I just read a story about #JemelRoberson, and it came to me with this accompanying text:
“When we are in stressful situations our instincts take over. Our bodies and brains start processing massive amounts of information as quickly as possible, defaulting to pre-programmed shortcuts to make sense of it all in an instant. Jemel Roberson saw a man harming people and his instincts kicked in and combined with his training he was able to subdue a shooter before anybody was killed. Then the police
arrived. Their instincts also kicked in. And they murdered Jemel Roberson. This society is constantly telling a story about black men. A story of animal aggression, of violence, of ignorance. It is a flat gray story devoid of humanity. That story combined with hundreds of years of police tradition and training. Training that started with slave patrols, training that says that black people are to be controlled and contained. That we are the threat to be stopped. And because of this, the man whose instinct was to save lives lies dead at the hands of those whose instinct was to contain blackness. The system is not broken. It is working as designed.”
As I type this, I’m coming down off of a “plumb fool” crying FIT in response. I almost didn’t read it, because from the picture and the 10-word caption of the accompanying articled I suspected it was going to be some bullshit. And as I began reading the article, I circled from sadness to surprise to fear to frustration and anger…and back again. As I type this, I’m fighting back tears because EVERYTHING about the details I’ve read so far sounds familiar. TOO FAMILIAR, in fact. And to put it into perspective…
• Worked security for a club in Robbins, IL
• Church musician (organist)
• Killed by a Midlothian, IL police officer
My brother (Russell):
• Works security for a club in downtown Chicago
• Husband and father
• Church musician (drummer)
• Lives in Harvey, IL (less than 5 miles from Robbins & Midlothian)
I CANNOT imagine what Mr. Roberson’s family is going through…I dare not even try. But when it hits THIS close…? Let me tell you it stirred up a rage and fear in me that I can’t even explain… But I know rage and fear is not what turns this kind of reality on its ear. And neither does rolling over and pretending like the sh*t isn’t happening. And I’m f*ckin fed up.
I’ve heard it said that questions are answers in seed form. So now to plant worthy seeds… Where do we begin? What do we need? How do we dismantle the faulty wiring we’ve all bought into? How do we heal the damages and begin to rebuild?
[And Hope won’t let ME go…despite the MANY times I’ve wanted to punch her in the throat and leave her ass in a ditch. She just hovers with that quiet smile, not saying anything. It’s really quite annoying…]
Most of us have heard this at some point in our lives, but I’m about to say it again: NO ONE CAN’T BEAT YOU BEING YOU. We were all born with a “certain something” that is JUST ours, and various stages of life (as well as “well-meaning” loved ones) often teach us that “some” part of who we are is flawed and needs fixing. This cannot be further from the truth. Who you are is EXACTLY who YOU need to be in order to accomplish your own unique life purpose.
Pay attention to who you REALLY are (at your core; the part that is unshakeable…and often unshapeable, to the chagrin of those who try). Shake off the debris of other people’s opinions for what that needs to look like, how that needs to act/perform, and the direction in which it needs to be headed. BECOME CLEAR, and invest time, energy and resources into making sure your clarity is preserved.
This does not mean that you become cemented wherever you currently are. To the contrary, it protects you and your process and allows you the freedom to identify and move within your respective season(s)…without comparing it to anyone else on THEIR respective journey in THEIR respective season…
(More to come…) #snippet
For as long as I could remember, she was an idea. She was the elusive fantasy that my mother held closely. She was someone who my mother had never met, except in the time and space before she had memories – but she was her deepest longing. I remember her talking about this mysterious woman as if she would make all things right in the world…or at least in her world. Something about my mom had been buried under clouds for much of the time that I remember, so if this mystical unicorn woman would right those feelings of discontent, loss, unrest, and disconnect, hey…bring on the unicorn!
In 2010, I moved back to Tulsa. I’d been back for just a few months when I received some shocking news – my mother found her unicorn! You see, my mom was adopted. Not only was she adopted, but she found out she was adopted at the funeral of the woman she thought was her mother. She was 22 years old, and I was 1. Not only did she find out she was adopted at her mom’s funeral…but the manner in which she found out only added layers to the trauma. Her world and identity were COMPLETELY disrupted, and trust was obliterated among those who were supposed to be her family. After this point, she determined that she would absolutely seek out her birth mother.
The search was only passive for many years, and it wasn’t until 23 years after the initial “revealing” of her adoption that it was indeed confirmed by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. But then 12 years after that confirmation, she got the call she’d dreamed of her whole adult life. Her cousin – the daughter of her adoptive father’s sister – called to let her know she knew her birth mother. [Follow me carefully…otherwise, you’ll get lost as the relationships are mapped out.] Turns out that my mom’s aunt (this particular cousin’s mom) was best friends with my mom’s birth mother. Did you get that? Basically, my grandmother was never “out of reach” for my mother, except for the commitment her entire adoptive family had to keeping the adoption a secret. My mom’s cousin was sworn to secrecy by her mom. And when her mom died, so did her contract to keep the secret…so she called my mom and gave her her birth mother’s contact information. My mom was introduced to her unicorn.
After carrying the pain of betrayal and broken trust around for so many years, it all seemed to disappear when she spoke to her mother for the first time. I wasn’t a part of that sacred moment, but I remember speaking to my mom after she spoke to hers…and she sounded like a completely different person. I’d never heard “healing” in a person’s voice before then…but I heard it in hers. She sounded whole. She sounded restored. She sounded checked in. I felt her love be replenished, and all doubts and fears about who she “might have been” vanished. These two women connected and melted into each other in the same way that butter melts into bread, adding a savory richness unlike no other.
My grandmother flew out to meet her baby within a month of their first conversation. Then my mom and one of my brothers flew out to visit my grandmother, and to meet the rest of our unicorn family. As the daughter of two only children, I used to be jealous of my friends who talked about having aunts, uncles, and cousins. Because any time I referred to those, it was always 2nd generation…which wasn’t quite the same. But lo and behold, my mom had siblings with children…which gave me COUSINS!!! (Don’t judge my excitement, y’all; cousins were valuable connections where I grew up.)
I was so excited to know that this whole portal of family connection had been opened to us. I started planning to go visit and meet everybody. From the phone conversations I had with the few members of our “new” family, everyone was so warm and inviting. The proverbial air was so refreshing with them! My mom and siblings were SO welcomed…and it was indeed healing. It was indeed restorative. And it did the hearts of me and my siblings good to finally see our mom smile not just to keep from crying, but genuinely, from her heart.
I couldn’t wait to finally meet my grandmother and observe her in action. I looked forward to seeing the little familiar nuances of her personality and gestures that were like my mom. I looked forward to learning her vibe and way of being, and having the opportunity to learn and grow from just sharing time with her. Were there things that I did intuitively that I picked up from her somehow? What traits of mine would I find in her? I didn’t know, but I was looking forward to finding out.
The subsequent 7 years flew by. Every year, I’d put it on my list of trips to make for the year, meanwhile enjoying hearing from my brother and mother about their trips to see “Mama/Grandma J”. Last year, I felt really strongly that I needed to really get out there to see her. And I kept saying I “needed” to do it. Then I learned of a diagnosis that would make all my “needing” a compelling priority…but I still hadn’t figured out how to make it happen. I knew I didn’t want to “meet” my grandmother for the first time at her funeral.
Today, I got the call. Our unicorn passed away. She held on as long as she could, but she was tired. She was ready to release the pain and the frustration of not being who she knew herself to be. And I missed my opportunity. I never met her…and my heart is stinging. So now, I’m preparing to say hello and goodbye to my family’s unicorn all at once; although she’s more like a pegasus now…
I just saw the “new” Birth of a Nation movie. There were so many thoughts and emotions I experienced as I was watching the movie…but not the ones I was expecting. I expected to feel some angst, but also a sense of victory. I expected to feel pride in the familiarity of the internal fortitude that brought about urgent action. I expected good to win and to feel a sense of “so glad we’re better now”.
But as I left the theater, I felt strangely heavy. For a split second, I actually paused and looked over my shoulder to make sure it was “okay” to leave. And as I pressed the bar down to open the door and walk out into an AMAZING midsummer night-like breeze, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for my freedom – the freedom to come and go as I please, without having to get a “pass” to go 10 feet away from my front door. But that gratitude was followed by anger that not so very long ago, freedom for my ancestors was “optional” and up for discussion, debate, and decision.
Another human being was capable of deciding whether their freedom would or could be granted, and even if freedom was given, yet another human being could take it upon themselves to nullify the previous decision, by finding some “loophole” by criminalizing the newly freed slave and put him/her right back in chains. That anger was followed by frustration and fear that these same tactics are still VERY alive and well at putting black and brown bodies in cages, AND at the unveiling of thousands (actually millions) of people who exist in 2016 who blindly yet boldly support a person who actually lauds and sanctions the abusive treatment of women and those who disagree with his spewn vitriol. And many of these throngs have publicly avowed themselves to him no matter what he says or does.
It has become frighteningly clear that no amount of logic, reasoning, or even emotional appeal will change these staunch supporters. Why? Because it’s not about him. He represents a SYSTEM. It’s the only reason that he’s made it as far as he has without anyone being able to stop him. While he may not have political experience, he is acting as a living, breathing representative of a centuries-old system…and we’ve ALL supported it.
We supported it by thinking it was a joke and not giving credence to his campaign announcement. We supported it by laughing and waiting for him to bow out and seat himself. We supported it by not adequately securing or being prepared to defend the fairly new liberties of black and brown bodies. We supported it by assuming these bodies could sufficiently defend themselves in a system that was carefully, deliberately, and strategically designed to work against them – the more they fight, the stronger the system becomes. We supported it by calling those who speak out about the injustices against these black and brown bodies – and the systems created to reinforce and defend these injustices – “too sensitive”, “race baiters”, or “radicals”.
We are at yet another crossroads as a nation…and this time the whole world is watching. Who in their right mind would have ever thought that other countries would be looking at the “land of the free” and pitying US??? Wondering what the hell is happening, and why no one is doing anything about the horrific state of the nation. How can we fix this?? How do we heal???
I’m reminded of the scripture “if my people which are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) But before anyone goes and tunes up the Hammond B3, please hear me…because this is where that “humbling” begins.
To break it down in terms we can all understand, here’s an appendix or “glossary” of sorts:
- “My people” = ALL of God’s children…which we all are – whether we’re aware of it or not;
- “Humble themselves” = [does this really need translation? But I’ll indulge…] Everybody quit thinking they have “the” answer, and rather surrender to Love & understanding;
- “Pray” = speak to God and specifically express a request or desire;
- “Seek my face” = look for God/Love;
- “Turn from wicked ways” = stop doing intentionally damaging or hurtful things;
- “hear from heaven” = connect to original Intention/Purpose;
- “Sins” = Missed marks; inaccuracies;
- “Heal” = make sound, healthy, or whole; alleviate distress or anguish
The reason this scripture comes to mind is how it breaks down. In light of the trauma we have been experiencing as a nation, it is beyond apparent that we need to FIRST, SEE each other and the divine nature we ALL inherently have and are. This goes beyond our outer coverings and abilities, our socioeconomic situations, our demographics, our differing religious sects and all other superficial walls that we let divide us.
If we will humble ourselves by dropping our pre-constructed and pre-destructive ways of being with and toward one another, we can stop judging (which causes damage and allows us to act hurtfully toward) each other. What would happen if, instead, we spoke to God on behalf of one another? Repetition is the mother of all learning. If we humble and discipline ourselves to constantly and repeatedly advocate FOR the highest good of those we don’t understand, we actually become invested in the outcome. We’d actually WANT to see them succeed, and we’d be willing to play an active part whenever and wherever we could…we’d actually find Love where previously there was only fault. This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t hold each other accountable, but rather it means that we seek the truth in Love and find ways to support positive change and healthy growth. We’d stop dealing in misunderstandings, fear and inaccuracy, and instead make sound and healthy choices that promote community. We would reconnect to original Intention, live in alignment with our chosen purpose, and alleviate the distress and anguish that we have erroneously associated with “living with human beings”. Life does NOT have to be traumatic! Again, repetition is the mother of all learning…and since we’ve been living it, we’ve grown to expect it. We CAN live healed. We CAN live in peace. We CAN live in Love.
But we have to do more than just talk about it. ACTION must be taken. I’ve heard it said that “riot is the language of the unheard”. We can talk Love and peace and healing all we want, but if we don’t act in accordance with those who truly wish to see and facilitate it, uprisings will continue to happen.
So tell me…what will YOUR next move be?
In a recent intercultural development and training workshop, I learned about the concept of “Oops, Ouch, and Educate”. I don’t know who came up with it, or if that’s even the exact title, but the spirit of it is this: if someone says or does something that is offensive to you (“Oops!”), you tell them. It might sting or being uncomfortable (“Ouch!”), but then you educate them on why it was offensive AND share with them what might be a better way to be in communication with you going forward. So in the spirit of that, I’m writing this post to offer support and encouragement to a very special group of people that I’ve encountered throughout my life. If you see yourself or someone you know in these words, feel free to ‘fess up and/or share! No judgment past admission…we are ALL works in progress…!
As much as I can appreciate the attempt to “relate”…it baffles me when a non-black person automatically assumes that I speak “homegirl”…then commences with the “mmmhmm”s, “girlfriend”s, soul food/music references, neck rolling, lip twisting, or (THE WORST) COMPLETELY UNRELATED references to their mixed children or black [WHATEVER; i.e., boy/girlfriend, spouse, best friend, college roommate, grocer…you get the point]. While I’m glad to know that you are “down for the cause”…you’re going about it ALL WRONG, and further widening our gap of communication. Not to mention, really annoying the sh*t outta me. Because NOW I’m in my head, trying to figure out what the hell in our interaction (besides my skin color) made you break out into this alter ego that was non-existent in your communications with other people groups. And I’m also wondering if you think you’re somehow mirroring me…which is the subject of an altogether different rant. But for now, I want to encourage people of color the world over (and “white” IS a color…for those who seem to have missed that memo; so YES, this is for you too…ESPECIALLY, actually): the best way for you to relate to ME, is to let me see YOU…the REAL you, not the “my friend’s grandma’s fried chicken” you. Nkay, pumpkin? K. Thaaaaanks.