violence police brutality

When Violence Hits You in the Face

Some of you may know that last December I fell victim to violence one evening I got punched in the face. On an otherwise normal rainy Monday night, I walked from my office towards the train station, a total distance of roughly 2 blocks. This evening I had items to drop in the mailbox which required me to cross to the side of the street opposite my train entrance. I stopped just before the corner as the light changed, and rearranged the letters to avoid getting them wet. I felt a hand reach under my knee-length coat and give my ass a little brush.

Two names flashed in my head: Tara, Baylie—two close girlfriends who live in the city whom if they ran onto me on the street might greet in such a way. I looked up, already almost smiling, looking around to see a familiar face. In the span of just seconds, confusion turned excitement turned confusion turned to fear. I locked eyes with a scruffy-looking man standing a few yards behind me, staring. I charged and started swinging my umbrella, hitting him several times in the head. I stepped back and watched him approach me and bring his fist to my face.

For whatever reason, the blow to my face was some kind of moment of clarity that also meant nothing. In the way I imagine life flashes before your eyes when you’re dying, the world slowed down for me in the brief moment that a stranger’s knuckles pressed to my cheekbone. I had told a friend earlier that day I was so bored, caught in a rut, and dying for excitement in my life. As I got punched in the face, my first thought was, “Finally.”

In the moments that followed, I looked around, panicked, confused, and ultimately waiting for someone to tell me what to do. Bystanders saw what happened—it was Midtown Manhattan at rush hour. It was almost too crowded for him to have been able to bring his arm back to hit me. People rushed around me and some watched, and I looked at some in the face and no one said anything. That I could hear—truth be told, I had headphones in for this entire ordeal and thus did not hear much besides Fall Out Boy while this thing unfolded. But no one came to my side, stopped to ask if I was okay, tried to stop the guy who did it. I continued southbound, he turned east. I dropped my letters in the mailbox then went to a coffee shop to wipe up the blood and get some ice on my nose. The barista was unbothered.

I went home, called my mom, and began to process this event. Everyone asked the same question: did you call the police?

For several reasons, calling the police barely even occurred to me as I stood in the rain with a bloody nose. It was rush hour. I was scared and wanted to leave the situation. No one stuck around to play witness. The perpetrator was long gone and would be further long gone by the time the cops came because again—rush hour in Midtown. And I just could not imagine standing there in the pouring rain or sitting in Taco Bell with a bloody nose waiting to tell the cops some guy they would never find just hit me because I hit him because I THINK he touched my ass.

But after further deliberation and as the attack settled into my bones, I started to think about justice. This man committed a violent attack on me. I acknowledge that that sounds really blown out of proportion, but at the heart of the event, that’s what it was. I knew that by definition this was a sexual assault, though I recognize and thank God it was “not that bad” on the scale of sexual assaults. The punch itself hurt more, and still, was not that bad—no broken bones. But still, yes, I recognize this was a random act of violence. But I also recognize that I responded with violence, and to this day I hate that about myself and about that night. At the moment it felt like the right thing to do like I had to defend myself. But the reality is, I still don’t know for sure I got the right guy, and it didn’t make anything better. I didn’t feel better about the assault. My nose didn’t hurt any less. The cops didn’t pull DNA from my umbrella. I responded to senseless violence with senseless violence.

So I just gave it away, but I did end up going to cops after a few days of deliberation. And as soon as the words left my mouth in the police station I started to regret it. For starters, I knew I did not want to send this person to prison. Even if I thought they would catch him, which I knew they wouldn’t, I could not morally send a person to prison as a response to that crime. Yes, something bad happened to me. That person did something bad to me. But I know that sending him through our so-called criminal “justice” system would likely make him worse off than he already was.

The one reason I felt compelled to report was of course to keep other people safe. If he was going around doing this to other women, yes of course I would be full of regret and wish he was put away somewhere. But the reality is, it’s not my job to punish that man for his sins. And I am smart enough to know horrible things happen in prisons, and horrible things happen to people in prisons and after they leave. I could not wish any of those things on a person that committed such a relatively small offense against me.

Further, the experience of reporting to the NYPD was laughable. For starters, I think they do only care about what happened to you if they pull up to the scene and decide for themselves. As soon as the words “a few nights ago” left my mouth the first and only question was “Why are you telling us now?” And it wasn’t just me. As I sat in the precinct waiting for officers to get their paperwork together to transport me to another station, a man came in to report his phone was stolen an hour ago. “Why are you telling us now? Why didn’t you call an hour ago?”

People are not exactly trained in emergencies. Or rather, we are trained in real emergencies—we know what to do if our building catches on fire or if someone starts bleeding from their eyeballs. But in these ambiguous emergencies—especially in a city like New York—there are not a lot of day-to-day incidents I would really call an emergency. So no, we don’t automatically think “call the cops” even those of us with the privilege to grow up without fearing police. Sometimes it’s just a matter of “Am I in danger enough to need to call someone?” And the answer is no. As for me, why did I wait days? Well, I had to have a moral dilemma about it, and those things take time. And frankly, I didn’t know any less information on Thursday than I did on Tuesday so again, it didn’t really matter to me.

Back to the precinct, after I told two officers what happened and their eyes widened realizing I was, in fact, a “Special Victim,” I sat in the lobby for two hours awaiting police transport to SVU. It’s not actually called SVU in real life, but it is a team of detectives who investigate these vicious felonies. And their office is way downtown, and no, I was not allowed to escort myself there.

At one point when one officer didn’t know why I was sitting there, they announced across the entire precinct that I was a “special victim” and my stomach wretched at the thought of a woman surviving a rape or worse sexual crime sitting here having cops shout about it to anyone in earshot. Sensitivity does not exist here.

When I finally got taken downtown, learning on the way just how poorly these people in uniforms know how to even navigate this city they’re supposed to protect, my meeting went quickly. A detective took my statement, and introduced me to a virtual lineup.

When the attack happened, I saw the man’s face for probably 5 seconds in total, and each second his fist blocked my line of vision more and more. Needless to say, I didn’t get a great look at him. Another reason I didn’t call the cops when it happened: he was Black. Not only could I not identify him, I was not about to tell the cops to add another “unidentified Black male” to their hit list. Yes his Blackness and my inability to identify him much further from memory were facts, but I’m not stupid. I know how cops abuse those two facts and ruin lives.

The detective pushed me hard to remember any identifying factors even down to the color of his hat. I did my best. He plugged all the things into their database and presented me with a stack of matching profiles. He emphasized that the perpetrator very well might not be pictured, and that this was more for me to find similar features or the off chance that he was in the stack. The features I recalled were generic: Black, average height, average build, a little gaunt, grayish stubble. I think he was wearing a beanie. I clicked through dozens of mugshots of middle-aged Black men. None made my nose quiver so I assume his picture was not in the stack. Still the detectives did surprise me with their efforts, and they called me back a few days later to meet with a sketch artist.

The sketch artist was by far my favorite cop, if I had to name one. But in his office, again I was presented with a stack of pictures. This time it was just their collection of mugshots—Polaroids from what looked like the last several decades. The point was for me to find features that looked similar to my perp’s so I could show the sketch artists and he could come up with a composite sketch. All the detectives acknowledged the slim chances we would ever find this guy, but they certainly make it look like you are the guest star in this week’s Law & Order, and they will, in fact, find this guy. I know this is probably not everyone’s experience. And I’m not saying that to say it was a positive experience for me. I’m saying the whole time I was shocked that they did put in this much effort, and also I wish they didn’t.

I’ve never been called back to the police station to identify the guy, so I’m sure they didn’t find him, and again, I’m okay with that. What would it solve? I’ve thought about what I would want to happen—I do believe in justice and that this person committed an injustice against me. But what punishment would be appropriate? This is clearly a person that needs some kind of reforming. Judging by his appearance, I did assume he was struggling with homelessness—why? Is there mental illness at play? Has he himself been the victim of abuse? A victim of violence? He didn’t attack me in order to hurt my career, he didn’t take my money, he didn’t even intend to really physically hurt me in the first place, I don’t think. But something happened in his life or in his mind to make him think it was ok or he was entitled to touch me, and sending him to prison was not going to change that.

All of this to say, I hate violence. I hate to see it, and can personally attest that despite what it looks like in comedies, getting punched in the face is really not fun. But this interpersonal violence is really just a symptom of the systems of violence producing more and more violent actors. The cycle has to stop somewhere, and it stops with a victor. By that I mean, the night of my incident, I stopped the cycle of violence. He started by touching me, I continued by hitting him, and then stopped it by walking away after his final punch. He was the victor that night. But I restarted it when I went to the police. Because the police is an institution that by definition perpetuates the cycle of violence—both interpersonally in the single acts of police brutality we’ve all seen too many times, and systemically through their contribution to the prison industrial complex. By introducing the police into my relationship with this perpetrator, I guaranteed that the cycle of violence would continue should they ever identify him. Yes, I am hoping and confident they won’t.

Why do I support rioting? Because the powers that be have proven time and time again they will not stop the cycles of violence they perpetuate. If there are so many good cops, why haven’t they stepped up to stop the cycles of violence they witness in their communities? If it’s only a few bad apples, why do we keep finding them? Black people have been the victim of so many systemic cycles of violence for far too long. There are two options: we roll over and continue to be the victim or we fight back and try to stop the cycle of violence. Right now, that might mean doing a little violence—if you can even call it that. Burning a building, robbing a store is simply not the same as shooting a person—even if the bullets are rubber. Stealing from companies that routinely rob people of labor, wages, and ideas is simply not the same as macing and beating people.

To people who only support the police use of force for people committing crimes, I beg—what does that solve? Sure, a person blinded by pepper spray might have trouble getting away with a free pair of sneakers, but who benefits from that? The sneaker makers? Then why do they have insurance? And how much of the profit from that pair of sneakers is going to the person who stitched on the logo? It just never fails to amaze me how “good” cops are at stopping crime when it’s theft or vandalism or loitering, but never when it’s mass murders or sexual assaults. “Well Kamaron, how can they stop a crime they can’t predict?”

Exactly. Crime is predictable. We have the data, we have the research. We know what lowers crime rates and what raises crime rates. The police and the powers of white supremacy are ignoring it because it weakens their power over Black people and people of color. Call me a radical, call me paranoid, but this is the fact. Communities where people are engaged and supported see far less crime—and it’s not because some police force came in and rounded up all the criminals. It’s because some teachers, some mentors, some leaders got together and said okay these people are struggling how do we help them before they find poor coping mechanisms such as…violence?

Enough.

It’s a Trap

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. They do not warn you just how exhausting that whole exercise can be. It has taken me days to try to put together some words about what I’m feeling right now. I’ve started and stopped several different pieces, started conversations and abandoned them citing a lack of energy. 

Is this the week that America snapped? The timeline of events has been flashing through my head over and over again in mixed up disarray. Did that video just come out? Was it an old video or was that the other one? Wait and they killed her just last week? And didn’t we just do this?

It feels like a trap. Because the murder of George Floyd was nothing new. Having it on video was nothing new. We had the verbatim script from Eric Garner—the t-shirts were already printed. Yet now? During a global pandemic which was only receding because we were staying inside we have been dragged out of our homes to try to tell the world yet again Black lives—our lives—matter?

Do not read this as me saying that people should not be protesting. I stand behind the movement although I am not with them physically. I am saying it feels like some greater force orchestrated this whole sinister thing: make a pandemic, make it disproportionately affect Black people, then do something so heinous on camera and spread it faster than the virus to make Black people so mad they leave the safety of their homes, then spray them with chemicals that can make them more susceptible to the virus. Yes I know, the master composers here are Racism™   and probably Murphy’s law but I also want to imagine a Joker-esque madman behind the curtain.

When I first read about the Trojan horse I felt like, “That’s crazy. Why would the Trojans just welcome this random giant horse into their city?” The video of Floyd’s murder hit my timeline and for a brief moment I felt like “That’s crazy. Why would Black people just welcome this random giant horse into their city?” I am praying that we do not see this pandemic completely explode following these protests. I know people are taking precautions. But when we’ve seen so many of these unjust murders happen when we weren’t in a pandemic, there’s that cautious part of me that begs why now—yes why did they have to kill George now? Of course—why did they have to kill him at all? But why is he the tipping point this time? Why is this the video that made so many people in my timeline, so many CEOs, so many PR agents say, “You know what? I think Black Lives might Matter!” 

Something had to give. Racism, theoretically, is not eternally sustainable given the rate of intermixing. And something tells me that all the Februaries in the world were not going to change enough hearts to rid the world of the plague that is racism. We’ve hit another boiling point, and I do hope somehow it’s the last one and at some point we all come out of this singing Kumbaya.

The point of a revolution is for the ideas to go mainstream, right? We want to totally replace the “old way” with a new way. So I am celebrating the huge mass of social media posts I’ve seen from just about everyone in my networks. People I thought would never utter the words “Black Lives Matter” had tributes to Ahmaud Arbery in their stories. These were not racists in my head, just not people who had ever spoken out against racism to my knowledge. And there is the part of me that dismisses these posts. They’re disingenuous. They’re performative. They’re for the benefit of the poster, not the cause. But I do appreciate the turnout of awareness regardless of my skepticism. Everybody has to start somewhere.

But like my social media followers, the brands got on board very quickly too. Suddenly places I’d shopped were sending me emails about what they’re doing for social justice. Again, I’m baffled at the speed at which this moment caught on. I mean—the speed and the slowness, right? Because it has taken centuries for Black Lives Matter to go mainstream but it also only took a week? 

I’m old enough to remember 6 years ago when the rest of the country watched Ferguson on the news as if it was somewhere we were bombing in the Middle East. This time everyone watched Minneapolis and said “I want in!” It’s incredible to see this movement go mainstream. And I am praying that we see positive change come because of it. But I am also fuming.

The adults—and particularly the white adults—in the room of America should be so ashamed of themselves. We don’t have a single excuse to be uneducated to the issues affecting us. Racism affects everyone. How has it taken so many people this long to figure that out? Did they think Obama fixed everything? Did you think we were kidding every time we pointed out symptoms of the problem?

Yes we’re marching for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and every other Black person killed or harmed by state violence, but we’re also still marching because #OscarsSoWhite. We’re also still marching for equal pay. We’re also still marching to make you stop wearing blackface. We’re also still marching for reparations. We’re marching for all those things you said “weren’t a big deal” while also marching for this the thing that has made you realize it’s a big deal. 

I’m trying to channel all of my anger where it belongs: at the structures that are upholding white supremacy, not the people who are at least pretending to fight it. There are a lot of moving parts to a revolution and it is far from my job to be taking attendance and temperature checks at the door. 

When This is All Over I’ll Be Angry Then

A couple of weeks ago (lol) I started to wonder when our “quarantine” behavior just becomes our normal behavior. From the moment Americans started social distancing and staying at home, the major messages I started to see from the Positive Vibes Only™ section of the internet included: “Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over missed workouts or extra snacks. This is a pandemic you’re trying to survive—forget all the nonsense of looking Instagram-perfect.” All great messages.

But at the same time, we’re in the middle of a global crisis, one that will only end if people do what they’re supposed to do. So when people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, it’s difficult not to judge them, at least for me. Still, it’s a pandemic—most of us did not know what it was like to live with any kind of restrictions like the ones with which we’ve been living. How could I expect an entire population to just change their lives in a snap? Well, I did it, so…

I’m trying not to be angry now, in the name of survival. Spending most of your time between four walls with no one but your reflection shockingly does not leave a lot of space for bad energy. But it does give me plenty of time to see and think about everything happening all around me.

As with my other posts addressing this crisis, I have to acknowledge my privilege. I have the privilege of having a job, a home, and food to eat. My job was largely unaffected by the crisis, and the crisis, in fact, has been somewhat good for our business. Therefore, while I have been uncomfortable, upset, and annoyed with the whole pandemic, I have always acknowledged the privileges I have had throughout. In the grand scheme of things, COVID-19 has been a minor inconvenience to me.

That being said, for those of us not financially or physically affected by the pandemic, we are allowed to gripe. It’s hard. It’s new and different and scary, frankly, because we acknowledge that today we have the privilege of health as well. But that could change with the next trip to the grocery store. For me it did change with an afternoon run that broke my ankle and took the privilege of total ability out of my reach for the time being. It’s fine. I’m fine. This is fine.

We can gripe, but for the love of God can we calm down? I’m saying “we” to be nice when I really am pointing a finger at some of the behavior I have seen during these uncertain times.

Thankfully, I do not know anyone personally who has been protesting in the streets for businesses to reopen. But I sure do know some people who have been really loud about what I—as a fellow privileged person—would consider minor inconveniences. I know folks who complain about having to stay inside, yet they are also outside and at places or visiting friends or having driveway parties or what have you.

People I know have lost a little business, and that sucks I won’t take away from that. But some of those same people also still have a business and know they will have a business when this is over.

You know I love to think about history and imagine what it would be like to have lived through some of the crazy eras of time. Sometimes I struggle to think about being a person in history who would have had to do something. Like if I were an 18-year-old boy during the Vietnam War—would I have tried to dodge the draft? Would I have known the war was an imperialistic disaster? It’s likely I would have had to act.

This blip in history is not even really asking most of us to act, yet here some of you are acting out like you want to be the next Donkey of the Year. I can’t believe if we make it to 2080 I’ll be telling my grandkids about how I survived because I decided I could do my nails at home.

“Were you brave grandma?”
“Well kids, it was hard. But by the grace of God, we had Instacart.”

Seriously. It’s been said that this disease has been “The Great Equalizer” and then that was quickly rebuked by the fact that we told everyone to “go home” when hundreds of thousands of people don’t have such a thing. Not only has this exposed the wealthy for their gross gluttony, it has also exposed the way they cannot handle minor inconveniences.

Controversial philosopher Kylie Jenner once theorized that 2016 was the year of “realizing things.” As it turns out we have not stopped realizing things since 2016. Things have happened that have appeared unfamiliar, but more or less nothing new has occurred. They have felt new because they have happened with new lenses available that have exposed sometimes hidden meanings.

What I’m saying is wealth inequality is nothing new. But when you have millions of people unsure about how they’re going to pay rent, while you have other people complaining about the cell reception at their beach house, it’s very easy to realize that wealth inequality exists. Racism is nothing new, but when a novel virus starts infecting Black and brown communities at disproportionately higher rates, it becomes pretty easy to realize that racism exists.

Likewise—selfish, greedy, unsympathetic, and ignorant people have always existed. But when scientists beg them to stay home for a few weeks for their own benefit and the benefit of others, I quickly realized how many of those people I know.

It is true that our governments have failed us. It is also true that a lot of the people griping about the restrictions put those governments in place.

When I started writing this George Floyd was still alive. Black Americans and some others were still mourning Breonna Taylor or raging over Chris Cooper while thanking God he’s still alive. Yet when the videos of Floyd’s horrific murder began flooding my timelines, it occurred to me that people all around me were realizing that we aren’t kidding when we say they are killing us in the broad daylight.

I’ve found in recent years I’ve become much more sensitive to graphic violence. I recognize this as a positive thing because it reminds me that I am still soft and human despite years of desensitizing. But at the same time I’ve become more sensitive than I ever was before social media. Scary movies though unrealistic have become more difficult to watch—though I also acknowledge scary movies have gotten a lot darker thematically. I digress.

Seeing George Floyd’s murder on video, and seeing the still image of the cop’s knee into his neck made my skin boil. But further, seeing the outpouring of people I know clicking retweet or like or share so so fast on these images. Did you even process it? Something has happened that is good—at least in my circles, fewer people are denying the truth of such a video or the relevance of such an image. But something horrible has also happened that has made a lot of those people very comfortable to continue dispersing those images carelessly.

Further, it occurred to me that suddenly a lot of people recognize racism when they see a white man kill a Black man on video. However, those same people could not recognize it weeks ago when they learned COVID-19 has infected Black people at a higher rate than white men. Racism wasn’t a problem if it meant we could “return to normal” and go back to not tipping enough at restaurants that employ so many Black and brown folks.

I’ve written incessantly about the Civil War and how bloody it was and how such mass mourning reshaped America. Across four years of fighting, over 600,000 people died in the Civil War. In just around 4 months, over 100,000 Americans have perished from this disease. But if we don’t mourn them, nothing will change.

On the Fringe

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown

The first time I remember hearing those words I knew I was a city girl. It was a credit card commercial that shows a young woman in the city seeing her life change before her eyes as she racks up credit card debt and acquires such beautiful things. Such a simple commercial that used a simply classic song made me long for such a magical life I knew was only possible in the city.

All my life I’ve lived somewhat on the fringe of New York. Growing up in Central Jersey, the city was convenient, but not necessary. I remember a few trips when I was a kid to see Broadway shows, but my family was never one to spend a lot of time in New York. I savored those little trips seeing the lights and that feeling like anything can happen.

It’s so cheesy but it’s so absolutely true that New York is a magical place. Being on the fringe, it both dulls and illuminates the sparkle. Ironically as I approached college I thought I wanted to be a California girl. I fell in love with the idea of living by the beach and getting açai bowls after yoga, but California respectfully declined. I wouldn’t quite say I settled for New York—I was and still am glad I made the choice—but at the time I thought maybe it wasn’t the dream.

Spending my college years even closer to the city but still maniacally on the fringe (just extend the subway into Yonkers—it’s not rocket science), I fell deeper and deeper in love. It was by no means an easy relationship. I got lost and angry with its “simple” grids. The cost of living never failed to shock me. The challenges of breaking into any industry in the city broke me more times than can remember. 

But I found spots I loved. Enjoyed stretches of Central Park I walked between my internship and my boyfriend’s apartment. I ran into people I knew from this life or that one. I settled in and soon found myself at home in the city. 

And yet when I finally moved in, I still found myself on the fringe of the New York that exists in mine and the rest of the world’s imagination. In one sense, I do live in the “Real” New York—older building, rich culture throughout the neighborhood, grit. But this also means that I live in the affordable New York, which is relative.

I love my neighborhood, and I love that it retains its authenticity against the squeaky clean WeWorkified Manhattan. But the reality is you don’t get that same “anything can happen” feeling when you walk up my street. I often walk up my street and wonder, “Am I going to be stabbed?” (It’s not that bad. I have never actually felt unsafe in my neighborhood, but I have seen some rather unsavory things that would make a stabbing less than shocking.) 

Despite what my mother might tell you, when you walk through the parts of New York that you see in movies and on Sex and the City, you are far far less likely to be stabbed. And if you are stabbed, Lady Gaga’s doorman will probably call an ambulance for you.

All of this to say, the beautiful and dreamy and spectacular New York is real, but it is devastatingly unattainable to so many people. And thus, I have in some sense “made it” but I continue to live on the fringe of this magical city which presents a perplexing complex when faced with something like this pandemic

The photos of “empty New York” do not tell the full story. My neighborhood has been all but bustling as usual. Every time I go out I see people loading off buses, heading to the subway, going about their days mask or not. I’m not saying they’re all ignoring any orders to stay inside, I’m saying these are the people who don’t have that privilege. 

This is where they live—the last “affordable” neighborhoods in Manhattan, which also are the ones with the highest rates of infection on the island. Manhattan itself, the wealthiest of the boroughs, has the lowest infection rate. If the disparities weren’t plainly obvious, look at the ways the NYPD has already begun policing these different parts of the city. 

I’m no New Yorker. I’m a proud Jersey Girl at heart, and it is the greatest privilege to be able to live and be trapped in this city, even on the fringe. But I can’t help but question what it means to be a part of the New York community when the divides are this disparate. 

Now more than ever I wish I could forget all my troubles, forget all my cares and go downtown.

If You Always Do What You Always Did…

My mom will be pleased to read that some of the things she has said to—or in some cases drilled into—me have stuck with me into adulthood. This she has said both to me and to her own mother on countless occasions: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” 

A quick google search found that quote attributed to author Tony Robbins, along with Albert Einstein and Henry Ford. I’m not sure where my mom first heard it (and no, I didn’t bother to ask), but it clearly stuck with her as she passed it on to me. I would be inclined to believe it came from an innovator like Einstein or Ford because it expresses the idea that if you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to keep seeing the same result. 

Sure there are more details involved, but you can imagine Henry Ford standing in the factory saying, “Ah murderation (or some other old-timey exclamation)! If we keep building one car at a time, we’ll just keep making one car at a time and it will take lifetimes to see all of America driving automobiles!” or something to that effect. And thus, the assembly line was born. 

My mom has so far not heeded this advice when I’ve come to her in shambles because I haven’t been able to revolutionize an industry. But she does present it when I come to her and say, “I have x problem and it’s not getting fixed because y.” The y is usually some person with routine patterns that need to change or some job that needs to change or some habit I’ve created that I need to change. In essence, she cuts right to the point. No nonsense, no frills. If you can change it, you have to—if you want the result to be different.

Why in the world could I possibly be writing this when we’ve just had two mass shootings in 24 hours? I can’t possibly put two and two together.

But it’s bigger than that. I know we are not the same country we were when Columbine happened. Or Virginia Tech. Or Sandy Hook. Things have changed, albeit on a microscopic level, but things have changed and I won’t pretend people aren’t doing anything to change the routine of gun-related tragedies. But we have to understand that on a macro scale, the effort to end gun violence has remained mostly the same. You don’t need to be a policy expert to see that. Why? Because we’re getting the same result. Either we’re not changing the right things or maybe we just aren’t changing anything.

Take it outside of gun violence, and I keep begging the question: why are we as a country doing the same thing year after year, election after election and expecting different results?

When I was in my last semester of college, I had a painting professor give us a prompt to think about and eventually paint about. He gave us with no context this quote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I didn’t google it at the time—I’m not sure if we were explicitly prohibited or if I was just lazy—but I now know where it comes from and that alone will give a lot of folks all the context they need. But the class discussion illuminated for me the meaning that whoever is in charge is not going to be taken down by the same means that they were put in power. The actual reference is a book by civil rights activist, Audre Lorde.

If defeating Trumpism™—or however you choose to define the chaos everyone is seeing in this country—is the goal, then the strategy we tried to use to beat it in 2016 is obviously not going to work. Yet here we are trying it again. Maybe if we just vote harder this time…

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic about the future and the work that some leaders are doing to combat hatred as well as the other issues like climate change, healthcare, and immigration. But I find it truly mind-blowing that we have really just gotten so comfortable with the idea that the America where people aren’t in constant anger if not fear and sadness will reappear (or, for many many people, appear for the very first time) if we just keep doing the same routines. 

I will put it in writing: I would love to see a revolution in this country. As a historian, yes I think it was something of a remarkable bureaucratic feat to create this nation at the time of its foundation. To be able to fight against the strongest military in the world and with no legal right and a noose on the line to say “We want this freedom and we’re not going to stop until we get it,” is really bold. 

There is no difference between what the founders did 243 years ago and what a group of determined individuals who band together, go against the grain, and refuse to quit can do today. We take the American Revolution for granted because we think that should have been the only one. 

Yes, that common phrase people say Jefferson said about every generation needing a revolution, is mostly fake. But he did say, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” He’s actually talking about Shay’s Rebellion—a relatively small uprising over, go figure, taxes—which turned out to be a major catalyst for the writing of a small document known today as the Constitution.

I’m going to try not to go down a historical rabbit hole here, but this example kind of nuances the thesis of “always doing what you always did.” The rebellion mirrored the Revolution in that these farmers felt they were being taxed unfairly, and they took physical action to get a say. The major change here was that they were farmers and not wealthy men leading the charge, and they were thus swiftly defeated. So to that end, it proves the point that doing the same thing won’t work. But they did see a changed result in that their protest made the people in charge realize the Articles of Confederation weren’t going to work.

From this example, we understand that a revolution in the traditional sense that Americans understand it probably won’t work. But we need to understand that the revolutions that work focus on the technical definition of a revolution: a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it. 

There is no revolution so long as we’re using the same systems that built whatever it is that needs to be changed. There will be no real revolution until we change the entire way we think about how our government works.

What Have We Learned

2018 has quite literally felt like one of the longest years of my life. I’ve probably said that in some form every year for the last 3 years at least, but this one was particularly chaotic and thus felt like an eternity. But what have we learned? It’s been such a transitional year for me that it feels like I’ve lived three separate lives this year. And through it all, I’ve picked up a number of life lessons I thought I’d share.

I started the year as a senior in college interning at a fashion magazine. I was more broke than I had ever been in my life, but enjoying my final semester of college. Then I spent the summer interning at The Daily Beast, which was kind of like big-girl-job purgatory. Not because it was a bad experience, but because I had entered into adulthood in terms of working a 9-5 job and being out of school, but it wasn’t permanent, and I still went in every day with what felt like a sign on my back that said “intern.” And not because I was treated as such there, more just because I knew the whole time it was temporary and I spent a lot of time applying to other jobs and worried about what would happen when the internship was over. And now here I am finishing out the year as a full-time employee at LendingTree, enjoying the full benefits of paid time off, health insurance (granted, I’ve yet to actually utilize either of these literal benefits), and a level of job security I did not know before.

One taught me love, one taught me patience, and one taught me pain…I type that in jest, but that lyric really could be used to describe the different roles I went through this year. My glitzy fashion internship was more or less a bust. I threw so much money at the MTA just trying to make it a worthwhile experience, and at the end of the day, it wasn’t. I don’t regret doing it—I did learn what it’s like to work at a fashion magazine (yawn), and that some celebrities who will not be named give excruciatingly boring interviews. I can’t say for certain that the gig at ELLE allowed me to pursue my next endeavor, but I have to acknowledge that it didn’t detract me from my trajectory. I went into my next stint at The Daily Beast with the feeling that I had a minuscule amount of journalism experience.

My time at The Daily Beast did a few things for me. It made me love the news a little bit more and hate the news a little bit more. Part of that was just the timing, I mean I don’t know if there’s a news cycle that anyone really wants, but the one I worked with this summer was absolutely not it. It tapped into levels of empathy I didn’t know I had while exposing me to a vast list of things I do not understand. It challenged me to learn more while drawing on my education. In terms of hard job skills, I picked up a couple at The Beast, but I learned a lot more about myself that I’ll get into in a moment.

And here I am now just over a month into my new job at LendingTree. I won’t say more than I can about what the experience has been, but it has been positive. The corporate world is insane and I’m not sure I love that aspect of it, but my office is homely and my team has been incredibly welcoming. I have the satisfaction of knowing I’m where I’m meant to be right now.

So what have we learned?

Probably the biggest lesson I’ve taken out of this year is knowing when to be selfish, and doing it. I spent way too much time this year in my professional and personal life waiting for someone else to make a decision for me, or tell me what I want, when I absolutely could have and should have taken the reins. I always thought I was a selfish person until it was important for my well-being that I be selfish. It was hard (because I’m obviously super selfless). But I had to take a good look in the mirror (and get yelled at by my mom) to say, “Kamaron, you should be doing better.” Which brings me to my next lesson.

Patience is not just virtue, it is the virtue. Each of the jobs I had along with just being a person this year was a constant reminder to have patience. But with that, I also had to give myself a kick sometimes and say I’m not going to sit around waiting for this or that. I did and you do at some point need to say “Here’s what I can do to change this,” and then do it. There will always be factors you can’t change, but the ones you should change aren’t going to change themselves. Sorry to get preachy, but that was experience I really went through in my job search. Patience kept me a little bit sane when I sent out dozens of job applications that would get no response. Patience kept me from committing a crime when I would hear back from a job 5 months later letting me know I’d been rejected. But I also changed my resume or my search approach probably ten times throughout my process. I refused to give up half because I literally couldn’t, and half because I knew something good would come out of it.

One lesson The Daily Beast did reinforce for me was to have the confidence to speak up. I consider myself an outgoing person, but I am deathly shy especially when I know I’m in no position of authority. My defaults to thinking no one wants to hear my ideas because I’m just the intern or I’m just the assistant, or I’m just Kamaron…and I do regret the amount of time I spent at The Daily Beast not sharing my thoughts. It really just took my supervisor saying, “You should speak up more,” for me to be like “Oh they want my input.” Realistically I should have had the confidence all along to know they hired me for a reason and that I was a voice they wanted at the table, but it took a push for me to actually speak up. By the end of my time, my supervisor was applauding my ideas because some of them were actually good.

The final major lesson I’m taking away from 2018 is the greatest of all that I have now just ruined by tying it to a played-out cliché. Yeah it’s love. Wow, did Kamaron grow a heart in 2018? Kind of! I didn’t need to learn how to love, but I did start paying extra close attention to the way I show my love. Through all of the ups and downs of the year, I clung so tightly to the people in my life who make it all worth it. I went through a period in the year where I felt like I was being a really bad friend because I knew I didn’t show love the way my friends did for me. In some ways, I literally couldn’t—like when some of my friends show me love by paying for me to come out with them when I can’t afford to. But there were plenty of other ways other friends would show me love that I didn’t reciprocate for no reason.

I had friends on campus who without fail whenever I saw them, would offer to be there for me if I needed help with anything. Friends who consistently complimented my outfits or pictures online and in person. Little things that would make me smile or make my whole day, but I wasn’t doing for them—with no excuse. So I decided I needed to make an effort to show the people I love that I love them in whatever ways I could, just because I could. The real lesson here was realizing, these people weren’t doing these things for me because they had to, or for any ulterior motive. They just wanted to let me know that they love me and care about me, and I learned it is so special and important to let people know you love them in this way. Just in your every day interactions. It sounds kind of stupid now that I’ve written it down and I do feel like the Grinch character here who had to learn basic human affection, but progress is progress!

That was my 2018. I lived, I learned, I loved. Came, saw, and conquered. The what’s next question is big and open-ended for me right now, but that’s a good thing.

Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year

xoxo,

Kam

Semantics

Words kind of run my life as a writer. So I think about them all the time—how they work together, how they change with context, how they define all these aspects of our lives—semantics, essentially. Words carry weight, that’s undeniable. But too often we get caught up in the semantics that we start to miss the point. We can’t see the forest for the trees—we think if we call something by another name, it changes the meaning entirely, and that cannot be true.

Politically, socially, and practically I’ve lately been paying more and more attention to the way we use and manipulate words to get what we want or to get a point across. We add weight to words to make issues seem larger than they are—often to a fault. We decorate sentences with flowery language to hide something in the tangles. We act one way and speak a different way because words are disputable when actions are not. Think about the word “literally.” In an epic scene from one of my favorite shows, The Newsroom, Jane Fonda brings to light the fact that the dictionary has added a definition to the word “literally” which states that the word can mean “figuratively.” She blames the fact that people continually misused the word “literally” so much that the dictionary made the definition cater to those who used the word correctly, so now when someone says “literally” we don’t necessarily know if they mean actually or figuratively. How wild is that?

I don’t think I have a point here. Semantics is the point. Words do have meaning, but maybe keep an eye on the actions that follow the words. Don’t miss the forest for all the trees.

Noise

I have this weird form of claustrophobia where it only affects my well being in super specific conditions. The fear that makes my heart race and breath irregular appears whenever either the use of my feet or my ears is compromised. The feet is just one of those comfort things I think is somewhat normal. I can’t sleep with my feet under the covers or in socks, and footie pajamas give me angina. I just like to know when the boogeyman reaches out from under the bed I’ll be able to kick back and maybe poke his eyes out with my toes.

The hearing issue is different, though. It is affected in even more specific situations, but also in the metaphoric sense. For example, I can be driving by myself and blasting music with no problem. But if I’m in a car with other people and music is blasting and someone tries to have a conversation, it feels like the walls are closing in. Or if I’m in a group and we’re trying to decide something and everyone is shouting ideas in a competition to see who can be the loudest, a part of my soul starts screaming. I just have this real sense of panic whenever there’s too much noise I can’t control.

I bet you thought this was going to be a political rant. Surprise, it’s not, and you’re welcome. I know we’re all tired of hearing about it. I am going to speak to that, though. I am excruciatingly tired of it. All I wanted was for the election to be over so we could carry on our everyday lives, but something unprecedented has happened, and everything has changed and no one really knows where to go. Or so it feels. It feels this way, at least to me, because there’s so much noise. It’s not even two-sided anymore. Everyone wants everyone to do something differently and we’re all just screaming at each other trying to be the loudest. We can’t even claim we’re the most correct because who knows what correct even looks like. I just want it all to be quiet again.

And even that, I’m told is wrong. I know it’s wrong in the sense that we should not continue to be complacent with the systematic issues like racism and sexism, but I can’t help but wish we could be complacent because at least it was the devil we knew. It’s funny because we know that with Hillary the world was not going to get better overnight. It may not have even improved much in four years. We know under Obama things got better but surely a black president did not do much for racism, and a woman president would likely do the same amount to fix sexism. But at least we knew they were trying. Trump isn’t even officially president yet and it seems someone picked up America and started shaking it like a snow globe. I want the snow to settle so we can see what’s going to happen. I know he’s the bad guy. I loathe that man, but it’s so loud in this country right now that I don’t even know what’s going to happen.

 

The Mean Reds

In his masterpiece, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote wrote, “You know the days when you get the mean reds?…The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?” I have that feeling.

It’s 12:30 on a Sunday night and I was thinking about that book, that quote, and the Holly Golightly character. She is admired as the essence of class in her little black dress, but anyone who’s actually seen the movie or read the book knows she’d be institutionalized if she was a real person in the 60’s. She’s nuts.

I hate this character trope. She’s the manic pixie dream girl we all hate to love, but what happens when we become her? You think things aren’t going your way because you’re just too flighty and too tied down to the mundane musings of everyday life. You get the mean reds.

I’m suffocating. I love everything that I’m doing. I love my classes, my school, my activities, but when I let everything settle and I look at what’s in front of me, I get short of breath and wonder if I’m doing anything at all. My stomach is in knots thinking about the future but doesn’t untangle if I think about the right now.

It sucks because I know that I’m not depressed. I feel blessed that I don’t have the type of chemical imbalances that make people feel this way all the time, but what do I do when I feel this way? When I’m not “bad” enough to be medicated, but I’m not “good” enough to not feel like this today? I want to slap Holly Golightly because she’s being ridiculous and making everyone else miserable, but then I realize I’m doing the same thing. I’m watching myself do it, but I can’t slap myself and tell me to stop.

But I’ll get over it. It’s just the mean reds.

xoxo,

Kam

My Body Story

Before continuing, I want to say that by writing this I am not trying to inspire anyone. I am not trying to convince you to love your body even though you should. I am not making a plea to society to accept me the way I am. I am writing how I feel about the bones, the muscles, and the fat that I have been blessed with for over 20 years. This is my body story.

There’s this half-serious joke in my head where I attribute the shape of my body to a summer I call “the summer of bagels.” In my memory, there was a summer where my mom worked every day and left me and my older sister Kassidy home alone with a dozen bagels a week for the whole summer. We have talked about this and recognized that there is basically no way this could have happened because I have two other siblings and at the time a dad who should have all been home during these days. But in my memory, it was me and Kassidy every day until my mom came home from work around 3:30. We would get up, make bagels with butter, Kraft singles, and garlic salt; take all the cushions off the couches, build a fort, and watch the Lion King. Every day.

I bring up this summer, because in my head this must have been the summer I got fat. That’s what makes sense. Bagels make you fat, and it was after that summer that I started to see myself as such. It was around second or third grade, and I started to realize that the other girls I was friends with didn’t have to pull their pants up to cover their belly buttons. I started to think about dieting. I started thinking “next summer I’m going to run every day and be thin.” I’ve had that thought every summer since then, and have never gone through with it.

First it was the juniors section. I started wearing “juniors” clothes in 4th grade, which I thought was really cool because I felt like a teenager even though I was only 10. I didn’t fully realize that it kind of meant I was bigger than most girls my age, but I didn’t care then because the Juniors section was way cooler than the “Girls” section. But 4th grade brought the challenge of a new school with a lot more kids. In my town, there are 4 elementary schools that are Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, then everyone goes to the Intermediate School for 4th-6th Grade then Middle and High School. In 4th grade I realized I was no longer a big fish in a small pond. I was a fat fish in a skinny pond. On the first day of school a popular boy told me to “go back to the zoo,” and I realized I had become an outsider overnight.

By 6th grade, I had befriended all these popular kids, and become somewhat popular myself. The only thing I was missing was the clothes the popular kids were wearing: Hollister, Abercrombie, Aeropostale. One reason was my family was just kind of against spending so much money on such cheap clothes, but the other reason was the clothes weren’t made for girls my size. One time at the mall, Kassidy and I wandered into a Hollister and before the cologne could hit our lungs, my dad pulled us out by our necks saying We don’t shop here.”

Middle school wasn’t hard for me. I thrived in middle school. I tell everyone I know that I was really popular in middle school as if that’s something to be proud of. No one ever called me fat, and if they did it was because I had called them something much worse.

High school was where things got really tricky. I had a really hard time adjusting to private school. And I gained weight to show for it. Softball season came and I tried on my uniform and sobbed. The pants didn’t fit. I had to buy my own pants and felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb.

At the end of a season of warming the bench, my coach broke the news to me. She needed me to lose some weight this summer.

I had and still do have a lot of respect for her. And I accepted what she told me as correct. I needed to lose weight in order to get better at softball. She handed a workout plan to follow that summer. My sister was also getting married at the end of the summer and as the biggest bridesmaid, I wanted to fit into my dress a little better, so I started the plan. I stopped the plan maybe a week into it. But I started dancing instead. Not “real” dancing, but playing Just Dance on the Wii in my basement. It’s a killer workout. I played religiously. At the final fitting for my sister’s wedding, I had gone down a size, and the seamstress congratulated me.

I returned to school with a newfound confidence. Not because I had lost a ton of weight (I didn’t, really) or changed my size ever so slightly. Sophomore year was the year I started to love myself. I started to learn not what clothes looked good on me, but what clothes I liked to wear (and that looked good on me, but that’s not the point). It was around this time that body positivity started to be this radical new trend. Seventeen Magazine started their Body Peace Treaty, teaming with celebrities to make a pact to love their bodies no matter what they looked like. I can’t say that that is what I needed. I didn’t need Demi Lovato saying “I love my body so should you,” for me to love myself. Or maybe I did.

From there, I only got better. I grew into my body and just started to figure it all out. The end of high school and beginning of college continued to teach me about this vessel I inhibit. College softball taught me about the incredible feats I can put my body through, and my body will still thank me. A love of fashion and growth of the plus size industry has taught me that style literally does come in every size. I still get frustrated sometimes because mainstream retailers are still hesitant to diversify their sizes, but I find ones that aren’t afraid of big girls, and I give them my money instead.

This turned into a longer story than I intended, so I’m a little sorry for that mainly because I haven’t said what I’ve wanted to say yet and I’m still figuring it out. I just want people to know that I don’t need sympathy or special attention. I’m not afraid to be fat. Fat has this awful connotation that too many people in this society seems to be afraid of, but I’m not. I used to pray every night that God would let me wake up a size 3, and every morning I would rage against him, but not anymore. Some days I pray I can wear shorts without fear of chafing, but you know, it’s a part of life.

I was told kind of my whole life that I have to fit a certain mold or do things a certain way because of my size. When skinny jeans first got popular, my whole family mocked me for even thinking I could find a pair in my size. But I haven’t worn anything else since my freshman year of high school.

What I hate is when I make a comment about my body like having fat thighs and people rush to my defense. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t need it. Contrary to popular belief, “fat” is an adjective not a death sentence. I hate when skinny girls complain about being fat becuase it makes me think, “If you think that’s what fat looks like and it’s so ugly to you, what do you think of me?” Not that I need everyone to think that I’m so beautiful, but when it’s your friends, it makes you wonder.

I’ve been thinking about this post for such a long time, and I’m kicking myself for not writing it sooner because now I’m afraid I haven’t done it justice. I’m just so tired of people trying to stand up for other fat people. I think there is a lot of fat shame in society like there is a lot of racism and homophobia and other prejudice that we can’t seem to eradicate. I don’t have to defend myself to anyone, but I am going to love myself unconditionally and unapologetically.

I’m healthy. I’m very active—not that those things matter to anyone except me. What I really want to say is I don’t think I needed all the outside inspiration and I don’t think I can inspire anyone to love their bodies the way I do mine—they have to figure it out on their own. I know people look at me and wish they had this confidence and I want to tell them: you do. You just have to find it inside of yourself. Mine was here all along I just had to tune out a lot of negativity. I hope you’ll do the same.

I’ll end with a few lines from my favorite poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

xoxo,

Kam