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.

(INSERT YOUR CITY) Tea Party

As I attempt to flush out my feelings, I do so openly for (hopefully) the world to see.

Being a black toddler, boy, teen, or man in America is (and always has been) to overcompensate. We’ve always been required to look as if we are as strong as our skin is. I recall talking to one of the charter members of my chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha on the night that my father passed. I, as the oldest, felt like I had to handle everything “like a man” at that time. Joe told me to be in the moment and to experience it and to allow my emotions to run freely. I couldn’t. I was stoic. I had to be strong for my mom and younger sister and brother. It is what I knew. That was Halloween. I didn’t truly cry until the following New Year’s Eve.

Six years have passed. Now, I am brought to tears much more frequently than I would like to admit, but for good reason. At 2:50 this morning, I saw the dash cam footage of the shooting of Philando Castille. I didn’t believe the brother could have been justly shot but maybe the jury saw something, anything, that justified the shooting of a man in front of his daughter (I actually wish these cops would have a legitimate reason so that I could have some hope). Nope. All I saw was a more painful display than that of the Facebook Live footage; a display that involved two armed officers, a black man who was doing everything in his power to comply with the law while speaking calmly in a situation where he was truly the one who should’ve been fearful and ready to unload seven shots into the chest of his murderer, and, most the troublesome part, a little girl who ran from the car her daddy lay mortally wounded in. While composing this, Microsoft said that I should revise the sentence because it is long but all of this happened within a short amount of time. This is appropriately one extended sentence.

I see these things, after hearing of acquittals, and I must go back to interacting in a system that doesn’t only devalue my life but one that profits from my pain. This happens regularly, be it with an immediate consequence like the lynching of Jeremy Jackson or the hundreds of microaggressions I experience each week from America and Americans. Whether we’re focusing on the food deserts in black communities, which kill us from the inside out, or those politicians who fight to uphold mandatory minimum sentencing, which keeps slavery alive and well, I challenge the school of thought that says it’s better now for black people. No form of oppression is better, it’s just different. Actually, think about it: back in the day, if I wanted to avoid seeing a body swinging from the tree, I’d just avoid that path to work. Now, I am forced to see the image of Mike Brown’s body lying in the street for hours over and over again thanks to the mainstream media.

If that isn’t enough for your mental state of mind, we face a representation of our oppressor every day, unless we work/live in a vacuum of blackness. White people, even those on the right side, sad to say, you are a beneficiary of the system that keeps black people in caskets or chains. It’s like me and meat: I hate the mass production of meat and how inhumanely it is done, but do I hate it enough to really go vegan? Not at this point. But I’m working toward it. Day by day, I’m giving up some of my human privilege. What is white America doing to give up white privilege? Are you becoming more and more knowledgeable on what laws that don’t affect you are being passed? Are you asking, when you buy that swanky new downtown apartment, who used to live in this community and did they choose to move? Are you questioning why your tax dollars aren’t reaching the underperforming schools, where they’re needed the most? And not only asking these questions but are you challenging your friends to do the same? No, because, just like me ordering a Five Guys burger is easier than going finding a vegan recipe on www.ICanYouCanVegan.com, making the choice to remain ignorant is effortless.

The cows don’t have to knowingly see me every day and know that I am a part of their system of oppression. They don’t know that I ate their cousin while they’re producing my milk. The chickens don’t know that I’m eating their eggs, which they hatched in hopes of giving life. Imagine how angry and/or depressed that cow and chicken would be, knowing that they can take no action against me, as a beneficiary of the system that profits from their pain and death.

But black people are not animals. We are human beings who are aware. Many of us are angry. Some of us are depressed. I am certain that a considerable number are both. And, just as your beloved forefathers eventually stood toe to toe with their British countrymen, eventually, we too must stand against our American oppressors. We are delaying the inevitable but, the beauty of that word is that it can only be delayed. It cannot be stopped. War is not the answer but America doesn’t want to change so the change must be forced. And I’m not necessarily advocating violence because it is not the only option, but it is the final one. I think that there are more effective ways to hurt America. Discipline displayed through strikes, boycotts, and black ownership will accomplish more than our bullets ever will.

Please prove me wrong. I want you to change. Because right now, in interest of my own people, I only see a few options and I’d rather die standing on my own two feet protecting my own than to bleed out in the seat of my car and traumatizing my daughter or to put money into the system that allows it.

And, for those who say you can’t oppose America and be a “good Christian” (because supporting slavery was such a Christ-like thing for the American people to do), I’m going to pray while I withhold my dollars, defend my family, or openly challenge the government. James 2:14-26.

 

Make rebellion a reality.

Pick Your Battles

Whether I’m discussing the relationships between myself and my wife, boss, mother, or friends, picking my battles is one of the most important things I’ve learned since I graduated college (a lesson that I really began developing back in the first semester of my junior year).

Some things aren’t worth fighting over. And some things aren’t to be fought over. I don’t go to work and say what I won’t do (as long as it’s ethical and not degrading). I have a responsibility to do my job. I don’t tell Desirée that I’m not washing the dishes when it’s my night to wash. There are some battles that aren’t worth it (and that I probably won’t win).

Conversely, there are some that must be fought. When something isn’t that big of a deal, let it slide. Because, eventually, you’re going to have something that you have to speak up against and you don’t want to be pegged as someone whose always pushing every envelope you can.

Your pride is important. But know when you need to put it to the side and when you need to say “This is something I won’t budge on.” You cannot not budge on everything and everything cannot go your way. That is juvenile.

 

Make professional development a priority.

A Big Game of Chess

I’m a chess player. Not great but I’m good. And, after this first full week of Donald Trump’s presidency, I see that we, as American citizens who oppose this president’s points of view, are playing chess. We must take actions that are not only decisive and intentional but also strategic. I tweeted it last night and I strongly believe that “There are things that every , or , or , or , or , should agree on.” Failing to see things this way makes me question one’s intentions for all of humanity. As a young professional who cares more about the future of the next generation than the future of his own pockets, I must say that I reject any presidency that starts on the same note that Hitler’s reign did and you should too. There are certain components that have historically come together to create the ideal conditions for genocide and those initial components are present right now in America. I don’t know about you but, as a young professional who has an affinity for world history, I know that a war that would lead to another depression like that of the 1930s will not be good for my professional aspirations. We have an obligation to keep the world around us stable so that the next generation has a foundation to stand on. So let’s reject the oppression and discrimination of this Trump Administration and, instead, stand on those explicit truths that we hold to be self evident.

 

Make social justice a priority.

One Time For the First

“My president is black.” — Young Jeezy

I still remember exactly where I was and who I was with when I found out that President Barack Obama would be the United States of America’s forty-fourth president.

Do I agree with everything President Barack Obama did? No way. I’m not brainwashed. But this man was the first black president and many of his concerns aligned with mine. Often, we forget what powers the president does and doesn’t have. But one thing I will forever be grateful for is President Barack Obama making healthcare a possibility for so many more people than it once was. It is impossible to succeed if you’re dead. It is difficult to build wealth if you’re not healthy. And it’s challenging to believe you can be something that you’ve never seen. Sure, some people have the imagination that allows them to aspire to greatness that they’ve never seen but it takes true vision coupled with unprecedented actions to be the first. So, President Barack Obama, I salute you for being the people’s president, I implore you to continue giving hope to young people who otherwise wouldn’t have much, and I thank you for being courageous enough not only to try but to do.

Oh, and let me not neglect the elegant legacy that First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama has left. She is an awesome role model. I wish the same could be said for every First Lady of the United States to come…

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Make hope a priority.