This Is the World that We Live In

My sister and her friend got me a bike for my birthday, and I’ve been riding it almost every day. It feels wonderful to move fast, propelling myself forward, a cooling wind in my hair — even though I’ve probably eaten quite a few bugs.

But I’ve seen a man recently, built, strong, walking along the path, and he’s carrying a bat. Now, you might think, well that’s excessive, even dangerous. What’s this guy’s problem? Is he looking for trouble?

No.

I didn’t talk to him so I can’t say for sure, but I’d wager he’s not looking for trouble at all. I bet he’s protecting himself from it. This is the world that we live in.

A world where Black people are routinely persecuted, sought out for the express purpose of unwarranted abuse. Then, no matter how much we protest, we must bear the psychological, financial and physical brunt of whatever mistreatment we’re given. So, this brother is simply preparing himself to fight back, to defend himself if necessary, and who can blame him? I certainly can’t.

Instead my heart aches for him. My heart hurts for all of my people because the system that we are forced to exist within, was literally built to destroy us.

Kellye! What a thing to say. Aren’t you being dramatic? Aren’t you being excessive?

Hell, no. You were privy to the details around Breonna Taylor’s trial this week.

I wish I was being excessive. But when a hard working Black woman, guilty of nothing, cannot sleep peacefully in her own home without the police busting in and shooting up the place for no good reason, there’s something desperately wrong — and not with her.

Let me say that again: Breonna Taylor did nothing wrong. Yet she was murdered, and her killers were not punished. Excuse me, in the interest of being accurate I’ll rephrase: Their punishment was minimal at best. The travesty of justice that was “punishment” for her killers was like the entire state of Kentucky spitting in every Black person’s face all around this country.

There’s only one thing I can say in response: The good people of Kentucky should vote every single person who had anything to do with her case out of office. The police chief, the district attorney, the mayor, boycott the opposition’s lawyers and law firm, everybody. Our tax dollars should not be used to fund our own injustice.

I’m not going to carry a bat. That’s too much. If I did, my focus would not be on relaxing in nature, or exercising to improve my health and well being so that I can focus on my life and my work and my friends and my family. It would mean that part of me was focused on a threat, that someone or some things were occupying too much real estate in my mind, and the oppressor will have won.

Instead I’m going to do everything in my power to stay strong. To live by example, to live smart, and vote smart, and to change the determined narrative in this country that screams that Black skin has no value. That it covers not a body animated by blood and bone, or a soul that dreams, or a heart that nurtures and loves, or a mind capable of out thinking any problem, that it is just a vessel meant for nothing but labor and abuse.

Black people, do not believe this narrative. Carry yourself proudly. Educate yourself continuously. Vote. Curate an enviable lifestyle, one rooted in foundational principles and values meant to elevate you and all those you hold dear. Diligently, and as much is possible exclusively, spend your hard earned dollars with your own people. Disdain anything unhealthy for body or mind. Be flexible. Keep your ears open and your heart pure, untainted by the determined foolishness of some people with power.

Do not believe that you are at the mercy of those who seek to destroy you. Do not believe that there are no opportunities, even though people like Charlie Scharf, the CEO of Wells Fargo, would have you believe that in the world we live in: “While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from.”

Really? Is that the unfortunate reality? Or, here’s a better question: Is that the whole truth? I posit that Wells Fargo and many other organizations like it have not done their part to hire, train, promote, or welcome Black talent into the organization. And after the media and public read him for filth and forced an apology, Scharf had to admit the same thing. But does he believe that apology? More importantly, how will we hold him accountable for change?

And please understand something key: I’m not talking about doing anything extra for Black people. It’s completely unnecessary. All that is required is that those with power do not consciously or unconsciously — you must be aware that bias exists so that you can guard against it — make things difficult for us.

Don’t set arbitrary standards for some, but not for all, and then blame those who are fighting a broken system when they can’t break through the obstacles that have been set before them. Just treat us the way you treat white employees. I guarantee a brilliant crop of black talent will rise to the top of the career ladder, adding value on multiple fronts all along the way.

But this is the world that we live in. A world where the common narrative about Black people is so biased and hurtful and ridiculous, yet so unilaterally pervasive, that to a scary extent that untruth has even been adopted by the very people it slanders.

Don’t fall for it, Black people. Focus, with every scrap of discipline you can conceive, on your own mental, spiritual and physical well being. Word hard and smart. Take care of yourselves, your children and your families. Take care of your elderly. Focus on health and learning and creating things that push us forward as a people.

Do not believe that you have no power. Vote. Be strict and discerning with your dollars. Be kind and loving to yourselves and to your brothers and sisters in the struggle. We deserve that kindness, and we need it. Do not believe that you have no skill or talent when everything that we do naturally has been appropriated and monetized by every other race in the world, even as we are punished for the very same the things.

This is the world that we live in. But we do have the power to change it.

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