As an adult who is passionate about children and how they learn,grow and succeed, my desire to ingest material that explains the discrepancies in education and how to effectively eliminate them is a major obsession.
We don't know how to ensure that our young people are successful and yet we constantly engender failure in them at every turn.
When it is not ok to risk something and mistakes are not allowed,we fail our children.
When certainty and worry about and over concern with being labeled a "bad parent" rules the day how can we effectively respond to our young folks.
As a new teacher many years ago,I was instructed to hunker down,crack the whip and show the little monsters who was in charge. No one every thought to address how being in charge limited children's ability to question and think. There was never one discussion regarding how to encourage curiosity which can and often does lead to new and innovative approaches to problem solving.
As parents and caregivers to young people we will all screw up.
There will be times when you are a bad parent and your thinking about what your child needs and the best way to address those needs is skewed.
The real mistake is thinking that if we create an image of success at all costs that everything will be fine.
If we want our children to face failure as an opportunity to learn,we must model this same behavior and way of approaching the world.
My two oldest grandchildren struggle with school not because the material is that challenging.
The difficulty arises from the silent message that it is not ok to not know things.
When we worked together over a year ago on a project,it was very important that mistakes be made and learned from not avoided.
More than a year later there is still much self esteem as a result of this endeavor.
We must move beyond the need to please the ever present they (haters and nitwits whose concern is looking good not supporting personal and emotional growth in our children) and into giving our children what they need the most to succeed in school and life.
Paul Tough(How Children Succeed) states that one of the most important ingredients in rearing children is grit (the ability to wrestle with a challenge and self assess what is needed to turn things in your favor).
Teaching children to not allow fear of the unknown and failure is impossible if we (parents and those that love our babies) have not moved beyond this limiting and binary way of viewing our lives and the choices we make.
Someone told me years ago: Children are short not stupid.
If we want our children to succeed,we must allow them to feel the other side of the reality : failure.
I understand the difficulty in watching children flail about,make less than stellar life choices and decisions purely based on emotions and instinct.
Years ago my mother begged me to leave credit cards alone.
I needed to look good.
Four years,eight credit cards,some serious debt and crappy jobs that paid nothing squashed the need to look good.
I realized that I should have listened to her wise and dramatic warnings.
She offered me the best life lesson in my Forty Five years of living.
She let me get myself out of debt slowly and painfully.
While I am not currently debt free, my relationship to and management of money has been fundamentally altered. I am not where I would like to be financially but I am closer than I have ever been as a result of that brutal and well timed lesson.
It is the same lesson that I have tried to impart to my youngest sister and all the young folks I meet.
I offer assistance by offering the opportunity to build inner resources so that no matter what happens,my young charges will know that they can figure it out.
We want to offer strategies for building a solid inner core. Building a solid inner core does not mean that mistakes are never made.
It means that mistakes are welcomed and encouraged and a misstep is not a reason to wallow in failure.
A misstep in its proper connotation simply means that something was overlooked, forgotten, or not considered.
A person only thinks like this when they have been given or taught the concepts of grit, curiosity,self assessment and that failure is a place to visit and learn from not set up a permanent residence.
It is our belief in our ability to figure things out that makes life and failure and the upset it causes sweet.
I probably shouldn't tell you this... Today is the 30th post and the end of my focus for now on black men, police brutality and the fight for justice that will continue albeit in another form. For now, I want to leave you with a list of ten brave soldiers who lost their lives in the battle to create change.
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Juliette Hampton Morgan
Reverend James Reeb
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Viola Gregg Liuzzo
Reverend George Lee
Harry and Harriett Moore
Keep Fighting. Winning over Injustices. Demanding Change.
When you have invested your heart into something working out a certain way, there is always the possibility that things will not work out or worse yet they will change without your knowledge or consent.
This type of fear is rational and should not cause us to behave in ways that are less than sparkling.
People get very confused when it comes to fear and what needs to be done when we are blindsided by it.
Most of us stop thinking and revert to reptilian responses that include but are not limited to : running away, avoiding the thing that has scared us, making another person wrong (assigning blame), bulldozing over people or in the most extreme cases, immobilizing ourselves (hoping that in freeze mode know one will see us or expect any action).
There are as many ways to deal with fear as there are people in the world.
What if we encouraged people to be afraid and plow into what scares them the most ?
What if we raised our children with this balls-out approach to dealing with what they feel menaces them the most ?
We could have a very different world.
Persons who move from this way of being live very full lives. I am striving to be one of those people.
It is my goal to find what scares me and take it to the mat. Fear is an indicator that change is inevitable and typically forthcoming.
Sometimes when I am feeling bored (which is rare) , I know instinctively that I am not challenging myself. When I am in resistance to taking action, it is usually regarding the fear that I could fail, screw some shit up.
Once I determine the fear is that a) I don't know what I'm doing and b) I might fail, my next step is usually to metaphorically leap into the pool with arms a flailing.
Most of us do the opposite.
Our stomachs turn so we stop.
We opt for a brownie, a nap, anything at all to prevent moving forward and taking on the beast that stands before us mockingly beckoning us to our undiscovered genius and greatness via the uncomfortability that fear creates.
When I'm comfortable, I'm not moving or growing.
We either progress or regress.
It has taken me several years to figure out which type of fear is begging for attention and just as many years to decide how I would offer attention.
As I whip through my 40' s and barrel towards my 50's, I fight daily to make sure that I do not back down and figure out ways to answer my own call to greatness.
I often write about death from the perspective that people aren't afraid of death (it's inevitable so why worry) that folks are really afraid to live.
If you had six months to live would you waste time being afraid ?
Along with the commitment to mental health, we must also take charge of our physical well being.
Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure,stress (the body's reaction to carrying more than it should, thanks bell hooks)and cancer are just a few of the things that seem to attack us and take us out in grave numbers.
Black and male does not have to equal unhealthy and walking health risk.
Making our health a priority will be against much of what society says we ought to be doing.
I wrote about my hatred of and being terrorized by a doctor in my post Why HIV Infection Rates are Up for Young Black Men.
We allow ourselves to be bullied and silenced by things that matter.
Like a whole lot of black folks I know, I only make trips to the doctor when I'm in pain or something bothers me.
As a race, we have been socialized into believing that health concerns and any sign of physical need is sign of weakness.
Coupled with the racism that many doctors have not unlearned and you have a context in which care is unimportant and to request it makes you less than.
We must realize that it is our right to live and feel well.
At 45, I know many people ten years by junior and ten years my senior who are on a host of meds.
My mother was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure by a doctor who wanted to put her on meds.
My mother refused and instead countered with a response about whether or not there was an alternative.
She and the doctor designed a program that included exercise and slight dietary modifications (my mother is a strict vegan and only eats what she grows or trades with others).
Weeks later, the tests proved that the new program worked and there was no need for medication.
We are not obliged to a life of labored living and struggle simply because of our skin color.
Whenever I meet or talk to someone about health issues, there is always a correlation between either something they're doing or something they should stop doing.
I learned a great deal about diabetes from my cousin and very close family friends. I was unaware that this disease can be managed by eating healthier (processed foods being the biggest issue here) and consistent exercise.
I thought it meant a life with no desserts.
High Blood Pressure ?
I didn't know that laying off the junk food and salt along with moderate exercise once again would do the trick.
We also underestimate the stress brought on by our jobs, day to day life and of course our families.
Preparing for my recent wedding brought this little gem front and center.
Speaking with various family members (who all had opinions of what I should be doing or should have done) taught me some serious lessons in how to remove stress from my life, be clear about my expectations and not take care of grown ass people's feelings and thoughts.
I took care of myself in familiar ways that I know work.
I did more walking during this time.
I talked with supportive friends.
I took more baths and prayed more.
To combat the inevitable weight gain (my response to stress), I stopped going on about not getting to hot yoga and instead starting walking on the track at my new job.
Based on American standards of what healthy looks like, few of us fit the bill.
As we make our physical and mental health a priority, there is nothing that can't be accomplished.
More than unemployment, lack of education, racism and housing issues, being physically healthy with strong adept minds will allow us all to take on forces that threaten our well being and support others in doing the same.
So many young people and those who did not witness black folks being water housed and attacked by bigots and their dogs, mistakenly assume that racism and its many incarnations and offshoots are a thing of the past.
I often fantasize that King, Malcolm, Hamer,Rustin and the like are looking at all of the shenanigans that pass for entertainment and daily life and feel yes: my life was worth this.
I firmly believe that the aforementioned cultural and political icons would be pleased with the political progress we've made (President Barack Obama)and marvel at the strides in social change and entertainment masking as such(Oprah Winfrey and her empire).
I also believe they would be sickened and visibly upset when viewing the things that we've allowed to continue and encourage our young people to engage in by either silent resignation or outright aping the mores and social standings that go unquestioned and unchallenged.
With a clear cut objective that involves becoming and staying emotionally healthy and making sure everyone in our community has the same goal despite limited and or outdated resources, we can collectively move forward while simultaneously demanding that those with power share it.
In order to take on this daunting and most worthwhile task , I suggest we look at three things that hold us back and keep us mired in pathologies, blaming and shaming and prayer as our only strategy for change.
Stop worrying about what white folks think or feel about you.
So much of our collective suffering and inability to rethink solutions and possible outcomes have their root in the seduction and performance that is whiteness.
Far too many of us believe that we can appease the "theys" in our worlds if we constantly and stupidly concern ourselves with what is thought or said about us by people that in many instances don't like us very much.
With the advent of White Supremacy and the unrelenting innovation of seduction that targets our self esteem and body images, our behavior is pretty predictable.
Whites have their own pain and discomfort as a direct result of White Supremacy.
White male privilege is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days.
Whenever any bit of injustice show up, we get the opportunity to trot out the tried and true WMP.
While it is fun and convenient to push every slight into this category, we all choose to overlook ways that people who are not white or male benefit from all sorts of opportunities.
White Male Privilege is very real.
What not one will willingly take a look at is all of the other privileges that get created and are intertwined with WMP.
The machine that is patriarchy and white supremacy offer us opportunities to control and lord power over others.
Whatever group you belong to and the fact that you are human provides the impetus for dominating.
While I don't believe that is natural for folks to dominate one another, there is a tendency to lean in this direction as a result of all the gifts that are offered.
The machine must be fed and we are all invited to partake of the system that offers fake promises and severely limiting rewards.
I am a black gay man and am afforded privilege in each identity depending on who I'm with and the context of all of my relationships.
Regardless of what any one will say there are certain privileges that are assigned to me simply because of the darkness of my skin.
Music, culture, fashion sense and the ability to thrive on scarps and look good while doing it all part of gay, black male privilege.
Gay privilege affords me the luxury of not having to consider reproducing.
Gay privilege affords me the option of not having to think long term about much of anything. It also allows me to indulge in a certain type of social isolation and a big "fuck you" to society if that is what I desire.
There are many gays and lesbians I know who have no interest in mainstream anything and yet are looked to when it is time to shake things up and make things interesting or cutting edge.
While these are exaggerations the point is that no one is exempt form gaining certain rewards when and if they suit them.
Much like the privileges that get bestowed upon blacks and gays, being male is another opportunity to examine what goodies get offered to us and when.
People grow to know and accept you as gay.
Nobody needs adjusting and reschooling in terms of what being male means.
Upon the birth of a male child, everyone immediately begins to decide that all of the world's resources and treasures are his to indulge and command.
No one ever thinks : I hope my son is kind, gentle and compassionate towards others.
Instead, we immediately begin contemplating and thinking of all the ways he will "rule" the world.
There is no thought given to the problematic stance that because of this person's gender there might be wishes offered and granted simply because of his maleness.
When we examine all the ways that people have access to resources, it is clear that we are all very unclear as to how privilege works, how it gets assigned and what it does to all of us on a cellular and spiritually stunted level.
I like to take the definition of Tim Wise when examining the seductive and radical thinking reduction that this most dangerous process continues to engender.
According to Tim Wise, Privilege in its most basic form allows us the luxury of not having to think about certain things.
When we are allowed the freedom (or so we think) of not having to think about certain things we are then allowed the freedom(or so we think) to not have to change our behavior or invest in any real hard core action.
We can allow things to happen to "those people".
We can allow brutalization to occur because folks don't look like or think like or act like us.
It is very easy to dismiss a group if including them would require a clear and radical self analysis.
When 911 occurred, we as a country were provided a clear picture of what the world thought of us and our relentless commitment to staying asleep and pursuing our interests no matter the consequences.
Being able to selfishly pursue everything we desire without any thought to
whether others are safe, nurtured and have access to resources make us vile and clueless in ways that have devastating effects on the planet and our communities.
We can turn this around by questioning why certain individuals are granted certain access and demand that those in power cast a wider net when the focus is on who gets what and why.
Many smart, well meaning people are terribly confused about feminism and its power.
Many folks assign those committed to feminist based struggle and societal reordering as: banner wavers, complainers, angry dykes(men in drag upset because certain resources are unavailable).
My understanding of Radical Feminism's power is based on how my life has been affected and continues to evolve as a result of living a feminist based life.
As a young black male and now middle aged black gay male, my feminist leanings have allowed me an incredibly inquisitive mind and stellar critical thinking and problem solving abilities.
Whether creating innovative ways to live with family and friends or taking on the forces of psychosis(sexual and drug addiction) that sought to dictate the world I could design, radical feminism taught me to love and live well.
It has taught me to deeply love and challenge (the racism of) white friends and lovers.
It has taught me to deeply love and challenge (the machismo and classism) of black friends and lovers.
True radical, well thought out and constantly changing feminist principles allow everyone to create lives of their own without the constant checking in that oppression and domination require.
Radical Feminism insists on access to resources, thinking and ways of being that allow everyone opportunities that encourage compassion, concern for self and others and most importantly a redistribution of wealth and access.
Media has created a focus on what feminism means to a few select members of society while ignoring the overall affects it can and does have for the masses.
When properly applied, it forces us all to take very disturbing looks at what we do daily and the many ways that a less than full commitment to society's emancipation becomes commonplace and acceptable to so many of us.
While many of us unwittingly partake of dominator ways of interacting, it is not the nature of humans to want other humans to hurt and suffer.
Watching young children grow and mature has taught me that all types of manipulation, hurt, domination are not natural and in fact are taught.
Our systems that allow goodies for a select few (Radical Feminism's opposite), rely on not only a scarcity model but that we will also teach this way of existing to our young.
My youngest sister and my very young granddaughters ingest what is permissible for young women and either alter or disrupt the dreams they have for their lives.
By introducing them all along with the young boys in my tutelage to the work of bell hooks, Essex Hemphill and Tim Wise, I offer them glorious chances to dig deeper and challenge a society that believes it has no interest or use for any brilliance that comes wrapped in a darker package.
Using feminism as our beginning point, I often stress that our job is to restructure our society by becoming powerful, thoughtful, creative citizens whose behavior is not rooted in domination, belittling others or selfishly hoarding goods from those that could most use them.
While the conversations are often awkward and in pieces, they are necessary and can be seen when my young folks incorporate this thinking and learn to practice patience, understanding and respect for themselves and others.
In the previous post, I pointed out that racism has invented itself as police brutality.
A radical redistribution of wealth would force a new way of thinking and behavior modification.
A movement needs all types of people doing all types of things.
Revolutionaries who need time to think, organize and upset the masses need funding for housing, food and life's basic necessities
All leaders need financial support to ensure that day jobs don't derail their first and most pressing commitment(fighting for change).
Reading about the earnings of Jay Z for the first six months of the year ($60 million dollars) has given me many ideas for social movements that could occur if a small portion of his fortune where redirected "Amish" style.
Here is my personal plan (Amish influenced) for a Spending Plan that would yield impressive results.
Using five percent of Jay Z's six month gross (three million dollars) would look like this:
Three lawyers earning $50,000 each for two years. This group would focus on ways to legislate change.
Total = $300,00
Purchasing buildings to provide free housing and critical thinking space for a group of 100 individuals who are already working for change. Twenty groups of five living communally and being able to create solutions without worrying about a job or paying rent along with free utilities and food. Detroit and cities struggling to attract residents could be examples of purchasing homes and using them for social change. Twenty homes at $30,000 each plus food and utilities ($5,000 a year for two years)
Coding, Spanish and Everyday Math courses and materials for our young people in an effort to understand and link our struggles with those who have fought and won similar battles. Teachers, materials and computer supplies including: six teachers being paid Fifty grand each, free housing and medical benefits with an option to renew their contracts every two years.
Round the Clock Mental Health Resources : I have no idea how would work and believe that $400,000 would cover the costs.
Total = $400,000
Opening a small bank that would provide interest free loans for any person involved in changing the community.
Total = $1.3 million dollars