Lupita Nyong’o: The Essence Speech

This speech…
I’ve written before about the challenges that my daughter is going to face. Challenges unique to Black folk of her particular hue. Those chosen ones, celebrated, pigeon holed, resented and punished for something totally outside of her control.

I’m not comparing her to the multitude of beautiful, young, darker skinned children out there. I’m not trying to say that her blues are deeper or heavier. All I know is, this world wants us to think that who we are is somehow a curse.
There is no right answer when you’re Black. You’re either not enough or too damn much. Too fat, too skinny, too light, too dark, too smart, too dumb, too bougie or too damned ratchet… when you’re Black someone is always headhunting. Always trying to tell you that the person that you are, isn’t the person that you should be.
Thank you Lupita. Thank you for finding peace in a world that would love to cultivate and then feed upon your self hatred.

The Politics of Booping Schnozes

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Actual (not really) footage of my daughter post nose-boop.

My little girl landed in time-out the other day.

She had been going to the same day care center for about a year and a half, with nothing but gold stars and smiley faces. She was that child that the teachers wanted more of.
“Why can’t they all be like her?” they asked.

Why indeed.

Some time on Wednesday, another little girl came to class. Is she a new little girl? Has she always been there, lurking in the shadows and waiting to strike (or get struck)? I don’t know. My daughter has never mentioned her name among her litany of little friends.

Word on the street is, that new little girl was messing with the Uma. Poking her chest and chin out at her, as only children do. The two of them, sitting at that little table in their little chairs… tensions building steadily over graham crackers and fruit snacks. Just like The Wire, but with sippy cups instead of crack.

Then it happened. My daughter raised her little fist and… “*Boop!” Right on the schnoz. (The Boop sound was relayed to me from the teacher. I can only assume that it was absolutely accurate, and the other little girl’s nose sounded like the horn of a tiny clown car).

When the teacher approached my daughter she looked around the room in widest eyed innocence. But there were witnesses, including the little girl, now cupping her nose in shocked disbelief. It was open and shut.

Then they were both escorted to time out. My daughter’s first time out. Where the Uma, cried inconsolably until her three minute sentence was commuted to one minute on the grounds of, “Aint nobody trying to hear all that…”

Upon release, the other little girl grabbed her things and moved them to another table, as far away from my daughter as the little room would allow.

When I got there, the teacher relayed the incident to me, sternly… until she snickered a little bit. But mostly sternly. She told me that they have a firm policy on fighting. Nobody was above the law, not even the Uma. Then she told me how glad she was that Uma had stood up for herself.

I agreed. She has to stand up for herself. But then, she has to pay the consequences, even if it means time out.

The Dekalb public school system has a zero tolerence policy. That means that Uma’s nose *Boop might have landed her at the police station if she attended one of the area middle schools. At the very least, she would have been suspended.

At the school where my oldest goes, a *Boop will get you kicked out. Not right away; first they’ll suspend you, whether or not you were at fault. But at a certain point near the end of the year, they reevaluate all of the children’s admission status’s. And that *Boop on the nose will get a big red stamp on your transcript. Technically you weren’t expelled. You just weren’t asked to come back.

With all of the bullying and violence in our schools, I understand zero tolerence. It sends an iron clad message to the students. If you bully, abuse, put your hands on or *Boop someone’s schnozz, there will be reprecussions. I get it. I just don’t think it’s right. Because, to put it simply, sometimes honkers need *Booping. 

My oldest daughter relayed this true life scenario to me. One boy had tormented another boy all year long. He called him names and spat at him. For one reason or another, he had taken it as his mission to break that other boy’s spirit.

The other boy, for his part, kept a low profile. Right up til the last day of school, as the students were boarding the busses for summer vacation. Then he ran up on his bully as he was getting on the bus (he had launched one last taunt, for old times sake) and knocked him unconscious.

That’s what bullying is. Psychological warfare. It is a long game that steadily, quietly escalates. The bully targets a child that he doesn’t think will fight back, and succeeds only to the degree that he can infiltrate the interior of his victim.

It’s extremely hard to punish. Teachers aren’t always there, and even when they are present it is their job to maintain an orderly status quo, and not the individual morale of each child. So they enact zero tolerance so that once things explode, and they almost always do, they can levy the full force of their administrative authority upon the perpertrator. The only problem is, in the eyes of zero tolerence there is absolutely no difference between the bully and the child whose decided that they can’t take it anymore.

That’s not a big deal when the reprecussions are as simple as time-out, but when we make children choose between accepting torment or getting expelled from school, you put them in a position that is emotional poison. When, every so often, the solution is standing up for yourself, raising your fists and booping schnozes.

Slugger (that’s what they call my daughter now) probably won’t be booping any more little girls for a long time. She’s not cut out for that time-out life. The other little girl, on the other hand, might as well move her juice and crackers into the time out corner. Every time I pick up the Uma, she’s standing silently in that corner, tear tracks dried on her cheeks. I don’t know what goes on in her home, but they are cultivating a little bully. But there is one little girl that she is going to leave alone. Thanks to that *Boop.

This Horrible game of Hide and Seek will Melt your Heart.

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This is my daughter. The three of us are playing hide and seek in the back yard. She’s not very good. In fact, the dog was better, and he didn’t know that he was playing.

For the past two weeks, Atlanta was in the grips of the Snowpaclypse. We had been hammered by a total of about five inches of the devilish white stuff. The roads were shut down. Bridges collapsed and orphanages burst into flames.

Needless to say they shut down the schools. And with her older brother and sister around, the Uma and I didn’t have as much us time as usual.

Last week they went back. The sun came out and the temperature went up and my daughter suggested that we go outside. That’s us, after she had picked some flowers but before we ran laps between the basketball hoop and the front gate. Then came the horrible hopscotch game on our patio… how bad? Neither of us know how to play, and it’s been so long since I’ve seen a hopscotch whatever you call it (ring? diamond? square? seriously, what is that thing?) that I didn’t know how to draw one.

Hide and seek was her idea. She told me where she was going to hide, and then I counted, and she hid there, which is very considerate of her. Notice how she only hide the back 3/5th of her body? Also very considerate. It was one of the most considerate games of hide and seek that I’ve ever played.

When it was my time to hide, she told me where. Walked me right over to the tree and said, “You go there,” pointing at the place behind it. Considering the sheer number of places that I could hide in the back yard, it nice of her to streamline the process for me.

But life is cruel and nice little girls often finish last. I ran the other way as she hid her eyes. Just to make sure she didn’t peek, I switched hiding places while she counted between 10 and 20 –  an adventure in itself.

She said, “Ready or not, here I come!” The dog raced past her, knocking into her thigh. I know this because I was spying from my hiding place behind the bushes. And because I’m a mean, mean daddy, I edged around, and ran to a tree in the back yard. That’s hiding place number three.

I had a lot of time to think as she walked around the yard swatting at the dog. I thought about how bad she was at hiding. I don’t think she will ever be good at it. She gets that from her mother. My wife wears jewelry that clinks and jingles. The human equivelant of a cat with a bell on its collar. So, my little girl will never be a ninja, or a sniper or anything even remotely stealthy.

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But then there’s this. That’s her on the bed later that night. That’s her little foot coming up dynamic, glorious kick. I think she could be a super hero. A non-stealthy super hero, that maybe throws heads of cabbages at people before she Karate Kid kicks the hell out of them.

She finally caught me in that game of hide and seek. After all, there was no base. The only way not to lose is to leave home. Still, I made her work for it, because I’m a mean, mean Daddy. I ran in tight circles followed by her and the dog. Then I lost my breath. Uma 1, Daddy 0.

So it was a pretty good day.

My Daughter Wants Hair like Barbie. I’m Not Okay with That.

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See how happy we were before Barbie?

My beautiful little girl is the color of french vanilla. My georgous wife has skin like dark caramel. Her lovely older daughter, like chocolate. This should tell you about the tonal diversity that goes on under my roof. There are five people here, and all of us occupy our own special slice of the color wheel. Which is pretty cool.

But we all have one thing in common. This is a chemical free home. No perms, no relaxers, no hot combs, or weaves for that matter. No offense to Madame CJ Walker (or anyone else) but this household looks to a different beauty standard. Notice the tiny burnt copper crown on my little girl’s head. That’s all her, pure and uncut, and I love it. She does too, usually.

Then this chick happened. Barbie. She popped up out of nowhere in our Netflix cue. Just four short episodes. 

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They make me throw up in my mouth.

Before her, Little Yellow Homie was all about My Little Pony. She wanted to be Rainbow Dash.

We have a whole herd of the pony clan roaming our house right now. Some of them are tiny, some bigger. Two are wierd human – pony hybrids,  thanks to the Equestria Girls. But, after watching the series about seventy bazillian times, I think she’s burnt out. She wanted something different. 

Barbie… She’s the grandmother of body dysmorphic disorder. Her bizarre proportions have been tormenting little girls for years. But cartoon Barbie doesn’t look like a blond woman in a funhouse mirror. She looks like… Barbie. Cartoon Barbie is an animated doll, living out a vacuous life in a crazily over the top animated version of her doll world. The artists and writers have made an entire series out of the rediculousness of the Barbie mythology. How do I know? Because I watched it with her. 

Now she wants Barbie hair.

A commercial came on, as we were preparing to see After Earth. (It aiiiight, but just barely.) And my pretty little girl pointed, said, “I want hair like that…” and then she began to cry. Granted, she was tired, which explains the tears. But knowing that my soon to be four year old child wants long European hair made me frown.

Remember the famous doll study? In the 40’s two Black psychologists placed a white doll and a Black doll in front of some children. Their choices said volumes about how they saw themselves. Most of them picked the white dolls and gave the Black dolls the side-eye, even though those dolls resembled them. My own little girl’s toy chest is populated exclusively with toys that look like her. Black babydolls, Black mermaids, and Doc McStuffins of all sizes. One of them even talks. With the exception of the My Little Ponys’ and Dora the Explorer, it all looks  kind of like her. I thought we had created a firewall. Maybe I was wrong.

Or maybe Daddy is over reacting. When I was young I wanted hair like Geronimo. Yes, two long black braids that I would tie with strips of leather… before I rode out and attacked settlers in wilderness behind our house. Self hatred? I don’t think so. Anyway, I grew out of it. 

Either way, this house shall remain a chemical and straightener free home, Barbie, be damned. And soon she’ll get tired of Barbie and Ken and their entire empty headed crew. And all will be right with the world. 

I’ve written about her viewing habits before. 
Like I said, my little girl loved My Little Pony, but late at night she preferred Pingu

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