Why Trump’s Removal Matters?

“Our basic humanity has already been traumatized by his cruelty. His exoneration will destroy our innocence.”

From last Wednesday to Friday, we witnessed a detailed, purposeful and passionate case about the blatant abuse of power by the President of the United States. Even while the arguments were being made, each day brought a new bombshell of information further incriminating this man. The facts are indisputable and yet, in the commentaries around the nation, whether in the newsrooms, barber shops or at the dining room tables, someone always gives voice to the inevitable injustice. The Republicans in the Senate will not admit Trump’s guilt nor vote for his removal.

For those of us who live on the margins in the United States based on our gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, we are used to making some investment in the fight for justice for our own. We lull ourselves into believing that our movements are these beautiful manifestations of the greatness of the United States. Our Constitution protects our freedom to speak out and to assemble peacefully in protest. Yet, the framers did not intend those words for those on the margins. Let’s tell the truth. The Founding Fathers had no plans or expectations for the subsequent movements that history has called forth. That was not in their vision.

“Surely this should be a unified fight. The evidence is indisputable.”

But, our warriors fought onward, sometimes in the bloodiest of battles and justice has generally prevailed. . . kind of. There is the subsequent backlash from those who believe that they have had to give something up to which they felt entitled–control over Black bodies, women’s bodies, education, politics, the economy, real estate, the environment and so on. So, the struggle for justice continues.

Now, we are facing a different type of fight for justice. This one strikes at the very soul of our nation. The Constitutional authors may not have given a damn about women or Black people or the poor or whomever else did not own their particular identities, but they knew that our democracy had to be protected from a maniacal, unfit leader who would put our country at risk or abuse our trust as citizens. Surely, this should be a unified fight. The evidence is indisputable.

*****

Back in 2017, Issa Rae, a rising African-American producer, writer and actress, was quoted at the Emmys saying “I’m rooting for everybody black!” She took some criticism for the statement, but there wasn’t a Black person in the land who didn’t understand the spirit of her statement.

In a world in which the scales of justice are not tipped in our favor, Black people look for wins wherever we can get them. I can remember my family’s excitement when we would see a Black family on the Family Feud and how invested we became in their victory. It was real. Or that lone Black contestant who got called down on The Price is Right and the way we would yell prices at the screen in our delusion that he could hear us.

“. . .It’s in our human nature to want fairness in our world. . .we hold on to hope that a change is in the wind.”

We send collective energy to our Olympic athletes competing in unusual spaces like the pools, ice skating rinks, and uneven bars. When the Oscars aren’t so white, we bask in our Viola, Denzel and Lupita’s triumphs. When the wrong of La La Land’s win was righted immediately by artistic karma and the beautiful cast of Moonlight took the stage, the win reverberated in our hearts. And don’t even get me going on what the Obamas meant to us as a community. That was the biggest win of all.

Racial dynamics aside, it’s in our human nature to want fairness in our world. Even when our larger institutions are rigged to service one particular group by disenfranchising others, we hold on to hope that a change is in the wind. We can’t help it. It’s ingrained in us developmentally. I remember this from my years spent teaching third graders, watching these eight and nine-year old children make the delicate transition from concrete to abstract thinking.

It is a profound moment in their growth as they begin to grapple with complicated concepts. I recall an afternoon trip to IKEA with Emmanuel and he had an existential crisis over the concept of forever. Brought to tears, he could not accept that something had no end. He was inconsolable and I was worried that my child was having some kind of nervous breakdown. My KALLAX shelving unit was going to have to wait as we turned around and went back home. I called our former therapist for advice and she reminded me of my own professional history and the years I spent among the vulnerable psyches of eight-year-olds. She reassured me that Emmanuel would be fine, that he was just working through his understanding of things that were new to his mind.

The beauty of this transition is that eight-year olds become deeply tuned into and invested in the ideas of fairness and justice. They get it and become openhearted in their understanding of these issues. They are ripe for teachable moments and often become activists in their own right, taking up causes with unrelenting innocence. One year, a group of my third-graders were mortified by the school’s decision to use glue traps to address a mice problem. The kids took to the hallways with signs and chants, claiming this approach was inhumane and cruel. They had a valid point and the administration was moved into action. It was a very impressive effort by the kids.

*****

There was something in the eyes of Representative Adam Schiff during his closing argument on that second day of testimony that was jarring in its innocence and reminiscent of those eight-year-olds. His words were powerful, but in his eyes we saw a piercing desire for justice that ascended politics or party. It was primal, seeming to come from that childhood core that remembered the moment when he first understood the concept of justice. While Representative Schiff’s words resonated and were undeniable in substance, I am certain that the spirit of his conviction reverberated in the hearts of those who haven’t forgotten our childhood understanding of simple fairness. We have all been eight-year olds.

“If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Representative Adam Schiff

Donald Trump is a loathsome bully. His behavior often represents the absolute worst in human nature. The ugliness inside of him reveals itself on the exterior, making his visage, his form and his gestures repulsive. For a man of his nature to break the law on the world’s largest platform and endure no consequence is an offense to the purest parts of our selves. Our basic humanity has already been traumatized by his cruelty. His exoneration will destroy our innocence.

There is no question that the institutions intended to support our democracy are flawed. The electoral college alone is an outdated mechanism originally intended to protect the slave states of the antebellum South. There is no political incentive to change it as it allows those who have hoarded power since our nation’s inception to continue to do so in the face of changing demographics and attitudes.

This trial is different. It’s simply impossible to imagine what will be lost in our souls if Trump’s guilt is dismissed. The feeling is ominous. Great empires emerge and slip into a complacent sense of invincibility. And then they fall. Representative Schiff said it best when he said, “If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Let’s Talk About Sex. . .

“I want him to have a healthy curiosity about sex, but to also understand that it’s sacred energy that we often don’t honor or give away too casually.”

Recently, my son emerged on my computer screen for one of our regular video chats and spoke in a voice that I didn’t recognize. I had just seen him at the beginning of November donning his northern California gear and sophomore swagger. But, in three short weeks, his voice shifted into a different gear and I found myself struck by the evidence of his inevitable manhood.

Then, I spotted some writing on his arm. His explanation was that his friend, a girl, drew a fake “MOM” tattoo on his arm in marker. I tried to control my snap back, remembering my own silly antics as a teenage girl. The gesture, however, signaled the growing intimacy that is bound to develop between my kid and his female counterparts.

I’ve never been one to shy away from relationship and sex conversations with Emmanuel. When he was four years old, he asked how babies were made. I told him simply that an egg and a sperm come together to create a baby. I found a grainy microscopic picture of just an egg and a sperm on the internet and showed it to him. He accepted this basic explanation and went back to whatever he was doing. That was all he needed in that moment.

When he was seven, he sought a bit more information. So, I bought the book, It’s Not the Stork and we read it together. My heart was pounding and my hands were sweating as I passed page by page through the text. It wasn’t too terrible until he asked his follow up questions.

“How does the penis get in there?”

“Well, it gets hard and you have to be really, really close and naked.

“Does it hurt?”

Oh boy. “No, actually it is meant to feel good.”

The questions stopped there and his little old soul graciously comforted me as I finished my explanation. “There, Mom. Now, you’ve told me about the sex.” Yes, he really said that while patting me on the back. I’m surprised he didn’t say “Good job.”

Over the years, more conversations followed. My favorite was when he was within earshot of a Viagra commercial on the television and proceeded to ask me, “What is reptile malfunction?” which makes perfect sense because an eight-year old would have no reference point for the term erectile dysfunction. I tried not to laugh and decided to text my father. His advice was to say it’s when a snake can’t get out it’s venom. Not very helpful.

Emmanuel and I have discussed oral sex (see my Parenting Out Loud entry), sexual orientation and gender identity. He even asked why his father and I had a child together even though we weren’t married. With each discussion, I have felt good about helping him make sense of the world as he crossed his own development milestones emotionally and cognitively.

Now, the stakes are higher and I find myself trying to figure out how to navigate these conversations while haunted by my own experiences. I want him to have a healthy curiosity about sex, but to also understand that it’s sacred energy that we often don’t honor or give away too casually. I want him to see clearly the power dynamics and vulnerabilities tied up in sex without losing the sense that it is as basic a need as the food we eat or the air we breathe. There is no stigma to our desires.

*****

Generation X nostalgia is on fleek these days, especially as we are either being completely ignored or forced to sit idly by as the Boomers and Millentials fight for power and attention. Keanu Reeves, a generational icon, has reclaimed his place in our hearts and Eddie Murphy is queuing up all the things that made him great. Stranger Things is a straight up homage to 80’s kids while Sesame Street, the reason we all can read, is celebrating 50 years by casting our favorites in new ads. Miss Piggy looks great, by the way. No sooner had I started writing this post did E.T. and Eliot share a heartwarming reunion on Thanksgiving Day.

“Even Sixteen Candles, our ultimate high school Cinderella story, is riddled with questionable elements that oriented sex as an entitlement for men and boys”

Our sex education, however, was a bit more problematic. Our pop culture emerged out of the “free love” era of the Seventies and was rife with mixed messages about how we were to manage our sex lives. Madonna’s front and center sexuality was meant to empower us girls. We were also subjected to Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High where sex was always narrated as a male conquest with no attachment or little regard for the women in the story. Even Sixteen Candles, our ultimate high school Cinderella story, is riddled with questionable elements that oriented sex as an entitlement for men and boys.

We learned very little about sex beyond its value for bringing us fleeting pleasure in a moment. For those of us in the church, lessons of morality may have kept our desires at bay for a little longer. The freedom that came with our college campus independence and the accessibility of alcohol often led to throwaway narratives about sexual encounters. I knew of boys who earned their “trophies” or badges of honor for their “hook ups”. In retrospect, it was demeaning for everyone involved.

It took years for me to clear the shame of my own misadventures. If I had understood the energetic component of sex, I would have made different choices for sure. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the gravity of this issue has never felt more urgent as I steward the heart and soul of another while he approaches such pivotal years in his life.

*****

On my most recent flight, I watched the movie Good Boys, a hilarious quest of three 12-year old boys trying to learn how to kiss in preparation for an upcoming party. I died laughing as they innocently confronted and attempted to make sense of the crazy details about sex. The boys were absolutely adorable as they accepted where they were developmentally. I was also impressed with the film’s centering of the idea of consent throughout the story. There is no question that we are moving in the right direction.

Yet, even teaching boys to ask for consent still suggests that sex is an acquisition or destination as opposed to a genuine sharing of energy and connection. An interesting juxtaposition to the boys’ focus on consent was the behavior of the older boyfriend of a girl in the film. When she wasn’t available for sex, he first threatened to hang out with his ex-girlfriend and then rejected her outright. It was jarring the way he turned so quickly on her when his entitlement was not met.

Parenting a teenage son, I’m trying to lean back and trust his emotional intelligence on these issues but I don’t trust the world to send him a different message about sex. Asking for consent does empower women to say “No” or “I’m not ready” or “Can we discuss this?” or “Am I safe with you?” However, if men are still socialized to believe sex is an entitlement, our choice can sometimes be punished regardless of our reasons.

This socialization doesn’t serve men and boys either. Our choice is viewed simply as rejection so the remedy is to go find a “yes” somewhere else as soon as possible. A textbook maneuver to repair the illusion that a man’s sexual dominance defines his manhood, but one that complicates our relationship dynamics by inviting other people’s energies into the mix.

About a month ago, I was out with my friend, Fred, and we were approached by a Canadian opera singer who was drawn to the English that we were speaking. This guy’s presence and booming baritone voice were undeniable and he quickly unloaded his story of loneliness as he had been away from from his wife and kids for months while working here in Paris. Things seemed tame enough until his excessive wine consumption unleashed his sexual energy.

Looking past his theatrical good looks and impressive professional background, this guy’s energy was riddled with complications. He made it abundantly clear that returning home to make love to his own wife was not something he was necessarily interested in. It wasn’t long before his gaze and invasion of my personal space made his desired plans more transparent.

When Fred set his intention to peel off and head home to his partner, I knew I would have to manage this gentleman’s growing advances. For me, it was a no-brainer as I had no desire to get tangled up in his energetic mess. And he must have picked up on that because he proceeded to say that I was “afraid of him.” A statement I found a touch insulting and provocative at the same time. How about I’m just not keen on sleeping with a married man harboring bitterness over his wife “not missing him enough?” Why would I invite that energy into my body?

I didn’t take the bait and made my exit with Fred, but before I did, I offered our friendship thinking that an occasional cup of coffee would give him some level of companionship as he lived his life so far from home. He declined.

*****

“Hell, the clitoris has double the nerve endings as the tip of the penis AND we are capable of multiple orgasms so why wouldn’t we want to do it?”

For a long time, men have staked their claim on sex, contending that they want it more than women as biologically they are compelled to spread their seed and ensure the survival of the species. Research has shown that simply isn’t true and that women desire sex just as much as men. Hell, the clitoris has double the nerve endings as the tip of the penis AND we are capable of multiple orgasms so why wouldn’t we want to do it?

The reality is, however, that we are inviting someone into our bodies. Energetically, that is a big effing deal. Consent is more than asking if a woman wants to do it. It’s also letting her know that you might be having sex with someone else so that she can make the choice if she wants to get in the mix. And we should be teaching our girls to ask that question of the people they are with and for themselves. These details really do matter.

So back to my kid. I just want him to have a completely different perspective as a man. I want him to raise the bar beyond simply asking for consent. To see sex not as a transaction, but as a bonding of energies. In doing so, maybe he will be more discerning in his own choices when the time comes. Boys and men should feel empowered to say “no” too and to consider that protecting their own spirits and energy is much more valuable than a passing moment of pleasure.

While he was in eighth grade, Emmanuel and I had a conversation about the girls at his school and if he liked anyone. I wanted the scoop, but he expressed no interest. It wasn’t a question of orientation as we discussed that as well. With a little probing, he finally disclosed that he felt like the girls at his school either all acted alike or all tried to look the same and that just didn’t interest him. It was such a compelling insight into his thirteen-year old mind.. . and probably a commentary about how girls are socialized. That’s a whole other blog post.

And while one man who has been accused of committing sexual assault is holding the highest office of the land and another has a seat on the Supreme Court, I have to believe there’s more we can be doing for Gen Z, especially as they emerge with a broader understanding of gender and sexual fluidity. My hope is that Gen X does right by our kids as they make their transition into adulthood; teaching them to take a new perspective when contemplating their sex lives.

Not much has changed for Emmanuel on the dating front as he enjoys his early years of high school. I can’t say I’m not relieved. To my Gen X comrades, send your lessons my way. We’ve got a big job to do.

Love Letter to the Divine Masculine

“You take care of us best when you bare your vulnerabilities and authentically stumble and struggle towards your dreams.”

The #MeToo movement was stunning in the swiftness and force with which it brought to light so many women’s stories. The veil had been lifted and some of the most powerful men in industry, media and politics were being held accountable for decades of violations and crimes they had perpetrated against women. And in the aftermath, we became acquainted with the term “toxic masculinity” and readily deemed unsavory behaviors from men with its brand.

I was right there with the movement. The persistent street harassment in New York City alone would put any woman on the frontlines. I even found myself contextualizing parenting advice to Emmanuel’s father in the scope of “toxic masculinity.” Paranoid about my son’s psyche, I insisted that coming at him with an old-school, aggressive dad energy was not the way to reach him.

Recently, however, I was humbled by a moment I spent sitting across from a man that I love dearly. I watched and listened intently as he meandered through his current narrative, exposing the raw emotion of lingering grief over a loss while contemplating his assets and professional prospects. He was this beautiful mixture of anger, sadness, hope, ambition and preoccupation. All the while, I could feel the weight of his effort to define his life and self-worth.

“In other words, masculinity is most notably understood as being the opposite of femininity.”

A few days later after a brief conversation with my friend, Kate, about masculinity, Google managed to hone in on a remnant from our chat and queued up a panel discussion on masculinity from the Milken Institute. Google’s undeniable surveillance freaked me out a bit, but I decided to watch the video anyway. Moderated by a woman, this discussion invited four men to define and discuss masculinity in today’s era. Their perspectives were as varied as their backgrounds, yet one thing on which they had consensus was the idea that any attributes reflecting femininity were considered a threat to a man’s masculinity. In other words, masculinity is most notably understood as being the opposite of femininity.

One panelist went on to add that men are taught to pursue power and dominance as an indication of their masculinity. With nods of agreement, there was an inevitable shift of focus to the current occupant of the White House and with that, a tangible despair permeated the air. For no one represents a toxic mix of disdain for all things feminine with a ruthless pursuit of power better than Donald Trump.

Against the backdrop of the recent image of Nancy Pelosi’s ardent stance in his face to the steady flow of evidence of his criminality, we have become enlightened to the fact that Trump’s brand of masculinity will not only be his demise, it has been and will likely continue to be his bondage.

*****

Thankfully, most of the men we know and love are not poisoned in such an extreme way. Yet, it is common to observe their battle against the narrow forces that define who they are and who they are supposed to be. Perhaps as most of my male contemporaries nestle into middle age, their struggle is more apparent to me. In light of #MeToo and Trump, I believe that it’s time to make space for reconciliation and integration.

We are all created whole, an embodiment of a perfect balance of the divine masculine and feminine. Our conditioning often causes us to lose our way and to succumb to distorted images of who we think we are supposed to be, but all is not lost.

“Your strength becomes rooted not in your bottom line or title, but in the expansion of your wisdom and perspective.”

To the divine masculine, thank you for your instinct to protect, to see the vulnerable and act on their behalf. Your worth is not defined by your ability to wield oppressive power. It shines through in your humble leadership and willingness to nurture the potential in others. You take care of us best when you bare your vulnerabilities and authentically stumble and struggle towards your dreams.

Most importantly, when you allow the divine feminine within and outside of yourself to lead, you create space for the creativity and intuition that is needed to heal families and nations. You balance your striving with an appreciation of the joy of the present moment. Your strength becomes rooted not in your bottom line or title, but in the expansion of your wisdom and perspective.

*****

In the late 90’s, my father saw the quick rise and fall of an enterprise he started. Stoic and resilient, he weathered his failure on his knees in prayer. His business wasn’t restored, but his heart was opened to see the gift of leadership from the woman who had been by his side for almost forty years. With humility, he passed the mantle of their lives to my mother, following her to a new state and a more peaceful life in a quiet suburb of Atlanta.

Surrendering his quest to become a “master of the universe” and the often grumpy temperament that came with it, my father lived the rest of his years driven by his passion for golf and for counseling people making difficult career transitions. What I appreciated the most is that he always gave credit to my mother for guiding them into this new phase of their lives.

Probably the most powerful point made by a member of that panel on masculinity is that we have to move to a place where we accept that there is no one definition for it. Masculinity should be allowed to be complicated and fluid and self-defined by those who embody its energy. And above all, it should be loved.

To the Class of ’89, with Love

There is no doubt that my own desire to explore the globe and expand my mind has to do with having sat next to such a diverse and enriching group of people every day for all of those years.

Last weekend was my 30th high school reunion. First of all, WTF. . how has it been thirty years already? So much life has passed by and at times it feels like it was just yesterday that I was jetting through the locker-lined halls of Morristown High School.

I actually had no intention of going. It seemed ludicrous to cross the Atlantic for a few hours of what I thought would be awkward smiles and poor name recognition in a loud bar. Morristown, New Jersey also stirs up a confusing array of feelings in me including memories of my deceased father. I wasn’t sure how I felt about stepping into that town again. But some other priorities lined up and United Airlines was practically giving away flights from Paris so I decided to bite the bullet.

Back in the 80’s, Morristown was a special yet complicated place to live. It had a unique type of diversity where the intersection of race, culture and socio-economics had the potential to broaden our minds in ways we probably didn’t appreciate at the time. There were upper middle class Black families whose mobility was anchored by corporations like AT&T. There were working class white kids whose families had been in the town for generations, running small businesses that grounded and enhanced our every day lives.

Every culture, race, and class was represented in equal measure. Even our religions spanned the spectrum. My Sundays were spent in the pews of Calvary Baptist Church, tucked away on the other side of the “hollow” with the other Black churches. I attended my fair share of bat mitzvahs while in the throes of middle school and often had to bypass afternoon plans as friends devotedly attended CCD at their Catholic churches.

In retrospect, it was pretty extraordinary the way we attempted to co-exist, representing the beautifully diverse walks of life that actually do make America great.

“The stereotypes that the world often tried to sell us were defied by our reality. So, we came together at pee wee football games and through a shared loved of smiley face cookies and Suvio’s pizza”

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. Hidden resentments and myopic views crept into our experiences from time to time. I remember seeing a swastika spray-painted on a car while riding down Hanover Avenue. Caught between charges of “acting white” and being called the n-word while at the receiving end of a fist, I sometimes felt that Morristown was not a kind place at all.

I could always sense, however, that we were trying to make the community work. The stereotypes that the world often tried to sell us were defied by our reality. So, we came together at pee wee football games and through a shared love of smiley face cookies and Suvio’s pizza. We accepted and respected that a Black man could serve as our principal or our most beloved art teacher. We relished in the fact that an all-girl student government could totally kick ass. And they did.

*****

In the hours before the reunion, I had a small existential crisis, asking myself, “Why do we do this? This reunion thing.” Especially now, as Facebook has reacquainted us, providing a window into the passing of our lives and our political differences. What is it that compels us to come back together?

It only took a few minutes after our arrival for me to get my answer. Walking into the dimly lit room which proved problematic for us 40-somethings in reading glasses, the joy with which I heard my name uttered put me at ease. No passage of time could ever make us strangers.

The ebb and flow of our relationships that ensued from the transitions between elementary, middle and high school could not erase the memories or the substance of our knowledge of each other. The hugs were tight, filled with the recognition of who we were and what we shared. The message was “I see you now, just as I saw you then when you were nine and used to play at my house.”

We bore the growing pains of childhood and adolescence together whether it was a parents’ divorce or a first crush. Now, as fully formed adults, we commiserated over the loss of a parent, the end of a marriage or the upheaval of a career. Beneath the blare of the music, there was a safe space to reveal how we may have changed and stayed the same all at once.

One of my favorite moments was with a classmate who had traveled from Alaska to be there. From what I had gathered, he hadn’t been back to Morristown in about twenty-five years. Our last conversation was probably back in middle school. Our paths seldom crossed in high school and I noted that to him, convinced that he probably didn’t even remember who I was. He debunked that notion immediately with a tender acknowledgement of our elementary school days together. There was so much warmth in his smile and his eyes and before we were interrupted, we managed a toast as I welcomed him home.

*****

When Trump was campaigning for office, I was surprised and disappointed by the support of some of my Morristown friends of his candidacy. My news feed would fill with zealous endorsements of a man who made hate and bigotry the cornerstone of his platform. I came down pretty hard on those friends because I knew where they came from and I simply could not comprehend that this is the path they had chosen given our experience together.

“It called to mind that we were part of the same tribe and that meant something.”

I saw one of those friends at the reunion and despite our heated Facebook debate from three years ago, giving him a hug was a natural reflex. And then suddenly, I remembered that in our sixth grade GATS class–this gifted student thing–he was the first boy to ever tell me that I was pretty.

At the innocence of eleven, he saw something in me that was a far cry from the messages sent to and about little Black girls during that time. It called to mind that we were part of the same tribe and that meant something. Ironically, it’s the very reason why I was so frustrated by his leanings towards Trump.

Politics aside, there was so much love in the room that night. An energy that I didn’t expect, but one that validated the fact that we are an enduring tribe of friends, acquaintances and family. We were missing many of our comrades from the class of ’89 and I’m sure others may not share the same sense of nostalgia.

Yet, it’d be hard to argue against the fact that we grew up in a pretty remarkable place at an interesting time in the world. There is no doubt that my own desire to explore the globe and expand my mind has to do with having sat next to such a diverse and enriching group of people every day for all of those years.

I carry the memories with me always and I am eternally grateful to have shared so much with all of you. Thank you for being such a special and inspiring force in the world.

Class of ’89, I see you.

Abandoning Ship?

Last week, a friend of mine tagged me on a Facebook post featuring an article by a Black woman who decided to move to Paris after Trump was elected. Her story resonated with me to some extent, although my decision to move came long before the tragedy of Donald Trump in the White House. His election was merely a symptom of a bigger, long-standing problem in the US.

I scrolled down to read the comments and was alarmed by the anger and judgment being hurled at this woman about her choice. One comment even stated that citizenship is not a free ride. I offered a broader perspective, citing that my own decision to leave the US was connected to issues far greater than Trump. That the system of white supremacy on which our nation was built affects every corner of society and that people of color are not and cannot be held responsible for dismantling it.

There is something very uncomfortable about a white woman accusing two Black women who have chosen to live in a different country and culture of getting a “free ride” on our citizenship.

My comment was met with scrutiny of my commitment to the nation and a suggestion that I was, in fact, abandoning ship. An ironic reference considering that my own ancestors endured the middle passage in order for me to even be here.

I mulled over this person’s words–abandoning ship, lack of commitment, free ride–and was struck by the author’s arrogance and unwillingness to consider the tenor of those words.

There is something very uncomfortable about a white woman accusing two Black women who have chosen to live in a different country and culture of getting a “free ride” on our citizenship. Her position was that we were obligated to fight against the Trump machine and that to not fight is to abandon ship. Beyond voting, what exactly is our obligation to a democracy whose foundation is one of persistent exclusion and injustice?

*****

The notion of white superiority is completely pathological and yet, it sits at the root of every major institution that defines the United States. It is an idea that is embedded in the country’s DNA and for those who do not benefit from it, the process of fighting against it is difficult and exhausting. We can work to get a Black man into the White House or build better schools or run for office ourselves, but it’s simply not our job to fix whiteness.

I want to be clear and say this isn’t about white people. White people are divine creations just like everyone else with tremendous gifts to offer the world. This is about the illusion of white superiority and the pathological impact it has on individuals and society as a whole. The most damaging aspect is that it refuses to admit that it’s way of being may be wrong, no matter how unjust or tragic.

Last week, the Asian-American woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner revealed her name and identity, Chanel Miller. She was not only subjected to the assault, she was later brutalized by a justice system that decided the future of the “all-American” Stanford swimmer was more valuable than fairness and her dignity.

Thankfully, the judge who chose leniency for Turner was recalled by the people. But, what has Brock Turner learned? How has he changed? Is he able to see that he earned favor without merit, even after committing a heinous crime? Or did things turn out exactly as he expected because he too is rapt by the illusion of his own superiority and entitlement? On record, Chanel was nothing more than an “unconscious intoxicated woman.”

*****

When a chamber full of white men and women in power are caught up in the self-deception of their own superiority, they can easily justify not taking action when twenty six-year old children are murdered in their classrooms. In their minds, the values of money, power and dominance supersede the lives of the citizens they serve. It makes zero sense. Yet, they continue down the same road as 50 more people die in Orlando, 58 in Las Vegas, 9 in Charleston and so on.

We rally to vote these people out and their response is to suppress our vote or to commit actual election fraud–North Carolina. As long as they believe that their way of being is better, they will always fight back or lie to re-establish their “position.” Their own hypocritical and hateful acts will neither bother nor deter them. The illusion of superiority requires it.

Watching Biden in his smug “superior white man” suit, I wanted to vomit. High five to Cory Booker for not letting that shit go without a counter.

And this isn’t just a Republican ailment. Bill Clinton, our “beloved” statesman, was quick to resort to dog whistle politics when threatened by the excellence and success of Barack Obama. Comparing him to Jesse Jackson, he deemed Obama’s primary win in South Carolina a “fairy tale.” A knee jerk reaction in the heat of an intense campaign, riddled with the undertones of the illusion as well.

In the most recent Democratic debate, when confronted with his past words regarding the enduring damage of slavery, Joe Biden pivoted to blaming parents from poor communities for their problems. They just need to learn how to parent better. Really, Joe? Tell me, who raised Brock Turner? Donald Trump? Watching Biden in his smug “superior white man” suit, I wanted to vomit. High five to Cory Booker for not letting that shit go without a counter.

One of the most compelling scenes in the movie, American Gangster, was when Russell Crowe’s character was trying to get access to the coffins of the fallen soldiers being brought home from Vietnam. As he tried to explain to the government official that Frank Lucas, a Black man from Harlem, was smuggling drugs into the United States through these service planes, the official refused to believe him, stating that “no American n****r has accomplished what the American mafia hasn’t in 100 years.” He was incredulous–again, the illusion.

*****

Throughout the years, I have protested against war, injustice and inequity. I once stood for hours in front of a movie theater protesting the film, Buffalo Soldiers, marketed as a dark comedy about a bunch of corrupt American soldiers stationed in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, selling drugs and screwing around during peace time. I was appalled by the appropriation of the name as my own grandfather served in the 9th Cavalry at West Point right before the US entered into World War II. Called Buffalo Soldiers, they were representative of the revered former slaves in the all-black cavalry and infantry regiments who served during the Westward expansion. When I was a kid, I loved looking at the little buffalo pin on my grandpa’s cap.

What brought about such a gross appropriation of African-American history by the Weinstein-owned Miramax? The illusion of superiority and the values that it represents. The blatant assumption that it is acceptable to defame the title and memory of those who served this very country in the name of entertainment. It’s pretty disgusting when you think about it. Hey Joe, what do you think of the job Harvey Weinstein’s parents did?

In pursuit of my own happiness, I have decided to live outside of the United States. I would hardly call it a “free ride.” The influence and evidence of my commitment to my citizenship is equally as potent in a classroom in Paris as it was in the hallways of a charter school in Brooklyn and in front of a movie theater in Bethesda, Maryland.

And what obligation do I have to fix the problem of the illusion of white superiority?

Only the afflicted can heal their own pathology.

Photo courtesy of Goalcast

%%footer%%