About Privilege

‘The black mother perceives destruction at every door, ruination at each window, and even she herself is not beyond her own suspicion… beyond her door, all authority is in the hands of people who do not look or think or act like her or her children. Teachers, doctors, sales clerks, librarians, policemen, welfare workers are white and exert control over her family’s moods, conditions and personality; yet within the home, she must display a right to rule which at any moment, by a knock at the door, or a ring of the telephone can be exposed as false.’ – Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman

I sat upright in bed when I finished reading that passage the other night and I’ve been able to think of little else since. Even though I myself am not a black mother, this spoke so clearly to me about privilege, a subject that is so emotionally-charged that productive conversations rarely happen around it without someone walking away wounded.

In recent years, like so many others, I’ve been grappling with the notion of privilege. Millions of us have since watched in horror as people in positions of power have unashamedly flaunted their privilege, leaving the rest of us feeling demoralized, deflated, crushed. For many brave people, this has spurred them on to action, opening up discussions about what privilege is, what it looks like, where it is, what it means. But discussions invariably become tense with people becoming highly defensive and dismissive as a result.

In thinking about it, I’ve been forced to examine and check my own privilege, to confront it, to understand what it is (something I’m still learning), to unpack how it’s made my life better and possibly made worse the lives of others, how I carry that privilege forward in my own life and through my children. What I’ve been unable to do successfully is find neutral vocabulary to talk about it. Even though power is inherent in privilege, if we can talk about it without judgement and in ways that are relatable, people can honestly start to reflect on their own privilege and then harness that for the good of others (and themselves).

There are some people who actively seek privilege to the detriment of others. But the vast majority of people don’t even know they possess privilege because, like everyone else, they’re just trying to make it through a day. But every time you look away from someone struggling or you watch quietly (or not at all) while a person fights to be heard, seen, accepted, paid a fair wage, you are using your privilege. Your wealth, gender, race, religion, social standing, etc affords you the privilege of not having to get involved. We have all done it and while that doesn’t make us terrible people, it does make us complicit in the current struggles about privilege and power that are taking place around the world. So how do we move forward from that heavy knowledge?

That passage from Maya Angelou’s book is the framework we need to think about privilege in a relatable way. That passage sums it up so perfectly it’s almost too raw to touch. When thinking about privilege, ask yourself: beyond my home, the safety of these walls, the security of my dwelling, am I free to be who I really am without interference from others? So as a woman, am I able to look and dress and behave as I want? Or am I labelled bossy for spelling out what I need, pushy because I don’t let you tell me how it is, or one of those minority women because I actually talk about race and prejudice and don’t just quietly tolerate it?

As a human, are you able to freely walk through neighborhoods without someone calling Neighborhood Watch, locking their doors when they see you, changing their body language? Are you able to drive a car without being pulled over for no reason or travel without security consistently pulling you aside for additional screening?

As a parent, do you ever have to worry that your children will be treated differently outside of your home because of how they look? What religious holidays they do or don’t celebrate? What things they can or cannot afford to do that their peers are doing?

Dr. Angelou went on to say about black mothers ‘she must tell her children the truth about…power without suggesting that it cannot be challenged.’

Do you ever have to have conversations like that with your children, where you have to balance the truth of the hurdles they will face through being born who they are with the belief that they still have the power (although maybe not the resources or broad support) to change it? For most things, I do not have to have these conversations with my children. That is their and my privilege. But when it comes to other issues, I do and it haunts me that any person should have to feel this way.

But in order for me, as human being, to productively contribute to this conversation, I need to be honest about the multiple ways in which I am in a position of privilege before I can use that to make the world better for others and myself. I’m not saying people have to justify the privileged positions they find themselves in now. For many of us, we didn’t know what social status, race, gender, we were growing up into. But we know now. And that matters. What we do in this moment now and from this moment forward matters because we know systems are being used against others and that privilege is real and has the power to propel you forward or hold you down until you choke under its weight.

So use Dr. Angelou’s words a benchmark for examining and understanding privilege and ask yourself: beyond the safety of your home, are you able to be who you really are? Then use the answer to make your life and the lives of others better. And to all the brave people doing this already, thank you; we need you.

What do I tell my kids about a Trump presidency

Trump’s win has devastated pretty much everyone I know on both sides of the political spectrum. From my children who wanted their ‘teammate’ Hillary to win, to friends, colleagues, and neighbours. This ‘victory’ doesn’t sit right with us. And it’s not because our person didn’t win. We’ve all dealt with being on the losing team before. This defeat is different. We’re talking about someone who built his campaign on threats, insults, lies, and fear. His campaign was grounded in hatred, bigotry, misogyny, ignorance, and intolerance. All the things we tell ourselves and our children they cannot and should not espouse… and yet he is now set to become leader of the free world. It’s just too much to take in (To anyone who’s trying to understand what that feeling of unease, degradation, and hurt is it’s how the rest of us feel when we’re attacked because of our race or religion. You know it’s completely wrong and false but it still feels shameful and painful.).

So what do we do now? What comes next? What do we tell our kids? First, hug your loved ones. I held my children a little closer this morning and checked in with my friends and family. I looked around at how my community was reeling from this latest setback and I grieved, and continue to grieve, with them. But soon we need to come out of this fog because, like it or not, we must learn to live in a world where Trump is going to be president.

I am tired of trying to explain to anyone why this is a terrifying moment. I am tired of explaining why this is not business as usual where we just press on. I am tired of trying to make others understand how unsettling this is. If you don’t understand now, in this moment, you won’t understand anytime soon.

So in my mind the absolute best thing to do today, tomorrow, and in anticipation of 2020 is to recommit to love and kindness. Practice it each and every day. Ingrain love and kindness in all you do, at home, with friends, with strangers, at work. Each and every day. If you have kids, teach them love and kindness in word and deed. Muslim, black, Latina, female, LGBTQ, immigrant, poor, middle class, birth control user, none of the aforementioned, whatever. Love and kindness.

Love is not an easy concept to embrace. Love requires us to set aside our prejudices (many of which have been held over lifetimes and generations) and face our fears of others without a tangible safety net. And it can be exhausting. For the most part, we are conditioned to mistrust and judge those we see as different to ourselves. But engaging in that behaviour has led us to this moment now. It has led us to a moment where Trump has been voted in as president on a platform of hatred. Love and kindness are not partisan issues; they are human ones.

So today, along with your children, friends, family members, and communities, let’s make a bold political statement: kindness and love. I am saddened that I live in a world where kindness is a political statement, but fine. I’ll take this as an opportunity to rededicate myself to this mission. I will teach it to my children through my actions, my words, and how I live my life. I will prove to them, and Trump, that his hatefulness will not darken the light of love. His assaults will not make me lash out at others, even if they’re different to me. His ignorance will not stop me from teaching my own children and learning new things with them. Kindness and love.

I will remember this bold political statement as I cry and think about how my boys may be treated as second class citizens simply because they’re Muslim.

I will remember love and kindness as I think about the immigrant families that are afraid they will be deported, separated, or worse.

I will remember this as I think of same-sex couples just wanting to live their lives like everyone else.

I will remember this as I think of the millions and millions of women who just want to be able to access life-saving health services and make decisions for their own bodies.

I will remember this as I think about how Black Lives Matter was labeled ‘trouble’.

I will remember this as I think of every single woman who is essentially being told that a man can treat her as an object to be grabbed, touched, and degraded at a man’s will.

It’s bewildering to think of what a Trump presidency may look like and depressing and downright terrifying to relive the hateful rhetoric that led to his successful election as president. But I believe love and kindness are our first defense against this ever happening again. I believe love and kindness can carry us through these first few overwhelming and crushing days, weeks, and months as we begin to process what happens next.

At this point, I feel it’s impossible to prepare against his policies because no one really knows what those are (Trump included…). So while we wait for this to shake out, I will continue to tell my children that bullying, intimidation, hatred, ignorance, and fear will not win. Trump and his supporters may attack my religion, my ethnic background, my gender, and many of the people I love, but they will not win.

Love and kindness 2020.

p.s. watch us come back stronger.

About Why I’m Raising My Sons to Think Like Women

As I was cleaning up my sons’ toys last night and muttering to myself about the entitlement of my boys, a thought suddenly struck me: ‘if I don’t do this, then who will’? As in, I have implored every member of this household to tidy up after themselves and I still f**king get stuck doing it because if I don’t do it, clearly no one else will.  That’s how I spent International Women’s Day, essentially doing what women do: all the stuff, big and small, that needs to get done because if we don’t do it, who will?

Now make no mistake; I’m one of the lucky ones.  My husband is one of the good ones.  He cooks some weekends, cleans up after dinner, is on toddler duty as soon as steps through the door in the evening and his shift doesn’t end until about 6 the next morning.  I know I’m lucky.  But still, I find myself doing things and thinking ahead in ways my (useful) husband never would.  I often ask myself ‘why’ because I am raising boys and I want them to be good partners to people someday and contribute to the world.  What I’ve realized about the many wonderful men in my life is that most of them are good at the big things.  So they’re good at excelling at their jobs or doing well in academia or being assertive when needed.  But when it comes to the details of life like managing the family calendar, dressing the kids so they don’t look shipwrecked, or running a household they are, as my cousin so aptly put it ‘Mr. 70%’.

As women, we all know how much we do and how much is expected of us.  We’ve obviously known all along, whether it was watching our mothers, aunts, sisters, etc or doing it our damn selves.  But now that it’s hip to talk about women and the unique ways in which we ‘add’ to work environments and ‘contribute’ to society, I’ve been trying to understand what it is about women (and mothers especially) that makes them so impactful.  It’s all the rage to talk about women-owned businesses being more successful than standard ones and the need for flexible working precisely because women’s contributions mean so much to the labour force that we can no longer afford to exclude them.  But these articles, research studies, and statistics don’t answer the ‘why’ of this female contribution.  Why are female employees so productive and why do female entrepreneurs get it right more often?

Quite simply because women learn from a young age that if they don’t make it happen for themselves, pretty much no one else will.  Your parents will try.  Your teachers might encourage you.  Your (female) colleagues may go to bat for you.  Ultimately, though, you’re working in a system that expects you to be a loving and supportive (read submissive) wife or partner, a perfect mum, a flawless homemaker, and a model employee who isn’t too threatening to the higher-ups.

Now of course this isn’t true for everyone.  There are plenty of entitled women and a growing number of men who truly want to see their wives, partners, sisters, female colleagues, etc excel at whatever they choose to do.  And then of course there’s race and social class that transcend gender and quash peoples’ ambitious in horrible ways.  But we know being born a woman can put you at a disadvantage if you don’t find a way to fight the system, whether you’re born in Europe or Asia (although the stakes may be significantly different).

So why can mothers do so much and why are females so successful in the workplace when they are given the opportunity to stay instead of being forced into the home by a desire to have children?  Because as women we approach everything we do with an ‘if I don’t do this, then who will’ attitude.  If I don’t make dinner for this family, then who else will?  If I don’t complete this project thoroughly, then who will?  If I don’t fix the problems in the workplace that I experienced at all my previous jobs, then who will?  If I don’t make a stand for other mothers, working mothers, older mothers, etc, then who will?  We know the answers to these questions are often ‘no one’ and that is what drives us to success when we are given the chance or when we are able to carve that chance out for ourselves.

I have the good fortune of working for a women-owned business and what I’ve noticed is that the female leaders not only slay it in the creativity and idea department, they actually follow all the way through with their projects.  When needed they delegate but often, they will birth and raise an entire project from start to finish without needing to drag an unnecessary number of employees into the situation.  It’s a skill because not only is it highly efficient, it’s inspiring to watch people so committed to an idea that they work doggedly to turn it into something real and beneficial, whether that’s made up of tiny components or outward facing tasks.  One of my siblings also runs a company with two other women and together these three women are completely shaking up their industry from attracting new business to fundamentally changing working practices for parents and employees who want a life outside of work.  I believe it’s because all these women, intentionally or otherwise, approach their lives from an ‘if I don’t disrupt this industry, then who will’ attitude.

So my new mantra to my children is ‘if you don’t do this, then who will?’ I hope this will serve the dual purpose of teaching my sons to think like women so that they’re not just good at the big things, but at all the things that make a home-life and work-life so rich. (And also so that they can walk from one end of the living room to the other without tripping over 18 different toys.) But then also instill in them that fighting instinct that so many women have because they know nothing will be handed to them.  When you’re forced to answer the question ‘if you don’t do this, then who will’, you’re forced to think about who picks up the slack when you fall short.  I want my boys to be the answer to that question, just like so many women before them.


About Women Being Bossy and Men Being Leaders

Strong women make easy targets.  They refuse to bow down, conform, or blend into a crowd making it easy to scapegoat them.  In theory, people love supporting the idea of a strong woman; in practice, not so much.  Here’s the thing about strong women though: we just don’t give a f*ck about your nonsense and just as soon as there are enough of us, your nonsense won’t matter.

I was brought up by an exceptionally strong mum and six larger-than-life aunts, each one strong, talented, and successful.  My mother only let the strongest women into her life, which thankfully added to the positive female role models in my life.  I assumed all women were this powerful because even in the face of so much negativity, these women remained true to themselves.  It’s simply been a part of me to be surrounded by women of strength.  Sometimes that strength is outward and loud.  Other times it’s quiet, watchful, and patient.  Regardless of what form it takes, it’s always awe inspiring.

If you’re not used to being around strong women it can be off-putting.  We are a threat to the status quo.  We demand more from the people around us, male and female, and just as we stand our ground on issues of importance, we expect that same strength and commitment from those we interact with.  Anything that challenges the norm is seen as threatening though and so people will attempt to put distance between you and themselves.  Let them.  They are, in essence, trimming the fat for you and would have cracked under the pressure to hide their weakness.

If this post is off-putting to you that’s also fine.  If I were a man writing this and saying ‘I don’t care what you think about me because either way I’m living my life’ would you be affronted?  Would you think I’m tooting my own horn?  Would it seem that abnormal?  The truth is, if you’re unsettled by this post, you probably wouldn’t care if I were a man writing this.  But because I’m a woman, asserting myself outwardly and publicly, it’s almost cringe worthy.  Well let me say it again, I’m not trying to be rude to you.  The truth is I just don’t give a f*ck about nonsense and your being unsettled by female confidence is nonsense.  Anytime someone exhibits behavior that is perceived to belong to another gender they are ridiculed, mocked, and bullied.  Female confidence, assertiveness, and strength are no different and until these traits are seen as both male and female (or simply human), women will be singled out and demonized for possessing these qualities.

Strength is not drawn from a finite source.  If I show strength that clearly doesn’t lessen the strength you’re able to have or show.  What I’m now just starting to realize, though, is that female strength is not always about the strength that I’m showing as a woman but about the perceived weakness my strength is highlighting in you.  As a woman, I’m meant to be meeker, more accepting, less argumentative.  As a strong woman, however, I won’t stand idly by while some bullsh*t is being played out.  Calling out that bs is what is so unnerving about a strong woman and it’s what scares people.

As with all stereotyping, demonizing a woman for being strong and confident is lazy.  It’s unoriginal, it requires minimal use of brain cells, is born out of ignorance, and is just so tired.  But until and unless we embrace women for all the ways in which they show strength – leaving children to earn a living, staying at home with children, earning PhDs, breaking barriers by engaging in every type of job out there, defending women’s right to choose what happens to their bodies, etc. – this will never be accepted as a female trait.  It will instead be called bitchiness, affirmative action, controlling, whatever to detract from the path that woman is forging for herself.

As far as possible, I’m raising my son and nephews to be gender-blind.  I imagine this may one day morph into highlighting the nonsensical way in which certain attributes are assigned to different genders but for now, it’s gender blindness.  I remember having a conversation with a friend where she was explaining to me how her daughter is essentially a leader at daycare.  She laughed and jokingly said ‘I’m worried about what the other parents will say about her bossiness.’  I was exactly the same in preschool (surprising, no?) and I’ve been called every name under the sun: bossy, bitchy, controlling, you name it.  At the end of the day though the question shouldn’t be ‘why is this girl so bossy?’ but ‘what is this girl (or parent) doing so right that she is a leader?’ Also ps, according to the status quo women are bossy but men are leaders; no thank you.

Showing female strength can sometimes feel like you’re shouting into the wind; no one wants to hear you and they use the blowing wind as an excuse to keep you silenced.  But it’s also possible for the wind to change direction.  We can be that change.  We can raise our children, male and female, to see strength as strength, regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman.  We can make that an appealing, attractive, and genderless quality.  And for our generation now we can support each other.  This doesn’t mean everyone has to take a stand on everything.  It simply means that we don’t have to let our fear of female strength drive our desire to tear down and destroy those who show strength.  That can actually happen.  Strong women are only a threat to you if you’re benefiting from keeping women down.  Otherwise we’re just wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, colleagues, bosses, friends, neighbors attempting to carve out a space for ourselves.

FYI : if you do continue to hate on strong women, we still don’t give a f*ck and you won’t change us. 

About Parenting?

I remember the first time I was left alone with my son. By alone I mean I was still in the hospital with staff coming into my room every half an hour but my husband was taking an exam, my sister was at work, and my mum and in-laws were at home. I so clearly remember thinking ‘what is wrong with everyone? Why have they left me alone with my baby? I clearly have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m supposed to do’. I thought I was magically meant to be this Super Mum like in the Pampers adverts. In reality, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing BECAUSE I WAS A FIRST TIME MUM. But we have a romanticized notion of parenthood and it’s a big frigging shock to the system when you realize you’re not like any of the parents on tv or in parenting books. Since the birth of my son more than two and half years ago (already?!), I feel like I’ve haphazardly stumbled through sleep regressions, tantrums, growth spurts, owies, uneaten meals, endless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, 8 million boxes of Goldfish (wholegrain, of course), and countless other milestones and events. My intentions have been good but I’ve stumbled a lot.  Stumbling as a parent is hard to admit to even though we all do it. I wish someone had told me the less romantic, more accurate version of parenting before I had my own kids. If I had to tell my own children the truth about parenting here are the top 5 things I would say (as of June, 2015):

  1. You better like the feeling of guilt because it will be the most constant emotion in your life. When my son is at daycare I feel guilty that I’m not with him. When he’s at home I feel guilty that I’m not challenging him enough. When I let him have a treat, I feel guilty that rather than make him work for the treat, it’s simply been handed to him. If he’s earned said treat, I feel guilty that the lesson I’m teaching him is that if you work hard, it’ll pay off when in reality that isn’t always the case. Ugh! THE GUILT IS ENDLESS. And I imagine this only gets worse as the stakes grow. I wish as parents we talked about this more. I was so unprepared for the relentless guilt and it was isolating initially because I felt like everyone else was winning at parenting. Now that I’ve opened up to other mums I realize every good parent I know feels this guilt acutely. What I see are strong, inspirational, brilliant mothers but what they think is that they’re being pulled in so many different directions that they never quite succeed at anything. In my mind that’s ridiculous because they have these fabulous careers or at least life trajectories, cozy yet immaculate homes, and children who are excelling even as toddlers. Basically they seem to have their sh*t all the way together while I’m at home feeding my son Goldfish (again wholegrain so it’s not a total loss) out of a cup because we have no more clean bowls.
  2. Do not be a terrible human because you will get called on it. The other day as I was rushing to get my son out of the door, I snapped and said ‘hurry up and get in the car please’. I thought I was pretty clever speaking sternly but adding a ‘please’. My son looked me straight in the eye and said ‘talk nicely, Mama’. I stopped my rushing about and laughed. He was right; getting to daycare 3 minutes sooner as a result of a snippy attitude was not worth it and my son was not afraid to tell me that. Through my laughter I was forced to apologize and restart the entire process of trying to leave the house. *please note, being called on your behavior is not always this ‘fun’. It is, at times, painful, degrading, and this honesty is not refreshing.
  3. Anyone can be a parent. I’m not saying a good parent, just a parent in general. So to be a parent you technically don’t have to change yourself. Here’s the thing though: becoming a parent makes you want to be better. At everything. At every little, stupid, big, irrelevant, important, menial, whatever thing. I imagine (largely to keep myself sane) that one day it all kind of comes together and you see your hard work pay off, but while your kids are still growing, you will often feel like you don’t measure up. That short temper you’re always working so hard to control will be tested and flare up (often). Those terrible eating habits will be watched, scrutinized, and God forbid, mimicked if you’re not careful. Having children is like holding a giant mirror up to yourself that reflects e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. about you. That harsh and truthful reflection will make you want to be a better version of yourself. The flipside, of course, is that mirror also highlights the things that you do well and gives you a shot of confidence like nothing else can (for example, you don’t like my body? Well that’s just fine because I’m healthy and I want my children to have a healthy relationship with body image so take your size 00 and shove it).
  4. Having children is intoxicating. I come from a big family and I always wanted lots of kids. My husband is an only child (also referred to as a ‘lonely child’ in Scandinavia, apparently) and I always thought having just one was kind of cruel. Now that I do have the one kid, I am utterly intoxicated with the endless amounts of attention and energy I can spend on this single human. Even though in the weeks following his birth, I wanted to have more kids straight away, I’m currently unwilling to share my son with anyone else. I know as soon as I have another child and see him or her interact with my son, I’ll wonder why on earth I waited so long, but for now I’m all Beyoncé and Drunk in Love (well maybe the Will Ferrell version).
  5. You will think to yourself that your kids depend on you for everything. What I’m learning, though, is that actually I need my kids. Every bit of my identity, happiness, and future is tied into their healthy, successful growth. I can be irritated and complain that no one’s gotten any sleep for weeks because of the latest sleep regression, but actually, my world won’t be right until my son can sleep through the night like his body needs him to. Or eats three meals a day because he’s growing and needs nutrients. So as much as I like to think he needs me to help him grow and flourish, actually I need him because he’s my world. Everything else that happens is, when I really think about it, scenery for this diva that has filled up every bit of my heart and my head.

Like so many other things in life, I feel like parenting is being romanticized, which is so dangerous because when parenting isn’t this glorious, endless stream of cuddles and giggles and love, it can be crushing. It can make you doubt everything you thought you knew about yourself and knock your confidence to the point where you feel unable to commit to a decision. But actually, if we’re honest with each other about how wonderful AND trying parenting can be, we’re opening up a space where it’s possible to safely voice our parenting concerns and get advice on how to manage it all. My (limited) experience has taught me that when I’ve opened up about my doubts as a mother (like my son hit with me a shoe today. Is that a reflection of his love for me?), other mums have felt and overcome those same doubts. And I too have been able to offer fellow mums reassuring words because we’ve decided to communicate honestly about parenting.

For me the bottom line when it comes to parenting is this: parenting is like being in labor. The experience is almost unreal, it pushes you to your absolute limit, and it forces you to behave in ways you never normally would. BUT it is worth every second. It doesn’t matter what journey you took to get there. What matters is the beautiful end result and despite all the pain and work associated with it, you not only want to go through it again but you look back on it and think that is absolutely one of the most worthwhile things I have ever, ever done. Being a good parent is something I’m still trying to figure out, but it’s a lot easier with honest, open parents in my corner.

About the #ChapelHillShooting and the #CopenhagenShooting?

While my son and husband were at football this morning, I was happily cleaning the house and suddenly my phone blew up with notifications. ‘One person shot dead at free speech gathering in Copenhagen,’ ‘Suspected terror attack in Copenhagen’, ‘One dead at debate where Mohammed cartoonist is present’.  Naturally I was horrified.  But not necessarily for the reasons you think.

My son is Danish.  He’s also an American and Brit.  His father is (very) Scandinavian, having grown up in rural Denmark and I’m a British-Asian, who grew up in South Asia.  And, believe it or not, we’re a proud Muslim family.  Granted we’re not practicing Muslims, but we’re cultural Muslims.  I’m proud of my son’s mixed heritage and I believe it’s something to be celebrated.

But as I think back on this last week, I am filled with such sadness.  First, the three Muslim students who were mercilessly killed in North Carolina.  What an absolute tragedy for their families and their communities.  They had so much to offer the world and all that was taken from them in a truly horrific manner.  And now these shootings in Copenhagen.  What do I tell my son about the violence that’s happening in the places that he’s from?

Yusor and Deah at their wedding on December 27th, 2014.

Well, this: the media, world leaders, and people in our community only care about half of you and that is the white, Scandinavian half.  The Muslim/Arab-looking half of you will be shunned and shamed (for Islamist attacks that have nothing to do with us) until people like me, you, your father, and others speak up and speak out.  It took mere minutes for news outlets and social media to be all over the Copenhagen shooting and I would argue, rightly so.  A life taken too soon in a violent manner is newsworthy.  But days after Deah Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha (21), and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) were shot, we still know very little about what happened.  How are we, as a world, ok with that? And how can you turn around and say that there isn’t a double standard in the way Muslim lives and deaths are reported versus non-Muslim (white) ones when you look at how the Chapel Hill shooting story unfolded vs the Copenhagen shootings? When I show my son the news coverage on both events how else will he interpret this?

Deah Barakat ( age 23), Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha (age 21), and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (age 19)

The honest truth is that I am terrified for my children.  I am angry beyond belief that the world has given such little time and attention to the murders of these students.  But more than anything I am scared for my children because they are Muslim and they look Muslim and the murders of their own people are being ignored, erased, or otherwise made invisible by the world and almost everyone is ok with that.  That is an absolutely terrifying thought to me because if my kids ever need it, will they be helped by their peers or ignored like Deah, Yusor, and Razan because they’re Muslim or Arab looking?  Or because they parked in the wrong place?  As a Muslim, a parent, and a human I am unnerved by how easily everyone has accepted the ‘parking space dispute’ theory as a motive for murder because on February 10th, 2015 Deah, Yusor, and Razan were the victims, but ten years ago that could have been my sister and I, and in 20 years that could my children and my nieces and nephews.  Yet the theory news outlets are espousing for the attack in Copenhagen is ‘terror’ and everyone has accepted that blindly.  Well according to the FBI, a terror attack is the unlawful use of force with the aim of intimidating a government or civilian population and let me tell you, the relative radio silence surrounding the murders of the three students has me and millions of other Muslims terrified so is one attack really more terror-related than the other?

It has already been said but it bears repeating, for many Muslims our issue is not that the murders were over a parking dispute.  If that is genuinely what these murders were about then that’s what they were about.  But in asking us to accept that, think about what you would do if you were told a Muslim barged into someone’s home and shot 3 young adults over a parking spot.  Would you simply accept that and move on or would you demand more answers from the people investigating and your news sources?  If you answer that question truthfully, it may shed some light on why so many Muslims are both outraged and terrified by the lack of media coverage on these murders.  With all the anti-Islamic sentiment in the world and the stigma attached to identifying as Muslim (especially if you wear a hijab), it is hard for many of us to simply accept this parking spot theory without more information.  If a Muslim had been the attacker, news coverage on these murders would still be rampant but less than five days on from the attack, one has to dig deep to find information on it.

I am raising a son who will naturally be curious about both the Chapel Hill shooting and the Copenhagen shootings because he is both Muslim and Danish.  But he will be caught between these worlds because I am raising him to proud of his Muslim identity, as well as his Danish, British, and American roots.  The world, though, cannot seem to wrap its head around a Muslim victim.  We must be the perpetrators of violence and terrorism and not at the receiving end of it.  The media and the world can both understand and accept a Muslim villain, but they are unwilling to accept a Muslim victim, unless that victim is stranded on a mountain or in a desert in some far-off land waiting for Western assistance.  That is the extent of our identity to Western media and this Chapel Hill attack and the lack of journalistic coverage on it has shown what a narrow and racist view of Muslims the world has.  I am saddened that my children and nieces and nephews will grow up in a world where they are either viewed as villains or not noticed at all.  For all my attempts to raise socially active, well educated, and enterprising children, the world will simply not see them because they do not fit into the popular understanding (supported, extended, and encouraged by mainstream media) of what a Muslim should be.  That is what the #ChapelHillShooting has taught me and what it will teach my son.

A life taken too soon is always something to be mourned and investigated fully.  A Muslim life (and death), it seems though, is either invisible, ignorable, or both.  But my children will not be ignored.  They will be Muslim.  And they will be Danish and British and American.  And they will have empathy for both the Chapel Hill and the Copenhagen victims because every act of violence and terror in the world is deplorable.  I will not let them compromise who they are because the world refuses to embrace and accept every part of their cultural heritage.  I will say it now and I will keep saying it until somebody actually listens: as a family we are Danish, American, and British, AND we are Muslim and the lives and deaths of our people matter.  Extremism will not break our tolerance.

Mourners at the funeral for the Chapel Hill victims.

#ChapelHillShootings #OurThreeWinners #CopenhagenShooting

19 Times Roald Dahl Was The Most Inspirational Person Ever

I’m going old school to give you a much needed dose of love and inspiration. These quotes, either written or inspired by Roald Dahl, will literally help you and your kids make it through the day, week, month.

  1. 'It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is.'- Roald Dahl

    ‘It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is.’- Roald Dahl

  2. from Danny, Champion of the World

    from Danny, Champion of the World

  3. from The Witches

    from The Witches

  4. From The Twits

    from The Twits

  5. from Matilda, the movie

    from Matilda, the movie

  6. from My Uncle Oswald

    from My Uncle Oswald

  7. from Matilda

    from Matilda

  8. from The Minpins

    from The Minpins

  9. from Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

    from Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

  10. from The Twits

    from The Twits

  11. from The BFG

    from The BFG

  12. from Matilda

    from Matilda

  13. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the movie

    from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the movie

  14. from My Uncle Oswald

    from My Uncle Oswald

  15. from The BFG

    from The BFG

  16. from The Minpins

    from The Minpins

  17. RD18

    direct quote from the legend himself

  18. from Matilda, the movie

    from Matilda, the movie

  19. from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

An Open Letter to Mark Wahlberg, You Entitled, Self-Righteous, Spoilt Man.


Dear Mr. Wahlberg:

On April 8th, 1988 you struck an innocent Vietnamese man with a 5-foot stick.  You struck such a vicious blow that he immediately fell to the ground unconscious, while you shouted racial slurs at him.   According to the police report, after you were arrested and taken back to the scene of your crime, you told them ‘you don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the mother**ker whose head I split open.’  You then proceeded to flee from the scene of your crime and asked another Vietnamese gentleman, Hoa Trinh, to hide you because the police were coming and he did.  When you had been successfully shielded by Mr. Trinh, you punched him in the face so forcefully that you blinded him in one eye and then tried to run off shouting more racial slurs.  Police were able to apprehend you and you were arrested.  You were 16 at the time and tried as an adult.  You were initially charged with attempted murder, which was then dropped to criminal contempt.  Although you had been in trouble with law enforcement previously for both violent and racially motivated crimes and the maximum sentence for your new charge was 10 years, you were only given a 2 year sentence.  You were lucky that you only ended up serving FORTY-FIVE DAYS of your sentence.  Forty-five days despite being a drug dealer, despite being hideously violent, despite your previous racially motivated assaults, and despite your checkered history with the law.  Wow.

And then on November 26, 2014 you submitted a petition to the Massachusetts Board of Pardons to have your 1988 convictions of Criminal Contempt, Assault and Battery, Two Counts of Assault and Battery by a Dangerous Weapon, and Possession of a Class D Controlled Substance struck from your record.  You stated that a pardon would be ‘formal recognition that I am not the same person I was…’.   Ummmm, ok.  I guess the first thing most people are thinking is why? Why are you so deserving of a formal pardon, no, a ‘formal recognition’ from the state when so many others are not?  Why, when no pardons have been issued in Massachusetts since 2002, do you deserve one?  Because you were able to get out of jail after just 45 days?  Because you were able to go on and have a music and modelling career?  Because you were then able to make millions off of an acting and producing career?  No wait, you state it’s because you’ve raised almost $10 million for your foundation to help at-risk youths since 2001.  While this is admirable, your estimated net worth is $200 million and you’re talking about raising $10 million over a 13-year period.  Again, these are huge sums of money but even if we assume that the $10 million came straight from you and no outside sources, as a percentage of your wealth given overtime, this is really quite ordinary.  It is estimated that those who earn over $200,000 a year give away 3.1% of their wealth, and those who earn less than $100,000 give away an impressive 3.6% of their wealth.  So what you’re citing here as a reason for your pardon, rather than being extraordinary, is really quite commonplace among the general population.  I don’t mean to detract from the good work that you do; I’m merely trying to put it into context in the wider charitable sector.

You also state that you deserve a pardon because it would allow you to work more closely with law enforcement in both Massachusetts and California.  I think many people are thinking well thank you very much Mr. Wahlberg but Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others have already happened without your close minded-self being involved with law enforcement.  No, no; I guess that’s not fair.  But truly, you have a history of hideously violent behavior (like when you beat a man so violently in 1992 that you broke his jaw and then you paid him an undisclosed amount to make it go away because you were already famous as Marky Mark).  We’re not talking about a bar fight here or a scuffle.  We’re talking serious, life-altering, documented violence.  Law enforcement is a high stress, physical occupation and on numerous occasions you have shown that you’re not afraid to get overly physical.  If you were any other person applying for a job as a police officer or parole officer, your application would be highly scrutinized and ultimately rejected.  What is it that you have to offer law enforcement that is so above and beyond the norm that your past can and should be erased when no one else’s is?  This is baffling to me and millions of other people.

And yes, it sucks that a successful entrepreneur such as yourself cannot obtain a liquor license for your growing empire of burger restaurants, but that’s one of the consequences of living outside of the law.  You state that granting a pardon would show other offenders that they can turn their lives around and be a success.  Now while I might personally agree that prevention in the first instance or opportunity is a better motivator for good behavior than using deterrents or continuously recriminalizing people, that is the system we live in.  I would gladly debate with you the merits of rewards/opportunities vs deterrents to help reduce recidivism, but that’s not what you’re arguing nor have you started any such campaign to change the system.  Just so you know, this really makes it seem like you just want the pardon because you want to make more money and not because you truly believe that you can be a positive example to others or that the current criminal justice system needs to change.  If anything, the state could argue that not granting you a pardon would be more of a motivator because that would, hopefully, deter people from committing a crime in the first instance.

Perhaps most importantly, what is so confusing to people, and what they want answered, is why you think your petition should be granted just because you haven’t been violent or racist in the recent past?  First of all, that’s quite a normal occurrence for the majority of us.  It does not make you extraordinary and it certainly doesn’t make you look good when highlight that as an accomplishment.  And second, while you have done a lot of (public and advertised) good, at what point have you reached out to the communities that you terrorized?  Did you reach out to the Vietnamese community and try to make amends for your disgusting behavior before you filed your petition?  Have you worked extensively with immigrant communities to understand the error of your bigoted ways?  Did you work with black communities after you yelled racial slurs and threw rocks at black kids?  Do you work with those communities now?  If not, why not?  If you do, then you need to get new PR people.  If you’re truly repentant and you’ve genuinely changed as a person, then why have you not engaged with the communities you hurt?  Surely that would be more inspiring to young people than you simply asking for a pardon because you set up a foundation.

I think a final burning question people have is when do the breaks (or formal recognitions) stop for Mark Wahlberg?  Despite being a horrifically racist and violent person, you were able to somehow erase this past and have a music career, which then turned into an acting career, which then grew into a producing career, and now a food empire.  Clearly you are talented and hardworking but so are many of the people who leave prison.  You claim this pardon is not about entitlement but what do you think would have happened to you if you had been black or Hispanic and the people that you attacked had been white?  How do you think your sentence would have differed and how do you think it would have impacted you once you left prison?  You may not want to deal with these questions, but when you ask for this extraordinary treatment of your criminal past, you are opening up the wider debate of the workings of the criminal justice system and central to that is the issue of race.  If you want to be a champion for ex-convicts that is highly admirable but these questions are part and parcel of that status.  People doubt your motives because despite wanting to be the poster child for the criminal justice system working, you either refuse or choose to not engage in a debate about the system.  This makes you seem disingenuous, entitled, and quite frankly entirely undeserving of a pardon.

Despite seriously questioning your judgment and this ridiculous pardon, I would still like to thank you.  You see, just like you, I have children and I want to teach them how to make this world a better place.  Part of that is teaching them that the system is unfair.  They also, however, have the power to change the system, and because as half-white, non-poor people they will benefit from the system, they have a responsibility to change it.  But when someone like me (a non-white woman who wags her finger and shakes her head),raises the very real and very obvious double standard applied to whites and non-whites in the (judicial, legal, just general) system, people roll their eyes.  They think I’m just another person blaming race and inequality because that’s (somehow) the easier option.  Even when I quote studies and cite statistics and even when we have law enforcement on camera using excessive, and sometimes fatal, force against non-whites, people still roll their eyes at the minority harping on about race and blah, blah, blah.  But when you submit a petition like the one you did and you talk about wanting ‘formal recognition’ from the state, you essentially do my job for me.  So while I abhor your petition and your actions, I am still inclined to highlight them because you show me, my children, and the rest of the world that you are the very definition of white privilege.  Your actions prove it in a way that no study or statistic ever could.  So thank Mr. Wahlberg for showing us all that white privilege is alive, well, and very, very real.  Your move Massachusetts.

Yours sincerely,

Faseeha Khan-Jensen

About The Top Ten Reasons To Love Mindy Kaling?

So like all normal people, I believe Mindy Kaling is awe. some.  I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe when I watch her show and I think she is a perfect role model for my kids, teenagers, women, men, babies, humans, aliens, just anyone/thing really.  So what would I tell my kids about all the reasons everyone should love her?

Well, it took me approximately 8.7 years to write this and I am now full of regret because I’ve limited myself to a Top Ten list about her.  I know I’m setting myself up for failure here but if I hadn’t limited myself to a few top reasons to love her, I would have still been writing.  I hope my children can forgive me for all the awesomeness I had to leave off the list and just embrace what I’ve included.  So here are the Top Ten Reasons (for my kids) To Love Mindy Kaling:

  1. She’s South Asian

So Mindy herself, rightly, refuses to limit herself to being the funniest Asian comedienne because she’s funnier than funny people of all races.  But I want my children to have positive Asian role models and Mindy is absolutely at the top of that list.  She is normalizing South Asian success in the entertainment industry and because of her, my children won’t think twice about seeing an Asian play the lead in a top-rated sitcom. While a lot of times this position as one of the first successful South Asians on TV is her burden to bear (seriously people, you’re going to try and pin a lack of minority roles on TV on her?), she is absolutely a trailblazer for others.

  1. She Says What The Rest Of Us Are Thinking (And It’s Like A Life Lesson)

Have you ever read anything by Mindy Kaling?  Something as simple as a tweet just makes you feel like she could be you and vice versa.  She’s not afraid to admit that some things don’t change, even if you’re a celeb (a bad playlist at a party perhaps or pestering someone you have a crush on until they die).  I love that.  It makes her even more relatable and real, allowing us to see celebrities we admire as similar to us and not some god-like, flawless creatures (although I will concede that I only rarely write top 10 lists of things I love about my friends).  That’s not to say she’s some overly flawed human, but merely to highlight that she admits that, like everybody else in the world, she’s a work in progress.  My kids will be bombarded with all sorts of messages from the entertainment industry, and Mindy Kaling’s willingness to share both her ‘work’ and her ‘progress’ with the world is a great message for young people to receive.

  1. She’s Happy And Positive And Optimistic

Ok so her life is pretty cool but she completely admits it.  Her celebrity is not this burden that she’s unable to handle.  She’s not one of those whiney celebs that complains about how awful the paparazzi and the fame and whatever else is, while they rake in millions.  She projects an image of someone who’s so grateful for her success and her fans.  I want my kids to know this because if you work hard and achieve your dream, you should be grateful for that, even if it comes with some warts.  Very little in life is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be grateful for and happy about it.

  1. She’s Into Her Family

In her book, she talks fondly and lovingly about her family.  Her show draws upon her family life too and it’s clearly a strong and consistent influence in her life.  Obviously, this something I want to impress upon my kids because I want them to be into their family too.

  1. She’s Humble

Every time she makes a public appearance or is on a show, she is just so darn cute when she’s complimented for being smart or funny or talented.  It is so endearing and just seems to speak volumes about her personality and her approach to her work.  If anyone should be an egomaniacal ahole, it should be her but she’s so gracious whenever she’s complimented.

  1. The Mindy Project – It’s Just Too Much

Why, why, why is it so funny and so witty and so quick and so sharp?  How does she write, produce, and star in it?  Why is the cast so great and why and how do they all work so well together?  Granted, I’ll wait until my kids are a little older to let them watch it, but still, every episode is like Christmas come early!  I could do an entire blog post on just this, but I’ll move on.

  1. Her Dress Sense 

So forget the fact that she ‘embraces her body’ (her body is fine, get over it) I LOVE her dress sense and will tell my kids about it because she is so styling without being gross (again this could be a post on it’s own. In fact, I feel it needs to be).  She can be fun, flirty, sexy, chic, suited and booted, whatever and she’s never slutty.  Again, that is great role model material for growing children and grownups! For my boys, it shows them that women can be beautiful without being naked all the time and for my nieces (and if I ever have girls of my own) it shows that a) polka dots are appropriate at any age and b) you can be sexy and have fabric on. You can be appealing while still wearing clothes; what a novel idea!

  1. She Refuses To Put Limits On Herself As A Woman (Or An Ethnic Minority)

Mindy is constantly asked questions about her success as a female or her trailblazing ways and her responses are great.  She calls people out about why they would ask her a certain question but not her male peers.

I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’”

Or like at SXSW when she stood up to the idiots trying to pin all the world’s problems on her.  I’m sure Mindy is a little tired of hearing her speech repeated but it bears mentioning.

“I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore — and I won’t name them because they’re my friends — why no leads on their shows are women of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things.”

Good for her for defending herself.  Just another reason for me and my kids to love her!

  1. She Doesn’t Put Others Down To Be Funny

So obviously her sense of humor is unrivaled but one of the things that makes her so funny is that she’s not nasty to others to be funny.  Some comedians, while funny, really kind of make you want to not be alive because their humor is hurtful or degrading.  Mindy, on the other hand, uses the perfect combination of wit, oddball antics, self-deprecation, and slapstick humor to keep her audience chuckling constantly.  This is definitely one of her most appealing qualities and really speaks to her talent as a writer and actress.  It’s possible to be loveable and hilarious at the same time.

  1. She’s Smart

And I don’t just mean because she picked a dream, stuck with it, and made it work.  She is smart-smart.  She did well in high school, went to Dartmouth (hello genius), and worked her bum off while at university to be involved in numerous writing and improv groups.  Her hard work earned her an internship with Conan O’Brien.  She was only 24 when she joined the writing staff of The Office and quickly proved both her on and off screen talents there.  I will tell my kids that Mindy Kaling is clever because she was born gifted but what makes her so smart is that she always worked hard regardless of her talents.  That’s a lesson we can all learn.

Oh my, this list is over and now I’m sad.  I’d like to write it all over again with 10 new things.  Maybe that’s what this blog can be.  I just reinvent this list once a week and read it to my children.  Surely that’s a form a parenting too? There are just so many reasons for my kids to love Mindy Kaling!