Getting It Off My Chest

Have you ever had something bother you so much for so long that you finally decide to get it off your chest? Although I’ve been retired from the workforce for years, this letter is one that I’ve wanted to write ever since I left corporate America.

I’m doing it now because recent news stories concerning systemic racism have resurrected suppressed feelings. Although throughout my working years, my experiences in the workplace were overall pleasant, and I had an excellent working relationship with the majority of my managers, there were a few exceptions. There were a couple of places I worked where the racism of the person for whom I worked was as evident as a massive zit on the nose.

One manager was a pretentious, conniving woman. She reminded me of the lead character in the film The Devil Wears Prada. The other was a short, balding, overweight man who reminded me of the Pillsbury Doughboy. It is to him that I address this letter.

Greetings You,

I know that it is customary to include dear in the salutation of a letter, but there is nothing dear to me about you.

Years ago, for several months too long, I worked indirectly for you, under the supervision of an upstanding man who was everything that you were not. He was kind-hearted, polite—a gentleman. I often felt sorry for my boss because you came to be his boss as an accident of fate.

Before your arrival, we had a well-run, pleasant office. To my knowledge, there was little or no office drama or backstabbing among the staff members. If there was, I never saw it. And then you arrived on the scene. It wasn’t long before the milieu of the office changed, for worse. Perhaps you fooled some of the other employees and associates, but you didn’t fool me. You soon showed who and what you are.

At first, I tried hard to get along with you, but my effort didn’t last long. I am not easily fooled by covert racists. Closet racists – as I call people like you – are much more dangerous than apparent racists who do not attempt to conceal who they are. And you, in my opinion, were and may still be, a closet racist.

For whatever reason, you never approached me directly with your concocted critiques. You assigned others to do your dirty work for you. Did you think that I did not know the source of sudden criticisms that did not begin occurring until after you arrived? I treated you with respect as I did everyone else in the office, but because I did not kowtow to you as some did, I think you perceived that I did not fear you. You were right. I didn’t. My mother raised us to be decent, friendly, respectful people, but not bootlickers.

The tension between you and I got so bad sometimes that I imagine that when you looked in my eyes, you saw the stereotypical angry black woman (I doubt if anyone else did. No one else ever brought her out.) If that is what you perceived, then we are on equal footing, because whenever I looked at you, I saw Bull Conner, David Duke, and a white robe wearing, pointed hood, Grand Dragon. Not only did I learn about snide remarks that you made about some other black people in the office, I also noticed that you treated black staff members differently. Your racism may not have been evident to all, but it was to me. Sometimes I think you had every staff member there – black and white – shivering in their boots for fear that one misstep with you and they’d risk losing their job, but I did not fear you. Some people have a higher tolerance for racists than I do.

The thing about closet racists is that they think that they are good at concealing their hatred. It would take an apocalyptic change to salvage people like you. You may doubt it, but I was as happy when I left there as you were to see me go.

Understandably, a lot of people remain silent about racism in the workplace because they value their jobs. If I were not happily retired, I might maintain my silence, too. After all these years since I left corporate America, systemic racism still exists, and people like you are still the head fish.

Today’s younger generations are the civil rights era soldiers reincarnated; only they are more outspoken. They are less timid, stronger, stout-hearted, resilient, challenging, and if necessary – although I believe the majority are peaceful protesters against the system – they will fight back. I have seen on tee shirts worn by many young people the ominous statement, “We are not our grandparents ….” What’s more, other people, brown and white, even your children and grandchildren, are allies. They cannot purify racists, but they can and are fighting systemic racism along with the old soldiers who are still standing.

Well, I’m glad I finally got that off my chest.

Sincerely,

Your nemesis.

One more thing, have you ever heard Sam Cook sing A Change is Gonna Come? Take a listen, watch the video, and think about it. Significant change may not come in my lifetime or yours, but it’s coming.

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Reflecting on Being Too Tired to Laugh

My earbuds are in place, and I’m listening to Bobby Womack croon, “I’m looking for a love.”

Not me, Bobby. I’ve got love. I’m looking to laugh again. I want to rediscover humor in a country blanketed under a cloud of gloom.

Anxiety simmers everywhere. I rarely hear anyone laughing anymore. I’m not talking about a forced smile or a polite chuckle. I miss the shoulders jiggling, head thrown back, falling in the chair laughing. I haven’t laughed like that in a long time and rarely see anyone else doing it. But I hear a lot of people saying, “I’m tired.” Not tired like the exhaustion you feel after a long workday at the office. It’s mental fatigue. Enough-is-enough. Sick of the existing state of affairs tired.

My list of tired is long. I’m tired of hearing about social distancing and the coronavirus death toll. Tired too of sheltering in place because going outside means dodging unmasked people and avoiding crowds. I’m tired of anarchy and criminal politicians – rotting from the head down. I’m tired of reports of voter suppression. I am sick and tired of seeing numerous newscasts and amateur videos of black people getting beat down or killed by rogue cops. I am mentally exhausted from seeing unprovoked injustices against the same people for driving, walking, working, living – while black. I’m tired of reading incredible reports about black people found hanged in public places, and their death ruled a suicide. I’m tired of seeing non-violent protesters attacked by goon squads and racist hatemongers because the activists rightly believe that black lives matter.

I’m tired of being tired. I need to get my laugh on. Reset my funny bone.

I used to have a good sense of humor; don’t know when my funny side slipped away like a runaway bride. I woke up one day and realized that finding something to laugh about in a topsy-turvy society is difficult. Experts say that humor keeps us psychologically healthy, so I often remind myself of the words of Maya Angelou, “Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

I want not to be tired. I want to laugh freely again. I want normalcy. To hell with the so-called new norm. I long for a return to normalcy as it existed half-century ago before people began questioning, “What is normal?” If half-a-century is a stretch, then I’ll settle for normalcy as it was before 2020, better still before 2016.

I know I am not alone. Every God-fearing person I know is as tired as I am of the status quo. We all want to feel untired. We want to relax and laugh again.

I believe that eventually, things will get better. Scientists will discover a vaccine for COVID-19, and November 3 could bring hope for a major overhaul in January 2021. That would surely give us something to laugh about.

I am a realistic optimist. I realize that a nightmare scenario could recur on Election Day. (God forbid!) So, I’ll wait until the final count is in, and refined people have reclaimed the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And then, to paraphrase a favorite hymn of mine, I won’t feel no ways tired, ’cause you’ll find me at Lafayette Square, aka BLM Plaza, laughing my ass off while doing a happy dance.

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When a Best Friend Dies

The longer we live, the more friends we lose. Nearly three weeks ago, Leslie, the daughter of one of my longest living best friends, told me that she had placed her mom, my friend, Beverly, in a nursing home. Beverly had dementia. This morning, before dawn, Leslie notified me that Beverly died.

I was introduced to Bev, as I called her, in 1978, by a member of a self-help group. At the time, Bev was an active participant with the group that offered guidance counseling and emotional support for parents, mostly young mothers, but some dads, who found themselves in what they considered a hopeless situation.

During her time with the support group, Bev periodically traveled to various places throughout the city, speaking to parents on behalf of the group. As we bonded, I learned of her personal struggles and shared mine with her. Bev became my confidant and dearest friend, or as the younger generation likes to say, “My bestie.” Little did we know that the friendship we formed would last 42 years.

I was divorced when I met Bev. She was 14 years my senior, yet we were both struggling single parents of young children and we would often commiserate about the difficulty of being a single parent. When will these kids ever grow up, we’d sometimes ask during a moment of frustration?

When we were struggling to earn a living, we didn’t have the time to visit with each other as often as we liked, but we talked on the phone nearly every day. Our conversations sometimes began in the early evening and lasted well past midnight. We discussed everything from our current beaus, to the trials of single parenthood, to when, if ever, we’d be able to retire from the grueling workforce.

Throughout the years, we laughed together. Sometimes we cried together like when her son, Kenneth, was shot and killed by a jealous rival over a young lady. Kenneth, a bright young man, was in his twenties.

Our age gap did not hinder our occasionally hanging out together and when we could manage, we set aside money to do fun things like attending house parties or concerts at Constitution Hall to see our fave, Millie Jackson.

Years later, after our children grew up, married, and made us grandparents, we’d ponder over how fast time had passed and laugh about how it didn’t seem to move at all when they were youngsters.

Bev endured more troubles in her lifetime than I ever have, yet she persevered. I used to tell her that she was the rock, and I was the pebble, and she would say to me, “Girl, you too are a rock. You just haven’t realized it. You are stronger than you know.” Years later, after getting over my own hurdles, when she asked how things were going, and I’d reply that life is good, she would remind me, “I told you so.”

Then, today arrived. We both knew that this day would come. It was only about six months ago when Bev and I discussed how we would cope when one of us died. We promised each other that we would tell a family member to notify whoever survived of the passing of the other. The promise was kept this morning when upon awakening, I saw the disturbing message on my phone from Leslie.

Over the past few weeks, while recalling distant memories of times that Bev and I shared, I have fluctuated between joy and sadness. A best friend represents so many things — a confidant, a shoulder to lean on, and sometimes a relationship that is closer than a sibling. And at any time there may be a reversal of roles between the rock and the pebble.

“A rock, a large piece of rock weathers off a cliff and dives deep into a pool of gushing water. Back washed, it journeys roughly and knocks off other rocks, smashing through the waves as it loses itself in scattered pieces except for its core. That core travels far and wide, it coarsely gets ground by gravel pieces smaller than itself and bullied by boulders all of which it bears up as it withstands the pressure of a distant journey off the shore. At some point, it gets dry and it encounters mud, it gets smeared dirty but the mud doesn’t stick, the rain washes off the mud and it rolls into the sand. It dances in the sand and dives into the bottom of the waves. Rising like a phoenix through the ashes, it emerges polished, looking more beautiful than it did when it got edged of the cliff. It rises a pebble, smooth and sleek. Coveted by rocks starting their dive. To be a pebble you have to run the turbulent tidal race.”  Quote by Victor Manan Nyambala

 

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Working Out After COVID-19

After being closed for two-and-a-half months, courtesy (perhaps I should say discourtesy) of COVID-19, the gym where I sweated through workouts for seven years reopened yesterday under the city’s Phase 2 reopening plan. I returned only to inform the owner that I am not sure when I will be back.

When I arrived, the man who I call the world’s greatest trainer was disinfecting the machines. He assured me that all precautions are being taken to ensure the health and safety of the members, including limiting the number of persons inside concurrently. I trust him but said that I’m just not feeling it right now and stopped by only to let him know that I will not be returning right away.

I was an ardent gym rat before the pandemic and usually paid my gym membership in six-month increments. As a result of the unexpected closure, I have two months’ credit pending. However, I’ve always listened to my intuition, and right now, it is telling me, “Girrrl, don’t you rush back there. It ain’t over.” My instinct has never steered me wrong, so I will heed the warning.

Amidst the pandemic, our city’s mayor ordered the temporary closing of gyms and other businesses back in mid-March. Bummer! At first, I missed getting up at five in the morning, three days-a-week, to make it to the gym by 6 a.m. Now I’m sleeping a little later and exercising on a new schedule.

Determined to stick with a regular workout routine, I pulled out my dumbbells, exercise bands, set up my stationary bike, and began working out at home. That had been my practice for years before the thought of joining a gym crossed my mind. Now, after two months of solitary training, I’ve grown comfortable exercising in my private domain.

Dr. Adi Jaffe wrote in Psychology Today that “When we think, feel, and act in a particular way over a period of time, habits form, not only in our behavior but in our memory systems too…It’s often challenging to change habits related to eating, exercise, and jobs.” I met the challenge.

I miss going to the gym. But through no choice of my own, I’ve replaced the previous habit of working out at a fitness center with a new – and previously used – practice. I force myself to stay motivated, and I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll return to that place that had become my second home. In a world that is changing faster than a politician can spin a lie, I’m adjusting (albeit reluctantly) to yet another “new norm.”

 

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Say Their Names

I cried this morning. After saying my morning prayer and thanking God for waking me, I cried for people who won’t see the new day.

I cried for George Floyd, the most recent poster man for police abuse. I cried for Sandra Bland and Philando Castile. I wept for all of the people listed below whose lives resulted in unnecessary and senseless deaths at the hands of rogue law enforcement officers, and as in the case of Trayvon Martin, wanna-be-cops.

I no longer watch the video showing a policeman with his knee, pressing George Floyd’s neck to the ground, applying his full body weight, squeezing the life out of the helpless man lying prone with his hands cuffed behind his back. Once was enough. I am tired of seeing videos of black people, particularly black men being murdered by the boys in blue, who, without courage fueled by a badge and gun, might otherwise be quivering cowards.

All seasons are open season on black people. Some cops – and I emphasize some because not all of them are bad – appear to take pleasure in using lethal force and lethal weapons against unarmed black men. You need a license to hunt animals, but black men are fair game. Shoot them. Stun them to death with a taser. Hang them in a jail cell or suffocate them on the street. Hands up, hands down, hands cuffed behind their backs, it doesn’t matter to corrupt officers. They spot their prey and slay it.

The unmerciful killing of black people is happening in cities across the country. Will it ever stop? Amerikkk have you no conscience?

On May 24, The New York Times ran a list of people who succumbed to COVID-19. How about we start compiling and publishing lists of the black people who have been murdered by law enforcement officers or hate monger racists like those who killed Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?

In these contemporary times, high-profile police brutality cases draw public attention and protests. Still, I suspect that numerous cases are so well covered-up that the public never learns about them.

It doesn’t matter if brown-skinned targets happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the wrong time. Any time or any place can be a kill zone for a cop on a mission, including one’s own home.

If you have a relative or friend who you haven’t seen or heard from for a while, do not, I repeat, do not call the police and ask them to do a wellness check. Last year, a neighbor of Fort Worth, Texas resident Atatiana Jefferson, after noticing her door ajar, called the police and asked them to look in on Atatiana. According to reports, a responding officer saw a movement through the window of Atatiana’s home and fired. She was shot dead — in her own home. In September 2018, Botham Jean was murdered by a Dallas policewoman in his home. She claims she thought it was her apartment. In February 1999, Amadou Diallo was mowed down by four plain-clothed police officers. They blasted him with 41 shots as he was preparing to enter his apartment building. They claim to have mistaken him for a rape suspect, a claim that was never confirmed by any evidence.

When I began researching this subject, I was determined to find and list enough related cases to produce a list at least half as long as the corona list published in The New York Times. A list of black citizens who have been haphazardly murdered for decades would surely fill up several issues of the paper. In that regard, Coronavirus ain’t got nothing on us.

While researching the subject, I read so many stories about people who unjustly suffered death by cop until I couldn’t read anymore. Every story tugged at my heartstrings. My emotions were too raw for me to complete the task. In some cases, the officers were charged and convicted, but many times, they were not criminally charged. I read the line “No officers have been charged with a crime,” so often, I thought I’d vomit. Many rogue cops get off Scot-free to live to kill another day. During a recent newscast, I heard a man say, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.” Oh, but unfortunately, it is.

If you aren’t familiar with some of the names in the list below, Google them. Read their stories, pray for their soul, and say their name.

 

Akai Gurley

Albert Davis

Alonzo Smith

Alton Sterling

Alvin Haynes

Amadou Diallo

Andre Larone Murphy, Sr.

Ahmaud Arbery

Anthony Ashford

Artago Damon Howard

Arthur McDuffie

Askari Robert

Asshams Manley

Atatiana Jefferson

Bettie Jones

Billy Ray Davis

Botham Jean

Brandon Glenn

Brandon Jones

Breonna Taylor

Brian Acton

Brian Day

Brian Pickett

Bryan Overstreet

Charly Leundeu Keunang

Christian Taylor

Christopher Kimble

Cornelius Brown

Dajuan Graham

Dante Parker

Darrell Brown

Darrell Gatewood

Darrius Steward

David Felix

De’Angelo Stallworth

Denzel Brown

Deontre Dorsey

Dominic Hutchinson

Dominick Wise

Donald Ivy

Dontre Hamilton

Eric Garner

Eric Harris

Ezell Ford

Felix Kumi

Frank Shephard III

Frank Smart

Freddie Gray

Freedie Blue

George Floyd

George Mann

India Kager

Jamar Clark

James Carney III

Jason Moland

Jerame Reid

Jeremy Lett

Jeremy McDole

Jermaine Benjamin

Jonathan Sanders

Junior Prosper

Keith Childress

Keith McLeod

Kevin Bajoie

Kevin Garrett

Kevin Matthews

Kris Jackson

Lamontez jones

Laquan McDonald

Lavante Biggs

Leroy Browning

Leslie Snapp

Lorenzo Hayes

Matthew Ajibade

Michael Brown

Michael Lee Marshall

Michael Noel

Michael Sabbie

Miguel Espinal

Natasha McKenna

Nathaniel Pickett

Norman Cooper

Paterson Brown

Philando Castile

Phillip White

Rayshun Cole

Reginald Moore

Richard Perkins

Roy Nelson

Rumain Brisbon

Salvado Ellswood

Samuel Dubose

Samuel Harrell

Sandra Bland

Spencer McCain

Tamir Rice

Tanisha Anderson

Terence Crutcher

Terry lee Chatman

Terry Price

Tiano Metron

Tiara Thomas

Tony Robinson

Trayvon Martin

Troy Robinson

Tyree Crawford

Victo Larosa III

Walter Scott

Wayne Wheeler

William Chapman II

Zamiel Crawford

 

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