Awareness of Self: The Death of My Ego

mind-sticky-notesMost of the time my brain feels like it’s a room covered in thousands of post-it notes filled with my thoughts. I’ve started to increase my awareness of the words written on those sticky notes and how they negatively impact my daily thoughts.

Okay, that sounded very philosophical. Let me break it down for you….

How It Started:

So there was this guy (yeah matters of the heart can always enlighten you) who I dated briefly. Having a keen sense of the type of guy that fits my personality and vision of life, I realized fairly quickly that he wasn’t my type. Nevertheless, I carried on ignoring the voice in my head that told me he wasn’t the one. The voice in my head told me that he checked all of my boxes and I was simply being my typical selective self. Despite the rational side of me trying to convince myself that he was a perfectly suitable guy, I just couldn’t feel the chemistry. Needless to say, my interactions with said guy unraveled and I was left feeling somewhat saddened, while my friends looked at me in complete confusion knowing what I failed to acknowledge until that point—I never liked the guy in the first place. but, how was I unable to see in myself what my friends were easily able to recognize? If you ask some of my friends, I just need to start smoking weed and be more chill.  Since that isn’t happening I searched for a more lasting solution, which I’ll expound on in a second. But first, let me explain further how my mind works.

The rational and academic side of my brain recognizes how blessed I am and how “accomplished” I appear to be by most standards. Yet, oftentimes I silently struggle with knowing what I think I need to feel happy, worthwhile and fulfilled. Sometimes, I think it’s having a successful career that feeds my passion, and other times I think it’s acquiring more wealth. Then there are moments when the need manifests itself in believing that my happiness and fulfillment will be achieved once I am married with children—until I speak to my friends who are married with kids. Although logically, I know that these desires will likely not cause me to reach the apex of happiness, it doesn’t stop the needs from creeping into my mind and lodging itself onto a permanent sticky note. This misperception was what precluded me from accepting that this guy was simply neither what I needed nor wanted.

So I decided to dig a little deeper. What was causing my unsettling feelings of dissatisfaction and uncertainty? I took the time to go into my head and consciously observe my daily thoughts. I focused on the sentences that replay in my mind while feeding my consciousness about who I am, what I want and how I approach the world. These were the subliminal reflections that penetrated my mind but were oftentimes not verbalized. I quickly realized that these thoughts were distinct from who I outwardly believed myself to be.

I perceive myself as a confident, self-assured woman; a person who not only knows what she wants out of life, but is well on her way to accomplishing it. I am smart, talented and sociable…I am blessed. So what is the problem? Why were my subconscious thoughts not always reflecting the Superwoman I felt I projected to the world? How could I rewire my mind to align itself with my outward beliefs?

The Realization:

I was determined to find the root of the problem. And after some reflection, I landed on three distinct letters that summed it up: E-G-O.

Our ego doesn’t only cause us to have an inflated sense of self. It can also cause us to create positive and negative mental distortions. Our emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, anxiety impatience and frustrations stem from our egos (I’m not that brilliant, this fact came from an Eckhart Tolle book I read).  I started to notice that my Ego (it’s capitalize because it has a life of its own) manifested itself in almost all of my thoughts. For example, sometimes I think exclusively about my shortcomings and overlook my positive qualities; this is a negative distortion caused by my Ego. Other times I disregard positive facts when they don’t align with my negative thought. For instance, when someone pays me a compliment—while I thank the person, I think to myself that he is only saying it to spit game. Or when I blame myself for something going wrong and ruminate on what I could have done better, while never fully recognizing that the real shortcoming was in the other person–like the guy I mentioned above.

So I finally recognize what needed to be done. It was time to rewrite some of those sticky notes in my head! But first I had to learn to separate my Ego from my true self.

Goodbye Ego:

I’m not going to profess that I have overcome the challenge of clearing the negative sticky notes from my mind, but at the very least, I am learning the importance of standing in my truth. I am becoming more cognizant of my feelings because most of them stem from my Ego, which is the driving force behind most of my perceptions.  It’s still a work in progress, and I haven’t conquered it, but I know that I am in complete control of my thoughts. Therefore, I am now able to decipher when my Ego is playing a role in how I am feeling at any given moment. 

So the feeling of sadness for said guy lasted very briefly when I thought about why I was sad.  It wasn’t because I actually liked him; my sadness was really driven by a deeper fear of being alone.  When I acknowledged that truth, I was able to rewire that distorted sticky note in my head and momentarily kill the Ego.  I am not alone. I have an amazing support system of special people in my life.  Therefore, the notion of loneliness was merely a negative distortion and not my reality. 

My Ego also tried to emerge one day while teaching a law school class. During the beginning of my lecture, the 30 blank faces staring at me caused my mind to start racing.  It was as if I was speaking to them in Arabic or some other foreign language they didn’t understand.  My (Ego’s) immediate thought was, this is my fault, I made this lecture too complicated for them.  I quickly retracted the distorted thought, took a deep breath and asked, “why am I seeing blank faces?”  A student quickly responded that the syllabus had stated that I was covering a different topic that day.  Crisis averted and Ego eliminated—my lecture wasn’t the problem! 

Lesson:

What I’ve learned from killing my Ego is your thoughts are way more powerful than what we verbalize.  They are like post-it notes permanently stuck to your mind.  When we allow our ego to manipulate and distort our thoughts, we give life to things unnecessarily.  Saying farewell to my Ego has been difficult–it was such an integral part of who I was.  It initially left me wondering how to fill its void.  But as I’ve cleared some of the distorted post-it notes from my mind, I’ve  acquired a sense of peace and comfort in learning who I really am and I’ve learned to stop taking myself and life so seriously. 

 

 

 

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A Letter to My 21-Year-Old Self

Dear 21-Year-Old Self:

I remember you like it was yesterday.  You were fresh out of college and ready to take on the world.  I must say, looking back, you have done a good great job!  I know at times it didn’t seem easy as you were growing into becoming your own, but knowing what I know now, there is so much I wish I could have said to you.  Before I start, let me just say that I’m still learning and the one thing I know for sure is that I’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg in what I have uncovered about life.  I have lots more to learn and will continue to share it along the way.  For now, here goes…


Life

Never live life as if you’re watching it from the sidelines—it will pass you by.  Don’t lose your passion and continue to chase your dreams—they will sustain you in times of uncertainty.  Trust what has helped to get you this far.  Remain vicariously happy and don’t worry about feeling like you must have it all together because you still won’t have life figured out in your thirties.  Yes, it’s possible for you to gain weight so continue to exercise and eat better.  Stop manipulating the texture of your hair–embrace every coily strand of it.  Make sure your graduate degree is worth it because those loans will be with you for a very loooong time.  Continue to feed your desire to see the world and all the beauty that it possess.  You’re a little uncertain right now, but your confidence will grow.  There will be additional moments of uncertainty but never let it rattle your confidence—you. are. smart. So far, you have lived your life like a textbook doing all the right things to become “successful” by your parents’ standards.  Let your hair down and become more of a risk-taker.   The moment you care less about what others think and stop worrying about missteps, the happier you’ll be.  Step out of your comfort zone.  What’s the worse that can happen?  It’s never too late to start over.  Every day you wake up gives you an opportunity to create a better you.  The more you practice being patient, uncomfortable and alone, the happier you will feel.  Stop thinking too much, the answers will come when you least expect it.  Your instinct will improve with age so never forget to trust your gut.  Surround yourself with people who enable you to laugh more; your demeanor will always be serious, but sometimes laughter will be the best way for you to get through.  Make peace with your past and when you feel lost, return to your center–meditate and pray.  Life is a beautiful challenge.

Family/Friends

Cherish your family, especially your parents—one day, you will look up and realize they are aging.  Remember that the aren’t going to be around forever.  You’ll start to sound more and more like your mother as you get older.  Don’t let it scare you because you will also have a greater appreciation for her wisdom.  At some point, you’ll stop saying that you do things to make your parents happy and will start to say you do it to make yourself happy.  It will be difficult at times for your parents and siblings to not view you as the baby–be patient with them and accept that in their hearts, you will always be the baby.  Never stop telling your loved ones that you love them.  Sometimes the lines between networking and creating genuine friendships become blurred.  As you grow and change you may lose a few friends—don’t be confused or disappointed. You will eventually learn that there’s a big difference between friends and people you merely know.   Don’t pay attention to the friends who mock you for not liking hard liquor, they will soon appreciate that your palate was built for wine.  It’s okay to not care about what everyone thinks of you—accept that you won’t be liked by everyone, but will be very loved by some.  Your family will always be your friends and some of your friends will feel like family.

Love

I don’t have this love and marriage thing all figured out yet, but what I’ve learned thus far is: love is durable but trust is fragile.  Learn to trust others and live your life in a manner that others are always willing to trust you.  Most importantly, always love and trust yourself, especially when facing adversity—you will only attract the love you think you deserve.  Don’t expect to be married by 30–you simply aren’t ready.  Use these years to experience all that life has to offer and don’t hesitate in kissing a few frogs.  I know you wish you dated more and spent less of your years with the same guy, but I’m here to tell you there’s not much to look forward to dating in your thirties.  Bu at the very least, you’ll have a few more stories to laugh about.  When you meet “the one” your relationship will feel easy and almost effortless—relationship drama is for the birds.  Your heart is more resilient than you think, don’t be so afraid to give it to someone who seems willing to appreciate and respect it.  Don’t worry, he will love what you think are flaws in yourself.  When it happens—and it will happen—try to ignore the voices around you that ask you how you’re going to balance a successful legal career and a marriage. It will simply scare you into feeling like you have to choose.  Love is not what’s complicated, people are.

 

What advice do you have for your 21-year-old self?

 

South Africa Adventures–The Dichotomy

On our second day, I made a reservation for mom and I to tour the wine areas of San Francisco–Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Raymond, our driver, had taken me on a similar tour four years ago. RaymondHe is a very nice Coloured (the name given to South Africans of mixed descent) man who lives in a nearby township. I left it up to Raymond to determine which estates we would visit. As we drove into the winelands, mom had the opportunity to ask Raymond cultural and historical questions from the perspective of a local. Raymond was very patient and provided us with a rich history of the area. He started from the beginning of South Africa’s colonization and provided us with detailed information up to his perspective on the reported corruption of South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma.

We arrived at the Fairview Estate for our first wine pairing. We sampled eight wines with an assortment of cheeses that are made at the estate.  Since our sommelier failed to provide us with a spit bowl, Ace (mom) believed it was obligatory to drink the entire glass (did I mention she isn’t a drinker?). By the time we left, Ace was complaining that her “eyes were turning”–a Jamaican terminology for when one is becoming tipsy. We stopped at a few more wine estates before heading to lunch at Le Petite Ferme. Before eating, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the mountains from the estate’s vineyard. I have kept mom happy with our 5-star dining, but my clothing is already beginning to fit tighter. imageAfter lunch, we visited a few more estates then headed back to the flat. It was a fun-filled day, but on the drive back to the flat I could feel the wine kicking in and I was beyond tipsy (but I wasn’t drunk).
imageOnce we returned, we could do nothing else but take a nap. After sleeping for a few hours, we decided to explore an open-air market that was located within walking distance. During the festive season, there appears to be a party occurring in the streets every night. The market was crowded with vendors, and people walking around contemplating what they would purchase. The majority of the vendors and customers appeared to be Muslim.  They sold everything from toys to food.  We stopped at a stand with a man selling figs. Mom decided to take a taste of the figs–one and a half days in Cape Town and she already wasn’t afraid to try food from street vendors. I happily passed on tasting it. She decided to purchase a handful then realized she forgot to bring her wallet. How convenient. Of course I gave her a side-eye as I pulled out ZAR10 to purchase her figs. IMG_3523

As we explored the marketplace we noticed that most of the vendors and people walking around were Muslim. At this point, we were getting comfortable with feeling somewhat out of place in South Africa. One vendor sold Beats by Dre headphones for ZAR150 (the equivalent of $15).  For Christmas, I purchased similar headphones for my sister for $150! Chances are the vendor’s headphones weren’t real, but I contemplated buying hem for my sister and returning the ones I previously purchased .

IMG_3557On our walk back to the flat, we snapped a picture in front of the former slave lodge which was turned into a museum (despite it being next door, we didn’t get an opportunity to explore the museum).

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The previous day, mom and I had a wonderful adventure driving through the majestic vineyards of the Cape while sipping some of the best wines in the word.  But, it would be a spurious claim to believe that all of Cape Town consists of fine dining, great wines and open air markets.  So, on the following day we took a tour of two of the most famous townships in Cape Town–Llanga and Khayelitsha Townships.  As mom got dressed in the morning, she prepared to wear one of her cute sundresses and her expensive jewelry. I immediately advised her that today, we (really her, because none of my clothing looks as expensive as hers) should wear something a bit more unassuming.

 After heading to Long Street to have breakfast at Rcaffe, we boarded the tour bus headed to the townships (similar to the term “projects” in the US).  imageTandis, our tour guide, brought us to District Six Museum on our first top.  There, he explained the history of District 6 and other townships where non-whites were relocated.  Mom was enthralled in the story and walked around the museum soaking in as much information as possible.  After the museum, we headed to Llanga Township (the oldest township in Cape Town with over 50,000 residents) where Luyolo took over as our tour guide.  As we walked through the area, the children ran up to us and grabbed our hands.  They were all so adorable, yet as we walked along, we could see the poverty-ridden homes.  We walked into one of the hostiles to see how many people lived.  Mom, stopped in her tracks, paralyzed and shocked that people lived this way.  The common area was filled with flies and was as clean as it could be.  There were up to 4 families living in one room.  The hostile had one kitchen area and no living room.  In one of the rooms was a lady who I met almost 5 years before.  We took a picture similar to the one we took previously.  Since this was not my first time through the township, I was not as shocked as mom, who was afraid of touching anything.  Mom grew up in poverty in Jamaica, but she said this did not match anything that she had experienced first hand.  It was a sobering experience relative to our wine tasting the previous day.  At this point, mom peppered Luyolo with many questions about the standard of living.

One of the ironies of our visit was as we walked by some of the shacks the entire home was smaller than the size of my mother’s bedroom with holes in the zinc roofs.  However, many of them had flat screen televisions that were bigger than televisions owned by mom or me.  We entered a makeshift bar where Luyolo explained that many of the men in the neighborhood would stop by to have homemade beer.  Since none of the women on the tour were willing to take a sip, I stepped up to have a try.  It was served in a pail that everyone had to drink from in the spirit of Ubuntu–human kindness.  The beer was warm and had a bitter aftertaste–not something I would take more than a sip of).

imageAfter Llanga, we drove through Khayelitsha Township–the largest township in the western Cape.  There are over one million people living in the township.  In Khayelitsha, we stopped by Vicky’s Bed and Breakfast.  When I visited years prior, I met met Vicky and learned about her Zagat rated B&B in the township which raised money for the local school.  But during this visit, Tandis informed me that the tour would be conducted by Vicky’s eldest daughter because Vicky was killed by her husband two years ago (her husband is currently in prison).  As we left Vicky’s, we saw children “swimming” in water along the road that contained tons of garbage.  It was very sad to watch, yet we left them behind and returned to our affluent area of Cape Town and continued our vacation.  Nevertheless, the memory of the townships were forever etched into our minds.

Sawubona South Africa!

Another Christmas has come and gone so quickly.  It was a pleasant day spent with my family enjoying old traditions and creating new ones.  This year, we are breaking with the usual tradition of spending the week of Christmas at my mother’s house in Florida.  After a lot of coaxing I was able to convince my mother that we should travel to South Africa for the holidays.

So today, my mother (who I often refer to as my Ace) and I will be boarding a 16-hour flight to Cape Town. The next few blog post will document our adventures together in the “motherland”. Making memories with her is important to me however, she and I vacation very differently. We have done mom and daughter trips in the past.  Her idea of a vacation is hitting every shopping mall and buying the most expensive and extravagant items that the country’s high-end boutique stores have to offer (she may also try to find a tribesman and organize an arranged marriage for me).  My idea of a great vacation is laying on the beach with a good book listening to the waves crash against the sand.   Needless to say planning this trip has been its own  adventure. For example, when I gave Ace a draft of our itinerary, her first question was why can’t we use public transportation? She can’t be serious. Her next question was if we were going to take a tour of wine country, why did we have to go to more than 2 wine estates? Breathe.  After explaining that we were not “real Africans” and would stick out like a sore thumb on a local minibus and would be charged an arm and a leg the moment we asked a cab driver to take us somewhere, she conceded to allow me to rent a car. It’s a manual and they drive on the left side of the street so she also made it clear that I am the sole designated driver.  As for the wine estates, she’ll appreciate it once we get there.

SuitcasesSo today begins the adventures of Ace and I in Africa.  She is traveling with THREE full suitcases for a 2 1/2 week trip.  I’m traveling with 2 (one is pretty empty and solely for the purpose of bringing gifts back).  Wheels up!!

….Stay tuned.

The Misadventures of Dating in Your 30s Part 2

As some of you noted to me in your e-mails, comments and Facebook posts, dating in your 30s (40s and even 70s) can be rough.  Part I of this series stirred up great dialogue about lessons learned, the importance of communication and questions about who should pick up the tab on a date?

My intent in writing these dating chronicles isn’t to dissect who is right and where things went wrong.  The goal is to find the humor in a situation that wasn’t so funny at the time.  But I always welcome your comments and opinions on these scenarios.  For those of you who are curious as to which of these were my experiences—technically they all were.  Because as my friends recanted the stories, I felt as if I was experiencing it alongside them.

Recreational Activities

I’m taking her out on our third date.  If I calculate all the money I’ve spent on this woman since our last two dates, she’s close to $250 (not that I’m keeping count). I order the chicken; she orders the steak—go figure. We make more small talk. Our food comes out and she uses her fork to penetrate the steak.  She asks the waiter to send it back–oh no not again! She now wants the fish instead. She has returned a portion of her meal during every date so far. Red flag? The waiter politely obliges. I’m not going to let it bother me this time because I’m focused on the big picture–my steadfast rule: if I’ve been spending money on you, I’m getting some by date number 3!  We enjoy the meal and have a fairly decent conversation. I like her smile, she’s pretty and she’s smart.  Despite her restaurant etiquette I’m starting to dig this woman.  We share a few laughs throughout our meal and I help her with her coat as we depart the restaurant.

We arrive at the front door of her place around 11:30PM.  I’m gazing into her eyes to see if she’s giving me a signal to park and come upstairs.  Before I could make a determination she asks, “do you want to come up for a little bit?”  I don’t hesitate and quickly demonstrate my superb parallel parking skills.  She lives in a five-story walk up—no wonder she stays in shape.  Out of breath I step inside and am greeted by a high-pitched howl—damn she has a dog!  I have a seat on her couch and she brings two glasses of patron and cranberry juice and asks, “do you smoke?” I reply, “nah, I don’t fool with cigarettes, you?”  She responds, “I mean weed silly!”  Feeling a bit goofy, I respond, “oh I tried it a couple times in college.”  Before I could say anything else she was back on her feet.  She returns with a contraption (I later find out it’s called a vaporizer) and two grams of weed.  She lights it up and passes it to me to take a hit.  I hesitate at first, but I tell her I’m good and decide to pass.

It’s 1:00AM and I’ve managed to position my hand on her leg.  She’s high and snuggled into my chest.  With one arm wrapped around my waist and the other hand holding tightly to the vaporizer, in a whisper, she asks, “have you ever tried coke?”  Okay I was just talking myself into getting used to the fact that she blazes on a regular basis.  But she does coke too? Weedhead is one thing, but cokehead?! Is it an occasional thing? Am I overthinking? Should I give it a try?

Little White Lie

I am ready to call it a night after being out at a club.  Since my car keys are in my friend’s car, I can’t leave until she gets in her last round of bootie shaking.  As I impatiently stand against the wall, out of nowhere he approaches.  We exchange pleasantries and he asks me whether (1) I have a boyfriend, (2) I’m single, or (3) in an undefined situation. I’ve never been asked the third option but I like his thoroughness.  The club is dim so I can’t get a good look at his face, but I can tell his body is attractive by his silhouette.  He tells me that he wanted to come over and say hello despite the very serious/mean look on my face.  I’m flattered. Mental note: stop mean mugging. Before he leaves, he asks for my number.  Should I give him my Google number or the real thing?  I will give him the real one since he seems polite, pleasant and pleasing on the eye.

He sends me a text message the next morning.  Damn, what happened to the 3-day rule? After a few exchanges, he calls.  In this new world of text messaging and tweeting, I appreciate a man who still picks up the phone to have a conversation.  We speak for hours on a variety of topics.  His peppering of questions demonstrates his keen interest in getting to know me.  The questions continue and I’m happy to answer honestly to give him insight into who I am.  I’ve already surmised by the many questions that he must have be a lawyer because I am feeling a bit interrogated—in a nice way.  We talk about his short term and long term personal and career goals.  He hopes to get married within the next five years and wants to land a job in the White House.  For a woman in her mid-thirties, his marriage trajectory is music to my ears!  I also like that he is ambitious.

As we’re talking on the phone I decide to search for him on Facebook to see whether we have mutual friends—DC is small, he may have dated someone I know.  He doesn’t come up in my search.  As I am logging into LinkedIn, he asks, “are you a big social media user?”  I tell him I use them sporadically, and ask him whether he uses social media.  Then I notice he has searched for me on LinkedIn. I’m not surprised, the internet makes it so easy for us to be nosey.  “No I’m not really much of a Facebook and Twitter user” he responds.  I ask, “so you’re not one of those who runs a Google search on people you meet?” He replies, “nope.”  I follow up by asking, “would you search someone on LinkedIn?”  He also responds “no”.  “Then why does my LinkedIn account say that you searched my profile a couple of hours ago?”  Damn damn damn! Did I just say that out loud?! Awkward silence.  He calmly says, “I didn’t search for you on LinkedIn.” Side eye. Did he just lie?! I said, “really? That’s’ not what LinkedIn indicates.” More awkward silence.  I switch the subject.   There goes my idea of him being amazing. Was I wrong for asking? If he can lie about this, what else will he lie about?

Inverse Relationship

I leave my favorite Thursday night happy hour spot feeling optimistic about the women I met tonight.  My swag was on 100, resulting in six phone numbers from some very attractive ladies.  The next morning I send them all the same text message: “good mrng. hope u had a good night. great meeting you.” Four out of the six respond. One of them follows up with a text message asking, “when will I see u again?”  After a few more text message exchanges, I focus my attention on her and she becomes my favorite of the six.

Our first date a week later was to see John Legend in concert.  She purchased our tickets and also treated me to dinner. Damn, I could get used to this! We sleep with each other on the first date.  Now that is what you call a new-age woman! Sex was aight but it didn’t last as long as I would have liked. A week later, a card with a gift certificate to my favorite men’s store is delivered to my office.  The card has no name attached.  Nah, this can’t be from her.  It is from her! We spend more and more time together. Within a month, I find myself calling her “baby.”  She’s not too clingy and she doesn’t ask me questions about trying to commit.  I’m feeling her style.  She laughs at my corny jokes, and constantly finds ways to do nice things for me.  She could write a book for all these chicks who are waiting on a man to spend a ton of money on them before they give the man some attention.

Six months pass and she still has the same ride-or-die personality.  But, I’m not sure I want to ride for her the same way.  Why am I hesitating? I’m ready to settle down.  I still frequent my Thursday happy hour spot and I am still talking to women and taking their numbers.  Some of them are slightly more attractive than her and they pique my interest.  I sleep with some of them. I should probably tell her that I don’t know if I can give her what she wants.  But she isn’t asking for anything–yet. I’m ready to settle down, I’m ready to find that woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.  She seems like the right person for me.  She caters to me.  She loves me.  Sometimes I can see myself with her long-term, and other times, I would be indifferent if she stopped speaking to me. She’s not it. How am I going to tell her? She likes me too much. I’ll just ride it out and not say anything.

President Obama’s Gift to Minority Communities

Many people (including myself) have criticized President Obama for not sufficiently focusing on issues affecting minority communities. Black leaders have castigated Obama for not doing enough for “his people” since his tenure in the White House. I have vacillated in my opinion on how much President Obama can solely influence policy and change laws from the Oval Office. However, it disappoints me to see the continued suffering of minorities especially with our first African-American president leads our country. According to the National Journal:

  • the net wealth for Black families dropped by 27.1% during the recession;
  • currently, one in 15 African-American men is incarcerated, compared with one in 106 white men;
  • Blacks comprise 38% of inmates currently in state and federal prisons; and
  • although only 13.8% of the U.S. population, African-Americans represent 27% of those living below the poverty line.

When President Obama took office, many African-Americans were hopeful that the Executive Branch of our government would look out for their best interest. Last month, following the repeal of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, it was clear to African-Americans that the U.S. Supreme Court held the rights of gays and lesbians in America as more important than the rights of African-Americans. Congress continues to attempt to strike down ObamaCare and maintain an impasse on immigration reform. Congress has also stripped funding of the U.S. food stamp program while passing the Farm Bill pumping additional monies into the farm subsidy program—when was the last time you purchased produce or a cotton shirt that was grown or manufactured in the U.S.? Throughout all of the new policies and laws recently implemented by Congress, the African-American community continues to ask, “wassup with our Black president?!”

President Obama has been known to resist honing in on race-specific issues. Rather, he has chosen to focus his goals on improving the livelihood of the middle class. Obama’s specific speeches on race and blacks can be counted on one hand. In March 2008, then-presidential candidate/Senator Barak Obama delivered a speech in Philadelphia titled “We The People.” The speech was prompted by a racially charged sermon by the President’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama spoke about being born “the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.” He also recounted that “a lack of economic opportunity among Black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families—a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened.” He referenced the word “black” thirty-nine times during his speech. African-Americans galvanized following his speech focused on race, and eight months later elected him as our first Black president.

Throughout his time in office, President Obama has continued to live up to his creed that he is the “president of all America.” As president, members of Congress have criticized him for not doing more to focus on issues affecting Black communities. His next speech on race came five years later when he addressed the graduates at Morehouse College, an all-male HBCU. Although his speech was not primarily focused on race issues, Obama touched on the topic when he said:

We’ve got no time for excuses—not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured—and overcame.

Two months later, President Obama was back at a podium to discuss the issue of race. Following the national fallout of the George Zimmerman verdict for shooting Trayvon Martin, Obama came to a press briefing in the White House where he gave unprepared remarks (days after putting out a lackluster statement on the incident) on being a black male in the United States. Despite all of these speeches about race, President Obama has not supported his statements with evidenced changes within the black community—or so I thought until this past Monday.

While Obama selected his cabinet for his second term in office he was chastised by the lack of minorities in leadership positions. As he named his new selections, the cabinet was gearing up to consist of fewer women and minorities than his first term. The man I elected to lead our country—TWICE was bemusing me! But, this Monday I finally saw the big picture. President Obama didn’t have to make speeches on race and overtly state that he had my back and the back of minorities in this country. He made that clear, when on December 1, 2008 he nominated his friend Eric Holder, to become the U.S. Attorney General.

Eric Holder is the 82nd U.S. Attorney General and the first African-American to hold this position. He has been criticized, chastised and held in contempt by members of Congress, and despite the reproach he has continued to hold his own and carry out his duties as the highest-ranking government attorney in the United States. When the Supreme Court overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act, Holder ensured that the Justice Department would use “every tool at [their] disposal to stand against discrimination.” Holder is leading the charge on the Justice Department’s challenge of the South Carolina voter ID law and a Texas redistricting plan.

In the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Eric Holder reminded us that the tragedy provided us with an opportunity to revisit the dialogue on U.S. race issues through a speech to the NAACP. Despite the racially charged conversations that were occurring following the Zimmerman trial, Holder showed no hesitation in raising his concerns on the role race played in the tragedy. He vowed to take a closer look at the impact of state “Stand Your Ground” laws and described the conversation he was forced to have with his fifteen-year-old son:

Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways…. As important as it was, I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure that the kind of talk I had with my son isn’t the only conversation that we engage in as a result of these tragic events.

On Monday, Holder revealed his overhaul of the Justice Department’s approach to reforming certain criminal laws by cutting mandatory minimum drug sentences. Holder addressed the unwarranted disparities that such laws created between minority and white communities. He acknowledged the role that the government played in exacerbating the problems related to poverty, criminality and incarceration in many minority communities. There is no denying that addressing these drug sentences will have a greater impact on minority offenders. Holder is not only an attorney who seeks to reform the injustices of Blacks and Latinos; he has aimed to ensure that no minority group faces injustices at the hands of the government. For example, Holder decided to cease the DOJ’s defense of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act nearly two years before the Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional.

Unlike the role that our President plays, Eric Holder is at the helm of our federal judicial system and has the ability to control the manner in which our laws are enforced. He recognizes that the method for prosecuting certain crimes and the sentencing criteria has disproportionately impacted minorities. This may lessen his chances of every gaining a seat on the country’s highest court; however, Holder is ensuring that he leaves his mark on U.S. history. It is unclear whether President Obama knew at the time he nominated Holder to lead the Department of Justice that Holder would become his gateway to directly helping minority communities. Nevertheless, kudos to Obama for his wise selection, and for not replacing Holder in his second term. As for Attorney General Eric Holder, thank you for addressing the inequities in minority communities.

Obama and Holder

Forgive. Trust. Love.

I recently came across this quote: “Look back in forgiveness, look forward in trust, [live] now in love.”  At first glance I considered it yet another ordinary quote. But like most things I read/hear, I stored it away and processed it later.  As I was flying home, sitting quietly with my thoughts, I started to think about those 12 simple words and realized that it surmised how I try to live my life.  Admittedly I am far from perfect, and oftentimes struggle with the forgiveness, trust and love actions. But If I could live according to those words life would continue to bring me an abundance of happiness.
Let me take a moment to break down these three acts.

Forgiveness

I try not to look back unless it’s to remind myself of previous life lessons.  But at times, I reflect on the past with a bitter heart–to remind myself of when I’ve been wronged. Healing begins with forgiveness. An apology isn’t necessary before we start to forgive (and oftentimes that apology may never come).  We don’t forgive to let others off the hook. Rather, we forgive to allow our broken hearts to mend. A bitter heart will not trust nor can it receive love.

Trust

I battle with these five letters on a daily basis. I trust two people in the entire world–that’s myself and God. Well maybe just God–sometimes I can’t trust myself when left to my own devices. Okay, if I’m really going to be honest, at times I’ve questioned my faith in Him as well.  Bottom line, I have trust issues.  For some, trusting is easy, but I’ve tried a couple approaches: trust until the person gives you a reason not to trust him/her; stay weary until you have built up trust in a person.  None of these have been 100% effective. I am not going to try to proffer advice on something I may never master.  But I do know that being able to trust and to be trusted is a fundamental requirement to a happy life.

Love

Live now in love. Can someone love if he/she hasn’t learned to forgive and trust?  The answer is likely no, but I may have found a loophole! Living in love is what maintains my happiness. I love to see others succeed, I love to see others happy, I love to find the best characteristics in everyone.  Okay, maybe I’ve redefined love. But like I mentioned above, I have trust and forgiveness issues, so this is my workaround.  If we’re talking about love–like handing over sharing my heart–then I still have some work to do in that regard.  But I’ve tried to demonstrate my love to those who matter the most to me, in the best way I can.

I told you those twelve simple words packed a big punch. Take some time to reflect on what the quote means to you and whether you live your life accordingly.

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