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 . . .


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
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.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

3Peat Presents: The Blackening - Uncensored: Hilarious

I finally found time to watch this Comedy Central video that my friends have been sharing on Facebook, 3Peat Presents: The Blackening - Uncensored. Brilliantly hilarious.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Moments you know you still grieve Prince

Listening to Prince this morning, my face flushed with anger. This is nothing new, my finding myself in a purple place of brooding, finding again that I am still pissed at Prince for letting himself die early. I'll look at a video of him or picture, hear his music, and then I'm whispering at him, "How dare you!"

Today, Prince the singer, musician, and arranger is on my mind. He was a huge Joni Mitchell fan. So am I. I adore his version of Joni's song "A Case of You." Rarely can I listen to it and move on to the next song in the cue. My finger often presses repeat.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Yes, Prince Harry is engaged to a black woman

Meghan Markle with her mother Doria Ragland at Ragland's
graduation from USC.
Those of you who live to quantify blackness may debate just how black the royally engaged Meghan Markle is later. Just know that she has never tried to hide that she is biracial.

Markle is the daughter of Tom Markle (an award-winning lighting designer who is white) and Doria Ragland (an African-American actress). Her parents divorced when she was a child. Once wedded to Prince Harry, she will be  the HRH Duchess of Sussex, says the UK's Telegraph.

On the show Suits in which she plays the paralegal Rachel Zane, New Orleans actor and the always black and living it Wendell Pierce plays her father, the powerful attorney, Robert Zane. So, even her fictional character acknowledges her blackness.

I preface the rest of this post with two statements: 1.) I am a fan of the TV show Suits on USA and have enjoyed Markle's performance on it; 2.) I have yet to care about one of Great Britain's royal weddings, including that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. I doubt I'll follow the activity around these nuptials either despite being happy for Meghan whose engagement to Prince Harry was announced this morning.

The main reason I'm writing about this royal engagement is to recall the last time the world was abuzz over a royal engagement, Kate Middleton's engagement to Prince William. During that period, Helena Andrews wrote an article published at The Root entitled "There Are No Black Kate Middletons, which annoyed me so much that I in turn wrote my, "Letter to a Young Black Woman: Don't Whine Over White Princesses." Welp. Everything must change.

I guess there won't be too much whining from women of color this time as the world goes royally crazed. Yet, I'm sure someone will find something to complain about before all is said and done. That's life in these Complicated States of America.

But the grumblings of commoners will matter little. The tabloids say Megan's parents are very happy.

Finally, this is not another Obamaesque situation. Prince Harry's union with Meghan Markle will not be the first time Great Britain's had added a little blackness to the royal line. Queen Charlotte was reportedly from a royal black Portuguese family and is considered Great Britain's first black queen, according to historians. However, a lot would have to happen for Meghan ever to become queen. Prince Harry is pretty far down the succession line.

Update, December 5: "The Meaning of Meghan Markle: Black and Royal, No Longer an Oxymoron in Britain," (NPR)