The Great Divide(r)

Recognizing microaggressions

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Are you on Twitter?

If so, put “grocery divider” in the search bar and take a scroll through the results.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. (But if you want to save keystrokes, click here.)

The thread appears to have begun here:

Recognizing microaggressions

It may have been a joke, but the 1,700 comments and 48,000 retweets, not to mention the 261,000 “favorites” show the staying power this idea has.

Although the thread has some laughs (this tweet is from 2011 but it seems appropriate for the “humor” part of my post) …:

Recognizing microaggressions

…it mostly has references to the idea that the use of a grocery divider (especially the rush to get the thing down as quickly as possible) is a microaggression.

Microaggression 101

I’m not qualified to give a microaggression primer, but here’s a bit of background.

Merriam Webster defines a microaggression this way:

a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)

There are some evocative examples here (chosen by me partially so I could give a shout out to my former employer, Fordham University!).

And Psychology Today breaks microaggressions down into three categories: microassaults (read more about those from Sailing Rough Waters), microinsults (more on those here, also from Sailing Rough Waters)  and microinvalidations (more on those in this Teen Vogue op-ed).

Why I Use The Grocery Divider

Perhaps I am speaking out of both sides of my mouth by saying what I am about to say. Maybe it’s hypocritical to argue that it’s silly for one Tweet to “stick” so deeply with so many people yet spend an entire blog post writing about it. But writing is how I sort things out (and try to encourage others to think critically), so here goes.

The use of a grocery divider on my part is just that … a lifelong habit grounded in an attempt to be courteous, informed by my high school experience as a grocery cashier and driven by the fact that I am ready to get out of the store. 

That’s it. End of story. Not intended to be a microaggression.

But I Can’t Stop Thinking About This and Neither Can Many Others

Here’s how things have gone since I first saw a tweet about The Great Divide(r):

First, I think about this every time I am at the store.

I had a conversation with a cashier about this at Publix the other day. This is how it went down:

Me to cashier — as I am putting the divider down (see “lifelong habit” above) even though there wasn’t anyone in line behind me — “I guess it was pretty silly to do that since no one is behind me.”

Cashier: No comment, neutral reaction.

Me: There’s all kinds of talk on Twitter about how ridiculous it is to put the grocery divider down.

Him: It’s just what people do to separate their groceries. No big deal.

(Cue angels singing. I am white, the cashier was black, context that I find important for this post.)

Second, isn’t it crazy how the grocery store is the microcosm that puts our behavior in perspective?

It’s insane (and possibly a sign that I could organize my life better) how much time I spend at Publix. I’m there multiple times per week.

(I imagine, somewhat related to these stories, that anyone who shops at Vineyard Publix would agree it’s an overly courteous place — shoppers and workers alike — we fall all over ourselves apologizing if we almost collide while turning into a new aisle. We are a collectively polite group for the most part. This includes the divider question.)

I was buying six shrimp at the seafood counter at Publix the other day and the associate jokingly said, “There’s a seven-shrimp minimum.” I told him that would be fine. He said, “I’ve only had one person in my entire time here be offended by that ‘minimum’ joke.” At the same time I said, “who could be offended by that?” I also said, “But years ago I had a sobbing breakdown in the cold cut section because of something another shopper said to me, so grocery stores really do bring out something emotional in us.”

Third, the divider is a practical matter.

Here’s an homage to the power of the stupid divider. At my former employer, we had an auditor require us to make our corporate credit card procedures more stringent. (There had been some overreach, a story that won’t get told here.)

When I was buying supplies for a business-related occasion while using my corporate American Express card, my daughter put a fountain drink she had gotten at the deli on the belt, and it was accidentally with the business items vs. our personal items.

When it was discovered that I had spent $1.75 (or whatever) on a personal soda, I had to repay the $1.75 (fair enough) but the card was also locked up in the CFO’s office and I had to check it out every time I traveled on business (which at the time occurred frequently). The only solace is that the same thing happened to one of our most senior leaders, because he accidentally paid for his Firehouse Subs lunch with this corporate card, which was located next to his personal card in his wallet. Side note: neither of us works there anymore.

Fourth, it isn’t just Twitter.

I found a blog that started off discussing Pet Peeves (not the grocery divider) that ended up in The Great Divide(r) land in the comments. One person said they wouldn’t put the divider down because they don’t work at the store (this “don’t work at the store” idea applied to at least one justification for leaving the cart in the parking lot instead of returning it too). And this may have been in the Twitter thread vs these comments, but there is also a “use self checkout if you have an issue with the divider” camp too. (I personally feel like self checkout is REALLY a way to do the store’s work for them, but that’s for a different day I guess.)

Fifth, it’s hard to talk about these types of things productively.

I thought I could ask a question about this topic (of the idea that using the divider is a microaggression) in a private group I’m in that contains an amazing, diverse assortment of people committed to discussing race, how white people can be aware of white privilege (and address it), and many other things.

As the thread progressed, most responses were in the “it’s common sense” camp, but I was asked/told:

a) why I hadn’t only asked black people because doing otherwise just gave the white people in the group the opportunity to justify themselves

b) why I hadn’t asked the tweeter (my response: because many of the responses to him had been attacks and I didn’t want to join the chorus/I also said I thought the group was a safe place for this type of thing and hoped to take advantage of it to feel out this topic)

c) told I was making the problem worse

I deleted the entire thread and spent the rest of the evening wondering about the set of interactions and wishing we could have finished the discussion. I DM’d the person who challenged me, explaining why I had taken the thread down (basically, that I didn’t want to alienate anyone) and have not heard back from them.

Ultimately, Respect for Each Other Matters

In writing this post, I worry I will undo any good I did (if there was any) by writing We Have to Talk About White Privilege.

If you are someone for whom use of the grocery divider feels like a microaggression, I respect that.

I have read someone I respect a great deal, Shay Stewart-Bouley of Black Girl In Maine, say that the work of coming to terms with racism is both internal and external. I wholeheartedly agree.

I like what Cheryl Strayed had to say about the internal work:

You don’t have to relinquish your heritage to be an ally to people of color, Whitey. You have to relinquish your privilege. And part of learning how to do that is accepting that feelings of shame, anger and the sense that people are perceiving you in ways that you believe aren’t accurate or fair are part of the process that you and I and all white people must endure in order to dismantle a toxic system that has perpetuated white supremacy for centuries. That, in fact, those painful and uncomfortable feelings are not the problems to be solved or the wounds to be tended to. Racism is. – Cheryl Strayed

And although this piece isn’t technically a guide to doing internal work, this one line by Morgan Jerkins in How I Overcome My Anger as a Black Writer Online somehow seems connected to the importance of internal work, while it is also a bit of a segue to the external:

My therapist taught me that before I spoke to an audience of thousands or millions, my first audience should be myself. – Morgan Jerkins

And about the external work, again I am no expert here but I think it begins with ceasing our silence when we see racism. Michael Harriott wrote “…silence in the presence of injustice is as bad as injustice itself. White people who are quiet about racism might not plant the seed, but their silence is sunlight.”

In Closing

When I rush to put the divider down at the grocery store, my intent is straightforward: I don’t want to accidentally pay for someone else’s items (the budget is tight) and I don’t want to add stress to the cashier’s job.

Why eat up extra minutes having a transaction voided when I could better spend my time and efforts trying to do something that really makes a difference?

Recognizing microaggressions

I am linking up with Kat Bouska, for the prompt “Share something that entertained you this week, can be an article you read, video you watched, someone’s FB share…whatever!” Although, to be clear, “entertained” isn’t exactly what this topic did for me this week.Recognizing microaggressions

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Maybe Next Time: WITH

parents with children

The humble word “with” (and its Latin version, “cum”) could be better used in these two ways:

THE SUMMA CUM LAUDE GRADUATE’S CAKE

Did you read about the case of Publix and the summa cum laude (with highest praise/with highest honors) graduate?

His mom ordered a cake from Publix online, and requested that his graduation distinction of “summa cum laude” be inscribed on the cake.

Publix’s online ordering system prohibits “vulgar” terms, so the “cum” was represented as “—” when the mom originally ordered it, and she commented in the comment box that it was not a vulgarity, but should be inscribed as requested.

When she went to pick up the cake, this is what had been made:

parents with children

This image appeared in the Huffington Post and numerous online publications.

The graduate’s parent said her student was “absolutely humiliated.”

Here’s the Washington Post version (the most detailed) and the Huffington Post version (if you can’t get past the WaPo paywall).

Publix and online ordering

In my experience, online ordering at Publix still has wrinkles (as the graduate’s family experienced). I ordered a princess happy birthday cake a few years ago (because trust me you can have a daughter in her late teens for whom a princess cake is still the bomb diggety) and the store eventually called to say they didn’t have that version.

A scramble ensued to find a Publix with princesses (granted, she wasn’t going to have a three-year-old level tantrum if I didn’t provide it but still …. it’s the principle of the thing).

Even long before online ordering was a thing, I ordered a cake in person from Publix, and gave them a picture of the 1-year-old-to-be that was going to be added to the cake via an edible image. What did I get at pickup? “Happy 18th birthday, Mackenzie.”

Screwups can happen IRL and in online commerce.

My take

This is one of those situations in life that is frustrating but is also a) easily fixed and b) deserving of perspective.

(And full disclosure: I have done my share of online griping about things that turned out to be minor (and some that I still consider relatively major). I do try also to recognize the dazzlingly good and positive things that happen too.)

To the kid: For what it’s worth, I can tell you from the perspective of a mom, this doesn’t deserve the “absolutely humiliating” label. Not to discount your feelings, but people and corporations mess up. Some worker at Publix did what they saw on a printed order form to do (granted, they could have asked/clarified). Just enjoy the cake. And congrats on your 4.89 GPA — that’s incredible.

To the mom: I understand your frustration too. I do. I’m really glad to hear you are “laughing about it ” (Huffington Post) but not entirely sure why you are going to “avoid Publix for now.” I know it wasn’t you that picked it up (and I can see my husband not proofreading a cake if I sent him to pick it up) but I have seen Publix fix an error in flat out minutes. I realize you may not have even had “minutes” to go back and get it fixed but I wonder if they don’t deserve just a bit more grace than they’ve been given. I feel like they probably try to teach that at Christian-based home schools like the situation in which your child was educated.

To Publix: Please update your online ordering system (or train your bakery workers to carefully read the comments section of online orders). Or suspend online ordering until wrinkles like this get ironed out. Please: iteram conare (try again). Maybe next time you’ll get it right.

(Note: I don’t know Latin and I’m relying on Google translate so if you’re a Latin expert, feel free to correct me!).

THE KIDS BEING SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS

The New York Times says “more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4” at various stations along the US-Mexico border.

One of many questions about this complex issue: is President Trump’s administration starting to use the threat of separating children from their parents as a deterrent to trying to cross into the US?

Furthermore, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has “reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were” according to the Arizona Republic.

The issue of how/when/why/where we allow people from other countries to cross into ours is bigger and different from the fact that children should remain with their parents.

Here are some articles to read. I am frankly trying to digest it all myself, so at this point the best I can do is say is “read this,” pray if you are a praying person, and act in some tangible way.

From the New York Times (may be behind a paywall): Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border

From PBS Frontline: HHS Official Says Agency Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Unaccompanied Minors

From the Arizona Republic (opinion piece): Montini: The feds lost – yes, lost – 1,475 migrant children 

From Vice: What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like

From Political Charge: #WhereAreTheChildren: How to Help

My Take

I think many of us in our country are awfully selective about how we use hashtags regarding other people’s children. Remember how we all got behind #BringBackOurGirls when Boko Haram abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria but many people in the US took more of a #SendBackTHEIRGirls attitude when so many children from El Salvador arrived in Arizona in 2014?

In this case, termed #WhereAreTheChildren widely on social media, the girls (and boys) are here in the US. Decisions must be made about their long-term whereabouts, but in the meantime they should be #WithTheirParent.

I am so fortunate to have been able to travel to El Salvador (and Guatemala) with Unbound. These week-long trips only scratched the surface of truly understanding the issues faced by people (especially women and children) in Central America. Although this is a HUGE understatement, the desperation many of these people feel to leave their countries is born of life-threatening risk day and day out (not to mention restricted access to education and difficulty earning enough to survive).

As the Vice article I link to above notes, one parent was separated from her children upon arriving in the US then assigned a bond “too high for her to pay—$12,500—deeming her a flight risk for being connected to a gang, when her sole connection was the harm they did her [the woman reported being beaten in front of her children by MS-13 gang members].”

Although I am a citizen unwilling to wait until some hypothetical next time, for the purpose of this discussion, Maybe next time a child won’t be forcibly separated from a parent, lost in an administrative maze and exposed to potential human trafficking. But let’s make “next time” immediate.

NOTE

It’s ironic that today’s post is devoted in part to advocacy. I just revised my LinkedIn profile to delete one of my favorite parts of my profile, the fact that I am an advocate. I decided it may be confusing potential employers. Rest assured I will always be an advocate. ALWAYS.

But I need a full-time job. Therefore, if you have any leads (Tallahassee or remote), I would appreciate you letting me know.  Here’s my LinkedIn profile. I am looking for communications work (writing, editing, proofreading, social media) but also have extensive health policy experience. And I can promise a solid work ethic, professionalism and enthusiasm wherever I end up. I took a necessary detour through the world of caregiving for a few years, performed it willingly and lovingly, but it’s time to help pay for these two college educations for which I am responsible and get back on a full-time professional track again.

I doubt it will happen by next Sunday (although you never know!) but maybe next time (or soon) I post a blog, I’ll be doing it with a fond word or two of farewell to the gig economy as I move on.

BACK TO “WITH” AND “CUM”

The only way I know to wind this up is to offer to bring a cake inscribed #WithTheirParent to a postcard-writing party or other advocacy event (about this issue of the missing kids).

Who’s up for it?

This post was written in response to a Kat Bouska prompt: “Write a blog post the ends with the sentence: Maybe next time!:

parents with children

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Taking It on the Chin: My Overzealous Waxing Pro and Me

Most of the time, I feel like my spirit is younger than my physical age.

My body, however, insists on exhibiting signs of middle age no matter how youthful I feel at heart.

Fun With Midlife

I have been getting my brows waxed for years; it’s more effective and quicker than tweezing. That didn’t feel like a concession to age, more of a perpetual necessity.

A few years ago, I began having my upper lip waxed. This was not that welcome an addition to my beauty routine, and it never really feels like it works (I watch myself on video, for example, and think how do I get rid of that dark area?!?!).

The clincher in the hair removal trio, though, was the day the technician said, “you’re gonna do your chin too, right?” Apparently I was.

I became accustomed to having three services instead of one, and I usually did a pretty decent job of putting the whole thing in the “it is what it is” category. I tried to do it once a month, but let’s be honest. I work at home, don’t go out all that much, and it’s easy to let the intervals between waxing grow much longer.

Until I am about to participate in an event, see someone I don’t see often, or have some other motivation to take care of it.

The Case of the Overzealous Waxer

That’s what happened recently. It was Friday, and I had plans to go see my good friend play Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. It is absolutely zero exaggeration to say his Edna would put most of us ladies to shame. I couldn’t show up with a hairy chin. Time was running short until I had to leave to drive to the performance (a couple of hours away). I finally finished the day’s work, and had run out of time to go to my usual waxing professional. I only had time to go to the closest salon, which has never been my preference but works in a pinch (they did okay on my shellacs, for example, prior to my trip to DC for the Shot at Life Summit last March).

Cosmetology Fails

I walked in, asked if anyone was available to do some waxing, and was immediately taken back. I was relieved that this was apparently going to be a quick in and out, permitting me to get on my way to Lake City.

The technician waxed my eyebrows. So far so good.

The technician waxed my upper lip. Check check check.

The technician waxed my chin. Easy peasy, right?

Here’s the thing. She kept going. This woman was applying wax and yanking the strips off of areas of my face that had never seen wax (or hair to speak of) before.

My mind was racing. Why is she waxing my cheeks? When will this end? In my head, I kept hearing my mom telling me, when I was a kid and wanted to start shaving my legs, “once you start the hair will grow in darker if you let up.” OMG were my cheeks now going to start sprouting dark hair? What had I done by coming here (and by not stopping this woman when she ventured away from the brow/lip/chin trio)?

Finally, she applied lotion and cooling solution (which I desperately needed by this point) and with relief I followed her to the front desk to pay.

I do not know what the person at the front desk said (they were not speaking English), but apparently she did not think the technician had done enough (in retrospect this boggles my mind), but through hand gestures and body language, she indicated that I needed to return to the waxing room.

And despite the fact that my face already felt like it had been through the wringer (it had! It would have been more efficient to just drip my whole darn face in a vat of wax), I went back.

When I went back, the technician attacked my chin again (“attack” being a truly representative word). Finally she let me go and I didn’t ask any questions as I hastily escaped out the door.

I went to the play (which was AWESOME), returned home, and went about my weekend. By the following Monday, the effects of the Overzealous Waxer were emerging. My chin looked like I had vigorously rubbed it with sandpaper. It was a mess. (NOTE: I have an aversion to pictures of wounds on social media (which is a challenge because I’m a runner and my fellow runners LOVE to show off their blisters and lost toenails) but if you want to see the results of the Overzealous Waxing, click here.)

As I write this (8 days later), it is ALMOST fully recovered.

As the week went by, I was trying to figure out what to do (short of the obvious decision to remove this salon from my “waxing vendors” list).

Customer Service Resolution Quandaries

I thought about the customer service issue I had had at Publix that same weekend. I had ordered my daughter’s birthday cake several days in advance, and a few hours before it was to be ready, they called to say they didn’t have that design. I exchanged messages with them on Twitter to express my dissatisfaction (tactfully). I went to another Publix to look for it. I went (ultimately) to my Publix and talked with the bakery associate, who wrote the message on a different cake. I worked with Publix to make it mutually right (as much as possible).

I kept telling my husband that I was afraid to talk to the salon. I was afraid the technician would lose her job. He pointed out that I was physically injured but protecting her from losing her job (while putting other customers potentially at risk). HMM. Why did I feel I could dialogue with Publix but not with the salon? Had I made assumptions about the cultural environment at the salon?

The more I thought about it, the more I decided I at least needed to let them know (and save some other customer from rug burn chin). When I went in, I explained that I was not upset (yeah, I know — I was upset and I shouldn’t have started with that line but personal assertiveness reform happens incrementally) but that I wanted to point out the condition of my chin.

They were apologetic, offered to put cooling solution on it (no thanks, a little too late for that!). They said the wax had been too hot (ya think?!).

I don’t know if my decision to talk to the salon will change the outcome for future customers, but in a week when I had just written about the necessity and power of saying what you mean, it felt hypocritical to keep my mouth shut.

Speaking Assertively

I read a post recently that pointed out: “When you speak assertively, you may not always say what people want to hear, but you respect the listener as well as yourself.” There’s so much truth to that.

When I used this situation as the basis for a recent Toastmasters speech, the takeaway was the fact that although “taking it on the chin” is perceived as a negative, in the case of the overzealous waxer, I would have been better off to take it on the chin (instead of the cheeks and other facial real estate)…and then tell her to stop. And certainly not go BACK to the waxing table, like a sheep.

Cosmetology Fails

Have you had a time in your life when you needed to say no but struggled to find a way? I’d love to hear about it!

NOTE: This situation has made me think about how blithely we walk into salons, thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” My fellow Paula (Abdul) probably has a thing or two to say about that (read more here). As it turns out, it’s pretty challenging to find a “guide to competent waxing” resource (future blog post material?), although this post shares some helpful precautions and warnings. In my case, common sense and speaking up would have solved the problem. Those are two things that don’t require a licensing board.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Catching a Wave (A #Blogust Post)

 

Molly says Hi

It was a rushed moment during a tiring evening. My mother in law and I had spent an intense hour and a half at Verizon navigating the purchase of an iPhone for her. We dropped by Publix for some prescriptions she needed. I asked to stop right before entering the store to return a call to my husband. Our little party was standing there, her holding my elbow (she was blind and that is how I assisted with her mobility), clutching her new iPhone so it wouldn’t get stolen, me on my iPhone trying to explain to my husband that we were not at all done with our errands yet (he wanted food…..).

At some point a mom and her two kids walked by. One child was walking; the other was maybe 8 or 9 months old (?), sitting in a stroller. I smiled at both kids and their mom, and the baby waved at me. The mom was surprised and said to her infant, “it’s your first wave!!” She and I shared a quick silent “oh my gosh” moment — I couldn’t get off the phone and she had to concentrate on foot traffic but two moms were happy in that instant …. which all passed unceremoniously in a matter of seconds in front of Publix.

Even though I was a stranger to that child, I was still elated to witness some else’s child’s milestone and his mother’s happiness.

I am just as elated to know that children around the world can have the opportunity to hit their own milestones because of receiving access to immunizations. Although one child currently dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented from with a vaccine, Shot at Life can change that by helping children get vaccines to survive…and thrive.

Just by commenting on or sharing this post, you can help! It’s as easy as a wave …

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During Shot@Life’s Blogust 2014—a month-long blog relay—some of North America’s most beloved online writers, photo and video bloggers and Shot@Life Champions will come together and share stories about Happy and Healthy Firsts. Every time you comment on this post and other Blogust contributions, or share them via social media on this website, Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation pages, Walgreens will donate one vaccine (up to 60,000). Blogust is one part an overall commitment of Walgreens donating up to $1 million through its “Get a Shot. Give a Shot ®” campaign. The campaign will help provide millions of vaccines for children in need around the world.

Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! For more information, visit shotatlife.org or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.