My Reality vs. Your Reality

I discovered the conflict during a contentious conversation with my colleague, stemmed from our real but different realities. When I realized we were using the same expression for experiences that were NOT the same, I was able to explain the differences, which allowed us to pursue our vision.

It was a lot of extra effort on a relatively small issue. But it kept us moving forward.

“What each of us believes to be true simply reflects our views about reality… when we ignore competing realities … we may fail.” ~ Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations

Inhale Converse, Exhale Close Up…
Inhale Conflict, Exhale Fear of Confrontation…
Inhale Competing Realities, Exhale Fake Compliance…
Just Breathe…


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If She Can, I Can…

I usually describe my last military job as the city manager for a small city, in this case the 6th largest city…in South Dakota!

The selection for this group-level command position was a two-step process; first I had to be nominated, then selected for a specific open position. I was on the list of nominees but couldn’t think of one single black woman group commander and I felt discouraged about my chances to be selected.

Then I remembered Brigadier General Toreaser A. Steele, who as a Colonel commanded the 737th Training Group at Lackland Air Force Base in San AntonioTexas.

General Steel represented what was possible and gave me the confidence that what I thought was impossible was possible for me!

Inhale Representation, Exhale Rejection…
Inhale Participation, Exhale Exclusion…
Inhale Possibilities, Exhale Limiting Beliefs…
Just Breathe


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Posture of Permission

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” ~ Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, United States Navy.

It recently occurred to me that the concept of “begging forgiveness” versus “asking permission” (something I was exposed to in the Air Force) is a dominant culture posture. The idea of not waiting for anyone else’s approval to do the things required to succeed implies a freedom not usually intentionally afforded to people outside the dominant group.

The freedom to take a risk, to venture in different direction, to escape the control of a dominant group that demands compliance of non-members to rules it doesn’t follow, is a freedom we non-members sometimes don’t even realize we are missing…

“And those virtues preached but not practiced by the white world were merely another means of holding Negroes in subjection.” ~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Inhale Entitled to, Exhale Withholding of…
Inhale Implied Permission, Exhale Automatic Prohibition…
Inhale Freedom for All, Exhale Selective Control…
Just Breathe


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The Sunken Place

The Oscar nominated film “Get Out” would not have been made if its Oscar nominated director, Jordan Peele, had limited himself to what he thought he was allowed to do.

Peele believed that black people did not direct films because that was the reality he experienced and so assumed that activity was not available to him. His limiting beliefs influenced his decision to leave his “dream of being a director.” *

In his own words, Peele had internalized what the dominant culture told him was available to him as a black man in American. He internalized as reality that his dream was reserved primarily for white males.

Peele did what many non-dominant group members do … something else.

This is the “sunken place” of unrealized, unheard, unseen dreams.

Thankfully, like his film’s hero, he didn’t stay there.

“Please remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear.” ~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Inhale Limitless, Exhale Unrealized…
Inhale Authentic, Exhale Unheard…
Inhale Free, Exhale Unseen…
Just Breathe


* LA Times interview with Jen Yamato,  Jan 23, 2018.

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Dominant Impact

The permissions granted to white Americans but denied to America’s citizens of color have created a sense of entitlement among the former and often sucked the hope of life from the latter.

A European, middle-class, “Christian” culture dominating all social constructs in this country has given white males in particular the confidence to act on whatever good or evil impulse they have.

Black Americans, on the other hand, frequently withhold permissions from themselves and their children to take life-affirming actions because of a sometimes imagined but often real risk of life-altering consequences.

… the fear he hears in the voices of his elders is…another fear, a fear that the child, in challenging the white world’s assumptions, was putting himself in the path of destruction.” ~ James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Inhale Integration, Exhale Assimilation…
Inhale Acculturation, Exhale Compliance…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Control…
Just Breathe


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Irony Deficient: Part 4

Whether looking for opportunity or looking to escape oppression, immigrants have believed in the idea of America even as America becomes less welcoming. But it is not the opening of America that will deplete us. It is the isolating, the narrowing, the closing of America and the building of walls to keep those we fear out…that’s what will drain us.

The irony is those who would make America great want to shut and bolt the door.

Inhale Openness, Exhale Persecution…
Inhale Opportunity, Exhale Oppression…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe


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Irony Deficient: Part 3

Each wave of immigrants to this country has been “othered” by the entrenched immigrants already here. Every group fighting for equality and authenticity has been “othered” by those who have won their battles. How ironic that once our own “tribe” achieves recognition, we don’t support the struggles of others to enjoy the full rights and privileges of being Americans.

“..belonging and inclusion [is] the only sustainable solution to the problem of othering.” ~ john a. powell and Stephen Menendian, Inclusiveness and Belonging

Inhale Welcoming, Exhale “Othering”…
Inhale Belonging, Exhale Excluding…
Inhale Including, Exhale Hostility…
Just Breathe


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American Rights

I spent the entirety of my last visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the art gallery on the 4th level. The relentless nature of racism so palpable throughout the museum is present in this space as the catalyst for uniquely American art.

The piece that haunted me, “Increase Risk with Emotional Faith” by Kevin Cole, looks innocuous enough: wide, colorful ties intertwined in a haphazard even whimsical fashion. But the chilling inspiration for the piece was the artist’s grandfather’s story of a lynching tree in Tarry, Arkansas and the memories of black men, lynched for trying to vote, their ties wrapped around the noose as a warning to other black men.

Especially in the states of the confederacy, people of color fought and died for the right to vote in this country. I pray it’s a right we take advantage of before it is lost to all Americans.

“You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens…so pay attention and vote.” ~ President Barack Obama

Inhale Commitment, Exhale Complacency…
Inhale Vigilance, Exhale Complacency…
Inhale Action, Exhale Complacency…
Just Breathe

Reflections with Renita

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Melting Pot…?

I watched some of the PBS series on Italian Americans last weekend, and I was struck most by the fear this new group of immigrants generated in the European Americans who were already established in this country. Like the Irish who had come earlier in the century, Italian Americans faced negative stereotyping, discrimination and violence.

I was reminded that the struggle to live up to the ideals of our founding has existed since America came to exist. I was also reminded that the achievement of ‘whiteness” available to these groups seems to have robbed them of their collective memories of prejudice and distrust experienced by their ancestors.

If they remembered, would that change their attitudes?

“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” ~ Coretta Scott King

Inhale Acceptance, Exhale Abhorrence …
Inhale Immigration, Exhale Marginalization…
Inhale Humanity, Exhale Antipathy…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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American Complicity

I suspect the one third of Americans who still approve of #45 is the same one third who frequently invite the one third they’ve identified as the “others” to just leave America. Or if they stay, to be denied full access to citizenship, preferably while serving time or detained in an ICE center….and servicing the government for free. OR be exterminated.

And if the remaining one third is disengaged, that could happen.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” ~ Haile Selassie

Inhale Engagement, Exhale Indifference…
Inhale Speaking, Exhale Silence…
Inhale Action, Exhale Complicity…
Just Breathe

Reflections With Renita

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