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.” Merriam-Webster.com

#AmericanExperiment

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The Safe Zone

If you’re moving forward but not experiencing a little fear, maybe you’re staying in the safe zone, the no fear zone…maybe you’re not risking enough.

Or maybe, instead of actually moving forward, you’re moving in circles, stuck in the same place, in the safe place.

You don’t have to expect fear on your way to purpose, but you have to recognize when you are experiencing fear so fear doesn’t stop you.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“…once we discover [what we are called to do] we should set out to do it with all of the strength and all of the power that we have in our systems.” ~

Martin Luther King, The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life, a sermon delivered at New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago on April 9, 1967.

 

Inhale Risk, Exhale Resistance…
Inhale Fear, Exhale Inaction…
Inhale Possibilities, Exhale Stagnation…
Just Breathe

#Fear
#JustBreathe

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Faithful

There have been many words written to describe the characteristics of Alabama QB Jalen Hurts over the last year. Resilient. Patient. Humble. I’ve written a couple of times about his commitment. But after actually hearing Jalen share his OWN narrative about his journey since being replaced midway during the 2018 National Championship game, I think the word that best describes him is Faithful.

The faith to realize there is a Divine order to his life.
The faith to recognize the experience he’s having is the experience he needs.
The faith to rest in the present as his story unfolds in accordance with God’s unlimited vision for his life.

Voted Most Inspirational by his teammates AFTER losing his starting job, Jalen has never lost his faith.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34, MSG

Inhale Faith, Exhale Anxiety…
Inhale Focus, Exhale Worry…
Inhale Foundation, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#Faith
#JustBreathe

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Wisdom

Many people reach a point in their lives when what others think just doesn’t matter. Some reach that point earlier; we call those people free thinkers. Those who achieve that freedom of thought later in life are deemed wise.

I’m working on my freedom.

“What other people think of you is not your business.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Inhale Freedom, Exhale Others’ Opinions…
Inhale Wisdom, Exhale Constraints…
Inhale Purpose, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
#Wisdom

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Bring It!

Last week, yet another person I know had their book published. There was no reason for me to know he was working on anything…it was an exciting surprise! And another nudge to finish what I’ve started.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Gospel of Thomas

Inhale Forward, Exhale Failure…
Inhale Fulfillment, Exhale Unfilled…
Inhale Finish, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

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Picture of Hate

When I see pictures of people being actively racist, I am always amazed at how the negative energy is reflected in their faces.

I wonder why they can’t see the toll hatred is taking on their very physicality.
I wonder how they continuously deny the impact of their actions on their psyche.
I wonder how their purpose has been thwarted … perverted.
I wonder what they could be doing if they overcame their fear.

“Hate, when left unchecked, will drain your spirit, tarnish your soul and darken your days.” ~ Dr. John H. Sklare

Inhale Physical Health, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Healthy Psyche, Exhale Hate…
Inhale Purpose, Exhale Perversion…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
#Hate

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Just Breathe…

Iyanla Vanzant used “Inhale, Exhale” in a tweet and I created an entire story around why I would no longer be able to use the phrase …

I talked myself off the edge by taking some deep breaths…and remembering that using our breath to create a sense of calm is as old as breathing, and yet it might still be new to the people I’m called to share it with.

And that “Just Breathe” is my God-given gift to act on regardless of what others might be doing.

“What God has for me, it is for me…” Lyrics by Joy Lavonne Brown Cooper

Inhale God’s Promises, Exhale Panic…
Inhale Faith, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Deeply, Exhale Slowly…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe
#Fear

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Rooted in Fear

At the root of all of the reasons you’re not doing what you need to do is fear …
Fear that someone will say no.
Fear that the people currently in your life will no longer be in your life.
Fear that someone will feel inconvenienced or disappointed and the relationship will be damaged.
Fear that those you expect assistance from won’t offer it.
Fear that you will build it and they won’t come.
Fear that pursuing your dreams won’t sustain you.

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Inhale Action, Exhale Inertia…
Inhale Assured, Exhale Doubtful…
Inhale Achievement, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

Image by Stephan Keller, Pixabay

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Distractions…

I am within my self-imposed time frame for organizing my first book. Why do I keep finding other things to do?

“Procrastination is the enemy of progress.” ~ Francisco Alvarez

Inhale Dream, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Do It Now, Exhale Procrastination…
Inhale Purpose, Exhale Perfection…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

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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

#JustBreathe

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