You know, for the longest time I never knew black people in America had a history. “Back in my day” [I can’t believe I’m saying that] they didn’t teach anything at all about black history. There was a little paragraph that said your ancestors were slaves, accompanied by a picture of slaves working in a field. Then we learned about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and that was it. I get that people don’t like to talk about slavery but that sent the message that there was No history for blacks. That other than silent workers who never contributed anything meaningful there were only two people in all of black culture who ever did anything of value and that was many years later.
.Not much of a history lesson. It sent a message that black people never mattered. And that Only white people Did matter. Both blacks and whites received this message.
There is an ancient proverb: Until the Lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.
Yes, one way Dominant groups inscribe power is by means of the historical record. It’s all Right, such is human nature. Promote thy self and minimize the accomplishments of others.
But now that I was older I decided to investigate myself. And what I discovered gave me a whole new Appreciation for black culture.
You see, contrary to what I was led to believe, black people have a rich, exciting history in this country that is just like any other culture’s history. I don’t mean that every culture had their culture and identities stripped away, but I do mean we have a very rich and colorful history in this country that speaks to our wonderful humanity. Determination, desire, struggles, hopes, highs, lows, love, war, passion, creativity, self expression, teamwork, invention, and inevitably the triumph of the human spirit. Every history book speaks to people being oppressed in various ways and how they always fight back to gain their freedom. From high taxes to strict rules to excessively long work hours to oppressive governments – the injustices abound within history books. Yet, people always find their way back to freedom. ALWAYS.
BLACK HISTORY IS NO DIFFERENT.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to share some highlights that Really resonated with me.
And I hope they resonate with you, too.
Black history does not have to be the always the victim and never the Victor topic that brings humiliation to black americans and great shame to white americans. It is a part of our history that we would do well to come to terms with because both hiding it and being ashamed of it has not worked to bring peace nor solace to this topic. To the contrary, those reactions have only kept the wound open. Black history does tell a very human story, One that we can embrace with love for our ancestors, respect for where we were in our society at that time and far more importantly, where we would like to go moving forward.
“The road to Freedom is always stalked by death” –Angela Davis
The implication here is there is responsibility that comes along with freedom.
Therefore, the more free you are, the more responsible you must be.
Responsible, not just in supporting yourself with a job, but being an invested party within our government system.
Government is FOR the people and BY the people, sure, but in order to make that a reality “the people” – that is YOU, that is ME – would need to take an interest in the goings-on and affairs of the world we live in. That level of interest will vary from person to person, but we cannot relinquish all of our power to a small group of people, like a child to a parent, and expect the “parent” government to dispense only fairness and just, right action all of the time. There are simply too many “children”.
We are not children though are we? Children don’t have much responsibility, certainly not when compared to an adult. This is why Children don’t have the same freedom that adults have. As children, adults regulate and control their freedom. Parents ultimately decide what the child will wear, what they will eat, how they will behave and even what activities they participate in.
But adults? – We have to ask ourselves a very serious question. What exactly do I want from my government? And what am I willing to do for it? Certainly a few individuals do not have the capacity to know or to provide for billions of people. Since this is the case, it becomes imperative that we invest in our own selves and in our own lives, that we seek to contribute actively to the society that we live in, instead of only leaching off of the power of others. which then becomes a drain on society. Too many people taking from the pot and not enough people adding to the pot.
So it is not surprising when we see some parties in government who seek to oppress others. Responsibility is part and parcel to freedom. We, the people, must also be caretakers. Governments need our interest, they need our support, they need to hear our ideas – so we need to have ideas – and then they need to see us actively contribute to the world we want to live in.
For example, we all say we want a clean and health economy, but how many are willing to cease littering? and to volunteer once a year to clean debris that blows into our streams or streets? or to support organizations who work toward clean energy and sustainable ventures that are better for our environment? How many people are voluntarily willing to recycle?
Or would you rather support companies that pollute our environment because its convenient.
These are hard questions we must ask ourselves. Because the answer involves change.
and Change is not so easy.
Democracy is a Partnership between people who are being governed and people who are govern-ing. But every relationship is a two-way street, is it not?
This means there is Responsibility on our part. On My part.
How do we regulate Our government?
We must never forget the power is in the people as long as we remain united.
And we must actively support the world we want to live in. Not wait to see what “others” will do. Because they are all waiting for You.
What can I do to contribute meaningfully to the world that I would like to live in?…is the Question.
As with anything, words are assigned the meaning that you give to them.
I’ve had varying levels of freedom over the years, each time believing I was free…
Until I became more free.
Freedom is simply the right to choose.
Now the tricky thing is, Freedom looks different to all of us. I might think freedom is not living in the hood. Others with emotional attachments to their hometown may disagree. I might say freedom is not having religious requirements. Others will assert their freedom while observing the religious requirements. I might say freedom is not working for someone else. Another might say they choose to work for someone else and they are still free. Cant argue with those. Because it’s all a choice.
Choice, Variety, Options will look very, very different from culture to culture and from person to person, because we all have different perspectives. We all want different things out of life. So who is to say how another person should or should not define their freedom? It is true that we are so free we could choose bondage. And many of us unconsciously do, while asserting we are free.
So I’ll leave you to ponder the theme song from Diff’rent Strokes:
Now the world dont move to the beat of just one drum.
What might be right for you, may not be right for some.
Everybody’s got a special kind of story.
Everybody’s got a way to shine.
It dont matter that you got not alot, so what?
You’ll have yours, they’ll have theirs and I’ll have mine.
And together we’ll be fine
‘cause it takes different strokes to rule the world.
Yes it does, it takes different strokes to rule the world.
there are so many lessons ive learned this year I don’t know if I can even recount them all. but in appreciation for all that I Have and all that I AM and all that I Will be, I will do homage to this year of very hard lessons.
for one thing I learned I was living in a bubble and that it was by choice. in psychology I learned about social conditioning and government control and research. I learned how wonderfully vast and expansive our collective consciousness is, just how many thoughts and opinions are out there and I respect them all. ‘I Respect them ALL’ does not mean I agree with them all, but I respect the human being and the right for the human being to choose for himself.
i learned about duality and how the power of our desires will shape our future -both individually and collectively. I learned how truly powerful we are, IAM, the human race is. I learned, more in depth, about emotions, specifically how our triggers reflect the same thing that we hate residing within us [enter the ‘I hate trump’ parade of individuals who blame one man for outwardly displaying the same behaviors we all possess. we all possess and ALLOW while we play hide n seek with our lives, pretending, “posing”, “flossing”, allowing jealousy and feelings of superiority to infiltrate our consciousness, all the while pretending we are fine, we are not jealous – we just look at what everyone else has and decide we want that too, we decide that other people have it so easy while we have it so hard, that’s not jealousy, its……, we are not racist we just don’t believe other people should have the same things we have, we just believe we should be on top and they should be underneath us. everyone’s equal, but some are more equal than others. that’s not racist that’s…… we are not sexist, its just that we believe women deserve to be raped if they wear that outfit in public. they asked for it, that’s not me acting out my own desires to rape people plus I still have God’s favor because the bible says women are inferior so that means we are meant to abuse them right? have I read the bible? no, I don’t have to because I know who I am…] Yes, we have all become quite adept at hiding who we really are in the closet while pretending to be someone else in public. we just expect some things to stay hidden in the closet. but truth will NEVER be hidden; not for long. Truth ALWAYS comes to light. ALWAYS [enter mr trump with his limited filtration system]…Peruse through any history book and you will notice a constant battle between humanity’s fears and humanity’s desires (the fear of being powerless and the desire to be independent, along with all the ways we work those two needs out on each other. which is why we have greed and separation. Truly we make things so much harder than they need to be.
strength and courage
the ability to hold everyone’s truth as my own truth and to still maintain my own thoughts and ideas -this was expanded upon in a new way for me. it went far beyond respecting others’ opinions and moved into understanding all aspects of ‘why’. why we do the things we do, why we feel the way we feel, why we hide the things we hide, why we hurt the way we hurt and don’t say anything.
this was a painful reality at times, because everyone has a point, a perspective that is valid in their own life. I have gone back and forth many, many, many times on the realities of social conditioning versus personal responsibility. I will hold that divine truth will reveal itself as it always has and that God knows what is in a person’s heart. this places each driver in his own driver’s seat. including me.
the kind of confrontation i am referring to here is confronting myself. digging into that figurative closet and tossing out into the open childhood traumas, even if seemingly not so traumatic, tossing out into the open anything lurking in the shadows that i run and hide from, tossing out into the open behaviors that were not serving me, fears, insecurities, powerlessness. tossed out into the center of the floor, on display. look at it. own it. its mine. now that I have accepted it is mine, address it, one by one. CLOSE THAT CLOSET SO IT CANT RUN BACK IN and work with each of my struggles one by one. by one. by one. that’s all for now. I may find a few strays later. I’ll be back in that closet to continue the clearing work that needs to be done. Why confrontation? For integration, for peace. (When you know who you are you have peace within) I was not scared because it is only me and also, ive always embraced my shadow side. however the work was still hard, still difficult, unpleasant, even painful at times. and I thought if it is this hard for someone like me, how much harder is it for someone who has spent their entire life running away from who they are? how hard indeed – and judgment goes away. and respect for other enters the room. that is the work of confrontation or shadow work. and it is ongoing.
a year of love
i don’t believe i have loved humanity as much as I have this year – the good, the bad and the ugly. not sure if I really loved humanity at all; definitely not like this. I loved their good side, but the bad? this is the peace of integration. it is understanding, embodying, embracing that the good And the bad are within each of us. We all have the Capacity to do both good and evil and many of us do both good and evil, we just don’t see the evil part because it is us and we have our reasons why we do the things we do.
a year of integration
embodying myself in all its parts and embodying humanity in all its parts, embracing the oneness that we all possess – it takes a lot of work to get there. this is not the hardest thing I had to face this year. the hardest thing was facing myself.
a year of loss
this year I loss two people very dear to me.
my beautiful grandmother: Mary Kenner, who passed away but left me with a wealth of love and words to live by, namely ‘Draw Close to God’ and ‘Enjoy Your Life’. Truly I have learned these lessons most powerfully this year and they were reinforced directly from her mouth to my ears. I Will continue to embrace these truths.
and my beautiful friend, Lisa Rose, who embodied what it means to be both pure of heart and bad-assed. A rare soul, a brave soul. I miss you and think of you often, as you know.
this year has put me through the ringer. but i had one final lesson to learn before the year was done and it was learned on new years eve. a powerful lesson, a painful one, a revealing one, a spiritual one. i took to searching and journaling and praying and what was revealed to me was what I already (conscienciously) knew. Only now I knew through actual experience (that’s the suckey part but I already knew better so I brought the suckey part on myself). Stand in my power as the human being that I AM and ALWAYS Was. The Choice Lies With Me and No One Else. Lesson was learned and I AM even more POWERFUL for it. which was actually scary for the same reasons being powerful is scary to many of us. I cannot relinquish my life to anyone. I AM here to live MY life and to enjoy MY life. That is MY TRUTH.
and I AM no different from anyone else.
I know my next steps for the upcoming year and yet it is a blank canvas. this is a new way of Being for me too, but exciting. this is the human experience: to Live For Each Day.
at the end of the year i came across Whitney Houston’s song ‘The Greatest Love of All ’. such a beautiful song that sounded new to me. as we embark on the upcoming year, lets really lean into the words this song relays. it is no accident that these beautiful words came from a beautiful woman who possessed such a heavenly and beautiful voice.
I decided long ago
never to walk in Anyone’s shadow
If I Fail, If I Succeed
At Least I’ll Live How I Believe
No Matter What They Take From Me
They Can’t Take Away My Dignity
Because the Greatest Love Of All Is Happening To Me
So Mother Nature decided it was time we made a decision;
Either Level Up or Experience What You Do Not Desire.
I did not realize the world was as bad as it was
I did not realize that toxicities within men and women had escalated to the point it had.
I was Aware that things on the planet were bad – the desecration of our land, our animal and plant life. I was Aware of the corruption within politics (we all are), but I had not Embodied these truths. I had not Embraced these truths to the extent I had this past year.
the bible’s timeframe began to take shape right before my very eyes.
secretly I always hoped I would not see it, fear setting in, let that happen to some other generation. I just want to grow old happily and die naturally and …[translation: keep living in my comfort bubble where I ignore the world’s problems as if they are not also my problems, not yet understanding the connection we have to each other and to Every Thing. I was not shocked to see this happen. I would be lying if I said I was. for one thing, I always kind of knew it might happen while I am present here on earth and for another thing I was warned about this last fall, about the world changing in a major way the following year. and yet, I in my bubble ‘decided’ well….im in school right now, so I guess the major thing will happen once the semester finishes…that sounds about right…because I am the center of the universe and the world revolves around me…so yeah, around late spring-summer the major thing can happen and I’ll be better equipped to deal with it at that time. made sense to me.
didn’t work out that way.
despite awareness, I did not embody that truth and I was shaken to my core along with the entire world.
don’t’ think a person could really prepare for such a thing. kind of like when I had a baby. I thought I was totally prepared, read all the books, babysat out the wazoo, planned pregnancy, totally ready…but you’re never ready for such a life changing affair and I was not ready for this. didn’t seem like anyone going through what I was going through (those who knew this was coming) was. there are different levels to this of course. some people, through their own logic and common sense understand the necessity to not relinquish ALL of your power to outside entities, and they have retained a measure of self sufficiency within their own lives. they know how to fend food for themselves, how to find water, how to keep warm in the cold, etc, etc. we call them “preppers”, but perhaps it is just “common sensers” because we should all know how to grow our own fold and find water, natural abilities that should come from being human, how to take care of yourself. but those “distractions” were removed from our world. let others take care of that for us and we just worry about making this money. we can “buy” food with the money we work for. some people relinquished, some didn’t.
meanwhile back at the supermarkets toilet paper was flying off the shelves at record speed, because in times of turmoil the toilet paper shall be our saving grace [light shines down from heaven onto said toilet paper roll on a pedestal]. whatever happened to food and water in times of crisis? ‘oh that was a thing of the past; we are so beyond that now. toilet paper will sustain us.’
I knew people needed to rest; I new people needed this to happen; I thought it was simply because we lived in such a fast-paced society and without the benefit of calming down we are not able to tune in.
then the great toilet paper scare of america happened.
and I realized just how far from our humanity we had come.
so far in fact that we forgot we are human BEings, and as such, scared of running out of toilet paper in times of crisis. why is that even on the list of concerns? because we became far removed from who we are as human beings to the point where we forgot our basic needs and what matters most.
you see, we already had a virus long before we were given a name to it.
and so I felt the shift – the physical shift – pulling us all together.
spending some time in confinement regained some of our senses. people began to see the way we were living was not fruitful, was not happiness. spending time with family was important, developing our natural talents and gifts was important. enjoying life is important. enjoying Living is important.
after regaining our senses some of us even tried to return said toilet paper – perhaps exchange it for food? But alas, ‘no takebacks’ was the response from commerce.
Which experiences in life helped me grow the most? Why the most challenging experiences of course! IF – and only if – you allow yourself to be disciplined by challenges, as opposed to running from them, you will experience exponential growth, understanding and wisdom. You will be Stronger. If you refuse to improve yourself, well you’ll simply repeat the same unhappiness in that area of your life until you expire.
The Choice is always up to the Individual making the choice. There is no right or wrong answer; there is only an experience that you will desire or an experience that you do not desire.
So…either level Up or experience what you do not desire.
I would not choose to permanently ban any word from usage for several reasons. First, restricting a person’s basic rights is a slippery slope and an unnecessary one. Once you decide to restrict words, where does it end? Because every person has words they dont like, if we all chose one word, there wouldn’t be any words left. Two, words change and evolve over time so that original meanings and usage get lost over the course of even just one or two generations. A good example of this is the “itis” which came from a comedian in the 90s. Today people who are not black use this term – which I find hilarious – because if they only knew what the “itis” is short for, they probably wouldn’t use it, LOL. Which brings me to my last point: Three, each word has the meaning that you give it and will mean different things to different people. For example ‘hell’ is bad if used in certain sentences and good if used in the Bible. The same goes for ‘bitch’, commonly used as a professional term in dog shows, extremely unprofessional and offensive when used to refer to another human. But ‘bitchin’- that’s a good term meaning fun times, but to ‘bitch’ is to complain about something so if a person is ‘bitchin’ about something, that is not a good thing at all. In other words, Words have the meaning you assign to them.
‘Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so’ . Wm. Shakespeare
Breathe In…Breathe Out…Breathe In…Breathe Out…Breathe In…Breathe Out
Ok…here we go…We’re all in this together…
Sentiment around American slaves often exclusively focuses on weakness. And is rather one-note, namely, people either worked in the field picking cotton or they worked in the house. No other jobs. It paints this picture that they were nothing but miserable slaves. The End. There are no relationship nuances, no room for emotions for family and friends, ingenuity of ideas, variety of perspectives of the slaves or even variety in how slave masters treated their slaves. The story is often exclusively told, colloquially, without the details of normal life at that time. Normal Human Life. Normal Human Life, Even for Slaves, At that Time. The many colors of the human soul experience are often lacking when the stories of slaves are told. But no slave was ever just a slave, just like no poor person is just a “poor”. That individual – that human being – had a life and feelings and desires, likes and dislikes, passions and disappointments and adeptness and creativity and opportunities, albeit limited, they were still there. They were people just like us, trying their best to get along in the world in which they were born. Slave narratives are a good way to peek into the lives of former slaves.
History reveals that those PEOPLE, who were slaves, held many different roles both inside of and outside of agriculture. Cotton was one of the most flourishing commodities at the time, so was indigo, tobacco, peanuts and sugar cane. And slaves were used in every aspect, yes as housemaids and cooks, but also construction workers, farmers, horsemen, hunters, fisherman, musicians, singers, sailors and the like. They were an integral part of society that performed valuable roles and contributed significantly to the wealth of the south. They were the “wheels” making everything go ’round as the economy of the south was centered around and depended heavily on their slaves. What little time they had left over for themselves they used to enhance their life as best they could. When it comes to human nature, slave society was about as complex as our society is today.
In her autobiography, “Incidentsin the Life of a Slave Girl”, Harriet Jacobs recounts her experience as a slave and housemaid. She cited the tension and backlash from both white women for being targeted by their husbands and from white men for targeting them: Soon she will learn to tremble when she hears her master’s footfall. She will be compelled to realize that she is no longer a child. If God has bestowed beauty upon her, it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave. … I cannot tell how much I suffered in the presence of these wrongs, nor how I am still pained by the retrospect. My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him. If I went out for a breath of fresh air, after a day of unwearied toil, his footsteps dogged me. If I knelt by my mother’s grave, his dark shadow fell over me even there. The light heart which nature had given me became heavy with sad forebodings.
[Does this explain where much of the contention between these two cultures of women and men came from when it comes to interracial relationships? Food for thought…]
This doesn’t sound like she was living the Suite Life just because she worked in the house. This excerpt is important because the underlying beliefs that are held today, that slave housemaids did not work as hard as the field hands, that all the maids who worked in the house were light- skinned and that they had the easy life while all the dark skinned people worked in the field, is not supported by source documents, the people who lived that life, nor by pictures in later years of those working in the fields. Enslaved people worked all kinds of jobs, whichever they were most suited for, regardless of their color, each aspect of slave society having its own set of challenges. This does not mean that colorism played no part in society, but colorism was not the definitive ranking that some believe it was, not during slave society. Even those in seeming favor of their white master-family member-father did not mean they were exempt from unspeakable toils. For many, social standards and stigmas were far greater than any kinship (sometimes this was not true, where the master of the house would take care of his slave children better, providing them a few more comforts in terms of clothing or food, but they remained separate and slaves nonetheless). It boiled down to whether or not you had a nice master or a harsh master and there were different levels of harshness ascribed to them. Just like today, sometimes bosses are pleasant and sometimes not so much. Today we have laws for a measure of protection against such things.
Colorism is not exclusive to black Americans and is practiced in asian cultures, in hispanic cultures, especially in south America, in Indian cultures and in white cultures. Yes, white cultures discriminate against each other on various levels of “whiteness” very similar to how blacks discriminate against each other on various levels of “blackness”. This appears to be very much an international and intercultural practice but this perspective will only speak to the afro American experience, mainly because this slavery series is on the afro american experience J
Of note is that within these different cultures colorism is more tolerated and acceptable as a fact of life. No one speaks as loudly on this topic as black Americans, so since our culture is also affected by this very riveting topic it warrants exploration.
At the root of colorism is the planned separation of those conquered that came along with colonization. In an attempt to deflect attention away from the rapings and the children that ensued in a slave society, the ideas that bubbled forth was that different shaded children could help keep slaves in their slave position if they were divided. The plan was to separate the blacks by color and to treat the lighter ones differently than the darker ones, the darker ones would get jealous, the slaves would be divided and then they would be so busy hating each other they wouldn’t turn on whites. Tear them apart from the inside out. Did their plan work?
We are having this conversation 157 years later because to some extent they succeeded in laying a foundation for separation. Disempowering beliefs are generational. And despite what you personally believe to be true, not all of the slaves were happy to be free. Some didn’t feel smart enough/powerful enough/worthy enough. And those feelings of unworthiness have trickled down into what we today refer to as ‘colorism’.
Post slavery colorism has taken different forms in parts of black America where black people within the same culture would either discriminate against darker skinned blacks so they could appear more superior (the ever-referenced brown paper bag test practiced in Louisiana) and nowadays discrimination against lighter skinned blacks citing the belief that opportunities are no longer available for other blacks and lighter skinned blacks are given a free ride, everything comes easier in life and they do not have to work as hard as other blacks.
What’s also interesting about colorism stereotypes today is that “dark skin” ranges on a very broad scale, when you look at worldwide colorism and also within black American culture, there is no general consensus on where exactly “dark” begins since it is relative to the community a person grows up in. This means you could believe your whole life you are dark, because people have told you such, then you move to a different community, where you are now categorized as “red boned” and you are not dark any longer. You are now the light one.
This kind of thing happens when you allow other people to define you, when you allow other people to tell you who you are. There is a lot of confusion about who “you” “should be” and you’ll find yourself ping-ponging all over the place trying to fit into another person’s idea of who you are.
Most of the anger and separation surrounding colorism today is post-slavery. Today’s colorism in black America is largely promoted by black americans. And it serves one purpose – to further the divide. And that was its Original purpose. White people do not go around referring to blacks as octoroon and red-boned. These are white concepts that were studied and practiced internalized and regurgitated by blacks – post slavery – because there is not enough love of self to combat these stereotypes. Granted those who promote these concepts have been convinced that this is appropriate because all they see on the news is negative statistics surrounding their black culture and arguments back and forth around why black people cannot succeed in life. Colorism just adds one more reason why people cannot achieve what they want or be happy with their appearance. With such negativity hurled almost exclusively at black Americans, what conclusion and outlook do many of them come to? A powerful one or a disempowering one?
The arguments surrounding personal preference today involve many factors that go into why a person is chosen for something and why another is not. Any of these reasons could cause people to prefer one person over another:
Curly hair/Straight hair
Brown eyed/blue eyed
And there are many more reasons than this why one person would be chosen over another. There are many components that make up just one individual person, not just color, and for any of the reasons above a person might have a preference for another. None of them should make or break you, define you or cause you to feel unworthy.
This speaks to embracing the Truth of who you are, your own Beautiful Divinity.
And Expressing it in Only the Way You Can
There is only ONE YOU on this planet.
But if you trivialize your own value
By assuming you are worthless and that others have all the power
Then you will never realize your truest value.
You did not come here to be small.
And when you decide to let in more of YOUR light
It will become more Apparent to you
How great you are.
And then you will know
The only one holding you back…
Unless you are willing to love yourself and allow the truth of who you are to float to the surface, there will never ever be an end to the colorism debate.
Unless you decide to end it.
It is up to a mature society to decide to let this go. It is time to let it go. You cannot control what color you are and neither can anyone else. There is far too much focus – by black Americans – on the color of a person’s skin. And how others view us should be irrelevant. The larger, much, much larger issue is what black people think of themselves.
In other words, have you allowed the white perspective about who you are and the separation caused by it to seep into your heart and mind? Have you embraced that as your truth? Because when it comes to colorism, one belief puts the power in your hands. The other belief puts the power in the hands of others.
For American Blacks, the colorism topic is harder than the racisim topic because we are united on the racism topic, But separate on the topic of colorism.
If we are ready for a New Earth, we cannot look at others and ask them not to judge us by the color of our skin, when we ourselves actively practice judging others by the color of theirs.
The Road To Healing
Did the color of skin matter to slaves? Research does not suggest there was as much regard for color during slavery as there is post-slavery. The reason for that being white society at that time was extremely racist toward all blacks and skin color was not a major factor in terms of the horrors and degradation experienced and they all saw that happening to each other, despite complexion. White passing or “white niggers” were not excluded from that. In fact, if a white nigger tried to pass themselves off as a white person they could lose their lives; it was punishable by death. Even after slavery ended when new laws surrounding blackness were being defined by whites, any black lineage in the past 10 generations automatically regulated a white person to black (inferior) status and subject to all of the black oppression codes as any other black. This is where the “one drop makes you whole” phrase comes from. White culture was not giving an inch on that because that would mess with their superiority complex. Their racism was a strongly held belief, especially at that time, since it was used to excuse a lot of behavior that would otherwise be questionable, unchristian and immoral, to say the very least.
We come into this life with a set of tools – qualities, that will help us on our journey, and we can pick up new tools along the way. For example, if I’m not a good communicator but I notice that other people seem to always get what they want AND I also notice that they use certain kinds of language that I do not use, I MIGHT be inspired to improve my communication skills, thereby giving me a new skill, or new tool, to help navigate how I relate to others. There are so many wonderful tools that we can pick up or learn in our life, along our path, but there is not one more valuable than Self-Love, because from Self-Love comes the Practice of learning and retaining the Essence of who you are, Pulling Away From Social Beliefs That Do Not Serve You, learning that Appreciation of what you already have increases your emotional state, not concerning yourself with things that are out of your control and certainly not allowing others to define who you are. Self Love means you recognize there is only One of You so you can never be compared to any other….
“Sure. I had been hurt by the looks and the words of people that have told me I am not beautiful. But what had really been hurting is that I didn’t think I was beautiful myself. So I can finally stand here today and say that I’m done looking through other people’s eyes for my beauty and I know where I need to look.” – Devan Sandiford/Moth Radio
Nonconformer – a person who does not conform to generally accepted standards or customs.
Perspective 6 of 13 | The Slavery Project
Nonconformers are an important part of society because they provide the rest of us with perspective, and most importantly – with options. They inadvertently push against the status quo which gets us to think outside of the box, to challenge what we think we know.
Throughout history nonconformers have been ‘dealt with’ by society, not typically ignored. Depending on the service they provide, they could be more or less well regarded (Beethoven, Shakespeare, Frederick Douglas) but more often than not, they were criticized, ostracized, ridiculed, or even put to death. They were made to feel like they were wrong for how they felt or for their choices. Others would see the treatment of nonconformers by society and decide to stay quiet or not reveal that they themselves did not conform. So when it comes to Nonconformers, how much have things really changed?
There are many kinds of nonconformers in our society. One kind of nonformer is our homeless population. Homelessness is an uncomfortable part of our society (just like the topic of slavery) especially in America where everyone is supposed to be rich 😉 . It could cause a person to question, why, in one of the greatest countries in the world, is homelessness acceptable, why is it that people sleep on the sidewalk when everyone would like an indoor place to rest.? This could mess with our sense of reality, depending on how large of a bubble we choose to live in. Is a better solution available?
Anothery type of nonconformer is the LGBTQIA+ community. Members of this community provide a different perspective than what we are used to when it comes to love, sexuality and marriage by simply being a human being who desires something different than the status quo. As gay awareness becomes more prevalent in our society, we as a society become more tolerant. There is a big difference between gay awareness in 2022 versus gay awareness in 1985. A BIG Difference. How people think of, regard, treat and respect people who are different from the status quo, different from the norm, different from how we are taught, goes a long way in challenging the social belief systems of the day. But take note that it is a process because change takes time.
‘Social belief systems of the day’ is phrased this way is to highlight that what we believe – as STRONGLY as we may believe our beliefs to be – are subject to change. This is important to understand because it can broaden our perspective when it comes to dogmatic beliefs that people fight over. For example Is being gay ‘right or wrong? Is ‘gay marriage’ right or wrong? “ I was always taught that marriage is between a man and a women,” said one famous transgender woman, clarifying for us that even those part of the lgbtqia+ community do not think the same things on the same topics. And that change is really, really hard.
Along the same vein, there were nonconformers in american slave society. These were the abolitionists, the runaways, the white-passing, the free blacks – all people who did not conform to the status quo, which thereby raised awareness that ‘there are people who do not agree with everyone else on this topic’, namely that ‘black people should be enslaved’. There were sanctuary spaces as well for runaways, one being the entire state of Florida. These people challenged the status quo by simply being amongst the rest of the population, but not fitting into the existing stereotype about blacks and their role in society. They did not accept the current state of affairs as their truth and then decided they were going to do something about it.
The nonconformers, as it pertains to American slavery, were substantial and took quite a set of balls to pull off what they accomplished. People like Nat Turner, who led one of the most infamous slave revolts, Box Brown who was like ‘To hell with running, I’m going to cut the BS and mail myself to freedom’, had associates place him in a large, wooden box with a destination label and off he went. Robert Smalls, who sailed himself to freedom by hijacking a confederate boat – oh and he picked up runaway slaves along the way. And of course the many abolitionists, including Levi Coffin and Mary Ellen Pleasant, that made the underground railroad possible. There were people who wrote books about the slave experience like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe and Solomon Northup, all to raise awareness, all risky because it outed them as not going along with the crowd. They were Not trending. We also know that sometimes slaves just flat out refused to do things. There was pushback and there were physical battles in day to day society. This is why extreme measures were often taken to contain the defiance, or at least attempt to contain it. In fact, anyone who was free and black had to carry freedom papers around with them everywhere they went so they could “prove” they were not a slave. Just being someone who was “supposed” to be something (a stereotype) but did not fit the description was a challenge to social norms of the day.
You see sometimes in our society the belief systems of the times are so very strong that people know with all their heart that this o n e way, is the o n l y way of living, the o n l y way of being. Blacks are inferior to whites and enslaving them is good and right. But enter the nonconformers who say otherwise. Because they fought back, they ran away, they refused, they showed their intelligence and this defied what popular opinion knew to be true. This defied their beliefs. With just their actions, nonconformers showed that there IS a Different way of being. There IS a different Knowing. There IS a Belief on this subject that is outside of Popular Opinion.
And so we learn that an american slave society faced similar interracial dynamics that we see play out today. People agree-disagree-work together-push against whatever are the popular topics of the day. Everyone was just a squirrel trying to get a nut with what they “knew” to be true at that time, going about their day to day activities of making a space for themselves in the world. There were white collar workers, blue collar workers, farmers, immigrants, slaves. And there were arguments on many, many topics, slavery being just one of them. The beginning of the women’s rights movements began in the 1840s, 25 years prior to slavery ending, so multiple social-economic issues existed alongside each other. Meanwhile, white immigrants continued to arrive from Ireland and other European countries, all with varying forms of discrimination, white poverty was also an issue faced by many (poverty never seems to go anywhere but maybe one day….) And so life was just life. As campaigns against slavery grew, more awareness was raised and slowly, there was a gradual softening toward the black experience.
This is important to understand because sometimes it is felt, when it comes to black history, that we “shouldn’t” have to deal with behaviors that are culturally biased. But each decade brings new changes to beliefs. Today’s social norms about blacks is very different from the 1800s and early to mid 1900s. Just like today’s understanding about gays is very different from the 80s. Because things get progressively better over time.
It takes time.
We need time as a society to adjust to new changes and new ways of being.
We still struggle with this concept today when it comes to how black communities express their desire to be treated equally. And certainly if a person is in the habit of only zeroing in on negative things, because that is all the news media zeros in on when it comes to black culture, then that is all they will ever see.
Women, Blacks, Gays…everyone just wants to be respected and treated as an equal with the same rights as anyone else. No one wants to be told ‘No, you cannot do __[blank]__ but other people can.
So Nonconformers are here to challenge what we think we know about people, about life, about ourselves. They bring perspective and clarity that elicits unification because they do not fit into a box. They challenge social stereotypes and cultural beliefs simply by following their heart.
Nonconformers existed during American slavery, as well as before American slavery, and nonconformers are still here Today. They serve as Beacons of Light and examples for us to embrace our personal Truth. Even if it differs from what “everyone else” thinks. Every time a person follows their heart and decides to live in their Truth, they embrace the Power Within and push back against a society that says ‘no you cant’.
Nonconformers, by means of their actions, say ‘Yes, I Can!’
A look at history reveals a very clear pattern present in most societies since… Forever.
And that is: As long as human beings have sought to oppress each other, they have done so.
We learn from history the goal is for the bully to come out on top at the expense of the victim. Then, there is a turn of events, where – even if it goes on for a while – the victim retaliates in some way – either by stealth or more openly – and the roles are reversed. Eventually the victim has summoned enough control to change things around.
To this day, the bully-victim dynamic is played out on various levels in social cultures around the world. At times, there is a direct bully-victim relationship between the government and the people, like the one that inspired the French Revolution in the late 1700s. Or at times governments engage the people to turn on each other like during China’s Cultural Revolution. Additionally, individual people in societies play out these Game of Thrones roles in an attempt to get what they want from others at work or in their families or social circles. Bosses apply pressure to workers, wives to husbands and adults to children. The pressure to conform to another person’s agenda is prevalent. In this way, we seek to rule over others by means of our governments and by means of our interpersonal relationships with others.
After some time though, the individuals being controlled grow tired of the control and seek freedom. This is why battered women eventually leave their spouses, this is why children rebel against parents, this is why employees go on strike. History, as well as our Present, shows us that nobody really wants to be controlled. It is not our nature. Our Nature is the freedom to be our own Guide because We are Sovereign Beings.
So when it came to american chattal slavery, likewise, the nature of owning another person or another culture for life was destined to fail. While there were certainly those who were kinder slave masters than others, there was disagreement as to how to go about preventing slaves from running away or from retaliation. Some felt it was necessary to be harsh and this harshness brought out the absolute worst in them, a savagery, a barbarism that over time became a part of the normal way of life – to their embarrassment. It’s not as if white slave owners regressed to this state and then were proud of it. Source documents reveal they tried to hide how bad it was when people [from the North] came down to investigate the rumors of how they were living. This is where the notion of the “happy slave” came from, an attempt to diffuse attention away from the casual violence that came to define southern culture.
This explains why there is an aversion to learning about or even revealing the true nature of American slavery. Quite frankly, white people are embarrassed by it, which is why they like to avoid the topic. The Conscience was also a big player in that the fear that blacks would retaliate was strong at that time and it is a belief that still comes up today.
[To Be Clear: All slave masters were not wicked or bad people with some simply availing themselves of the then-customary practice of holding slaves and hiring slaves. But this particular article discusses why american slavery could not last.]
The dominant cultural belief and practice of what prevailed in the south was that slaves were inferior people that warranted uncommon and hateful treatment. These were not isolated incidents but the common practice of the day. The practice of lifelong and generational enslavement, with no recognition of God given rights, removing children from parents, rape and other violent and heinous crimes against humanity is never sustainable.
It was a gradual decline but southern society arrived at the point where they were out of control. When slaves were first brought to America, they were not enslaved for life and they had rights. But new country, new rules. Over time, as slaves began to get free through various legal means, new laws were created, slowly, one by one, that gradually removed the rights of slaves and made it progressively more difficult to be freed or to have any rights at all. As greed set into the hearts of slave owners, the demands they put upon the slaves became more and more unreasonable. They created a toxic society.
And since the Africans were very far from home, who could they get to advocate for them? There was no one.
The Game of Thrones.
Just like a see-saw, the interpersonal dynamics that make up our humanity often reflect this bully-victim game of thrones so often played out in our societies. The bully is up, then the victim is up, then the bully is up, then the victim is up, with always one group trying to gain control. Indeed there is nothing new under the sun [Ecclesiates 1:9].
Yet despite this inevitable outcome, there is still an attempt to suppress the rights of others Today. Oppressors tend to approach this like the lottery: Hey ya never know…
American chattel slavery, for all its injustices and for all its Resolutions was another example of the Game of Thrones. That battle continued for many years after slavery ended, with new laws being enacted that effectively reenslaved blacks all over again because resistance to change is also a human thing.
Our Human History is a battle of Wills.
Black history is no different.
It is human history in all its glory, in all its tragedy.
I see it as such.
I respect it as such.
Just bear in mind what was, was. What happened, happened.
And nothing anyone ever does will ever change that.
So what do we do to Recover Emotionally?
We come to terms with the reality of: I cannot change the past.
We learn from our mistakes as a society: Never allow separation of the People for any reason!
We move on: What can I do Now to Create the life I want?
And We do what we were created to do.
We rise Above the abuse.
We rise Above the stereotypes.
We rise Above the injustice.
We stop externalizing our power to others,
We stop externalizing out power to others,
WE STOP.. EXTERNALIZING.. OUR POWER ..TO OTHERS..
We stop arguing for our limitations and embrace the Power we have within.
We stop the belief that some-one has to do some-thing in order for us to be happy with who we are as a Culture.
We can be happy anyway.
That recognition on the television set that awaits us, when we will finally hear the words that the wealth gap has closed between blacks and whites and that no black person anywhere in the world has ever done anything bad ever again – lest that reflect poorly on us all. That’s right, we are eagerly awaiting when black people across the world have UNILATERALLY solved the problem of poverty, crime and have created the perfect Black Utopia, because then – and only then – will be finally be accepted!!!!!
Once we’re perfect we will be accepted!!!
Then we’ll get the thank yous we never got, and the reparations that were never disbursed, the bullying will stop, and the belief that we need to be on the in-club – that is, liked and accepted by those outside of our culture in order to be happy – will finally be realized!
Accepted by others!!!
Wouldn’t it be nice? Sure!!
The world we live in…
(I mean…if you are reading this and are black, how much do YOU care about the struggles of other cultures?)
Black people don’t need to be on the in-club.
Afro American Blacks ARE the in-club.
Its time we started seeing ourselves as such. Despite enormous setbacks, we floated to the surface anyway and influenced the entire world with our Afro American Culture.
So why not accept the Beauty that is us and to hell with anyone who doesn’t get it?
Our Sovereignty speaks for itself.
We Are Limitless and We Learn from the Tremendous Resilience, Love, Passion, Strength, Creativity, Ingenuity, Adaptability and Genius of our ancestors, slavery and all.
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