Daddy Issues

Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigital Photos.net.

Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigital Photos.net.

I am my father’s oldest child. I am my mother’s only child. And last weekend I was feeling “some sort of way” that I couldn’t quite articulate about Father’s Day. A day to celebrate fatherhood is a difficult day for those of us with “Daddy issues.”

Although I grew up with lots of maternal and paternal family, I did not grow up in the same household as my father. In fact, he lived in another state with his wife and their children, my two brothers and sister. I usually communicated with him through my grandmother (his mother), who made sure I had school clothes and things of that nature. I saw him infrequently, mostly during the summers, when he visited Mississippi or I visited Illinois.

Years ago I was bitter and resentful towards my father for not taking care of me, but I have softened. A few years ago, in an uncharacteristically heartfelt and serious conversation, he apologized to me. Since then, I have felt more sympathy for and empathy with him because I realized that Daddy had “Daddy issues” too.

One clear example of this was my first-and-only meeting with my paternal grandfather. When I was about 14 or 15, my great-grandmother (my paternal grandfather’s mother) died. Strangely enough, though I had never met this grandfather, I knew my great grandmother. She visited the M-I Crooked Letter several times and gave me $2 bills whenever I saw her. I can only recall my grandfather’s name being mentioned a few times, and I don’t remember that being positive. But I knew who he was instantly because my youngest brother was his spitting image.

After the funeral, I saw my grandfather talking with a group of people including Daddy. When I approached them, my grandfather promptly introduced me to my own father. (He didn’t know me from Adam.) “This is my son,” he said, excitedly. “I know!” I replied. “That’s my father!”

As is my nature, I joked about that encounter. But really, how sad was that? In retrospect, I wonder how this made my father feel. That he and his children were strangers to his father could not have been a good feeling. My grandparents’ marriage had broken up in the 1950s when my father was quite young, and his two sisters were not much older. After the divorce, my grandfather remarried and had another family. (My grandmother remarried as well.) Did Daddy feel abandoned by his father? What kind of pain did that cause him? I thought about what kind of role model my grandfather was for Daddy. Not a very good one, that’s for sure.

Now I’m not giving Daddy a pass on all the disappointments of my childhood. But as 2Pac said, “I ain’t mad at ya.” As a historian, I try to understand people from the past so I can tell their stories in the present. The least I can do is try and apply that understanding to my own family. No, he never did send me that bike he promised me when I was ten. But as an adult, he has helped me–coming to pick me up from college for summer, giving me cash occasionally, and more recently helping me on four interstate moves in ten years. I know he loves and cares about me. . . in his way. I don’t know if he felt love from his father.

I’m not sure how Daddy will feel about this post. It’s doubtful that he’ll even see it. I love my father, but I haven’t talked to him in a while. Despite my conflicted feelings, I sincerely hope he had a happy Father’s Day.

 

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We’re Baa-aack!

Back to Work!

Back to Work!

It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you

Without a dope beat to step to, step to, step to, step to. . .

~ Try Again, Aaliyah

 

We’re baa-aack! The 2 Dope Sistahs are coming back at ya with posts “hot and fresh out the kitchen” starting Wednesday, June 18. Please come back tomorrow and see what’s cooking. 🙂

In Memoriam, Jesse (1970-2013)

Image courtesy of phanlop88/FreeDigital Photos.net.

Image courtesy of phanlop88/FreeDigital Photos.net.

Today we light a candle for our dear friend, Jesse J. Scott, Ph.D., who passed away one year ago today. He never got a chance to read our 2 Dope Sistahs blog. We know he would have encouraged us though. Over the last year, we’ve written about him several times (I Had Such a Friend, For Jesse, Foto Friday: Someone You Love, and The Worst Moments of 2013).

Jesse,

I can’t tell you how many times we have talked about you over this past year, remembering the times we had together–laughing sometimes but mostly trying to hold back the tears. I’ve often thought to myself, Let me call, Dr. Scott. And then, I remembered. . . I hope you’re not too salty with us for being sad instead of “jolly.” We can’t help it. We love you and miss you too much.

Rest in peace.

 

Open Letter to Magic Johnson: You’re Better Than That

Dear Magic Johnson,

I was not surprised last week when Donald Sterling, the embattled Los Angeles Clippers team owner, sat for an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. I knew that there would eventually be a televised interview with Sterling, during which he would defend his record and deny being a racist. His history indicated that he would not go gently “into that good night.” I was a bit surprised, however, that you decided to give an interview as well. Against my better judgement, I watched the Sterling interview; I had to hear what he said that made you think you needed to respond.

I know your name has been dragged into this sordid mess, and it should not have been. In the leaked tapes as well as in his interview with Anderson Cooper, Donald Sterling seems to be obsessed with you. He charged that you weren’t a good role model “for the children of Los Angeles.” He brought up the fact that you are HIV Positive (incorrectly stating that you have AIDS). He said that you told him not to apologize and that you’d “work it out” with V. Stiviano. Finally, in all of his paternalistic benevolence, he asserted that you and other successful black people did nothing for “minorities,” whereas he had given away millions.

Magic, you said in your interview: “I’m always go’n fight for myself and for my people. I will never change, so when he attacked me personally, I have to speak about it.” Seriously, I know where you’re coming from. But, on the real, Magic, you’re better than that. Your participation in his tit-for-tat game allows him to obfuscate the real issues at hand. He has lost all credibility. He was simply trying to take some of the heat off himself. He got himself into this mess. He can get himself out. He can’t escape from what he said on tape and his own public record by trying to vilify you. You said it right in your interview–he’s delusional. Even though he is persona non grata, he insists that “everybody” still wants to be around him and that the players love him.

In short, we know Donald Sterling “didn’t do his homework.” on you. But I think everything you needed to say to him or about him could have been summed up with two statements:

  1. “Keep my name out your mouth!”
  2. (And regarding your charitable giving) “You better Google me!”

Now that the Los Angeles Clippers are out of the playoffs, I am hoping that we will hear less and less about Sterling. (But if he keeps on talking about you, feel free to use the two statements above.)

Sincerely,

Da Realist 1

Foto Friday: Herky on Parade

I was driving past city hall the other day, and I saw this statue of Herky the Hawk, the mascot of the University of Iowa. Hmm, I thought. This is new.

 

"Capt Herky"

“Capt Herky”

As it turns out, this statue is one of 83 Herkys in the Iowa City area. It’s a “multi-city public art project” known as “Herky on Parade.” The statues, which were designed by local artists or students from area schools, will be auctioned off at the end of the summer with the proceeds going to the United Way. The “Herky” above honors members of the United States Air Force. (For more info about Herky on Parade, click here.)

Herkysign

This Herky caught my eye, but don’t worry I’m still partial to Brutus the Buckeye. 😉

In Memoriam, Miss Maxie (1998-2014)

On May 2, 2014, my beloved dog, Miss Maxie, passed away. Although she was an elderly dog, her ultimate decline was quick–less than a week. She was my companion, my friend, my road dog, and my dog baby.

One of my favorite pictures. It was cute, but I made her get out of my bed.

One of my favorite pictures. It was cute, but I made her get out of my bed.

She was a thoughtful, quiet dog, but she loved taking long walks, chasing squirrels and rabbits, and being chased. She loved sleeping under the covers and sneaking into bed with our overnight guests.

I was lucky to find a dog that fit my personality so perfectly. I adopted her from the animal shelter in January 1999. And since that time, she was never away from me for more than a few days at a time. She was one of kind–a lover of all people but picky about her canine associations. My husband and I will miss her companionship. Whenever one of us stayed up late working, studying, or “dissertating,” she would keep us company.

Miss Maxie and my mother, also known as "the dog whisperer."

Miss Maxie and my mother, also known as “the dog whisperer.”

I am still extremely sad that she had to go. But, again, I was fortunate to have had a dog like her.

 

Race, Sports & Society: The Sordid Tale of Donald Sterling

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigital Photos.net.

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigital Photos.net.

By now, almost everyone in the United States has probably heard about Donald Sterling, the 80-year-old owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise, whose recorded, racist diatribe was released by the celebrity gossip website TMZ over the weekend. Sterling was recorded by V. Stiviano, who was apparently his mistress.

On Tuesday, with advertisers lining up to end their relationship with the Clippers and with the threat of a player boycott of playoff games, the NBA handed down its punishment. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 Million and issued a lifetime ban. He also called on the Board of Governors, comprised of the 30 NBA franchise owners (29 without Sterling), to meet and decide whether Sterling should be forced to the sell the franchise, which they can do with a 75% vote.

It’s a sordid story of race, sex, sports, and money. Perhaps the only thing missing is the violence. From the beginning, I was troubled by the discussions surrounding this issue because they often didn’t acknowledge that it was much deeper than one elderly man’s dislike of black people. However, as the scandal lingered on, writers delved more deeply into the story. Here’s my take on the subject.

  1. Donald Sterling’s racism was perhaps the worst kept secret in basketball. So, it’s interesting that so many were shocked, disappointed or hurt because of the statements he made on tape. Yet, one only has to scratch the surface to find numerous witnesses to Sterling’s bad behavior. He singled-out NBA hall-of-famer Magic Johnson, stating that he didn’t want his girlfriend to bring African Americans to Clippers games or appear in pictures with them on “the Instagram.”  But that is unsurprising since Sterling did not want black people in his rental properties either. He compared black people to dogs and spoke as if he were a 21st century slave master, providing houses and cars to his servants out of his benevolence, rather than employer paying people for their labor. I am thrilled that the players used their power to make a stand, but I wished there had been an outcry for the African-Americans and Latinos who lived in Sterling buildings (or were unable to obtain housing) when the Department of Justice housing discrimination suit was filed against him.
  2. The Los Angeles NAACP needs to check itself. In the interest of full disclosure, the national organization been getting the “side-eye” from me for a few years now–ever since since the Shirley Sherrod debacle in 2010. I respect the “historical’ organization, but something seems off with the organization in it’s current state. The Los Angeles NAACP has accepted donations from Donald Sterling for more than a decade. Although it has now been rescinded, they planned to honor him with his 2nd lifetime achievement award at an event in May. It seems like, with the housing discrimination charges, the organization should have been outside his buildings protesting rather than giving him awards. Or, can he wash his sins away with donations? There must be some other way to stay solvent than to take money from the perpetrators of racism that the organization is supposed to combat.
  3. There is a myth that race does not matter in sports. I contend that common sense, history, and contemporary events indicate the fallacy of this, but it seems to be a prevalent line of thinking expressed by sports media types who want to portray the culture of sport as a beacon of righteousness on a hill rather than a microcosm of our society. When confronted with racists or racist behavior, it may be comforting to think that we are confronting an anomaly instead of an endemic social ill. These relics will soon be like the dinosaurs–extinct. But reality contradicts this wishful thinking. And what will “they” say when the next Riley Cooper, Richie Incognito, Dan Snyder, or Donald Sterling reveals himself/herself?

 

 

A Posse to Protect Your Star Player: Scholarly and Comedic Advice

FWCAIn March (28-29) I attended the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy Conference, which was hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This conference brought together faculty, graduate students, and post-docs “for professional development, personal development, and community building.” Through workshops and various discussions, the conference sought to identify challenges within the academy for women of color and suggest strategies to deal with working and succeeding in the academy. Although often cited as one of the best careers, a career as a college professor can be quite stressful.

Friday’s Keynote Address was by Nell Irvin Painter, distinguished historian and professor emerita from Princeton University, who provided suggestions on navigating the academy. She gave us the benefit of her experience and wisdom, and I was determined not to miss a word. Then, on Saturday, I attended a workshop that was presented by Carmen G. González, professor at Seattle University School of Law and one of the editors of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. Both of these scholars offered sage advice and coping strategies. One of the themes repeated during their presentations and throughout the weekend was that women need to build networks of support in order to prosper. Their wise counsel took me to a less than scholarly place, however. These professors gave the same advice as one of my favorite comedians, Katt Williams.

People of color can find themselves feeling quite isolated on their campuses. To cope with the isolation and stress of academic life, Prof. Painter emphasized the need or collective support. She cautioned us not try and deal with academic life alone. Instead “you need your own ‘posse.'” (Yes, Nell Irvin Painter said posse!) This posse, for example, may include friends, mentors, congenial colleagues, older women, administrative staff, sorors and church members. You need to have a friend who will listen–without interruption–when you have had a bad day. You need people who can offer good career advice. In short, you need a group of people who will defend you when you need it and support you when you need it. While it is helpful if you and the members of your posse work at the same institution, it is more likely that at least some of them will not.

Similarly, Prof. González stressed the need for collective responses to life in the academy by building alliances. These alliances can be cross-generational (with mentors and sponsors); horizontal (with peers from your department or university); or cross-border (with people outside your department or university).

KattWmsIn much more colorful language, but with the same message, Katt Williams gives similar advice in his 2008 stand-up comedy DVD It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’. This comedy show is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Williams riffs on everything from Pres. George Bush to Michael Vick and Brittney Spears. But “Jesters do oft prove prophets.” Williams contends that we have to be a bit more selfish and take care of ourselves. After all, YOU are your “number one star player.” So, “make sure you got your team set up” because you will need four or five people who will “jump in and block bullshit” during a crisis.

America is a country that celebrates individualism, but it’s clear to me that there are times when we will all need a little support from our friends, no matter what careers we’ve chosen. Each one of us needs a posse. I’m fortunate enough to have a posse that includes my husband, former professors, friends from graduate school, sorors, and former colleagues. Who’s in your posse?

 

Wacky Wednesday: What is Your Most Embarrassing Moment?

Da Hype 1

pink pantiesIt was my last year in High School, and our school had taken a trip to see the new movie on Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington (Yep, I realize that I just dated myself). I can’t remember if this was sponsored by the Black Student Union or a class instructor required us to go. At any rate, I attended the field trip and even wrote about it later in the school newspaper.

What I remember most about attending this screening is what happened during intermission, when I had gone to the bathroom. I was wearing a plaid pink and black skirt and a super cute white blouse. I also had on black tights. I left the bathroom, switching, thinking about how cute I looked in that outfit.

Then, the fine usher who took my ticket when I entered the theater came running toward me, yelling something. I didn’t hear him at first; my cuteness was too loud for me to hear anything. It was as if I was strutting to the beat of a song made just for me and only I could hear the tune. The usher finally came close enough for me to notice that he was addressing me, so I stopped sashaying and reveling in how good I looked to hear what he had to say. I thought, “Oh, my God. He is going to ask me for my number!” I slowly turned around with my hands on my hips and a sweet smile on my face, tilting my head and allowing my hair to cover one of my eyes. I was eager to hear what he had to say. “Miss, your skirt is tucked into your tights,” he said.

“Excuse me?” I asked, hoping he would repeat himself. He was out of breath from trying to catch up to me and I didn’t hear what he said.

“Your skirt is tucked into your tights,” he repeated and this time, it seemed like he enunciated each syllable in slow motion.

I was horrified!! There, for the world to see, were my pink panties, showing through my black tights! I fixed my skirt and ran into that movie theater so quickly. I hid with the crowd when the movie was over, hoping to avoid EVER seeing him again.

Da Realist 1

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Let me preface this by saying that I have never been very coordinated. While I was in college, no one in my sorority ever considered me step show material. But I understand. I can’t count the number of times that I have fallen down stairs, bumped into doors, and tripped over my own feet. My mother always said I was clumsy, and unfortunately that’s true.

I totally embarrassed myself a few years ago at a party. Da Hype 1 took me as her guest to party being given by one of her friends. It was one of those parties in which someone makes a presentation of their products (like candles or jewelry). Later, the guests have an opportunity to purchase some products, and the host gets a discount for having the party.

Well, it was a lovely little party, held upstairs in the hostess’ home. There were probably about 15 people there, most of whom I’d never met. The refreshments were downstairs in the kitchen, and I went down to get some. I helped myself to some chicken wings and Coca-Cola. As I was coming back up the stairs with my plate and cup in hand, I tripped. Yes, I fell up the stairs and landed facedown. It’s the kind of thing you laugh about. . .that is, if you’re not the one sprawled out on the floor. Chicken wings and pop were all over the place, all over this woman’s nice, white carpet. I was mortified, and I blushed, turning as red as a beet. (Yes, I turn red, and it’s NOT attractive.) I apologized profusely. As she spread carpet cleaner on the floor, Hype’s friend assured me that it was ok. I knew what everyone was thinking though, What a klutz. Yup, that’s me. I make one hell of a first impression.

Ok, 2 Dope Readers, we’ve shared our embarrassing moments. We’d love to hear yours.

Rest in Peace, Karyn Washington

Image courtesy of phanlop88/FreeDigital Photos.net.

Image courtesy of phanlop88/FreeDigital Photos.net.

I did not know Karyn Washington, the 22-year-old woman who was the founder of the For Brown Girls website and the creator of the #DarkSkinRedLipProject. But I felt as though I did because of her presence on social media. That is why I was saddened to find out that she died, apparently taking her own life on April 8, 2014, after a bout with depression following her mother’s death.

There have already been various articles and posts stressing the need to address mental health in black communities and to have an open conversation about the often taboo subject of depression, so I will not add another. However, it’s an important conversation to have, and I hope that the discussion continues.

Washington was a source of inspiration. She sought to use social media to empower women and encourage them to love their beautiful dark selves. That’s something to cheer about. But her life ended too soon. I wish that I could write something appropriately profound for this sad occasion, but all I can think of is. . . Rest in Peace.