Choose Depth

Today, I was reading a piece by a conservative political blogger who concluded that a candidate’s age combined with a non-threatening biological issue were good reasons for exclusion from the political process. No point of issues or integrity were made, simply the candidates rumored lack of bowel control.

A few minutes before, as I was working on my résumé, from which I had previously removed my home address because, at this point in time, it serves no functional purpose on a résumé (as it did in decades past). Actually, I am wrong. It does serve a function – It makes the reader comfortable with the fact that I do not live in abstract poverty, a shelter or under a bridge (which speaks to the point that we are more afraid of homelessness and poverty than of a megalomaniac running the USA but that is another topic for another day).

Now, whether running for office while supposedly wearing adult diapers or failing to put a place of residency on a résumé, my point is as follows: How many highly qualified individuals does our society toss by the wayside because they don’t live up to our superficial expectations of what success is? Because their body doesn’t function normally (but not in a way that will prevent them from performing exceptionally)? Because they don’t want you to Google the fact that they live in the “hood” (or wherever they live because it is inconsequential)? I vividly recall sitting on a university’s panel with an HR professional who said she Googles the addresses of job candidates because, if they cannot keep a home that looks respectable on the outside, chances are they cannot run a department. What message does this send to the first generation college student whose address on his résumé doesn’t reflect the wealth that he knows some of his peers’ do?

Whose standards of success are we, as Americans, subscribing to? Such schools of thought perpetuate the fallacy that you must look and live in accordance within a predetermined set of norms that were established by men and women who look nothing like me and whose culture worked violently to eradicate mine. So, in order to get ahead, I should make sure my body looks, functions, and operates like theirs? To succeed, my home, yard, and family should be mirror images of theirs?

There are some cultural concessions I choose to make for the sake of my family. Other things, I am working to actively unlearn and reprogram. I don’t want my spirit to model that of murderers, slavers, and rapists like America’s forefathers, no matter how much of an impact they had on the world. I am content with the peace that comes from knowing that my ancestors equipped me with the emotional, physical, and cultural fortitude to be myself and to offer depth over shallowness.

How about, at this moment in history, we begin to look past the superficial in order to find the substance? I am certain that it will take more time but, in the end, it will be worth it.

 

Make choosing depth a priority.

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Taking a Loss

Yesterday, a divided nation decided that it would, in part, continue to go down a path that leads toward its demise. But, just because you’re going down the wrong path doesn’t mean you can’t pause, reflect, and commit to bettering yourself.

It’s time for us to demand more of our leaders. As I continue to prepare myself for elevated levels of leadership by taking on more roles and remaining a lifelong learner, I am adding more best practices to my arsenal. Today, as I was reading some of John Maxwell’s work, I was reminded that “(l)eaders lose the right to be selfish.”

We have to start holding our leaders, elected and otherwise, to a higher standard. Sometimes that means turning down campaign dollars from sources that lack integrity. Other times, it means foregoing a raise or rejecting a bonus so your support staff maintains its morale. Paying bills and engaging in self-care are not selfish. Shoot, even getting a bonus when everyone’s doing well is ok. But when, as a leader, you look out for yourself at the expense of those around you, you’re doing damage to the culture and community you’re suppose to be protecting.

Think of it like this: As a leader, if you do something selfish and stupid that jeopardizes your community’s reputation, you’re not only risking your job but also the jobs of everyone that supports you. Let’s look at all the companies that have gone down the drain because of poor leadership. The leaders were not the only ones affected. Their employees weren’t only affected. The employees’ families were affected. The generations that follow that employee are affected. Our decisions, as leaders, will have everlasting impacts on the world.

Yesterday’s election results, though some positive change took place, disappointed me on a large scale. The battle may be a wash but the war is far from over. Over the next two years (and long after that), let us, as follower-leaders, pledge to change the culture across political, economic, and social arenas. We have to get to a point where we can disagree without being mean-spirited and that starts with requiring our leaders to model that. We influence them by demanding more of them so that they can influence us. It’s a simple cycle.

 

Make selfless leadership a requirement.

But Did You Vote?

Tomorrow is it. It’s our opportunity to correct a tremendous blemish on this nation’s record. Whether we’re looking at legislative powers or impeachment and removal, tomorrow can be a turning point for America or it can continue down the same path it’s been on for centuries: One seeped in bigotry, hatred, and white patriarchy that is masked as progressive freedom.

Have you voted? If not, it’s ok. You still have a chance. If so, have you encouraged anyone else to? Cool. Well, encourage someone else.

Do I believe the process is flawed? Yes. But will not participating fix it? No. Participate and then, when it fails you, fight.

 

Make voting a priority.

As I Sit in Starbucks… 🤦🏿‍♂️

Let’s jump right in.

 

I love and hate the influence that the West, and specifically the United States, has on the world. I love it because I can go anywhere in the world and move around with relative ease. I hate it because I can go anywhere in the world and move around with relative ease. Essentially, it takes away from the experience of feeling truly foreign in a foreign land. I am not a native Swahili or even French speaker who has to lean on a limited understanding of English to communicate while in Japan. I don’t go to Thailand with a strong German accent and struggle to order my scotch on the rocks. I, as a native English speaker, have it easy. And not only about language.

 

Yesterday, Desirée and I went to Good Town Doughnuts in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. While I’m not a fan of American country music, if I were, this would be the place for me because, the entire time we were there, an American country radio station was playing. While all the customers (except the two of us) were Japanese, the decor was quintessential Americana, down to the two flags hanging on the wall (though one was pretty cool in that it had the Holtom peace symbol replacing the stars). Tonight, we sat down for dinner at a Japanese-made beer company’s restaurant and I heard Anita, Stevie, and Diana playing through our meal. And don’t get me started on hip-hop’s impact; I walked into a vintage clothing store on the day we arrived and saw that 90% of the cultural influence came from the 5 boroughs, with a few splashes of NOLA and the West Coast. From De La Soul’s album at the entrance to Dipset’s Supreme photoshoot on the wall, I felt at home.

 

The thing is, I don’t leave the United States to feel at home. And I don’t feel that way all the time but I also know that my discomfort is always temporary. Eventually, I will find someone who will meet me where I am in conversation, whether we’re discussing politics, music or American football (shoutout to Cam Newton, who is the sole reason my barista in Santorini knows where North Carolina is).

 

It is nice to move with ease but doesn’t that take away some of the fun everyone else from around the world gets to have? When everyone speaks English and knows your major notable figures, doesn’t it say something about your own society’s narcissism for knowing very little about their society? This may never change. The U.S. may be this influential until the world ends. But the least we can do is make an effort to meet them halfway, right? I mean, I’ll be honest, I can’t even ask someone where the restroom is in Japanese (and haven’t had to because there is always dual signage). Let’s stop allowing our self-centeredness be what defines us.

 

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Oh yeah… And I’m writing this while sitting in Starbucks because I knew I’d be able to hop on the WiFi with relative ease, which I wasn’t able to do the previous establishment (pictured above) where I needed a Japanese keyboard. See? I knew the comfort would come. Lucky me.

 

 

 

Make researching more than tourist sites before traveling abroad a priority.

You Aren’t In Kansas Anymore

While I am far from happy with the state of American race relations, specifically when it comes to the injustice system, at least I know it. No, I’m not an attorney and I never formally studied the law past certain elective courses that touched on certain legal subjects. What I am, however, is a citizen of my country who knows that, though black men and women are often disenfranchised when it comes to the court system, there are rights we are supposed to have and, if those rights are violated, we can appeal for quite some time (unless, of course, we are murdered by the police, which is also a very real possibility in America).

I digress. I am writing this because, as a learned black man who travels internationally frequently with his black wife, I do my best to keep up with stories across the world. I subscribe to an array of publications from Blavity to Valet Magazine to the New York Times and, in keeping up with articles, both domestic and international, I’ve read about American citizens who have been detained/imprisoned abroad. While it doesn’t happen frequently enough to hit national headlines (unless the offender is one of the Ball boys), Americans are often detained for doing stupid things. And, though I do believe in law and order, I know that 1) punishment should be doled out in an unbiased manner and 2) the punishment should match the crime. But, in some nations, that’s just not the case. Take the case of Wendell Brown, for example. Wendell is a black man whose only crime was defending himself against a Chinese citizen by shoving him. There is a video that completely supports this statement. Now, he is serving a four-year sentence in a Chinese prison. President Trump and his staff have refused to come to this American citizen’s aid. Click here to read more.

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Have fun, but do so with an awareness that the person who hits you may possess rights that you don’t. Because laws are dynamic, it is impossible to know every law in every nation that you want to visit but know that ignorance of the law is not a defense in most cases. Stay smart. Stay safe.

 

Make staying safe a priority.

 

How I’m Going to Close Out February

Five days ago, I posted a screenshot to Facebook about the fact that the President of South Africa is planning to confiscate land from whites in South Africa and redistribute it to black South Africans. The conversation since I posted it has been interesting, to say the least. I won’t get into the back and forth as much as I will say that, when posting things that could be offensive to some (which accounts for almost everything these days), don’t be afraid. The truth is the truth. If you believe that imperialism and colonialism are wrong, say that. If you believe that a culture that promotes rape (of enslaved people or anyone else) is wrong, say that. If you believe that any form of supremacy is wrong, say that. And, if you believe there are exceptions to those things, say that too. But, before you say any of these things, put yourself in your opposition’s shoes. While it is important to see where others are coming from, ask if they’re looking at the situation objectively or from a perspective of pride in their ancestors. Because, though there is value in seeing how someone could get to see things the wrong way, there is more value in helping them to see it correctly.

I’m doing both; seeing things objectively and with pride in my bloodline. Africans enslaving Africans was wrong and still is. But, in the words of Meek Mill, “it’s levels to this,” and Europeans enslaving Africans who had virtually no chance to return home and then carving up the continent like a Thanksgiving turkey was one of the most evil acts of literal and cultural genocide known to mankind. So, excuse me for not conceding to the generally accepted Western consensus that some kind of statute of limitations for the hell Africa and those in the diaspora still suffer from has passed. Actually, don’t excuse me. I don’t desire the respect of those who think reparations of some kind are not in order because, to see worth in your respect I would have to find value in your integrity.

I am an unapologetic, proud man of the Lost Tribe before I’m an American professional. No matter what, that will always be.

 

Make neutralizing the dominant narrative a priority.

A Fault in the Foundation

I woke up this morning at 1:50AM with plans to lazily scroll though Instagram until sleep reappeared. Within a few minutes, I saw a post about the Dakota Pipeline (remember the #NODAPL hashtag on social media?). The Sioux and their allies weren’t protesting the installation of the pipeline to prevent economic growth. They were doing it because of the very real chance that the pipeline would leak, contaminating their environment.

Yesterday, the pipeline leaked, contaminating their environment. Things like this would make a more innocent version of myself wonder why our nation puts the good of the economy over the good of its citizens. But, as I’ve become more cynical, I’ve realized that the Bible was right and the love of money is the root of all evil. Not only has America historically trivialized the lives of our Native American brothers and sisters because of its insatiable greed, to this day we spit in their faces and poison their water in an attempt to make the rich richer. Being that I am not a scientist, I cannot say with any certainty what 210,000 gallons of oil will do to an environment but it doesn’t take a genius to know that, yesterday, some of these protesters’ greatest fears were realized. Their children’s children may suffer as a result of America’s gross negligence and moral bankruptcy.

How do we begin to hold the government accountable? When do we put the corporations on trial to the point that they must be dissolved? At what point do we realize that, if a system is grossly underserving so many citizens, it should be done away with? And, to those who say, “Well, it is working for many, so let’s keep it in place and try fixing the broken parts instead of scrapping it in its entirety,” I say you are disillusioned at best and malevolent at worst. A system that, at its base, was meant to serve only those of a certain race and class will always primarily serve only those who meet that criteria until the foundation is replaced. We cannot fix this from the top down or the floor up. We have to dig deep, get to the bedrock, and redefine who we are as a nation. As I said in a piece published yesterday on Blavity, America is in such turmoil right now because its values do not align with its actions, and never have. We say we are the land of the free and the home of the brave but our (using that word loosely) founding fathers were little more than cowardly thieves of the most predatory nature with no regard for a humanity that didn’t look like they thought humanity should look. If one fails to identify the brokenness at his core and work to repair and make amends for it, how can that person (or nation) ever get better and live up to a set of lofty values? You don’t fix a bad habit by saying you’re working on it publicly while privately going back to the same habit. You need to be held accountable. We must hold America accountable.

So, to my Native American brothers and sisters, I hope Sioux nation sues the pants off the American government, pun intended. I pray they have wronged you for the last time. And I hope that, at some point sooner than later, America will go through the painfully revolutionary process of looking in the mirror and saying, “We have to start over.”

 

Make integrity a priority.

 

Originally written on 11/17/17.