“You are the source of my life. You are the source of my strength. I lift my hands in total praise to You.” – Richard Smallwood

America. We stink.

I thought of several short essays I could write for this post of affirmation, but this is what resonates right now.

I could’ve written an eloquent letter to my black men letting them know just how much I loved them; how I admire them for their poise and persistence during this tumultuous time.

I could’ve written a letter to people with fairer skin about the plight of the people and why it’s time that the message of Black Lives matters started to resonate.

I could’ve written a message full of anger and and hate. But that’s not my style.

It hasn’t been for quite some time.

THE PROVERBIAL CHIP ON EVERYONE’S SHOULDER

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about getting past the “b” word. I allowed people to assume what the “b” word was. In reality, the “b” was for bitter.

I’m not sure if bitter ever has a place? In food, it’s hardly ever regarded as a positive note. In life, it’s what we like to call people who seem to have this everlasting chip on their shoulder.

And that’s what we’re seeing today. A lot of bitterness living out loud.

People are bitter – standing with the presumptuous chip on their shoulder. But the reason for the chip is different.

Blacks have a chip on their shoulder because from the day the majority of us were brought to this country, we’ve had to fight. We’ve had to fight to live. Fight to eat. Fight to get married. Fight to rest. And for centuries, we’ve been fighting for equal rights.

Generation after generation, we’ve run, hidden, fought physically, picketed, marched, and staged sit-ins. In the midst of all this, generation after generation, we’ve continually been told we’re not good enough. We’re ugly. We’re only good enough for sports. We’re not smart. We’re stupid. We are not the elite. And when we finally do something for ourselves, we’re told we’re racist and separatists.

No homie. We’re just trying to survive.

This is survival, yo.

And then there are people who don’t look like us who have a bitter chip on their shoulder for multiple reasons: Some think we’re taking their jobs. Some think we’re not good enough for the sons or daughters. Some think we shouldn’t have the same rights. They think we’re inferior.

Then there are those who think we should “be over” the “slavery thing.” Some think we haven’t worked hard enough; they think we’re riding on a free pass. They think our men are dangerous or drug dealers.

Then there are some who feel they are (and may be being) blamed for the plight and hurt of people of color. So they rebel. Or maybe they harbor feelings of hurt because they can’t understand why they have to bear the burden of things that happened long before they were even born.

Ultimately, this bitterness stems from hurt, fear, pride, and rejection — sometimes all combined.

IT AIN’T JUST YOU

I know because I have experienced this bitterness. It’s a bitterness that I have to keep in check — appropriate it for the right moments, places and times.

Yes, I get ticked off when I go to work and don’t know whether the person walking the halls are friend or foe. Yes, I question whether or not a “friend” is no longer speaking to me because of my outspoken nature surrounding the Black Lives Matter campaign. Yes, I get ticked off when I think that I may not be getting a promotion or treated fairly because of my race.

But then I’m reminded of my friends who’ve brought their kids around me. Laughed with me. Joked around with me. Watched me cry. Those FRIENDS are white.

I’m reminded of the promotion and support given by my white boss. I’m reminded of the encouraging words white people have said to me as they’ve watched very vulnerable steps I’ve taken in this journey. I’m reminded of the white people – adults and teens – who joined the picket line with me…and those who stopped to simply say “we agree.”

If all people who didn’t look like us were our enemies, I wouldn’t have stories like this.

In the midst of all of this, we must stop. Pause. Remember racism is an individual thing.

Just like we don’t like stereotypes to be applied to us, we must implement the same thinking and behavior.

Finally, I’ve learned we must be willing to be vulnerable enough to share our stories and compassionate enough to hear the other side. We must be willing to speak as well as to listen, even to those who don’t share the same view points.

C IS FOR CONVERSION

If we don’t have any other example, we can think about our conversion to Christ.

There was a time when we were on the other side of the Jesus fence. We couldn’t stand Christians. We just didn’t get them. And thought, why would we give up our “freedom.”

Those on the other side of the fence knew there was so much more to gain on the other side, but we had to be willing to cross to the other side.

America. We have to be willing to cross to the other side. There’s so much to gain on the other side of hate, anger, separation and inequaltiy.

To my fellow black Americans, be righteously angry, but sin not.

To my fellow white brothers and sisters, know that all we want is equality. Not perceived equality, but one where we don’t have to worry about who is calling us the “N” word behind our back. One where we don’t have to hide who we are when we go to work…or to a restaurant…or to a club…or to the mall. One where we don’t have to worry about being “the good black.” Where you’re no longer referred to as “one we can trust.”

We should get to a point where we’re simply referred to as people. PEOPLE.

Is it going to take time to get there? Absolutely.

Will we ever get there? Probably not.

But we can get closer.

We’re closer than ever before so let’s keep moving.

HOW TO GET THERE

It all starts with you. It’s a matter of your heart. His heart. Her heart.

The bible says that what a man thinketh, so is he. It also says to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

We have a lot of things to unlearn, America. Ignoring it like a moldy leftover pot that’s been left in the sink for too long isn’t going to help. The only way we’re going to get the smell to go away is by putting in the work.

Examine your biases. Check yourself. Identify how you can make a difference. Then do the work.

If it’s by picketing, do it. If it’s by breaking down the barriers and having the tough discussions with people who look like you and those who don’t look like you, do it. If it’s by simply affirming within yourself that you won’t let another day go by living in hate, do it. Do whatever it takes to bring unity AND equality.

It’s time to start cleaning up this stinkin’ thinking and move on because #weareone.

AFFIRMATION

I will not go another day with hate and unforgiveness in my heart. It starts and ends with me. I will be the difference.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to not allow my heart to be a residence for hate. Lord, replace hate, bitterness, and anger with your joy and peace. Help me to live the life that you’ve taught me to live; one where I love my neighbors as I love myself. Lord, the world is ugly; America is ugly, but there is not one hurt that you cannot heal. Help us heal. Help us to not only cover up the bruises. Let us feel the hurt. But then let us move on. Let us do the hard work. Help us to cry in front of one another. To argue, but utltimately to not let the sun go down on our wrath. Bring unity. Bring joy. Bring genuine laughter and peace.

Lord, we will lift our eyes to you. Amen.

See you next Wednesday.

Gina

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WHERE ELSE TO FIND ME

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Instagram: @affirmeddesigns_reginap
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I am Regina…Regina Patterson. I have a vision. A goal. A yearning in my soul to find a bit of solace – and even more empowerment – on this fictional, yet so real topic of race.

Fictional because the idea of race is 100% made up. Yet, realistic because it’s the very means that divides what could be a beautiful people.

It’s not just a story of the African-American plight. Or the overtaking of the aborigines of our region. It’s more than the struggle of the hispanic and latino culture. It’s more than coming to terms with multiculturalism. And it’s not even all about “the man.”

It’s a story of the human race – a fallen human race. It’s happened since biblical days. Moses and the Egyptians ring a bell?

It’s a story that we’ve tried to wrap our  brains around. One that others have cried over. And one that others have acted and reacted in and out of an insane amount of anger, hurt and vengeance.

It’s a story of lies reinstated to make one group feel powerful, while stepping on the backs of other…or even worse, berating others

It’s a story that comes up in conversation – oh too often – in my circles, because, my circles are indeed less European influenced and highly African-American indulged outside of work. Outside of the real or virtual four walls of work,I can put down my political correctness and pick up my emotions and logic and address the issue with heart and any ounce of reason I can fathom. I can be unapologetically Regina.

I can voice my woes, while simultaneously holding others accountable for hurtful comments; comments that hurt others as well as themselves.

I’m not only in it for the venting. I’m in it for the “solutioning.” If all you want to do is vent or spew venom, please miss me with that. That hurts my soul – and personally speaking – only causes confusion. And frankly, I respect you a less than I did a day before because you’re no longer helping the problem in totality. Instead, you, my friend are part of the problem.

This has been yearning in my soul for quite a bit now – to the point that I’ve considered going back to school to study my culture and how can I make a difference. I think, “what difference could I make if I were, Dr. Regina Patterson. What if I committed myself to a scholarly focus to African-American studies. How, then would I feel about the issue at hand. How then could I change the world?

How could I make my brothers of African heritage feel empowered? How can I help my sisters know yes, the struggle is indeed real, but it’s so much deeper, and it’s not an option to leave our brothers hanging or give our babies wings to fly well before they’re ready to go out and take this cruel world by storm?

How can I let you know that being black is not equivalent to under-education and ignorance, but it’s a place of not only power, but also intelligence? How can I let you know that the streets are not your only option and that you don’t have to bump your head on the before deciding you need to make a change?

How can I let my brothers know how much we love them? And that’s why we don’t leave them, despite…? Despite what society tells us about them. Despite what they believe about themselves. Even despite their literal and figurative outcries of helplessness and hopelessness.

I have a yearning. A yearning of empowerment without intimidation. A yearning of equality with the right to be totally who we are and who we were called and purposed to be. We will never be the same – whether we’re descendents of the same ethnic background or from totally different diasporas. And that’s the beauty of it all – yet where so much pain lies across so many lines.

Will you join me in this journey? A journey to learn the truth. To understand not only the plight of the current day, but also from whence it came. And finally, who you really are as a person – black, white, hispanic, latino, asian or a native of this land.

I beg of you. Please join me and let’s make a difference together.

(Really…if the ASPCA can have this much passion about dogs. I’m going to go on a limb and say the plight of humanity and the value of each individual’s life is even more important. So please, join me.)

With love,

Regina

Black Lives Matter. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. NAACP. George Zimmerman. LAPD. Ferguson. New York Police. Police Brutality. White Privilege. Christopher Columbus. Slavery. Civil Rights. Civil Rights Movement. Die-Ins. Sit-Ins. Church bombings. Home bombings. Domestic Terrorism. Protests. My skin. Your skin. Colorblindness. Equal treatment. Affirmative action. Equal Opportunity Employer. Assimilation. Conformation. Rainbow coalition. MLK Jr. Malcolm X. Harriet Tubman. W.E.B. Dubois. George Carver Washington. My self. My experience. Your experience.

And the list goes on.

Whether it’s one of courage and victory or one of defeat and anger, there’s no denying that every “mention” on the above list provokes some type of emotion. Initially, I was angry, but as I came to the name of George Washington Carver, I felt a sense of accomplishment; so much so that I thought about taking it off since this isn’t a “positive, feel good” type of post. But the reality is that there is a lot of good – a ton of things to be proud of as African-Americans. We have come a long way.

But with the infliction of recent events, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been taken back to 1960 in one fall swoop.

While legal segregation is no longer the norm – and often looked at with disdain – there’s an overwhelmingly apparent notion of mental segregation that happens day in and day out. There are people who still cross the street when they see a group of black kids. There are still blacks who are receiving harsher penalties for crimes synonymous to their white counterparts. And there are still kids who point at blacks because they have never seen a black person in real-life. (Yes. This just happened to someone I know this past weekend.) And there are those who feel privileged to say they listen to “n-word” music directly to a black person. (Again. This happened to someone I know this past weekend.) And the reality is that there isn’t an open line of communication to approaching the situation when the it comes from someone who’s a superior.

There’s also a problem when someone stares, walks up to you and touches you…all without saying a word because, once again, blacks in the area is a rarity.

I’m not only agitated; I’m annoyed and angry this behavior still happens. I’m annoyed that you can go up to another human being and “pet” them as if they’re some rare animal. And I’m annoyed that we can’t have open, honest, yet respectful conversations about race…about what we think on both sides…all with the goal of coming to an understanding and appreciation for the differences.

The notion that America is a melting pot is a lie. This notion didn’t include people of color per a PBS documentary I once watched.

The notion of  being a tossed salad is better in theory, but we have to admit that America is a pretty messed up salad right now. We’re not a salad that beautifully brings flavors together in perfect harmony. Instead, we’re full of competing ingredients all screaming for attention and some screaming for understanding.

Here’s one thing I know…we will not have harmony until we face reality. Not only was slavery real, but we – the entire human race – are still hurting from it. Not only was Jim Crow real, but we’re still hurting from it. And not only are the tragedies of today real, we are now hurting from these too.

If we can’t address and embrace these things collectively, then there’s no way we will be able to progress. And please don’t ask us to move on, get over it, or get past it. I don’t want to get past it. It’s part of my heritage. A part of who I am. I embrace it. There may be a ton of pain, but there’s also a ton of triumph.

Is there anyone who’s really ready to have a real conversation?