Can You Handle Uncomfortable Conversations?

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You are the company you are.

Being pessimistic is easy and does not require critical thinking. It barely requires thinking at all; just reacting. And in a constant state of reaction is where loose cannons are born.

Pessimism is a negative response to something that makes you feel a negative way.

Like I said, it’s easy. It’s aggressive, dismissive and addictive. Pessimism is like a drug. In the moment, it can feel good. Hell, it might even feel right, but pessimism is a slippery slope. It doesn’t take long to become a habitual pessimist, so proceed with caution.

If pessimism got anyone, anywhere, everyone in the world, would be on top of the world.

Before you know it, you’re living life in a perpetually foul mood, surrounded by other pessimists. That takes a toll, but you likely won’t care because misery loves company, and sometimes even bad company beats being alone.

Loose Cannon, Party of One, Your Table’s Ready

Now more than ever, I notice people are quick to react pessimistically to the topic of racism. I’ve witnessed meltdowns where people quickly go on a tirade declaring how not racist they are, without anyone calling them racist.

It’s bizarre psychology at work, but you can thank the history books for that.

When the topic of racism comes up, there is no reason to get mad about it. Racism is a real thing and we should be okay talking about it.

However, if the topic strikes a nerve deep inside, you need to ask yourself why.

It happens a lot with homophobia too, but that’s another discussion altogether.

For generations, rather than confront the why and how we feel a negative way about certain things, our instinct has been to shut it down, sweep it under a rug, and move on.

We can’t do that anymore. Those days are done.

We owe it to ourselves and everyone who comes after to address it now. It takes work to be a better person, and part of that work is acknowledging the problem to begin with.

I Feel Great Today

How’s that for optimism?

Actually, that’s not a lie. I feel pretty good today. But that’s a conscious decision I have to make, every day, to stay on the right side of a downward spiral.

At the end of the day, I have food on the table, a roof over my head, a bed to crawl in, and a dog to snuggle up to. All things considered, that’s not a bad place to be.

But I’ve Been Duped

For generations, we’ve all been duped in this country.

We all grew up with an easily digestible version of U.S. history where Columbus discovered America, pilgrims and Indians shared a meal, and white people saved the world from other white people and radical Islamic terrorists.

When I graduated high school in 1992, the Cold War was over. The Berlin Wall was coming down. The first Gulf War was done, and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was still nine months away.

As far as I knew, Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery after the Civil War, and racism, segregation, and discrimination ended in 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.

I was blissfully ignorant about the prevalence of racism throughout this county. When it came to race, the major problems were between street gangs in the urban neighborhoods of large cities, Rodney King was a one-off event, and the N word was off limits.

If only it were that simple...

The White Bubble

I was born in 1974; you can’t get much more GenX than that.

For our entire lives, GenX has idolized black professional athletes, comedians, actors, and musicians. The list is endless.

For GenX (and beyond), pop culture was (and continues to be) heavily influenced by black culture. Racial tension was entertainment in movies. Primetime in the 80’s and 90’s featured some of the most successful and funny predominantly black television series ever made.

For decades, nobody had to leave their home to see successful black Americans.

That is the white bubble. It’s the bubble I grew up in. It takes effort to see beyond it, which only gets harder the more comfortable you are in it.

It was a privilege to be in.

It wasn’t a bad place to be, but it certainly skewed my view of the progress our society had actually made, and the work we, as a society, had ahead of us.

Juneteenth

How old were you when you learned about Juneteenth? I’m ashamed to say, but I had no idea Juneteenth even existed until I was in my early 20’s. I remember asking what’s that? Is it new? Honestly, it’s shameful.

As a society, we’re doing ourselves a disservice when overlooking opportunities to come together and unite over things that we agree on. Shouldn’t the official liberation of the last remaining slaves in this country be one of those things?

I don’t know why Juneteenth isn’t a more celebrated holiday. It should be on par with Independence Day. But no, every year Juneteenth comes and goes as ignorant Americans hear about it for the first time over and over again.

What was that you said? All lives matter? Ok.

Black Lives Matter

That’s why I have such a problem with people saying all lives matter.

My daily reality tells me that my life matters. I don’t feel the need to brag about it, especially not while friends of mine are in such obvious pain.

All Lives Matter isn’t about any cause. It only came to be after Black Lives Matter became a movement.

ALM was a reaction because BLM made people uncomfortable. That’s it.

If all lives truly mattered, the world would look a lot different than it does right now.

Think of it this way.

Black Lives Matter is to Merry Christmas what All Lives Matter is to Happy Holidays.

Chew on that for a minute. Take as long as you need.

Now, on to my final point.

Breakfast Brand Controversy

Aunt Jemima is a brand that has been around for 130 years. Recently, the Quaker Oats Company, owner of Aunt Jemima, announced it is retiring the name and imagery of Aunt Jemima and people are losing their minds.

Before wasting your energy getting upset about a decision that’s already been made, consider the following reasons why the Aunt Jemima stokes so much emotion.

  • The Aunt Jemima brand was 49 years old when Hattie McDaniel won an Academy Award for her role as “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind in 1939.
  • While people had been enjoying Aunt Jemima products for half a century, the first black woman to win an Oscar couldn’t attend the premiere of her movie at a whites-only theater. Ms. McDaniel was only allowed at the Oscar ceremony as a favor and she had to sit at a segregated table apart from her white co-stars. She wasn’t allowed to attend the celebrations afterwards.
  • When she died in 1952, Ms. McDaniel’s final wish was to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery, but was denied because the graveyard was restricted to dead whites only.
Meanwhile, Aunt Jemima was on pantry shelves in white home across this country.
  • Aunt Jemima was America’s Favorite Mammy
  • While Aunt Jemima was allowed in white households throughout America, black Americans weren’t allowed to use white bathrooms.
  • While Aunt Jemima provided warm and buttery pancakes to white families, black folks couldn’t drink from the same water fountains or swim in the same pools.
  • While Aunt Jemima smiled her pearly whites from her happy packaging, black Americans were not allowed to vote, and had to sit in the back of the bus.
  • While white kids went in for a double dose of Aunt Jemima’s sweet syrup, black kids weren’t allowed in the same schools.

Of course white people loved Aunt Jemima. That’s no accident. That’s by design. But it’s time to open our minds, eyes, and ears.

Liking Aunt Jemima products doesn’t make you racist, but denying that the Aunt Jemima brand is rooted in racism does.

Just because it makes you feel good doesn’t mean it makes everyone feel good. A big part of combating racism is being cognizant of others’ feelings.

Great, you loved Aunt Jemima, but this isn’t about you and your love for high fructose corn syrup and gluten. There’s a whole history at your fingertips that will explain how we got here. But the decision to learn is on you.

Empathy goes a long way when being an ally.

On that note…

Free at Last, Free at Last, Aunt Jemima is Free at Last

Happy Juneteenth Aunt Jemima. You’re free to go.

The Right Side of History

Racism is about more than expressed hate. Many of us know how to treat others with kindness and compassion. That’s not what the current discussion is about. It’s deeper than that, and it’s a problem that can only be dealt with through awareness, fundamental understanding, and a genuine, heartfelt desire for change.

The tide is turning and each of us have a decision to make. You can either swim with the current or against it, and I don’t recommend exhausting yourself swimming against it. It’s not a good look; it makes you look like an asshole.

Progress is good. Progress is always welcome, and it’s heartening when it happens. It’s never too late, but that’s up to you.

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2 thoughts on “Can You Handle Uncomfortable Conversations?”

  1. I not sure what to say about your statement “Black Lives Matter is to Merry Christmas what All Lives Matter is to Happy Holidays.”
    I love your writings but disagree on this one. The word ”All” might be a little too general but if you subcategorize it , we’ve all been persecuted in someway or another.
    I do love how your work makes us think!
    Cheers Travis

    1. Hi Andre!

      This isn’t a cult compound in Waco, you’re welcome to disagree! 😉 And as always, thank you for reading and your support.

      I feel that in general the refusal to say BLM is rooted somewhere else than a true belief in equality. BLM strikes a nerve and there are reasons why. Of course all live is important, but it’s like when someone like Mike Pence says it. He said it the other day. And do you believe for a second he believes that all lives matter? If he had his druthers, gays would be exterminated. The administration just this week reversed gay and trans healthcare protections and the Supreme Court had to rule against the administration attorneys fighting to keep it legal to exclude sexual orientation from employer discrimination. It’s those people who claim ALM that’s infuriating to me. And they are the same type who would claim by instead of saying Merry Christmas to say Happy Holidays because “All Holidays Matter” is a war on Christmas. And nobody ever said ALM until BLM came to be.

      So for me, ALM is too neutral to mean anything. It’s a comfortable mid-field position and, while it doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone, it definitely doesn’t help a cause either. For me, personally, I’m no longer comfortable in the middle ground even though it would be the easy place to be.

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