Note: The titles of RMC posts are always based on a lyric from a song that was either popular at the time or was released in prior years and had an “evergreen quality.”
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3/16/2021 6:35pm EST: Updated with a doozy of an example that I forgot about.
Note: Contains sexually explicit language
Excuse the typos, I needed to get this conversation out on the floor real quick!
If you read my recent post on Racism and Prejudice in Daily Conversation, you’ll remember my observation that Zager and Evans’ song, In the year 2525, didn’t offer much in the way of great expectations–other than to wonder “if man is still alive…”
Well, to be fair, they weren’t just concerned with “man.” They actually continued the thought by pondering whether “…woman can survive.”
So here we are again with me offering my “two cents” about sexually inappropriate and harassing behavior in daily conversation.
I might even throw in a little story.
If you are ever confused about what to say and what not to say to avoid even the appearance of being sexually inappropriate, or engaging in sexually harassing behavior, avoid the following statements and/or questions:
“You’re being overly sensitive.”
“What’s wrong with me complimenting your legs?”
“I see you have a tattoo on your neck, where else do you have tattoos?”
“Maybe if you flirted a little, it might help us get <insert thing here>”
“Do blondes have more fun?”
“That’s not sexually inappropriate/sexual harassment!” (An easy out for people who are uninterested in learning about sexually inappropriate conversation/sexual harassment)
This list is not exhaustive.
Again, while some of these points are blatant, others are very subtle yet highly offensive— and today, I am going to include some REALLY blatant shit that people have said or done to me.
For your consideration:
It is important to note that I was selected to receive this position by my professors.
In fact, I was the only female there, at the time, working with three law school students—one of which was the asshole that I just told you about.
It definitely didn’t help that I was only a sophomore working toward my BS degree.
To be honest, I felt that I was the most powerless person in this situation.
Flat out, I was the only woman working with a group of men during the height of Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas.
Chile, I saw what happened to Prof. Hill so I never reported the guy.
But let me be clear, the other law students and my supervisors were very kind and helpful to me. That said, I often stuck under the other two law students in order to feel safe from the third guy’s advances.
Now I know that there is someone in the ethers saying, “Well, he was just an asshole.”
He most definitely was an asshole.
But, this was more than being an asshole, this was him sexually harassing me.
Now I know that what he did was pretty cut and dry, but there are many situations where, like with racism, you can’t “define it” but you know it when you see it.
Sadly, this is not the only time that I experienced this, or something like it.
Shall I elaborate?
How about the time I was at the mall grabbing a maternity dress for my baby shower, when this jackass walked right up behind me and said, “Hey, why don’t you let me finish that off.”
Or the time a friend of my family said, “You’re good and grown now, I just want to come visit you.” Let’s just say, he was NOT my peer and he was not my friend.
Or the time a male who was close to the family told me I was a “fine mother-f’er.”
Or the time I was in the library and a dude, who was in one of my classes, called me over to the table and began counting a large wad of money while looking up at me and back down at the money in a suggestive way.
Or when a security guard at work tried to kiss me in an elevator—totally unprovoked! He offered to do something else more explicit that I’ll keep to myself.
Whew…once again chile—the shit is tiring and I really could go on.
I’ve had so many sexually explicit and not so explicit things said and done to me in my lifetime that I cannot count them.
Sadly, the first instances were in childhood and the perpetrators were mostly grown men—none of them were family members.
I never said anything about it or my Dad would still be in jail for murder!
I think Alice Walker’s words, spoken through Sophia in The Color Purple, express it best, “A girl child ain’t safe in a house full of mens.”
So, I think I’ll stop here and encourage anyone who is ready to have a polite and meaningful conversation about anything that I mentioned in this post to drop down in comments so we can chat.
Well, it was kinda-sorta love at first sight, but I was a little hesitant because I knew that while Lady J might be Protector of The Animal Kingdom, she is by no means Feeder and Walker of Dog at 5:30am.
That was going to be me!
As for Angel, she didn’t give a hoot, as long as she had a nice place to lay, good food, fresh water and a daily walk.
Now, to the point of this post.
So, we’ve already established that I am Feeder and Walker of Dog at 5:30am-sometimes 4:00am, but I forgot to mention that I am also Do-er of Every-damn-thang else.
Do you think that matters to Angel?
Absolutely not, in fact, she happily goes about her life–disrespecting me, everybody and everything that crosses her path.
Shall I count the ways?
She stands on all of my notebooks–bending and tearing up the pages.
She conducts daily shouting matches, lectures and debates with the neighbor’s dog.
She gets on my lap, places her butt in my face and proceeds to “chill for a minute ’til the next episode.”
She dares Lady J to “cross THIS line” everyday around lunch time.
She chastises the squirrels, birds and the rest of the woodland creatures for living their best lives.
She nudges the bathroom door open in the middle of the night to see what I’m doing–no matter what I’m doing.
I could go on–but, in the interest of time, I won’t.
She is just so disrespectful…but it’s all good!
To be honest, all of this only endears her to me.
Because this same little disrespectful hobgoblin is the first to notice when I feel sad or otherwise off-kilter.
It’s been said that dogs and horses have a “sixth sense” for these things.
Anyway, it still amazes me how she climbs up into my lap, becomes uncharacteristically solemn and begins to live up to her name–Angel–a heavenly being holding a hallowed space for my spirit to rise up!
Ah, but when she feels that I’m all better, she jumps down off my lap, goes to the patio door and continues an ongoing tirade against the birds for singing in the trees.
My dog is so disrespectful…but it’s all good because I love her–no matter what.
My cousin Ron and I often talk about the nebulous meaning of a “good economy” and how some people love to point to it whenever they want to brag about how well the country is doing.
We heard a lot of that during the previous Presidential Administration.
Back to my point.
Now, if we were to quiz these same people on said “good economy” they would likely be hard-pressed to give a coherent definition of the concept.
To be more specific, I would argue that the measures which determine what is and what is not a “good” or “healthy” economy are difficult for most people to practically comprehend –with the exception of the unemployment rate.
However, a few months ago, I ran across a study that pointed to a direct connection between discrimination and major economic loss in America.
No doubt, this fact is shocking but definitely not hard to understand.
Point blank, discriminatory practices in the U.S. have resulted in major economic loss for the country as a whole, and now is the time to turn these deep rooted practices around.
If we can do this, we will have brought racial equity to the table and we all win.
Sadly, there are those who will gladly accept this and future losses–to their own detriment–out of sheer hatred and stupidity.
But, that said, I’m convinced that more of us are interested in the well-being of the collective.
Here is what the study found:
According to Citigroup, as quoted in this article from NPR, the U.S. economy lost $16 trillion since 2000 due to discrimination and other broad reaching policies that were blind to racial equity.
The article goes on to count all of the losses:
$13 trillion lost in potential business revenue because of discriminatory lending to African American entrepreneurs, with an estimated 6.1 million jobs not generated as a result
$2.7 trillion in income lost because of disparities in wages suffered by African Americans
$218 billion lost over the past two decades because of discrimination in providing housing credit
And $90 billion to $113 billion in lifetime income lost from discrimination in accessing higher education
Today’s Black History Month Observation:
Despite popular public opinion, Black people are not asking for handouts, we are asking to have systemic filters removed so that we can proceed through and rise to our highest potential.
I’m not even kidding! We need string instruments back!
Yesterday, my fifteen-year-old daughter, Lady J, and I had a conversation about the music that she enjoys listening to. She even shared some of her favorite songs–which shocked me since Lady J, like most kids her age, can be very elusive.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of those songs had very gorgeous and complex arrangements–they were beautiful—they were lovely—I was touched by the melodies.
As I sat there listening to one song after another, I noticed two things.
First, the songs were heavily punctuated with string instruments.
Second, they were mostly written, composed and performed by Japanese artists.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this…
Let me begin by saying that I totally understand Lady J’s current taste in music.
Like her, when I was a teenager, I was mostly interested in music that evoked feeling.
The Late Great Maestro, Barry White said, “When I want to bring emotion, I pull out the strings.”
I don’t know where I heard that, but, based on his musical catalog, if he didn’t say it, he would likely have agreed with it.
May his soul rest in power!
But I digress.
Back to Lady J.
As a teenager, Lady J has become aware of the importance of finding healthy ways to live and cope with daily happinesses (not a real word) as well as the occasional hazard. She has learned that certain music provides the perfect vehicle for the sound (forgive the pun) expression of a range of emotions.
Have you ever heard it said that someone or something “pulled at the heartstrings?”
Now, I got no time to google the origins of that saying but I guarantee that it is related in a some circuitous way.
Now comes the part where I have to confront my own emotions about the current state of music here in America–in the Year Of Our Lord 2021.
To be blunt, I am struck by the fact that my daughter kept sharing song after song by artists who hail from elsewhere. I mean, oftentimes my child feels like she has to “go” all over the world—albeit digitally— to find the kind of music that she likes.
Now, before folks go off, let me check them right now.
I am not writing this to be used as a study in xenophobia because, as a black mother, I don’t play that.
I’ve taught my children to respect the beauty of all races, colors, creeds and cultures.
However, I have also taught them to learn their own—especially when it comes to music.
But there’s a problem.
Excuse my “Southern-ness”–I know it’s showing–honey, there just ain’t that many folks round here making music that incorporates string instruments—or any other classical instrument for that matter.
That’s why my baby gotta go all the way across oceans to find the stuff that she wants, and I would argue, needs to hear.
But, why am I so bothered? I mean, regardless of where it comes from, she has found the music that she likes, right?
To answer that questions, I must take us back in time…
You see, string instruments were an integral part of my childhood.
Hell, I even played violin briefly but I gave it up in order to become a majorette—Sheez!
Anyway, during that time, in the mid to late 1970s, violins, violas, cellos and the like were EV-ER-Y-WHERE—Barry White made sure of that!
However, Barry, wasn’t the only one, string instruments were all over the place then, not just in Soul music (which, I know seems counterintuitive), but in just about any genre that you could think of.
Yes, that’s right, string instruments, the ones of classical music fame, were everywhere—not just at the “INSERT YOUR CITY HERE Symphony Orchestra.”
Granted, I know that violins and cellos were NOT invented in Georgia–nor were they played solo at the cook-out–but that’s not the point. Forget where and when string instruments originated, talented musicians, back in the day, made them do things that Beethoven never could have imagined.
Hell, we were shook by the Delfonics professing love over a wall of high-flying violins in LA-LA- Means I Love You.
And don’t get me started on Bill Withers telling us about a Lovely Day with classical violins, violas and cellos backing him all. the. way. up!
My loves, those kind of heavy handed string arrangements gave me all of the things that I needed to get my emotions out about:
My dying dog, Bones
My unrequited love for…What’s his name?
My very, very, very, serious relationship with…What’s his name?
Flat out, string instruments gave me, and so many others, a quick way to access our emotions about any number of things.
Anyway, you know what I mean.
I just hate the fact that my daughter can’t readily find the kind of mental and emotional tonic that string instruments provide in her own backyard without crossing oceans or sifting through the music of yore.
And so, it seems that the strings are notably absent, but I would contend that we MUST bring them back for our sanity!
This is especially important as we all muddle through some version of a lockdown.
We need string instruments to give us a healthy way to release emotion!
Now, in the midst of my rambling, I must say that I’m grateful that my dear daughter has sense enough to know that mess like Danileigh’s “Yellow bone what he want” is not a good lyric and I shudder to think about the “music” that is enveloping those words.
Baby, I’m not EVEN gonna address that controversy—it would call for a different post.
Let me just say that if you’ve never heard that nonsense, do NOT google it and consider yourself and your ears blessed.
Right here, right now, I’d like to implore musicians in America to find a way to incorporate string instruments into your music!
Do your part to help us get in touch with our emotions.
And if you are wondering, the previous sentence was my “call to action” for musicians from a passionate lover of music advocating for her dear daughter-and the rest of us!
Now, if you don’t get my point, consider this whole thing an exercise in academics–and keep it moving past this old woman–who is probably out of step with the times droning on about nothing.