned your blog-I think what you write about is very relevant to the Maori students I work with. cheers Sarah