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6 Reasons why #ShoutYourAdoption as Push-Back to #ShoutYourAbortion is Problematic (at Best).

About 5 days ago, the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion made its debut on writer Lindy West's Twitter feed to her 60,000 followers, inspir...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Adopted & Grieving: Forgiving Someone who Maybe did Nothing Wrong

A little over a week ago, I received word that my (maternal, adoptive) grandma had artery blockages that would be addressed through a quick surgical procedure. Because I was cursed with some sort of sense for these things, I pulled my cousins into a group chat and urged them to go visit her if they could. I knew she would die before I could reach her. I did not have the heart to tell my mother who was already buying plane tickets to go help with grandma's post-op recovery. No one would make it in time. Within hours of sending that message, grandma died. The grandmother who was once my "schema" for what a grandma should be like was gone. And yet I struggled to feel anything.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Philadelphia Police & Starbucks: Shining Light on Racism

Original Image from Google Street View / Philly Voice
Coffee shops like Starbucks are a "fueling" station for me as a human being trying to exist in a hectic world. This was particularly true in my early years as a professional, navigating being on the road for school while working jobs that required a ton of travel. Working on a mobile team, I met many times in Starbucks for meetings to discuss non-confidential business. Not everyone always ordered a coffee or tea every time. Most meetings were an hour. Sometimes we had to sit idly and chat while we waited for one member to resolve a mental health crisis before they could join us.

It's easy to say that this is what Starbucks wants. Their structure, their "psychology of everyday things" implicates to most people to come in, relax on a couch, socialize, use our free wifi for work or play. You could call it a "loss-leading" strategy much like some quick marts do with cheap gas. Come in for the couches and music and we hope you'll order our costs-more-per-gallon-than-premium-gas-coffee while you're here. Never once arrested in a Starbucks for using Starbucks how it is meant to be used, I know this is because of my white privilege.

Right in my backyard, police  recently arrested two black men for their crime of waiting in Starbucks for a friend so they could order coffee together. It occurred to me that, not only does being white shield me from a situation like this, I have the luxury of not even having to consider that race is why I or someone else would be arrested. 

This is because racism not within my personal realm of experience. My brain has not had to develop a  hyper-vigilance to being at greater risk of harm because of my skin color. I have this experience to some extent because of my gender. I grip my keys tightly when I walk from the evening class I teach at my Alma Mater to my car, knowing my gender makes me seem like an easy target. But being arrested in Starbucks just for existing? No. I don't experience racism. 

What we don't experience or believe is a part of our responsibility on this earth falls into our "shadow." Our subconscious. It drives us, but we don't see it unless we shine light on it. And a lack of "light shone" is exactly why unjust scenarios like at Philadelphia Starbucks happen in the first place. There were multiple people involved here who have not shown light on their racist shadows.

The barista who called the police likely assumed that two black men who had not ordered were there for sinister reasons. When you don't shine light on your racist shadows, you assume that a white woman waiting is there for a play date or a business deal. You assume two black men waiting are a gang, trying to rob you, are being disruptive, or are otherwise misusing your space.

But since when do police offices arrest two people who aren't evidencing any concerning behavior or crime, at the direction of a coffee barista? If they had shined light on their racist shadows, they could have stuck up for the everyday citizen, identified objectively that no crime was committed, and given the barista education on what warrants a call to in-demand, tax-paid services. But they didn't. "Black" meant "trouble" and they arrested first and asked questions, later.

Then there are other employees and bystanders. Some did chime in. But none went so far as to really be disruptive or to stay with the two men to make sure they were safe. 

When I was younger, and in my first book, I referred to this as "other people's parents." I was specifically referencing adoption, and how being told how wonderful I was as an adoptee didn't negate how other parents did not teach their kids the same. Because other kids were not given tools to "shine light" on their assumptions about adoption in their subconscious, it drove how they treated me which in turn effected how I experienced the world and other people as an adopted person. 

When we don't teach our kids how to shine light on their shadows, which simply means to understand whatever is different from you and to challenge your gut responses about it, we create adults who will call the cops on two black men in Starbucks and police officers and other professionals who will assume the worst of someone based on their skin tone.

If you come here to read because you are an adoptee, or first parent, or adoptive parent, consider how your own diversity in terms of what is accepted and considered to be "family" shines light on your shadowy biases about family where you operate from a more conscious place. Identify your yearning for others to do the same so that you and your children can exist safely in a society in which you are a minority. If ever this is a moment to build empathy with our peers of color, our transracial family and adoptee brothers and sisters, this is that moment. I have a blog and a voice. How will you use your empathy to stand up to racism, today?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Shopping With a Soul: Why I Severed My Ties with LuLaRoe (Part II)

Yesterday, I began detailing just some of my concerning experiences with the cult company, LuLaRoe. I broke the post up into two parts after discovering I had much more to talk about than I imagined. Part I covered the concerning psychological atmosphere of the company. Today, I am diving into the cultural incompetence and outright racism, disablism, and misogyny.

As a LuLaRoe "Coach," I attended several LuLaRoe events for retailers and for leaders. My attendance was a requirement, despite not technically being paid. I began to feel physically ill at these events. It was to the point that I required multiple prescription medications to stand up without vomiting. This was due, in part, to the toxicity of the personal life experiences my business partner and friend brought with her. It was also because I continued to be torn apart at the seams between my growing financial obligations and my large team--and--seeing so many things that seemed wrong so with LuLaRoe.
Despite LuLaRoe having thirty women's styles, and only two men's styles, white upper-class men helmed the main speaking spots and direct advising of the company. One such advisor is outspoken in his critiques of Millennials--those of us now working age with families--as being "entitled." The tokenism was strong. Gay women got speaking opportunities to prove that the founder’s religious beliefs would not affect the company's service. Disabled women got speaking opportunities to tell able-bodied retailers, “If I can do it, so can you." Women of color in places of leadership and power were almost non-existent. 

There was one such leader, my friend Angela whom I mentioned in Part I, but she was disowned by her entire upline leadership because she confronted a thread and subsequent comments, posted in her sponsor's Facebook group, that made racist remarks about Asian retailers. She was accused of "stirring the pot." She too recently cancelled her contract with LuLaRoe and has dedicated her business group on certain days of the week to helping other exiting retailers sell off their product.

The rapid growth and lack of intentionality of the brand has resulted in an accumulation of lawsuits. In what seemed to be an attempt to maintain their wealth while handling these payouts, LuLaRoe began coming up with “new” clothing releases almost weekly, and encouraging their retailers to spend more to have the latest “collection.” Like putting a bunch of re-dyed solid black items into a box and making it its own minimum order called "Noir." They changed their defects return policy for retailers to refund fifteen defects from their own pockets before LuLaRoe would reimburse them. 

Worst of all, they continued cranking out prints at lightning speed which resulted in no filter for the racially offensive and culturally and artistically appropriative prints their artists drew. This included a “sock monkey” print, a black face Mickey Mouse print (which was also officially seen, approved, and licensed by Disney staff), and prints donning sacred items from indigenous cultures.

I finally realized that I needed to put myself and my values first because it is within my nature for these things to rule above all else. I ended my business partnership and soon after my business relationship with LuLaRoe. I forgave myself for ending my relentless need to “save” my business partner from her divorce which, I now understood, involved absorbing its toxicity (and that of LuLaRoe) into my own physical body and emotional body. And into my heart.

I took responsibility for myself, my feelings, and my behavior in choosing not to represent a company with depreciating values which certainly stem from privilege and a lack of diversity.

Not long after I left, a top-ranking retailer was exposed for refusing to help, or allow her customers to help, a deaf customer to see the sizes and prices in her live video. Despite having visual capabilities, the retailer refused to show the tag with the size when notified expressly that the customer was deaf. The retailer started banning helpful customers who typed the sizes into the comments section because it annoyed her. Despite a petition circulating in outrage and the clear violation of the ADA, LuLaRoe refused to terminate this retailer’s contract or even respond to the deaf customer’s complaint.

Most recently, LuLaRoe entered hot water when another retailer made gestures intentionally mocking individuals with intellectual disabilities, during a live sale. He issued a non-apology and then made a hashtag in support of himself to push back the “haters." This was brought to the attention of the National Down Syndrome Society to which LuLaRoe donates certain proceeds from its Scarlett dress. The “Scarlett” is named for Mark and Deanne’s granddaughter with Down Syndrome. The NDSS terminated their funding from LuLaRoe because LuLaRoe would not terminate the offending retailer’s contract. Not realizing the NDSS already announced their decision, LuLaRoe took to its Facebook page stating they ended their relationship with the NDSS because the NDSS would not accept the retailer’s non-apology which Mark and Deanne Stidham judged to be sufficient.

A true demonstration of cultural competency and sensitivity would be for Mark and Deanne to understand that they are not capable of judging someone's apology to a disabled person as "acceptable" or not. The only individuals qualified to accept or reject this apology are the people he mocked. Furthermore, when the NDSS said the apology was not OK, LuLaRoe's leadership should at minimum be culturally competent enough to know they are not qualified to disagree with the NDSS. 

I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason,” but I do think we can create reason from anything that happens. For me, my journey with LuLaRoe has taught me how insidious personally and culturally it is to feel trapped in a situation where an organization abandons its values and attempts to take you along with it. The moral downfall of LuLaRoe is a lesson in why every single entity on this planet needs diverse leadership. It provides real-life examples of how people are emotionally, mentally, and financially harmed when diversity isn’t a priority. 

I supported this brand for much longer than I should have. And for that, I truly apologize to everyone whom LuLaRoe has hurt. No explanation. No excuses. Because that's what a true apology is.