Saturday, May 30, 2020

Combatting The Real Pandemic...

Image source: Ted Littleford, Facebook

Hey, y’all. I wish I could come back to blogging on a happier note, but I can’t breathe. Whenever I think it’s okay to exhale, another black man takes his last breath. Usually I’ll just cram all my thoughts into flowery poetics and leave it at that, but not this time. We’ve been distracted by Coronavirus, but racism is the real pandemic that plagues us. This issue extends further and deeper than any poem could ever articulate. This blog is called Music, Message, Messiah, and the message I'm about to share is a very important one. Thankfully, one of the benefits of this space is the freedom to speak from the heart. The aim of this post is to do as the Bible says in Proverbs 31:8-9:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." (NIV) 

With that being said, let’s be real. 

Truth is, I wish I could just unplug. I wish I could turn away from the screen when I see a recording of a black life being taken. Quite frankly, I wish I didn’t feel obligated to speak on this issue—especially on social media—but the fact that the victim’s skin matches mine means that I don’t have the luxury of being ignorant. I have to say something. I can’t afford to forget to mourn George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others just because the murder of a black man has become the norm. This should never be considered normal. I am a black woman with a black father, a black brother, and black uncles. One day, I may have a black husband, and whether my husband is black or not, I will have black children. Although I didn’t know either of these men, they could’ve been any black man I love. For that reason, I never want to forget what the sting of wrongful black death feels like.

I’ve seen countless posts of people crying, singing, protesting, talking through their emotions...doing whatever they need to to try to make sense of a senseless tragedy. The most practical (and heart-wrenching) response that I’ve seen thus far is that of Yvette and Glen “Beleaf” Henry. Their YouTube channel, Beleaf in Fatherhood, is centered around the haps and mishaps of black fatherhood. The channel showcases a lot of happy moments, especially as it relates to the couple’s four children, affectionately known as the “Chocolate Babies.” Glen, an MC turned stay-at-home dad, has written rhymes and even a book about the joyful magic of being black. As the Henry family emphasizes a celebration of black culture, they also delve into more sensitive subjects surrounding blackness. In their most recent video, Glen and Yvette have “the talk” with their two oldest sons, Theo, 7, and Uriah, almost 6. This talk is not the sex talk, but an arguably more frightening one: A necessary introduction to the harsh reality of police brutality.

When I look at the Henries, I see a projection of what I want my future to look like: A home full of joy and love. This particular video, though, was hard to watch for so many reasons. As Theo and Uriah processed what their parents said to them, I could see the innocence melting off of their faces. Their little lights dimmed for a moment as they realized that they are targets. I watched them ponder questions they don’t yet know how to ask, and it broke me. 

Yesterday in a newsletter, Glen reflected on the video and said, “I wish I did not share it. Not because of the response, most people were saddened by the conversation but almost everyone deemed it ‘necessary for survival.’ The thing that made me wish I never shared it was how my oldest has been distant from me since our talk.” He added, “I think we've reached a point in this channel where I have to hold back on what I share because of his comfort.” As a long-time follower and patron of Beleaf in Fatherhood, I’m sure that Glen’s intention for sharing the video was the same intent that lies at the heart of the BIF brand: “To equip fathers, bring hope to mothers, and inspire children.” I’m glad that he took the time to consider Theo’s feelings. I also respect the fact that he will give him more autonomy in the decision to share intimate parts of their lives online. The line between privacy and publicity is a thin one, especially on a platform as big as YouTube. Their comfort should absolutely come first, but I’m grateful that they did share this. I needed to see it. 

When I look at the Henries, I see a projection of what my future will look like. I watched Yvette weep as the rose-colored glasses were forcibly removed from her children’s eyes, and I saw myself. One day I will also be a black mother raising black children in America, and I hope I’ll know what to say when it’s time for my husband and I to have “the talk” with them. If, by chance, my husband isn’t black, I will have additional hurdles to jump over. Those hurdles will include not only explaining racial issues to him, but also explaining to our children that his privilege doesn’t extend to them. I am open to dating outside of my race; however, I think it would be more difficult to make sure a non-black man not only understands what black people go through, but also is properly equipped to stand firmly in this fight.

As I said before, the real pandemic here is racism. In the last decade, I’ve heard a lot of people say that we are in a post-racial society. Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd’s cases prove otherwise. We are nowhere close. Those who have chosen to be colorblind will say that all we need is love, but there’s much more to it than that. There are still so many people in this country who need to examine their hearts and be honest with themselves about why they hate people who don’t look like them. And then they need to do the work to turn that hate into understanding, tolerance, and THEN love—but the first step is acknowledgment of the problem.

Ironically, I don’t think the problem of racism can be solved until white people get as angry about the issue as black people. Again, let’s keep it real: Racist white people are only open to hearing from other white people. So, I think the solution is to gather white allies who are willing to stand up for the cause and explain to racists why hating people of a different color is wrong. The fact of the matter is, no matter how many black people protest, white racists still aren’t going to hear it. They still won’t care because all they’ll see are black faces, which they hate. Until and unless we partner with strong white allies, the problem will continue. 

Glen and Yvette’s video is linked below. I encourage you, regardless of the color of your skin, to resist the urge to look away—especially if you are white. If you are white, I know it is not comfortable for you to read this post. If you've read up to this point, I commend you. These conversations are never easy, but they're necessary. I know it's politically correct to say that you don't see color, but when you watch the video below, I need you to see it. I need you to see it and empathize with the difficult concepts and emotions that these innocent children are having to work through. 

Lastly, a note for everyone: After you watch the video, I implore you to make a change, to BE the change you want to see in your world. Share the video on social media, but don’t stop there. Use it to facilitate meaningful, proactive conversations with your children and those closest to you. DO SOMETHING about it. If we are all proactive, someday we can change the world. Hopefully that day will be sooner rather than later. Until next time, as Beleaf would say, “protect your life”—now, more than ever.

For more information on Beleaf In Fatherhood, visit