Heather L. Barmore
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Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Monday
    Dec082014

    Sick and Tired 

    “I can never have a son”, I told a friend recently.

    “Why not?”

    “He’ll be black…”

    “Well, chances are that if you do have a son he will be black…but I understand what you are saying”

    This conversation was minutes after the grand jury non-indictment of Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. It was a sentiment stated in the heat of the moment only to be exacerbated by the events surrounding the another non-indictment in the death of Eric Garner.

    Now, more than ever, I have contemplated what it would mean for me to have a boy, a son. All hypothetical, of course, but the fear remains very real. I would have to have The Conversation with him. I would have to tell him to be extra careful with his movements even in front of those who have sworn to protect and serve him. I have to tell him of a history that I thought was just that; in the past. Any parent is terrified when their child walks out the front door but it’s heightened for parents who have sons of color. How do I explain all of what has happened in the many years - decades - prior to his birth? I am a thoughtful, deliberate person, often wary of my actions; how do I explain to my son - my beautiful boy - that people will often be suspicious of his simply for the color of this skin?

    ***

    Growing up I was not black enough for the black kids. I "talked white”. I wasn’t “really black’. I was referred to as an “Oreo”. I laughed it all off and tried to make myself different, you know? I wanted for them to like me afterall. I had to be ‘more’ black as if there is such a thing. As such, I never spoke about race, specifically, my race, because if others didn’t think that I was black enough then what could I possibly say? It took me a decade or so but it seems that I have a lot to say about race and why we, as a whole, are so reluctant to discuss what is often the elephant in the room.

    I wound up writing two posts in the wake of Ferguson but nothing in response to Eric Garner. Not because I don’t care but because there comes a point when your heart becomes heavy. That heaviness permeates, leaving you exhausted and unable to write anything coherent. It would just be anger and ranting and wondering if this pervasive racism and violence towards protestors is going to be our new normal. I’m just sad. And that sadness has left me silent.

    Anyway…here are the posts I have been reading (ok, two were written by yours truly) and thinking about over the last two weeks:

    What white people need to know, and do, after Ferguson


    Being a cop showed me just how racist and violent the police are. There’s only one fix.


    Why Don’t My White Friends Talk About Race? Here’s What They Told Me


    #CrimingWhileWhite is exactly what’s wrong with white privilege


    Status update: Dear white people, it’s OK to talk about Ferguson. Isn’t it on your mind?

     

    Wednesday
    Nov052014

    About Last Night

    United States Senate in legos via Mashable

    In the wee hours of November 4, 2004 after being almost certain of John Kerry’s loss in his presidential bid against George W. Bush, I returned to my hotel room and threw would could only be described as a temper tantrum. I, a freshly 21 year old girl, full of idealism and naiveté, could not comprehend that the American people would re-elect a man who had spent the year prior lying to the public about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I was distraught and with tears in my eyes I mumbled at the television and slammed drawers and doors. 2004 was not only my first presidential campaign in which I had worked but also my first time casting a vote. and been eligible to vote. My first time voting had brought on the end of the world. My first loss in politics wasn’t just about a politician but a campaign in which I had put my all. I was devastated and convinced of irreparable harm to the United States. How would the country come back from such a mistake?

    Fast forward a decade to last night after the announcement that Mitch McConnell had not only been re-elected to the Senate but would also become the new Majority Leader. I mean, sure it was sad*, but I wasn’t excepting locusts and for the earth to swallow me whole. Ten years later a loss in politics is at once gutting and a learning experience. A conclusion I have come to not only after working in this business for a decade but also a huge personal accomplishment as I have never been one to take bad news in stride. My party - the one I have not only loved but worked for -  lost and instead of throwing myself on the floor, I realize that A) This happens literally every two years, B) Change in leadership can be a good thing and C) The world will not actually end.

    Sips wine.

    Don’t get me wrong; I am unhappy and spent the afternoon giving attitude to the poor employees of the Coach outlet at Woodbury Commons. I AM SORRY. I know that I cannot become so engrossed in my anger that I find politics pointless. I cannot become apathetic and I hope that others feel the same. I remain fearful that after this election people will care even less than they did before. There will be the inevitable questions as to whether or not participation is really necessary. The answer is yes. The answer is always yes. The anger that my fellow Democrats are feeling should fuel the fire not douse any hope there is for the future of this country. Instead of questioning democracy as a whole question your part. Question why 2/3 of Americans decided not to vote, a fact which is even more upsetting than Harry Reid’s demotion. In the years between the 2012 and 2014 elections the airwaves have been full of the news of people around the world - Syria, Egypt - dying for democracy. Yet in America 2/3 of the population cannot be bothered to take 12 minutes out of their day to vote.


    I am angry but I am hopeful. I look a the smiling faces of Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus and John Boehner, I read the words of the Republicans in my timeline, taunting me and full of smug. The left needs to be livid. When you lose an election you don’t mope and cower, which is why President Obama walked out today with his head held high. The losing party is tasked with figuring out what happened in the days prior and find which buttons to push in the ensuing two years. The next two years which are going to be…they will be an experience that anyone reading this has lived through in their lives. We’ve all managed to survive. What I want to know is how the leadership of the Democratic party will use this devastating loss to get our act together. You don’t lose and walk away. You lose, take that fire in your belly - I know you feel it too -  and fight back.

    Elections sometimes suck. Someone has to lose. No one on the other side cares that we’re pissed off because, guess what? THEY WON. It’s what we - the collective we -  do with that all consuming rage that will force the other side to pause and pay attention. On the day after the 2008 election I said that we hoped and then we changed. Today I will say that we lost and got angry then used that anger for the better.

    *An hour later I heard that Tim Bishop had lost. That one hurt.

    Saturday
    Nov012014

    Confessions of a Seemingly Confident Woman 

    Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

    "Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable." ~Wendy Wasserstein

    Hi. My name is Heather and I only play confident on the Internet.


    Or so I thought. I didn’t even find myself all that good at it until a friend (male, bearded, cute) informed me of my apparent sexiness. Even writing that out makes me shudder because I am nothing if not dorky with gray hair and a need for retinol infused face cream. Anyway, said male told me that it was my confidence that makes me sexy. In fact, he did this thing that many adults are wont to do where he noted that a woman isn’t just her looks but the entire package. Such as a woman who will take charge and become positively talkative when it comes to political advocacy. I grinned and he noted my smile. The smile I once hated because my cheeks overwhelm the rest of my face. There is no subtlety in my smile but it takes up the entire upper half of my body. I thought I had shrugged off the whole exchange and it had been long forgotten until I was reminded by yet another friend that I don’t seem to be the shy, quiet type that I claim to be. And yet…I am.

    The truth is that I have become excellent at being faux-confident. I am good at swiping on some lip gloss and putting on a front, a cover which started out of necessity and eventually became habit. It doesn’t matter why but it does matter how I have maintained my ability to smile even when the anxiety is creeping up from my stomach to my throat. I have a tendency to walk in and make a beeline to those with whom I need to have a conversation. I have a firm grip when I shake hands but if I know you, you will receive a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Years of working the room in politics have turned me into a woman who knows that to be at the only young, black, woman at a table I need to turn the confidence - the damn straight I deserve to be here with a grin - up to 11.

    My strong, feminist, progressive sensibilities should be offended by the things I have written: having a male reinforce the idea of confidence being sexy or that, at times, to be take seriously in politics, a female might need to stand up straight and walk in as if she owns the joint. I smile. A lot. Only because I quickly learned that others are making note of my demeanor and if I don’t seem OK then I will be inquired about. Nothing ramps up my anxiety like the feeling of being talked about. I want for others to know that it’s entirely possible - sometimes necessary - to throw your head back in laughter while feeling all torn up inside. A concept that has only taken me three decades to grasp.

    Tomorrow I am going to see three young girls, the daughters of my dear friends. These girls LOVE me and there have been moments when they are upset small people because they didn’t get to spend time with me. Even though these aren’t my children, I feel a responsibility there, just as I feel the responsibility not to swear or snark because it’s not just the adults watching me but children as well. I do worry about what others think. Another lesson over the last three decades: it often takes confidence not to do things just for myself but for others in my life who are watching me and, at times, take note of my behavior. t isn’t just about me. Other people can see me and take note. Despite being a disaster inside and feeling the need to hide myself away. I am a woman who excels at exuding confidence - even in the most difficult times.

    And that makes me hold my head up just a little bit higher.

    ***

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