Beautiful Little Girl: Do y'all speak Spanish? Nadia: No, we don't speak Spanish. Beautiful Little Girl: You look like you do. Simone: Do you speak Spanish? Beautiful Little Girl: Yes. I cannot place a value on overhearing such conversations. While the rest of the world is debating the validity of a fictional book and movie, I'm sitting front row and center, watching our future navigate this thing called race. I could not have imagined how many ways people would ask, "What are you?" We have been asked whether our daughters are Brazilian and Asian. A few weeks ago, someone asked Simone whether her father is Chinese, and someone else asked if she was mixed with black and white. I had worried -- Sometimes I still do -- about the questions. A part of me feared people would make assumptions and taunt my girls. I try to arm Simone and Nadia with answers. After witnessing how my daughters handle these situations, I am not sure I need to intervene. The conversation above was so mature. The Beautiful Little Girl spied two little girls who didn't look one way or another. She checked her hunch and was skeptical when it was not validated. She was certainly on to something. Nadia, who can be a bit blunt and sassy, answered her question without judgment. Even when the Beautiful Little Girl told Simone and Nadia she was doubtful about the answer, there was no back and forth. Simone, a reporter-in-training, figured there had to be a reason why the little girl asked and turned the question around. Then I heard giggles and squeals and laughter. With all the mature stuff out of the way, they got down to the business of playing with each other. I think we adults can learn a thing or two from the children.
I was skeptical about "The Help." I turned up my nose at reading or viewing a work about black maids in the South in a fictional tale written by a white author. That was not my idea of entertainment. No, ma'am. In fact, as I took my seat to screen the movie at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia, I already had decided I would not like it. What could this white author and white director show me about two black maids who team up with an aspiring writer who is decades ahead of her time? Why should I care about these fictional characters who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that shatters racial rules and and threatens their livelihood and relationships? Plenty and a heck of a lot, it turns out. "The Help" is set in the turbulent 1960s and stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny. I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the characters and how the women, both black and white, learned how to trust each other. The villain doesn't seem to have one redeeming quality, and each of the other characters has her own personal struggle to overcome as well. While it's a fictional work, it is centered on the civil rights movement, particularly the death of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was killed in 1963 at his Jackson, Mississippi, home. As a result, the movie took me on a rough ride of emotions, at times angering me, bringing tears to my eyes and making my cheeks hurt from laughing. I enjoyed "The Help" and suggest anyone who is willing to view race from a different corner of her mind to go see it. Remember, this is a work of fiction framed around a historical event. The author of the book told a room full of journalists that she was quite aware that she was making up the story. Don't go see it alone. Take some girlfriends or someone else with you so that you can chat about it after the credits roll. Oh, and this is not a movie for young children. A few scenes are punctuated with spirited, literal and figurative expletives. "The Help" changed my mind from doubt to acceptance. I may even purchase the book and read all the scenes that are sitting on the cutting room floor. The movie opens Wednesday, Aug. 10. Enjoy!
Black women have known about the shortage of black men for decades. Now others are taking notice.In December, ABC's Nightline addressed the issue. "Let's take 100 black men. By the time you eliminate those without a high school diploma (21 percent), the unemployed (17 percent) and those ages 25-34 who are incarcerated (8 percent), you have only half of black men, 54 percent, whom many black women find acceptable." Here is one more statistic: There are 1.8 million more black women in the U.S. than there are black men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Where does that leave the next generation of girls? In the same place as the women who came before them. I married my best friend who happened to be white, but I definitely dated black men in hopes I would one day walk down the aisle with one. As for Simone and Nadia, I don't care who they marry. I don't even care if they marry. These are decisions each will make much later. As long as they have healthy relationships and are treated well, I will be happy. Ken, I suspect, is keeping his options open. More than one person has suggested he purchase a shotgun. I do have a bit of advice if either one decides a black man will be her prince charming: Marry young. Find him in college and close the deal shortly after graduation. What I am saying sounds so cold, so businesslike, so premature. It is all of those things. I have talked with girlfriends for hours and hours about this issue. I have watched it featured on television, in magazines, in books. It is a problem, and I don't think it is going away. In the end, it is just my advice. Simone and Nadia don't have to take it. We will have to endure all kinds of breakups and makeups before we can get to that point, but first Ken will have to put away his shotgun.
As we walked into the theater to see Disney's new movie, I overheard a mother saying she was just as excited to see the movie featuring Disney's first black princess as her daughter. I think that pretty much sums up how so many people feel about about The Princess and the Frog. A good friend of mine who doesn't have any children has already seen it, and I have another who shushed me this morning because I was revealing too much of the plot to her. This movie appeals to the little black girls and the black women who wished there had been a princess that looked like them when they were growing up.Simone and Nadia loved the new Disney movie. Of all the animated movies we have seen, not one has ever held their attention like The Princess and the Frog. There have been bathroom breaks and crying jags. Sometimes, they have simply lost interest and wanted to walk up and down the stairs. I am sure it helped they saw the movie trailer on the Disney channel and that toys have been in stores for months. Simone knew about the big kiss that turns Tiana into a frog, and Nadia cried when the credits rolled because "it ended." I should note that the movie's bad character is a man who practices voo-doo, and he may be a bit too scary for younger children. Nadia did not cry but seemed anxious when the man and his wicked friends were on the screen. I enjoyed the music and most of the characters, and I appreciated the focus on hard work. I was disappointed Tiana is a frog during most of the movie, and it appeared, at least to me, Prince Naveen saved the day.
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Simone, Cars, and Race was published on theroot.com this week. Today, slate.com picked it up. Below is a response I received from a Slate reader who said she didn't mind if I shared her story with Honeysmoke readers. Enjoy.
I am so white I am almost translucent. My husband (now ex-) is Italian, of immigrants from Naples and Stromboli and very dark skinned. Our children always put it together that the Italian side of the family has dark skin and the non-Italian side has lighter skin. On the day my son started 1st grade he came home to tell me he had a new friend! He's a nice boy and so much fun and likes to play guns and build forts and so forth and so on and didn't seem to know his name or anything else about him but he wanted him to come over one day after school. And then added "He's even more Italian than WE are!" Sure enough a couple of days later the little boy came over and is black/African American!
My son was in 3rd grade when we all went on a trip to Italy and later in the year a trip to Senegal and The Gambia before he realized maybe heritage has something to do with skin tone and not everyone is Italian.
I saw this powerful trailer for I'm Biracial ... Not Black Damn It while visiting www.iamtheglue.blogspot.com. The documentary by Carolyn Battle Cochrane is a four-part series about cultural blends. Cochrane is a biracial woman who grew up identifying as a black because of societal pressure, and her four-minute trailer will make you reevaluate how you define race.
[caption id="attachment_333" align="aligncenter" width="614"] http://www.flickr.com[/caption] Barbie is launching a new set of African-American dolls called So In Style, or S.I.S. There are three full-size dolls, each with a smaller sister or protege doll. Designer Stacey McBride created the dolls with full noses, full lips and plenty of attitude. Each doll has a theme -- a girly girl who is a drill team squad leader, a funky and fun girl who enjoys art and journalism, and a sassy and smart girl who loves math and music. I applaud the themes, which show black girls they can be fun and smart. I do take issue with the hair, though. While it is darker, the texture is a lot like the original Barbie, and I couldn't help but notice some of the hair colors remind me of Beyonce's golden tresses. At a time when so many black women and children are sporting teeny weeny Afros, braids and twists, none of the dolls has such a 'do. Only one appears to have natural hair. I've never been a big fan of Barbie. So, it's no surprise Simone and Nadia don't have any. For now, I will give this new Barbie a temporary green light. If any show up unannounced -- I don't always have control over these things -- I'll try my best not to hide them under a bed or in a closet.
I was taking Simone and Nadia out of their car seats when a black woman in the car beside me rolled up with her two children and a cart full groceries.“They are so pretty,” she said. “Thank you,” I said, continuing to unbuckle Simone. “Are they mixed?” “Oh, yeah.” “Well, they sure are beautiful.” “Thank you,” I said. “Tell me,” said the woman, tapping into my friendliness, “what are they mixed with?" “White,” I said. “Really?” she asked, looking like she didn’t believe me. “Because they don't look white.” “Oh, we get that all the time,” I tried to reassure her. “Some people think they are Asian.” “Black children who are mixed with white usually have sandy hair,” the woman said, as if she were some kind of expert. “Well, their father’s hair is brown and my hair is brown, so they have brown hair.” The woman didn’t respond and I took the opportunity to tell the girls to say bye-bye. They waved their hands, and we went inside. *** Later, I gave our conversation a little more thought. I think this is what the woman was really saying. Translation: I was taking Simone and Nadia out of their car seats when a black woman in the car beside me rolled up with her two children and a cart full groceries. “Look at those high-yellow girls. They are so pretty,” she said. “Thank you,” I said, continuing to unbuckle Simone. “Those kids look exotic and they don't look like they belong to you. Are they mixed?” “Oh, yeah,” I said. “Well, I knew that. They are beautiful.” “Thank you,” I said. “Their father must be fine. Tell me,” said the woman, tapping into my friendliness, “what are they mixed with?” “White,” I said. “Well, they sure don't look white. Are you sure you know who the father of your children is? I've seen white and black kids and these kids don't look like they are mixed with white.” “Oh, we get that all the time,” I tried to reassure her. “Some people think they are Asian.” “Perhaps you should have a paternity test. Black children who are mixed with white usually have sandy hair,” the woman said, as if she were some kind of expert. “Well, their father’s hair is brown and my hair is brown, so they have brown hair. “Look, you can say that all you want to, but I am not buying it. You got with someone Asian and you know it, passing these kids off as black and white when they are clearly black and Asian. You should be ashamed of yourself. Hmmpfff. A version of this post originally appeared on Singlikesassy.