I Was Looking For Me; I Found Black

Towards the end of 2013, I decided that the time for lackadaisical living was over. I could walk the circle of methodical procrastination for the rest of my life, having gained all of the knowledge available and not an ounce of wisdom to go with it. What good is knowing better and not doing better? I thought about the progress I should have made with the guidance that I had been provided throughout my life; the results were inexcusable. Not judging by materialism and not saying that I’m some kind of villain, but when I stripped myself of excuses and thought about potential, no one would be to blame for any regrets but me alone.

Before 2014 started, I had already determined that by the end of that year, I would have a more clearcut outline of my life, my purpose and would begin to take strides to get there. I didn’t realize that what I had set out on was a search for self. I just wanted to cut ties with the unnecessaries and move forward with the necessities. Some were easy; some weren’t. I found that in a lot of areas I had to start completely over. A found a lot of areas where I was standing on nothing but dreams with nothing to back them. I spent a lot of time talking with my dad in 2014, who has never been afraid to tear me down with the truth, but only to build me back up in faith. I think my mom babied me more in 2014 than she had since I was five (literally). Nonetheless, by September/October, I was satisfied with the progress I had made and was looking forward to 2015 as a new completed version of myself.

And then I was faced with Ferguson…

I hate to keep bringing it up, but that was something that forced me to reevaluate myself, not just as this new me that I was creating, but as a young black male in America. It’s almost as if in the process of correctly rebuilding my identity, I forgot all about the black bricks. I had the Christian bricks for the foundation, the work ethic bricks, the bricks for planning and future goals, and even career bricks; my job was looking promising.

But out of the blue, the tragedies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner reminded me that all of those other bricks — except your faith — can be torn down and taken from you at any moment, for no reason at all… and forgotten.

It’s January 2015 now. The magnitude of that realization still has not worn off. I felt as though I had finally figured Reggie out; at least I had that much in life figured out. Then in the midst of that, I had to find out that I have multiple character profiles that must be used interchangeably in order for me to successfully maneuver through life while maintaining a certain moral standard and integrity.

Why can’t I just be Reggie?

If Eric Garner was my father, or if Michael Brown was my brother, and gas was $2 a gallon, I think I could afford to completely burn down a small state… But that’s the unrestricted black Reggie talking. Christian Reggie says, “That’s not the answer.” Black Reggie says, “This is why people think Christians and blacks are pushovers; I’ll take one for the team.” Then Oldest Brother Reggie says, “What kind of example are you trying to set?”

I’m one person that play numerous of roles to numerous people. Whether it’s a following role or a leading role, my actions always have to be the best for those around me. When it comes to a situation like that of Trayvon, Eric or Michael, before I react, I have to make sure that whatever I do falls within the guidelines of being a Christian first. After it clears that standard, I have to make sure that it is the best thing and representation for black people. If it then clears that standard, I have to make sure that it doesn’t set a bad example for anyone who may be looking up to me; even if it’s just my 14-year-old brother.

Complicated.

On top of that, the older I get, the more life changes for me, the more you will have to ensure that your next move is always your best move. One day, I’ll probably be married with children and grandchildren. It would be a shame if I couldn’t provide the same good examples that I was provided by my grandparents; living and lost.

All I’m saying is that there is so much that goes into being a black American man that much of it is easily overlooked. For a short period of time, I felt as though I could just go invincibly through life with this new plan and new me, and all I had to do was to do right and mind my own business. I guess for that small amount of time, I knew what it was like to be white. Trayvon was just simply walking home with a bag of Skittles and a drink; but Zimmerman thought something was wrong with that — and the court system backed his decision.

Of course with the grace of God, I could live a life without incidents of the sort. However, I’m black, and I can’t take the grace of God to myself and forget all of my other black brothers. Some kind of way, I believe finding yourself includes what you can do to help others. I guess I’ll find out in 2015.

The Lies We Tell

The course of every persons’ life shape and mold their perspectives, their tolerances and their intolerances; some for good and some for bad. I try to be as aware as possible of my own unnecessary intolerances to improve as a person. I try to strengthen and exploit my tolerances (or positive personality traits) because those are my strong points and the traits that I have to better the people that I come into contact with. So I face deep internal conflict when the worst of me start to overcome the best of me.

I hate being lied to… and it is wearing heavily on my patience.

Now I blame my father for the way I feel about being lied to. Growing up I could get away with just about anything; anything but lying. Lying shows direct disrespect for someones’ intellect or mental ability for solving common sense problems. It shows that you do not believe the person you are lying to, cannot connect the dots that will expose whatever it is that you are attempting to cover up. So every time my father caught me in a lie, I would be disciplined to teach me that I am not as smart as the truth. Truth will always show up. It taught me that lying does not work, and it actually makes every situation worse than it could have been.

(Side note: You know that ugly sweater you got for Christmas? Put it on and smile. You cannot tell your kids the truth about that. I say that just to say that I do not believe the raw truth is the best way to handle every situation. Lying to deceive and manipulate is what I’m referring to right now.)

My patience has worn so thin when it comes to waiting and looking for someone change and improve the condition of the social climate in America. That is for the best though. I see now that I cannot wait for someone to do what I can start to do myself. This is my America; and if it needs cleaning, I should start doing my part first. Besides, I’m sure I have better cleaning supplies; Christ, love and hope. I may only be able to do it through a kind word, a few sandwiches and some mentoring, but it would be getting done. So I stopped looking for any politician, activist, celebrity, actor or entertainer to clean dirt that they rarely see; dirt that they are barely unaware of; dirt that does not even effect them. So my patience running out in that area actually pushed me to not complain. Instead, I now attempt to do more myself to change whatever it is that I come into contact with.

As I carry on though, I have to push through the media constantly lying to me. The other day I turned on my television and noticed that the Kevin Harts and Chris Rocks and Tyler Perrys are constantly making movies and TV shows to make me laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I am not faulting anyone for doing whatever it is for them to earn a living. But at that moment in time, I realized I’m being lied to. I am constantly being distracted from the realities right outside my doors with comedy and feel good stories. The reason I feel as though I’m being lied to is because I have not heard nearly as much as I thought I should have from these people to support the turmoil that our country is going through. I feel as though between all of the black entertainers and people with a voice, there could have been some type of camaraderie amongst them to get everyone else to follow.

You are lying to me.

You want me to pay my money to watch your shows and movies, while I cannot pay you to ask your opinion or where should I send my money to contribute to your funding to help the condition. I do not need to see you in a t-shirt. My newborn godchild can wear a t-shirt. What should I do with my money? Go see your movie?

You are lying to me.

You are acting as though there is not an escalating problem in this country that is affecting and oppressing the very people that you are marketing to. To be fair though, I know that those three blanket names I called (I would hope) have donated to the causes. I would be ignorant to assume that they have not donated anything. I would also be ignorant to not see that there is only so much that they will do or say to not cut into their financial losses. I’m not going to be too critical because I don’t have millions to lose. Therefore, I pray to God that money at any level never becomes so important that I would let it silence me to keep it. Since I’m not in their shoes, I will reserve some judgment and place a majority of the fault on people like me who can talk a mile a minute, but won’t donate five bucks to a change you say you believe in. Luke 16:10 states, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” I was talking with a guy one day, and he was telling me how much he would do if he was a celebrity with millions at his disposal.

He was lying to me.

Whatever you do with the money you have now, is the same thing you will do if you had millions — just on a larger scale. So instead of constantly being lied to, from those at the top all the way to those like myself, I have decided to only do whatever I can do as an individual. The culture is changing, and there are people nationwide deciding to do the same thing. I just hope that whoever does decide to make that individual push for change, has enough strength to continue, because it can be extremely frustrating when your ideas are grand but your voice is insignificant.

Black and Hopeful

Earlier this week, I started writing about the status and progress of Black American men. I’m not even sure what prompted the thought at this point, but I wanted to know whether there was any chance of the improvement of black men. When I say improvement, I would like for that to refer to the mental condition of all of us as a whole; a healing of the social stigmas that we have been conditioned to live by. Considering the fact that it would take generations upon generations to reverse what generations upon generations have done, I settled for the idea of hoping for the change of how the Black American man is viewed. Even though, this would take long as well, I believe it would be a great start to a more permanent change within the minds of black men.

Typically, I try to keep my topics more open, hopefully to broaden the perspective of anyone who may read no matter what ethnicity they come from — But on so many levels, who you are, is who you look like. I am a black man and there is only so much that I can say without exclusively referring to all black men. In the general American eye, we are all the same, and for me to want progress for myself, is to want progress for us all. So even though everything (as far as I am concerned) falls under the umbrella of being a Christian, I, being just a man, feel compelled to address more specific people, even though God sees us all the same.

My core thought process of the entire issued though, was based this theory: All of us want better; all of us want to do better; but not all of us have seen better. Therefore, we have nothing better by which to model ourselves.

Then handy-dandy Google, absorbed a few hours of my time. I came across a video that took place in 1994 of a convention for black men. At that particular session I watched, there were approximately 13,000 men on the inside of a large church and another 18,000 outside surrounding the building. The leaders at this convention were not catering to their egos, or telling them of blessings soon to come. The leaders there were not telling them that everything would be alright. These men were being told the importance of raising families, caring for their women and loving one another, instead of acting out violence towards one another. The crowd was filled with young men who were extremely receptive to what they were hearing. This made me feel that whatever progress had to be made, could be made; until I realized 1994 was twenty years ago. I enjoyed maybe an hour of hope and writing, before I realized “1994”. After just a few minutes more of thinking about all the detriment that has been done since then, I gave up and scrapped the essay.

The deterioration that I’m referring to is not limited to blacks only though; it has affected the entire nation. However, blacks might have taken the longest strides towards progress, while at the same time, taking even larger strides backwards. We have made the most progress in the fields of entertainment, which in most instances glorifies lives of crime and degradation. I am not faulting the artists, and producers, and actors, and directors (completely), but when this media is passed along without the proper checks and balances, we turn and act it out in real life. So the success for one can indirectly turn into failure for thousands. To add a bit of validity to my point, how many times have car accidents and school shootings by adolescent boys and young men been attributed to or linked to video games? Well then why can’t movies and music do the same to the actions of our young people?

With all of that being said, let me explain why I am writing this now. Today after Sunday service, my brother and I stood talking in the parking lot maybe fifteen feet from the sidewalk. From one end of the sidewalk, two young, dreadlocked black men walked towards three slightly younger black men coming in the opposite direction. The sidewalk is barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side on. As the two groups came closer to each other, meeting adjacent to where my brother and I were standing, I became quiet… as did my brother. I’m not sure what my brother was thinking, but I was thinking, “It’s about to go down.” That lets me know that my mind is no better than that of general America towards my own people. I expected there to be at least an exchange of words due to simple sidewalk territory. Nonetheless, I was blessed to see my ignorance proven wrong. Without a spoken word, both parties aligned themselves to smoothly pass by each other without incident. But yet and still, in my ignorance, I thought, “That was close.” So to combat that layer of corrupted thinking, one of the guys in the duo turned and addressed the younger trio and said, “Hey guys, I really appreciate you moving to the side like you did. Most people might not have done that.” The younger group thanked them for their gratitude and continued with looks of accomplishment on their faces. I could tell that with those kind words, they would be more eager to be courteous when the next opportunity presented itself. Now I’m left standing there in amazement with a sense of stoopid that I’m almost too ashamed to admit. Even though, I had just walked out of church, neither my heart nor mind showed any hope of common courtesy between these young men. I was shown that it is a lot easier to have faith in my mind that it is with your heart, and in my heart, I did not expect better from my own brothers.

My brother and I chased down the older two guys and told them how much it had encouraged us to see them do what they did. They replied, “You have to give, to get. We show that to get that.” At that point, it was confirmed with me that all you need is a good heart to make a change. Those guys had hearts of gold. I believe I was allowed to see that to encourage me not to give up on what I hope and pray for when it comes to my people, specifically. If things continue in the direction that they are going, things may not get better, but if everyone gives up hope, things definitely will not get any better. I feel 100% better about black men than I did last week, all because of that. I feel like there is hope for a few more black women because of that. Because of what I witnessed today, I feel better about the future of our families and the progression of our people; not monetarily, but in standards and integrity. This was something that let me know that the condition of our men is not completely lost, and with enough effort, their lives can be improved, and their souls can be saved through love and Jesus Christ.