Excuse me, are you listening? 11-13
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear Readers,
The summer is flying by.  Michigan, oh sweet Michigan, why is your weather so crazy.  We have flucuations in weather that are just too much to bear.  One day it is 100 degrees and the next it is 75 degrees. Then when you go to work in the summer it is always 50 degrees.  It seems to be quite scary.  Then again, everything is causing concern or so it seems.  
No matter what era we are in it seems there is a heightened sense of fear for someone. African Americans and Mexicans had to deal with signs like “No Dogs, No Negroes, No Mexicans” in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Today racism is still prevalent.  Give it a rest people.  Stereotyping people is ridiculous.  How does a black person act like a white person or talk like a white person.  How in the world is Snooki from “Jersey Shore” representative of all Italians.  Why is that when one is Asian, some would say “they are so intelligent” or that for some magical moment that all Asian men know karate, judo, jujitsu, tae kwon do or know how to aptly handle Samurai swords.  I had to giggle at that visual.  Seriously, do you know how much pressure you put on children of Asian descent.  I am glad to see 
Yes, I know all black women are dramatic, shake their fingers, roll their eyes and speak in slang.  I say this with extreme jest.  I learned this the hard way at a job that I used to have.  Every once in a while, my boss, would start shaking his head and rolling his neck as he  axed (sic)  me questions about the pronunciation of my words.  I would cringe every time he would come near me.  He began to shatter my perception of myself and being black, a first generation American and having a New York accent did not help me much.  Now I see him and he turns red.  Oh, the discussion about race is hilarious at times.
My son and I were recently on the cover of the Lansing State Journal , which is our mainstream newspaper.  We spoke about culture and race.  I check the African American box on my forms or the black box on my forms but I would prefer Caribbean American.  I grew up Caribbean American, my parents are Caribbean American, my only surviving grandparent lives in the Caribbean. Someone asked me why I continued to say I am Caribbean American.  I told him because I am.  I advised him that I did not need to give him any further explanation.  My culture has become so richly diverse and I have learned a lot about people in Michigan who are from the South.  It is even more interesting when I meet people from up North or people who have never been outside of Lansing, who tell me that they have never been to the ocean and do not have a desire to go.  I do not judge because they have the right to enjoy what they enjoy.  
When I was a child, “down south” was like saying “Alaska”.  I still have not been to the deep South and would love to experience Arkansas, Mississippi or Alabama, which are exotic places for me.  Visiting relatives in the Caribbean is normal for me.  I try to keep my children grounded.  I speak Spanish at home and teach them carefully how to roll their tongues, however, they prefer my grandmother’s first language which is French.  They go to school at Shabazz Academy and they have been learning French since kindergarten.  My husband is a first generation Michigander and he has not been to Arkansas where his parents are from. To be honest he does not care to explore his roots in the south.  I on the other hand, make it a point to ask every Risper I meet questions, even though it is my married last name.
My good friends make fun of me about when I choose to have an accent and what kind of accent.  I choose very carefully when I am speaking.  My code switch button works well.  My Caribbean accent is reserved for other Caribbean people, when I am talking to my children while behaving like my mother and while dancing while cleaning.
My New York accent comes out when I am really comfortable with my friends, when I am really excited or extremely irritated and I have to go “Brooklyn” on individuals (give them a piece of my mind).  Giving someone a piece of my mind could merely be telling someone “don’t let my suit fool you”.  
My non-accented voice is used on occasions when I do not want to explain myself or want to just fit in.  Sometimes, I just shake my head like I know exactly what people are talking about and then go home and look it up.  I learn that way and others who judge others should do some research as well.
I am a black Caribbean American Michigander and proudly so.  This is where I live.  Take the opportunity to not fluctuate, discriminate, hate or create stories about people you don’t know.  You may find that the Asian man who is adopted an originally from Iowa and the Mexican man who grew up in Brownsville, Texas are very similar.  They both like chocolate ice cream, California wine and they take their children to Disney World every year at the same time, share the same floor at a timeshare and most of all they enjoy each others company.  Find what you have in common and keep it moving.
Love people,
Rina Risper
This was printed in the July 15, 2012 - July 28, 2012 Edition

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