Fatherhood Saturday: “Girls Don’t Know How To Play Football”

by TKOEd • Saturday, Nov 3, 2012 • one response - join in

Two Sundays ago I was sitting on the couch watching football. My daughter came over, and sat with me. Now this was a minor surprise,  because she’s never shown any interest in watching football or any other sport. I was pretty happy. It’s just another way for us to spend time together, and something else to teach her about. What she said next though really struck me: “Daddy, girls don’t know how to play football.” I was silent for a about a minute. Then I asked her what makes her think that. “I don’t know.” I asked if she’d heard that anywhere. “My head.”

Again, I was silent.

My mind was racing. My daughter is six. She rarely watches teevee. She spends most of her time at home playing with Legos, reading or drawing. I can’t think of a single instance where we’ve said to her or in her presence that anything is for boys or girls. In fact we do the opposite. Then I think “what about non-verbal cues?” Now this is much trickier. I spend many Sundays in the fall & winter watching football, and more often than not Erika is not sitting right there next to me even though she is a football fan. That being said I still come to the conclusion that she’s this getting this from school for the most part. Mostly other kids. The kids say “girls do X and boys do X” all the time. So where do I go from here? I do what I always do. I talk. A lot. I launch into a spiel that states that plenty of women, and girls know how to play football, and furthermore, lots of them DO play football. Not in the NFL, but a few times in college, and high school. I tell her that women & girls mostly play football with friends, and in organized leagues for fun. She nodded, and smiled. I don’t think she believed me though. Trying to raise a child in a world that’s constantly telling/pushing them in certain directions simply because of their gender is hard when you’re aware of that fact. Trying to raise a Black child in that world can be even harder. This country does not value your life as much as it values white lives. It’s not invested in your well being from the cradle to the grave. Ignorance can truly be bliss. I now believe that it’s not enough that I tell my child she can be anything, and that her being a girl makes no difference. Besides the simple fact that’s not true, it ignores all the non-verbal cues. It ignores the fact that when we watch teevee the people on MSNBC doing most of the talking are men (including guests). It ignores that most retail employees places we go are women. It ignores the fact that there are no women in the NFL. So I have to take a more holistic view, and these conversations are just one part of helping my daughter to not see her choices as limited by gender…or race.

As the week went along I kept thinking about it. Then the other day I got into what I guess you could call a debate on twitter over Black folks, and violence against women. The argument was being made that no other race celebrates violence against women the way Blacks do. I vehemently disagreed, but that discussion got me thinking about celebrations of violence in America. Many people argue that football is itself a celebration of violence. I do believe that to some degree it is. We are a country that cheers that degree of violence from high school on up. Probably even younger in a few places. To what degree does the celebration of violence between the end zones creep into the rest of our society? Or is it the other way around? We are a violent species. We’ve celebrated, and enjoyed violence for a long time. Does our celebration of violence on the gridiron help reinforce that some violence off of it is ok, or should be excused? I’m just thinking in public here. These were questions that I kept asking myself. Should I even want my daughter to come to love football? Is it selfish? Will it desensitize her to violence to any extent? Has it desensitized me? I don’t know the answer to either question. Or any of the questions above. I know I love my daughter, and I want to protect her. I also want us to share some interests.

Maybe football shouldn’t be one of them.

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On D.L. Hughley & Women

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 2, 2012 • no responses - be the first

D.L. Hughley is an asshole. Furthermore, his ludicrous, reprehensible, and despicable answers to Michel Martin’s questions lead me to believe he’s a misogynist. I don’t know if he & Martin were in studio together, but if they were I wouldn’t have faulted Martin for smacking the taste out of his mouth. This exchange, which begins with Martin reading from his book, is more than enough to sour me on a guy who I once thought had some sense:

MARTIN: I’m sure every father feels the same way that I do about his daughters. I love them, but I don’t like them. Who likes women?

Really?

HUGHLEY: Really.

MARTIN: Really?

HUGHLEY: Really.

MARTIN: Really?

HUGHLEY: Really, darling. Really.

MARTIN: You don’t like women?

HUGHLEY: I don’t like the way they process – no, I don’t. I enjoy their company. I do not like the way that they reason. You can’t understand them

Mr. Hughley, I can’t fucking understand you. Wait, maybe I do understand you. You’re a misogynist asshole who in addition to saying women are incomprehensible, is an extremely condescending dick to boot. No surprise on the latter given the former I guess. I’m not going to read Mr. Hughley’s book just like I haven’t, and won’t read any of Steve Harvey’s books. I’m not interested in rich Black men telling our women they ain’t shit. I’m not interested in anyone doing it. Now I’m not sure what D.L. Hughley has to do with “Black manhood” (whatever that is), but Kimberly Foster is dead on when she says:

Painting Black women as irrationally angry justifies the verbal and physical violence we endure daily.

Let’s go a bit further. Mr. Hughley does not just paint Black women as “irrationally angry.” He paints them as irrational. Full Stop.

As I’ve written about before Black women in this country face an incredible amount of domestic violence. If you know that 91% of married Black women are married to Black men, and when you know that intimate partner violence is the violence that most women have to face, then you know who’s perpetuating violence against the women in our communities. Real shit, seeing someone say the things that Hughley says in this interview makes me think that maybe the police should be talking to his wife, and daughters when he’s not home.

I’m not done with that point either. Let’s pull out another D.L. Hughley quote from this interview. Bold mine:

HUGHLEY: Like black women are angry just in general. Angry all the time. My assessment, out of, just in my judgment, you either are in charge or they’re in charge, so there’s no kind of day that you get to rest(ph).

Now think about this quote. Again, the emphasis mine:

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you.

Now I’m going to racially patholgize Hughley’s comments. They are his, and his alone. He does not speak for me or any other Black man. BUT he speaks to something incredibly pernicious in human society. Sexism. Misogyny. Patriarchy. As men, we are all responsible for our contributions to these issues. We have all contributed to them at some point. Knowingly, and unknowingly. We must do better. Black men must do better. You want men, and boys to respect your daughter? Your wife? Your mother? Respect your wife. Respect the random woman in the seat next to you. Respect the woman one lane over. Respect the women you hit on, and teach your sons, cousins, nephews, etc, to do the same.

Don’t tell me you “love Black women” if you talk like this. Don’t tell me you love Black women if you won’t speak up for them, and/or help them speak up for themselves IF they need or ask for your help. Don’t tell me you love Black women if you sit there, and chuckle when your boy/dad/son says “I had/wanted to smack some sense into her.”

If you do, I don’t understand you. I don’t like the way you process. I do not like the way you reason. Some of what Hughley does in this interview, and apparently is his book, is the same thing we always talk about when it comes to race. It’s not the blatantly obvious things any more. It’s not as obvious as saying women shouldn’t have the right to vote or that they shouldn’t be able to control their bodies, but it’s insidious all the same. And he’s talking about the women WE love. Who LOVE us. Who, often, give us everything they have. At a minimum we should speak up, but even more importantly than that, we need to self-interrogate. It starts with us. It starts with one. We have to take hold of our misogyny, our sexism, and our patriarchy.

Now I believe that we need to take the right side of this fight across all of America, not just in the Black community. We can’t successfully combat patriarchy in our community if wider society has made no changes. The Black community is not an island. Our people are affected by American society on whole. So we can’t win at home if we’re not winning all across America. In white homes, as well a Black, and all the homes in between. That being said, I’m the man that believes that Barack Obama is a great symbol, and role model for Black men & boys in this country. I’m not going to sit here, and tell you that we can’t begin to make a difference. We can. We should. We will. I’m a role model for someone. My nephew comes to mind. I’m as big of an influence on him now, at 8 years old as anything else in his life. He watches me when I talk to my daughter. He watches me when I talk to my fiance. Gentlemen, the young men, and boys in your life are watching you too. What are you going to teach them. To love, and respect Black women on their terms or will you be another D.L. Hughley?

The Choice is Yours.

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Fatherhood Friday: Crime & Punishment

by TKOEd • Friday, Oct 19, 2012 • no responses - be the first

It’s hard for me to punish our daughter. Not because she’s a girl or any nonsense like that, but because she’s a kid. Like all kids she makes a lot of mistakes. Basically, she only gets punished for things on which we know that she knows better, and that what she’s done is wrong or something we don’t want her taking part in.

Today her class was supposed to go apple picking. Erika & I were going as chaperones (mostly because we wanted to pick some apples too!). A minute or so after we get to the school with Kyli one of the school administrators comes up to us & asks Kyli to tell us what she did on the school bus the other day. Kyli’s face immediately changes. It goes from full of joy to showing some shame. Kylie recounts her transgressions. Erika hands me the pastries for the parenting forum the school principal holds every Friday. Erika stays downstairs to speak with one of the other kids involved (Kyli’s cousin). Erika comes upstairs, and tells me the whole story. I decide that we are all not going to go on the trip. Erika goes to inform Kyli’s teachers.

Kyli is predictably very upset that she will not be going on the trip. I err on the side of being tough on Kyli while trying to always keep in mind that’s she’s only 6 years old. The other thing I always keep in mind is that I am raising a Black child in America. Some folks have no problem arresting very young Black children for a tantrum.

These are the issues that white parents don’t have to concern themselves with. We’re raising kids that the older they get the less slack they receive just because of their skin color. In some states, Black & Latino juveniles are far more likely to be tried as adults than their white counterparts charged with the same crimes. Now I’m someone who opposes trying juveniles as adults in ALL situations. The notion that we’re going to say a child was acting as an adult is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. A child is a child is a child. Nothing can change that. The fact that we are the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison should make us all support continuing that ask why.

Maybe my biggest fear as a father is my child having to deal with our justice system, especially the NYC police. So maybe I’m a little tougher than I need to be sometimes. I’ve been dialing it back, successfully I think. This summer was tough, but Kyli’s been doing better than ever when it comes to actual school work. One thing we’ve learned is that if we’re talking, Kyli is most likely listening. Even when we think she’s not. It can be a long hard struggle to actually see the results, but they always come. But for me, possibly the toughest thing about parenting is the uncertainty. It can take a long time to know if you’re on the right path with your decisions, and as I’ve laid out above it feels like the consequences of being wrong falls harder on our children. At the same time, I’m not interested in stifling Kyli’s personality. All we do is to try, and help her grow into the best Kyli she can be. We’re not interested in raising a child who will fit perfectly into what white society thinks is the best presentation of a Black woman. As I’ve stated before I don’t want her to beholden to anyone or anything, but herself. I believe at some point kids are partially raising themselves, and parents act more as guides than anything else. The tools we give them or help them cultivate up until the point they start to take over can make all the difference. It’s scary that we don’t really know until they’re grown if we’ve given or helped them find all the tools they need. But at the end of the day I think it’s really about do they know they can trust us, and have we helped them find what they need to help themselves. Time will tell, but I feel good about us, my family and our communities.

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Fatherhood Friday: Waiting For The Bus

by TKOEd • Friday, Oct 12, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to take my daughter to her bus stop & wait with her. The mornings before school are a slightly crazy time. Getting the child up, washed, fed, dressed & out the door while simultaneously packing her lunch, and getting the dogs together for their morning walk can be intense. Luckily, I have Erika on most days, and vice versa.

Every morning there is a parade of other parents, mostly moms, taking their kids to school or waiting with them at the various bus stops. There is also shorter, not smaller, parade of children taking other children to school. This morning I saw a boy, maybe 8 years old, walking an even younger girl to what I assume was school, pre-school or day care. I had one thought: “And Mitt Romney thinks poor people (read Black people) don’t take “responsibility” for their lives. And yes, I think he was thinking about Black people when he made that 47% statement. I don’t think he was thinking about seniors or soldiers or disabled folks. Too many things in that statement are exactly the things that the GOP has been accusing Black people of being for decades. This was just the latest coded way of saying them.

I thought of my niece who at 13, with all the pressures of trying to get into a good high school, has been helping her parents more & more with her younger brothers. Fuck you, don’t tell me she’s not taking responsibility for her life. She’s not only taking responsibility for her life, but two others. I looked at my daughter, and prayed that she would never have to juggle so many responsibilities. That we will have the good fortune, and good decision making to give all she needs, and more. We’ll expect her help with other kids when we have them, but, God willing, that will be dictated by us, and not by circumstance.

I thought of the parents whose children are helping them shoulder the burden of bad circumstances, choices, and often just bad luck. How scared are they when they send their kids out that door alone? They probably worry about bad drivers, and bad influences. They maybe say a small prayer, and hope that neither child’s impulsiveness rears its head during their, hopefully, short walk.

Being a parent is hard, being a poor one is even harder. 21.6% of the people in my Congressional district live in poverty. The overwhelming majority of them are taking responsibility for their lives. And whatever ones aren’t, I guarantee it’s not because they’re “dependent” on the govt. As if $30.88 a week in food stamps is making people dependent. Fuck you. It’s far more likely that people who can’t, won’t or are having a hard time taking responsibility for themselves have been failed by their government, and by extension, their country.

Either way, we are striving to raise to help our child grow into a good adult. One who won’t ever have to worry about being dependent on anything, but her own skills, charm & know-how. She will not be beholden to a big corporation, or a “big” government. The only thing she’ll have to answer to are her big dreams. I pray the same for all children.

 

 

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