Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We Need to Talk... About Race

I haven't talked about the murder in Ferguson of Michael Brown, mostly because it's part of such an enormous issue affecting our country that I felt utterly overwhelmed. I was happy to receive an email from my friend Janet, linking to the New York Times opinion piece by Charles M. Blow, "Constructing a Conversation on Race", because it gave me a mental starting point for thinking about all this.

For those who won't click through to read the entire article, here are some excerpts:

A true racial dialogue is not intra-racial but interracial. It is not one-directional — from minorities to majorities — but multidirectional. Data must be presented. Experiences must be explored. Histories and systems must be laid bare. Biases, fears, stereotype and mistrust must be examined. Personal — as well as societal and cultural — responsibility must be taken.

And privileges and oppressions must be acknowledged. We must acknowledge how each of us is, in myriad ways, materially and spiritually affected by a society in which bias has been widely documented to exist and in which individuals also acknowledge that it exists.


Understanding this fundamental inequality, one that trails each of us from cradle to grave, is one of the first steps to genuine, honest dialogue, because in that context we can better understand the choice that people make and the degree to which personal responsibility should be taken or the degree to which it is causative or curative.

And while acknowledging the inequality, and hopefully working to remedy it, we have to find ways to encourage and fortify its targets. I often tell people that while I know well that things aren’t fair or equal, we still have to decide how we are going to deal with that reality, today. The clock on life is ticking. If you wait for life to be fair you may be waiting until life is over. I urge people to fight on two fronts: Work to dismantle as much systematic bias as you can, as much for posterity as for the present, and make the best choice you can under the circumstances to counteract the effects of these injustices on your life right now. 

Next, understand that race is a weaponized social construct used to divide and deny... [W]e have tuned our minds to register this difference above all others, in the blink of an eye. As National Geographic reported in October, “A study of brain activity at the University of Colorado at Boulder showed that subjects register race in about one-tenth of a second, even before they discern gender.” This means that racial registration — and responses to any subconscious bias we may have attached to race — are most likely happening ahead of any deliberative efforts on our part to be egalitarian. (Source
I know that I certainly process race first when looking at strangers. We were at Independence Center with Henry last week and I noticed that when I scanned the crowd, I processed information on people in this order: race, age, and gender. It was the first time I'd been so conscious of how I mentally categorize people, and it shocked me.

On the other hand, I've been aware of the privileges afforded me based on having white skin for many years. I've seen first-hand how local cops will harass law-abiding black men, and every time I see 3 or 4 cop cars parked on the side of the road, I know I'll find a black man handcuffed and sitting on the curb somewhere in the midst of it. Meanwhile, if a white guy gets arrested, it's a one cop operation. My uncle used to say, sardonically, "Who likes being white?" when a white person would talk about issues with the cops that they got out of for "no apparent reason." Prisons aren't filled mostly with African-American men by accident...

In her email to me and others, Janet, after linking to the NYT piece, stated:

At one time in Kansas City there were four organizations of which I was aware that offered such interracial conversations during what Charles Blow calls “dormant” times: Panel of American Women, National Conference of Christians & Jews (later known as National Conference of Community & Justice or NCCJ), Project Equality and Harmony In a World of Difference (later known as Kansas City Harmony). After attempting to shift to becoming all volunteer, the Panel of American Women closed its doors shortly after Harmony In a World of Difference began in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. The original Project Equality closed its doors in 2007. In 2005 NCCJ and Harmony merged to become Harmony NCCJ and then ceased to exist a few years later 2009 (?).

Except for consultants in private practice, I know of no organization whose specific purpose it is to help folks engage in interracial dialogue. High on my list of favorite ways to spend my time is facilitating folks to talk and engage across lines of difference and educating in ways to do so. I even got to do that in South Africa for a week ten years ago. Yes, there are folks who are doing projects “for”/”with” one another (such as gardening, cleaning up vacant lots, etc.) which is one valuable way to connect across lines of difference. My mantra about this is that facilitating and having interracial dialogue is a highly valuable component of healthily relating, one culture with another, and if not done up front can undermine what would have otherwise been good work.

If there are any folks out there who want to work to bring about such a program to provide dialogue and learning venues in the KC area, please contact me. (Personal email, 8/21/14)
You can get in touch with Janet regarding an inter-racial dialogue through her email at janetbridgeworks AT

Personally, I'm looking forward to taking part in an upcoming group reading of The New Jim Crow, which Janet is putting together.

I refuse to believe that these injustices cannot be righted. I believe future generations will look on back on these times as being a type of dark ages, and I'm doing all I can to bring on the Enlightenment!

Related posts:
Tony's Take on Racism in the Kansas City Area [Guest Post]
Racism in the Kansas City Area: 1900s - Present
Racism in the Kansas City Area: Western Expansion - 1800s
Racism in the Kansas City Area
Perception and Reaction to Racism Not Equal
Continuum of Acceptance
Black Inventors and their Inventions

Sunday, August 24, 2014

You Should Watch: That Mitchell and Webb Look

That Mitchell and Webb Look is a hilarious British sketch comedy show starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. It offers both one-off and repeating characters/sketches that are witty, absurd, and often rather cheeky. I really like both the range of the characters as well as the absurdity of the ideas that Mitchell and Webb come up with.

Here's a selection of sketches to get you started. A few are NSFW...

You can watch all four seasons (aka series) of That Mitchell and Webb Look for free on Hulu and there are whole episodes on YouTube as well.

Related posts:
Wonderfalls (Watch This Show!)
You Should Watch: Misfits
You Should Watch: Coffee Prince
The Grim Reality Behind Sid the Science Kid

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Art, More Art & Robin Williams

This week's blog is a hodge podge of a few things I wanted to mention...

First off, be sure to SAVE THE DATE for the upcoming Kansas City Chalk & Walk Festival at Crown Center. This year it will be held September 6-7. I'll be re-creating a painting by famed local artist Thomas Hart Benton.

Secondly, Henry likes to have me color with him sometimes. We collaborated on this picture (below, left) the other day, and I was amused, a few days later, to see it was interestingly similar to a Kandinsky (below, right) that's in the Nelson-Atkins. Neat, ey?

Thirdly, I'm saddened by the death of Robin Williams. He was a delight to watch, and I'm grateful for the joy and laughter he brought with him. He'll be missed.

Related posts:
Event Pics: 2011 Chalk & Walk Festival
Event Pics: Chalk & Walk Festival (2012)
Event Pics: 6th Annual Chalk Walk in the Historic Northeast
2013 KC Chalk & Walk Festival (Event Pics)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fantastic Summer Reading

Thanks to a toddler who prefers self-directed play, I've been able to read quite a lot of books this summer! Most of them, of course, are YA fantasy, cause it's my favorite genre. Here are some of the awesome books I've read and a bit about them.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City
The first two in a series by Ransom Riggs, these books are full of suspense, mystery, magic, and horror. The protagonist learns, after his grandfather's death, that the strange stories he told him weren't make-believe after-all. The discovery a race of 'peculiar' humans who have been living in hiding from everyone else takes him away from everything he knows - including his own era in history.

The Diviners
A thick novel set in 1920's New York City, where dark magic is awakening and people with special abilities (most of which are secrets) are the only hope for humanity's salvation. The novel follows a multitude of characters - from chorus girls and bookies to museum curators and flappers -  their interactions, secrets, and clashes. This is the first in a series and I can't wait until more books are published!

Doll Bones
A horror story as a coming-of-age story for 3 teens who are realizing that they're too old for the same old games they've been playing together. Their friendship is about to fall apart when they discover a doll, haunted by the ghost of her owner, and travel to her grave to put her to rest, despite all the challenges they meet along the way.

After: 19 Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
This collection of stories focused on the teen experience of possible future horror, and I liked ALL of them... except for 2 that were written in "dialect." The stories were inventive and not quite like other end-of-the-world stories I've read before. I really enjoyed the variety.

Discordia: The 11th Dimension
This novel follows a teen who's obsessed with a RPG game, and who is magically transported to the dimensional world that it was based on. He has to quest to find his way home, and on the way he learns that he is more of a hero than he knew. Plus, he has a soul-bonded bunny as a pet, which is incredibly adorable.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
This is an adorable story about a squirrel who dies after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, is brought back to life by Flora, a young girl, who performs CPR on him, and through that gains new mental and physical abilities. He becomes a super hero squirrel! Flora must help protect him from her mother - his evil nemesis - who thinks he should be put in a bag and hit repeatedly with a shovel. Hijinks ensue.

What have you been reading this summer?

And just FYI - Henry had his first salon haircut this week. Check out Little Henry's Big Adventures to see pics!

Related posts:
Comics I've Been Reading Lately
Clive Barker's Absolute Midnight
Frank Beddor Re-Imagines Alice In Wonderland
2 Novels About Irishmen

Friday, August 1, 2014

What's In My Purse

I was catching up on one of my favorite fashion bloggers and she did a post about what was in her bag. It seemed fun so I'm copy-catting it. So, without further ado, here's what's in my purse:

1. Lotions - I've got the one store-bought lotion that I got last winter and haven't used up yet, and then I also have the small container of coconut oil as well.

2. The hand sanitizer I made.

3. Gum - The one on the left I bought when I wanted/needed gum and it was the only mint one the store I was in had. The one on the right is the type I prefer.

4. Car key with Chinese warrior key chain - How weird is it that I own a car now? (A hand-me-down from my parents.) The key chain is from my younger sister. She bought it in Xian when she worked & lived there.

5. Cell phone

6. Coin purse I use as a wallet.

7. Heart-shaped mirror that says "Daughter" - a birthday present from my mom.

8. Lip stuff - 2 lip glosses in my favorite colors and 2 lip balms (only one lives in my purse, the other one I have with me when I'm at home; the one in my purse is in case I forget to take the other one with me).

9. Pad of paper and pen for taking notes or writing down directions.

And then after I took that photo, I realized I didn't have my Stress Away essential oil in the picture cause I'd forgotten to put it back in my purse the other day. So here it is:

And there you have it! That's what's in my purse.

Related posts:
Style Inspiration: Fashion Bloggers
DIY Personal Care Products
Show and Tell: Vintage Children's Books