How we divide

We were making copies using the ditto machine in the teacher’s resource room of our school.

When the teacher’s aide – we kids called “slap jaw” – walked through the intoxicating fumes of the duplicating solvent to talk to us.

She asked us where we were going to high school – we both replied Sullivan. She pulled out her copy of the Gale Echo – our school’s yearly black and white booklet and opened it to the centerfold exposing the pictures of the graduating 8th graders.

Slap jaw thrust the paper and a pen towards me and asked me to autograph my light-greyish picture, saying I would be famous one day.

You were standing next to me, my sister, my desk mate in our “gifted” class, my friend for as long I could remember, our fate sealed by our shared initials R-F-R, your dark-greyish picture next to mine.



I remember looking at her, looking at you, then looking at her again. Perhaps I had a stupid smile on my face, thinking she just forgot, a simple oversight, she was an old white woman.

I remember that pause – that moment it took slap jaw to realize she should ask for your autograph too, but it was too late. She exposed our differences.


Freshman year of high school, I was labeled white for the first time. I’m not white. I’m a child of immigrants.


I played basketball in high school.

We played all-white suburban schools outside Chicago. We played all-black south and west side schools in Chicago.

To some, I looked more like suburban white than south side black.

My sisters of basketball.

When I fell in love with a black man from the west side, he told me I wouldn’t be accepted by his people. To his family, friends, and neighbors, I was white.

I remember feeling my love is no different.


In high school, I labeled myself a half-breed – something I heard or read someone call a Native American whose parents weren’t both Native.

But was I a half-breed German or a half-breed Cuban? What half of what breed would I be?

30 years later I received my AncestryDNA® results. I remember looking at the colored blobs over parts of the globe where my people came from.

The European continent was aglow in a rainbow of blobs.

90% of my DNA is European Mutt, my ancestors traversed the lands from Spain east towards Poland, from Scandinavia, south to Italy and Greece.

The other 10% comes from the continents of North and South America, Africa, and West Asia (the middle east).screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-7-54-12-am


The complicated mess of my DNA is a result of wars, colonization, slavery, revolutions, migration, immigration and everything in between.

My DNA unites, rather than divides.

I may not look like you. Our phenotypes make us look different to each other. But when we look inside we will find our similarities.



#furlough #shutdown and #you

What does the shutdown of the U.S. government mean to you?

I’m directly impacted. My day job is gone, yes temporarily, but I sort of like serving my country and ensuring sustainable U.S. seafood – jobs, food, money, communities, environment all impacted by the harvesting of fish. OK, and I really like getting a paycheck.

We have important research being cancelled or postponed.

We have a fatal crash in Tennessee not being investigated.

Impending damage from hurricane Karen won’t be compensated.

Here are just a few economic impacts thanks to a blog at the NY Times.

How about those folks that have jobs thanks to government contracts?


What about that unconscious or conscious side effect of having elected officials acting like bullies on a playground?

Or the effect of having an employee not do the job they were hired to do? Like someone at McDonalds not serving hamburgers because they don’t want to or because they are vegetarian –  fully knowing that it was the job they were hired to do.

Yes it is that simple. The NUMBER ONE, NUMERO UNO, job of members of the U.S. Congress is to PASS A BUDGET!!!

Nevermind, they haven’t passed one in years and government agencies with important missions – missions that are at the core value systems of all Americans – have been working with skeleton crews and a pittance for budgets.

I do not like where we are right now. All because there are still people in this country that want to be the OTHER or are afraid of the OTHER…

You know what I’m talking about – it is hardwired in all of us. That need to compartmentalize other people to help you develop your sense of identity. To identify with something, someplace, someone – to justify your existence. The ammo necessary to hate someone, something, someplace, when you don’t know them, never have seen the thing or never visited the place.

On the innocent side of the spectrum of “otherism” is what makes a football game exciting – Beat the visiting team! Hoorah!

But this is also what makes walking down the street at night dangerous – they are from the other team – jump them. Or in this case it makes white, evangelical, southerners, right-wingers – afraid to be in the same line as poor people of color from different religions, states and from the left-wing when going for health care.

It has been said that these prejudices, this otherism, is unconscious, hard to get to and hard to change.

I say BULLSHIT to that.  Enough excuses. Open your eyes to your own prejudices, your own otherisms. Pay attention to your heart rate or blood pressure when you see someone you may have ideological, morphological, phenotypical, or geographical differences.

I think I am a nice person but it chaps my hide that I am pre-judged by people when I enter a room. I can see it in their eyes, I can see their unconscious neurons firing those habitual prejudices across their brain. It is rare when I see someone consciously halting that habit – changing their default behavior – to greet me as a human – an equal – a sister, with respect.

If you do it for me, I promise I’ll do it for you. And if I don’t, cuz I’m tired and/or hungry, let’s talk about it,  like adults, let’s agree to disagree on some things, but let’s focus on those things we share.

But don’t take my government and my livelihood hostage just because you can’t get over seeing others as equals.