Own your thoughts. Own their brilliance. Own their shadows. Own your story. Unbossed. Unbought. – Jade Perry
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to sit down and dedicate time to writing my thoughts and consider what it is I want to add to the various national conversations. Never in my lifetime did I think that I would see something like a resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement in an effort to combat the same injustices they marched for, sat in for, and got hosed for a half century ago. I never thought that I would watch with tear-stained eyes (or read on Twitter with eyes burning with tears) horrible stories and then my heart be broken more by people’s bigoted responses to the happenings as if they were some made-for-TV flicks that were conjured up by the imagination. I never expected to look at the world I live in and think of the future, wrapped in considerations of my hope of birthing little black babies one day, and cringe at the possibilities of what life will be like for them. It’s been a rough year on the national scene.
I’ve had much time to talk (and lament) with friends, to read the thoughts of others on social media, and to pray and think about what [more] I can do. But there has been an inner tension that I cannot ignore.
I love my generation most of all, perhaps, because I see us as passionate. We are the generation that goes after what we want, we follow our dreams, and we make things happen. We are not satisfied with staying in the same job for forty-plus years and then retiring on pieces of a life. We cannot be scared into going to heaven or scared out of going to hell. We are continuously connected and believe we have the power to sort it out. We tend to embrace what’s different and on the fringe and we are empowering more voices to speak and to be seen (and to matter) than generations before (read: any kind of minority group).
In the midst of all of this, I honestly find it difficult to keep my own voice. I absorb so much on a daily basis it can be easy for my voice and my opinion to start to sound like this person or that person. It can be easy for me to fake understanding something that confuses me to know end, unconditionally accept something as truth that is really just a good opinion, and love something that hurts me. I’m afraid that I’ll look up one day and sound like everyone else.
That is why in times like this, it is more important to not just know but own your voice. It is not always comfortable, as sometimes your voice will be at odds with the voices of those who raised you, those who supported you, and those who taught you. Own your thoughts. The way you process information may be different and that may be design.
My voice in all of this is this – I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the affirmation that #blacklivesmatter. This is not a statement of exclusion (as in “only black lives matter”) but a statement of inclusion (as in “black lives matter too”). The “too” is implied and that is by design (since “too” shouldn’t have to apart of the phrase in the first place). I desire to bring about change in the communities I participate in first – in the Church, in the mental health field, in education.
There have been many conversations within the Christian community recently stemming from the national discourse on race. It has had to be addressed because even within the Body of Christ, the ugliness of prejudice has reared its head in the aftermath of killing of Mike Brown. There have been many calls for unity in Christ, while dismissing the reality of the effects of people’s race/ethnicity inside and outside of the Church. How convenient of a way is that to discuss race. It has disturbed me to see people slide around the issues. As Dr. Eric Mason put it, “If we make our theology colorblind then what happens is we discount the narratives of people.” It’s time to shake things up.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 3.7% of the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of the American Psychological Association are African American members (Rhodes, 2014). I’m sure the percentages are similar for other major associations within the mental health field. Every video I’ve watched and every lecture I’ve heard by an “expert” in the field has been someone who does not look like me. I’m not here for that. Advocacy, beneficence, fidelity, justice – the ethical principles of counseling – must be applied to “the least of these”. I find my voice in helping break the stigmas about mental health in my community and introducing the help that so many in my community need. It’s time to shake things up.
As someone who has worked in education for the past two and a half years, there have been so many things that I have seen. There are so many ways we enable children to be comfortable with mediocrity and there are countless ways in which we have become comfortable with whatever the status quo is. The whole system is set up to teach one way and for children to learn one or two ways. There is no doubt to me why it is easier for students to grow up not knowing how to healthily challenge and consider things from various viewpoints. The onus would be on us who educate to start with us. It’s time to shake things up.
It is freeing to know that in this, my twenty-seventh year, I am still able to learn and evolve. My experiences have shaped my convictions and my values and beliefs stand strong under the weight of self-scrutiny and the opinions of others. This challenge, to be unbossed and unbought is lifelong and will look different throughout the various phases of my lifetime. Right now, having this blog is my means of unbossed and unbought. But I would hope that you, like me, have resolved yourself to think for yourself, learn for yourself, dictate how you will make a difference, and then DO IT.
Unbossed – no one’s dictating to you how you do you; unbought – your convictions, values, beliefs are not for sale.
…Will you be electric sheep? Electric ladies, will you sleep? Or will you preach? – Janelle Monae