Month: March 2010

2010 Census, the Negro, and the Chicano

So, this week the Census forms came in the mail.  I did not open mine, of course, since I have don’t even have time to open my mail until I am forced to find my kitchen table again, but evidently Sophia opened hers and was angered by the race choices she found on this form that was, indeed, created for the year 2010.

As soon as I arrived at work the day after the Census delivery, Sophia explained that on the section where she was to check race, she found that one of the choices [the one she would usually check] was listed as, and this is one choice as if these terms were analogous, mind you:  Black, African-American, or Negro. And, why yes, you did read that correctly:  Negro.  Sophia wondered if it was just her, or did this term sort of go out in the 40’s or 50’s?  I replied, that, well, yes, I thought it did.  I even wondered aloud why the first category did not read, White, Caucasian, or Cracker. Seriously, it does not even read ‘Caucasian,’ just ‘white.’  We had to laugh, but only at the absurdity of the situation.  So, I did a quick google search of this issue and found that, not surprisingly, Sophie was not the first to find this choice offensive.  Many people are questioning this choice of language, by the amount of hits I got from this query [more than 16,000].

What does the Census have to say about including this random and archaic race term on the current form?  Well, they say that in the year 2000, more than 50,000 respondents voluntarily wrote in Negro as a race identifier.  I personally, find this difficult to believe, but stranger things have happened.  Maybe these people were cued by the word listed as one of the race choices, maybe these people were really, really old.  The Census also contends that there is a test embedded in the form this year that will determine how they will classify race on future forms, but just how this test works is not shared on their website and even an inkling of how it might work escapes me.

Some people, including me, question why race is even a factor for the census– why in 2010 we need to sort people into categories by the color of their skin.  Many Americans today are of mixed race, including our President.  I wonder which box or boxes he will check, and if he, like Sophie, will be offended by having to identify himself with a term with such derogatory connotations that harken back to Jim Crow and slavery.

Note that race and ethnicity are separate entities, however, on this form they sort of blend into one confusing phenomenon where race is sort of interchangeable with ancestry and ethnicity.  Another interesting observation that can be made if you study the race/ethnicity choices on the form is that the Census seems to offer a lot of separate choices as it corresponds to you being non-white but not black and less interested in differentiation if you are white or black. For example, you will find the choices:  Hispanic, Latino, Spanish, Chicano [where do Chicanos come from, anyway?], American Indian, Alaska Native, Japanese, Filipino, Samoan, Chinese, Native Hawaiian, among others etc…, however you will not find categories like Finn, Celtic, Swede, German, Bantu, Tutsi, Ugandan. Another weird omission is any categories for Middle Eastern or Arab peoples.  Now we have been profiling the hell out of these folks since 911 from the airports to people just paddling around trying to help out after Katrina and you would think that the folks from the US Census would be wanting to know where these people live, but in fact, there is no box for them to check.. they could write it in or accept what the US Census has determined– that Arab is not a race.. they are Caucasian.  This seems to tick off some Arab and middle eastern folks too according to some blogs I have perused since beginning to dig into this subject.

Sophia said reading the word ‘negro’ made her so angry she did not want to finish filling out the form and put it down.  So, if you’re offended by this form or you just don’t want to share your race because you don’t think the US Government needs to know it, can you just omit this question or not fill out the form?  Well, no, because this is a crime.  In fact, you could be fined or imprisoned for up to one year for this.  So, I encouraged Sophia to write her race in.

There is so much about this form that is strange and ridiculous that it could keep bloggers in material until the next Census.  Like why did the US government pay ungodly amounts of money to print and mail me a form that told me that I was going to get a form in another week?  And, why don’t they want to know what my education level and income is?  Pretty much, regardless of my race, if I am born today in America to a poor family who does not value education, that is where I will stay. So, I would like to see us identify women and children living in poverty in this country and spend some money trying to find out why immigrants can come to this country with nothing and very often rise with relative ease in social status, but we continue to have populations so marginalized that they are seemingly ‘stuck’ in their socio-economic status generation after generation.

Recycle

I am finally back to blog after five blissful days of spending time with Bean.

Today, students released early so that teachers could have staff development time.  Usually, this is a colossal bore, but today myself and a few other select teachers got to go on an EC field trip, which was right up my alley.  We went first to visit the local MRF or Materials Reuse Facility, I think that is what the R stands for, but it might be Materials Recycling Facility.  Basically, it is a giant warehouse filled with discarded materials [looks mostly like mountains of trash].  Employees of this facility use conveyor belts and machines to sort, compact, and bundle recyclable materials like plastic, glass, cardboard, aluminum, and steel.  Many of the people employed have been in our program or personally taught by me at the local high school.  This center provides a very needed recycling program for our community and provides jobs for many people who have developmental disabilities.  It is a win-win situation that will grow and expand in the coming years.  It was very exciting to see these young adults collecting recycling from the cars and vans that pulled in to deliver it, sorting by hand and using conveyor belt sorting systems, and moving mountains of materials around using forklifts and front loaders.  Those mountains of trash– empty plastic laundry detergent jugs, milk jugs, 2 liter soda bottles, cans, boxes–  were an incredible sight piled up like colorful and chaotic mountains offering a real visual on how much space we can save in landfills if we just recycle anything and everything we can.  I currently recycle some things, but I do so inconsistently by bringing bags of paper, cardboard, and plastic to school for the recycling team to sort and cart away.  Seeing how easy it is now in our community to recycle– we don’t even have to sort anything; they do it for us– made me vow to call today to get a blue cart to collect in at home.  My trash service will pick up the recyclables for me and take them to the MRF center every other week.  How simple and wonderful is that?

Our next visit was to the Vocational Rehab Facility on the boulevard where people who need vocational rehab can work at jobs like sorting paper for the recycling center, packaging, and small assembly tasks.  As soon as we walked onto the workroom floor, I saw a former student, Jeffrey, who ran away from his station to hug me.  I continued to receive hug after hug from former students who were working at this facility.  One talked to me about how he sorts paper by whether it has color printed on it or how heavy it is.  One explained how he was using a small sharp tool to stick into an assembly piece from a local manufacturing plant to make sure the holes were viable so that these parts could be used.  We heard a lecture on how funding has been drastically cut at the state and federal levels, but especially the state level for funding that provides opportunities and jobs for persons with developmental disabilities, mental disabilities, or who require vocational rehabilitation.  It makes me angry that this population is seen as so marginal that their funding can be so easily snatched away and that more people, including myself, are not so outraged that they are doing something about it.

Our next stop was to an adult day program on Main Street for adults with moderate to severe developmental disabilities.  Here I ran into two former students.  Matthew jumped up from his chair and ran around the tables to give me a giant hug.  I did not think he was going to let me go.  Garrick is a student who I had not seen in years and years.  He was one of my first and most special students.  He is now 31 years old.  I looked at him and he did a double take.  He said simply in his gentle robotic fashion, “Kim Whitman,” and then he put out his palm and said, “scratch hand.”  I asked him who the 15th President of the United States was, and he answered correctly James Buchanan; he then told me as I asked for each one that the 23rd was Benjamin Harrison, the 33rd was Harry S. Truman, and the 39th was Jimmy Carter. I asked which number Barrack Obama was and he answered, “number 44.”   This student knew this in high school, but I always got a thrill from quizzing him on presidents, world capitals and random geographical facts and historical dates.  As a young adult with Autism, he could remember teachers license plate numbers, and state all of these random facts, but could not tell you the sum total of a dime, a quarter, a nickel, and two pennies.  No matter who they are or how long ago I have taught them, they always remember me.  No matter if my hair is a different color, or I am wearing sunglasses, or it has been 12 years since they have seen me.  They remember and they are happy to see me.

Finally, we visited a local group home which was clean and tidy.  It had six neat and personally decorated bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living area with a large flat screen television, a long communal dining table, and a kitchen sporting charts that listed who was on which kitchen or domestic duty for each day of the week.  Person County Group Homes are exceptional.  They a Godsend for the people who live in them and for the families who love and support these adults.  It is so important for adults with developmental disabilities to be able to grow up and leave home and lead as independent adult lives as possible.  They blossom and thrive in settings where they share daily domestic tasks with other adults and enjoy social and community involvement outside of their family of origin.

After this awesome field trip, I headed to Tricia’s Coffee Shop for a coffee ice cap where I ran into one of my foster children with his social worker.  Now, I am about to head out into this beautiful, warm evening for a walk/run.

Thursday.. and in 2.5 hours it will be Friday :)

Today was an exhausting day, but a good day.  I got to sleep slightly later and then had a good coffee and chocolate almond biscotti on the way to Burlington for my large team meeting with ESUCP.  This was our last time as a large group since the restructure begins on Monday, so I was grateful to get to see all my old friends, coworkers, teammates.  It was a productive day and I won several prizes and received a ‘goodie bag.’  I also got to get some things off my chest that I definitely needed to get off, and that went well.  Today was rainy, but still warm and the drive was pretty. The ponds are very full and the Haw River was racing over the rocks.  I would like to go for a hike down at the historic Glencoe Mill site sometime.  It is so beautiful in that area and it is right on the Haw River.

Alex left for Wilmington today, and the house is quiet tonight and still.  Had dinner with Jason, Jenn, and Cam tonight at their house– tortellini and salad.  Home now watching a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy and tomorrow is Friday and a date one at that.  I found joy today in:

hope, communication, water, sky, music, friends, work, anticipation..

Wednesday… God this week is going slowly

I woke up and got a shower on time.  I wore a nice shade of blue that I don’t usually wear.  Holly’s birthday and she liked her gifts.  Extend 1– two down, three to go.  Alex went to his appointment and we had a nice chat on the way.  I discovered something new about Bean– he has written poetry!  In college, a long time ago, but I find this intriguing and wonderful.

Tuesday [it’s only Tuesday?]

Joys of the day so far:

♣.  I slept well last night [but I did not want to get out of the bed this morning or leave my dream].

☀ A cinnamon crunch bagel this morning for breakfast.  I brought 2 of them to school and put them in the oven on broil, one for me and one for Sophie.  Then, I got sidetracked removing that awful nearly black fingernail polish until I saw smoke coming from the back right burner 😦  Anyhow, I ran home quickly and got two more bagels since I had purchased 6 last night at Panera, went back to school, and tried again.  I did not burn them the second time 🙂

❋ Funny, funny children… I love them.  At one point this morning I stopped teaching and told my students that I was not going to teach while I had students milling around the classroom like they were at a cocktail party [Coe, Melinda, and Tiger had been walking about while I was talking about the USDA Food Pyramid].

Later on this morning [a conversation between me and our resident redhead who is funnier than Lucy]:

Melinda:  Look at this, Mrs. Whitman, look at this, look at this [as she shoved her version of the USDA food pyramid into my face].

Me:  Why do you have to say everything three times, Melinda?

Melinda:  Because I’m at a cocktail party.

Gotta love her 🙂

♡ Thinking of Bean and sending him a text and getting one back that said he needed that… well, I guess that’s why he had been on my mind 😉

♤ I made it through kettebell class with energy to spare.  I did not have any moments of feeling like I might lose consciousness, my push ups were harder but I did them anyhow, and the routine as a whole was easier.

♡ Two more texts from Bean… he sent me hearts.  I needed them, and they made my day.

And now, I am about to go and meet Cam and Jason for supper.

Monday

I am tired tonight, so listing things that I found joy in today will be a challenge.  However, that is the challenge I set up for the week, so…

On this second Monday in March I am grateful for:

  • a warm sunny day and the promise of spring
  • watching a film of the CSI ‘bunny murder’ case featuring my funniest student
  • my students, as always, making me laugh and love what I do
  • Panera Bread french onion soup & chicken salad on semolina
  • the piano and sax jazz playing in Panera while I ate my dinner
  • books:  I am still reading and loving– A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and two new ones:  one memoir and one on relationships [since I am perpetually confounded]
  • the smell of books and coffee in Barnes & Noble
  • a clean house
  • a cooperative child [for one day;)]

..and I am off to bed to read.

Joy

It is Sunday, and the weekend is almost over, but I want to begin a blog on the positive.  Cameron always wants us to tell the best part of our day and the worst part of our day when we sit down to eat, but I just want to focus on gratitude and things that give me joy.  There is simply too much complaining and bitching and moaning in the world [in fact I am living with so much negative energy right now] that I often feel like I need to counter it by being more positive.  I could focus on all the problems I have… which would fill several pages at least and might even be book length, but that would bring me and everyone else down.  So this week, I plan to blog each day on the things in that day that bring me joy!  If I need to complain, at least it will be countered by gratitude.

Joy #1:  Today, the first moment of joy I experienced was at the altar rail.  I am on the other side of it because I am a lay eucharistic minister and at that moment I was bearing the chalice for those coming to receive communion.  Sometimes I get lost in thought and sometimes I am just transfixed by the motions and the words of the sacrament, but this morning I looked at the rail and there were six boys kneeling on the gospel side of the rail.  All had their heads bowed and all but one had their arms crossed [indicating they intended to receive a blessing as opposed to communion] except for one, the oldest and largest who is about 16 years, who was receiving the Eucharist.  After they left the rail, they followed Christy and her husband [the parents of two of the boys] back to the pews and each followed suit in kneeling and bowing or leaning their heads over the pew in front of them.  I guess it was seeing all these boys and young men in church with their family taking up nearly three whole rows and watching the visiting boys mimicking what the others were doing that made me smile.

Joy #2:  A quote in the bulletin:  Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death. I had also heard in the lyrics to a song that morning…”praying to a God I don’t believe in..”  Sometimes I have so much doubt and wonder who I am praying to, so this quote offers an interesting prescription.  Oh, and here is the video of the song which includes the lyrics I refer to, not because it has much to do with this entry, but because it is a cool song.

Joy #3:  Later, my daughter-in-law, Jennifer and I went to the nail salon.  I was having a gel fill and she was having a pedicure.  Having my nails done is a very relaxing experience.  I get to experience a stillness that I don’t usually allow myself to very often since I am always running here and there or thinking of the next task I need to complete.  So, when I have my nails done, it is almost like church in that I am quiet and still and I stay put for about an hour.   My hands are in someone else’s hands and I have to allow them to go fairly limp so that she can turn and manipulate the nail as she fills, and files, and paints.  There is the steady hum of a small fan embedded in the table, the warmth from the extension lamp overhead, and the gentle, lilting, cadence of Vietnamese with its decidedly musical qualities.  I always feel like I could curl up and take a nap, I am so relaxed when I leave the nail salon.

I had my nails painted Midnight in Moscow.  Which, unless you have been in Moscow at Midnight, you probably will not be able to picture as a color.  Let me tell you that this color is most likely quite similar to midnight in a number of other locales.  It looked like a rich eggplant or velvety dark brown in the bottle, but on my nails it looks, well, kind of gothic.  I am not sure how many days I can live with it, but it is different and a departure for me.

Joy #4:  A beautiful sunny day at the park.  I went to meet Jason and his family at the park where they had organized a pick up game of kickball.  They had invited some people from their church, and then had picked up a few more folks who happened to be watching them.  When I arrived, I saw a couple of my students and invited them to join.  We had people from age 4 to well, I guess, I was the oldest out there at 46, and only a couple of the players were any good at all [with quite of few of us being not only ignorant of the rules but blatantly bad].  I have been working on getting up a kickball team, but after today I am rethinking this.  We had fun, but I am not a very good player.  I am not sure why, knowing I have never been an athlete, I am trying to be one now.  I pulled my leg right away sprinting to first base and had to push through with a slight limp the rest of the time.  Now, you might be thinking, this activity does not sound like a joy, but it is… because it was sunny, and 60 and I am able to run and play with my family.. so it’s all good.  But, like I said, I am rethinking this whole kickball league thing.  The jury might be out until this muscle in the front of my left thigh recovers.

Joy #5:  Tonight is the Academy Awards Show, so I am looking forward to that!!!  I love award shows… I love seeing what the women wear– who looks fabulous and who looks, well, less than fabulous. Shana and I often talk on the phone during award shows discussing these celebrities like we know them and making funny observations.  I love seeing which films were chosen in each category, because I simply love movies.  I see a lot of movies– in the theater and on DVD.  I have always wanted to have an Oscar night party and if I had a large room and a big screen TV, I certainly would, because I know lots of other people who love to watch award shows too and it would be a great reason to get together and enjoy some great food and drink.

Now, I feel I should make my predictions for the major categories, so here goes:

Best Actor in a leading role:  I am pulling for Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, which, strangely enough I haven’t even seen.  I have heard his performance is incredible, and I like him.  Also, I don’t think George Clooney deserves it for Up in the Air… I don’t even know how he got nominated for this one other than this is a tough category to come up with the goods.  I wish I had seen some of the other nominees in their respective movies, because I love Colin Firth and Morgan Freeman and I will frankly be happy if either wins.

Best Actress in a leading role:  So, you know this is between Meryl and Sandra.  Sandra outdid herself in The Blindside and had me believing she was a very southern Republican with a big heart, but Meryl became Julia and gave me a whole new appreciation for this zealous and enthusiastic chef.  In fact, Julia, became one of my new heros and her marriage in this movie is the vibrant marriage I aspire to if I ever get married again.  I will have a man who simply adores me, or I will have none at all.  So, I am going with:  Meryl Streep.  I won’t be disappointed, though, if they give the gold man to Sandra Bullock.  Gabourey Sidibe outdid herself in Precious, but she is too young and we don’t know what else she can do.  I did not see Helen Mirren in The Last Stallion, although, I do love her, and aspire to look like her in my next few decades. Also, The Last Stallion sounds like something I want to see.

Actress in a Supporting Role:  Monique.  She made us hate her so much we wanted to kick her ass and we felt sorry for her at the same time.  And, she’s a comedian– go figure.  She made such a big splash that all the other contenders were jettisoned out of the pool.

Actor in a Supporting Role:  I only saw one of these films, so I am going to have to go with Christoph Waltz from Inglorious Basterds since he clearly nailed it in his performance as a chilling Nazi narcissist.

The last one I will weigh in on is best picture.  There are 10, count ’em, 10 nominees in this category this year– which seems a bit much to me.  Avatar won at the Golden Globes, which is often a predicting factor… but honestly, I don’t think Avatar is best picture material.  Sorry, James Cameron, Titanic was, Avatar isn’t.  Not to say it won’t win, because it could… I will simply be disappointed if it does.  I only saw six of the 10 films nominated, so I am at a serious disadvantage in picking a winner, but The Blindside did thrill and inspire me and Inglorious Basterds was impressive.  I am not sure either of those should win, however.  IB has a better chance than The Blindside, as I am not sure America is ready for a best picture win where Tim McGraw is a principal ‘actor.’  Up was the finest of animated pictures I have seen in many years, but not an overall BP category winner.  Up and Away was not as weighty as you would expect a film in this category to be, so I am going with the stunning and emotion-wrenching Precious and I will be so happy to see Tyler Perry get some recognition for who he is and what he does given where he came from.

And so, I am off to make a pork roast, which with any luck might turn out to be joy #6 😉