A weekly digest of varied conversational musings on day-to-day life, society & whatever the world throws our way.

Get weekly updates by email:
* This field is required

Posts in: Society

#BlackLivesMatter

BLMThese last few weeks I’ve been trying figure out how I should express myself on this issue. I’ve written and re-written my thoughts, never knowing quite what to say because it didn’t seem weighty enough in light of the magnitude of the situation and because, quite frankly, I’ve been sad, angry, dismayed, stunned, and, ultimately, unsurprised by how the general society (de)values black life. It made me numb and it silenced me. I also felt like my words would simply rehash what others have said.

But I’ve reached a point now, perhaps because of the number of cases where innocent black people have been shot by police in recent months, that I can’t be silent when I’ve built a platform to write about what’s happening in the world around us. The words and the voice, in particular, of Eric Garner echo in my mind. Unlike Michael Brown, another black man killed by a police officer, there was video footage that supported Garner’s innocence and that clearly showed that he did not resist arrest. He was crying out, making pleas as his life was taken away from him. He told the officers multiple times that he couldn’t breathe. The conditions to charge his killer were perfect. If a picture says a thousand words, then video and audio footage should be more than sufficient. There was no room for prevarication, exaggeration, or “he said-he said” – because facts are facts. Or they’re supposed to be. It was clear who was to blame, yet there is no justice for this man. 

His death, like those of many others, confirms why our black parents always tell us that we have to be twice as good, blameless, spotless, perfect almost, in order for us to be beyond reproach. If we’re extra polite, extra conciliatory, then no one can assume we’re thugs or connected to criminal elements. We always have to hold ourselves to a higher standard so that maybe, if we do that, things will work out in our favour. But many of us know this to be a lie, as it’s confirmed again and again because the larger society doubts our truth. If Garner’s death hadn’t been videotaped, detractors and commentators galore would have placed the blame firmly on his shoulders. Many of us try to hold ourselves to a gold standard, we know we have to, just in case; it’s unfortunate that too many in positions of power don’t do the same.

Signing off,

Y.

#BringBackOurGirls

 

BringBackOurGirls.001Like so many others outraged by the kidnapping of over 200 girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram, I’ve tweeted, hashtagged, attended or promoted rallies, all with a view to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of this tragedy.

I know, of course, that there are other cases – too many to count –  in my country and in other countries around the world where women and girls are targeted, kidnapped, raped, and bought, sold, and killed like chattel. I know that it is (shamefully) nothing new; but the brazenness, and the sheer magnitude and level of coordination required to take these young girls from their school has hit me in a markedly different way.

These girls are in my thoughts – each day; often multiple times a day. Their parents are in my thoughts. And I don’t want these girls to be forgotten. I don’t want the world to move on to the next big news item until each one is found, brought back home and reunited with their families, and their perpetrators punished to the nth degree. 

I hope that this happens – that each one is located, including those who we’ve learned have passed away in the treacherous jungle – but I know it would also be naive of me to think that this can happen with any great certainty now, a month later, given the bungling on the part of responsible authorities in Nigeria. 

I know that a tweet, a hashtag, or Facebook post is not, on its own, enough to find the young girls whose supposed crime has led to their punishment by the insane league of Boko Haram. Their crime is one committed each weekday by millions around the world. It’s a crime which, if I followed the tenets of Boko Haram, would make me guilty too given my own level of education. 

At this stage, only boots on the ground can handle the task; but I hope that, somehow, the young women can sense that there are millions of people around the world who are praying for their safe return and that those millions of thoughts and prayers bolster them somehow.  

I hope that those many signatures on those many petitions, and the photos, posts, and interviews are effective in even the smallest of ways. I hope it is enough to #BringBackOurGirls.

Signing off,

Y.

 

 

Say What?

Question mark

Currently, the internet is all abuzz over racist (and plain stupid and regressive) comments allegedly made by Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers. I say allegedly because it is still to be determined whether the voices recorded on tape are in fact those of the 80 year old Sterling and his girlfriend.  Apparently, the inflammatory comments are nothing new; only this time Sterling appears to have been caught through a covert recording for the entire world to hear. The NBA team owner is known to have “particular” views about black people.  On the recording, Sterling purportedly asks his girlfriend (of mixed black and Mexican heritage) to refrain from broadcasting her association with black people, amongst other “requests”.

I’m not going to use this space though to focus solely on Sterling. If all the comments, past and present, are true they are without question disgusting. They are troublesome too as they colour Sterling’s ownership of an NBA franchise as he has become wealthy on the backs -or should I say via the 3-pointers? – of African-Americans.  Hmm, it makes it sound like the NBA may be the new plantation, but that could be the subject of a different blog post.

While the world focuses on Sterling, I have a few thoughts to express about Sterling’s – young enough to be his daughter – girlfriend.  I make a few assumptions here: 1) that Sterling’s girlfriend was well aware of his prejudiced outlook and chose to stay in a relationship with him regardless; 2) that she doesn’t care about his views; and 3) has the power to leave him if she so desired.

I believe in “girl power” in the non-Spice Girls sense of the term and the “sisterhood code”, i.e. supporting your fellow ladies or coming to the aid of another woman when she’s maltreated, etc. I’d prefer not to have to call his girlfriend out, but I cannot let this one slide. Frankly, her behaviour is embarrassing, alarming, and makes women, particularly minority women, look like gold-digging fools.

And a fool this woman certainly is. And, if I’m generous, perhaps naïve too. Some might say she’s the beneficiary or winner in the relationship. After all, her manfriend (boyfriend seems a bit juvenile given Sterling’s more advanced years) has likely bought her lavish gifts and offered her the “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” lifestyle that likely was her life’s goal, sans the drudgery and labour on her part. But, regardless, at the end of the day, if Sterling’s reputation is as bad as claimed, and if this young woman is aware, then she’s complicit in his behaviour and not much better than him.

Not only is he (allegedly of course) disrespecting other minorities, honey, he’s also disrespecting you too.  Remember, you are the company you keep.

Signing off,

Y.

 

Cityscape

Okay. I know that it’s been all quiet on The Y Variable front as of late. I have a decently good excuse though for my silence on the blog. I was on work-related travel, so it was an intense few weeks, meaning many things outside of that sphere may have slipped. I hope I will be forgiven. 🙂

But I’m back now and in a decidedly reflective mood after having had the opportunity to get away, especially after months of a seemingly endless Canadian winter that is far from abating. The trip was an opportunity to get a sneak peak at the spring that currently eludes us and to revel in my temporary life in some other cities. In my other existence, I was becoming proficient in ‘big city’ life, navigating trains, the metro and the Underground like a pro – well, trying my best anyway to fit seamlessly with the locals – and luxuriating in the energy one finds in the ebb and flow of crowds that I ordinarily disdain. For some reason, crowds ‘elsewhere’ are welcome, more interesting, meriting a longer gaze, and more analysis from my foreign eyes.

One of the more interesting aspects of travel is seeing how other societies construct their cities. The shape of a city – its roads, buildings, walkways and pathways – all signal what a people consider essential to their way of life. The shape of a city – both its physical and cultural sides – also demonstrates that society’s core values. Is it a biking city – with plenty of bike lanes or bikes for rent? Is it a driving city or a city where metro is paramount? Are there are as many recycling bins as garbage bins? Is the cultural scene vibrant – with festivals galore and access at one’s fingertips to theatre, galleries, or street art? All of these characteristics drive how citizens will design their own lives and creates a remarkable push/pull effect. A city’s form will attract some, creating a unique devotion to that location, but will deter others, causing them to pick up and leave for a locale more in line with their personal philosophies or individual drumbeats.

I always enjoy a good walk in a new city. There’s a particular joy that comes from exploring an unknown place; where being a little bit or very lost is more than okay because what you may find around the corner could be better than anything you may have planned or set out to see. On those walks, especially when on my own, I imagine what it would be like to live in that city that I’m coming to love even more. Am I seeing only a veneer? Do the tourist goggles cloud my vision? Perhaps life in that city isn’t as great as it may be in my mind’s eye? I doubt it, however.

Of course, an escape to another city, whether for business or for relaxation, must always come to an end. The passport has to come out again, that marker of otherness, permitted officially to visit, but signalling that your stay is only temporary and that you don’t fully belong.

On my return to a home still covered with ice and snow I try my best to carry that ‘travel status’ life with me and integrate those things I loved in my life here. And as the snow falls and as I hear neighbours shovelling their driveways for the umpteenth time this season, I think of my time away and the pleasure I found being elsewhere.

Signing off,

Y.

Schadenfreude

So, this week a fairly big celebrity, who happens to go by the initials JB got himself into more legal trouble. It was seemingly another nail in the coffin sealing his reputation as an entitled brat, bad boy, miscreant, or whatever other term may be most appropriate.

Several commentators have stated that JB’s fall was predictable or inevitable. What else could one have expected of a very young man who rose so quickly to fame, wealth and notoriety before he had a driver’s licence or reached the age of voter eligibility? Even the strongest of individuals, from the best and most supportive families would have difficulty with the laser-like focus of fans and media examining each move, each step, from album to merchandise sales and beyond.

There’s no excuse for JB’s behaviour or the behaviour of any other young celebrities who believe they are above the law or who think that their fame or riches make them greater than the rest of us mere mortals, or “civilians” as some celebrities like to call the non-famous. What he did was wrong, reckless, and quite frankly, disgusting and embarrassing to watch.

Although it might not be as egregious, what is also terrible to watch is the glee with which many have reported the latest events. One can see on people’s faces and hear in their voices, a sense of pleasure at JB’s misfortune. Yes, he brought it on himself and he is responsible for how he conducts his life – and unfortunately he’s made some poor choices, some of which could have endangered other people’s lives – but it doesn’t give the rest of us license to enjoy watching someone’s life implode. Is what he did wrong? Yes, absolutely and he should receive the same treatment as anyone in a similar situation. But should I, or anyone else take joy in someone else’s fall or misfortune? For me, the answer is no.

Signing off,

Y.