Accepting Amy

Acceptance has been on my mind.

As I’ve struggled to understand the American legal system and the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, I’ve found acceptance to be an important word.

Americans don’t like people who don’t fit into a mold. A white,  white-collar, church-going, mainstream mold. I realized this while living in Marseille, where I loved to go walk through the “Arab” market with bags of spices and dried roots. I loved the way children in France dressed, in all different colors and styles, and was appalled when I moved back to the States that I could only dress my little boy in navy blue or army green. Add some camouflage and it was boy’s clothes.

One day my 5 year-old son was wearing a sea green sweat pant/jacket outfit to school and I heard a little girl say to him, “Those are girl colors.” I responded that there are no girl colors. I reminded her that green is the color of grass, of leaves, of lettuce and even the army. She paused and then said, “It’s still girl’s colors.”

When did gender become colored? When did we start profiling because of race? Almost since the beginning of time. I recently watched a video that is incredibly jarring because it shows the reactions of people witnessing first a white youth, then a black youth and then a blond girl stealing a bike.

Watch it if you haven’t.

Not only is the racial profiling incredibly shocking, but the way men rush to help the woman steal the bike is disgusting.

I have experienced this first hand, when my boyfriend’s tire flatted and he took my bike back to get his car and I walked and jogged pushing his bike. Three men stopped to help me. He told me that the week before he had a flat (yes, he had issues with underinflated tires) and walked home 3 miles in bike shoes and no one offered to help him or give him a lift. Worse yet, one of his neighbors said, “Was that you I saw pushing your bike?”

So men are seen as able to fix anything and don’t need help, and women are helpless? Thanks to that ex-boyfriend, I now  know how to change a tire and carry my own tubes and CO2 because I don’t want to be helpless. He probably still doesn’t carry a fix it kit, and will have to walk 3 miles (or more) for help in his bike shoes, but I became determined to know how to do it myself so that I wouldn’t have to wait for help.

A few weeks ago I was out walking and passed an African-American about my age. I moved my dog so he could pass and said hello. In general I don’t talk to strange men while walking my dog, but I thought it was about time I try being friendly. Deep down I am convinced that if George Zimmerman had been raised differently, and if the media didn’t portray young black men in hoodies as dangerous, he might have just engaged in conversation with Trayvon instead of assuming the worst, following him and then engaging in a fight.

I talked a bit with this strange man, about the heat (100 that day),my funny dog, and some other banal things. All of a sudden he steered the conversation towards something more personal–was I affiliated with the University–and my guard shot up. Not against a black man, but against a MAN. I didn’t want him to know where I lived, or what I did for a living, so I politely tapered off my conversation and switched directions.

Maybe someday I won’t be afraid of strange men, regardless of their race. I would love for this to be a safer world. I would like to walk and talk to someone without worrying about my own safety.

Last night I was happy that my neighbor sent her son, who is about Trayvon’s age, over to ask for some vegetable oil to make a cake. I felt not only good about helping a neighbor, but also that they would feel comfortable asking me. They are the only African-American family that I know of in a neighborhood that is largely comprised of young families and doctors-in-training as we live near the hospital. This does not mean it is an all-White neighborhood; I was happy that my son was in a very diverse elementary school, comprised of many different ethnic groups.

As I work towards demonstrating my acceptance of others, I realize that I need to work a lot on accepting myself. I’m not in a great place with that, fighting my own disappointment about my body not changing as fast as I would like in spite of tracking calories and doing daily long workouts. At night my heart sometimes races as I worry about my career (or lack thereof), money issues, and just feel down.

I’ve been practicing slow breathing when that happens, and trying out mantras. “I’m beautiful” failed. I didn’t believe it, and it made me more uptight to think it. “I’m doing the best I can,” however, worked.

I repeated it to myself during my run today. I’ve been very worn out in spite of not having  a lot of work right now, and seem to need a twenty-minute nap every afternoon. Tonight I was still yawning as I pushed myself out the door after my power nap, but I did it.

And it was the best I could. Today. For the moment.


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