A Brief Discussion on Nationality and Race

I stumbled onto Black Girl In Paris the other day, and saw her post including this video. I consider myself a budding Francophile so information about French language and culture is right up my alley.

Jessy Matador - "Décalé Gwada"
Jessy Matador is a musician from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who recorded this French song last year. Its classified as part of the Coupé Décale genre, a form of popular music played in African clubs in Paris. This song was very popular in Paris last year.

Then, there's this video, which sparks the point of today's post.

First of all, before we touch on aspects of race and nationality here, lemme just say that lil mama ROCKED IT. At first when she was just standing there, before the music started, I thought "aweee she's so cute. She's gonna do some lil dance steps." But when her legs started moving, I had to force myself to close my mouth so flies wouldn't come in. You go lil French girl!

When I went to the Youtube page for the 2nd video, there were the usual ignorant comments you'd expect when you see a nonblack person with exceptional dance skills. People always jump to the conclusion that only black people can dance in this manner, and that anyone who is of another race is extraordinary and rare if they can dance 'like us'.

I'm not gonna touch on the origins of modern music and how African sounds influence the majority of the music performed today... what's significant here is the fact that there's a young girl performing a dance she learned from a music video... and it didn't make me sick to my stomach. Now I admit, on the parts where she started popping her back I cringed, but lets not forget this little show of ability as comparison (explicit lyrics):

The differences in the little girl's video are sexual to me, not racial. This is not a teenage girl dressed in a bra top. This is not a song with explicit lyrics (at least I don't think... I don't speak French). Its just a young girl having a good time. It doesn't feel raunchy, that she's trying to be sexy or seek the wrong kind of attention. But at the same time, I wonder if I would have been offended if she had been black? Were you offended when the little girl danced in the original Jessy Matador video? I wasn't, because her inclusion didn't feel exploitive, just demonstrative of the fact that everyone could have a good time when listening to Décalé Gwada.

We could say that girls in the US are more exposed to sexuality. I mean, lets be honest here - how many times does a sexualized tv commercial, soap opera, music video or movie appear on tv? Lets not even talk about Super Bowl commercials or the programming on cable. While viewing these are fine for adults, what happens to a child that is repeatedly exposed to these images? Speaking for myself, one starts to form the perception that a woman's body holds more value than her mind. That her physical beauty outshines her mental capacity. And when you add race to that equation, stereotypes can overshadow a person's actual perception. Like a black woman might assume that she's sexier than a white woman, just off general principle. Or vice versa depending on how she's been socialized.

We've seen that race and nationality in France is not a smooth terrain either. But how does sexuality tie into a woman's concept of self there? Do the French see this video and automatically think, as alot of African-Americans would, "she can dance for a white girl"? And how sexualized are the French socially? I've seen that other countries are not as prude as the US, and sex is a part of their popular culture also. But the difference is, from what I've seen in my (brief) travels, women don't base their value on their body. They seem more comfortable with their bodies and believe in their inherent value as women, without having to live up to a social image of themselves. This came across in the way French women carried themselves; they were more self-assured, more comfortable in their own skin and with their clothing, no matter their body shape.

So I ask, why does sexuality mean different things in different countries? I'm not gonna even ask how sex affects race, because thats a history lesson and discussion that is better discussed on another day. I would just like us to question why we react to certain images in certain ways, and why we make the assumptions that we do regarding those images.

I hate to admit it, but I wanna see this...

When Madea, Americas favorite pistol-packing grandma9 (*eyeroll*), catches sixteen-year-old Jennifer and her two younger brothers looting her home, she decides to take matters into her own hands and delivers the young delinquents to the only relative they have: their aunt April. A heavy-drinking nightclub singer who lives off of Raymond, her married boyfriend, April wants nothing to do with the kids. But her attitude begins to change when Sandino, a handsome Mexican immigrant looking for work, moves into Aprils basement room. Making amends for his own troubled past, Sandino challenges April to open her heart. And April soon realizes she must make the biggest choice of her life: between her old ways with Raymond and the new possibilities of family, faith and even true love. Coming to theaters September 11th, 2009.

Lawd Sandino is fine!! Yumm-o!

CNN's Black In America 2

What are your thoughts on this series? Did you find it more or less illuminating than last year's offering? Or did you skip it altogether?

Yesterday's Twitter conversation

ReverendDrDash Is it really wrong to want my Princess Charming to magically appear and sweep me off of my feet?

prosechild@ReverendDrDash not wrong, maybe not 100% realistic though. Women have been waiting for that for yrs

ReverendDrDash@prosechild Men have the numbers advantage that women don't.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash true... But quantity doesn't always = quality.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild But a deeper pool of applicants increases the chance for Princess Charming actually existing.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash very good point. But if she's a princess, shouldn't you be doing the sweeping? Is that why u asked if it was wrong?

ReverendDrDash@prosechild It's 2009, and I think it is time for the princesses to start putting in work for a change.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash good luck with that. There are too many men with that mentality nowadays IMO. 2009 doesn't mean a lady should pursue.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild And why not? If men and women are equals, women should also pursue their men.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash b/c the goals aren't the same. Guys I know with that attitude are playas. Women I know who pursue want to settle down.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash call me old-fashioned but some gender roles shouldn't be done away with.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild Gender roles should be malleable in my opinion. Women seem to want things the way they were in some cases but do not bring..cont

ReverendDrDash@prosechild Bring a lot of the skills to the table that their foremothers did.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash but that goes both ways. Most men dont have same skills as their forefathers AND we have to pursue you now

ReverendDrDash@prosechild I think it gets exaggerated on the male side. I know few men who can't take care of home, but women who can't boil water are...

prosechild@ReverendDrDash taking care of home isn't just cookin and cleanin. Also keepin it in ur pants and bein strong head of household.

ReverendDrDash@prosechild The current generation can't even play house let alone, actually make a home with willing man.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash what age r u talkin about? I have tons of friends who can do better than just 'play'

ReverendDrDash@prosechild My crew is mid to late 20s.

prosechild@ReverendDrDash ok. Couple yrs older than u. Our problem is not lack of skills but willing partners

(this reply after I had signed off:)
ReverendDrDash@prosechild The interpersonal skills are often an issue as well.

This is what I get for holding a discussion across the internet with someone I don't know.

I felt like I didn't really get my point across... I also feel like I'm looking at relationships and dating in the wrong light. I happened to talk to my older brother after this conversation, and of course he hit me with "focus on God and everything else will fall into place". I'm not saying that that advice is not valid... I just feel like we've been socialized to 'work' for the things we want, so sitting still and trusting that the man for me will just walk into my life takes a degree of patience and faith that I have yet to cultivate.

I dunno... I wish that relationships weren't on my brain so much. But I'm getting to the point where I'm tired of being single, and want the best for not only myself but also for my single girlfriends.

Black in America Part 2

Are you planning to watch? After the epic fail of part 1, I'm not too sure about this one. I guess it depends on how I'm feeling and the feedback that circulates after the 1st episode.

Saving black marriages: Does it take a village?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- From the outside, Johnny and Shanna Woodbury looked like the perfect couple. They had been married 13 years, owned multiple properties and were successful managers. They also had four beautiful children -- a son and a daughter fresh out of college they had prior to getting married and a 12-year-old daughter on the cheerleading team and an 8-year-old son on the honor roll.

Together they had built and moved into their 7,200-square-foot dream home in Prince George's County, Maryland, with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, two sunrooms and a basement. Both were Christians who regularly attended the New Samaritan Baptist Church.

But privately, the Woodburys' marriage was in turmoil.

"I love my husband" said Shanna Woodbury of their marriage. "But I feel so overworked and underappreciated. I work full-time like my husband, but if I don't maintain the domestic responsibilities of the house, nothing gets done. Added to that, I manage our rental properties and take care of everything for our kids, alone."

Her husband started to echo similar frustrations.

"I'm faithful to my wife, I give her my whole paycheck but I work the late shift and my job is demanding. When I come home, I don't need to hear her mouth -- I just need to watch my favorite football game in peace."

Shanna grows more overwhelmed, tempers flare and the two begin arguing more and listening less. Tension took over their home and their fighting began to take a toll on the rest of the family, resulting in disciplinary issues with the kids.

"I realized my family was dysfunctional," says Shanna Woodbury. "But we also knew that divorce was not an option."

The Woodburys knew they needed help. So a friend introduced them to Basic Training for Couples -- a class that had helped pull their friends' marriage back from the brink of divorce.

Shanna and Johnny Woodbury enrolled.

"Marriage is one of those entities that you have to know going in, it will be hard, but you're not alone," says Dr. Rozario Slack, speaking to an audience at a couples graduation.

Slack, a pastor and relationship consultant, is the co-creator of the "Basic Training for Couples Curriculum" and co-author of "10 Great Dates for Black Couples."

"I grew tired of the statistics and when I look at my children, I knew I had to do something to prevent marriage from becoming a dinosaur in our community," says Slack.

There are many influences that have shaped, affected or strained black marriages, according to marriage and family experts. Among them: African tribal traditions, the horrors of slavery, racial integration in the U.S. that paved the way to more freedoms and the migrations of thousands of African-Americans that fractured or reshaped communities. Trace the historic migrations of black Americans

"Moving from one community to another could affect marriage because it disrupts social ties," says Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University and author of the landmark book, "The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today."

"Migration separates people from friends and relatives who could help them through family crisis," says Cherlin.

Black couples in crisis inspired Slack and Nisa Muhammad to create Basic Training for Couples. The free eight-week program educates dating, engaged or married couples in groups of five to 15. The lessons cover the value of commitment, responsibility to the black community, psychological differences between the sexes, sexual intimacy and conflict resolution.

Slack created the male-friendly portion while Muhammad, who founded National Black Marriage Day and the Wedded Bliss Foundation, created the female-friendly portion.

"Marriage belongs to the community," says Muhammad. "An unhealthy marriage relationship gives children an inaccurate representation of marriage, which they in turn replicate for generations."

In the program, couples also learn about the history of the African-American marriage and many for the first time plot their family tree to trace marriage and divorces. See the class rundown

"We do this to help them understand: Is there any support for their marriage in their family?" says Muhammad. "Who are the role models? Do they see women who are great successful wives? Are there men that are great successful husbands or a brotherhood of husbands? If not, the members of the class become their community of support because we all want the same thing -- successful marriages."

The group support is key in Basic Training. Occasionally the facilitators divide the class into gender groups. This encourages the men and women to openly express their struggles without inhibitions and gives them the opportunity to offer advice and hold each other accountable.

And, the lessons don't end after the eight-week course. The couples are empowered to go back to their communities and bring awareness to other couples. They also plan outings, from game nights to sleepovers for the women.

Since taking the class, the Woodburys have gone from co-existing with each other to having a marriage that is stronger than it has ever been. They have also met friends and other couples that will help them stay strong.

"We have become better parents because for the first time we are on one accord, and there is far less arguing for our children to witness," Shanna Woodbury told CNN. "At the end, our children have been the biggest benefactors and for that we are grateful."

Its about the journey, not the destination

Toya over at Black Girls Like Us posted this video, and I found it to be an inspiring start to my day. It also sparked the thought that led to this post.

I know the title of this post is a cliche quote, but its really true. So often we work so hard to get to a particular place, that we don't enjoy the process of 'becoming'. We're always looking ahead, crossing tasks off our to-do lists and anticipating the time when things will 'get better'. Well, what about enjoying life right now? In this moment? This very second? Being present in every moment really changes one's outlook on life.

Most people aren't programmed this way. We're taught to set goals, be persistent, work hard and be go-getters. That mindset causes a person to always look forward to something. But rarely do people talk about looking from right where you are. Black women are some of the hardest working people in the world (I'd like to think we are the hardest workers, but I'm biased...). From juggling family, romantic relationships, friends and social contacts, careers, church, community groups and volunteering, most sistahs I know carry full plates. In all of those activities, there comes a time when a woman is tired. Tired of working, tired of waiting for what she's wanting and tired of holding her head up to see what's coming on the horizon.

So I say to you, dear sistah, to take a moment from time to time and enjoy where you are right now. Thats advice that I have to constantly implement for myself, because I get caught up in my goals and aspirations too. But the purpose of attaining your desire is not just gettting it, but the process of getting where it is too. Whether that be the board appointment you are seeking, the weight loss goal you're striving for, or finding a compatible mate, there's always a bright side to what you're involved in and a way to look at things in a positive light. That perspective comes from appreciating where you currently are and what you currently have. Let's try to look at the now more often, and not just at what's coming.

Single Black Women and Adoption

Single Black Women Step Up and Adopt

There is a well documented racial imbalance in the child welfare system in the United States. A Black child is many times more likely to be in foster care or state custody than a white child. (For example, in New York, a Black child is 10 times more likely to be in state care; in Chicago, 95% of the children in care are Black.) And though scholars like Dorothy Roberts have shown that this racial disparity is a result of children of color being removed from their families at a much greater rate than white children living in identical circumstances, the fact remains that a disparate number of Black children are in need of adoptive parents.

Into this breech step a growing number of single Black women. Many are well educated professionals who have not found the right partner with whom to begin a family. Some have the same fertility troubles as the general population of professional women who’ve delayed child bearing. All are committed to motherhood and their children, however they arrive and whatever the sacrifices required by single parenting.

What’s stunning to me is the criticism these women are facing for becoming single parents by choice. As with single mothers everywhere–by accident or choice, rich or poor–these women find themselves criticized for going it alone.

CNN profiles Kaydra Fleming, a 37-year-old social worker in Arlington, Texas, adoptive mother of Zoey:

“Zoey was going to be born to a single black mother anyway,” Fleming says. “At least she’s being raised by a single black parent who was ready financially and emotionally to take care of her.” In Fleming’s case, too, the adoption was arranged by Zoey’s birth mother and is open, giving both women, and Zoey herself, more loving family yet. And more loving family–biological, adoptive, single, married, rich poor, Black or white–is in the best interest of any child.

I don't agree with the slant of this article. I admit that I'm not of an age to face infertility issues, so I don't mean to be insensitive to women who have those challenges. But seriously, when did single become synonymous with bearer of burdens? We get so much slack for not being married: we are questioned about our financial practices, when people assume that a single woman has more disposable income (even though people overlook the fact that there is only one income, and not two like in a marriage); we are questioned about how we spend our time, when people assume that we go home at night and have numerous hours to spare that married women don't have; and we are questioned as to how we spend that time, because surely, in our free waking hours we should be doing all that we can to find a man.

I applaud any woman who decides that motherhood is one of her chief aims and that she does not need a mate to enter this union with a child. I was raised by a single mother and have no desire to follow in my mother's footsteps or subject a child to a one-parent household. I think I was raised exceptionally well, but I did not have the baggage of a father who left me or a mother who was desperate to replace him. However, it is not easy to observe your mother struggle financially when you know what it means to have two parents in the home. So at 29 I can't honestly say that adoption would be the route for me if, in 10 years, I have not married.

I read CNN's profile of this topic, and of course they did not disappoint:

Some of the infertility issues may be related to advancing age or health issues, she says. But the result of not being a mother for many older African-American women is the same: panic.

"Their doctors, friends and family are telling them the same thing: 'You're not getting younger; you better hurry up,' '' Oliver says.

The unfulfilled desire to be a mother can damage a woman emotionally, Oliver says. Her agency provides counseling to prospective mothers who have invested so much of their self-worth into being mothers.

"In many cases, it [the pressure to be a mother] begins to set up feelings of unworthiness, poor self-esteem and the feeling that 'I'm not fully a woman,' " Oliver says.

That pressure can cause some African-American women to rush into a marriage with a man they should not partner with, says Kenyatta Morrisey, a 34-year-old mother of three adopted children in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Morrisey wants to be married, but says she'd rather become a mother now and wait for God to guide her to the right man.

"I am not going to settle and get married just for the sake of being married," Morrisey says. "I'd rather trust God to fulfill all of my dreams instead of relying on a man to fulfill my dreams."

I guess for Morrisey, and women who follow this same logic, God can fulfill the dream of motherhood more easily than the dream of marriage.

It just irks me to no end that getting married is now a 'dream' for black women. How did we get to this place? When will things get better for us?

On top of these questions, the CNN article implies that single black women are turning to adoption as a cure for loneliness. Adoptive mothers will always have someone to love, someone to care for and someone to love them in return, the author writes. That doesn't make the prospect of adoption more attractive for single black women; on the contrary, its almost like you could insert a pet into the equation and save money on clothing and daycare. And I find it telling that no one questions the mental and emotional stability of children that are removed from their homes. Surely, if the home is not a safe environment for a child to live in, so much so that child and protective services must step in, then that child has scars that the new mother must attempt to heal.

I prompt my single sistas to look closely at these recommendations that others deem to make on our behalf. My heart goes out to the children trapped in the foster care system who are desperate for homes. But at the same token, there are only so many burdens that us single women care bare. Choose your burdens wisely ladies. And choose them for you, not based on outside pressure from family and friends who don't always have your best interest at heart or can empathize with your situation.