An Exposure of Two Wrongs

I’ve been sitting with a burden for quite some time, and now I’m very tired of it.

Some time ago, I received two documents. One was a very colorful meter, and the other was an explanation of said meter. Developed by a professor at Northwestern University , The 8 White Identities might be one of the most heinous things I have ever seen passed off as educational curriculum. It breaks up the entire population of White America into subcategories in an effort to teach them about how much work they need to do to be better people to people of color.

I will never knock freedom of speech. However, I really do wish there were such things as crimes of manners because I cannot think of anything more rude to do to any group of people, especially when the same approach has been used against the race that this curriculum is supposed to be helping

Let me explain: being from Alabama and having a dialect that sounded more like Caucasian people than a Black person, I learned that this particular characteristic made it easy for Caucasian people to say certain things to me that they would not dare say to another black person. The best example for the purposes of this post would be the multiple times that a Caucasian person, in relaxed conversation, has shared with me their view of how black people should be categorized. In many of these shares, I was told that we should be seen in certain groups as follows: decent Blacks, smart Blacks, uppity Blacks, cool Blacks (“you know, like you, Adi!”), a few other levels that I can’t quite recall, and of course, niggers.

I can’t really say which part shocked me the most; the statements or the confidence with which the statements were made. Somehow, it was assumed that because I sounded more like them and had a love for the same kinds of music and such, I would agree and validate this misguided way of thinking about other human beings. In some cases, I gave rebuttals in attempts to educate, and in others, I simply remained silent. The temperature of the room matters, right?

Now, that I’ve seen this same mindset being taught in the opposite direction from a college level, I admit to having been absolutely livid when I first saw it. Now, I’m mostly heartbroken because I remember how I felt when told how deplorably I should see my own race. It makes NO sense at all that the same narrative many believe to be the fuel behind this nation’s racial disparities is being used to dominate the race originally blamed for perpetuating it. It is a snake willfully eating its own tail, and there is something deeply wrong with a snake that will do such a thing to itself. A body is not whole (or sane) if it is willing to do irreparable damage to half of itself in order to make the other half feel better.

If we are so blind that we can honestly claim to not already know the kind of national trauma such a narrative as The 8 White Identities is creating, we are in way more trouble than we think. We’ve already seen it, and now we’re behaving as if we truly believe it will, somehow, produce positive results this time around. It doesn’t matter who wrote it, how educated they are, or the motive behind it. It was wrong when so confidently used to treat me like some 8th world wonder, and it is presently wrong to so confidently make people feel like they owe some penalty for simply having been born with paler skin than others. Literally, no one likes to be considered as no more than a list of cold definitions on a sheet of paper, but we just keep on doing it…with the same results.

The only two categories any human being really fits in are either loved or hated. There are no grey areas in this. We either love a person or we hate them. Is it a loving thing to prefer ridiculing a person for what they may not know? Is it a loving thing to teach one group of people to harshly judge another? Is it a loving thing to teach a group of people to hate itself…that they should be sorry for being born since they don’t understand what it is to be another race or nationality…or to consider themselves unworthy because the people they’re supposed to look up to tell them so?

If I have no reason to apologize for being black (and I don’t), it would make no sense to make a white person regret the color of their skin either. So, why have we allowed this meter to appear useful at all when if such a thing were to be created by a white professor regarding 8 Black identities, that professor would be fired and sued to homelessness within a week’s time…and we all know it? Just why?!

And what does this teach us Black people? Are we supposed to see things like this and think, “Finally! An educated approach to our racial crisis. We’re gonna be free at last!”? According to The Racial Healing Handbook, we are to be excused for speaking rudely, ridiculing, or even flat-out abusing white people since we’ve been so oppressed by them for so long. So, maybe we are supposed to be glad this meter exists so that we can decide who is good enough for our kindness, or compassion, and our love. Apparently, they have to earn it in a way that we shouldn’t have to.

How about “NO”! How about we start taking responsibility for our part in this racial mess? For starters, we can start speaking to ourselves differently. We are not slower in the mind than white people. We are not lazier than white people. We are not gonna be just like our lowdown mommas or daddies. We are not destined to forever be a race of hoodrats, government leeches, or alternative school wall flies. I know that’s what we have been taught (a lot of us by our own stressed out, overworked, depressed, anxious, and single parents), but we need to learn how to speak a different language that can be understood by everyone; a language of renewal of our minds and spirits…a language of victory over the oppression we no longer need to carry.

I’m pretty sure it seems like I’m asking black people to just take the high road…yet again…, but recognizing our value and taking responsibility for the legacies we leave have nothing to do with high or low roads. I’m not asking us to put ourselves last or to allow others to lord themselves over us. I’m also not asking anyone to lower standards so that we don’t have to exert ourselves to reach them. I’m asking us to rise to meet and/or exceed them. No matter what we feel has been taken or withheld from us, we need to own up to the fact that some things taken or withheld were either willfully given away or outright refused.

We all have the same rights. We all have the ability to organize and exercise our rights. I get it, I promise! You could fill a novel-sized stack of paper with the number of times you’ve been told how hard ‘the man’ will try to keep you down, but the idea that ‘the man’ has any real power to keep anyone down has always been a lie.

From the time of emancipation, we have had the ability to stand up, grow up, and live up to the legacies our forefathers tried to leave us. Yes, more white people had the money (and the power that too often comes with it), but how did we get to the place where we are now allowing that money and power to be so important that we would give up our minds, souls, and votes in exchange for what other people think we should just shut up and be satisfied with? Who told us to do that?

My grandmother and aunt – my parents – never once told me I would be just like my mentally ill mother or my absent father. They never stood in my way of trying anything that wouldn’t hurt me or anyone else. They let me try. Some of my teachers told me I would never amount to anything, and that hurt me and stole my hope sometimes, but my parents were proud of every little creative, athletic, or goofy thing I ever did. They taught me about the love of Jesus and how to use it to love myself and other people. They constantly spoke life into me even through my worst moments. They were present even when they didn’t understand.

They spoke to me in the language of love, grace, unity, and victory – with all of God’s precious creations (people). Nothing about color, gender, politics, religion, or lifestyle ever entered into it. Even if the subjects came up, they always seemed to end with my parents telling me that that person – whoever they were – was made by God and deserved to be loved as much as God loves me. And oh, how He loves me…and you!

I am so sorry if you have been spoken to in the language of brokenness, hurt, anger, and glorified struggles. That is not how God intended for any of us to be treated or spoken to. Your worth is not measured by human definitions of worthiness, but by the Creator of the heavens and the earth who makes nothing and no one without a purpose. Your worth was measured by love before you were ever born.

If you have grown up never understanding any (or some) of this, it will take quite a bit of time to unwrap the current state of your mind to make room for a new and deeper understanding of your place on this earth…in our nation…in your neighborhood…in your home. All I’m asking is that you seek the answers for yourself.

Words have power. How we see ourselves at the heart of us is always going to matter more than the color of our skin. Being black (or white, or Mexican, or Indian, or whatever) isn’t going to get you a good job, get you a good education, find you a good spouse, help you raise happy and productive children, or get you into heaven. It will be the Spirit of love, the Spirit of power, and a sound mind that will help you reach the goals you’ve been taught don’t belong to you…the things you’ve been taught to be jealous of and hate others for because you don’t yet have it. The love of God, of yourself, and of others is something no one can take away from you as there are no laws against it. Neither are there laws against the power of thought, emotion, or creative industry (use what you love to love the world). Use the brain and heart you were given to change the world’s mind about you. Use them to change your mind about yourself. Use them to change your mind about others.

You are…They are…We are…ALL so much more than a meter developed by any professor in any university. We have got to stop blaming people for things we are equally responsible for changing, and that will all start with how we choose to see ourselves, how we perceive others who are not like us, and how we represent both.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Everyone is more like you than they are different. We all have the capacity to hate, and we all have the capacity for love. I’ll let you determine how much of which you can hold, which one will free you, and which one will destroy you faster than any person’s opinion of you ever could.

Love is hard, but love will always be worth it.

Love: A Wholesome Illustration

Love is work.

Love is hard work.

Love is worth work.

Love is…

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)

Relationships are hard.

We all know that.

What we aren’t always clear on is why they’re so difficult.

Regardless of how our relationships start out…at birth, at first sight, by chance, a gradual pull, circumstantial, environmental…at some point they just go off the rails in ways that confuse and misdirect us in our efforts to repair them. Sometimes, a relationship can go so far off the rails that the love we profess starts to feel like a huge lie, and suddenly we find ourselves in a season of loss that could have been avoided if we had a deeper insight into how relationships actually work.

First of all, things in a relationship are going to go wrong. In our humanity, there is simply no way to avoid it. In our frustrations, it’s very tempting to start using words like ‘toxic’ and ‘narcissistic’ to make it easier to start building our exit strategies, but what if what we define as toxic has nothing to do with the designation of victim vs. villain? What if our view of love is passing through environmental filters? What if those we regard as enemies are just as lost and bewildered as we are?

Our friends who are brutal in their honesty. Our spouses who trust us so much that they are careless with the worst parts of themselves in our presence. Our co-workers who have very different definitions of healthy competition. Our children who are at their absolute worst at home but just ‘the sweetest things’ to the old lady down the street. The stranger who has no sense of personal space or the manners required to say, “Excuse me”. These people are not our enemies, and neither are we theirs. We are all simply human, each one of us different according to the lenses through which we view this world.

The only lens, however, that can ever show us the truth about ourselves and one another is that of love.

In all transparency, when I started this business, I only had one motivation in mind: to love people. Period. No conditions, qualifying standards, or filters. I simply want to meet people right where they are, regardless of how high or low of a point they may be on their journeys. With love as my weapon, going up against fear, division, and hatred has always seemed a worthy task to me. John Lennon says it this way: “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” In an ideal nutshell, if we all understand and apply the basic attributes of love, we will stop being so afraid to love one another rightly. I realize, though, that loving people, while hard on the surface, is even harder the more you dig, and that is only because the definition of love itself is no longer clear in the national society we live in.

When I speak of love, I am only referring to romance when working with couples. Every other time, I am referring to the actual characteristics of love which are all necessary to every interaction we make in our lives amongst other people. Love isn’t fluffy, pink, or made of chocolate. It is the hard work of internal battles that must be fought every time our thoughts and feelings get knocked out of alignment. Consider the passage below:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

I have no problem outing myself about the fact that I often get an ‘F’ on my life report card for patience, and that’s just the first one! Looking further into this passage, it’s no wonder we struggle so much with love. It is chock full of the things that are the hardest to hold ourselves accountable for. We, as human beings, want to have pride in ourselves, don’t we? It’s not easy letting go of those receipts when we know we’re probably going to have that same stupid argument all over again. We most certainly don’t want the pain and pressure of enduring through every hard circumstance. I mean, who does?

That’s just it, though. No matter what Alannah Myles told us, what love IS and what we want it to be are two different things.

Months ago, I’d asked Trinity, my daughter, if she would consider helping me with some things for Root To Branches. Since I do all of it alone and she works such short hours, it seemed reasonable to utilize her downtime and social media savvy to lighten my load. After a couple of days, she agreed, and I thought it was all fine. However, after the agreement, any mentioning of content, pictures, or schedules sent my poor child into some kind of weird attitude episode that I just did not understand. Eventually, I just stopped mentioning it and left her alone because I didn’t want to argue about it.

Yeah, right. Not arguing with my teenage daughter? How did I think I would get away with that one?

I don’t know what got into me, but just today, I asked if she would like to go over some content, and within 5 minutes, both of us were heated and distraught. She explained that the only reason she agreed to help me was because I’m her mother and she felt backed into a corner. She felt that saying ‘no’ would have made her a bad daughter. Even though I explained that I wouldn’t want her to help under duress, she was still angry and we had to part ways for a while.

10 minutes later, I receive a text from her that included the following:

“Love is…Putting aside your pride to help someone when you know they need it.”

Apparently, she had taken the issue to a friend who told her that she was being selfish, and that her helping me was a reasonable thing to do, all things considered. She gave it some thought, calmed down, and picked our media content up right where she had left it. She did it with her heart, and it blessed me so much! After crying and hugging it out, she explained to me that she is very selfish and anxious about her own time, and that she was very sorry for including me in that. I apologized for being unkind when it seemed as if I wouldn’t get the help I desired from her. I truly needed help, and she is truly comfortable in her own space. Neither of us was wrong in our needs or desires, but we were both wrong in our handling of one another.

I had wanted her to help me blindly with no consideration for her own feelings in the matter. She wanted her time all to herself. What we needed, however, was patience, kindness and circumstantial endurance. In this, we have several things to be grateful for, including friends who don’t co-sign our BS, but are bold in telling us the truth and holding us accountable for it.

While this seems so small and wholesome, the truth is that loving my child is hard work sometimes because it is by choice, not nature. She is, after all, a totally separate being from myself and is in possession of her own mind and feelings. I choose to listen, guide and comfort even when I’m feeling selfish with my own time. More importantly, though, I choose to give her and myself a break when those things don’t come easy. My choice is a healthy relationship with my daughter in spite of my feelings. This basic illustration of love is what it’s all about.

Healthy relationships are more honest than our feelings will ever be.

With whom do you need to be more patient? What do you not need to be so prideful about? What is wearing you down in the areas of hope and faith?

I encourage you to remember that we are all fighting against the same tides in our pursuits of happiness. If you are hurting and confused, I am very sorry that this is your ‘right now’. Think. Pray. Phone a friend, coach, or mentor who will be honest with you, and let them help you dig deep to find the root of your position. Give yourself and your opposition a break in your shared humanity for the sake of the relationships we all work so hard to build and hold on to. If they must go, let them. But hold your ground in loving well and loving rightly.

Love is work. Love is hard work. Love is worth work. Love is…

What is your definition of love?