Arming Teachers is Not a Solution

Arming teachers is a weak, decorative band-aid on a gaping bullet wound.

When I was in first grade, a boy made fun of me by calling my mother ‘fat.’ I told him I hated him, because in that moment, I truly did. I didn’t hit him, didn’t break his pencil like I wanted to. I just stared him dead in his mean eyes and said, “I hate you.”

He immediately started crying and ran to tell the teacher on me. Because he was crying and I wasn’t, she took his side. She put me in time out and sent a letter home with me for my parents. I waited until the next morning so my mum wasn’t around and showed it to my dad. He asked what happened and I told him. He calmly threw the letter in the trash can and told me not to talk to that boy anymore. I never spoke to that boy again. And I never trusted that teacher again. But you want to give that teacher a gun.

In fifth grade, a black girl told me our teacher was racist. I didn’t really understand what racism was and I didn’t want to cause trouble, the first grade memory still fresh in my mind. I ignored any evidence or indication that the teacher was favoring white students over us for the rest of the year. But you want to give that teacher a gun.

In seventh grade, gum wasn’t allowed in school. One day, a teacher stepped and sat in chewed gum several times. The next day, he walked around the halls with a hammer, asking students if they were chewing gum. But you want to give him a gun.

In eighth grade, I saw a teacher masturbating in the closet. You want to give him a gun?

In ninth grade math class, as a prank, we took my friend’s shoe. We accidentally threw it out the first floor window. To get it back, we had a girl in the front row distract our teacher with questions while we hung another kid out the window. They grabbed the shoe and brought it in and we all cheered. The teacher turned around and told us to keep it down. Should he have a gun?

That same year, a teacher freaked out when my friend had a nosebleed. Surely, she shouldn’t have a gun, right?

My sophomore year, a JROTC sergeant had sex with a student. I don’t know a lot about JROTC, but if he didn’t have a gun at school, would you still want to give him one?

My junior year, there were several fights around the school during lunch hours. The administration did a good job of breaking them up. It was nothing compared to what went down at Howard or Hammond or Wilde Lake. But if those adults had guns, I guarantee while breaking up a fight, something would have gone wrong.

When I was a senior, I witnessed several teachers abuse their power to send black students to the principal’s office for bullshit offenses. Talking too loudly in the halls after lunch (everyone talked loudly – ONLY black kids got in trouble). Eating outside of the lunchroom (everyone ate all around the school – ONLY black kids got in trouble). Being on their phones on school grounds during the day (sing it with me if you know the lyrics: everyone was on their phones – ONLY black kids got in trouble). I saw one teacher physically take a girl’s arm to try to take her to the office. She looked in my face as she was pulled away, incredulous, but did not dare to ask that I step in for her, because she knew it would do nothing. Should that man have a gun?

There are hundreds of bad experiences with teachers I’ve had in the past. Not just issues of racism, but also issues of sexism and favoritism. But I’ve also been a teacher’s pet. I’ve had teachers who I’ve been friends with. Because they believed in me and they trusted me and most importantly, I trusted them. I trusted them to provide me with an excellent education. I trusted them to treat me like a human being in a world that was and is still learning to treat black people as human beings. That trust could not be fostered in a situation where a teacher was not only educator, but enforcer. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to try to develop meaningful relationships with students if you know in your heart that at any moment, you might have to kill them. My relationships with my teachers would have been forever changed. My love of learning would have been diluted entirely.

Throughout all of my years of schooling, through all of these instances, I was depressed. I didn’t know the word for it for a while, didn’t understand the concept of suicide. But I knew I wanted to end my life. We didn’t have a gun at home, there weren’t many methods for me to end my life available at my fingertips, but if there had been 158 guns in my school, I would have found a way to get one and end my life.

Lock boxes, secure safes, padlocked storage containers are no match for young people these days. If you can get into it, so can I. It doesn’t matter my intention. It doesn’t matter my background. If anyone wants a gun, angst-ridden teens, teachers, janitors, and you put dozens into a school, they will get their hands on one.

Kids are kids. They pull pranks. They argue with teachers. They argue with each other. And they are incredibly intelligent human beings. Teachers are human beings too. I don’t want to get into the thought of teachers being a line of defense. Because that is ludicrous to me. A teacher’s main job is to educate. They are there to educate, to inspire, and to instill a love of learning in children. A hired gun can’t do all that. A teacher with a gun in the classroom isn’t focused on educating because they have to be ready to use their weapon. The relationships with students are forever changed because it is incredibly difficult to shoot someone you care about, especially when that person is a child.

Arming teachers means putting dozens, maybe hundreds more guns in schools. Arming teachers means changing and weakening the impact of teachers and the very nature of the profession. Arming teachers is a weak, decorative band-aid on a gaping bullet wound. It is not a solution. It is a bigger problem.

Miley. What’s good?

If you didn’t already know, Miley Cyrus recently made some comments about hip hop that has the community up in arms.

I read what was printed in the Billboard article and I’m sure she’s being sincere. She doesn’t really understand what she’s doing. No one who culturally appropriates black culture ever knows what they’re doing.

When Miley’s hip hop persona came out in 2013, she was just expressing herself. She liked hip hop and it was a kind of music she enjoyed. Hip hop has honestly gotten better since then. There’s more hip hop and rap that’s thought provoking and important and does good things for the culture. Just like with any other genre, there’s problematic lyrics and some rappers get called out for their glorification of drugs, objectification of women, and their use of homophobic slurs. But there are actual studies that show that hip hop is not the biggest offender. Yet the stigma stays.

Her reiteration of that stigma shows that Miley never really cared about hip hop or its people. She never really took the time to appreciate and take part in hip hop. She just knew Mike Will Made It would be a good name to have on her song. That’s why what Miley did was cultural appropriation. Because if it were appreciation, she would have really taken part in hip hop culture, not used it shallowly to sell records. When Miley was sticking her tongue out and smacking black women’s asses, hip hop was king. 56010-Twerk-It-Like-Miley-miley-Twerkin-Cyrus-By-Magazeen.gifEverybody was bumping Mike Will Made It on the radio. It was no longer just music for an exclusively hip hop station, Top 40 stations were into it too. But things have changed, and now, you really need to be talented to be respected. And Miley Cyrus was not a talented hip hop artist at all.

Saying that she’s “found her way” is like saying that hip hop is the bad drug that everyone is going to therapy to get over and get away from.

And that is mad disrespectful.

Hip hop is a beautiful, multifaceted genre with so many different artists constantly changing the game. It is not at all defined by hoes or drugs or money or cars, and it’s incredibly disappointing when people like Miley use the genre to get ahead and then “drop it like it’s hot” when they’re tired of it or something new comes along. 

That new thing is authenticity.

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If an audience feels for one second like an artist isn’t being real with them, they’re done. That’s why newer artists are really coming up and doing well because they haven’t had time to become a caricature. They only know how to produce what is within them. Their true sound. Even pop music has these undertones of realness in it, “Chained to the Rhythm” was not only a BOP, but it had a message.

Miley Cyrus was not at all being true to herself when she was trying to be a hip hop artist. It wasn’t art. It was imitation. And now, with these recent comments she’s made about hip hop, it’s mockery.

If Miley hadn’t said those things, I’d be all for this transformation. I’d be proud of her finally embracing her authentic sound. I would be ready for a Miley album that blends everything she’s tried out in search of her true sound.

But she dissed hip hop, a huge part of her career and actually something that helped her go from Hannah Montana to Miley. It’s ungrateful of her to promote a stereotype of hip hop after the genre was so important to her 4 years ago.

My friend asked me how we move forward. Honestly, I’ve never wanted to end the careers of those who I feel culturally appropriate. I just want them to acknowledge the voices of those hurt by their actions. What Miley Cyrus said was in poor taste, but it wasn’t done out of racism. Cultural appropriation is not the end of a career or anything like that. It’s the beginning of a discussion. 

Miley posted today on Instagram that she will always “celebrate hip hop” and that she believes the younger generation “needs to hear positive powerful lyrics,” which really proves my point. Miley sang about molly and twerking. She partook in the shallowness of hip hop, only the “BANGERZ,” and now she realizes that hip hop is evolving and she doesn’t have a place in it anymore. I want her new sound to be more true to her and, luckily, it sounds like that’s what she’s doing.

We need to learn how to truly appreciate each other. I will never believe in the “we’re all the same” crap message. We are not the same. No artist is the same as another. That’s why music is constantly evolving. I don’t want more mockery on my playlist. I want artists to be authentic, because when they are, we get to listen to really great music. It doesn’t always have to have a message, it just needs to sound real.

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GRAMMYs 2017

I said I wasn’t going to write my own post about this, but why else do I have a blog?

I don’t pretend to know everything about voting at the Recording Academy. But ever since Macklemore won Best Rap Song for “Thrift Shop,” I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth. I met a man who votes in the Academy. He’s an average middle-aged white man who teaches orchestra at a high school in Pittsburgh. He told me that he was assigned the category he voted in, and despite knowing nothing about Hip Hop or Rap, those were the categories was given. Like anyone faced in that position, he simply voted for whatever song/artist he’d heard most about that year.

That is when I started taking the Grammys as seriously as I take the VMAs.

Let the record show that I stan hard for Bey and Adele. The two of them together have such elegance and class and grace and humility. They really ought to make music together, but if that ever happened I would need a medic.

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Lemonade was global. 25 was personal. Both albums were beautiful.

But Lemonade may have been “too black” for the Grammys. And that is so heartbreaking.

My dear friend Kyle texted me about this, because he knows I have strong opinions:

KYLE: How u feel? Do you believe it was racially motivated or do you believe it was commercially motivated? I personally do think that they went with the album with more commercial success. But I wanna hear your take.

ME: I do very much believe that Beyoncé not winning Album of the Year was racially motivated. And I’m not just being an SJW, I’m very serious about that.
I don’t think that the Academy itself is racist, I think that because of the blatant blackness of Lemonade, it had more of an impact on certain communities and also had more controversy surrounding its release. That controversy around Lemonade came from racists calling Beyoncé racist for being black. Because snowflakes don’t understand anything. It hurt her chances for this award and that’s unfair.

KYLE: I think it makes a lot of white people uncomfortable and angry.
Like Tammy Lochness.

ME: HA! Exactly. But it’s unfortunate because Beyoncé did this incredible thing with Lemonade by using it to tell black women I’m here with you. I’m one of you. And no matter how many white people bump to my music, my blackness is part of my artistry.

KYLE: Exactly. And I think people want to be able to relate directly to their artists, and a lot of white people can’t and therefore feel separation from [Lemonade].

“Not that we have to connect directly to it to love it and see that it’s very revolutionary.”

ME: Thank you! Exactly. In this time when intersectionality is so necessary to unite us and move us forward, Beyoncé’s album was so important. Lemonade did not win because many white people could not/refused to see that.

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Lemonade  was so incredibly and unapologetically black. And because of that, people were scared. And because of that, the Grammys were scared. I have no doubt in my mind that when people like that high school orchestra teacher were deciding who would take home these Grammys and who wouldn’t, they remembered the hype around both album releases.

When 25 came out, it was obviously well received. Everyone had been waiting with bated breath for Adele’s return, and when it came we were here for it. I had the privilege of going to her concert at Radio City Music Hall (#blessed #thankyouErik) and seeing her be incredibly humble and grateful for her success. We were all so proud of her and so happy that she was back. It was amazing. I also felt that love at her concert in Los Angeles last August. The album was deeply personal and made people dig deep within themselves for connections.

When Lemonade dropped, I was in Erie and I honestly didn’t watch the film live on HBO. I was out with friends, assuming it would be another doc with a bunch of tilted head confessionals that Beyoncé filmed in Photo Booth. I was wrong. I am sorry. It was a groundbreaking love letter to black women. But not everyone got that. There was controversy. Tommy Lard and her friends called Beyoncé racist. They criticized her for praising the Black Panthers, who they see as a terrorist group (they’re wrong on so many levels it’s depressing). There was so much controversy from white people finally realizing that Beyoncé is black. I don’t know how they forgot that, but they did, and they were shocked and appalled that she’d ever openly flaunt that. I’m shocked and appalled that these people exist and can fault Beyoncé when she fully catered to their snowflake souls with that country BOP “Daddy Lessons.” But on the other side, we loved Lemonade. It was personal and at the same time celebrated black womanhood. I had another privilege (#blessed #thankyouBen) to witness the Formation World Tour at M&T Bank Stadium last June. The sense of community among the crowd was heartwarming. We danced, we screamed, we drank lemonade (spiked, obviously). We were all in Formation. We all understood the importance of Lemonade and knew it needed to be celebrated. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing how important and amazing Lemonade is, but apparently the accolades haven’t spread far enough.

adele i love you.gifIn Adele’s acceptance speech, aka her ode to Beyoncé, she said she loved the way that Lemonade made her black friends feel. Some people cringed at that. I stood up and clapped. I’m so glad that Adele gets it. I’m so glad that my friends get it. Lemonade clearly wasn’t for everyone. But everyone can love it and see that it’s revolutionary. The fact that the Grammys chose not to acknowledge that is annoying, but again why I try not to take them to heart. I’m failing, because I’m not over 2014. Like Adele said “What the f*ck does Beyoncé have to do to win Album of the Year?”

I think it’s so important that Adele gave props to Beyoncé. It was women celebrating other women. It was a long time fan honoring an artist who has inspired her to create her own art. It was real. It was sweet. It was so perfectly done and I love Adele for that (and everything else about her).

At the end of the day, Adele won, and I understand her win, really I do. I know there are issues in the Recording Academy. I know there are problems in this country. But I take my cues from my queens. Always stay gracious.

And in the words of Gaga:

“Hey girl. We can make it easy if we lift each other.”

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END NOTE: Kyle is actually part of the inspiration for this blog. When we are on different pages, we talk openly to each other and have such honest conversations. We can come from different positions and each feel heard. No matter how passionate we are about the subject or how heated the talk gets, we still love and respect each other. That is such an important thing to have in a friendship and it is so important to me personally.
Thank you so much for having Chik Chats with me, Kyle.

 

 

Women’s March on Washington

I am on a post-march high right now, and I’m going to take advantage of that to write.

Just six days ago, on MLK Day, I was nervous. We were still living in a pre-Trump America, but the fear of what this country would look like under Cheeto Satan kept me up at night. That’s a lie. It was really the opposite. I felt so helpless and depressed, I slept more than usual, dreaming of a third term for Obama, wishing Hillary’s hard work hadn’t been squandered by the electoral college.

Friday was a bleak day. It rained, I cried a bit, I broke my New Year’s Resolution to stay out of comment sections and my heart hurt for this country and the idiots we give power to online and irl.

But then I marched yesterday. With 750,000 Angelenos. And my attitude changed.

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My people | @emilyreas

PussyPowerI have never seen anything like that in my entire life. I saw more people than I’ve ever seen in one place come together peacefully to make our voices heard.

Before the march, there was a lot of talk about what the goals were and what everyone’s “place” was in the march. People questioned if the goal was to just make everyone happy for one day before facing the next four years or if it was to actually make a change, to advance feminism, to protect women’s rights.

I was nervous because there were white women pulling out of the march because they felt attacked, women of color pulling out because they felt underrepresented, and always the threat of those emboldened by hate to come and cause trouble for a group of people they don’t respect.

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I quickly realized that I had nothing to fear. The march was peaceful, the people were loving, but the message was clear. We were not there to make people happy for one day.

We were there to stand in solidarity for women’s rights.

We were there to unify communities all over the world.

We were there for women.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but seeing women from the generations before me marching right alongside me is both empowering and heartbreaking. They are still protesting the same shit they protested decades ago. Every day, a new fight. But those women persevered and so will we. The older women marching gave me so much life in that crowd. I saw hope in those women that we will take over this fight.

But when will we stop fighting ourselves and move forward together?

img_8555 This morning, I woke up ready to fight the patriarchy. I was ready to stand with all my sisters against sexism of any kind, against violence towards women, against rape culture, against anti-trans hate, I was ready for it all.

But my first fight wasn’t with a minion of Salmon Voldemort. It was with another woman, another feminist who definitely marched alongside me yesterday (figuratively, because I’ve never met her in person).

I read a post from Raka Ray not unlike anything I’d seen leading up to the march. It was a post addressed to our white allies participating in the march reminding them of some truths. Like the fact that white feminism is white supremacy, or that Susan B. Anthony argued for suffrage on the grounds that white women are more valuable than any black person. The fact that trans-exclusionary feminism runs rampant through our ranks and that the majority of white women voted for Sunkist Stalin.

A young white woman did not agree. She said the things stated were inaccurate and that it was all bullshit. She didn’t want to be held accountable for the actions of other white women. Before you roll your eyes into the back of your head, I understood. White people are so annoyed by the fact that they are sometimes held accountable for the actions of other white people they don’t even agree with.

Yeah, they need to get over it.

We all face those same issues. When there is a shooting, I pray it’s not a black person because I don’t want to feel that blame. When a man was taken off my flight to Ethiopia, Nigerians and Ethiopians speculated on where he was from so we knew if the blame and suspicion would follow us. It happens to everyone, all the time.

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Pantheon | @elenagreenland

But the point of the post wasn’t to get white women to take responsibility for the actions of other white women. Ray said “If you want to be an ally, the first step is to never forget.” That’s all. If you want to call yourself WOKE, then you have to actually be woke. We all falter sometimes, but it’s important to take a step back and regroup so we can keep working together. It is all too possible to forget women of color and LGBTQ+ women in the fight. It is unconscious. I do it too. Sometimes if I see a black woman on a panel, I consider it diverse, forgetting my Asian sisters, my Latina sisters, my LGBTQ+ sisters. But I’ve started to take a conscious look at everything I’m involved in to make sure that if someone isn’t represented by a person, then the people in charge are bringing up all issues. We can’t keep calling ourselves feminists if we don’t acknowledge the ways all women are attacked. Intersectional feminism should be the only feminism.

No matter how the present looks, I have hope for the future. I saw so many little feminists following their parents through the streets of DTLA yesterday, all gearing up to make the future brighter. When I am an old woman, I hope the fight is over. But if it’s not, I know that those behind me will continue to fight for women. And I will continue to march. All day, every day, until we reach our goal and then some.

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The Future is Female.

MLK Day 2k17

If you haven’t read Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I highly encourage you to do so. In it, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed members of the clergy. At the end of the letter, he said this:

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
 

The fog is thick and suffocating. The fear is debilitating. The beauty is yet to come.

It is far too easy to misunderstand someone today. The internet has given us a new speed with which to decide to hate people we will probably never meet or speak to again. With the upcoming Women’s March, every single thing we do is full of racial tension and problems. Leaders are pulling out of the march because it isn’t intersectional enough. White women feel attacked because women of color have pointed out that we’ve been overlooked by past feminist movements. Every step forward is slowed by arguments and name-calling.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not afraid to speak my mind. It’s the reason I’ve resolved to stay away from the comment section of articles for fear of making 100+ new enemies in the span of 10 minutes. But as we approach inauguration day, and the next four years under President Trump, I’ve struggled to find my voice. How do I continue to try to fight the fog and alleviate the fear when I know my President is against me? How can I find the beauty of tomorrow when today is so ugly?

Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing minister, activist, and leader. During his fight for civil rights, the fog was thicker, the fear more crippling, the beauty a more distant dream. But he kept dreaming. He kept fighting. And now we celebrate his work every year on this day. And on the other 364 days, we get into fights with those who think differently, throwing around MLK quotes for our own personal gain like they’re verses from the Bible.

With America “more divided than ever before” (we seem to be forgetting the Civil War), and with our President-Elect tweeting his feelings with no filter and no intention of back-tracking polarizing statements, misunderstandings happen constantly.

The fog thickens. The fear grows stronger. The beauty moves further away.

We need to start having actual conversations with our fellow Americans, not just typing our opinions rapid fire with no intention of hearing them out or changing our stance. If we want to dissipate the fog and assuage the fear, we have to fight it together. If we want to finally reach that beautiful tomorrow, we have to get there together.