Should I BLM on a first date?

Two months ago I dumped a ¨nice¨ white dude I met on Tinder nearly two years ago. I had begun exploring a couple sites and apps when I began to reconsider what led me to such an unhappy relationship to begin with.  Was my profile as misleading as his?  If I was to create a dating profile that ¨men fight for,¨ I’d want to make a good first impression so the core of who I really am would not be highlighted. I would first choose some fun pics that, by chance, also accentuate my assets. Then I´d write that I play guitar and piano (poorly, lol) and that I also practice Mixed Martial Arts(this would accentuate that I’m ¨one of the guys,¨ teehee) and 3D art. I might specify that I love the outdoors, cooking, reading, writing and travel – I may even show off that I have been to 18 countries and have lived on three continents (I would add an amazing  deep-water-solo-climbing-in-Thailand pic and a black-water-rafting-in-New Zealand shot as proof). Since societal norms tell me me to avoid discussing religion and politics, I would definitely leave out that I am a socialist, secular, social justice activist (alliteration only half-intended).

Current Mood: Fire Squad by J. Cole

Someone once shrieked that there was ¨nothing normative¨ about me. True story. So, in a non-normative fashion I am creating a new profile in my own space. BEWARE! THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL DATING PROFILE!  I´m about to try something totally different now because I am 32 years old and I’ve been dating unhappily for over a decade now.  I will now avoid that bullshit advice that tells me to hide who I am because I am now listening to the ¨own it¨ culture of my Millennials. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Proudly and loudly I will shout from any rooftop my identities as a bilingual, Latinx, mestiza, dual citizen of the U.S. & Ecuador, cis-hetero mujer, socialist, secular, social justice activist and a third year Ph.D. student (alliterations intended)!!

15110864_10105593833305061_6241571295838115206_oToday commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery (#Juneteenth). In the past week, though, the world learned just how little Black Lives Matter in the U.S. This Father’s Day weekend was marked by Philando Castile´s cop- killer being acquitted and then Charleena Lyle being gunned down by a cop also in front of her children.

So, what does all of this have to do with my current dating dilemma?  I do not want to believe that you can be a beautiful, decent, intelligent individual worthy of dating unless you truly believe and live Black Lives Matter. I vow to center Black Lives Matter in all aspects of my life starting by explaining why and how I came to understand the movement, which also explains the following 5 key facts about who I am and what you’re in for when dating me (and I will wear one of my #BLM tees on my profile pics and all first dates from now on too!):

  1. am unapologetically a New Yorker (so I say it like it is) who grew up in Sanford, Florida (so I will let out some y’alls). Not only was there active Ku Klux Klan groups nearby, but hate crimes were committed frequently in my neck-of-the-woods. Sanford was cruel to me and most black and brown folks I knew and heard about. Remember Trayvon Martin?  That beautiful black body was destroyed about 6 miles away from my childhood home. The killer was acquitted because racism is not aberrational. This started the Black Lives Matter Movement.  The first tenet of Critical Race Theory, CRT, claims the centrality of race and racism in society, and that racism is a permanent component of American life (Delgado & Stefancic, 2012, p. 8). In other words, “Racism is a permanent part of the American landscape,” racism and white supremacy are normative (Bell, 1992, p. 92).
  2. After undergrad, I went back to New York City to join a non-traditional teacher preparation program to obtain my Master´s and a teacher certificate. I´ve been teaching for nearly twelve years now – five of those years were spent in various Title I schools of Central Florida and the Bronx in impecunious neighborhoods. In that time, I learned about the “The ‘social construction’ thesis, another theme in CRT, holds that race and races are products of social thought and relations” and since race and racism are not biological or genetic and traits, such as intelligence or behavior, they are not predictable through racial observation and or generalizations (Delgado and Stefancic, 2012, p. 8). I have been witness to such terrible, inhumane practices that uphold the social construction thesis such as stop-and-frisk and policies that lead to the proliferation of the school-to-prison-pipeline.
  3. During my time in New York City, I began to fight inequities in my classrooms and in the streets with the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE) and the Movement of Rank and File Educators or (MORE). With the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, I learned the definition of ¨race¨: A specious classification of human beings created by Europeans (in the 17th-18th centuries) using “white” as the model of humanity for the purpose of establishing and maintaining social status and privilege and a legitimate relationship to power.
  4. I now live in Mid-Michigan, where there is“the positioning of white cultural norms and ways of life as the advanced and most beneficial way of living for everyone, including non-whites…” (Warren, 2012, p. 199).  Passive form of racism, such as microaggressions, are normalized and embedded in every form of life and are unnoticed and unchallenged.  As a woman of color, I experience microaggressions nearly daily in Michigan. I was once told by the Aveda institute that their free blow out offer is not meant ¨for my type of hair.¨  I also get random strangers in grocery stores asking me how to peel and eat ¨exotic¨ produce. People are often shocked that I ¨speak English so well¨ and that I´m educated (in sharp contrast to my monolingual, uneducated white ex, who has poor orthographical skills but people always assume he is well-educated).
  5. I openly admit that I once believed in white supremacy. I cannot deny it. I own it now. I once believed there was a right way to speak, dress and act. ¨If it ain´t white, it aint right,¨ I used to joke with my friends (who were all white then). I once believed in the myth of meritocracy and that the reason my family ¨made it¨ was because we worked hard and learned to assimilate. I even admit that before I moved to NYC at 23, I´d only dated white men. It is painful to admit because I, too, always believed that I was a well-meaning person that doesn’t contribute to racism and oppression.  But now I know better.  I know that Latinx anti-Blackness killed Trayvon and Philando and I´m committed to un-educating myself about what bell hooks coined: imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. We have been lied to for so long about power and privilege, who is allowed to have power, privilege and who is liberated and truly free.

I am not looking for ¨nice¨

Nice is neutral, a standard.  Nice means polite and silent in the face of truth.  I used to think excellent dates were with people whose company I enjoyed sober (this is still half true because I rarely drink now). I also once thought I could only date men who liked to read, listened to grunge music and hated videogames. But dating for me is now about finding a partner. I have now found that what I look for and require of a partner is not that much different than what I look for and require out of my friends – these people, who I consider my chosen family, are by my side during protests or helping me getting signatures to support a cause. I seek integrity, honesty, kindness, empathy and justice and I am committed to undoing racism by loving and supporting Blackness and doing so loudly and proudly. This does not mean that I will only date black men or that I will avoid white men. To be clear, I can only be with someone who centers their own humanity by humanizing others. Some people write their favorite quotes on their profiles, so here are mine:

¨We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.¨ – James Baldwin

¨If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.¨ -Desmond Tutu

America Chose Hate – PhD Year 2

Current mood: Cool to Hate by Offspring

In the second grade at a Catholic school in Central Florida with teacher Mrs. K, I remember discussing Bill Clinton, George H. Bush and Ross Perot with 29 of my peers and what everyone’s dads and moms thought. I was particularly happy to explain the story of my immigrant family – excited to show off that I know words like mestizo and comunismo. I remember the first hateful words I received after I shared my [people’s story], “Go back to your country!”

America has not changed.
America chose hate last night.
America still perpetuates hate
imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
America still hates me.

Self-care used to be just me
looking at my living room’s photograph
which captures only majestic skies
now it seems the clouds are shaped like stomping paws
because this America hates me.

America has not changed.
America chose hate last night.
America still perpetuates hate
imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
America still unapologetically hates me.

America has not changed.
America chose hate last night.
America still perpetuates hate
imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
America still openly hates me.

End of Year 1 of PhD Side Effects at 4am

Dear Leaders of USA,

I am an educator of ten years, an educational researcher and activist and 2nd year doctoral student of education at a mid-west university. Today, I want you to understand my scholarship. Author, feminist, and social activist, bell hooks wrote, “There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures.” I believe I am part of that paradigm and you Mr. Vice President and Mr. President are the practical model for social change. Several research studies establish that children’s socioemotional well-being is strongly associated with family socioeconomic resources. There are many organizations committed to creating strategies to fight poverty and redistribute resources more equitably. Sadly, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, “For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families” (Layton, 2015). The rise of social injustices have led me to dedicate my life to creating justice curricula to help students understand the unjust world around them and become agents of change. My dream is to create social and environmental justice curricula with K-12 students. The U.S. Census states: 40% percent of Flint’s population is living in poverty, also surviving polluted water, making it the second most poverty-stricken city in the nation by size.  Please empower us teachers, students, and parents by helping us achieve some voice in the education of our children.

Since I grew up in the town where Treyvon Martin was murdered, I felt it was a tragedy but not a shocking one.  Less than 20 minutes from where Treyvon was gunned down, Skittles in hand, exist Klan members that organize freely.  The poverty is notorious. When I was 9 years old I had a friend who always had long, dirty nails and dirty, unkempt hair.  The summer of 1994, “[The] Nine-year old on Saturday joined her sister, brother, and mother in death, succumbing to the bullet her mother put through her head on Friday afternoon.” (Oliver, 1994).  My friend’s impoverished and abused mother suffered  a mental breakdown.  She broke down, called her mother saying, “killed my babies,” and shot and killed her three children and herself.  The headlines were incomprehensible to me.  How can a 9 year old fathom: “Police declined to speculate on why [the woman] shot her children and then herself with a .38-caliber revolver [that] Friday.”  My friend was the eldest child.  She lived two horrendous days before passing due to the gunshot wound through her small face.  The community was traumatized.

2 months prior to the death of my friend I received a perfumed letter “from” President Bill Clinton:

DearPresidentClinton.jpg

December 1993 I was very dissatisfied with answers adults gave me about poverty.  During Christmas break my family visited the White House for the first time.  I was greatly astonished by the amount of homeless people I saw.  I kept asking my father for coins to give but he eventually ran out. My papi told me to think of another way of helping. Eight year old Alba knew President Clinton jogged around the capital each morning and I wondered why the homelessness did not bother him.  I decided to write him a letter.

I chose a career in education because I believe it can be transformative and help undo some of the woes of the world, like poverty.  When I taught 3rd grade during the 2011-2012 school year in Brooklyn, NY, we saw education falling apart.  With my 9 year old students we decided to write President Obama.  We each wrote a letter about things that needed fixing in our schools:  class sizes were large, high stakes testing took up valuable class time and we learned nothing from it, and there was always a lack of materials in our schools.  We received a reply from “The President” – an erroneous letter, which spoke if animals” rights.

It’s been over 20 years since I wrote President Clinton and four years since I wrote President Obama.  Now, as a doctoral student, I still believe I can be part of the change to save our schools.  I am writing the President asking for help.  Statistics are saying that over 50% of our students receive free and reduced lunches.  If you ask the students if free lunch is what they really want, they will answer no.  They still want smaller class sizes, less testing, more art, music and recess and meaningful and multicultural curricula.  I am committed to hearing the demands of our students and doing my best to advocate for my students.  I’ve made a career out of it!

Why not teach our students some of our ugly history, like colonialization and internment camps?  Why not allow them to see the world as it is and help us find solutions.  Our kids are smart enough.  In fact, I would bet all that I have that some of our youngest – they’d make better decisions than all y’all!!