I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them



I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them

Yogi Bhajan

Welcome


You found my blog and as I am experimenting with the weird and wonderful world of cyber publishing, let me explain what
a gunna is: it's a word for all things desirable, something that makes us happy and warm and comforts us when we feel tired or sad or lonely. a gunna is the best gadget in the world! it was leah s first word for all things she wanted. Or you might also know it as: dummy, schnulli, pacifier binky, schnuller...... and so on. So this is for my beautiful




GUNNAGIRLS

Friday, March 25, 2011

Something to think about while we are on the subject:

Why is it important for a so called healthy racial identity to identify with your "black" heritage rather than with the other parts of your genetic cocktail, i.e. asian, chilean, german, whatever?
Isn't it strange that most people would consider a german/african child with light brown skin calling herself white a case for a therapist,whereas we would consider it healthy if she would call herself black?

Hope to get answers from you, Precious, Cynde, anyone?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Black Man in The White House - Something the world can be proud of?

I am amazed at all the different reactions I got  here on my blog, in personal emails or speaking to people about my feelings towards race labellling.

Thank you all for participating and offering opinions! At the same time I am a little frustrated with how my - adimittedly slightly long winded - point of view gets reduced to a reluctance  to call my children black because I have an issue with their race or skin color (???). I accept that most people still think in traditional categories of black and white and I do not automatically see it as an insult to my girls if someone refers to them as black - depending of course on the context.

But why is it so difficult to accept for some of you that I simply want to move forward and away from labels that have historically been used to suppress and humiliate people (or set "white" people apart as superior) and into a future where we see race and color as something as individual and natural as eye color or hair color. Something you can refer to when describing a person but not their foremost outstanding characteristic. 

I understand that centuries of dividing most of the human race into black or white  make it somewhat difficult to move away from those stereotypes - but why the reluctance to do so? Why not describe people as caramel color or dark brown or light brown or whatever applies to the individual? And my question again: Why automatically call a person with mixed heritage black? Only because this is the traditional definition of a not "purely white" person with "black" genes? And do we really want to carry on in this tradition? Or can we give our children the opportunity to be  freed from those stereotypes and simply see themselves as unique and a part of many different cultures and races? As one of you suggested: how about we simply say  "human race" when describing ourselves? (ok, maybe a bit too Rudolf Steiner ... but an alternative)

I want to ask you this again (everybody who feels it is important to be calling each other black and white): why this reluctance to let go of these labels and firstly describe somebody as a human being, man or woman instead of a black man or white woman?

Hey, and sometimes let's even see the funny side of us struggling along to be politically correct when it comes to race and color:  How about, when you need to point out the little boy with brown skin who is standing in line with 15 little pale swimmers in costumes and swim hats (as happened to my friend the other day), and the swimming teacher clearly struggling to come up with a suitable description...
After many a stuttering attempts (hair was out because of swim hats, no clothing items to describe by except for uniform swimming trunks) my friend finally rescued him by saying: Oh, you mean the little boy with brown skin.

Relief and Yes!

So here it is again: The reluctance to say the little black boy. Some of you might consider this a bad thing. I think it is a big step in the right direction. People start thinking before they label. So what if we come across as awkward and sometimes even make idiots of ourselves in the process? At least we are trying. Change is always more or less awkward and hardly ever easy.

The swimming teacher did not say the little black boy, thereby avoided labelling him or making assumptions about his racial identity. And it did not come naturally to him. So? In my  book this is a good sign. The whole awkwardness of the situation is simply our residual baggage from a long history of racism - which we need to overcome one way or another.

And I see it happening everywhere amongst children (of all colors) already: My friend's 14 year old daughter (who goes to a school in Germany with many children from different countries) told me what happened in her class the day after Obama was elected president:

Her teacher came into the classroom all happy and excited and made a little speech about how the world has changed for the better now that a Black Man was in The White House.  One of her classmates stood up and said: The world will really be changed for the better if nobody notices anymore that there is  a "black" man in the White House. (everybody cheered and clapped).

And no, I don't think her classmate meant for us to be color blind nor was he embarassed by or in denial about his own brown skin - he was simply fed up with people being labelled according to race stereotypes.

So yes, I will continue describing my beautiful girls of many different races (in fact they are: colored/xhosa/white) as the little girls with the  afro hairstyle or the dreadlocks or brown skin. But I will not put stereotypes in their heads about being black. If they want to identify one day with that part of their heritage and call themselves black - I will also happily accept that and support them. But I think it is important that I let them make that decision as they grow up and in the meantime tell them what I think about Black and White and Human.....................
....and the joy of simply being alive in our  bodies!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What's wrong with calling my children black?

Precious comments on my post about "the race issue"  that she does not understand the reluctance to "describe ourselves as black or white" as she sees it simply as a fact of life, pretty much like describing a person as a man or a woman. She also adds that many people who have written to her - adopted by families with a different ethnic background - feel that it is mainly the "white" community who shows a reluctance to call their "black" kids black and instead emphasises that color does not matter whereas they feel it does.  (If there were more cases of cross cultural adoption where the parents are "black" and the children "white" we might have a different perspective altogether but as it is we do not have the privilege of another side here).

I have been thinking about this over the past week and as much as I see her point and want to come around to it for the sake of my children ( if this is what it's going to come down to), I am still reluctant to call them black. . .

 And I admit: this reluctance is not only coming from an intellectual space, where I can make a good case against stereotyping and labelling. It is also an emotional issue. The one thing I know for sure is that it does not come from a place where I think it is "bad to be black" -

So why does it feel wrong to be calling my children black?

Partly it might have to do with my growing up in a country where we did not firstly distinguish people by their skin color - simply because there was no one but white people around - I naturally learned to refer to people by other characteristics and it does not come natural to me to say "white woman" or "black man". OK, I could rise to the challenge and relearn my cultural conditioning - if only it made sense to me...

 I don't see why we should continue with a terminology that has been invented and used in order to suppress and alienate people for centuries. Having said that, at least in the past there was no middle ground - you were either black (african) or white (caucasian). This has changed with cultural boundaries melting into each other and more and more children being born with multiple heritage. Isn't it strange that as soon as somebody has any obvious traits of African/black background they are automatically labelled black - even though their European or Asian or Other heritage might  be predominant. If those children were to identify with their "white" parent and call themselves white, people would look strangely at them as somebody who has a major cultural identity crisis (probably caused by a white parent in denial....).

Why is it more acceptable or some might even say "healthy" for a person of dual heritage (I read that this is the term used now in England) to be labelled black than it is for them to call themselves white?

Is it maybe because there is still a residual air of supremacy about the so called white race which we unwittingly support by continuing to define people - and mainly people who are not white - by their skin color? Is it because black really means any shade of non-white? And do only  people with two white parents and grandparents with no hint of "black" in their features qualify as white? My skin - white or not - crawls as I realise where this is going.

What I want for our  children, especially for those with dual or triple heritage, is to break free from being labelled at all and challenge this system of sometimes open sometimes subconscious judgement and stereotyping.

 I want to ask you this (Precious and whoever can answer me) : If you have a black and a white parent - as some of my children's friends do - why should you be forced to identify with one side over the other? What is so healthy about labelling a child black or white and thereby denying her to grow up into a future where this terminology might not make sense anymore thereby allowing them to simply be beautiful (my daughter recently referred to an African woman she had been talking to  as the "beautiful lady with the jewellery" - and yes, I was proud and happy that she can be part of a world where people are simply interesting and beauty comes before color....).

What I am trying to say is this: Being black is not as clear cut as being a woman  (or a man or being tall or short). Nobody can be tall or short at the same time or in their mid thirties and end thirties (except for you of course P :-))) - but many people - and there is going to be an ever growing number of them in our future - are not just black or white. To determine what their exact background is by just looking at a person will be more and more impossible. To call them black only because they are clearly not white is something that does not sit well with me - my cultural background and the connected fascist history might also play a part in my emotional stalling whenever I am forced to refer to somebody by the color of their skin.

And Precious, or anybody out there who is reading this with a fresh perspective: if you have a definition of black and white embracing all the shades in between (and NOT excluding my children) that we could go into the future with, I am open and willing to learn - but I desperately want to know why it is necessary for anybody to grow up with these labels. I see how they made sense 30 or 40 years ago where being black was still very much a disadvantage for your future and as you put it, you would have been better off if somebody had prepared you for this sad truth. But if there is only the slightest chance that this might not be the case for our children - I want to latch onto it and prepare them for a better world than the one we come from.


Maybe it is time we changed the world a little - even if it's only within the circle of our family and friends - and as I am writing this, somebody sends me a mailer, with the perfect end to this post ,thank you !

Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come (Victor Hugo)

What if the time has come and we continue to ignore it?
What will this make us in the eyes of our children 30 years from now? I would rather argue my point and possibly apologize for not having prepared them sufficiently for a world who mainly looks at them as black than to have to explain why I kept hanging on to an outdated notion of what defines us as human beings.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Two minute friends and The Party Of My Life

It's happened - I recently turned the corner into senior citizenship - having dreaded the event for the past 50 years or so.  And guess what? It was absolutely spectacular.  It felt like something suddenly popped open (apart from the wedding dress I tried to fit into - and  had to change for a newly acquired black stretchy number...) and I suddenly released my inner party queen.

But hang on a minute - this does not make any sense:   We are talking about a total birthday-phobic here. I don't do parties. Ever. In fact I hate them.  The term wallflower does not even begin to describe my overall approach to social gatherings. It's more wall-thistle with super-size thorns.

Whatever happened to my fight-or-flight-approach to birthdays, which over the past 15 years were either spent in blissful solitude (OK with hubby - but same difference :-))  somewhere on a beach without cell phone reception or I invited the mother hen of all crisis around for the occasion and spent it alone in my room sobbing hysterically over some minor dispute (also with afore mentioned hubby) torturing myself with mental images of old women in stretchy nylon dresses and with flaky pink lipstick smeared over thin bloodless lines previously known as lips whose only purpose remains in telling the story of a life full of disappointment and rejection. I could go on - but you get the picture.

As the dreaded day approached, I knew I could not do another year of this and I decided to go for broke: I invited people - dare I call them friends? - some of whom I have known for a long time and others for about 2 minutes (this is of course about you M). I rented houses on an idyllic beach, organised caterers, duvets, music, even the weather and generally kept myself busy panicking over party logistics which helped to bridge many moments of insanity leading up to the event. Naturally I was convinced, nobody would show up anyway and I would spend the day in mortified embarrassment sitting on mountains of food and drink and ending it with a screaming marital dispute possibly resulting in a nervous breakdown on my part.

Imagine my surprise when B-day kicked off on Thursday after my Nia class and I suddenly found myself in my living room surrounded by 15 sparkling women (plus 3 mildly bewildered but very helpful men serving us sushi and kir royale), most of them in sweaty floaty dance outfits, laughing, chatting, drinking, eating, generally having a   p a r t y .  Colorful cards with poetic, loving and funny messages were piling up on my birthday table and the most amazing gifts materialised out of nowhere.

As I looked around in wonder and disbelief I felt the strangest sensation running and bubbling through my body - sushi gone bad? champagne induced giddiness? it turned  out to be plain and simple happiness.

The party pretty much carried on for four days in the same spirit - everybody who had said they'd come arrived. And as the days slowly and quite dreamily melted into each other we all found ourselves caught inside a strange time bubble, where everything just seemed to happen outside the limitations of minutes and hours and days.

Time stretched and compressed itself according to everybody's natural time.

 Food appeared whenever we felt like eating, people seemed to literally float in and out of each others space (and without the aid of mind altering drugs I might add - well mostly) participating in all the fun things we had lined up and still finding moments to be relaxed, take in the scenery, spent time with our kids,  friends and even with new  people we hardly met before (rent a crowd does have its own merits :-)).

It all culminated in the most spectacular party being kicked off by a Nia/drumming event on the top deck of the party house, with the sea and setting sun as a back drop and a visit from 6 little fairies in pink frilly outfits. I had speeches (no, not me - still need another 50 years to work on that one!!), and hugs and kisses and cheers and in one sudden blinding and mind altering flash it all became clear to me:

This is the party Of My Life. A party that I could have started years ago, but which for reasons that might or might not become clear to me one day is only beginning now. At 50!  I look at the people around me and not only do I dare to call them friends - I love everyone of them. And they are all here because of ME, to celebrate ME and to be with ME (savouring an ego-manic moment here). As hard to believe as this is to a seasoned party-pooper - it became staggeringly obvious in the way we all dared to be ourselves and just let go of everything else for this one magic happy party night:  2 minute friends or life long companions - the looooove easily stretched - like my new party dress - and covered all the little flaws and kinks to make one big and cozy nest for us all.

(and the piece of art we all created for posterity is featured above...thanks as always my friend Brooke)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Please tick the correct box......

A couple of days ago  whilst filling out yet another form - this one for the Waldorf School in Kenilworth - as I am still hysterically ambivalent as to which education will utlitmately guarantee my two princesses life long happiness, self confidence and worldly success - I came across a curious dilemma:

Right after the box about my financial situation, they asked about the race of the applicant - it says and I quote here:

This information is required by the Department of Education in order to determine the extent to which equity and access are being addressed. It should be the parents and/or family’s own perception of their race and not the racial classification used in the past

 ...followed by a a variety of options to choose from : african/black (this one already gets my hackles up) colored (still getting worse) indian (pretending this is about nationality now, are we?) asian (or even continents??) white (yeah that's me: white with rage/disbelief/anger/) other (hoooorray, we are finally getting there)... so this must be the part where we are moving away from the racial classifications used in the past???

I stared at the boxes for some time:  my first instinct of course was to refuse to answer, the second, to throw the application in the bin, and then I got to number three, picked up the receiver and phoned up the school. The lady who answered me was clearly out of her depth here and not in any way prepared for my rather impertinent questions:

...sooooo (that's me thoughtful) if my child has brown skin and I am a so called white person can I tick the box white?

aehm, yeees (a little reluctant), that's up to the family to decide...

But won't you look at her picture and see that white she is not? (trying not to giggle here)

We are not allowed to determine the race of the child, that is up to the family (with a "and-you-are-getting-on my-nerves" edge to her voice).

--so, why do you ask this question at all, if a family gets to decide what they want to label they kids?( am like a pitbull with a bone aren't I?)

--We have to ask this question as it is a requirement of the department which is still partly funding the school (openly impatient now).



--Oh you mean, you need a certain number of black kids in the school?

(...silence)
(...silence)

--Diversity is the buzzword here (chirpy and upbeat all of a sudden - which made me wonder if an automatic recording system jumps into operation with the use of the B word :-))

--Ok, but help me out here:  I am from Germany, so I don't understand the terms and policies that apply here but: would you prefer me to tick the box next to black instead of white?? (companionable tone of voice, I am just a harmless ignorant alien...)

Yes, that would be appreciated, thank you!

Finally! Got you!

How hilariously idiotic is this? We need a certain number of "black" kids in the school, but are not allowed to tell them that as we want to overcome the racial classifications of the past? And the solution is to let parents to the stereotyping for us?

Well people, in the end I did not tick any box, as the envelope was already posted by my super efficient colleague and the decision was taken out of my hands. Let's see what will come of it. I am not discounting the school yet - will fill you in after our interview - If I ever get one.....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

what waits around the corner.....

our fashion queens fotographed by my dearest and nearest friend brooke www.wherethewildkidsare.com or http://www.brookeauchincloss.com/

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

If you ask me.....comments on Precious and Cynde's views

Well... admittedly nobody has asked me .... as I am not a celebrity (not yet anyway....). Just little old me with an Opinion (as always capital O).

And some MAJOR questions:

WHY do there only seem to be two options in bringing up a child who is different from me:

Either ignore, even deny the differences (i.e. skin color) and make  a total mess of the parenting job -

or

Emphasise it into enormous importance and ultimately  cave in to stereotypes and a terminology that is not even close to their reality and only serves to prolong the age old history of separation and fear of "the other". My kids are not black - neither by skin color (I still have to see a black or a white person walking this earth - OK, let's exclude the Powder guy here ) nor by race (they are a happy mix of many a race and culture).

And pleeeeese people believe me: I don't say this because I think it's a bad thing to be black, some of my finest clothes and handbags are black - or white for that matter. But people are not. I am not. My kids are not. I am a blond (well almost) blue eyed rather pale German person with two brown eyed black haired and dark skinned beauties in my family (and one almost no haired, green eyed monster - the best papa in the world!)

So WHY do I have to tell my children they are black and push them into a racial stereotype they don't belong in, when

1) it's totally obvious we look different and are open and  at ease with all the different reasons for these differences
2) it is not even a true description of either their skin color nor their cultural background.

I am not ignoring my children's cultural or racial inheritance when I tell them they are not black. I want them to rather look at who they are instead of hiding behind a stereotyped version of themselves.


WHY does skin color have to be equalled with race and/or culture? Isn't it time we face up to a new reality, where in fact skin color can not be easily referred to anymore by the more politically correct (?) cultural terms like for example AFRICAN AMERICAN...... a terminology that as far as I understand it still goes back to the dark ages of slavery - in order to determine where darker skinned people living in the US have their so called roots???

 I find it  absurd to refer to people as African American when I don't know anything about their true origins. Their families might have lived in America or Europe for many generations, they might have a distant great great grandfather in Jamaica or somewhere in Africa. Or not. I don't know. Can I call some people African Germans or Jamaican Americans? And why does it matter to determine the original culture of somebodies ancestors when referring to them?

I don't deny the fact that my children will have to learn how to deal with certain prejudices and stereotypes in this world in order to cope emotionally. I want to do my utmost best to prepare them for all the challenges they will be facing in the years to come. And will probably fail many times. Being aware of this I  know how important it is to offer them positive role models who they can identify with in terms of looks and background.

So yes Cynde and Precious, I am with you on this: It is vital for my children to have important people in their lives with dark skin (and more importantly the same HAIR as there is really no experience or help I have to offer in this department) and a similar family history as they are searching  for their identity. And this is why I spend so many hours trawling the Internet for outspoken, intelligent and independent women with controversial stories to tell, ( like Precious Williams and I hope to find others ) - some of whom we might even meet one day and learn from.