Rondaisms - Ronda Lee - Jeta B Photography

I am about to talk about what is not generally said out loud. I debated about this subject for February’s Black History Month and decided against it – too controversial. However, March is Women’s History Month and it ties in. After attending Mother Jones’ Food for Thought and the debate I had with friends later, I decided the topic was definitely ripe for discussion.
 
For the remainder of Women’s History Month, I would like to address Feminism & Race. It has been on my heart for a while, especially since moving to New York City. I love that there are so many women’s networking events and groups. Unfortunately, they seem a bit segregated by class, age, and race. There is the Lean-In versus the non Lean-In. There is you cannot know real fulfillment without motherhood versus you do not take your career seriously if you are a stay at home mother. Under all of those issues, I am still baffled at the lack of attendance or representation of women of color at networking events. Women of color were forced into the workforce long before it was popular for women to work or as a show of independence. Women of color were working mothers before the term women’s rights was invented. All of these women picking sides. Maybe I am naïve in assuming the whole point of woman’s right was the right to choose to be in the house, workforce, or whatever. It seems that the different groups have become so fragmented that we “vag block each other’s success” (a Ronda-ism™). 
 
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People like to put you in a box as to what you are and how you think.  I am amazed at how often I am characterized as liberal by conservatives and moderate by liberals. I am shocked when liberals call me liberal (denial maybe). I identify with cultural differential feminists, am conservative at times, a libertarian wannabe (maybe), and more liberal than I think. I am not a party loyalist.  Although, I do tend to vote one party more than the other – whoever best represents my issues or the lesser of two evils when I think both candidates are full of it.
I am an amalgamation of many influences, ethnicities and cultures. I grew up going to Baptist church and attended Catholic grammar school. My Catholic grammar school had less than 1% of its students come from Catholic faith.  Around 10, my parents joined a nondenominational church that was a mixture of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and pentecostal.  I went to a Lutheran college and when I visit my “godparents” I attend Presbyterian services.  I initially grew up in an urban neighborhood that solely comprised my ethnicity and race.  Later, as a teen, I moved to a multi-cultural, inter-racial, diverse socio-economic college suburb.  I thoroughly enjoyed that experience, because diversity, uniqueness and being out of the box was the norm.  Before graduating high school, my family moved again and I was in a “lily-white” suburb that resembled Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  The student parking lot put the staff parking lot to shame. Everyone dressed alike, talked alike, most came from money and minorities made up less than 1% of the student population (like out of 1,600 students, minorities numbered 16-20).
 
I am urban with suburban influences (did you pick up on the “like”).  I am a Christian who is sorely disappointed at how Christians are behaving publicly, particularly in the political sphere. Sometimes I am  called bourgeois by other minorities when I do not support people simply because we are of the same race. Sometimes I am considered plebian when I meet real minority bourgeois society.  My father was a tradesman (carpenter) working class – maybe we made it to lower middle class.  Although I am an educated professional (BA, JD), I still identify with the working class.
 
I have met people from all walks of life.  Regardless of wealth, race, ethnicity or social standing, my demeanor is the same to all except that I may be more gracious and humble around those less fortunate.  That was my upbringing.  My parents laid the foundation of hard work, respect for elders and those without the same advantages.  My mom’s priorities: God, family and education.  She would not stand for cockiness or pride if I received an award or honor.  For the longest time as a child, I thought she was not happy at my progress because whenever I had an achievement, she would not congratulate me.  Instead she would say, “Ronda, there will always be someone better, brighter, smarter, prettier – you just do your best and respect other people.” That advice has served me well.
 
When I post a blog, I am coming from all of the events, people, and places that have shaped my life.  Travel abroad opened my eyes that in spite of differences we are more similar than politics would have us believe. I realized the world is interdependent and America cannot afford an isolationist stance of  us against the rest of world mentality.  If the Wall Street collapse did anything, it confirmed that what happens in one corner of the world will affect the other corners no matter how far flung they are from each other – Little Dorrit all over again.
 
I believe in a quality education for everyone because we need an educated populace to lead this country and make it competitive economically.  I do not espouse the notion that “what happens in the inner city or rural area does not affect me” because I know eventually it will.  It has.  Middle class suburbs are now experiencing the same ills they attempted to avoid by moving there – drug problems with their teens, homelessness, lack of education funding, and other issues due to loss of jobs and foreclosures. The Occupy Wall Street Movement brought a new norm to the middle class that the poor already knew and understood – even with an education I still cannot find a job. Crystal meth used to be considered a rural problem, now it has Hollywood stars and middle class teens as its victims.  
 
Maybe it is a selfish storing up of “good karma” that motivates me to help others.  But also, others invested in me and I must pay it forward. That too is a biblical principle so if I live the faith that I claim I believe in, I must bless those that curse me, pray for those that despitefully use me, love my enemies, and help those less fortunate than me. When people question my faith or other beliefs, I must answer them with meekness and kindness – not brow beating and ridicule for having questions about what I believe and why.
 
A dear friend and I almost had a falling out over liberal versus conservative media issues.  This was my response: 
I’m a hybrid conservative, libertarian, and liberal.  Just like religion, I have no problem listening to other political viewpoints, just give me equal air time.  I’m not a fan of Limbaugh, but I’m not one of those people that refuse to read anything from the conservative press either. I will laugh at a lot of it, but I understand there are crazy liberals too.  I make fun of the crazy conservatives, I equally make fun of the crazy liberals like I rail the crazy Evangelicals.  If I want the truth in journalism I read the WSJ and NYT and I’ll find the truth somewhere in the middle.  I have definite biases regarding both political parties same as I do with fundamentalists/evangelicals. I generally make them known so there’s no surprise and whoever I’m talking to can discuss and we can agree to disagree in the end. So if I say anything political that is sending your antenna up, let me know.  I’m not trying to convert you politically.  After being force-fed “vote a certain way or you’ll lose your salvation,” that is so not me.  I am the one to make fun of it though.
Fortunately, the friendship survived that hurdle. Nonetheless, what I told my friend is true for those of you who honor me by reading my blog.  From me, you will hear the good bad and ugly because that is the only way I know to be truthful – to present it in beauty, sadness, and ugliness.  In the words of Gunter Grass, “it is like an onion that wishes to be peeled so we can read what is laid bare…beneath its dry crackly outer skin we find another, more moist layer, that once detached, reveals a third beneath which a fourth and fifth wait whispering.” Three parts to every story: good, bad, and ugly. Let’s peel this onion together, tears and all.
When a writer or an artist tries to tell the truth and tries to tell it eloquently, it appeals to all people, regardless of race.                                                            -Maya Angelou