Updated: Jul 6
If you're like me, you may be feeling as if you can't keep up with the mendacity of 2020 being "our best year yet". The hopeful humans in us keep searching for the rainbow in all aspects of our lives.
I'm thinking it's because my musical Auntie, Mariah Carey, didn't sing during the televised New Year's Eve celebration this past year. Think about it. Even the year she mainly talked through her set ended up better than this year. This year she didn't even sing, and look at what has taken place in 2020 so far:
Continued fires in Australia;
The worldwide Coronavirus;
Worldwide schools and cities shut down;
Locust swarms in Egypt;
Loss of an NBA Legend;
Ukrainian airplane was shot down;
Cyclone devastated a part of India;
Huge flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia;
And worldwide protesting for people to not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin;
Did I mention that Mariah didn't ring us in this year with her voice live on television...
That's just some of the big stuff.
I'm sure you can relate, but my little family alone didn't need a worldwide epidemic to get a taste of chaos. The accumulation of all that we have personally gone through in our household was when I had a stroke in April. When they were telling me the reason why it was imperative that they give me the TPA right then and there, I still questioned if it was necessary. Like was this a real stroke or something that they thought..well you know, like were they sure that my left-sided weakness, abnormally high blood pressure, blurry vision and CT Scan all confirmed the same thing?
Dumbfounded the dr. looked at me and continued the conversation as if he just realized that I may be partially deaf, "You're having a stroke (pause). There is a dissection (pause). If you arrived five minutes later, (slight pause) I wouldn't even be able to give you the TPA (pause). If you waited until the next day (slight pause), forget it."
Unintentionally demeaning, his method worked, because instead of questioning any further, laughter was the sound coming out of my soul. I couldn't help but laugh. Of course I was having a stroke. Why not? It was the perfect thing to try and suck out any strength that I had left to get through this year. Heck, to get through life! It was a stroke after all.
But I had a business to run, a book to query, four children and a husband to take care of, as well as continue my plans to try and save the world. Three days out of the ICU and I was teaching again. Gave myself a week off after that and continued teaching after explaining to my dance students that they couldn't quite follow my movements due to my left side being weak and in pain because of the, um, stroke.
On June 2nd, I was finally cleared to begin physical therapy sans anything to do with the traction of the neck.
"On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25 year-old African American man, was fatally shot near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia, while jogging on Holmes Road..."
With insanity continuing to spread, my anxiety getting worse, and my empath heart feeling weary I added Mariah Carey's "Hero" and "Anytime You Need A Friend" to my You Got This, Apple Music playlist. I was desperate to fix what the studio executives messed up. It was the musical pep talk needed during my errands that now required a mask.
It says February, but as we all know, the public wasn't made aware until May. As soon as we did hear about it I quickly reminded my boys of the safe houses in the neighborhood should they encounter an unsafe situation while jogging or walking the dog, and are not near our house. I still need to find a house near the front of the neighborhood...we've lived here for nine years. I always worry that a passerby or a new neighbor will think that they don't believe we belong here and start something.
Why would I think that? Oh, you know. Personally, it's just that one of my fellow lighter-toned, female-oriented, human beings, whose children went to the same school as mine for the last nine years, did not believe me when I tried to tell her that I thought we lived near each other since I have seen her drive through my neighborhood (gave her the name) on multiple occasions. Described the vehicle and everything, and all I got with a vigorous shake of her head and wave of the hand was an, "Oh, no I don't think so." Come to find out we are one street away from each other. But somehow I couldn't possibly live near her...
So you see the pep talk, that I gave the boys, wasn't the media's fault. This was a reminder pep talk. One I've given based off of my personal experiences, my family's personal experiences, heck, my boy's personal experiences!
I'll briefly explain some experiences, and then will carry on with the title of this post. You will find the word "because" a lot since most who haven't had these experiences need the word "because" in order to see the unnecessary cray-cray in all of this, and not "because" they were on drugs, or a "bad" person, but "because" of the hue of someone's skin as my big bro Walson says:
INTRODUCING THE BECAUSES!:
My aunt was told to enter through the back of the lodge building to accept her cheerleading award because she wasn’t allowed to come through the front, because black people weren’t allowed to. She was only ten and that year she was winning the "Best All-Around" Award. She told her parents that she wasn't going because of that. This was 1980.-Chesapeake, Virginia
After our family had moved from Michigan to Clifton, Virginia, my father was thrown in jail for one day because they didn't believe that he was the owner of his car when questioned as he was going to the bank one day. This was the early 90's before every-day people had cell phones. Us kids just knew he was gone. Mom did well with making sure we didn't know what was going on as she called everywhere trying to find him. -Clifton, Virginia
I have been told once by someone who liked me that they weren't sure if they could/should date me because I was black. The crazy part was that I knew and felt that was the hesitation. I wasn't even surprised since I was cute with a fab personality and knew that wasn't it. Just glad they were honest.-Chesapeake, Virginia
My nana witnessed half of her family being able to own businesses because they passed the "paper bag test", while she and her other relatives were banned from certain stores or establishments, and when they were allowed in they were banned from using the dressing rooms...because they failed the "paper bag test". -Pennsylvania
My aunt remembers this joke that was going on when she was in school: the white children who wanted to be up to some riff-raff at the stores would ask their darker-hued counterparts to come to the store as a decoy because they knew that they'll be watching them instead of what the children who never had to pass a "paper bag test" were up to. It was an ongoing joke...among the lighter-hued peeps that is. - Chesapeake, Virginia
My grandfather, who was already a Marine at this point, was playing semi-pro football on a predominantly white team in New Jersey when he was constantly being called all kinds of racial slurs from the crowd. My nana would be in attendance. She asked him why he put up with it. He told her that he put up with it for the love of the game. Years later his great-grandson, my oldest, would have to put up with being called the same word from schoolmates and would be told that he couldn't play certain games with them on the playground because... - New Jersey/ Chesapeake, Virginia
Ballahack Rd. took me home in my late teens when my parents built a house out there. Ballahack Rd. had three nooses still in its trees side by side. High enough up by the time we lived there that you can tell they grew with the trees. I worried every night my brother was late coming home. Because... - Chesapeake, Virginia
Speaking of big bro Walson! As a teen, he was stopped by the police because he and his friends did not look as if they belonged in the neighborhood they were hanging out in. Meanwhile, he was about 150 yards from his grandmother's house. They were thrown on the concrete, kicked and told to be quiet. The unfortunate lesson that he learned that day, as a young black male, was that actually knowing your rights and articulating them would cause certain officers to become even more enraged. As soon as he did one of the officers said, "Oh you're a smart one." And proceeded to kick him again. Feeling like he did do something wrong by trying to speak up he would keep this encounter from his close-knit family until he was older. In his mind what could've been done because... - Chesapeake, Virginia
"Because, because, because, because, becaaaaaauuuuuussssse... We're off to see the Wizard! The Wonderful Wizard of Oooooooooozzzzzzzz!"
Those were just the brief little snippets. Do these little moments of conditioning us to remember our place because of our skin tone not count as something huge because we didn't die and make the news?
All of those "small because's", could've turned into media-worthy stories, and at any moment we could've and still could be turned into an Emmitt Till, Trayvon Martin, Charleston 9, Sandra Bland, Jena 6 or Central Park 5 situation.
But we don't view ourselves as "woe is me" victims. If we did then in my blood family alone, we wouldn't have become doctors, pharmacists, school superintendents, counselors, lawyers, business owners, mathematicians, civil engineers, computer consultants, ministers, most while holding or acquiring multiple Master Degrees. One of my great-uncles worked with Albert Einstein. We smart boss.
I'm one of the few that pursued the arts. But for the sake of my father's mathematician side of the family, I will put myself in the business owner category.
Yes, we can vote. Yes, we can legally live wherever we choose. Yes, there are more of us portrayed as something other than a slave, maid, or rapist in the media. Yes, we know, we all know, that we have had our first black president. Thank you for trying to point that out as a way to try to ignore that racism is still alive today.
Or maybe you ignore because none of the above describes an incident that you have ever been involved in, or would've thought of, or witnessed and didn't speak upon. I must say that I'm genuinely impressed and wonder where on earth did you grow up in this great nation of ours, and what is your current age?
But what gets me, and is the main reason as to why I am even writing something instead of just doing my "power to the people" fist, as I watch people become enlightened through a screen, are not only those who say they have never done those particular things, but those who have shared articles or videos to try and dispute people's pain, and sometimes try to justify their keyboard warrior status all in the name of conspiracies, politics, and faith.
Those that fall into the "I know more about your pain than you do" category have exhausted me into more action. Thanks to the stroke instead of a passionate dance performance, you get my words.
And now, after having read my seven-minute introduction, without further ado, I present to you the break down:
And now it's time for the break down with a mention about...
What is it? And why do we have it?! We see the scowls, physical altercations, hear the raised voices, or feel the silence from it but what exactly is happening inside a person to where we need to have "anger management" classes for when it gets out of hand? Or it needs to be controlled. I've never heard anyone say, "Hey! You need to keep your happiness under control missy-mcsmiley-pants. All of that inner euphoric sunshine will not be tolerated here."
Bottom Line: anger is when you strongly feel either an injustice has been done against you or someone or something else.
So now let's imagine someone who experienced situations where they know a certain level of injustice has been done against them on numerous occasions, but held it in because of the "what can be done about it" mindset. They also hear it happening to their friends and loved ones. Shoot, this particular injustice has been going on in their family for generations. But whenever someone did try and spread the word about the pain they were labeled as radical, an enemy of the state, someone who didn't know their place, and therefore, would cause more of that injustice and ostracization.
It's inhumane to tell someone they have no right to anger, but how they express their anger is what draws the line between healthy and unhealthy for not only themselves but for those around them.
The anger that people are seeing from most of the African American community has come after years of us trying to not just fight the system but our own "neighbors". And when we hear of more deaths on top of our daily lives that level of anger rises.
Disclaimer: The following is not about black on black crime, welfare, gang violence, etc. That is another topic. So please do not read the following with the "but what about..." blinders over your eyes. Gracias.
What have we done to try and healthily handle our anger to bring about a positive change? Glad you asked and have continued reading. We have kneeled, we have peacefully protested, we have tried to educate with our words, with our art. Sounds familiar to me...oh yes...
The same happened in the '60s. We sat, we peacefully protested, we tried to educate with our words and art, and we had powerful leaders who were assassinated. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Hampton. But we kept hope alive.
"These negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days and that's a problem for us since they've got something they've never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this. We've got to give them a little something. Just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference." -Lyndon B. Johnson, President
My oh my! I'm feeling so "uppity" I might just try my hand at getting others to see past the color of my skin and see me for who I am to be treated with respect. Thanks for allowing us to vote, and desegregating us, though. That did help.
So, we are still in a cycle. A cycle that continues to pour anger, frustration, and anxiety into our personal life cups. It would seem as if more of us are getting filled to the brim. I remember going past the confederate flags and statues here in Virginia. I would simply shake my head in disgust and/or verbally point them out to whoever was in the vehicle with me. And now, now I find myself feeling all "uppity" by daring to peacefully protest in 2020 for the same thing that has been protested against for decades.
"I was 17 and was working the register at Burger King when one of our regular customers, who was the best friend of one of our employees, came in and placed an order. A little boy was next in line and he placed his order after her. Since I was at the register that day I had nothing to do with preparing the order. The little boy's order ended up being ready first. When I handed it to him she immediately became angry and called me the N-word, and by the time I came to I had somehow gone across the large serving counter and I was on the floor, on top of her and choking her. A few of my co-workers, including my manager were pulling me off (that's when I came out of the blackout).
After they took me to the back office and I came back up front, she was crying and very apologetic and said that she didn't know that saying that word would affect me that way. The manager banned her from coming in for two weeks. He was very supportive.
She was about the same age. We had gotten along very well and had many short conversations before the incident because she hung out there due to her best friend working there. I'm sure she knew that it was wrong. It was the first time I had ever knowingly been called the N-word and the last." ~Deanna Stephens, my mother;
What needs to be pointed out in my mother's story is that the manager and another coworker were white. They didn't chastise my mother and/or fire her. The compassion and empathy they gave her, by understanding how strong of an injustice someone would feel being called that word is a response that should be recognized.
Both parties became angry. One was angry at the audacity of someone else being served before them. The other was angry at the morally degrading use of a word meant to show contempt to a whole race simply for the color of their skin. Look at her smile in the picture above. Her young-self most likely didn't even realize that her inner cup of feeling a strong injustice was about to overflow.
So let's play a game. I'm going to list certain things and I want you to see if any anger (no matter how small) rises within. Once it does I want you to write down why:
Statues of oppression being torn down;
Black Lives Matter;
Confederate Flag being banned (although, it is the wrong one, but we can all thank the KKK for that mishap);
Black people bringing up race and how it plays a role in their lives;
Now, where do you find yourself with your personal sense of anger and injustice? Are you the person who feels it because of the injustice you have been dealt with for the color of your skin? Are you the person who's injustice is on a superficial level? Or do you feel it and yet you are the person who has more of an empathetic outlook on it?
If you're on the superficial level then you are doing nothing more than what your ancestors have been doing in this country. Please go look and research that fact. Even way back then the fear of there being a conspiracy by bringing race issues to the forefront and a One World Order because of it is nothing new. Maybe you're at the superficial level because you have false information about a particular issue. Research, research, research my friend. And not with a heart filled with fear but with one wanting to seek the truth.
So what can be done by us lowly people who are not involved in politics, but who struggled with Google Classroom time with the kids when everything went virtual, and just wants to get dressed up and go out to eat with their spicy love?
Disclaimer: Remember that these are not the thoughts from a licensed therapist, but from an awesomely caramel-colored, suburban mama of four, who has typed the majority of this post in a hammock in her backyard, while her kids are getting on each others nerves in the pool, instead of lounging with a pina colada while listening to "Red Red Wine".
First, shuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut it when a person in the group that feels the oppression tells you how they are feeling. Do not just jump in with your self-righteous anger and disgust. Trying to find stories to dispute their personal pain is only going to make it worse.
Then, listen to what they are saying. Go behind the anger and find the "truth" in how they are expressing their emotions. Always, look for the truth. Do that and you are less likely going to feel offended.
Then find those that you trust from that group and ask them your questions on things that you don't understand. Yes, you will find people who are tired of having to explain, but if you are seeking the truth then clear your conscience of any backlash that you may receive.
Both sides need to understand that there are bound to be views that are just not going to line up with each other. It's a human fact. But the group that is tired of having to go through life simply for a skin-hue really needs you to listen...it would be nice if this generation's grandchildren didn't have to fight for the same thing.
And when all else fails remember Mariah Carey...(I'm looking at you too studio execs for the New Year's Eve countdown in Times Square).
May All Realize Intuition Already Has Created Awesome Revolutionary Energetic Yearning...and with that let's move forward in creating unity and love with all races.
"If I speak the languages of men and angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal." - 1 Corinthians 13:1...
Don't be a gong.