The Return Home Part 1: To Be Eight Years Old Again

My Dear Readers,

I find myself standing once again at the crossroads.   After 53 years of holding onto my “inner child,” I am finally able to gather the resilience to let him go home.

To provide context: I was born in Harlem, New York, into a military family.  I spent my childhood and adolescence growing up on military bases throughout the United States as well as in foreign countries.

Along the way, one of the postings led to me spending a part of my childhood in living in Virginia.  I was 8 years old at the time, and these were the formative and developmental years of my youth—just one of the reasons why I consider myself to be a “southerner,” even though I was born in the North.

In Virginia, I became a child of segregation.  Because I was “colored,” I was bused to a “colored school” for elementary aged children.  All of our teachers and our principal were colored, so I imagined that the “colored school” was no different from any other school.

As in other schools, we played at recess, learned our lessons in class and when we were out of line, we were disciplined.   I remember my first year in school as being one of safety, security and positive self-esteem.

On the military base, I often wondered why the white kids went to a separate school that was located 10 minutes away while I was bused 35 miles away, but despite my curiosity, I did what I was told to do and did so without question.

When I turned 8 years old, my world was turned upside down when my parents told me I would be going to a white school for the coming school year.  I wasn’t told why I had to leave my school, but I did what I was told.  In talking with other kids, I heard them say a word that was new to me, “integration”.

So off to school I went.  I left behind my teacher, my classmates and friends.  I was sad, but the good thing was that the bus rides to and from school were shorter.  Like the white kids, my bus ride was now 15 minutes.

And that was how it began: 15 minutes sitting in silence riding a bus to a new school, with strangers who acted as if I was invisible.  For the next two years I would continue to be invisible to them.  I realized later on that integration actually meant meant being one of the two token “colored” kids in an all white classroom, and the isolation that comes with it.

When I reflect on those times, I vividly recall two emotions: shame and humiliation.   My classmates never allowed me to forget that I was a descendent of slaves.  My new white teacher would talk fondly of the “good old days” where she played Missy with the “pick-a-ninnys” who were her maids and servants.

I still feel the horror I felt the day that my teacher called me to her desk, stating that she had heard I did not know my alphabet.  She then directed me to stand in front of the class and recite the alphabet.  Frightened, humiliated and ashamed, I stood there and sang my ABCs, pronouncing clearly and cleanly from A to Z, and afterwards, like her little dog, I received a pat on the head as she led the class in applause for my display of brilliance in intellectual showmanship. The other colored kid, Nathaniel, closed his eyes and bowed his head.  He never said a single word to me from that day on.

I went home that day and never said a word to my parents.  Not one word.

Why didn’t I speak up then?

Because, as the pastor told us, “we were Christian soldiers.”  It was our duty to go to war against segregation. Psychological warfare.  Isolation.  Daily acts of embarrassment and humiliation.   Field trips to plantations and to Williamsburg where it was gleefully pointed out to us that slave laws and codes were enacted and enforced.

Two years into the war against segregation, more sacrifices and new soldiers were required.   Many of us left the battlefields emotionally wounded and psychologically scarred.  Simply put, the “children of segregation” were used as “cannon fodder.”  Cannon fodder is defined as:

“a informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded as expendable in the face of enemy fire.  The term is generally used in situations where combatants are forced to deliberately to fight against hopeless odds with the foreknowledge that they will suffer extremely high casualties in an effect to achieve a strategic goal.”

Specifically, the leaders of the African-American community (local, state and national) used the “children of segregation” as cannon fodder to achieve the strategic goal of racial integration of public schools throughout the southern United States. This goal and the importance of using this generation of children were clearly sold to parents as the best chance for a quality public education for their children.

Our parents, knowing what was “best,” willingly gave us to the cause. And, the children did as we were instructed to do.  However, neither our parents nor our community or pastoral leadership provided us with the resources we would need to deal with our emotional wounds, such as counseling or therapy.  In those days, just as it is today, the disclosure of internal secrets and feelings in counseling and therapy was taboo.

So, we did then as we do today…we suffered in silence.

Why speak up now?

Because we need not suffer in silence any longer.   The “children of segregation” can choose to let go of their pain and suffering.  We have done our duty for our community, now it is time for the children of segregation to reach out and embrace the self.

For me specifically, it is time for me to let the 8-year-old me and the things that I experienced go.  It is time to let that version of me go and do what normal 8 year olds do: go out and play.  I have carried him all of these 53 years, and I will carry him no longer.  He is welcome to visit in my memories, and I will embrace him. However, he cannot stay.  To him I say, “go out and play.”

It is for the 61 year old me to continue my journey of self-discovery.   What will it benefit me to go back?  53 years after the fact, there is no going back.  I am returning.  It is time to place the past where it belongs.  I will return to my old colored school and the one that I integrated.  I will walk the old legislative halls of Williamsburg.  I will proclaim what is now my truth: that I am no longer enslaved to the past.  I am free.

Stay tuned…

Standing at the crossroads,

Dr. Micheal Kane

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A Parent’s Discomfort: Sexual Curiosity & The Internet

My Dear Readers,

      Sometimes we as parents become overwhelmed and conflicted regarding the actions of our children.  Our children may engage in behaviors that seem obviously inappropriate to us as adults, but are clearly okay with members of their generation.

      What can be even more confusing is that the behavior in question may also be clinically appropriate, given the level of emotional development, and yet may seem inappropriate, illegal or distasteful when viewed through the eyes of the observing parent, who may be influenced by religious and cultural mores, or who is of a different generation.

Below is such a story…..

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Dear Visible Man,

I am an African-American woman with two children. My friends know that I am a strong believer in setting guidelines and boundaries for my children.  I am proud to say that my daughter has completed her high school education and she is now attending college on the east coast, and my son, who is 14 years old still lives with me and is also doing well.

Recently, I received a telephone call from a childhood friend who was delighted in telling me about her shock and dismay upon reviewing my son’s Facebook page.  I trust my son, so I do not review his page as I am confident that he will behave appropriately online.

My childhood friend then informed me of the videos my son had been sharing on his timeline with friends and peers.  I was shocked to see live video recordings of women and men performing and engaging in acts of masturbation, oral sex and sexual intercourse.

My son will soon will be returning from his summer vacation visiting with relatives.  To be honest, I’ve had visions of choking the daylights out of him.  I plan on punishing him by barring him from Facebook, and taking his cell phone away for the next six months. I am so embarrassed.

I have spoken to his father about this.  Although he was upset about the sharing of the videos with others, he was mild in his response to our son watching the videos.  I am upset with my husband because we are not on the same page.

What can I do to teach him the error in what he has done?  As a 14 year old, I do not believe that he is ready for such displays of sexual behaviors.

I am angry as hell.  It is one thing to be exposed to this filth when he is an adult; it is unacceptable for him to see this at the age of being a child.  What can I do?

Breathing Fire in Seattle, WA

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Dear Madam,

Before you talk to your son, let’s work on your own anger. Processing this within yourself will extinguish the fire, and allow you to have a more productive conversation with your son.  Ask yourself what do you want your son to listen to?

  • The fire-breathing parent who is shouting and screaming madness, threatening to choke the living daylights out of him? Or…
  • The parent who can be the advocate (A) in the parenting role, balanced (B) in mindfulness and show calmness (C) in her delivery?

With #1, your son may see an upset parent, but what he would be hearing is the volume and tonal quality of someone who has gone berserk.  With #2, there is an improved chance or likelihood that your son would be listening to what you are saying.  With #1 there is a higher chance of sound passing through one ear and going out the other, whereas with #2, there is a greater opportunity for him to actually receive the intended message.

The major question is this: do you want your son to hear and see your reactions or do you want to share with him your response?  As I begin to answer your questions this is your opportunity to take in the Five R’s of RELIEF and in by doing to take a breath (respite), own your feelings (reactions), process thoughts and feelings (reflective), share your words (response) and review the incident and actions taken (reevaluation).

It is possible that your friend may have meant well by alerting you to your son’s actions.  However, it is also possible that she may have a hidden agenda associated with a competitive relationship between the two of you, or her own issues with your successes as a parent. Either way, your son is the main focus here. Your friend has merely exposed herself as taking pleasure in your misfortune, and as not really being a friend to you.

Let’s look at your son’s actions.  Although you may view him as being  “your child,” it is now time for you to begin the process of accepting the fact that he is now 14 years old, and is moving into the stage of adolescence.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Is it natural that a person of his age would have sexual feelings and explore them?
  • As a parent, what should I expect from an adolescent moving through these developmental stages?
  • How do I talk to him about his sexual feelings? How do I talk with him about the explicit sexual acts in those videos?

As your son is moving through this developmental stage, the question becomes whether it is appropriate for him to explore his sexual feelings.   Regardless of the religious, family or cultural values that the parent may have, it is actually clinically appropriate that individuals of this age level, regardless of their gender, engage in the exploration of their sexual feelings.

As a result, you find yourself in the position of punishing your son for engaging in appropriate behavior (sexual exploration) in an inappropriate manner (sharing pornographic videos over the internet with friends.) But, before you do that, have the willingness to ask yourself the following:

  • Am I punishing him for doing the right thing in the wrong manner?
  • Was he really wrong? And if so, what exactly was the wrong that he did?
  • What if he wasn’t wrong? What if this is really just my own value judgment on what happened?

Rather than focus on “punishment,” I recommend that you focus on “consequences” Punishment for a behavior that is actually normal, particularly at this developmental stage, may send a confusing message to your child.    Focusing on communicating the consequences of sharing pornographic materials over the Internet, which is a violation of federal and state law, may be more effective in getting your point across to your child.

Regarding feeling embarrassed, being angry at your child and angry that your husband is not as angry as you are, have the willingness to ask yourself the following:

  • I did not commit the behavior, so why am I embarrassed? How do my feelings of embarrassment impact my ability to discuss this important issue with my son?
  • Am I allowing my anger to get in the way of sharing my concerns with my son?
  • What is the real reason that I am angry with my husband? Is it because he is not as angry as I am or that he doesn’t share my embarrassment?

While you are reflecting, remember your son’s actions are about him, and not about you. When speaking to your son, your focus must be clearly upon him.  Any attempt by you to address your feelings will only succeed in removing the focus from him and precluding him from understanding the dire consequences of his behavior.

Concluding Words

Madam,

I hope that this response is helping you to reevaluate how you want to handle this situation with your son.  As you move forward, it remains your responsibility to be actively involved in your son’s Internet viewing and usage of social media as much as you are with other aspects of his life.   Your son is 14 years old.  He is curious, becoming aware of his own sexual thoughts and development.  Even given your excellent parenting skills and safeguards, your son will be engaging in behavior that may feel socially inappropriate, but is absolutely appropriate for his level of emotional development.

As for consequences (not punishment), I recommend that you, your spouse and your son sit together and review the same video he was observing.   Following the review, have the willingness to engage in dialogue that is meaningful and constructive.

This may be difficult for you. In fact, it most likely will be.  However, it will be even more difficult for your son to sit with his parents and be questioned about his actions and behavior.  Still, make sure that you focus on the key concerns:

  • What are legal, professional, and other consequences that could occur from sharing pornographic information over the Internet?
  • Understanding that his peers gossip, how will this impact his relationships in school?
  • Affirm that his sexual feelings are appropriate and can be expressed privately with friends and not in public settings as the Internet.
  • Explore your cultural, religious or family’s values regarding sexuality and sexual feelings.

Finally, consider the following:

  • Maintain clear eye to eye contact
  • Express your feelings with concern and love
  • Listen to your tone and sound of your voice
  • And remember this is really about him and not about you.

Yes, the encounter may be difficult, but it can also be rewarding, as long as the three of you allow yourselves to be:

  • Vulnerable-the willingness to come and sit together during difficult times
  • Exposed– the willingness to let the others know what truly lies within
  • Trust-the willingness to walk together without judgment.

The Visible Man

In Our Children’s World: Monsters Do Feast At Night

My Dear Readers,

We live in an era where marriage and divorce often walk together hand in hand.  We accept the notion that adults have the right of self-determination.  If the marriage isn’t working and is irreconcilable, then move on.  Right?

But what about the children?

The denial, rejection, and abandonment of a child by a parent is already devastating. It’s even worse when that parent leaves without a word and later tells the child by text message, “My door is always open to you.”

When a parent denies, rejects and abandons a child, the remaining parent is left to answer the difficult question of “why”?  Whatever answer given is usually not enough and often leads the children to blame the one party that is the most vulnerable at this time: themselves.

In the midst of juggling the family’s financial responsibilities and struggling to protect the children from the growing self-doubt and self-hate, how does the remaining parent find the answer to these questions?  How do they continue to communicate truthfully without further hurting the children?

Below is such a story.

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Dear Visible Man,

I have no idea what to do about the trifling, no good, piece of crap of a man that is the father of my two children.

He has been court ordered to see his children, but he refuses to do so.  He refuses to pay child support.  He doesn’t acknowledge them on their birthdays.  He didn’t attend or even acknowledge our oldest son’ s graduation from middle school.

On this past Father’s Day, my oldest son texted him to wish him a good one, but his father waited two days to reply with a terse “thanks.” What kind of man does that to his children?

This is extremely difficult for my oldest son.  He was once very close to his father and now is dealing with the fact that his father has pushed him away with no explanation.

My son is very private about his pain, but I see the tears swelling in his eyes.  I know he is angry.  I was actually surprised that he reached out to him on Father’s Day.  I was surprised again when a little while later, he sent my son a text message stating, “Hope you are having a great summer. My door is always open to you.”  What the hell?

What does he mean by “My door is always open to you?”  Why would a father say something so meaningless to his son?  Why?  I just don’t understand why.

I cannot believe that I married this loser, this piece of crap.  Was he always this way?  Did I miss seeing this side of him when we were together?  Now, due to my error in judgment, my children are suffering.

He should contact the children and apologize for he has done.  I am done with this fool.  I will do what I can for the sake of my children.

Damn Tired, Lynnwood, WA

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Dear Damn Tired,

In all honesty, you seek to provide your children with something that you have no control over.

If the father does not respond to a judicial order, and lacks the internal willingness to provide emotional support to his children, then it is time to accept the reality that his actions are showing you.

I have strong reservations for your descriptions of the children’s father.  In your description there were terms such as “trifling, loser, piece of crap, and fool.”  Understanding that you are extremely angry with the children’s father regarding his actions (or lack thereof), I must remind you that the way you refer to the children’s father are just as as unfitting and unacceptable as his behavior.

My grandmother told me many years ago that just because a bee stings you doesn’t mean you have to sting back.  Rather, apply salve to the area and allow the wound to heal. I urge you to remember that the person you have described with such contempt is the father of your two sons, who are truly blessings. I want to caution you to be aware of what you say or how you express your feelings about their father around them.

Be aware that your sons are listening and internalizing your words every time you speak negatively of their father.  Children take what they hear to heart, especially when it comes from a trusted source like a parent.

How many times did you tell them that they were just like their father when times were good? Did they react positively or with pride?

In light of your current comments, consider the type of messages your sons may be receiving now, and the questions they may be asking their psychological selves.

  • “If my father is a piece of crap, trifling and a fool, what does that say about me?”
  • “Does my mother feel the same way about me?”

I want to understand your frustration at the obvious pain that your children are experiencing.  However, you must focus on what you can do to reduce their pain, and how to get their father more involved in their lives.

What can you do to stop their pain completely? Nothing. There is nothing you or anyone else can do to stop the emotional pain and suffering that has resulted from past and current experiences.  Focus instead on providing assistance.

Utilizing the following strategy of “openness” one can do this: provide availability, access, and acceptance.

  • Availability-be open and receptive to your children’s verbal and nonverbal expression of feelings
  • Access-encourage vulnerability and exposure of the emotional wound.
  • Acceptance-work towards acceptance of the pain that is associated with emotional wounding.

Remember, you are the “trusted source” for the children.  Rejection by a parent can be devastating.  The openness of the remaining parent is key in allowing the children a source or route to express the enduring pain and serves as a key way to heal the emotional pain.

How do you get their father to be involved in their lives? Stop and listen to what you are saying.  Your words reflect and reinforce the pain of your children.   Consider that you are attempting to force him to do something he must want to do, which is to be a responsible parent.  His current behavior clearly indicates that he has no intention of doing so. Your children don’t need you to point this out to them.

Again, utilizing the strategy of openness, consider the following:

  • Availability-remain open to communicating with the father as to the welfare and activities of his children
  • Access– always seek ways for the father to have access to his children
  • Acceptance-Be willing to “receive” the actions and behaviors of the father, whatever they may be. Remember, the willingness to receive is not an acknowledgment of “agreement.”

Remember not to place yourself in the position in which the children blame YOU for the inability to interact with their father.  Maintain a written journal detailing your actions in the event that your children question you as to what role you may have played in the absence of their father.

What do you tell your children? Simply tell your children the truth.  You can do this, and do it in a way that they can understand.

It’s going to be a bumpy road, no doubt.  Again, utilizing the strategy of openness, consider the following:

  • Availability-provide all the information that you know to your children. Maintain your composure, and provide clear and truthful answers to difficult questions
  • Access-provide an avenue in which the children can communicate directly to their father if they so choose.
  • Acceptance-utilizing the vulnerability, exposure and trust that “empowers” the relationship between you and your children, become their guide and companion as they walk this difficult portion of the journey.

Remember, allow your children to observe and witness the actions and behaviors of their father on their own.  It can be of greater harm to attempt to protect them from the truth.

Concluding Words

Damn Tired,

In closing, I want to respond to several comments that you raised.  You questioned whether he was  always this way and whether you had missed something.  The answer is yes, this is the man that you married.

As we experience the journey called life and we grow older, we change.  One thing that is beyond our control is the changes that occur within another.  What we can do is to work towards understanding and acceptance.

You would be fooling yourself and creating additional difficulties for your children if you attempted to distract them, kept them from the truth, and attempted to make everything “nice.” Because of the father’s inconsistencies, they are vulnerable and exposed to being traumatized.

In your children’s world, bad things happen and monsters do feast in the night.  As a parent, you cannot control their environment or protect them from their internalized feelings.  However you can do the following:

  • Assist them to navigate trouble and unsafe environments, particularly their internalized feelings.
  • Become a safe harbor for them to anchor for short respites during hard times.
  • Stick to the truth.
  • Frame the story in a language that they can understand.

I also disagree with your comment,

“He should contact the children and apologize for he has done.”

This insinuates that he has wronged his children.  That may be so, but that is still your opinion, not his, or more importantly, that of your children.  Let his actions speak for him.  Allow the children to see and listen to what he is saying as well as “not saying.”

Also, allow your children to receive his comments of “my door is always open to you” as a gift.  Let’s call it the “Gift of Exposure.”  In this gift, their father truly exposes his true self  to his children and shows them exactly what they can expect from him.

Misery is a walk which is best taken alone.  Let the father take this journey alone.  One day he may regret his actions.  His actions speak for themselves.

It is a false belief that “time heals emotional wounds.”   Time is merely what it is, time.  It is the work that one does, utilizing time that heals the wounds.

The Visible Man

Waiting And Watching: Carrying the Weight of Family Members

My Dear Readers,

     There are times when, in seeking to fulfill the wishes of our beloved parents, that we make the error of “sacrificing the self” and playing the role of savior in seeking to carry others. Instead of carrying the weight of others, however, we must seek to have balance and in doing so carry your own weight and advocate for the self.

Below is such a story…

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Dear Visible Man,

After 40 years of work, my mother is about to retire from her job. She covers it well, but I know that she is depressed, because the retirement is not really a voluntary one. She is being forced out, and I am concerned with how she is responding to it.

My father, her husband of 42 years, died five years ago. Following his death, it seemed that the job was all she had to hold on to. I know she has decided to not marry again, although I know that she does not like spending time alone.

When my father was alive, they were inseparable. It was normal to see them constantly together, laughing and being playful with each other.   Now that he is gone, she just sits at home watching television.

My older sister, who is 33, also resides with our mother, along with her 4 year old son. My sister is a carefree soul who often runs the streets and parties with her friends into the night, leaving our mother alone to babysit her son.

As a result of her upcoming retirement, I am concerned that my sister will now view our mother as a free childcare service. I have raised the issue to my sister and mother, but my concerns seem to fall on deaf ears.

My sister tells me to butt out and mind my own business, since I do not live in the house.   I think that my sister, who isn’t paying rent or otherwise financially contributing to the household, is taking advantage of my mother.  I can tell that my mother is resentful of the situation, but has chosen to remain silent.   I know that if my father was alive, he would not have tolerated this behavior.

Although my sister is the oldest, has a graduate degree and subs as a teacher, my father set it up for me to be the executors of their estates prior to his death.

I too am a college graduate, but I have chosen a different path. I work, live on my own, as well as paying my bills and debts that I have incurred. I feel weighted down with the responsibility of looking after my mother with little or no help from my sister.

Do you have any suggestions for what I should do? How do I step up to the challenges that lie before me? I do not want to see his legacy wasted. Thanks for listening.

Younger Sister, Stressing Out Seattle, WA

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Dear Younger Sister,

First, I will not tell you what to do. This is your journey in life and as you stand at the crossroads, you and only you can choose your direction. What I can and will do is to assist you by identifying concepts that you may be unaware of or have failed to consider.

Second, I will ask that you reframe your words as you seek to refocus your direction. It is my opinion that or terms such as “stepping up to the challenge” are just as reckless, meaningless and dangerous as “man up”. Such words tear at the fibers of one’s humanness, questioning your concept of yourself and only leaves the individual in doubt.

Instead of “stepping up”, I would encourage you to visualize yourself controlling the sails of a ship. Utilizing the sails, turn into the wind; allow your sails (which represents the self) to catch the power of the wind and empower yourself as you move forward along your Journey of Life.

So, in assessing these issues, let’s look at this in three distinct areas: Mother, Elder Sister (and child) and Younger Sister.

Mother (The one who waits…)

Parents can be excellent role models, but as much as they can be models of outstanding behaviors, they can also examples of who NOT to be.

It is good that your mother is perceptive and can see that it’s time for her to leave her job. Having been there for 40 years, she has spent a considerable part of her life there, including her young adulthood, midlife and now latent life, and given this, it is only natural she would grieve this impending loss.

Being a successful African-American woman in a corporate environment often dominated by conservative male mentality is no minor accomplishment. Your mother has more than “survived,” she has accomplished more than many others. As a result, she can choose “how” she walks out that door. She can walk out defeated, or she can take those last steps with style and confidence as she moves into the future. As she prepares to exit perhaps she may want to ask the following questions:

  • What are the skills and experiences I bring to the next stage of my i.e. retirement?
  • What are the activities I want to do?
  • What are the new challenges that lie before me on the next stage of the Journey of Self Discovery?

There are significant obstacles that lie before her as she begins this journey. One of the major ones, however, is a limit she has placed upon herself—her decision to not remarry.

In your writing you indicated that your mother and father were inseparable over a period of 42 years. In not leaving herself the option of remarrying, I believe she has locked herself into a covenant that may be one sided. Such a one sided covenant can be defined as the following:

“A binding and solemn agreement to do, maintain a doctrine, promise or faith to another person.”

If your mother made such a covenant, it is feasible that in choosing to remain at home alone, she has created a walled in existence for her life in order to follow this agreement. In her eyes, the covenant cannot and must not be broken because the meaning of her life is built upon that covenant.

However, it’s not quite so black and white. Instead of being broken, the covenant can be “renegotiated.” Ask your mother: if she had passed first, would she have wanted your father to remain isolated from the world, not seek companionship, or just wait until she died and joined him again?

Regardless of the answer, only she can change the direction of her life. If she chooses a life of isolation, then that is the limitation of life that she now seeks.   Embrace her and the choices she makes and accept her in her entirety.

Elder Sister (One who watches….)

When it comes to role modeling, elder siblings can be just as impactful as parents. In this situation, let’s use the example of the vulture and a parasite.

Despite its reputation, the vulture has an important role in the natural order of life, which is to feed off the carcasses of the dead and dying. The vulture brings meaning to the beginning and ending of life.

In scientific terms, a parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.  In human terms, a parasite is a person who habitually relies on or exploits others and gives nothing in return.

From your writing, it appears that your elder sister is exploiting a situation where she can live freely without the responsibility of supporting herself or contributing to her mother’s household, and not considering how her behavior is impacting her mother

Your elder sister is selfish. She seeks to fulfill her needs and wants regardless of the psychological impact to her mother of losing a spouse and long-term employment. Your sister may have even convinced herself that she is giving your mother and her son the opportunity to bond while she is out partying in the streets.

Rather than leave questions for elder sister to consider, I would simply say….enjoy! One day the party will come to an end and REALITY will hit her like a lightning bolt. Until then, enjoy!!

Younger Sister (Carrying the Weight)

It is time for you to stand at your crossroads and decide which way to go. Before you, the current road leads to hopelessness. The other direction provides one of optimism, development and growth.

The current road is the simple one and thereby the easier of the two. The obstacles on this road are already known to you.

The other path is more of a challenge. The path is unknown and therefore you will create the road as you move forward. This new path will call upon you to do things that are foreign and uncomfortable. However should you stay the course, in time you will gain from the new path travelled. Specifically,

  • As much as you love your mother, your sister and your nephew, seek to love yourself more.
  • Cease being in the “savior role” for your mother.  This behavior serves only to reinforce what she chooses not to see and only adds to further frustration and resentment.
  • Cease sacrificing your inner self so that others can enjoy themselves.
  • Focus on your life, your joy and your happiness.

Concluding Remarks

Young Woman,

Honor your father. You can do this by simply being or becoming the best you can be. You can do this by “loving me first and in doing so, loving me more.”

You must want to let go and allow your mother to live the live she has chosen.   As she has chosen, so must you. Letting go does not translate to giving up. Should your mother one day seek change in her life, allow her to come to you and request your assistance.

As for your older sister, as my beloved grandmother would say, “muddy water rises to the top”. The murky things one does will have consequences in the future.

Your father was no fool. There was a reason why he appointed you and not your sister as executor of his and your mother’s affairs. You don’t want to see his legacy wasted, and neither did he. Continue to look after that legacy as he asked of you.

As for your sister, when you see her, just smile and say, enjoy!!

 As much as I love you,

I love myself more. 

Loving me more, does not mean

I love you less. 

It only means

I love me more.

More.

The Visible Man

Conceptualizing Respect : A Call For Assistance

My Dear Readers,

      Wow! In last week’s “At The Crossroads” posting, I invited Mia Smith from RevolutionsDaughter.com to respond to my posting The New Basic Skills in America: The 3Rs: Rage, Ravage & Rioting in Ferguson,  and I was taken to the woodshed! That was quite a spanking!

     In her posting Ferguson and the REAL 3R’s: Racism, Reductionism and Revulsion, Mia Smith did a phenomenal job in expressing her viewpoints, garnering 586 views, the highest for a single entry in the history of this blog. 

     The readership and the writings reflect the caliber of responsiveness this blog is seeking to attain.  Although I may not agree with all of her points, Mia’s perspective represents a younger generation that is enthusiastic and willing to not only speak out on the critical issues affecting this nation, but able to accept the reins of leadership that will eventually be passed on by the generation that precedes hers. Please stay tuned.  You will most definitely hear more from Mia and other voices as guest bloggers for Loving Me More.

     In that spirit, I wanted to explore a recent tragedy that illuminates some of Mia’s points and touched me deeply.

     On August 21, 2014, a verbal dispute turned deadly when an individual opened fire with a pistol, killing two employees of a local gas station. It is alleged that the verbal dispute began over the haphazard manner in which the gunman had parked his car as he sought to get gas.  In doing so he had prevented other customers from being able to obtain gas as well.

     There are racial connotations associated with the shooting.  The shooter is black and alleges that he was called racial slurs.  He adds that the “fight” was one over “disrespect”.  Furthermore, the assailant alleges that he was protecting his friend and was forced to shoot the two men.  the Seattle Times:

“Russell, who identified his friend only as “Sac,” said that if he hadn’t shot the men, his friend’s family would have killed him for failing to stand up for him.’”

     It would too easy to dismiss this as “insane” that one individual could be so callous and place such little value on human life. This is more than “just another shooting”. 

     With this in mind, I have invited Mr. Dre Franklin, a community activist and organizer, to help me explore the concept of respect.

My Dear Readers, a note:

     Please keep in mind that the questions and responses shared here are not intended to justify the actions of one individual who took the lives of two innocent others.  It is the intent of this writing to enhance our understanding about respect and disrespect may be conceptualized or perceived by others.

      Dre Franklin was born and raised in Seattle and has been a community/organizer for 10 years. He is the founder and current member of the executive leadership team for Brothers United in Leadership Development (B.U.I.L.D.), a community based grassroots organization focused on the empowerment of young African-American males.

     The mission statement of the organization is “Brothers united in leadership development affecting real change in our community.”  Its vision is “Black men will be self empowered to be leaders and mentors in their community and effect positive change by instituting pride, hope, and perseverance in black men.

KANE: What is your perception of the individual accused of this crime?

FRANKLIN: First of all, I want to be clear that that I am not speaking for any group, community or anyone else.  I am here today expressing my opinion.  With that understanding I perceived that the individual who chose the tragic actions taken might be a person who views himself as being disenfranchised.

When you are dealing with people who are disenfranchised, they want to be seen.  They are overwhelmed by systems and institutions.  Everybody wants to be seen and the only way to get seem sometimes is from negative behavior.

For some this is not negative behavior because this is the way they have been socialized.  So as it is socialization it becomes normalized or specifically, this is the way they view and live their lives.  Let’s talk about being socialized; in being socialized, one is being impacted through the media, institutions, peers, family and one’s social and physical environments.   When all of these various entities impact some individuals, telling them how to act, the occurring behaviors become normalized.

KANE: Where does the concept of disrespect/respect come from?  It can’t just come from the parents, so it seems that it comes from the peers in the street- but then where do they get it?

FRANKLIN: The concept of being disrespected can be viewed in anything in human interaction and behavior.  For example a person can “look” at a person wrong or say the wrong thing.   When a person does not have anything to lose or doesn’t care about himself he is not going to care about anybody else.

It is not only about what disrespect is, it is also the outcome of disrespect.  Basically, what may seem trivial to most maybe a situation of life or death for others.

Some issues of respect may have to more to do with how one is socialized; one is being impacted through the media, institutions, peers, family and one’s social and physical environments and all of these can be passed down intergenerational.

Think to yourself for a few seconds. What does the United States of America do if someone disrespects them (i.e. someone attacks them or a perceived attack)?  They attack back with no remorse. This is one example of how socialization works. People see this and learn that’s how you deal with your problems.

KANE: Why is violence in “the street life” more respected or revered than other qualities of a person such as intelligence and perseverance?

FRANKLIN: I don’t necessary believe that as being true.  A lot of times, the most successful people in the street life are very intelligent and they get respect without having to use violence.   Now there is a difference between respect and fear and sometimes when in the streets, those two concepts i.e. fear and respect can get confused whereas the question becomes one of “do I fear you or do I respect you?”

This is also a learned behavior (police, department of corrections, public schools etc all use fear under the vial of respect). In fact as a black man I always know that I can lose my life from violence if I’m perceived to be disrespectful to any of the above. Losing one’s life does not always mean death.  Losing one’s life can also mean ending up in prison, being mis-educated or existing in life that is addicted to either drugs and/or alcohol. 

 

KANE:  Let us assume that at the root of self-validation is the ability to trust oneself, and to trust the opinions you hold for your life are right for you.  At what point do these young men trade their own opinion for those of gangs and the streets?  Specifically how can this be applied in the recent shooting of the two unarmed men at the gas station?

FRANKLIN: The real answer comes from how one feels about him versus the normalization of caring what others think about us.  In the gas station shooting it may have been he felt he had been disrespected and he was fearful that if he allowed himself to be disrespected, his peers would harm him in some way. Although, there is no clear statement or indication of this is true, as it is his perception, it also becomes his reality. When you’re told that black men react a certain way over and over and over again along with you responding the way you have been trained to do then you have been effectively socialized. 

KANE: What can the older generation of black people (men and women) do to increase the ability of young people to trust themselves over the opinions of the crowds they run with?

FRANKLIN: A lot of the behaviors being enacted is “learned behavior,” the older generation has not done well in working together as in “community.”  Furthermore they must stop being fearful of the younger generation who are in reality, their children, grandchildren or the young adolescent next door. 

As one observes the infrastructure of most black communities, we are a community of consumers, having minimal ownership or economic power.  The older generation has to do better in expanding economic development as well as opportunities for its young people.

Regarding political, economic or family leadership, the older generation has failed in “succession planning” or preparing to pass the mandate of leadership to the younger generation.

The older generation must want to readdress their priorities such as the current focus on materialism and replanting their focus on the investing in their young’s persons’ lives i.e. time, education, parenting and financial.

Finally, the older generation must want to take ownership of their failures, instead of blaming such failures on their young people.  For example, 70% of African-American households do not have an adult male figure involved.  This statistic although having overwhelming implications for young people, simply cannot put forth to rest on the shoulders of the younger generation.  The older generation must want to accept ownership and in doing so work towards change.

Understanding we all have been socialized to not work together and to point the finger at each other instead of uplifting one another (this holds true for every generation).

KANE: How can the community increase the sense of security for these young men?  How can these young men work to where they do not resort to violence against each other?

FRANKLIN: If the older generation within the African-American community is willing to do begin the process of what I suggested in my previous response, they would be able to assist these young men from initially self destructive behavior which includes violence, mis-education, incarceration, destructive interpersonal and martial relationships as well as self abuse i.e. self medicating via drugs and alcohol. We have to come together as a community not as a program or a workshop!

KANE:  What can the older generation do to assist the younger generation in building self-esteem, ownership, and a sense of pride and accountability?

FRANKLIN: I would return to my earlier response that being the older generation must want to stop being fearful of the younger generation.  This would mean developing dialogue and interactions in those such as “youth on the streets” who they perceived as not being safe. Have real life and manfully relationships with our youth don’t just do it when you’re being paid as part of your job or at a once a year event. The youth know when it is real and when it’s not!

It takes all of us to see and make the change we want.  It is not a “we versus them”.  If any part of our community is failing then we are all failing.

 

Concluding Words

     The words of Mr. Franklin have given me a lot to process.   As I reflect on this tragedy, I am aware of the impact it has had on a range of people throughout the immediate area and around the nation.  Many of us are left with many questions.

     Although the dialogue with Mr. Franklin can provide the readers and myself a glimpse into the concepts of respect, disrespect and its impact on those who may perceived themselves as being disenfranchised, there can be no justification for the actions taken. 

     Respect?  Disrespect?  There are allegations that racial slurs were thrown at the shooter.  If true, then such behaviors are inexcusable for which a proper remedy can be sought.   If we are to pride ourselves as a moral and just society with high spiritual values then we must want to honor one of God’s most sacred commandants; “Thou shall not kill.”

      The shooter stood “at the crossroads,” and chose a path that will forever impact not only his life and the lives of others.   It is truly unfortunate that he chose death over life.  He could have walked away.  He could have let it go.  However, he would say he could not do so and therefore as a society and community we all mourn the losses.

In reviewing the Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life, there is the following: 

“A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue with direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.”

    A huge gulf still exists between the older and younger generation within the African-American community. It is clearly evident that there is work within our community to do, assuming we want this to change.

      In closure, Mr. Franklin leaves the following words that deserve the workings of the Five R’s of Relief (respite, reaction, reflection, response and reevaluation):

“If the young generation can’t see tomorrow, they won’t much care about what happens today.”      

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues.