We Live in One World

“The maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”  That is how Webster defines the word justice for us in his dictionary, but what does it really mean?  It is the basic idea that our legal system is based on, but seemingly few understand it.  The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the high-profile murder trial and the massive outpouring of social response opened my eyes to this idea even more.  Many seemed stunned by the not guilty verdict and looked to any social media outlet they could to express their displeasure.  I too was disheartened by the trial, but perhaps not for the same reasons as many of those I saw on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Ask.fm, Mobli, etc.

The trial was to be a difficult one from the start.  The fact is, there was no key witness to the incident.  No one to put a face to words.  No one to put a timeline to actions.  No one to tie up the loose ends.  So it was up to the state prosecution team to use the circumstantial evidence they had to piece together a case.  In the opinion of many (to include my own) they fell short of the type of job they should have done, but let me be clear in saying that our judicial system places a standard on them that is difficult at best.  The idea of “beyond a reasonable doubt” causes havoc when it is tied into what justice is.  Justice demands that we maintain or administer what is reasonable by impartially finding truth in conflicting stories or passing out due judgments.  In retrospect, the jury had to be convinced by the state that murder or manslaughter was a reasonable conclusion beyond the doubt of any reasonable human being.  I bet many thought it wasn’t that difficult of a decision, but when you look at it that way, one can understand the challenge the prosecution had to prove that in this and many other situations.

People will not like this blog, I get that, especially when I say that this jury’s decision and the crux of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman situation was not racially based.  The system places strict guidelines on what must be proven and anyone that was paying any attention to the case at all knew that it was at least questionable if that was satisfied.  Yet, any reacted with shock and awe, choosing to categorize this as a racially charged offense.  Self-proclaimed leader Al Sharpton announced a 100-city “Justice for Trayvon” day and a “social movement for justice.”  Jesse Jackson categorized Florida as an “apartheid state” and blamed the jurors own “cultural biases” for their decision.  He used this case to argue for the freedom of Marissa Alexander, who was jailed when she fell on the other side of the “stand your ground” law in Florida than Zimmerman did for firing a warning shot near an abusive husband.  The idea of using this to declare and apartheid in Florida is ridiculous at best.  Apartheid was a set of components of segregation that involved the systematic discrimination of people of color in terms of economics, law, and politics.  This was not…

Trayvon Martin’s death was a travesty, there is no doubt.  I even took a picture of myself in a hoodie when it happened.  I am not Trayvon, but I very well could have been.  My appearance has more than one time been misinterpreted to be something it was not.  As recently as two weeks ago, I was branded a “thug” simply because of my hat being turned to the side and having not shaved in a week.  In all of our hearts, we know that Zimmerman was guilty of something, whether it could be proven or not.  A not guilty verdict, contrary to popular belief, does not proclaim innocence, but rather not “proven” to be guilty of a certain crime.  Florida’s law regarding standing your ground leaves far too much leeway.  For once here in Michigan, we got the law right (to a degree) with guns making it necessary that we retreat unless it is unsafe to do so when outside the home.  The Michigan law provides legal protection to people who use deadly force when then they “honestly and reasonably” believe they or another person are being threatened with death, severe injury or rape only.  It affirms, however; the fact that we should not be looking for confrontation with guns, using them as weapons, but rather using them only as tools of last resort (or for hunting animals of course).

I wonder as a people why we see only certain things as travesties or things worth marching in protest about.  In this city of Flint, we just had two triple homicides in recent weeks.  No marches.  In Chicago, youth are being killed at an alarming rate.  No marches.  We proclaim the plight of the Americans of African descent, but seemingly not when they are killing themselves.  The saddest thing about Trayvon’s death to me is the loss of his potential.  We have no idea what he could have grown up to be.  Maybe he would have been a doctor, lawyer, inventor, president, athlete, entertainer, minister, teacher, or any other productive profession you can think of.  However, as a person who works with inner city youth as a coach and minister, I see this same loss of potential everyday with no one screaming about apartheid.  Parents are abandoning kids and leaving them to raise themselves.  I cannot tell you how many kids I take all over the state and other nearby states that parents never even take the time to find out who I am.  They are more than happy with having these boys out of their hair for a while.  What happens when they leave the confines and structure of practices and games, well too often they find it in the cold hierarchy of the street.

Further, how many future members of society have we loss in choosing to kill them before they ever had a chance?  Pro-choice vs. Pro-life is a pseudo argument.  The fact is that there is always a choice.  God designed it that way.  Adam and Eve had a choice to choose life as do we.  But so often we have chosen to terminate.  We blame others, when we do a far better job of taking ourselves out by comparison.  In 2007 alone, the rate of abortions among American women of African descent ages 15-44 was 3.5 times more than their European counterparts despite accounting for 5 times less of the population of women in that same age bracket.  4.8% of all babies conceived in that age group and cultural class were aborted.  How many of them were doctors, lawyers, inventors, etc.?  This is not apartheid, not at all, but rather genocide.  No marches.  What about Tonya Reaves, who was killed by a botched abortion in Chicago on July 20, 2012 at a Planned Parenthood clinic.  Not even a mention from presidential candidates during the election process that year, despite it being from the incumbent’s home town.  No marches for the thousands that go unreported.  No 100-day themes or fancy catch phrases for them, no marches….none.

Let me be clear here, the killing of Trayvon Martin was a huge problem in this country.  An even bigger problem is our reluctance to get out and do something about the problems in this country BEFORE they become high-profile.  How many are working with at-risk youth?  How many are investing their time in the educational process of our young people?  How many are volunteering to mentor and guide?  Or does volunteering not pay enough?  Does it not bring enough media attention?  I posted a picture of a pro-Zimmerman sign at a local business and my Twitter page blew up.  I post pictures, videos, stories, etc. of my non-profit basketball club that helps many kids and I get a few responses.  Another club named after a famous basketball player that may do less will get national attention because of the high-profile of the player.  Point is, as a people we largely gravitate to what brings the most pats on the back, high fives, or “at-a-boys.”  Do we really want to affect change or just be a part of the next movement to “turn up” society?  How about we turn up at church, school, and home?

Ironically, I found inspiration from the strangest of sources.  The day of the Martin/Zimmerman verdict I was watching an episode of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” circa 1974.  I realized that whatever people think of Bill Cosby now, he was way ahead of his time in trying to foster education, understanding, and peace.  At the end of each episode at that time, the guys performed a song as the junkyard band based on the theme of the show.  This one just happened to be on race relations as they learned to depend on each other during the episode at a boys’ summer camp.  The song is what got my attention though.  It is the thought that if we could just grasp to it could change the world.  The song said, “…we live in one world, and this is the place.  We are one people, the human race…”  This came in a time where this country was embroiled in racial confrontation, but yet these thoughts emerged.  How much more now should we be able to embrace the idea?  We continue to let melanin in only the top layer of our skin determine our thoughts.  We continue to think of ourselves as polar opposites.  Until we don’t, it will only get worse.

I See Your True Colors Shining Through

The wonderful thing about being the author of a personal blog is that there are very few restrictions to what you can comment about.  On the other hand, that is what also makes them have the potential to be dangerous as well.  What I am about to talk about may be a controversial subject to some, offensive to others, and maybe even thought-provoking to even more (that would certainly be most ideal).  In any case, I have carefully taken the time to not rush into these thoughts during a highly sensitive time we are in.  However, I feel I would be remiss if I do not share what is on my heart to.  So, without further delay, here we go.

As somewhat of a social media savant, I saw many things over the course of what can be described as a political battle for the presidency of the United States.  Some of these things chased me away from what I consider to be the two main forms of social media, Twitter and Facebook, for days at a time.  I had to remember that I am also a leader of young people so I needed to pay attention to the gist of what was going on, despite my disdain for it.  The more I thought about it as the weeks went by, the more I realized that the lack of depth in many people’s consideration of things is the very thing that has plagued this country for hundreds of years.  What I mean is if you break down the significant battles over religion, race, gender valuation, freedom, etc., they can be traced to the root cause of what I term “shallow-end thinking.” 

A swimming pool that has both a deep and shallow end is still but one pool, but has very different connotations.  Those that spend most of their time in the deep end are thought to be more skilled, experienced, and trained.  Consequently, they are more prepared for the depth of the water that particular end of the pool presents.  In opposing fashion, those that cannot dive into the deep end for fear of drowning are thought to be less skilled than their counterparts.  They look to the shallow end as a place of comfort; if they get scared for one reason or another, all they have to do is stand to recover.  People will drown in the shallow end (heck or even in a few inches of water in a bathtub) because carelessness often accompanies comfort.

In the months and weeks leading up to and even to this day, I see and hear many drawing the presidential race as one of black versus white, good versus evil, or rich versus poor.  All of those may describe in some aspect the race, but alone are far less than adequate to capture its entirety.  It was and is not as simple as black and white, but rather there is a broad spectrum of gray area covering this time.  I saw what I believe to be many people’s true colors, hence the title of this piece, and there were several other hues than the two.

I saw more red than ever before.  In fact, red used to be my favorite color until this time frame.  This red was one wrought with anger and wrath.  A crimson that made me ashamed of some of the things I heard and read.  There were those bold enough to recklessly use the n-word to describe the elected leader of this nation.  Many demonized, demeaned, and dishonored this man based solely on the perceived color of his skin.  Conversely, many American people of African descent took to the World Wide Web to declare their love for “our” president, with a great number reaching that conclusion based on the fact his skin tone was closer to their own.  I saw many posts like this one, “my president is BLACK.”  Or, “a black president is the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.”  “My” president?  As only about 13% of the population, clearly he had to be more than one ethnicity’s president to win.  I could go on and on, but they are generally variations of the same theme, that is, proclamations of a person’s ability to relate to another because of their pigmentation.  I find both sides of this to be dead wrong.  We know that it is wrong to refer to anyone as the “n-word” and were mad when Americans of European descent did so in total disrespect, but then some so-called black people used it as a term of endearment for “our” guy.  We spoofed the president as 2 Chainz, a secret agent, the next MLK Jr. or Malcolm X etc., the whole time having a total disregard for his mother’s heritage as an American with primarily English descent.  Does she not count?  Considering he has hailed her as the primary influence of his foundational upbringing, shouldn’t she be more prominent?  I guess saying “my president is half black” didn’t have the same ring to it.  The fact is that none of us are black or white.  We have taken these terms meant to demean and adapted them as proper terms.  The skin has 3 main layers; the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous tissue.  Even further, the epidermis has 5 layers and the dermis 2 of its own.  The element of the skin that causes pigment, melanin, is ONLY found in the basal layer of the epidermis.  So, out of those potential 8 layers, only one has the chemical that creates skin tone, but that is what so many spend so much time focused on.  47% became a theme of the election, but no one talked about the 12.5% (pigment layers to non-pigment layers of skin) that much of the attention was given to.

Do not misunderstand me here; I understand that culture is important, but I contend skin tone does not govern culture.  There are those that will argue that the American of European descent did not believe that way when they enslaved so many over the years and I would certainly agree, but then those wronged then cannot perpetuate the same shallow-end thinking that caused their heritage so much grief can they?  Think about it this way, if a large number of people had risen up if Romney had won and said, “My president is white!”  Or, “I voted for Romney because he was white!”  People of African descent everywhere would have been calling them racists and bigots, but yet that is exactly what I saw in reverse.  There can be justifications of being proud made, but they don’t hold water to me.  Where is the celebration of a man having the wherewithal to win such a huge race regardless of what he looks like?  MLK Jr.’s dream was not fulfilled in President Obama winning in 2008 or again in 2012, his dream was fulfilled in that he had an equivalent opportunity to do so.  He certainly would not have wanted it to cause divides between friends, fights among co-workers, and verbal spats on a computer.  That is directly against what he stood for as he marched and taught.  That red anger displayed from both sides during and after the race was not initiated by the principle of what is right, but rather an engrained shallow-end thought process.

That leads right into the envious green that was clearly evident.  Envy is simply a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.  There are those people whose very countenance shifted just because they couldn’t have “their” way without realizing the obvious point that the two main political parties that have been forced on us are much more alike than different.  We are duped into believing that there is a real true choice in the matter and that creates animosity toward others.  Think about this, there are approx. 312,000,000 people in this great nation, yet you had only two legitimate choices to run it (sorry, Roseanne was not going to win).  That is .00000064% of the country having a chance to be its leader.  That’s a choice?  I hardly think so.  The political process has been tailored from its inception and has narrowed to the two parties it is today.  Instead of looking just beneath the surface of something, we again show the fear of the deep end and stick to what we know for comfort.  There is no reason for anyone to be envious of having to make that “choice.”  Wait a minute; did I mention that the popular vote does not determine the winner so the misnomer that every vote counts is just that, a misnomer?  In fact, at the time when the election was called by pundits on the various news channels, the winner was trailing in the popular vote.  What if you voted for the Tea Party or cast a write in vote?  Did it count as well?  Sure it counted in that you exercised your right, but to think it made a difference in the grand scheme of things is steeped in fantasy.

The final color I saw was the cowardice of yellow.  People running to hide behind internet posts, usernames, pictures, and pseudonyms as they spewed at best ignorant rhetoric and at worst hate.  There were those feigning some greater good message in order to simply get out lingering feelings kept inside.  I saw those professing to be of faith afraid to confront issues directly related to faith by trying to separate something that was not ever meant to be separate.  Trust me, I get that the vote was for a president and not a religious leader, but we all have to realize that the leader of every country sets the political and religious tone for that country.  Also, if it were the case that the two should not be intertwined, why were there local and national religious leaders using their influence among people to try to affect the direction of the vote? 

The fact is that the church as we know it is in some trouble.  Look beyond the surface my good people.  Soon it will likely be illegal for churches to speak out against behaviors they do not endorse or believe in.  Many are already in big financial strains as banks are telling them “the president” is requiring re-submitting of mortgage loan paperwork as they gouge churches for 2-3 times what their property is worth.  That can and will cause the leaders of those churches to seek more money from its people to survive, which in turn will cause the people to feel the strain in tune with their own economic struggles.  They will likely feel guilt for being unable to help or turned off as the idea of churches leeching from the people is perpetuated even more across the country.  It is feasible that a church’s non-profit status will be used against them for governmental control.  They may be forced to support financially things that violate their very principles of belief or risk governmental intervention.  President Obama was correct when he said America is no longer “a Christian nation.”

Under the surface, what are some things that we can also look at?  Well, I will offer them in the form of rhetorical questions.  What if the regime of President Obama is the fulfillment of the dream of one Margaret Sanger, who vowed to use the most educated and beautiful people of color to further belief in eugenics as stated in the infamous Jaffe memo and various other words she spoke?  What if our fascination with black and white causes a repeat of the racial wars that existed in the past?  What if the promise of increased taxes causes business owners to sacrifice people in preparation?  What if the promise of reduced insurance costs causes companies to raise it in the interim so that those rates can be grandfathered in?  What if we realize God told us to pray, but didn’t say that was all he told us?  What if the church actually left the upper room and got out into the world and realized its collective power?  What if we realize that although times have changed, principles don’t?  What if we comparatively looked at the past 20 years and realized we were better as a society then?

I could go on, but the point is simple; shallow-end thinking leads to more trouble and hostility than just taking some time to look at the bigger picture through the eyes of faith…try it, I dare you.

It Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3…

After hearing someone describe what they thought the best moments in life were, I put some thought into it myself.  Many things ran through my mind that could be included, but nothing seemed quite right or simple enough. Then one day I was on a phone call and three things came to me as clear as day.  In fact, I interrupted the phone call to inform the person I was talking to about my epiphany (not that they cared at the time).  They were simple, straight-forward, and covered each facet of life.  Now I will share them with you.

  1. When you are BORN (the beginning of life)
  2. When you are BORN AGAIN (the securing of your future life)
  3. When you seek God and He reveals why you were BORN in the first place (the discovery of your purpose in life)

Even as I look back on them now, I say “wow” to myself.  Each of the most significant moments in life have to do with some aspect of birth.  I heard someone say that one of them was when you discovered why you were born.  Notice that I didn’t say that.  The only true way to know your purpose is for your Creator to tell you.  How could a chair know it was a chair, except that the maker of that chair let it be known?  One man may sit in it.  One may use it as a step stool to reach a light bulb.  One may use it as a footstool to prop his feet up.  There are numerous other ways that chair can be used, but it was created for but one purpose and only the one who created it truly knows.  If we depend on ourselves to find our purpose we may do a lot of good things, but may never be truly fulfilled.  A book may work as a table leveler, a straight-edge to draw a line, or a booster seat for a child to sit at the table.  But if that book is never opened and read, then the purpose for that author writing it will never be known.

The significance of being born is a simple one to understand; it is what gets you here to this earth.  It starts the clock ticking on your span of time to impact the world.  Being born again by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior starts the clock on you getting to your eternal life in paradise.  It is the most secure investment you can ever make.  It has never had a negative ROI (return on investment).  Its shareholders receive a dividend all of the time.  It is the key to unlocking the door to the discovery of purpose mentioned above.  Without it, your happiness and rewards will only be temporary and short-lived.

I said all of that to really get to this point, that is, that finding out why we are here is the key to ending much of the chaos that surrounds this life.  I look around at the young people and they are walking around trying to “find themselves” at school, in gangs, with a boy, with a girl, from the teacher, from the coach, from each other, and from a society that is attempting to make them accept any behavior as good.  They are so lost that they will try anything just to “see”.  How crazy is that?  I cannot tell how many times I have asked a young person why they did something and they had no answer or just said it was “something to do.”  I can tell you this much, there are plenty of things that I do not need to experience to know they are not for me.  I don’t need to try alcohol, drugs, getting shot, experiencing an earthquake, etc. But somehow we have allowed the idea of testing the waters to permeate throughout this generation.  Society says it is ok to try things out to find yourself, but I say we need to show them the answers in God so He can tell them.

I am proud to say that I don’t even know what alcohol tastes like or what smoking anything feels like at all.  I don’t say that to brag in any way, but rather to point out that I had people around me who showed me how to pursue finding my purpose.  Ergo, when I got to campus on my own for the first time in college, the temptation to smoke and drink didn’t bother me.  I already knew that those things would tear me away from what I needed to be doing.  I already knew who I was.  When people would tell me that I seemed different and ask why, that is what I would tell them.  I challenged them many times as well saying that if they could give me just one good reason to deviate from that purpose and join them, then I would.  As I mentioned before, I never have so clearly I was never given a good reason.

We have got to get a handle on the youth by showing them how to find their true purpose.  It is not to have babies out-of-wedlock.  It is not to try to be intimate with every girl you can.  It is not to be the baddest guy on the block and show how bad you are by killing.  It is not being satisfied with just being mediocre.  No, it is much more than that, but we need to first know our purpose ourselves.  Have you sought out God for your own and then started operating in it?  If not, it is time so that we can turn this thing around, especially in our inner city communities around the world.  It is as easy as 1, 2, 3…