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.”


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



The fear that stops us doesn’t have to be about something big or super scary…sometimes we’re just afraid of offending or having a conversation that could turn into a confrontation.

I assumed a non-response to a follow up email about swapping a class with another instructor meant the answer was NO. In fact, the non-response was because the instructor did not see my follow up; I found out later, she had anticipated and planned for the swap but forgot to communicate with me.

A simple follow up text or phone call on my part could have yielded the answer I wanted, saved me some energy and allowed me to do what I wanted and needed to do.

I didn’t challenge the assumption so I didn’t get to do what I wanted. I have only myself to blame.

Inhale Affirmation, Exhale Assumption…
Inhale Surety, Exhale Speculation…
Inhale Confidence, Exhale Conjecture…
Just Breathe


The B.R.A.K.E.S.

brake: a device for slowing or stopping a vehicle or other moving mechanism by the absorption or transfer of the energy of momentum, usually by means of friction.

I do a workshop called “Release the B.R.A.K.E.S.” which is about all the fear-based beliefs, assumptions, expectations etc. we have that slow us down or even stop us. And even though I understand how the B.R.A.K.E.S. work, it doesn’t mean I’m immune to the negative impact of applying and allowing the B.RA.K.E.S. to stop me from doing the things I want to do.

So I have vowed to challenge everything that gets in my way this year! You have been warned!

“Fear gets its power from our not looking, at either the fear or what we’re afraid of.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Inhale Exploration, Exhale Exact Expectations…
Inhale Confrontation, Exhale Fake Reality…
Inhale Challenge, Exhale Limiting Beliefs…
Just Breathe


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…


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


Image by Stephan Keller, Pixabay

Nightmare Life

I once tried to create a life based on a choice made out of fear…and my life became a nightmare.

I decided I would not do that again.

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” ~ Les Brown

Inhale Truth, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Difficulty, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Vulnerability, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe


Image by Angela Yuriko Smith, Pixabay

Paralyzed by Fear

We can often clearly see fear paralyze those closest to us. We see them stuck in situations, in sickness, in sorrow…in what they perceive as safety because they are afraid to move toward the unknown.

As difficult as it is to watch, we can’t free others from their fear.

Freedom from fear is an inside job.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 NIV

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


Image by Varun Kulkarni, Pixabay


Projection of our fears onto someone else or even into the future usually leads to fear-based decisions. We “what if” our way out of focus, make decisions with our blurred vision and wonder how it all went wrong.

The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.” God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?” “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” Genesis 3: 12-13

Inhale Real, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Reality, Exhale Projection…
Inhale Right Now, Exhale “What If”…
Just Breathe


No Fear

Isn’t it interesting how fearful we get the minute we attract exactly the experience we say we want? We start to doubt it, question it, wonder why we’re actually experiencing what we’re experiencing and how on earth we’re going to keep it experiencing it.

Or … is that just me? Okay… deep breaths…

Let us realize that engagement and detachment aren’t opposite-the more engaged we become, the more detached we will have to be…” ~ Deepak Chopra

Inhale Vulnerability, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Risk, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Engagement, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe


Image by Silvia & Frank, Pixabay