American Experiment: Caught in the Intersection*

An active-duty friend of mine was fired recently. Despite being described as “hard-charging, high-flying, and mission oriented” (usually positive descriptors in a military setting), those in supervisory positions determined this particular leader did not have sufficient soft skills to continue to lead.

Apparently accountability to published standards was too much for those in subordinate positions, who deemed this leader assertive and ambitious.

Do I even have to identify this leader as a woman?

I’m sure it’s obvious; these traits are only considered negative when displayed by women. The mostly men in her chain of command have freely admitted to urging her to be softer, less strident, more soothing, seemingly oblivious to the extreme sexist, misogynistic, and anachronistic attitudes their comments reveal.

As someone who has frequently and favorably compared the military’s willingness to reward good leadership regardless of gender, to what I’ve experienced post retirement, I was taken aback.

But there’s more. This stellar officer, a frequent presenter at professional conferences, made an “I’m-working-like-a-slave” comment in a moment of stress that was heard by a subordinate who reacted uncomfortably. Apparently, this comment, coupled with concerns about her disposition, required her to be fired, disinvited from presenting at a conference she was scheduled to attend and the subject of a whisper campaign within her professional community.

Before you pronounce her guilty of racism, did I mention this leader is black? Is it necessary to mention the subordinate is a white male?

And without getting into the whole “can black people be racist” argument, I have questions…

What makes any comments uttered by black people about slavery racist? Even Kanye West’s controversial comments about race and slavery were primarily labeled ignorant and inaccurate versus racist.

Doesn’t firing the black woman play into the reality of institutional racism? Isn’t the accusation of racism by a white man and subsequent firing by another white man examples of the white man’s positional power to define reality in a system of white supremacy? Isn’t using the institutional power of the dominant culture to punish a black woman for being something she technically cannot be, exactly what constitutes institutional racism?

Did the black men made aware of the incident acquiesce to defining the incident as racist because they believed it to be so or were they unwilling to push their white counterparts or subordinates to consider a more nuanced interpretation? Were the white women privy to the story outraged by the sexism but unwilling to interrupt the real “ism” by speaking up for a woman they might perceive as uppity?

Black women often find ourselves at the perilous intersection* of race and gender, victims of patriarchy, white fragility, expectations about what is feminine, perceptions that don’t recognize our femininity and stereotypes that mistake our strength for anger. In this space, some are discredited, some are discarded and some die. Those who proudly serve this country are no exception.

After a career spent working hard, sacrificing personally to achieve role model, rock star status, my friend has been devastated.

I pray she recovers.

“There’s a huge double standard and a massive problem going on with weaponized outrage in this country. White men have found a way to destroy women and people of color with their mostly manufactured outrage at comments and actions that make them uncomfortable while being absolutely immune to and vaccinated against the outrage of others.” paraphrase of a Twitter comment by Eugene Gu, MD, a Surgeon-Scientist

*Intersectionality refers to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups. The term was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in a 1989 essay that asserts that antidiscrimination law, feminist theory, and antiracist politics all fail to address the experiences of black women because of how they each focus on only a single factor. Crenshaw writes that “[b]ecause the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.”


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Rule of Law

As rich as the current administration’s antics are for mining leadership lessons on what NOT to do, I find too much of the negativity is corrosive to my soul. So I’m currently on a sabbatical from the news.

Or at least I was until #45 declared himself above the law.

“When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal.” ~ Richard M. Nixon, the only U.S. president to resign to avoid impeachment and removal from office

“Rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law, including people who are lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and judges. In this sense, it stands in contrast to an autocracy, dictatorship, or oligarchy where the rulers are held above the law.” ~ Wikipedia

Inhale Law Abiding, Exhale Anarchy…
Inhale Decency, Exhale Corruption…
Inhale Democracy, Exhale Autocracy…
Just Breathe


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Citizens All

I heard a former Army officer claim a level of U.S citizenship above those who had not served. But we don’t convey citizenry based on military service, race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation; all born or naturalized in the U.S have the same rights and responsibilities.

At least, that’s what our founding documents proclaim…

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  14th Amendment

Inhale Equality, Exhale Exclusivity…
Inhale Responsibility, Exhale Avoiding Duty…
Inhale Citizenry, Exhale Captivity…
Just Breathe


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To Support and Defend

The U. S. government has a long, sordid history of treating black people as second-class citizens in conflict of our founding documents, the 5th, 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to our Constitution, as well as the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing Acts passed in the 1960s.

Despite that mistreatment, many of us have pledged to “support and defend” this country even to death if death is demanded.

But our commitment doesn’t make mistreatment at the hands of our fellow citizens easier to accept.

“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”  Title 5, Section 3331, the United States Code

Inhale Faithfulness, Exhale Faithlessness…
Inhale Allegiance, Exhale Apathy…
Inhale Obligation, Exhale Evasion…
Just Breathe


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Revisionist History

I guess if the people who looked like me had a history of genocide, oppression, subjugation, discrimination, terrorism, etc., I too might try to suppress the past.

“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” 1 John 1:6 NIV

Inhale Fact, Exhale Fabrication…
Inhale History, Exhale Hatred…
Inhale Reality, Exhale Revision…
Just Breathe


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American Violence

The powers that control America WANT angry white men to have guns. Violence is how Europeans gained and their descendants maintain control in this country. The elites who foment fear in those with whom they share skin color only, need foot soldiers for the race war they keep trying to start.

And, if some white kids get shot up, well apparently that’s collateral damage they are willing to accept…

“Guns made us free and have kept us free, one side says; the other side rejects guns as instruments of domination, lawlessness, and terrorism. The conflict rages on because both sides are right.” ~ Jan E. Dizard, Guns in America

Inhale Freedom, Exhale Domination…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Lawlessness…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Terrorism…
Just Breathe


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To suggest that members of the most powerful branch of our “equal” branches of government should sit idly by while their wishes are ignored and American laws, customs and traditions are trampled … THAT is treasonous.

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States

Inhale Patriotism, Exhale Pandering…
Inhale Power, Exhale Impotence…
Inhale Strength, Exhale Servility…
Just Breathe


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Irony Deficient: Part 2

The enslaved in colonial America did not miss the irony of their oppressors’ protests against oppression by the British…all while keeping them in bondage.

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” ~ Emma Lazarus

Inhale Freedom, Exhale Oppression…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Bondage…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Slavery…
Just Breathe


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Irony Deficient: Part 1

It is endlessly ironic to me that the descendants of those who often escaped religious persecution in their countries of origin are so intolerant of other religions in this country.

“So when a nation of immigrants starts putting up travel bans, you have officially lost the plot [of the Bible].” ~ Rob Bell

Inhale Freedom, Exhale Persecution…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Intolerance…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Hypocrisy…
Just Breathe


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Be the Light

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Be the light, see yourself in others and show them love.

Inhale Light, Exhale Darkness…
Inhale Sight, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Love, Exhale Hate…
Just Breathe


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