Life Lesson in a Hot Tub!

So, here we were, the token ‘blacks’ on a budget vacationing at an exclusive Marriott resort, knowing good and well we couldn’t afford the beach towels wrapped around us, much less the high-priced suites or high-end amenities, but here we came just the same, tipping over to the hot tub, hoping not to make a splash!

There were only a few people around the pool area and only one older couple in the Jacuzzi.

“I’ll give them 5 minutes to make up an excuse to leave” I whispered to my husband as we came near.

I pulled my carefully pressed and dyed blonde hair up into a knot so it wouldn’t get wet.

“You’re so wrong for that.”

“Okay, one minute.”

We dropped our towels and stepped in.

The wife said something to her husband and climbed out. It hadn’t even been ten seconds!

Aha! I looked at my husband.

Then a woman and her teen-aged daughter came around on the other side of him and stepped into the water. About the same time about four or five children come—seemingly out of nowhere and practically dive bombed in, including one little girl, about six years old, dark hair, clear blue eyes, slender arms and legs.

Fearless.

She looked right at me as she stepped into the churning, frothy, water and sidled closer. I looked at my husband.

“She likes you” he said.

I looked back at her and smiled. “Hi!”

“Hi!” She said and scooted closer. She kept looking at me, inspecting my face, my hair. “I caught a fish.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, a yellow tail tropical fish, I caught him in my hands like this” she cupped her hands together and held them out towards me.

“Oh wow. You weren’t scared he might bite you or something?” the little girl cut her eyes at me as if I was dumb.

“He was a little bitty yellow fish. Like, this big” she held her forefinger and thumb together so that there would be just space enough for a tic-tac.

“Oh, well, I guess nothing scary about that, huh?”

She gave me that look again.

“So, what did you do with him?”

She shrugged. “I let him go.”

“Oh.”

A slim, dark-haired woman holding a chubby baby wearing only a sun hat and a diaper began calling names like a drill sergeant and the little girl obediently splashed out of her seat beside me along with all of the other children who had so unceremoniously barreled in. As quickly as they came, they were gone, ordered, with precision, by Sergeant Mom. The adults who were left in the pool were awe-struck.

“I think she has 8”

“8 kids?”

“Yeah.”

“You mean all of those kids are hers?”

“Oh my gosh!”

“Wow!”

“That’s amazing!”

“That’s crazy!”

“How does she do it?”

“She seems to have a system.”

“Yeah, look at them, they’re all together.”

“Can you imagine trying to keep up with 8 kids at the beach?”

“Lord, I’d probably never leave the house.”

“I know! I’d lose one for sure!”

And so the conversation went with the older couple—oh, yeah, the wife came back, perhaps she went to the bathroom?—the lady with her daughter, who happens to be just a few years older than our daughter, and us, the only black people at the exclusive Marriott resort. We continued in the conversation, without any weirdness, awkward moments or ridiculous questions.

We marveled at the fearlessness of the mother and the ordiliness of her children, we talked about our own children and our parental triumphs and shortcomings. We laughed and chatted about all the little nothings that people chat about with acquaintances that you meet by the pool when you’re on vacation.

The water got a little too warm so we got out, wrapped ourselves in the over-priced towels and bid our resort mates adieu.  As we walked back to our room I, of course, chastised my husband  for making assumptions about others based on such simple differences as skin color or social class. He had almost let pettiness ruin a perfect vacation! ; )

Oops

Why Trump is Not “unprecedented”

The word ironic can mean coincidence or unexpected. The MLK holiday comes in the same week as the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. I would say that’s ironic because it’s a coincidence.

Eight years ago it was Barack Obama.  I would say that was ironic because it was unexpected.  Yet, it was also fitting because it apparently fulfilled the famous dream.  To the amazement of all who had very present memories of racial injustices, segregation and inequality, the first African American president raised his right hand and pledged to “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States…to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” No one missed the poignancy of this ascension to the highest office in the land, this audacity to set up residence in a house built by slaves. It made that inaugural day truly inaugural, both historic and unprecedented…

obamabidenThere’s another word for us wordies to think about, unprecedented.  It has become the buzzword for this current political season as businessman, reality show star, leader of the “birther” movement and Obama nemesis, Donald Trump set his sights on that highest office. (Of course, we remember that he misspelled the word in one of his infamous Twitter posts—“unpresidented”—perhaps he was attempting a pun?)  But, is Trump’s ascendance to that position more astonishing than Obama’s?  What made Obama so “different” was mostly his skin color. People criticized his lack of political experience, but he was president of the Harvard Law Review and senator for four years. He had, at least, been working in the political field.  Trump, on the other hand is “different” because his experience has been in corporate rather than national politics. Yet, this lack of experience was “trumped” by his wealth, race and gender. Being a wealthy white man opens doors that no amount of intelligence or experience can touch.

Let’s face it. If you’re black, poor, or female you have to prove yourself worthy of respect. If you’re white, rich and male you don’t have to prove anything.

Ironic? Not really. Unprecedented? Definitely, no. It’s the way of the world.

So, while many of us called Trump’s meteoric rise shocking, we have merely forgotten where we are. Those very present realities (not just memories) of racial unrest and inequality never went away. The fact that we had an African American president merely soothed us with the appearance of change. But the reality is we never entered that post-racial era that optimists heralded in 2008. Race is as much a divisive presence as it ever was in the past. Thus, with the rise of Donald Trump we merely see the resurgence of what was always there, white power “taking back” what it never lost. There’s the irony.  The real irony is that all the while that we clapped and cheered the rise of Obama, we were merely hailing a dream that is still deferred.

“…with the rise of Donald Trump we merely see the resurgence of what was always there, white power ‘taking back’ what it never lost. There’s the irony.”

This year, in the wake of the 2016 social and political unrest, the MLK holiday leaves me melancholy. The hope and change that I had hoped for hasn’t come and the future seems frighteningly uncertain with the mercurial man who stands next to lead.

Nonetheless, this image reminds me that the path forward must be paved in love.mlk5I am reminded that this is why we honor Martin Luther King every year, because his words are timeless, his vision unhindered by current circumstances, nor by the winds of change–good or bad.  Whether the dream is alive and well or withering like a raisin in the sun, we must keep hope alive! That’s no irony, just straight talk.

Happy MLK Day!

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