On Gender – Are We Letting Kids Run Their Race?

How many times have I thought or mentally bookmarked that I will write about xyz topic after a particular incident or day? Waaaaaay tooo many times. So without explaining or setting up too much here goes:

The other day I attended sports day at my baby’s school and obviously being the [literally] active parent I am I came ready to smoke some other mom’s in whatever required a mother’s participation – short, tshirt and sneakers. I was a bit late because of some technicians who had showed up at home a bit later than they’d promised, but I made sure to politely, but assuredly, excuse my way to a seat in the front. I asked to see a program of the scheduled races and events and at some point during the downtime and in my wonderings realized how early and almost explicitly our children are programmed into gender roles. The children themselves and attending adults, through some of these seemingly mundane activities, are realigned into them regardless of how we actually live, teach and perform gender roles at home.

As is typical, the sports houses were organized by color (red, yellow and blue) and then races and events themselves were either girls’ races or boys’ races. Cool. Then came the more fun ones that incorporated a task or fun activity like wash day, shopping, work day, waiter etc. I could see in the program that my baby was in the waiter race and not knowing anything about what it would be I was excited to see what my bundle of cuteness would be doing. Comes the race and the teachers set up a hat, then a cup a few meters ahead and a plate a few more meters ahead in each lane. The items were colored according to what sports house the kid in that lane is in. I then noticed all the children in this race were girls. They would have to run and pick up the hat and put it on, then pick up the cup, then pick up the plate and finally run to the finish line. I am not going to tell you my daughter chose to walk instead of run and then proceeded to walk across the lanes to her friend instead of straight in her…so that you don’t ask me why. Ok so that was one event.

Other races that made me side eye no one in particular, all girl’s only races, were the wash day and shopping day ones. The former involved a clothing item on the ground, then a bucket of water a few meters ahead, some pegs a bit ahead, then a clothing line. You can imagine what the race/task was here. The latter had a dress, then a wig, then a pair of shoes, then a handbag and the finish line all spaced out with a few meters between them. Each little girl had to put on those items (all borrowed from their mom) and race to the finish line oversized dress, high heels and all. A teeny part of my brain was already like hhmmmm….

The next race was a boy’s race – work day! *insert side eye* It involved a shirt, pants, shoes and a work bag in a lane all spaced out with some meters between – basically the same as the shopping day race. The last event that had me thinking come on people seriously?! was the family race where the teacher heading the events asked for “mommy and daddy to please come and pick up your child and pick a lane” to [relay race]. This had me scrunching my forehead some not even because I’m a single mother, but because there were 1. Definitely and visibly way more mom’s present (about 75%) than dads so 2. This was going to leave out so many children from participating. What would have been more inclusive was to ask for 2 adults to come forward for the child they came to support whether they were a heterosexual parental unit or otherwise (I know – I should hold my progressive britches). Even for children who do have a mommy and a daddy, the chances of both being present on a Friday morning, assuming one or both of them work, were slim.

Guys am I overthinking this? I did think and have enough metacognition to wonder if maybe I felt some typa way because I am a single mother and that maybe if I wasn’t I would have been completely oblivious to some of this, but I think I know myself well enough by now to know that no I would stiiiilll have thought about it. I think it’s important in educational settings as well as in our homes to foster expansive, progressive and inclusive paradigms and enabling environments instead of limited and therefore limiting ones. We all can’t control what goes in each other’s homes, but surely school should be a place where the future of our children and the societies we therefore want to create and live in are shaped. Who am I to know what people’s homes are like and/or what they should be – absolutely no one thank you very much save yourself your nywe nywe nywe. Mina I’ve said my two cents, now let’s do better and be more mindful and deliberate about how we DO gender with our children and become more inclusive of who they actually are now and might become in the future.

Side note, all the teachers are women…so that might be the perfect lead into the blog post I promised on twitter where I said I would one day write about how Zimbabwean women are both feminists and misogynists.

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*@afropolitaine*

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“your dreams are valid”

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For all the things that we are obsessed about. Those we lose sleep over. Those we get panic attacks about from lost sleep and anxiety about. The ones that will change someone’s life and invariably our own. The ones that drive us and scare the crap out of us for the audacity to dream them. Their guts to come back over and over – invading our thoughts when we are wide awake during the day. The ones that wake us up in the middle of the night and have us grabbing the notebook, staring at the ceiling and climbing out of bed for a glass of water. The ones that paralyze us with fear from an awkward combination of inspiration and visions. Visions of success, change and joy. The kinds that once started are what it means to live a life we don’t wish to take a vacation from yet are the same ones storybook vacations are made of and paid for with [haha]. The ones we protect so fiercely because we know. We KNOW. We know because it’s a feeling so persistent and clear that it can only be God making sure you do not miss or forget – we almost don’t find peace and fulfillment until we are knee deep in them. Listen to yourself. Listen to that voice that is no longer a whisper. Respond. Respond to that clear voice in your head you have been hearing every single day. Respond in action. Act by doing. Do whatever it is you need to do whether you know how and even if it’s not part of the plan. Do. Do it! Do something. Everything and what you can now.

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*@afropolitaine*

Black Men, Keep OFF the Sidewalk & Get a PASSPORT!

So now, according to some of the [i don’t need to say “flawed” because that would be an understatement] reasoning of George Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, every black man walking on the same sidewalk with a person of another less black race is armed and therefore a threat and therefore deserves to die. Either he deserves to die or his being murdered can be justified. I will go ahead and deliberately oversimplify and assume therefore he is suggesting that [Black] men keep OFF the sidewalks and pavements.

While you’re are at it do not breath because by virtue of your stronger and therefore more dangerous physique your lungs are capable of taking in more air and therefore suffocating the air supply of another. If that other person is a none black you are automatically less valuable so you should stop breathing and make sure not to be threatening [as if that is even possible – you’re Black duh] their deserved dose because after all you are not worthy. You do not deserve your life.

Look down at your hands, the front and the back of them. Now clench them into fists. You are now armed and therefore your threat factor has risen according to the same reasoning.
A while ago I tweeted something to the effect that I don’t even know why you guys (twitterverse) are tripping and wasting your time so invested in this case when George Zimmerman is going to walk. I got quite impassioned responses that there is no way – the evidence was there the guy lied he went looking for trouble justice will be served for all the noise that was being made yadi yadi yada. I kinda sadly laughed to myself because when you know and travel the world you see America for what it is at least as far as race relations reality is. Guys, please stop being delusional it is dangerous for you especially if you are not the right color in America. Justice is not for all, it is for the rich and few other categories, but it certainly has hardly ever leaned in favor of Blacks.

There is that all powerful and invisible force called the Matrix of Domination that Patricia Hill Collins (Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment) wrote. If you look very carefully at it, you see, unfortunately that this country, through a combination of race, socioeconomic status, geography, age and several other factors, values the life of some people more than others. Generally, straight white men are at the top and anything further from that gets lower at the bottom and is less valuable. Remember it’s not about where you think you fit in, it’s where the forces [socially] position you. For the most part, degrees, money, the nice neighborhood might not move you up that pyramid because of your skin. Remember that. Put it in your back pocket and just rub on it every once in a while to remind yourself where, as long as you are here, where you fit in.

That brings me to my next point. GET A PASSPORT. It’s said that the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. I think it’s important for Black people to experience their own Blackness in a different context to gain some perspective independent of a system or environment that proves itself oppressive by design.

It’s funny because having recently come back from Zimbabwe after I was there for about 3 months, it’s interesting that the whole time I was there, through all the things that happened good or bad, there was never a time I had to wonder if the way I was treated was because I’m black. Sure people may have been rude because I’m a woman or a diaspora returnee or maybe because i’m Ndebele, but after being Black in America, it’s almost a relief not to have the burden of race for a little while. It’s something that I think a lot of Black people in America do not get to experience even when they are in their mostly Black communities and I would urge [Black] people to TRAVEL.

George Zimmerman got to sleep in his bed the night he killed a young boy who was walking home. A boy who never made it home. A boy whose parents were not called until 2 nights after their son was killed. A boy who had friends, a facebook profile, wore hoodies, loved skittles, a teethy smile and looked like he’d be a hottie when he grew up. A boy whose parents were not even in the room when the verdict was delivered.

After all this time, George Zimmerman gets to take the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin home. Wow.

It is insulting to assume and predict that Black people will riot upon hearing the verdict. The assumption of Black criminality is so deeply embedded in the justice system and media psyche of this country that it is almost safe to assume that if Trayvon had survived those gun shots he would very well have been arrested and criminalized or the police would have showed up to the scene and finished him.

You cannot ever stand your ground physically or verbally. No standing your ground and stay off the sidewalk.

But and because this is America if you are shocked that this killer walks, please prepare yourself for his book deals and speaking tours. Man shall not live on bread alone yes. Watch your carb and calorie intake after all.

Anywhoo let me get ready to take a short nap and wake up in a few hours and go into work where I’ll be careful not to talk to passionately about this matter in polite company. This is America in case you didn’t know it. I know it.

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*@afropolitaine*