Do We Still Need to Call it “Black” History

Diane's Day-to-Day

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. With that and the recent release of Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”, the history of the civil rights movement and racial relations in this country are on the forefront of discussion as of late. One of the most interesting comments I heard Daniels make in an interview was his reaction to the fact that some younger viewers questioned whether his depiction of the struggle for civil rights was what it was really like. I suppose that shows, in a way, how far things have come. If younger viewers had no relatable experiences to the characters of the movie, doesn’t that mean that things have improved? Probably so, but the concern seemed to be that current and future generations are already forgetting or not fully understanding the struggles that others went through not so terribly long ago…

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Do We Still Need to Call it “Black” History?

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. With that and the recent release of Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”, the history of the civil rights movement and racial relations in this country are on the forefront of discussion as of late. One of the most interesting comments I heard Daniels make in an interview was his reaction to the fact that some younger viewers questioned whether his depiction of the struggle for civil rights was what it was really like. I suppose that shows, in a way, how far things have come. If younger viewers had no relatable experiences to the characters of the movie, doesn’t that mean that things have improved? Probably so, but the concern seemed to be that current and future generations are already forgetting or not fully understanding the struggles that others went through not so terribly long ago in our history. I say “our” history because, while this and other stories like this are told from the point of view of the black community, this is not just black history.

Let me clarify that I am in no way trying to diminish the struggles and injustices that have occurred, but my question is….do we still need to distinguish “black” history from “history”? Isn’t this the collective history of our nation, both black and white? When we study the history of Nazi Germany and the atrocities that were perpetrated there, we don’t call it German history or Jewish history. It’s just “history”.

I do feel that it has been important in the past to distinguish black history in this country. Coming out of a time of so much oppression and inequality, I believe it was essential for the black community to set itself apart and call attention to its leaders, its scholars, and all of those who fought for an equality that is still a work in progress. But is that distinction still relevant today?

For me as a mother, it wasn’t until my children started studying black history in school that the distinction began to really bother me. You may wonder why I would have a problem with my children learning about black history in school, and that statement may make you think that I carry some racial prejudice, but allow me to explain. It bothered me because I did not raise my children to distinguish others by the color of their skin. If I visited one of the boys’ classrooms and I wanted to ask about another child in the class later on, I would never say “that black boy” or “that black girl”. I would find another way to describe the child. I might say, “that boy who was wearing a red shirt and glasses”. Sometimes my son might ask “does he have darker skin or lighter skin” and if he asked, then I would say, but “black” was never a descriptor that I used.

One February day while studying black history at school, my son came home with a drawing that he had made depicting a before-and-after picture of a school bus. In the “before” picture, there were a bunch of yellow circles (the heads of white people) in the front of the bus and a bunch of brown circles in the back of the bus. In the “after” picture, the yellow and brown heads were all mixed throughout the bus. I’m going to say that he was probably in about second grade at the time and I thought it was a pretty good visual for him to understand how things have changed, but it bothered me. By teaching “black” history to my children, the school system had done what I had made it a point not to do…..to distinguish others by race to my children. I felt like my efforts had been un-done.

While I think it’s relevant and necessary to learn about this aspect of history, here are the questions that I want to ask:

Is it still necessary in this country to label these events as “black” history?

By continuing to set black history apart from our collective history as a country, are we in danger of focusing on and perpetuating our differences rather than moving forward as just one race….the human race?

I would love to hear some feedback on this from any and all races.

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Ego and the Man

Ego

“An egotist is a man who thinks that if he hadn’t been born, people would have  wondered why.”      Dan Post

The ego.  We all have one.  It is part of what makes up our psychological selves along with the Id and the Superego.  While Merriam-Webster defines the ego as simply “the self, especially as contrasted with another self  or the world”, it can be further described as the part of the self that remembers, plans, assesses, and responds to its surroundings.  In my own words, I would describe it is the part of ourselves that causes us to act or react in a specific way based on how the related events affects our self-esteem and our pride.  Each of us has different life experiences that shape our egos and therefore shape our reactions to the world around us.

While both men and women have egos, the male ego never ceases to astound and perplex me.  While no blanket statement applies to everyone, it seems safe to say that men tend to have more of an ego than women, and that men allow their egos to dictate their decisions and actions to a much greater degree than women do.  While we may often hear the phrase, “He has such a big ego!”, we rarely hear the same phrase uttered in reference to a woman.

Is it a compliment or a criticism to say that someone has a big ego?  I suppose that depends on whether we think that the ego is a source of strength or an impediment.  Calling someone an “egomaniac” is generally looked upon as an insult, but there are some who would consider that tantamount to a status symbol, much in the same way that some individuals take pride in being workaholics.  While the ego can drive many to great success, it can also cause many to be blind to reality.

It has been my observation that in many cases the degree that one’s ego effects his life is inversely related to his self-esteem and feelings of success, and is often used as a defense mechanism.  While some may view a man with a “big” ego as a strong individual, what I see isn’t a “big” ego as much as a “fragile” ego because it is so easily damaged.  If a man’s ego is easily injured, is that a sign of strength or a sign of weakness?  If the words or actions of another can wound a man’s ego so easily, that tells me that he may not have the strength of character to let the thoughts or feelings of another roll off his back, or that he is so self-involved that he is unable to relate to the thoughts and feelings of others and view them objectively and without consideration for how they affect him.  A healthy ego, in my view, is one that is also tempered with a healthy dose of humility.

As a woman in the dating world, I often wrestle with how to deal with a man’s ego, especially if it is a strong one.  While I don’t have a big ego, I do have a very strong will and most of the time that is not a good combination.  Not only do I not usually want feed a man’s ego, I’m often apt to bluntly tell him where I think he’s wrong.  Hmm….is it any wonder I’m single?  In actuality, I’ve learned to pick my battles when it comes to dealing with the male ego.  If it doesn’t matter that much to me and it makes him feel good, then by all means I’ll go along with it.  Where I draw the line is if I have to take a lesser role in order to build him up.

Not long ago I was out for the evening with a male friend and we started playing pool.  He didn’t know that I could not only play, but that I’m pretty good.  He started to scheme about how we could start going out to play on occasion and how it would be a great way for me to meet men.  I thought it was funny until he suggested that I act like I can’t play very well and let the man win.  I was appalled!  While I saw his point, I made mine clear.  If I play a fair game and come out the winner, a man’s reaction to that is all I really need to know about him and his ego.  Sore losers need not apply!

What’s in a Name?

hello-my-name-is

“A good name, like good will, is attained by many actions and may be lost by one”

Author Unknown

As we enter the world as babies, each of us is given a name. That name is our first form of identification and identity. Although we have not yet become “who we are” at that stage of life, we have a name and in many cases, that is all we have at that point.

Generally speaking, we are all given the surname of our fathers. Even a child who is born out of wedlock is usually given his or her father’s name in spite of the fact that both parents have an equal share in the conception of the child and the fact that the mother endured childbirth to bring him into the world. Our first name is often referred to as our “Christian” name, although I think it’s safe to say that that is an outdated reference given the global and diverse world that we live in.

If you are male, chances are that the name you are given at birth is the name that you will carry throughout your entire life. If you are female, it’s not so simple. Although we are given the surname of our father at birth, most women choose to take the name of her husband at the time of her marriage. Although many women opt to keep her maiden name, many feel that it is important for the family unit to adopt her husband’s name, and many men feel that it is a matter of honor for his wife to do so. “The trend toward women keeping their maiden names after marriage peaked in the 1990s, when about 23% of women did so, then eased gradually to about 18% in the 2000s, says a 35-year-study published in 2009 in the journal Social Behavior and Personality.” states Sue Shellenbarger in The Name Change Dilemma. She goes on to state that when judged by their peers, women who kept their maiden names were viewed as “smarter and more ambitious” while the women who took their husband’s names were viewed as “more caring, dependent, and emotional”. Many women spend a great deal of time and emotion on the decision, trying to please everyone and do what’s best for her family and her career. It’s not easy.

Unless we as women form our own identity, the bottom line is that we either identify ourselves by our father’s name or our husband’s. When I got married, I took the traditional route and changed my last name to that of my husband. Going through all of the channels to make the official change was a bit of a headache, but I didn’t mind because I was happy and excited to be embarking on that new path in my life. Post-divorce, things are looking much different. Several years into my divorce, I feel more and more uncomfortable continuing to bear the name of my now ex-husband. It just feels wrong to me and is certainly not how I identify myself at this stage of the game. I’m realizing that changing my name now is even more complicated than the first time around. Living life in the cyber world, it’s not as simple as changing my social security card, my driver’s license, and my bank account. It’s a seemingly endless list of online accounts, emails addresses, and social network accounts that need to be dealt with, and don’t even get me started on my professional life. Having children who bear their father’s name, there is yet another wrinkle in the complicated decision as I consider how it may affect them moving forward.

One thing is for sure…..once it’s done, it will take a lot to make me change it again. There’s no telling what the future hold for any of us and certainly no telling what it holds for me. Will I have to make this choice again at some point in my life? It’s hard to say but I know this much…no matter what name I go by, the most important thing to me is knowing myself and that is all that matters.

Word Power

Words“Words have a longer life than deeds.” Pindar

In the movie “A River Runs Through It”, a young boy was being tutored by his father in the art of writing. Set to write an essay, each time the boy returned it to his father for review, his father instructed him to write it again “half as long”. Through this exercise the boy learned to pare down, to edit…to make every word count…and eventually he submitted a version that was worthy of his father’s approval.

The art and power of words has always fascinated me. Sometimes its the turn of a phrase that catches my attention, or the lilt of a poem…the way that a bare minimum of words can evoke so much emotion. There are so many nuances in our language that most of us have learned and adapted to in society. Take, for example, all the different words we use to describe how something smells and how you might feel if you were cooking and someone came in and said “What is that smell?” or if they said “What is that aroma?” There’s a big difference, and also a big difference in how the word choices of others can make us feel.

Words have the power to both inflict pain and to take it away and it seems that more often than not, we are not as careful with our words as we should be. We forget the power that we wield with them, and how our words can echo in the future without us even realizing it. How many of us can still recall…and be hurt by…names that we were called as children, especially if the barbs came from those we loved and trusted? How many of us can hear in our minds the hurtful words of someone we loved who no longer wants to be a part of our life? The tapes replay in our heads with less frequency as time goes on, but they are still there. I was once the unfortunate witness to an interaction between a grandmother and her granddaughter, who was hurt in a bicycling accident. The girl sought comfort, but the grandmother’s comment was, “I don’t feel sorry for you…you chose to go.” Her granddaughter was clearly devastated and I would imagine is still hurt by it to this day. What could have been different if her grandmother had instead said something like “I’m so sorry you got hurt”?

We don’t need a great many words to hurt each other…a few choice ones will do.

I hate you.
I never loved you.
Act like a man.
You’re a loser.
You’re such a brat.
Suck it up.

We are fortunate, however, because choosing other words can make all the difference in someone’s life.

I love you.
I forgive you.
I’m here for you.
You can do it.
I believe in you.
You will get through this.
You’re my friend.
Hang in there.
I’m proud of you.

Today when you are talking to your child, your parent, your friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger you pass, think about what you can say to make that person’s day a little better. It only takes a few choice words to make all the difference.

Lessons Learned

????????It’s almost time for the kids to go back to school where they will be filling their heads with all sorts of knowledge and wistfully looking back at the casual days of summer break. It seems like a lot of what we learn in school isn’t ever going to do us much good in the real world, and there are a lot of lessons that we learn along the way that aren’t taught, but learned from our experiences.

OK, so I’m not expert at life (far from it), but here are some things that I have learned along the way so far. Some of them I’d like to pass along to my kids, but I realize that in their eyes 1. I don’t know anything and 2. They will have to learn many things for themselves. But here goes……

– Life is not fair….get used to it. I cringe every time I hear an adult claim that something isn’t fair. Who ever said that life is fair? When we were kids we would take do-overs and well-meaning adults would let us win, but when we grow up we learn that no one is going to hand us anything and we don’t always have the chance for a do-over. Sometimes your hard work will be overlooked. Sometimes you get your heart broken. The guy who would do anything for others has to deal with a chronic illness. The couple who desperately wants a child have to endure seeing the family with six neglected kids. Nope….life isn’t fair, so don’t expect it to be.

– Everyone has a story. Have you ever wondered why people do what they do, or think the way they think? Did you ever look at someone and think they’re just plain weird? I used to find myself being constantly baffled by other people and their quirks. I found myself avoiding people who seemed a little too off-the-wall. Then one day I realized that each and every person has a story. It’s their life story and it makes them who they are….myself included. Sometimes I still have to remind myself of this truth because it’s easy to forget, but everyone has their own history and I will never know what has happened in his or her life to cause him to sit muttering in a McDonald’s or to cause her to be so angry with the world. I don’t need to know. All I need to know is that each person I encounter is a person with feelings and a history that makes him or her unique, and that is a good thing.

– I like my parents and I enjoy spending time with them. Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time with my parents. Is it normal? Is it weird? I don’t know. When we are very young, our parents are our world and we listen to and learn from them. As we grow up, inevitably we decide that they know nothing, understand nothing, and basically cannot relate to us in any way. If we are very fortunate, we have our parents in our lives long enough for us all to be adults and regard each other in a new way. Maybe not as contemporaries….after all, they’re still our parents and we are still their kids…..but with respect and a kind of camaraderie. I like my parents. I think they are great people who have been an example of love and generosity that I still fail to emulate fully. I enjoy their company and I know that someday I will be devoid of it. Someday they will be gone and I hope that I will have a lot of great memories of them to keep in my heart.

– He is never, ever, ever, ever going to leave his wife. Now now….now ever. Move on!

– Change is inevitable. Whether it’s a good situation or bad, there is no avoiding the fact that things will change. In some ways that’s a sad truth. After all, when things are going well and we seem to be riding high, we don’t want to think that it will come to an end at some point. It may not be devastating, but something will change. On the other hand, when things are not going well and we have some feelings of helplessness or despair, this can be a comforting thought. No matter what, things will change and there’s always a good chance that the change will be for the better. It creates a feeling of hope and comfort. Some of us are not very adept at dealing with change and that is understandable, but embracing the idea that change will always come can do wonders for relieving anxiety about it.

– True love never dies. No matter what happens….how much time has passed, how far apart we may be, or if someone is no longer with us in this world……the people we truly love are always with us in our hearts.

– The best things in life cannot be bought….they can only be given. Time, love, friendship, thanks, support, hugs, a kind word….these are the things that truly matter in life and we are very fortunate indeed if others bestow these gifts on us. Appreciate them!

– Having a dog has made me a better person. While a dog is not a substitute for things in life like love and friendships, there is also no substitute for the love of a dog, both given and received. There is something truly amazing about that fact that no matter what else may be going on in your life, your furry companion will ALWAYS love you and be happy to see you. It’s almost unfathomable that love can come so utterly and completely without condition. My dog has opened my heart and my life in ways that I never, ever expected and I am grateful to him for that. I’m also happy that my kids are getting to experience it, too. Everyone should have a dog of their own at some point in their lives. It’s truly a wonderful experience.

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Worry About Yourself!

Little Girl photoRecently a short video was being shared over social media that caught my attention and that of many others. It featured a little girl who couldn’t have been more than two years old trying to buckle herself into her car seat. Her father, who was recording her, asked patiently if he could help her and in reply she told him very sternly, “Worry about yourself!” Their exchange went on for a bit with her continuing to refuse help and repeating her admonition.

The video was cute and gave me a laugh, and reminded me of another very strong-willed little girl that I know, and I continued to think about it for a while after I watched it. I couldn’t help but think that she was giving some very telling advice. Worry about yourself!

How often do we find that we are concerning ourselves with what others are doing rather than focusing on ourselves? Maybe we’re gossiping about the latest antics of the Kardashian family or one or more of the housewives of whatever city. Maybe we’re speculating about the financial or marital problems of a friend or acquaintance. Maybe we’re trolling the internet or social media and spouting our opinions about news, politics, parenting, or any other subject that we consider ourselves some sort of subject matter expert. Meanwhile, we’re neglecting our own families, or own finances, our own relationships, and even our own health and well-being. We try to make ourselves feel better by relishing in the misfortunes of others, trying to live vicariously through our children, and wasting our time and energy where it doesn’t belong.

Let’s take a few moments and give our own life the consideration that it is due. Are we doing all we can to live a fulfilling life? Do we handle our business and make sure that all is as it should be within our own household and family? What could we be doing today to improve? What kind of an example are we being to others? Today, let’s make the effort for ourselves instead of giving our energy away to others who have no real effect on our lives and in the words of one very wise little girl…..”worry about yourself!”