Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts on Charleston

War Mother, Charles Umlauf*
Twitter (and occasionally Facebook) has become my preliminary news source, particularly for the slew of gun violence, police brutality, and unjustified killings of black people that have recently occurred in the United States. These outlets often don't tell the complete story, just a spattering of details and an overwhelming amount of opinions stained with outrage, frustration, devastation and sympathy. And also, unfortunately, indifference developed from a loss of hope. 

Last night, right before bed, I scrolled across a few tweets with the hashtag #Charlestonshooting or #Charleston. Those tweets expressed exasperation and predicted the media's characterizations of the then-at large young white male suspect. There had been a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, but I refused to enter it into a search engine. I was afraid to, already (selfishly) tired of hearing about another horrible event, another death, another example of racial discrimination and prejudice and ignorance. I felt/feel tired and these events have not happened to me directly. Not in my city, not in my neighborhood and not to my family. However, indirectly, they affect me and they very well could touch my personal circle. Because that's what being visibly black in America is about, I guess.

How could this not be motivated by race? A white male enters the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a Wednesday night prayer meeting and opens fire, killing nine people, then flees. People he does not know. People who had no objection to his presence there--it's a church, open to the public, to all kinds of people of different backgrounds and upbringing. He's in custody now and as of yet, I don't think we know about the details of his motives, at least not directly from his mouth. It's easy for me to say that the motives don't matter, as long as justice is served, but most people want to know why. We can suspect why. But would a confirmation of the why mean anything? If he said to the public that he intentionally entered this church, out of hate, to shoot at black people, would the outright racists and misguided moderates of the country believe us then? 

Only this morning did I seek other, more "reputable" sources to learn about what happened. And I felt like all my thoughts needed to be spit out. I don't usually contribute to the dialogue on social media when things like this happen because I wouldn't be helping anything, I would be draining myself, and I don't even know what to say. Instead I read what my outspoken, enlightened and outspoken acquaintances on Facebook or strangers on Twitter post or share. Then I drain myself another way by reading one too many comments. So I think I should just pray. Keep myself informed and pray for Emanuel AME, for the families who have lost loved ones, for South Carolina, and for the judicial systems.

*Reflects my response to this shooting and so many other events across the U.S. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Expensive Taste in Green Lace

I will take any excuse to get dressed up. Even though I usually destroy my room in the process by ravaging through my closet and rejecting everything...until the least expected choice starts pulsing with prophetic light. Even though I cannot apply makeup but I feel I must. No bare face allowed while wearing a dress I couldn't zip up all the way (comfortably) a few months ago. This was all for a natural hair meetup, a grand extravaganza with product giveaways, games (ice breakers and Heads Up), a mini fashion show and #AskRachel hilariousness.

Ya'll this dress is Barney's New York. This is a "Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl might consider buying just because she can" kind of dress. Again, a treasure discovered by my mother. I didn't think it would fit well enough for whatever level of confidence I had going to a Meetup group event solo and for the first time. But it was all good. I was in the company of beautiful women, all dressed to impress, all with beautiful natural hair--no envy (okay, minor envy), great admiration, inspiration and a little bit of advice. Confidence to rock the dress helped unleash my competitive edge and I won some full-size hair products. Yeah!

You got McDonald's money?
 -- #AskRachel
Red and green in June? Does Christmas have a monopoly on this color combo? I suppose there are exceptions to every presumed "rule" of fashion. If rugs can do it, then anyone can. Because people are analogous to rugs of course. 

Is this a half-hearted "yaaaaaasssss" pose? idk
I got yo crazy in my trunk!
-- Tasha Mack, The Game (but only the CW seasons)
 What I'm wearing:
Barney's New York dress // BCBGeneration wedges // JewelMint Flora necklace // Zara clutch // cream bangle from somewhere

What do you think of the color scheme? 
Happy Halfway through June!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Natural Hair Envy

original traced doodle with didlr
I'm on the shuttle, sitting behind this girl whose natural hair is artfully pulled up, pinned into a puff. The edges at the nape of her neck lay relatively flat--beautifully tamed-- and I assume the same is true in the front. From the light of the sun, I can see the dark brown at the ends. Her hair is wispy, like loosened raw cotton or clouds, and it becomes desired in my mind. It looks softer than mine, so it must be. I shrug as I think how I would like to have her hair. If only because it would be easier to manage. Easier to stretch, easier to manipulate and style. 

I think it's easy to confuse manageability with quality. Hair with a looser curl pattern that falls is not inherently better than hair with tiny zig zags that stands up and out. But with the hair typing system and the majority of natural hair representation in a lot of media subtly imposes the idea that a certain "grade of hair" (as Raven Symone would call it) is more aesthetically accepted, more "classically beautiful." The thing is, manageability can be learned. Everyone has to adapt to the features and conditions each is born with. With the luck of the draw, some people may have one aspect of their lives easier than another person. It's not bad and fairness plays no role; it's just the way it is.

As soon as I coveted this girl's hair, I considered whether I had a warped view of what good hair is (but bottomline, good hair is always healthy hair). I questioned why I would, in an impossible scenario, want someone else's hair texture. Reading the natural hair stories of others, some women expressed feeling quite disappointed when, after the big chop or the transitioning phase, their hair did not resemble that of Tracee Ellis Ross or Teyonah Parris or some other fabulous-looking famous or real-life woman. When I cut out my relaxed ends four years ago, I knew to pack away the fantasies I had had. I knew that my hair would be whatever it was meant to be, which is mine and nobody else's.  I generally accept my hair, it's magical (and frustrating) shrinking ability, its texture, and its length. I like it most days, love it some days, and hate it every other day.*

Not really wanting to repeat advice that already exists in a million places on the Internet, I will only say this about natural hair envy and acceptance: admire others, but also admire yourself. To admire yourself, you have to learn how to look and be your best (and I'm still learning, especially about hair...very slowly). Obviously this goes deeper than hair and other expressions of outer beauty. Because jealousy is not cute. Gush over so and so, but also work with what you got. 

Happy Thursday!

*I kid. Or do I? Nah...