When Black Becomes White

Every time I hear a report of an egregious crime, I cringe. All crime is bad, but crimes against humanity get my attention.  Cruelty, violence, and social injustice fuel my curiously.  I’m not the only one.  These are the ingredients for most television crime dramas.  But the reality sets in when a public figure, celebrity, or ANY person I may have held in high regard has been alleged.  


Social injustice though?  This is an interesting twist. Who commits these crimes?  And who are the victims. Crimes against humanity have  numerous victims. The punishment never fits the crime.  The damage is immeasurable and confidence is lost. 

Active shooters and serial rapists trump fraud and imbezzlement (which are also crimes against humanity).  How many Americans will truly recover from preditory loans, pension scandals, retirement fund fraud?  But these are not juicy enough to hold our attention unless it becomes a personal loss.  There’s this old adage:  if it bleeds it leads!  The first 10 minutes of the nightly news proves this.  Politics encompasses the second third of the news, leaving the final portion to public interest “feel good” stories for which no one stays tuned.  

We are driven by fear.  Our culture feeds on the angst.  We are anxious for everything.  And    we panic over a lot of what we digest from the news.  But the news is spoon-fed to us based on our steady diet of sensationalism.  They sell what we are buying.  


We are offered few choices.  We have liberal news or conservative politics.  The truth is slanted and the viewing public doesn’t ask enough questions.  There’s no major media outlet for the conspiracy theorists, leaving the an entire market ripe for the picking.  Underground reporting, research, and responses to legitimate concerns are only slowly surfacing.  YouTube and Facebook are the primary source for so many Americans only because the information flows at a steady stream (and the palm-held technology is already providing an endless timeline of informal content).  

“Snopes” and other fact checking sources are no more reliable than Asking Geeves (ask.com).  Our search for information is abbreviated the moment Google tells us just how quickly it gathered 2 million results on any given topic.  

Sensationalism

There are certain types of criminal events that recurr, however.  And we rarely question their validity.  Human interests in a socially sensitive climate, race-related and gender bias stories lead.  I don’t think I’m lending a bias when I suggest that our socio-political climate lends itself to crimes against humanity.  The abrasive comments that the political leaders, presidential candidates, and their media correspondents spews are the biggest crimes committed in the past 8 months.  These are the train wrecks that we can’t look away from.  

There’s another crime against humanity that holds our attention just a tad longer.  It’s sad really because this type of social behavior has no solution and yet ties up our judicial system and challenges our community resources far greater than any (ignorable) election.  


Cruelty Through Violence

Rape, molestation, serial crimes…  Are these crimes more rampant or are they simply reported more frequently?  The perpetrators are looking less and less familiar.  Or are they?  A certain demographic seems to be the audience for these news events. 

The New Jim Crow suggests that for decades a systematic injustice has been perpetuated to jail black men.  The war on drugs has yielded prison over-crowding and a renewed fear of the black community. And these manipulations and untruths have perpetuated a mistrust of law enforcement in many “ethnic communities.”

Now through mass media, we are learning about crimes that are committed by ethnic minorities.  When allegations are made against black celebrities like Bill Cosby or Michael Jackson, America cringes. We begin to accept that no one is above the law.

We’ve witnessed that a nation of oppressed minorities can become a powerful force that can seize authority and change the cultural landscape–politically, socially, and economically. Conversely, powerplays can expose white America to a new kind of hatred and fear of anything non-white. The tables have turned, and the word minority no longer has the same meaning.  Term such as “urban” and “economically disadvantaged” were coined to disguise a demographic that was once black, but is now simply poor.  When we speak less of race and more of class, what we are really talking about is wealth and power. 


And what we are learning is that although the wealthy and the popular have the means to escape penalties, no amount of celebrity can cloak public opinion.  Our society condemns more now than it ever did during the conservative “good old days”.  There’s no escape.  

Will we see more bankers, CEOs and corporate managers go to jail for their misdeeds?  Not likely.  Celebrities however are more likely to endure the wrath of the justice system.  Wesley Snipes or Martha Stewart–neither could escape.  Juicier crimes like sexual molestation, sexual assault, or murder will offer the viewing public the opportunity to play judge AND jury. 

When the public reacts to tabloid journalism, we can not at all be surprised that we have a presidential candidate whose former career was in business fraud and reality television.  


 Afrika Bambaataa Victims will tell their story. The media will exploit them. Hip Hop music will get a black eye (no pun intended); and the news-makers will suggest that if “they” could do it, no one is beyond reproach.  
Put on your seatbelt America!  As African Americans embrace the kingdom that was always denied them, there will be a recognizable force that will shine a spotlight on the indecency of our actions (while demonstrating indifference to its own injustices). 

But don’t believe me. Click here for more.

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Gee, Daddy is Pissed!


There comes a time when being carefree and jovial is more of a liability than an asset. Parenthood is no exception.  I admit that I am much harder on my son than I am on my daughter.  I love them both but my tolerance levels are on par with their acceptance of me.  

It’s important to convey how important my children are to me. In a world that is full of disappointment, my children are a reflection of my best efforts to make the world a better place.  My love for them both cannot be quantified.  However our love for each other is evident.  

The circumstances by which each of my children were brought in to this world were distinctly different, and like most families may contribute to why my daughter is treated differently than my son.  Five years apart, the age different between them is the same as that of their parents.  I married their mom when I was 24.  She was 19.  Neither of us were mature enough to recognize the gravity of our decisions.  But with the birth of our daughter, we found a renewed hope and a desire to live right.  

We had a home with a lot of potential. I had a promising career and good credit.  We were rooted in the church and innocent enough to believe that as long as we did more good than harm by the end of each day, we were managing the world around us.  

My wife nurtured our daughter and most times      enjoyed watching me dote over her.  We shared our parenting responsibilities and I was so proud to be living “the dream”.  

Honeymoon periods end, marital bliss fades, and the typical family disputes arise.  Only true love prevails, so the first separation brought with it a reality check.  My son was conceived on the other’s side of a reconciliation.  But the damaged relationship hadn’t healed.  

Insecurity, disappointment, and mistrust welcomed my son into the world. Sadly, by the time he was three years old, his parents were divorced.  He can not remember a time when his mom and dad got along.  But his older sister had plenty of memories of family trips and dozens of holiday photos of mommy and daddy embracing her cuteness.  

This dynamic plays out as we endure the teen years.  Dylan doesn’t even flinch at the thought of an unpleasant interaction between his parents.  He’s never known a happier time.  Conversely, when his older sister Emily witnesses a civil conversation between “mommy and daddy” it comes with surprise.  It’s been so long.  It’s almost cause for alarm!

“They are smiling?  And they are talking about me and my plans to travel and work and camp and dRiVE?!?”  The thoughts that must go through her head.  

If there was ever something that my ex-wife and I are most passionate about, it’s our kids!  Sometimes support and custody, consent and childcare are ideals that are convoluted by control and resentment.  But we are not without our differences in opinions.  

Court involvement exacerbates problems but we are still learning to co-parent.  I figure by the time my son gets to high school, we will have a mastery of it (I hope).  

My daughter, however, has begun to test our limits and may infact hope to capitalize on our handicaps. I’m grateful that the preteen years were painless.  We even enjoyed three more uneventful teen years.  But it’s happening.  The anticipated freedom that comes with a driver’s license out weighs the worry of teen suitors. 

A few years ago, in leui of a well deserved consequence, I choose instead to lecture my son.  Emmy intervened.  She said, “don’t you think he’s had enough?”   Brakes!   Caught completely off guard, I warned that unless she was preparing to take one for the team…   The conversation ended abruptly. 


On a prememptive strike I pulled my son aside and recalled the incident. He remembered vividly.  He was wise enough to see the mounting tension. He’d watched as his mother and father conferred over parent stuff.   He even commented, “Dad, that’s the longest I’ve ever seen you and mom talk…”

But I wasn’t upset by mom.  I was upset at the general willingness to ignore Dad–that plans were made without my consultation.  And although I recognize that the path to adulthood is paved with independence and the neglectful willingness to rebel against parents, not here.  Not now!

As a father, I don’t apologize for speaking up.  I certainly don’t regret putting my foot down.  My demeanor is usually pleasant, but once I’ve become vocal, I cannot be stifled.  The thought of it inflames me.  

This time, my anger was heavy.  It was direct. It was poinyant. It was also misdirected.  I love my daughter, and would never deliberately hurt her.  But I will not allow poor decisions to manifest into a disregard for common sense.  

“What’s the big deal, Dad?”  Or I believe that the comment she made was that she’d much prefer to go to camp this summer than to go to work…and that earning money for a car wasn’t that important.  Yesterday’s discussion  turned into today’s request.  This evening, Mom suggested that Dad contribute to the driver’s ed “behind-the-wheel” course.  But now driving has suddenly become a desire?  Yet no effort went into earning her own money?!?  Because she’d prefer…?

Dad’s can I get a hand here?


Every father hopes to see his kid off in a safe reliable car (hopefully one that he’s fortunate enough to provide).  I was blessed with that great fortune.  My dad gave me his old truck when I was fifteen.  I had two years to prepare.  It was a hardship that I truly appreciated.  But he also made it possible for me to mow lawns for cash when I was fourteen.  My ability to get my license was contingent on my hard work.  It was more than understood.  I was reminded frequently!!


Because my dad was better off in his career when I came of age, he was able to do for me in ways he’d regretted not being able to do for my siblings.  I was the youngest.  

My daughter is my eldest.  I’ve convinced myself that with planning, devoted parenting, and a lot of help from the Lord, I’ll be able to do for my daughter (and son) what was offered to me.  

But I need a little help from the kids.  Not financial. Not physical.  But emotional.  Appreciation!  Enthusiasm.  Effort.  When Dad is taken for granted though, all bets are off. 


I model intelligent decision-making. I share. I work hard, and I rarely ask for help.  I’m not just a father.  I’m a man.  I have dignity.  I have pride.  I’m kind, but I’m stern.  And dammit I expect respect.  

Somewhere along the way, my kindness was mistaken for weakness.  When I’ve had enough, the beast is awakened.  I roar!  And my point becomes crystal clear.   My own upbringing may be to blame.  I’m ultra tolerant and watchful for results.  I learn from my mistakes, but I’d prefer to learn from someone else’s mistakes instead.  


I’m not a good dad.  I’m the best dad (that I can be)–but only because I do what I’m supposed to do.  The fact that not every dad is able or willing does not make me good.  They have to bare their own cross.  


Everyday brings with it a new opportunity.  I have high expectations of my kids.  They have no excuse for failure except for their own unwillingness to try.  Mediocrity seems to be  accepted collectively.  But individually, we must work hard to achieve.  I once argued with their mom that academic achievement is not a way (of life); it’s a standard.  


I mean what I say.  I’m not just picking fights. Every experience we’ve had brought us to this very moment. I won’t waste it!

Clichés anyone?  Every moment brings with it an opportunity…

I speak up.  I asked my son recently to come from his room and help out in the kitchen.  He mustered some attitude.  At eleven years old he is primed and ready for conflict. Every request triggers a response. 

My son kicked over the cat food which caused all the “fur babies” in the house to react. He then complained that there was a reaction to his action…   The dog growled, the cats ran, and the turtle withdrew in his tank.  

I had to seize the moment!

I’m certain the neighbors heard me stammer as I begin to bellow–loud enough for everyone in my home to hear.  

I proclaimed, “disappointed?  Good!  Mad? Fine!  But get used to it!  Because you’re only months away from manhood!  Biblically you should be preparing for the rights and responsibilities of a man!  And you know what?!?   No one is going to care that your feelings are hurt!  No one is going to ask if you are ok.  No one cares enough to help you out because you’d ‘prefer’ to play and not work!!!”

I saw this glisten in his eye, and I knew I’d gone too far.  My sheer volume rumbled the room.  My voice carried.  I knew my daughter could hear and she knew that this declaration was really for her ears.  I killed two birds with one stone…and I felt…awful. 

My son lipped, “I’m sorry,” while my daughter never peeked from behind her bedroom door.  

Gee, Daddy was pissed!   Now a tear runs down my face.  I’ve got nothing left (until tomorrow).  

Think Highly of Yourself Because the World Takes You at Your Own Estimate – Unknown — The Seeds 4 Life

How highly do you think of yourself? How would you rate your current self-esteem level on a scale of 1-10? How much is that number influenced by the weight you give to other people’s opinion of you? Often, we undervalue just how much of an impact our own personal opinion of ourselves influences how other…

via Think Highly of Yourself Because the World Takes You at Your Own Estimate – Unknown — The Seeds 4 Life

8 years Gone

Cinco De Mayo is a fun holiday for some. It’s not Mexican Independence Day like so many believe. Nor is it the “Day of The Dead” like so many others suppose.  Every holiday has a special meaning to someone.  And some, for very personal and spiritual reasons, ignore holidays altogether.  For me, May 5 marks the anniversary of my movement from normalcy. 

On this day eight years ago, dissapointment and insecurity resulted in a failed marriage and an unexplained end to what I once knew.  Anniversaries are for celebrations, no?  So why does this day in May mean so much to me? 

Hours after the divorce agreement was signed by the judge, I sat across the dinner table from a woman who’d held my hand through the last months of the proceedings.  I knew that I was too damaged to marry again.  Heck!  It would be years before I could love again. But I wanted to thank her (and apologize for not being as strong as I should be). I told her that “if the Lord came down from heaven above and asked me to choose a wife…”  And then I stopped myself.  It was a statement that I could not complete.  Nor should I!

She held my hand, looked into my eyes, and smiled. She too was waiting for the next chapter of her life to begin. Nearly 4 years later she married another. And I’m not mad about it. I’m not embarrassed that I wasn’t a part of her next chapter. Instead I am almost jealous that my next chapter has not yet begun.  When that angel met the eventual love of her life, I was confused. What was my role in all of this?

I open my heart and opened my eyes and waited…

It would’ve been helpful to know what I was waiting for.  When I thought I was waiting for love, I really was waiting for peace. Like a temptress baiting me along, the world fooled me into thinking that my blessing was around the corner.  I was blessed all along.

Five years later I had hoped for better. This time I was more assertive. As a matter fact I was borderline aggressive and it did not serve me well. I demanded to know if this Cinco de Mayo would bring me a new outlook. I asked the question, and there was no response. This would-be lover could no better predict my future than her own.  

The lies and the deception and the confusion and the fear were all dimensions in my own mind. The tricky part about sharing your world is that you can’t always pick and choose what you share.  And just like any other holiday when we share our lives and our souls, we don’t know what we will get in return. It’s merely a celebration of life.

Today I morn the loss for a moment, and try again.

And so… Cheers to the world! Cheers to my friends!! Cheers to you. It’s margarita time!

Today My Superpowers Were Activated

This is Teacher Appeciation Week!


Today was the most important day of the week!  What would have started like any other day where I fantasize about getting to the copier before my colleagues and prepare another awesome lesson AND bask in that elusive “teachable moment” I instead caught myself parking too far away, hopping puddles, and swinging my brief case over tiny heads to elude my watching principal.  Yaaaas! Today was another one of THOSE days!

For me, Teacher Appreciation Day consists of getting through the day knowing that I enlightened someone else (atleast in theory).  Just like yesterday and the week before–sort of like Father’s Day, but without the unwanted ties–I do my best.   No recognition required.

 

However, today was the day that I was called upon to activate my super powers.  To understand what I mean, I should take you back to the first day of school.  I wore a cape.  Dressed like Zorro (without the sword), I broke the ice by inviting each of my new students to choose a super power.  If they could posses any talent, what would it be? 

My first student told me she’d be invisible.  How revealing?  So I gave her a laminated illustration of Invisible Girl.  Another student said he’d protect the environment.  I offered him a Captain Planet photograph. 

Our first morning meeting was exciting. Every student identified with a super hero unique to their own talents and inhibitions.  

But one student stood out.  He was included on my original roster but was retrieved early in the lesson to join another class.  Before he had a chance to participate, he had to leave.  He cried.  He wanted to be a super hero too.  I kneeled down and whispered in his ear that he will always be apart of our class, and that he could still be a hero.  


In a moment of spontenanity I offered him the option of being a super spy–a secret double agent–which quickly evolved into a “class ambassador” who could report back to our Justice League at a later date.  He accepted, and his tears began to dry.  I explained that any time our paths met in the hallway, I’d signal him with a modest thumbs up.  If everything was copetectic, he’d respond in kind.  We had a plan! 🕵🏼

Months later, he rose to the top of his class. I knew that I had nothing to do with his success.  Infact, I revelled in the knowledge that he was getting a great education in my colleague’s class. Without my shinanegans slowing him, he was making great progress.  

Frequently, we’d catch up with each other in the hallway. I’d greet him with a thumbs up.  “Hey Zorro,” he’d whisper.  


But as the year progressed, the super hero gimmick faded in the wake of more important subject matter.  Vocabulary competitions, math challenges, and writing workshops became daily routine.  Now we’ve mastered second grade content and are progressing towards promotion.  Thirty days and counting!   The school is still quiet from standardized testing.  The weather outside fluctuates from hour to hour.  Occasional field trips arrouse the student excitement while the chance of running wild for recess builds anticipation. 

Today when I arrived, the administrative assistant alerted me to my newest arrival.  My secret agent was going to rejoin my class!  Although unanticipated, change is exciting and met accordingly.  Thumbs up and off to class.  But when he arrived, he wasn’t so happy.  He enjoyed the comfort of his other class and was in no mood for gimmicks.  

He had tears in his eyes.  He did NOT want anything to do with a new environment.  I tried to reconnect with him.  He wasn’t interested.  And then it hit me!  

I asked him if he recalled his super power.  He nodded.  “I’m a secret agent,” he said.  

“You’re other class is way ahead of mine,” I declared.  “We could sure use your help…”  He cried harder.  🙃

I was at a loss, and then it hit me.  I too needed to activate my super power.  I am a teacher!  I’m a counselor. I am a role model and a friend. 

I recalled Peter Parker! Clark Kent!  Bruce Wayne!  They all were super in their own rite.  But there came a day that they had to activate their super power.  They had to put aside their alter ego in leui of their super identity.  

There comes a time in our lives that we all do this.  The day I became a father; the night I was called to fight my first house fire;  or the day I chased down a shoplifter–today was my day (again)!  

I kneeled down and whispered, “today is your day…”   He stopped sniffling.  He wiped away the tears.  He had to make a choice.  


I’d like to tell you that he took my hand and walked with me into our class.  I can’t because lying is NOT my super power.  Instead I can honestly tell you that with much pleading and bargaining, cojoling and convincing, my “special agent” opted out.  

Something was learned today.  I can’t tell you what he learned, but I can tell you about THIS super teacher.  Not every lesson is a successful one.  

Just like other adults, my day is filled with compromise.  I try. I learn. I help.  I receive help.  With some support from my colleagues, my secret agent returned to his other class.  He was happy.  My other students had an opportunity to exercise their developing talents, and no one had homework today.   

Alas, (sigh)…

Today was Teacher Appreciation Day!  I appreciate my students and my colleagues.  I think they appreciate me.  Tomorrow will come.  And we will learn some more…

Fellow educators, thank you for not giving up. You’re SUPER!