Sunday, July 12, 2020

"Say Thank You Say I'm Sorry" -- Jericho Brown, Alfre Woodard

"Say Thank You Say I'm Sorry" poem by Jericho Brown (Pulitzer Prize for poetry) recited by the indomitable and stellar Alfre Woodard.


 #COVID-19 and #Coronavirus exposure #essentialworkers

Sunday, May 24, 2020

To Bitch or Not to Bitch: Whole Foods Under COVID-19

Shopping by motorized cart is something I've never done, and I still have never done it. I'm only sitting in one at the moment, watching the bright blue sky and people go in and out the Whole Foods in Metairie, Louisiana. Cars cruise down Veterans Memorial Boulevard in the distance, and for the first time in my life, I'm pecking out a blog post on my cellphone. 

Black, 60 years old, and female, I live in New Orleans, but sometimes I shop at the Whole Foods in Metairie instead of the one in Orleans Parish on Broad. I am recovering from illness -- but not COVID-19. For half a week, I was on a clear liquid diet, then a mushy one. 

Finally, a few days ago, I returned to solid food, so this Saturday, I decided to rise early, shed my pajamas for street clothes, don my mask, and leave the house like a healthy person. I thought I'd take advantage of early morning shopping for seniors at the Whole Foods, something else I've never done. I figured I'd be done with that errand by 8:00 a.m. at the latest. 

Despite having to get a jump yesterday the first time I tried to run an errand, I thought my Saturday plans would progress smoothly. I'd driven the day before to Lakeview Grocery and back after the AARP contractor started my car. Never would I have guessed that at 8:00 a.m.Saturday, I'd be in my driveway waiting for a jump again instead of loading groceries in my car. 

I never thought that by 9:53 am Saturday, I would be sitting outside the Metairie store without so much as a pint of blueberries, edgy, and staring at the parking lot, but life is life. It doesn't care about my plans. Now an unplanned car repair bill loomed.

After my virtual doctor visit two weeks earlier and fighting a fever, I had jello, apple juice, boullion cubes, hard candy, and ginger ale delivered once via InstaCart the first week, and one meal delivered via Waitr 10 days later. Using those services was a first for me. 

I felt even guiltier thinking about that delivery now than I had when I saw how much using InstaCart costs. Its mark-up's a bit much, but I had no choice. I didn't want to ask friends and family to leave home and pick up groceries for me. I'd feel horrible if someone doing me a favor caught the virus while buying my chicken broth.

Having a meal delivered by Waitr hurt my wallet, too, but I felt less guilty about that expense. The Korma with chicken and rice from Nirvana Indian Kitchen was worth it. Maybe eating bland food for more than a week heightened the meal's flavor. After I finishing half of it, I justified the price completely and plugged the restaurant on Twitter.


At least I wasn't charged for the virtual doctor visit. Thank God for health insurance, but there's more to being sick than doctor bills and feeling like hell. How stupid of me to ignore the voice of my father, dead since 2012, advising me to just go out and rev my Toyota's engine every four or five days. That choice costs me unless it was just the battery's time to die.

I had to accept that my car definitely needed work when it didn't start Saturday morning, and I had to get an AARP jump again. So, my first full day out since my illness became all about the Corolla and navigating around the obstacles of missing services. 

After Sam's Club informed me that it was not installing batteries during the pandemic, I tried the dealership. The service department said it was on a skeleton crew and could not get my car back until Tuesday. I considered taking the car in anyway, but getting a ride from Lyft or having Enterprise pick me up once I got to the dealer would be iffy. I didn't even know which transportation was available. I also called three other car repair shops. No answer. 

Instead of driving off to pick up a few items at Whole Foods, hit the bank, pick up mail, and shop at the second grocery store on my list, I drove my old Corolla to Firestone across from Whole Foods, hoped they were open and could do the work. They could, but due to Coronavirus precautions, seating at Firestone had been removed, which is how I ended up walking across Veterans Memorial Blvd. in the midmorning sun to Whole Foods not to shop but to find a place to sit down.

As I entered the store, I observed masked shoppers with their carts meandering from produce to flowers and soap to prepackaged food. A few people braved shopping unmasked, but store employees were PPE-ready. Wearing a variety of plain and designer masks, clerks quickly checked out customers.

I noted as well cafe chairs lining the store's front wall. Some were neatly stacked. Most were tied together. Not a good sign, but no way could I wander around the store indefinitely reading labels and being tempted by bake goods. I really shouldn't be on my feet for too long. Shopping my grocery list was also not happening. How would I get the bags back to my car?

I would have to ask to sit down, a minuscule request, I thought. Maybe they would let me wait quietly in a corner. I am an Amazon Prime member, after all, and as soon as my car was ready, I'd return with my grocery list.

I walked to the prepared foods section. Two women worked behind the counter of the temporarily closed cafe near the empty hot bar. Glancing at yet another line of tied chairs and spotting one off by itself, I explained my situation to the first woman who looked up. 

“Ma’am, we’re closed,” she said then hesitated.

With faces half covered these days, it's all about the eyes. Maybe mine relayed fatigue.

“But - - if it’s only for a few minutes to catch your breath," she said, "then okay.”

Grateful, I sat down, knowing I'd need more than a few minutes chair time. Shortly afterward, I left, heading to guest services, pausing only for a moment to look at the rotisserie chickens, an item on my list. I hoped a manager would hear my plight and decide it was better to let me sit and wait for more than a few minutes rather than seem insensitive. My hopes were soon dashed.

A young black woman listened to me at the guest services desk.

“I have a grocery list," I said, gesturing to my phone. "My original plan was to shop here first early this morning, but my car battery died and . . . ," I continued explaining my predicament, and then went for the ask, “May I sit until Firestone calls? It should be about an hour before they call about my car.”

Uncertainty in her eyes, she told me to wait and walked away to get a supervisor. I watched her in conversation with a thin, clean-shaven young, black man. He soon came over and apologized, stating Whole Foods policy about customers sitting during Coronavirus, I guess.

“But we’re not allowed to let anyone sit down, ma'am.”

I imagined their staff meeting on the store floor, envisioning a stern-faced, probably more mature manager pounding into employees, "Under no circumstances are you to allow anybody--I don't care how old or how long they've been a customer--to sit down anywhere in this store. Hear me?"

In unison, "Yes, Mr./Ms. Somebody."

"Now, wipe down those chairs and tie them up!"

Back to my reality I, nodded weakly at the young man. "Okay," I said, trying not to panic behind my mask and struggling to hide distress and irritation in my tone. My right ankle was already throbbing.

"I understand," I said, "but this is pretty crazy.”

Turning away, I remembered seeing a gray-haired woman earlier rolling past me in a motorized shopping cart. As I headed to the exit, I thought, I'll get in one of those and tour the store, but I couldn’t see myself riding aimlessly around Whole Foods for long. When I stepping outside onto the portico, I looked up at the whirling ceiling fans then over at the baskets. Three motorized carts sat idle right next to the door. They called to me, "Come. Sit. Rest that ankle and weary behind."

Ahhhh, I thought as I planted my wide hips in the first cart's comfortable seat and scanned my new environment for potential problems. I thought about reading from Poetry:  A Survivor's Guide by Mark Yakich, the book I'd tossed in my crossbody bag before I left the house. I unlocked my cellphone instead and settled down.
Fortunately, the Louisiana heat is not as hot as it could be this morning. Things could be worse. I viewed the store’s parking lot crowed with SUV's, BMW's, and assorted compacts. I took in the well-tended greenery and trees Whole Foods had planted. Not a bad fate for a Saturday morning given the first half of May. So, here I am, sitting and pecking out these words.

I am not outraged at Whole Foods' inflexibility, merely a tad peeved. I tell myself that some skirmishes are not worth the short time I have left on this planet. Who has the energy to fight illness and argue with giants at the same time?

Now and then the Whole Foods employees sanitizing the shopping carts glance at me. Now and then I glance back. Masked shopper after shopper enters the store. Others exit, holding paper bags of luxuries to their bosom. They cross the shaded portico into sunlight and onward to their vehicles.

Whole Foods delivery staff push out over-laden carts of bagged and thermally protected foods on their way to people hooked on Whole Foods or who refuse to pay InstaCart's mark up.

As I write, I stretch my neck and peep around warily at times. I probably look like one more baffled old woman. What if the manager comes out and sees I've figured how to defy store policy and sit anyway?
Someone goes by with an Amazon box. Its logo, the half-dimpled smile, passes me like "Hey, lady. Jokes on you." 

An Amazon Prime membership plus special privileges for seniors can only get one so far in the age of COVID-19 even at the Whole Foods.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

British Woman Foretells America's Future?


In February 2017, a woman from Great Britain visiting  Kentucky may have predicted a dark future ahead for the United States of America, Shot of Bourbon reports. But does it really take a psychic to figure that out. Can't an ordinary academic philosopher or history professor give the same warnings?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sanitize your hand sanitizer?

The coronavirus can last on surfaces, including cardboard, for up to 72 hours, a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine says.

So, you’re at the pharmacy where you may have touched items an infected person touched. When you get to your car, you whip out your little bottle of hand sanitizer. If whatever you touched was indeed contaminated, then the virus may now be on your hands.

If it’s on your hands, then you probably transferred it to your little bottle of hand sanitizer when you took it out of wherever to kill the virus. Do you also sanitize your little bottle of hand sanitizer after you sanitize your hands?

If you don’t disinfect your bottle of hand sanitizer, you’re carrying around a contaminated item, so . . .

#crazy-making

Thursday, March 19, 2020

7 Tips to help you kick coronavirus stress to the curb

Yes, you can feel happier despite Covid19. Humans can hold dueling thoughts in their heads and survive. For instance, we have the ability to compartmentalization, and that’s not always a negative.

As one psychologist says, "Compartmentalization is not about being in denial; it’s about putting things where they belong and not letting them get in the way of the rest of your life."

Neuroscientists say there is increasingly more evidence that what we think and do shapes us well after childhood, but we must take steps to change our brains ourselves. Practicing a positive mindset can even boosts our immunity.

Here are some tips that I need to remember. Maybe they will help you, too.


1.     Play music that makes you want to dance. Uptown Funk and some old school R&B jams still get me going, Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Funkadelic, Marvin Gaye, etc. Maybe some disco or some Elton John, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, too. This doesn't mean there aren't plenty of more recent songs out there to get you on your feet. 

2.     Fake out your brain by smiling. No, this not the, "Oh you're a pretty young lady, so smile more" patriarchal advice. This is science. Smiling can trick your brain:

o   "A smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression,” says Dr. [Isha] Gupta. “Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.”

o   And there's more: "“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. [Murray] Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

3.     Strike a power pose or victory, as illustrated in the photo with an image of 1970s Wonder Woman Lynda Carter and Amy Cuddy, chief promoter of “psych yourself out” poses on TedTalks. You can fool your body and mind into feeling better daily.

4.     Practice mindfulness also known as meditation. I like the guided meditations at UCLA Health. People who meditate tend to have a more positive mindset, and they are less likely to have as much cortical thinning, according psychologist Rick Hanson. Evidence indicates that people who meditate lose fewer brain cells than those who do not meditate. Also, cortical thinning, while part of the aging process, is linked to a lowering of IQ. The last thing you need in a crisis is a loss of IQ points.

5.     Avoid dwelling on negatives, meaning clear your head of resentments and regrets. Hanson says the practice of controlling where you put your attention is called “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Try replacing dwelling on your trials and tribulation with gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal may be useful. Hanson asserts that we can “use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better.” Read Hanson’s tips about how we can “take in the good” here.

6.      Look for ways to help others, which prevents you from dwelling too much on yourself. Here’s the science, “The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others.”

7.     Finally, take a good look at what you’re eating regularly. See this article: “Changing Your Diet Can Help Tamp Down Depression, Boost Your Mood

Saturday, March 14, 2020

"I don't care about your white feelings. I care about you."

Credit Honey Yanibel Manaya Cruz at Unsplash.com
The headline of this blog post comes directly from "The Confrontation" episode of Invisibilia, one of the many podcasts I subscribe to. You can listen to the show yourself. I've embedded the episode in this post.

As I listened to the episode, I recalled my 15-year-old self and wondered whether I would have survived the intense summer program for teens the show profiles. During two of my teen years at a predominantly white, exclusive and all-girls boarding school, I stayed pretty angry about both innocent and intentional slights resulting from baked-in racism. And I was not silent. Some girls started referring to me as "the little militant." Some clothed in wealth and whiteness called me "obnoxious." I spent a lot of my time meditating on that word, obnoxious.

Back then and earlier, I still wore my heart on my sleeve about everything. My mother, aunts, and grandmother counseled me often that I needed a thicker skin. But when it came to racist acts, their advice was more difficult to parse. I was as good as any white girl, they assured me and wanted me to stand up for myself -- yes -- up to a point, a very fine, complex point that I had trouble locating when angered. They also had an arsenal of rhetoric and stances they hoped I'd adopt.

From well-meaning white people, I often heard, "Don't take it personally," when they knew some other white person had been offensive. But in a country that assured me the color of my racial category is the most significant part of my identity, how could I not take racist behavior and remarks personally at age 7, 13, 16, and beyond.

Inoculation against the rage racism provokes takes years to cultivate. Decades may pass before you don't flinch. You struggle and grow until you believe in your bones, "It's not me, it's them. It's not me, it's their mindset, their system," and keep moving forward.

When dealing with individuals, however, my mother had one saying that's kept me from acting on anger. I apply these words to racist behavior and rhetoric consistently: "That person is very limited" in understanding, in scope, in vision, in intellectual potential and in empathy. So, if you see me observing someone acting ugly, know that's what I'm thinking in that moment.

Do Words Matter Anymore?

I'm not sure a program like the Boston program discussed in the episode would have worked for teens in the mid-70s. I think we would have "spoken our truth," fooled ourselves into believing we could change the world, and remained silent beyond the safe space of camp. Or maybe I only feel that way now because the world seems to be backpedaling and it feels like wisdom is losing.

We didn't have have words such as microagression in the 70s for behaviors stemmed in white supremacy. The word racist was not thrown around as much then as it is now. Critical race theory was not a codified, academic discipline in the 70s. The "race problem" was whittled down to the need for black esteem slogans, "Say it loud, 'I'm Black and I'm proud" or "Black is beautiful, so buy this hair spray for your afro." Far fewer people dissected institutionalized racism the way people do now and there was no Internet to transport their analysis virally.

I remember people calling the meaner and sometimes well-meaning white people simply "prejudiced" as though racism was a character flaw. "Miss So-and-So is so prejudiced!" What a weak word to describe behaviors, attitudes, policies, and laws that harm millions of people. But does greater accuracy in corrective rhetoric make any difference? The current divisions in this nation say, "No."

In the podcast episode, much is made of black people telling the truth and only the truth to white people, but the question arises, What good does telling your truth do if the people who need to hear it leave the room?


Invisibilia describes its episode "The Confrontation" this way:
Welcome to what is possibly the most tense and uncomfortable summer program in America! The Boston-based program aims to teach the next generation the real truth about race, and may provide some ideas for the rest of us about the right way to confront someone to their face. | To learn more about this episode, subscribe to our newsletter. Click here to learn more about NPR sponsors.
I would say more but you can listen for yourself.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Rouses Supermarket became a coronavirus madhouse this evening


This evening, I saw a guy at Rouses Supermarket in the Metairie, Louisiana. He had three items in his cart: A 12 pack of toilet paper, a case of beer, and a large cake. 

An older woman in the next line told him, "I see you have your priorities straight." 

The scene reminded me of a Katrina news story in which the only treasures two guys were trying to save was their bourbon. 

In Rouses, I remained calm despite the frenetic energy ricocheting through the checkout lines that snaked beyond the checkout area into aisles. No keeping six feet from a fellow there. The bread shelves were nearly empty except for the less popular breads such as Pumpernickel and odd packs of buns. Surprisingly, the store had toilet paper, but probably not for long. Of course, they were out of Lysol spray and the soap supply appeared to be dwindling as well.

Target at Clearview Shopping Center had far fewer people. I guess word has spread that their food shelves are nearly empty. One lone loaf of smashed white bread in the bread aisle remained. No soups in the soup aisle, just broths. I didn't bother going downstairs because I'd also dropped by Target on my lunch break yesterday. Even the nail files were gone along with alcohol, Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, and so on.

Lakeview Grocery on Harrison Avenue in New Orleans, part of the Roberts chain, only had a few loaves of raisin bread but two selves of Wonder Bread left in the sliced bread section. A woman passed by and said, "Everywhere I go, I see Wonder. People are like (she frowned), "Well, Wonder will have to do."

The sense of coronavirus panic gets to you after a while. A quiet paranoia takes over. At work, I went to wash out a cup and brought my purse, keys, and phone with me, thinking that something could wrong. Perhaps I would return to my office, a secure area, and my badge wouldn't work. I wanted to be able to leave the building and get home if I were locked out of my area. The last time I felt that nervous was after having to complete three active shooter trainings in less than four months.

I hope all this anxiety rolling off shoppers and compulsive hoarding turns out to be excess preparation. The best thing would be that social distancing and hand washing causes the corona virus scare to fizzle. Sure, people will be angry, feel stupid, and probably blame the media for over-informing us sensationalizing our circumstance, but the alternative would be worse. All the warnings could be warranted, and we could be woefully under-prepared for disastrous event.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

6 links to help you sort 6 year olds being arrested in Florida

I haven't posted at this blog in quite a while, but I had to make it public again. Hearing about 6-year-olds being arrested at school or dragged off to mental health wards without their parents' consent gives me pause.

Some of the comments made about these Florida cases and the treatment of black children gives me pause even longer. So, all I'm going to do here is provide six links, a kind of reading list for those who think arresting a 6 year old whose having a tantrum at school is normal and appropriate.

If you really care about this topic, and if you really want to understand . . . I mean if you're not just playing games and speaking out the opposite of your mouth, then please read the following.

An earlier news story on a similar issue in Florida:
1. "6 year old committed to mental health facility without mother's consent"
A more recent article about a different 6 year old in Florida:
2. "6-year-old arrested by Florida cop tearfully asks for second chance in body cam footage"

If you think this issue is unrelated to racial justice, ask yourself when was the last time you heard about a 6 year old white child being arrested for throwing a tantrum? And no, the answer is definitely not white children don't throw tantrums at school.
3. "Black students bear uneven brunt of discipline"

For those who seem driven to attempt justifying the treatment of these children with false equivalencies, I ask, "And why are you comparing your 14-year-old nephew's arrest to a 6-year old's arrest?" And how would you feel if someone committed your child or grandchild to a mental institution without your  consent? Please read up on the adultification of black girls.
4. "Study -- black girls viewed as less innocent than white girls."
5. "Study -- black kids seen as less innocent than white kids"
6. "Yes, pre-school teachers really do treat black children and white children differently"

The Internet would be a better space if people would read more before speaking.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Starbucks while Black incident and the Lie to Me show

The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA.
Would you like a less academic way to learn about unconscious and conscious racial bias? Were you puzzled by the Philadelphia police commissioner's stance or why some black people appear to have little empathy for other black people's struggle with racism?

I'm thinking now of Commissioner Richard Ross, who is black. He could have been more thoughtful with his comment regarding the Starbucks incident. As it is, he said, his officers "did absolutely nothing wrong,” and that the men who were arrested, Nelson and Robinson, were disrespectful to officers. (Related: Choked for Challenging) I'm sure some see his stance as simply his job, his duty to stand up for his men. 

But what about tone? What about acknowledging that six police officers for two men is a bit much. Ross has since apologized for his handling of the issue.

Of course, I and others wonder about the Starbucks manager who called the police. Her 911 call was brief, and she did not mention the ethnicity of the men. But what's her background, what was her logic, and what will Starbucks do with her?

In any event, if you can find this old episode of Lie to Me, I recommend you watch it. The show's available in Netflix's library, I believe. The episode is about a black fireman who shows disgust for a murdered black fireman who had spoken up about racism in his firehouse. And after you watch it, think about taking the bias test at Project Implicit.

Lagniappe: Remember in 2015 when Starbucks tried to "start a conversation about race" in its shops with its "Race Together" campaign? People hated them for it.