Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Against Integration"

Am I against integration? What is integration? Who is being asked to integrate – and integrate in to what? What comes from being fully integrated? What does this really look like?

In my home, the word integration is defined as UNITY…unity unlike what we have in existence today. I feel that people unite today only when there is something to be gained. People also unite when someone or something is at risk of being lost or has been violently taken from us (i.e. when NYC police kill unarmed Black men, or 911, or Tsunami, or Katrina, or the Jena 6). But really, where is this unity every other day of the year after the tragedy or devastation passes?

The topic of integration came up after my daughter read my blog, "What goes around comes around…"

We had quite the debate in our home last night. My daughter was fit to be tied. She was on the verge of tears. It got to a point where I actually said you know what – "I'm against integration!"

She couldn't believe I said that…she asked me, "Mom, tell me you're not really against integration." Now this is a girl who in her only 15 years of life has been an activist, fighting for human & civil rights (maybe not in the mainstream public forum YET – oh but she's coming) – her passion is found in all she believes and in the history she studies.

She agreed with much of what Adrienne wrote in her blog…she agreed that BET should not have a separate channel. She felt that when we do this we're sending messages of being all for one race and not a message that we're inclusive of all races…which she believed could be or is seen as segregation.

So I brought up Univision – asking her what she thought of Latino's having their own channels – and she was ok with it…my response is, so if your not ok with BET then you must be against the Spanish station and she said, "it's different." I asked her how it's different. She talked about catering to a community who didn't understand the language…my rebuttal: aah but what's good for one is good for all… I had to explain to her why I am absolutely ALL FOR - - Univision and BET having their OWN network.

We talk about integration but lets look at the major networks (and not the token Latina, Black or Asian correspondent) lets look at how we are represented in the media (and PLEASE lets leave out Ugly Betty for a moment – that just happened yesterday and lets not forget what year we're in its 2007 people). When you put people in a box - separate from the majority – the people in the box are going to protect their own…we've always been in a box – on the outside – yeah a few of us have gotten out of the box and grabbed some crumbs on the way up the ladder – "passing for" whatever it is a person needs to pass for…to get ahead.

But I understand why it is we have had to create our own LARGER BOXES the Univision's & BET's…when we see that an ABC, NBC and CBS aren't a true representation of the people who live here – those of us in our little boxes have to create our own…our own outlets, our own labels, start our own companies…lets be serious people…turn on the TV – not much has changed – yes there's progress – and yes I hope we get there in my lifetime. I completely support us and by us yes I AM talking about people of color…we must DO US…because waiting around for someone to give us crumbs will keep us hungry.

My daughter asked me, "Mom lets pretend you're Jewish – you live in Israel – you read the torah - - and in your bible you are told that the holy land is your land – what would you do?"

Of course she's asking me how I would resolve the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian people.

She went on to say, "And the Palestinian's feel that it's there land because they were living there first. What's the peaceful solution to this problem?"

I must say – I was stumped because I'm looking at it coming from the place of survivor mode…in my fighter's stance…protecting my own…from the mind of a broken/wounded girl, who's a lion protecting her cub, from a community who has been stripped from those who would like to keep us stripped of our culture, our music, our history and on and on… but I needed to get back her example and question.

I am a Jewish woman – raised with the belief that the holy land is MY LAND – and I will do EVERYTHING including murder to take it…and I'm getting this from a bible…OK I have to say my baby girl poses a REALLY GREAT question…how do I resolve this conflict?

So what would I do? The only thing I could say to her is – I wouldn't have gone in and taken the land – murdered the people who were already there…I would have wanted to live there amongst them…respected their space, their community, their traditions, their religion…welcome what they bring…I'M COMING TO THEIR HOUSE…I would have come in PEACE! And of course we got into it – the religious issue and the years of war…

She said: "We will never be a whole people - - unless we integrate!"

I tried to bring her back to the topic at hand which was BET and the only thing I could say to her is…I know you don't like it – I know you wish things were different – but think about it…if Blacks and Latino's aren't able to or are being kept from…getting there messages heard, or their movies out, or their books published then we MUST do it for ourselves…

She wanted to explode…and just said, "we must get off our ASSES and do something to change it… it's not right!!!"

I applaud her – she stood up to me – she stood her ground – held firm to her position – I must say I was quite impressed. I had to give it to her…because girlfriend didn't back down – she held on – nothing could sway her…the fact that my daughter has chosen "Unity & Integration" to be her personal mission…makes a mommy proud. I'm raising me a leader.

To my daughter Courtney, I saw something in your eyes…a fire, a strength, rage…you have found your purpose - - keep that fire little girl…you have found your mission – give it your all and I got your back!

Where do I stand on integration? I feel that it's idealistic – NOT impossible – idealistic. I think it's very necessary and we have been living a way that doesn't work for too damn long. At the same time, I know what I'm here to do – what my purpose is - - and the issue of integration is not at the forefront of the issues I'm fighting for…not at this point in my life. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be "integrated" into the white community. Because to be white – was to be acceptable to society – anything dark skinned or a different pigment was not acceptable or accepted. That's just MY REALITY. I apologize if I don't want to be integrated in a culture and community that didn't want me to learn about me! I will not integrate if is for the purposes of continuing to strip me of my culture, traditions and beliefs. At the same time, I don't support segregation because we know what the affects of this have been.

If integration means that I can come as I AM… and BE ACCEPTED and RESPECTED for all that I bring…then I am ALL for it. If you're telling me that to be integrated I'm not allowed in - - unless "I can pass for…" then you can have it!

Keep fighting to be heard my beautiful girl…

I've said and have heard comments such as: "how much more fighting should we do," "Why should we fight – it's not my fight?" To my daughter as you take on this mission…know that I will support you – I will stand by you – when its time count me in…but its all you.
Finally, she just looked at me exhausted after over an hour of conversation – she surrendered – saying, "Mommy you're not really against integration – that's just one more person I need convince…" my reply, "no sweetie – I'm not against integration its just that right now I'm embracing who I AM – where I COME FROM…the beautiful history that's interweaved in my veins – my Latin/Blackness this is what I'm honoring right now - - but I'll get there."

Integration is a slow process – that needs to be built on TRUST…I'll get there.