“Is That Your Real Hair?” And Other Microaggressions

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When I moved out to the midwest, I had no idea what to expect. If someone were to ask me what I thought it would be like, I’d ignorantly say fields full of corn, farmers with straw hats and plaid; lots and lots of plaid. Obviously that isn’t true. St. Louis is a major metropolitan city! But unlike the ones I’ve called home in the past, I deal with a lot of microaggressions here.

Simply put, a microaggression is behavior that unconsciously or consciously insults a marginalized group. I’ve tried to write it off as a lack of knowledge or unintentional ignorance on our white counterparts, but it happens so frequently that this subtle form of prejudice is literally driving me insane. Here’s three things I wish white people would stop doing.

Stop saying “I don’t see color”

I am a woman. I am also black and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When you say you don’t see that very important part of me, it isn’t a compliment. Not seeing the color of my skin pretty much erases my identity, my culture and the way I experience the world. Look, no matter how dismissive you may want to be about race/racism, it still exists. Seeing color isn’t bad. Judging someone based on that one premise is. (Also isn’t it funny how the same person who’ll go on and on about not seeing color will quickly mention that one black friend they have if someone even hints at them being racist? Hmm.) Which leads me to the next thing.

Stop mixing black people up with each other.

There are three black women on my team at work, including myself. Even though there’s a small number of us, coworkers constantly confuse one of us for the other. We don’t look anything alike. We have different styles of hair and body types yet every morning I am called by someone else’s name. It isn’t a isolated incident, even clients would do it. When you can’t tell the difference between a few black women but have no problem identifying the 30+ other white ones on the team, there’s a issue. (side note:I read an article about the other race effect” that kind of explains why this is a thing. To sum it up, it basically says that if you spend most of your time with only people of your own race, you’ll have issues identifying people from other cultures/ those who do not look like you. It’s a cool read if you have a second.)

Stop denying your privilege. 

When you go to a salon to get your hair done, you can almost guarantee that everyone in the salon is knowledgable in regards to your hair type. If you go to a makeup artist, you don’t worry about that person having the right shade of foundation. These are both privileges. When people hear the word privilege, they get on the defensive. I’ve had to work for everything I own! Nothing was ever handed to me! Privilege doesn’t always have to pertain to wealth. Having constant and multifaceted representation of your race in society and media is privilege. Being apart of the dominant group is a privilege. There’s no reason to feel guilt when these points are brought up because honestly, we all benefit from privilege in some way. But how can we level the playing field if there is a denial of it being tilted towards one groups advantage?? (Franchesca Ramsey talks about privilege a lot better than me on MTV’s Decoded.)

Some microaggressions are so subtle that neither parties may realize what is going on. The stranger who asked me if my hair was real (and was shocked when I told her yes) probably didn’t think anything of asking such a question, but I am left feeling as if I am abnormal. I have a feeling if I was another race, I wouldn’t of been asked that.

Have you found yourself on the receiving end of a microaggression? Let’s chat.

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You’re Right Where You’re Suppose To Be.

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This week I did something I haven’t done in seven months. I went running! Well to be really real, it was actually a walk-jog. I got injured a couple of months ago and I’ve been too scared to put my all into running again in fear of re-injuring myself. This post isn’t really about that (mini) success but rather how barren it was outside.

Everything in the park was dead and I didn’t see another person for miles. I think I counted maybe three people in total while I was out there. The last time I went running along this trail was late July-early August of last year; before the trees fell bare and the grass tinged a straw-like yellow. The desolate vibe I was getting from my surroundings made me think of a quote I saw floating around on Tumblr. I’m not sure of the exact wording but it’s along the lines of: Be patient with yourself. Nothing in nature blooms all year long, so do not expect yourself to do so either.

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It was a much needed reminder to be easy with myself that I feel I should pass along to my readers. Periods of dormancy is so necessary. Sometimes we get so caught up with life that we forget to take care of ourselves. We forget that we don’t have to do it all. We forget that nothing blooms all year round and we don’t have to either. In a couple of weeks, everything will be green and the tulips and dandelions will be back (hopefully the love bugs wont get the memo). Stop living in the past and don’t worry about the future too much. Take care of yourself until it’s time for you to bloom again.

When you’re feeling stagnant, do you beat yourself up?

(hint: you shouldn’t)

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Curb Those Unhealthy Social Media Habits

We’ve all been there, scrolling through our social media feeds and seeing posts from a friend whose life looks like a complete fairy tale. A feeling of awe may fall over you, maybe even a mild sense of jealousy. Meanwhile, you’re still not entirely sure what path you want to take. Or maybe you just started following your dreams and you’re in the ugly phase. Repeat after me: no one has it all together. Now lets breathe a sigh of relief that you aren’t alone.

Sometimes it’s really easy to see the things that other people are doing and compare our progress to theirs. The problem with that is these posts are just a peep into someones life; a perfectly curated peep that isn’t the whole story. I know this, but I still find myself feeling a tinge of “man I wish I was as ____ as this person.” Or my all time favorite, “look at what this person is doing. I need to get my life together!”

It’s ok to use those posts as motivation but once you start comparing your life to theirs, you already lost. (I was tempted to insert that .gif of Dj Khaled saying “congratulations, you played yourself,” but I’m trying to be serious right now. Ha.)

Instead here’s some tips that helped me when I was struggling with those feelings:

  • Resist the urge to check your feeds first thing in the morning.

I find that starting my day writing about what would make it great and what I’m grateful for sets the tone for the rest day. It also gives me a chance to take note of the progress towards my goals. There’s no feeling like knowing you are on the right track.

  • Feel more content with your life.

Weird feelings can take over once you get a peek into someone else’s life. The best way to combat that is finding solace in your own life. Learn something new. Sign up for that one hobby you were always wanted to try. (I’m trying ceramics) Spend some time with people who allow you to feel comfortable in your skin. Focus on all the great things you have going for you!

  • Give yourself a break.

We are our harshest critics. I vented to a friend because I was feeling down based on one aspect of my life. It took that friend reminding me of all the other great things I’ve done/am doing for me to be like hold up, I’m tripping.

Do you spend a lot of time on social media? Have you ever found yourself comparing your life to someone else’s?

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When’s The Last Time You Did Something That Made You Happy?

A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through the explore page on instagram when a post caught my attention. I can’t recall who posted it, but it was a graph with two sides for list making; a sort of compare and contrast kinda deal. For list one, you’re suppose to make a list of things that makes you happy. For list two, you’re suppose to make a list of things you do everyday. While I was making this list and comparing the sides, I realized often time I get “caught up” in work, life and family issues that I hardly leave time to do something I enjoy.

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I have a bad habit of laying around on my days off, doing menial chores and mentally preparing myself for the next time I have to work. Today I broke that habit and instead did something I loved! The botanical garden is one of my favorite places here in the city, but I always make excuses on why I never go. It’s too far (not true) I need someone to enjoy it with.(not true) It’s too cold.(and for once, that isn’t true)

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I don’t think I’ve ever walked the entire garden, it’s over 79 acres! But whenever I go, I make sure to visit the Linnean house and the Climatron. The Linnean house is home to mostly cacti, citrus trees and other frost sensitive plants during winter. Honestly though, the real party is at the Climatron.

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The Climatron is pretty much a dome shaped tropical paradise inside the garden. There’s three water falls, wildlife (shout out to the frog that I thought was a funny shaped leaf. It scared the crap out of me) and pretty much every tropical plant you can think of. There’s also a cute section of exotic fruit trees (stuff like papaya, star fruit and passion fruit) information about their origin and how they make it to grocery stores across the country, but I couldn’t get a good picture of any of that because it’s always so crowded in that section.

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Maybe it’s the humidity or the splashing waterfalls but there’s something very peaceful about the climatron and I’m always reminded when I visit. There was an older couple taking pictures by one of the water falls and it was so cute to see the woman fuss on whether or not her companion was getting her good side.
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Due to time constraints, I know it’s not always feasible to do something grand like visiting your favorite place, but it’s so important to make time to do something for yourself. This week I plan on:

  • noticing the beauty in the small moments.
  • concentrating on the things I can control.
  • spending intentional time with loved ones.

Take a moment and really think. What are some things that make you happy? Do you make time for those things?

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