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It Starts Early

This is not a ranting blog post nor is it an I hate white people post. My little brother is biracial as a bit of context, some of my good friends are white. This is an honest brain dump. A friend of mine, the father to two young black boys posed this question to me and it sparked this post. His questions, “…how do we individually or collectively minimize the immediate fear to shoot brown skin? I still have to teach them (his sons) how to interact in a safe way with the blue… (posture, responses, hand gestures and etc.) which is stressful.”

Here is what I offer. We have to start have honest conversations with one another and make the choice to connect with people who do not look like us. I can recall growing up in the south, Houston, TX to be exact. Despite growing up in the south I can recall my classes always being diverse. I had middle eastern friends, vietnamese friends, black friends, white friends, latino friends, biracial friends. All found a way to coexist and I can recall us all spending the night at each others home and hanging out like kids do. To the point that even when I was called a “nigger” on the playground around the age of 7 or 8, everyone knew it was wrong and went to tell the teacher. I can recall that even throughout high school the group was fairly close.

When everyone went to college things began to shift. People migrated to schools or experiences that no longer challenged them. We all migrated to our comfort zones. The ones that looked like our homes. I give that back story to take us to this point. We are not honest about our differences, our similarities and honest about right and wrong. If I am honest for many years I thought that people got what they deserved for getting in trouble. As I have gotten older, my eyes got wider, my ears opened up, my heart softened and I began to look deeper. Here are a few truths:

  1. Black men are sentenced to longer and harsher penalties. Here is one example per the The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Florida), with the same drug offense and same circumstances black men are sentenced to nearly triple the time as white men for the same crime.

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This is not to say drug crimes are not detrimental, but equal punishment should be the bare minimum for cases.  

2. It starts young. Minority groups are punished harsher earlier. The Sentencing Project, a non-profit who studies and advocates for equal justice found that American Indian (Indigenous) youth are 3 times as likely to be held in a Juvenile detention center than white youth.

“According to a Department of Education report, black students nationally were three times more likely to be suspended than whites in 2012. Suspensions occur most commonly in secondary schools, but black children were more than twice as likely to be suspended from preschool as well. Harsher discipline for black students is not just a Southern or state-level problem. It is a national crisis.” – NY Times , September 2017

Vox had disparities broken down in 7 charts to discuss hidden racism and racial bias as it relates to kids. I won’t bore you with more charts, but the link is here: https://www.vox.com/2015/10/31/9646504/discipline-race-charts.

3. It is reasonable black, white, asian, hispanic and latino, and biracial individual’s responsibility to not only challenge, but to hold those accountable for biases and abuse accountable. That means we have to do more than share a post via social media. We have to do more than retweet. We have to vote for diverse leadership, advocate for better rules and laws while checking our own biases. As a person of color at certain parts I have been complicit. Not that I said this black or brown person was guilty or deserved their punishment, but I did not speak up when someone portrayed a black or brown person as more dangerous or insert the adjective.

4. We need to retrain police and civic officials how to interact with diverse groups of people. They are not allowed to bring their biases to work. Period. We need cognitive gun reform. That way there is a much less threat of someone using a weapon against police officers who risk their life. Officers also need to exercise common sense. That means a gun should be the last resort for non-violent SUSPECTS. For instance a burglary or a loitering call should not lead to an arrest or dead body. Period.

To close…

If our country is going to move things forward we need more individuals who speak up, loudly. That does not have to be a fight or an argument, but a conversation challenging the individuals who are being painted with a broad stroke.

When we do not challenge the things we know to be inherently wrong then we raise young kids who become police officers, judges, Starbucks Managers, teachers, principals, school administrators, school board members and elected officials who do not advocate for true and equal justice.

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6 Things you Can Do and Not Do to Improve Your Relationships!

I want to preface this blog by stating I am NOT a therapist or a relationship expert. I am simply sharing observations and insight from conversations all that said I am thoughtful and I work to manage my relationships, because people matter!

Throughout this post you will see friendship and/or relationship used. Friendships matter and so do intimate relationships. So the advice can apply to both. That said I hope this touches something in each of us. Some of the items on the list I struggle with myself, so this acts as a reminder to me as well.

6. Do not let your ego over shadow your friend and/or relationship.

When I look at some lasting relationships I see people who can laugh at one another and also laugh with one another. Some of us let our ego over power us and our partners. We are too good to be wrong, we have to be right and we get in the weeds of things that do not matter. In your relationship your credentials, degrees, cars and age should not be used to trump your partner. EVER! Throw all that out the door. Yes you worked hard to attain and accomplish certain things, but your friendship and/ or relationship should not be the place you prop yourself up in, it should be a safe place to just exist.

5. Respect your friend and/or partners time.

This may seem like common sense, but it is vital. If you have a commitment meet it or give notice prior to the date and time you cannot meet the commitment. Things come up. We overbook ourselves and sometimes we forget, but if you consistently drop the ball or disrespect their time, then you are communicating to that friend and/or partner that they are not valuable.

4. Publicly Show Respect to Your Friend/ Partner.

Acknowledging your friends and/or partner is important. Be sure you are not spending all your time arguing about a sports team, movie, singer, etc. At a party or gathering mention how proud of your friend/ partner you are. Social media is inundated with arguments over people many of us do not know, but what about that/those special individual(s) in your life. When is the last time you bragged on your friends and the work they are doing and the achievements they are completing?

3. DO NOT AIR YOUR LAUNDRY IN FRONT OF PEOPLE!

Think of it this way. When your apartment or house has a leak or broken appliance. Are you going to post about it on Social media for days or even weeks before fixing it or are you going to get to work trying to fix it? The same goes for friendships and/or relationships. Do not vent to social media about your relationship have a conversation with the person(s) you’re in relation with unless you are prepared to share ALL OF YOUR shortcomings! Do not try to show up or embarrass or send a message via social media.

2. Be respectful of your friend and/or partner’s other friends and family and expect the same.

You may not like one of your friend’s and/or partner’s other friends or family members, but instead of trashing and tearing them down and involving your friend or partner have a respectful adult conversation to try and resolve or mend things. Nothing good can come from you libeling, attacking and attempting to discredit someone else. Make an effort to be in a healthy communicative interaction with people that you WILL have to share space with, that your partner love.

1. Actively work on you.

Friendships and/or relationships are the process of evolution. Your friend(s) and/or partner should be able to support you and you do the same. However if you are simply knee deep in their business and their endeavors you cannot evolve on your behalf in the best way. Yes you may have times where one of your friends and/or your partner may need you, but to completely dump your dreams and abandon your own ambition is a recipe for disaster.

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Thanks, But No Thanks!

Can you imagine how communication channels would open up if we listened with the purpose of actually hearing what people are saying?

Recently I did some soul searching as a result of some encounters that made me look at who I have been to people.

Sometimes in an effort to help or aid people we do more damage to relationships. I am sure you are asking how is that possible?

Here is how, when someone shares an issue, incident or road block, and without even hearing what they have done already or the attempts they have made to solve the issue some of us begin sharing unwanted and unnecessary “solutions”. We say, “what you should have done or what you could have done is.” Now the person who shared their issue with you is not only frustrated, but insulted. Especially if they have already gone to great lengths and tried what you suggested, plus some. 

Consider this, the next time you want to offer up advice or help solve the problem, ask the question, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Or “Would you like help?”

Can you imagine how those two questions may open the door for communication, salvage a relationship or you may uncover the person just needed to vent. Think about that person in your life who has annoyed you when you were dealing with an issue that you exhausted nearly every possible solution for. 

Often times people are not the issues our communication methods/styles are the issue or lack there of. Try something new when encountered with the opportunity to respond. Listen and then ASK if they want the help you are itching to provide. 

Good luck as you go and interact with friends, family and the world. 

Share That!

The holidays can mean a lot of different things for a lot of people. For me holidays were a special time. It brought my huge family together (beyond just immediate family) in segments, because we are literally too big to all be together for anything other than a family reunion.

We shared great laughs, we had great food and above everything else you felt Love! Real love, felt through handshakes, and genuine smiles. It did not matter what size or shape you came in, the love came freely.

As an adult, well someone over the age of 18, I made it a goal to share that. Every holiday I invited friends over. Friends who were not going home for holidays, friends who may have not had any family left, and friends who were disconnected from their family, for whatever reason.

So as my 3rd holiday away from my family approaches I encourage those who have the ability to share their family and their love with others. Though I am not able to open up a home to anyone this year one of my goals is to eventually do that.

This year provided many blessings and a lot more challenges. Moving to LA with no job, no car, and no stable home to call my own was terrifying. Spending my birthday alone and away from fellowship provided a real eye opener. Through all that I have been working towards this next chapter of my life. It looks different than before and it is more free spirited than ever.

Despite my challenges of being distanced from family and working at establishing connections and a real network in LA I am encouraged. Encouraged that genuine love does exist, between friends, between family and between strangers!

So I encourage everyone to share more LOVE. Every chance you get. Though this message is specifically about Holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza go beyond that. Be intentional with your Love and share it without the expectation of reciprocation!

Happy Holidays!

Badge of Honor

Today I turn 32. If you had asked me to describe my 30’s while I was in my 20’s it would not have looked like the past two years.

I am beyond grateful for the lows and the highs. On my 30th birthday I was unemployed/under employed and working a job similar to Lawrence on Insecure, actor Jay Ellis. 

The year of my 31st birthday I was mentally recovering from a year where I saw close friendships/brotherhoods fall apart on top of losing my father and my uncle. 

I share these things, because I am approached or contacted daily and someone usually says you really look like you are enjoying life. While I think that great and I believe that God wants us to shine despite our hardships I am cognizant that life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. 

I am grateful for 32, but similar to 30 and 31 this birthday comes with some challenges, but so many other blessings. I know for sure what my purpose is. I know for sure who I can count on and I am so excited to see what God has in store. I pray daily and most days I really do not ask for much of anything, but as I have prayed a different prayer in my 30’s the gifts I have been provided have far exceeded what I could have dreamed.

As 32 is here and I am here with 32 I hope that everyone will understand that another day above ground is a badge of honor. It is a stamp of grace from the man above. It is mercy shown on our lives. I chose to see my 30’s like that despite my circumstances at 30. 

So to anyone reading this, treat everyday like a badge of honor. I do not think I have had the birthday celebrations I have wanted (something I do not have to plan lol), but there have been so many truly amazing days inbetween where I received blessings that were never within my eyesight! 

I am thankful for Badge of Honor! 🙏🏾

Views… From the Right

This is part 2 of rights view of this past election.

Many individuals who voted for Donald Trump have come under fire and they have been unfairly labeled racists, mysoginistic, homophobic and their values have been questioned.

After several conversations I have found that so many people voted to spur economic growth and they also believe the Affordable Healthcare Act was detrimental, to their economic success.

What I have come to realize from discussions is those people who voted against Hillary wanted an America where an college education is not the key to having a better life. Donald Trump sold them on his ability to run businesses and that he could translate the experience developing into developing our country.

To these individuals healthcare prices are high for them and they personally needed a break from the prices they were paying. The blame for that has been placed on the Affordable Care Act. The honest truth is attending a doctor can be expensive and the monthly costs for healthcare can be expensive for families with children.

As an aside healthcare costs are the way they are due in large part to individuals who can not afford to pay and for those who chose not to pay. Here is an example. You and I visit the same doctor, I choose not to pay or cannot pay, but I still received care and you paid. The physician who treated us still worked on two people, however he was only paid for one. He has two choices he can offset his costs or take a loss. If he offsets his costs he has to raise his prices to make up for the shortfall. The insurance company who pays for the majority of the costs now has to raise their prices to cover those who pay for coverage through them.

The reality is just like the left many on the right who voted against Hillary or who voted for a third party candidate saw economic issues as the paramount issue for their future and they are justified. Hillary nor the third party spoke to the concerns of Americans.

Though more people are employed inflation, rising housing costs and slowed pay raises have made the ability for many families to create any financial breathing room.

As another aside many of the issues we face are due to a changing workforce and economy. It is cheapest for companies to automate their business replacing people with machines and finding ways to grow profits without growing their workforce, while investing in technology which costs.

As for the rhetoric that Donald Trump shared throughout his campaign, those who voted for him chose to look past it, as many due with their family members who have shared similar sentiments about minorities (even if you are a minority).

To lump those who chose to vote for Donald Trump in the same boat we lump Donald Trump in is a bit unfair. Their vote does not mean they are racists, bigots, xenophobes or mysoginists.

Please share, comment and of course like it if this resonated with you.

#iamjoecarnell

4 Reasons We need to Change the Elections

Do you remember what middle school and high school elections were like?

There was a group of students who wanted to work with the administration (principals, assistant principals and/or administrators) to get things accomplished. They campaigned with posters, gave campaign speeches and most times had platforms.

What if our adult political elections reflected those elections? If you recall those elections did not involve political parties, but the candidates were fostered based on the wants or needs of their constituency. However small and however insignificant high school students needs are, that is what happened. 
Somehow in our country we have gravitated far from our first example of how politics work. Here are the top 4 reasons why this political season made everyone very angry.

4.) The majority, formally white Americans, is no longer the majority. That is to say America has more Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Middle-Eastern Americans than ever before. Within those groups there are a lot of diverse issues each respective group feels are important. 

3.) Blanket statements and generalizations are no longer acceptable in our country. There was a time when you could say the Latinos, the Blacks or the Asians. Though I am black I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, I went to a middle class high school and I attended two amazing educational institutions enroute to a bachelors degree. The assumption that the schools I attended were run down and I could get shot going to the store are not only offensive to me, but offensive to the diverse community I grew up in. My neighbors were white, Latino, black, phillipino and black.

2.) A two party system no longer fits our country. It’s obvious. Unlike in high school everyone does not have a candidate they feel feels their pains and understands their needs. It was clear. Many democrats, republicans and independents found common ground on several issues.

1.) Over the next 4-8 years it is clear that we not only need a diversity class for everyone, but we also need to hold those in power accountable. Which may also include terms limits for congress as well. Unlike in high school that administration cannot be fired unless we vote them out. It also seems to be time to reform police accountability laws and to create civilian review boards (with subject matter experts of course).

The most exciting part of this election cycle is, it is over! People will vote today and our country will of course find a way to move forward, but it is clear we need to reassess how we coexist together and how we elect officials. Though #imwithher
I respect everyone’s choice not to be! I may not agree with their reasoning, but our country has to be liveable and beneficial for more than just me. 

If you have not voted today maker sure you do! If you have sit back relax and unblock the friends you previously blocked for not thinking like you. 🙏🏾😂😂😂

#iamjoecarnell

#whyivote

#rockthevote

More than…

How many of us have ever walked into a room and heard someone bashing a person, because of their personal diet choices? Here’s an example you are at work and John is telling Adam, that he thinks eating Kale is for weak losers. Imagine if you eat Kale and enjoy it, yet John is your boss and Adam your friend is laughing while John insults Kale eaters. John then misquotes a passage in the Bible and Adam awkwardly laughs as he tries to remember the passage he knows doesn’t reference Kale. As you sit there annoyed and thinking is eating Kale really that bad? Does everything I have done good get negated. That is what millions of people feel when they see and hear their family members, coworkers and friends discussing their sexual preference. They have to hear the ones they work with, learn with, worship with and in some cases live with demeaning a choice that does not impact their loved ones, coworkers, friends and family members in anyway.

Sexuality is not something that determines physical aptitude, mental health or morality, yet in our country sexuality is all to frequently a talking point that seeks to demean and suppress the LGBTQ community.

There are physicians, entertainers, athletes, teachers, service workers, police officers, executives and the list goes on who live their life inside of a very sturdy mental box. Individuals who have competed academically, athletically and done so at a high level are relegated to what they enjoy in the bedroom. Every scholastic award, every medal, ribbon or trophy they have ever won is now negated.

This is not entirely due to a fault of one person, rather as a result of parents, friends, communities, religious houses and schools that frequently (by frequently I mean probably once a week) state that by being gay or bisexual you are less of a man or less than. In some cases many of us have even heard people threaten physical violence against someone who is gay or bisexual. 

I have personally seen acquaintances and family members share social media posts equating homosexuality to beastiality, misquoting scripture and liking or sharing demonstrative lies (I.e. Slavery introduced homosexuality to black people *insert a hard eye roll*) all based on someone else’s sexual preference. Some may have not known my sexuality, but I definitely took note. If it was not for the support system, parents and grandparents I had I would be in that number. Who I am may have been suppressed due to the discouraging things I have witnessed.

Our society has no idea of what the words, actions they exhibit and energy around homosexuality can do to those individuals. There are individuals have no desire to carry out a heterosexual love life, instead they have to fake it so that their family do not abandon them, their friends do not mock and ridicule them and their community does not harass them and turn their back on them.

As a result of individuals date in secrecy, they live in obscurity and are mentally tormented at the thought of revealing who they truly love and hope to build an existence with. They never share the photo or video we see so many of our heterosexual friends sharing of the “Love of their Life”. The thought that their mother or father would hurl religious scriptures, epithets and possibly violence in their direction that they would now be the focus of conversations at their religious house, family reunion, job or professional social circles is terrifying and very real. 

I have witnessed young men and women living false reality into their 30’s and 40’s. To make that even clearer that could be half of someone’s life or a little under a 1/3. 

For those that read this, be mindful of how you describe an entire group of people. Be mindful of how you interact with those around you. Your son, your daughter, your niece or nephew, your cousin or even your friend greet them with love and encourage them to be true to themselves and continue to love them no matter who they love. 🙏🏾

To those who had the courage to come out despite your opposition, kudos to you and may you find peace in your truth. Encourage those around you to get centered with their truth and their reality. After all we are all More than what occurs in the bedroom!

Another Morning, Another Emmett Till

Another Morning, Another Black Man Shot by Police. Like so many other mornings I woke up and started reading the news. This time only to see the death of another unarmed black man. Another morning another Emmett Till.

I have to admit reading about these occurrences has become a shot to my spirit. It leaves me personally with a feeling of hopelessness. I feel abandoned. I feel unsafe. Though my life may have value to my family, my close friends and my colleagues somewhere some police officer views me as some villainous, criminal who threatens their existence and though I have never been arrested for ANY crime. I have never been physically violent or aggressive with anyone. I have paid my parking tickets. I have spent much of my twenties volunteering in my community, however should I be murdered at the hand of police, I will be reduced to a hashtag and some dirt some where will be plastered across a headline to vilify me. All to rationalize my murder.

This is what so many black men have come to understand more and more. In 2016 no matter your education, your potential or circumstances, you are just another “bad dude”.

I now get more than ever why Colin Rand Kaepernick has been vilified. It easier to ignore the origins of the national anthem. It easier to ignore that your high school classmate was murdered by police. It easier to say the guy you saw in the grocery store should have paid his parking tickets or maybe not had a speeding ticket. It is easier to say the kid accused of “insert whatever petty crime” should have just not been afraid of the police. America is a great country, but our problem is dealing with difficult issues. We would rather ignore the topic of a peaceful protest than listen to the reasoning. We would rather criticize the protestor, because we do not share the same experience as oppose to learning about their vantage point. 

So for yet another morning we will see another headline with another black man’s name in it, because he was “insert typical police reasoning” and was “overt aggressive”.

Compassion without Comparison

Our country does not have as much of stave problem as we think. What we have is a society that has a lack of compassion and a society that by in large is void of honest dialogue.

Far too often in this country when someone says I like cheeseburgers with ketchup the person sitting next to them has to say so you do not like chicken sandwiches. Black Lives Matters, while I do not care for their antics, is not an anti-police, anti-white group it is simply a pro-black life group. 

Blue lives matter has taken the angle that people who are black lives matter do not support police. There is nothing more false. 

The issue is that there is a notion that Black people do not like police. When black pepper typically are deathly afraid of the results of interactions that occur with police.

If we start to be compassionate about our neighbor one day we can work together to fix this. I saw a great analogy it went similar to this. If Joe and his family sit down for dinner. Then everyone gets to eat besides Joe. Joe then says Joe is hungry. Then his family who all have plates say we are hungry, but keep eating, they now have a standpoint, but Joe still does not have any food.
That is what the people of color. Be it black, Latino or otherwise feel about our interactions with police. We are not saying a white life or Asian life is not as important. We are simply saying we want our life to be valued and spared at the same rate as a white life in the same circumstances of police interaction. 

I feel extremely sorry for the slain officers, injured officers and the individuals subjected to gun fire at a peaceful rally, but my heart is heavy that yet another black man has had his life take and his family’s life forever altered. Altered by over aggressive police officers, who more than likely will never see the inside of a jail cell. A cell that if any of the black men murdered were found guilty of for the petty crimes they were accused of, may have seen should they have been over sentenced and convicted.

Sadly my soapbox falls on deaf ears. My life has a better chance of being reduced to a hashtag via a police interaction than it does at the hands of a gun by a black man. Our politicians are inactive and our police departments will not address the systematic training and disciplinary controls that are not working! What is even worse, when the President assembled a task force to address this, those suggestions have not been pushed by local leaders, activists or civilians.

Our issue is not racism as much as it is a lack of compassion. I pray for the safety of my black brothers and sisters as I do for the safety of everyone! 🙏🏾