Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What's Wrong With Your Girl? A Guest Post

                              Photo is not the location of the incident.

I've previously shared here about the experiences of racism and bigotry that I endured as a kid when my parents and I lived in a small Midwestern town back in the 1970's. 

Aside from that era my life, (well, except for that time I had a Russian boyfriend and his family made it clear that having an American friend was just fine, but a woman who was both Black and American was most definitely not good enough to marry. But I digress.) I had not experienced obvious racism as an adult.

That changed last week. Although at the time, I didn't actually know it was happening.  Below, is a guest post from my husband, aka MickGee

My Black wife, our son and I (White guy) were traveling east on the 299 Fwy heading inland from the coast. After about 2 hours on winding mountain roads, we arrived at a small town 2/3 of the way to our destination. My beautiful bride and our 11-year-old son needed to stop and use the bathroom. We looked for a gas station. The two of them wanted one with a food mart so they could get some snacks as well.

I pulled into the small gas station and watched my family walk away from the car toward the bathrooms on the other side of the parking lot. I stood at the rear of the car and waited. Just as they walked out of sight a woman who was sitting on the curb in front of the store, near where I parked our car, yelled something at me.

It sounded like, “Hey, what’s wrong with your girl?!”
Since I wasn’t exactly sure what she said, I responded with, “What?”

I was in luck as the woman spoke again repeating her statement and then offered more. She said,
“What’s wrong with your GIRL, she said ‘F@#k that white woman!’ and then your BOY looked right at me”.

I was shocked and stunned… however only for a moment. My mind now began to race in the seconds I had to analyze the situation, I wondered a number of things; is this woman sitting here in front of this store just here to start S^&t or was this the first part of a scam with the store owners? Were some guys parked in one of the trucks around the corner or across the parking lot about to drive up and threaten me or worse?

I thought, does this woman distract me while someone runs up and slams my wife and kid? Could it be she is so completely racist that the moment she sees a black person she can’t help but start the assault first with words and then try and draw you into some escalated conflict?

I quickly scanned the parking lot and did a 360 assessment of our surroundings to be sure we were not in any serious danger. That is when the rusted white and muddy Ford pick-up rolled up between me and my wife and son blocking the front door to the store. Next, I watched the driver enter the store only to be followed seconds later by my wife and son.

I didn’t want my wife to fear that anything was wrong and I didn’t want to escalate things so I smiled at my family as the two of them entered the store.  I then responded to the woman,
“You must be talking about someone else,” I said
Then after a brief pause, I added, “Sounds like you are making stuff up.”

This time the woman didn’t respond. However, in the minutes that passed, I noticed she did seem to know everyone who came and went at the gas station and they seemed to know her.  
I started counting to 30. This was all the time I was going to allow my family to be alone in the store. I was ready to go in after them if I saw one more ‘Local’ go in the store. 

Full disclosure, I had warned my wife just before she had left the car, “Let me know if anyone gives you any trouble.” I said this because I grew up in an area like the one we were in and had that sense of the ‘attitude’ of the environment.  

So I held my breath and tightened my stomach (and my ass) as I prepared for some kind of hit-n-run confrontation. I was ready to launch an assault against whoever was trying to accost my family. In case we had to make a mad dash for the car and the open road.

Lucky for all of us after the two most valuable people in my world came from the store, walked past the woman sitting on the curb out front,  and returned to the car, I asked my wife if the woman sitting on the curb had said anything to them. She said, “No… why?”

I lied saying, “No reason” not wanting to expose my son to this drama and not wanting my wife to freak out.   
It was in that moment that it struck me. I was the one being shown racism and prejudice here. In a microsecond of time, I was getting the smallest sliver of what it is like to be a person of color in most parts of America today. I felt like the whole world (or at least town) was out to get me. Like I was isolated and vulnerable. It was terrifying. Like I was going to have to fight for my life and those I loved at a moment’s notice for no other reason than because of who I was or who I was with.

Now I am not going to pretend that I experienced racism like a black person does. But for one small instant, my understanding expanded well beyond what it had been just moments before this racist white piece of S%^t tried unsuccessfully to traumatize my family.

It is because of that helpless terrifying feeling that I can now share this. There was one other series of thoughts that went through my mind. Okay, maybe 2. The first was a response I might have said if I wanted to be ‘that guy’ with an attitude.
When the white racist lady asked ‘what’s wrong with your girl?’ I wanted to respond with “You know what? Absolutely nothing, that’s what I love about her.” Just to piss her off and throw her off guard.  

I also had this response rolling around in the part of my brain or manhood that wanted to saywhile shoving my face 2 inches in front of her face so she could feel the heat of my anger and murderous hate,
“You F%^king sack of S&*t! You say one more thing about my family and I will chain you to this cement pillar and burn you and this f#$king store to the ground. Say something else. See what happens Mother F@#ker! I guarantee they will be THE LAST WORDS YOU EVER SPEAK!!!”
Or something along those lines.

But because I know that every man has his limits and as big as I am I can’t fight everyone in town at once. So with that in mind, my family and I then calmly got into the car and got the hell out of Hicksville.

#BlackLivesMatter2Me #EndRacismNOW!   

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison

                        America is a Prison Nation. Plain and Simple.
                                           -Jan Smitowicz

I had the pleasure of first meeting Jan a while back at a vegan potluck hosted by a friend of mine.  We struck up a stimulating conversation about social justice issues that eventually led to him mentioning his time in prison.  And being the nosy curious girl that I am, I asked what landed him there.
Without hesitation, he told me. And now, over two years later, that complete story unfolds in Jan’s memoir Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison.

His story reads like a fast-paced novel as he enters into the Illinois prison system, serving time(after being arrested following an illegal search and seizure) for transporting a quarter of a million dollars worth of medical grade marijuana across the country.

Jan’s writing style is over the top raw and vulnerable, not to mention unsettling at times, with shall we say colorful language throughout. 

But, that didn’t keep me from laughing out loud often in response to his brilliantly sarcastic wit.
Throughout this great work, we are treated to an in-depth education on the sheer magnitude of the US prison system. Although, as a white man, Jan is fully understanding of his relative advantage in comparison to the plight of people of color due to mass incarceration.

As a vegan, Jan smashes the stereotype that those involved in the animal rights movement care nothing about the suffering of human beings. His passion for seeing all animals free of oppression has not blocked his tremendous empathy for all.

His circle of compassion is wide and his heart is immense.

To write a memoir at such a young age, may seem odd to some. But, I believe had he waited until an ‘acceptable’ age to begin, it would take several books to contain the many adventures I suspect are still to come. 

I cannot stress it strongly enough.  Get your hands on Rebel Hell. It’s one of the most compelling works I’ve read in a long time.  

To connect with Jan and to purchase his books directly, check out his website.