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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.

Transition

This weekend was so memorable for so many reasons. Not simply because of the trip I took, but because the growth I’ve experienced over the last year.  Last year, on September 5th, 2014, I lost my job. I didn’t really share that with anyone at the time. Part of it was shame and part of it was self doubt, I am writing this blog to encourage someone who may feel stuck or feel like they aren’t progressing at a pace they would like.

At the time I was let go I had a mixture of feelings. I felt relief from a stressful environment, but I became stressed at the thought of having bills with no income. Upon losing my job, I no longer had a career to attach my ego to. It was a life changing moment. Throughout the next 5 months I did not know what God would have for me. My faith was tested, my finances were tested, and my ability to remain confident was tested.

Fortunately I saved about 3 months worth of money to be comfortable, however like so many Americans I was not prepared for the nearly 6 month transitional journey. I took on marketing communications consulting projects throughout the time while working a part time job and applying for jobs. That period of time developed patience like I never knew I had. Applying for easily over 750 jobs, over 5 months across the country does take a toll on your confidence.

I won’t delve too deep, but as a person of color we face an unemployment rate nearly twice the average I mention that, I hope in my lifetime we will have laws and penalties for companies who shy away from diversity. Both were more educated than I was. Throughout my transition, I thought back frequently on how two men I can call friend’s both overcame periods such as mine. They both have gone on to prosper much more than they previously did and came out better than before. The thought of their stories and their perseverance stuck with me. Their journey’s stuck with me.

As God would have it a couple of months into my transitional period I was transparent with a friend I regularly volunteered with. I shared I was looking to change industries and roles. He referred me to a colleague, Tanya, who owned her own career services company. Tanya improved my resume and highlighted skill sets I hadn’t given enough credit and gave me a great boost of energy and confidence. Shortly after the meeting with Tanya I received a call about the job I currently have and I interviewed with them from November to January. To date it has been one of the best professional experienced ever! The benefits I have are amazing and I’m on track to make more than I ever have before. I work with a group that embraces diversity and has been like family.

During the time I was unemployed I enrolled in classes to freshen up on a few areas. I am thankful for the educational opportunities I have received and worked for, both formal and informal. God has allowed me to do things with just an undergraduate degree that many with two or three don’t have the opportunity to do. That’s a blessing in itself. I’m thankful for the mentors I’ve had and for the people I’ve been able to witness grow in front of me. All of those experiences prepared me and made sure I was ready for life as I live it today!

The reason why this is important is I’ve learned to save even more than I did prior to my last career. I manage my time more efficiently and my confidence is no longer attached to what I do, but who I am. I know what’s important and I’ve made the commitment to stay encouraged despite my circumstances. During that time I never missed a meal. I could even still hangout or go out. So I know that though things may look well packaged on the outside that things can literally be in shambles or shaky underneath.

So to anyone in a transitional period learn from the situation. Start creating habits for the life you want AFTER that transition. Start doing the things you WANT and NEED to grow spiritually. Most importantly never lose sight of what your end goal. I had countless interviews, 2nd interviews, and 3rd interviews, but it wasn’t until I was where I was supposed to be, that I received what I was supposed to. Don’t give up! Your transitional period may not be unemployment. It may be the end of a long relationship. It may be the death of a loved one. It may be financial hardship. You may have a family member who’s decisions are weighing heavy on you and affecting you, but don’t give up. Don’t lose sight! Stay faithful and God will undoubtedly do what he said he would for your testimony. It will require you to step out of your comfort zone. My pride was a killer in my past. I wouldn’t ask for help, I wouldn’t open up or be transparent, and I wasn’t able to stand in my truth. Do not let your pride prolong a transition! Be encouraged.