Monday, July 25, 2011

Race Relations

Tonight I read this article regarding the "fascination" people have with African-American hair. I can say that it honestly has never occurred to me to reach out and grab someone's hair just to feel its texture. First, that's just a weird thing to do, but it's also a bit presumptuous, as well as rude. Why not just compliment a hairstyle and ask questions in such a way that can be perceived as flattering? ("Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful your hair is. How do you style it?" Although I suspect that anything asked could be misinterpreted negatively.)

I do understand it might be preceived as a racial issue if, as a person of color, it is mostly white people who are trying to touch your hair; yet the automatic presumption of racism gets tiresome. (As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, "If I like their race, how can I be racist?")

There were two responses in the article I found especially irksome.

The first was an African-American woman's response to a woman's surprise and questioning as to why she she was not permitted to touch her hair: "Because my black ancestors may have been your ancestors' property, and had to smile while they got touched in ways they didn't want to, but I am not YOUR property and never will be so yo'd best move your hand away from me."

Does this woman realize that not all white people come from a slavery-owning background? That many white people had ancestors who hadn't even been in the country during the Civil War? That many white people themselves came from a background of slavery and servitude? Sometimes curiosity is just curiosity, no matter how badly misconstrued.

The second was a comment I'm assuming was left by a person of color, although I could be mistaken: "I swear white folks don't think anything is racist unless a black person is hanging from a tree." Broadly speaking, white people maythink less about race than do people of color, but that does not mean that everything said or done is a response to someone's race. At least, it's not in my case. (At least, I hope it's not in my case.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Marriage Equality

As a Catholic, I believe that marriage is a sacrament shared by two people who want to be committed to each other, who will love each other (because to continue to love someone is, in fact, sometimes a decision), and perhaps raise a family together, if they are able and so inclined.

However, I also believe that marriage is a civil right. The definion of "family" does no longer need to be defined as a man, a woman, and whatever children they may have. I believe children to be better served by two parents, of either gender, who have the emotional and financial maturity to care for their children and provide them a home with two parents who can provide a good upbringing, complete with morals, which have little, if anything, to do with sexuality: "It is the quality of the parent/child relationship and not the parent's sexual orientation that has an effect on a child's development."

By the way, the vows the first lesbian couple married in New York are the same vows Ed and I exchanged at our ceremony, held in a Catholic church.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Creditor Hell

This afternoon I learned that my not having the financial where-with-all to pay off a debt is comparable to refusing to pay said debt, even when you offer salary from guaranteed future employment.

Last month I had received a notice from a debt collector; the notice included a website such that one could set up monthly payments. How lovely, I thought; once school starts up at the end of summer I can actually afford to make these payments. I was not able to set up future payments, so I called the company directly and explained the situation. This was my first mistake. I should have sat upon the notice until the end of summer and then proceeded to attempt to make regular payments.

Instead, I talked to Brooke, who escalated me to my actual account manager, Sharon (beware the account managers who always introduce themselves with a salutation); I explained the situation again, noting that I had actual regular employment beginning at the end of August, and beginning in September I could easily - and happily - make a $200 per month payment. This was not satisfactory; they wanted their money now. I explained that I would like to give them all their money, but I could not do so until I got an actual paycheck, which I was not likely to be able to do until, you know, my jobs actually begin.

Sharon pushed; she offered various options that were not viable, such as asking someone else for the money. Since at the time of this initial phone call we were unsure of Ed's employment status, I was not going to offer up a salary he may or may not have, and certainly not without discussing the possibility with him first. If I couldn't ask my husband for $500, I sure as hell am not asking my friends or family. This did not sit well. Sharon asked us how we were planning on living if we had no income. I said, yes, that's quite a problem, isn't it. And that's all I said; clearly she was waiting for another response, but I refused to give her anything else to work with. Sharon tried to tempt me with the potential - not even guaranteed - offer of getting another AmEx if I paid off the account. At a time when I'm trying to decrease my debt, I'm disinterested in getting another credit card.

We negotiated that I could pay $100 that day, but I reiterated several times that I would not have an available source of income until September. Sharon took my $100 and said we'd talk next month. Which, you know, would be fine, although I did not see how the situation would change. I was told to call back on July 26th.

Yesterday Sharon called and left a voicemail; today she called and left another. She called my parents and left a voicemail today as well.

I returned her call and once again was put through to Brooke. I explained the situation again, noting that I would be happy to make payments once my employment began. Brooke put me on hold and came back with the offer that if I could pay half of the amount owed, AmEx would consider the account settled. Again, though, the lack of a money in my checking account would negate that possibility.

Apparently, though, it was possible to see that I have credit cards, which could be used to pay off the proposed settlement. Yes, I have two credit cards; they both have $300 limits, and one is close to maxed out, while the other also has a small balance on it. But their system showed that I have a credit card with a $10,000 limit on it.

I most certainly do not.

But I am an authorized user. However, it is imperative to note that it is not, in fact, my credit card; it is Ed's. I use it for things like groceries and putting gas in the car. And sometimes tea. I am certainly not going to put over $1,000 worth of charges on it, and I told Brooke so. She wondered why I wouldn't even ask him. Because of our financial situation being what it is, I am really, really not comfortable doing that. I told them what I could reasonably do, and if that's not good enough, there's really nothing else I can do.

Brooke "guessed she didn't understand" why I wouldn't even discuss it with Ed, to which my reply was simply, things are complicated sometimes, aren't they. She reiterated that I would not be given another chance to set up a payment plan later this summer, if I were to call them back.

Oh wait, that will magically make a lot of money appear! I did not say that, of course; I restated what I was able to do.

Brooke then got a bit snippy, told me she'd have to tell AmEx I was refusing to pay my debt, and to have a good day.

During both phone calls I was polite; I thanked them for their kindness generosity; I did not budge. I couldn't; there was simply nothing I could do until I school starts up again. If that's not good enough, then, really, what other options are there?