With vs. As: An Open Letter to #RachelConfused


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I do not know #RachelConfused, but I know enough about her to know that she saw fit to exercise her vast white and fair skinned privilege to try and escape her own inherent collusion with dehumanizing systems. It may be a seemingly unique response to white guilt and fragility, but it is still one fundamentally rooted in denial. This makes her not just confused and dishonest, but also a coward.

As a professional educator and a civil rights advocate, I think it is a realistic expectation that #RachelConfused should know the difference between with and as, as in identifying as African American vs. with African Americans. The former is both delusional and insulting the latter, potentially laudable.

I understand it. It can be confusing. You cannot quantify one’s blackness, certainly not by skin tone, ethnicity, political allegiances, interests, or involvement in the community. The black community in the U.S. is diverse, so is our culture. Jelani Cobb nailed this.

There is however a black community and black personhood, which I feel #RachelConfused trounced upon.

Black community and personhood is forged in a crucible that one cannot opt into, nor opt out of. It is a story of resilience and struggle that is literally encoded in our DNA. It is the knowledge that any life grown from your womb or seed (if this becomes your journey or not) will be part of this lineage — indelibly etched by it. The culture reflects it.

There is not virtue in victimhood, but there is redemption in truth. The truth is that the world is not forgiving to blackness, not culturally, nor institutionally. Don’t believe me, just look at any statistics on disparate impact. You can Google it.

#RachelConfused is a coward, because she did not go against engrained systems of power and privilege to be and live as her authentic self. What she did was self-aggrandizing; it was fetishizing and otherizing; and it is the co-option and attempted usurpation of black humanity.

There is a whole body of pain and pride written by our collective blood, sweat and tears. Our story is on the inside, marking the pages and she tried to put her name on the cover.

Author’s Note: I waited to hear Rachel give her response. I did and was deeply unsatisfied with her explanation of her actions.


On Privilege – What I’ve Learned


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Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.- Mother Teresa

Want to hear a joke that isn’t funny?

What’s heavy, omnipresent, but invisible?


Not just white privilege, but cis-gender privilege, educational privilege, size privilege, religious observation privilege, socioeconomic privilege, able-bodied privilege and it can be argued right-hand privilege, extrovert privilege, early morning inclined people privilege etc.(in a U.S. context).

I don’t mention the latter three to make light of the pernicious and reprehensible nature of structural inequality. I simply want to highlight the many ways that our society is structured to advantage some and disadvantage others in complex, multifaceted and overlapping ways.

I spent that last 10 months helping to design a retreat to help college-aged students to think differently about the way that power and privilege operates in their lives and society.

We thumbed through academic literature on standpoint theory and more practical tip lists about how to be anti-racist.

You would think that after all this time it would be clear me how to define privilege (which others always describe as a special right or advantage available by membership in a group). There is this cool
video clip, too which tries to add layers of nuance to how privilege plays out.

But by and large I still struggle to capture the definition in such a way that is speaks life to the human experience and the impact of structural violence.

The closest I’ve gotten to explaining privilege is this analogy.

Yesterday, I wasn’t paying attention to the weather forecast and wore flats without socks on a rainy day. I spent most of my time walking around looking intently at the ground trying to avoid puddles, but my feet and work slacks still ended up wet and muddy.

Today, I wore my rain boots. I was prepared! I could walk looking straight ahead and strut boldly around undeterred by the pools of water that collect near street corners and unexpected potholes.

It was the exact same terrain.

Both days I was traversing the familiar 5 block radius around my workplace.

If it weren’t for the fact that these experiences happened back to back I may even have overlooked the sharp contrast of what it felt like and what results it led to when I wore different footwear in inclement weather (yup, the slacks needed to go to the dry cleaners).

We could expand the analogy and talk about those lack shoes entirely.

But that is not where I want to go with this.

I want to highlight how free and invincible I felt wearing my galoshes. The footwear that was designed to navigate rainy weather.

The shoes were designed to protect my feet, my socks and my pants.

To me that is what privilege is – protection.

Being unencumbered is a unique sort of material benefit that few people (that I’ve read) discuss.

It is not just a matter of being normative nor the advantage of the social safety net that you’re afforded. Nor is it solely the benefit of the doubt you are given, or the permission to occupy spaces where others are turned from.

Any definition of privilege must also include the peace of mind that can come from social coddling and unchecked entitlement.

This certainly has to be what leads to white fragility.

Privilege means to be affirmed by a society that values your personhood and designs the world around you so things are accessible, convenient, comfortable and safe—for you.

Privilege is…

…the ability to stand back to pretend that systems that destroy lives are separate, disconnected from your reality or your touch.

…the ability to point fingers at others for their muddy pants and cold wet feet.

…the ability to make hallow proclamations of commitment to movements for justice while stepping on the necks of those in closest proximity.

It is the ability to be subsumed in your pain: to color the world through your pain and except the world to respond; to care, to make space for and to cater to your pain. It is to call that sort of self-preoccupation fair play.

Privilege is a lack of interrogation. It is the ability to tune out, turn down, and silence what feels alien or uncomfortable.

It is emotional lightness

Swathed in this cocoon of “protection” folks can begin to suck up all the air in the room with their assertions that “I try to do right…” and then want, expect and await thunderous applause from marginalized folks.

The greatest irony is privilege means you can feel like and be perceived as a “good person” and simultaneously be engaged in acts that are harmful, dehumanizing and violent.

These tensions, both/ands and inherent contradictions is what it makes explaining privilege so complicated.

What makes privilege even more complicated is that all of us have privileged AND denigrated identities all at once (speaking intersectionally).

It is the contradictions of privilege that helps it to keep a firm hand on power and the status quo.

The power we all wield:

To silence

OR to affirm

To denigrate

OR to uplift

To shackle

OR to empower.


For the Love of 2015


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Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. – James A. Baldwin

It’s NYE and I should be popping champagne, bedazzling myself with sparkles, glitter and other shiny accoutrements.

Instead, I am decked out in sweats, snuggled under a blanket on the couch, and footsie-encouraging my sick spouse who is working to meet an urgent midnight deadline.

Not the sexiest of NYE’s, but I’m feeling pretty awesome about it.

Although, there is one NYE tradition I refuse to eschew —spreading the love!

I am not necessarily talking about smooching at the stroke of midnight, although I am all for that.

I am talking about the kind of love that sustains you from year to year.

This post is dedicated to it.

I had always thought that my girl Zora had love pegged when she said: “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

But then earlier this week at 30,000 feet in the air my world was transformed by James’ B’s acumen.

He said: “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

My summation of these black literary geniuses’ words is that love (at its best) allows us authentically be and grow as ourselves with support from others.

Love allows us to clean out and salve the wounds—the most painful parts of our life journeys’.

Love builds bridges over our despair and makes us more resilient people.

Sounds lovely, right?

So, why is this sort of love so elusive in our families, our communities, our lives?

Because there are glaring conditions to being vulnerable in the way it takes to really love one another.

Here are just a few of those conditions.

Care—the kind of selfless concern for others that we see Ai-jen Poo and other activists displaying for people.

Truth-telling– the kind that political cartoons capture, but shared with compassion and the person’s feelings in mind. It is also the kind of truth-telling about how you’ve fallen short and your intended steps for addressing the wrong.

Encouragement – the gentle nudging that lets you know a person loves you just as you are, but helps you see and propels you towards your own personal definition of success in life.

Commitment – you have to have a person’s back through life’s ups and downs –pure and simple. How else can you be considered trustworthy?

As the esteemed bell hooks has said: “Affection is only one ingredient of love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients-care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”

I agree and further have come to the conclusion that:

It takes whole people to love another.

We’re all broken and damaged, but most people refuse or at a lost about how to do the internal work to stitch together the torn pieces of themselves –or else they cannot muster the stamina to do it over and over again after life’s upsets.

Love can only occur in the context of relationship.

And relationships embody and evoke what is the least and the best in all of us.

If a person cannot be honest with themselves, so how can you expect them to be honest with you?

Our frailties are our fallacies.

In honor of the New Year, I want to confess to my top five rookie love mistakes (#foolserrands) in hopes that the years 2015 onward will only be more and more loving.

1) I confess to seeking love from people who aren’t in a position to give it.

2) I confess to thinking that loving a person would mean that they wouldn’t disappoint me.

3) I confess to thinking that loving a person gave me the right to judge their actions.

4) I confess to thinking that loving another person would diminish the love that I had for another.

5) I confess to overlooking the love that was surrounding me and holding me up all along.


A Rich Inheritance


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The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature. ― Antoine François Prévost

Before I was born you laid a foundation for me

After I was born you cared for me

Once I was grown you counseled me


In your eyes

…I saw my potential

In your expectations

…I found my aspirations

In your arms

…I learned my self-worth

In your discipline

…I learned dignity

In your example

…I learned fortitude and valor


I am a woman

I am a wife

I am a content person with a voice

Because I was born your daughter


Thank you for listening

Thank you for being devoted

Thank you for walking behind, alongside and out in front

Whatever was needed to keep me on the path.


The Myth of the Straight and Narrow – A Testimony


The grace of God is courtesy.- Hilaire Belloc

The most ubiquitous Christian song was confounding for me as a child.

You know it.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

The grace described in the song always sounded, well, amazing.

But that second line.


How could I be wretched?!?!

It was stultifying.

Oh, the blessed ignorance of youth.

But it’s not only the wee ones who balk at the idea of associating themselves with some of the more sullied tendencies of human nature.

I recently helped conduct interviews for incoming college students who were competing for a scholarship. We gave them a scenario and asked them to select from a list of patients in need of heart transplant. They had to decide whose life they would choose to save. There was no correct answer. It was a test to see their collaboration skills.

The list summarized a person’s whole life into two or three sentences. This was the sum total of information that they had to decide who should live.

So, I was absolutely blown away, when one of the students repeatedly lambasted many of the people listed for their personal failings and felt that it made them “unworthy” to save.

That used to make sense to me. I used to think that there were people who made mistakes and other people who “walked the straight and narrow” line.

This is problematic, and not just because of the heteronormativity of the use of “straight” in this context.

I’m almost thirty now and I’ve learned that you can be meticulous, you can be scrupulous, you can be well-intentioned and still never be perfect.

The “straight and narrow” we’re taught to aspire to as children and the repeated admonishments to “be good” rings in our ears. It makes sense that we want to put our best foot forward, but sometimes we create a paranoid sense of dissociation.

People cast stones at the teenage mother, forgetting the times that they may have unprotected sex themselves, because they didn’t end up “knocked-up.”

Or they may praise the person who made straight A’s, but used less-than truthful means to keep their GPA pristine, because they were never found guilty of plagiarism.

There are those whose “sins” are more public and those whose are carried in their souls. But we all have them.

So why do we try to encase people in shame?

What if Dr. Martin Luther King was on that list and it said: ordained minister who doesn’t serve the needs of his home congregation due to frequent travel. A known adulterer, he also faces allegations of plagiarizing his academic work.

Would the student before me have selected his life to save?

There is an inherent complexity to what makes our lives valuable and our stories laudable, but one thing for sure, the summation of who we are should not simply be our shortcomings.

What I learned that day at the interview is that God’s grace is amazing, because it saves me (which I believe as a Christian), but also because it reorients what it means to live a truly exalted life – from a life of purely outward piety to a life of striving and reconciling to embody compassion and humility.

Think about it.

The men Jesus picked to tell His story were clearly flawed.

When Judas betrayed Jesus he hung himself, because he could not live with the truth of what he had done himself, although God had forgiven him.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27: 3-5).

And Jesus was executed not only under the authority of the Roman government, but the cries for blood from the very people He was trying to save.

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand (Luke 23: 23-24).

Among the last words Jesus ever uttered were:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). And He did so while the men guarded him bet on who would get the clothes He was wearing once He was dead.

And that is why grace is amazing and God’s grace is profound.

Because at its core it reveals that grace is compassion in action; that the most human of needs is to receive it; and the most noble of acts is to extend it – to others and yourself.

You certainly cannot “earn” it.


Re-Write: A Story of Narrative


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Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.- Miguel Angel Ruiz

Long before Beyoncé began sampling Chimamanda Adichie, I was hip to her brilliance–consuming her novels and listening to her vintage “Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk.

Adichie blew minds when she said:“the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

One of her other points gets overlooked. “Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories.”

I would like to explore how these overlapping narratives interact with a power structure and dominant cultural narratives that are deeply intertwined with our story of self.

Everyone knows that the victor gets the spoils, but they also get to write the story of what happened (often leaving out their own transgressions).

This is why in the United States and so many other colonized spaces, the country’s history begins with European contact rather than with the thousands years of civilization and traditions among the indigenous people.

This is also why I sometimes feel that in the U.S. we’re stuck on the issue of slavery. Why else would “12 Years a Slave” like “Gone with the Wind” garner so many Oscar nominations?

It is relevant to African Americans’ overall narrative, but not our whole story.

As the great journalist, Walter Cronkite said, “In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.”

Stories told and untold, are BOTH important, because they reflect and create a nation’s prevailing understanding of its truth.

In fact, one way I like to think about privilege is: those who have it must learn to listen; while for those who do not have it, must learn to tell their counter-narratives.

There are not always receptive audiences for the stories of the marginalized.

Far too often, those in power silence counter-narratives by telling stories about the marginalized that harken to the pre-set dominant paradigm.

Here are three examples.

(1) The national narrative says that our best and brightest are attending top notch colleges. Statistics tell us another story. According to Forbes, “…while poor kids are underrepresented on elite campuses, the wealthiest kids are overrepresented. At Harvard, 45.6% of undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000 — in other words, incomes in the top 3.8% of all American households.”

(2) The national narrative says that the poor choose to be poor, because of their questionable life decisions. Every once in a while you’ll have articles like the these in the New York Times railing against the systemic challenges that low-income families face. But more often than not, you have stories like this one. The Washington Post decided to tell a story about poverty in the nation and used a black woman, living in an urban environment, who is the third generation of unmarried women on welfare to tell the story.

It is important to point out that both stories have black people as the main protagonist.

These articles reinforce the national narrative that says: being poor equals being black, or to be poor is to be black.

(3) There are also “dominant stories” that are shaped by regional norms, like the prevailing sentiment in south in the mid-west that to not be married by 30 makes you an “old maid.”

We’re molded by these stories.

The “dominant” discourse can be written by the media, by opinion leaders, but also by our communities and family members.

It is the grown man preparing for his 50th high school reunion, who is eager to prove that he’s made something of himself.

It is the daughter who is committed to showing her mother that her past mistakes are just that–in the past.

This is why repairing relationships in families or in our nation have to start from a place of unpacking meta-narratives.

In our interpersonal relationships we create dangerous story spirals that become self-reinforcing. He NEVER listens. She ALWAYS doubts my ability to get things done.

In our political sphere, we unintentionally encourage a culture of hypocrisy, because people often have to deny their shortcomings to be elected.

The Economist recently ran a parody that highlighted this issue.

We should be asking ourselves how can we still have high standards of conduct and ethics for our leaders and ourselves, but AUTHENTICALLY be ourselves.

Because as much as we are standing on the shoulder of giants; we are metastasizing generations of anxiety, fear and unmet needs.

Our reconciliation as a country, as communities and families is about restoration and harmony in juxtaposition. It is about overcoming the stories projected on you and mapping your own narrative in a wider discussion.

We must learn to re-write our stories, not only to re-define who we are, but also to re-imagine the country we envision and expect for ourselves.

A Few Words on Syria


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Presidents quickly realize that while a single act might destroy the world they live in, no one single decision can make life suddenly better or can turn history around for the good.- Lyndon B. Johnson

I am not a Middle East expert.

In fact to gain a better sense of what has been happening with the Syrian civil war, I’ve had to refer to sources like these and this one, too.

Yup, ostensibly I had to check out ‘Conflict Dynamics in Syria for Dummies.’

These ‘cliff notes’ are a helpful way for non-wonks and regional specialists to catch-up to speed. But they can also be slightly misleading in their simplicity, especially when trying to solve complicated conflict dynamics in Syria.

Still, I have real concerns about the possibility of U.S. ‘engagement’ in Syria. There are four things in particular that I find disconcerting that I want to note here.

First, I am disappointed that despite the humanitarian crisis associated with the civil war– the 2,021,430 refugees and 100,000 deaths; it took the alleged use of chemical weapons to publicly contemplate interventions in Syria, or to try to galvanize international support to do so.

Yes, the U.S. should be prudent about international ‘entanglements’ and violating a nation’s sovereignty, but the scale of the problem and human suffering of the refugees should have been difficult to ignore.

Second, what is up with haranguing the President and accusing him of “dithering?” Since when does contemplating an issue equate weakness?

Should leaders be decisive, yes, but do wise leaders seek counsel and explore their options before coming to an informed conclusion, ideally.

There are many reasons for us not to attack Syria. Several of these questions are pertinent to vital U.S. interests and warrant careful consideration.

There are also relevant “Just War” questions that should be used to calibrate our approach if the U.S. were to decide that violent intervention is absolutely necessary.

Remember, immediate action now can have LASTING repercussions.

The third thing that upsets me is this false dichotomy the U.S. citizens are being presented with between not responding to the conflict at all and launching missile strikes. There IS an …”alternative to bombing [that] is not “looking the other way.”

I applaud Senator Rep. Chris Smith for thinking and raising “non-lethal ways of holding people to account” in Syria.

I also was happy to hear Secretary Kerry’s unintended suggestion that President Bashar al-Assad could turn in his chemical weapons and avoid U.S. cruise missiles.

You cannot make a credible decision, if there are not diverse and sound options being considered.

Fourth, I do not believe that the U.S. should go forward without support from a critical mass of UN member countries and Syria’s neighbors. Contrary to this professional opinion, I am not convinced that “there will be no resolution [in Syria] without American leadership.”

And even if I looked passed the hubris, and agreed that yes, the world needs the U.S. to take the lead— any sustainable effort to address challenges in Syria would require a united collation of countries.

The USA and the international community at large should learn the lessons from Rwanda.

To be clear, no, I am not equating the lack of response in Syria to the failure to act in the face of genocide, but the point that instability in Rwanda, upset fragile regional dynamics that were already precarious.

You have to bear in mind that there are “More Syrians are now displaced than any other nationality. More than 97% of Syria’s refugees are being hosted by countries in the surrounding region.” UNHCR said that the influx was “placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies.”

Not to be all Vietnam war-ish, but the crisis in Syria and the implications of it could create a destabilizing regional ‘domino‘ effect that the U.S. should be worried about.

My overall opinion is this: right now is a defining time –not just for U.S. statesmen and soldiers, but our world.

It should not be taken lightly.

Our response to the crisis in Syria is an opportunity for the international arena to respond thoughtfully to yet another instance of civil war and state fragility.

To do so effectively, the U.S. needs to muster astute diplomacy, strengthened forms of regional and global cooperation, and an American public that thinks things through assiduously before allowing our leaders to intervene.

Sybrina’s Grief: A Response to the Trayvon Martin Verdict


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America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes, you cannot fully convey what you think, unless you share what you feel.  And sometimes structured prose doesn’t give you the space to be as expressive as you want.  So in homage to the form and the story; this is my response to the Trayvon Martin verdict.

Sybrina’s Grief                        

Her distress didn’t register

Her pain didn’t warrant despair  

The grace with which she bared her loss

Was not a reality the masses could share

His callous questioning

Before a woman who had just heard her son’s final cries

Was not tempered by the audience watching

Judgment in their eyes

Assumptions on their mind

A jury of mothers

Witnessing, but not seeing

The war wounds of her womb

Silent tears for the flesh and blood

Ripped from her arms

Sold down river

Raped with impunity

Strewn from noose ties in trees

Bloated bodies dredged up from rivers

Shackled in handcuffs

By joblessness

By school suspensions

And under performing schools

And deadly suspicions

Bleeding on concrete pavements 


For a system that needed her babies’ bodies

And discounted their souls

But marred the story

By painting a nation’s shame

On their identity

Labelled him a threat

Her a whore

And an unfit mother

Because they’re killing her sons

And when she cries out

“None, but Jesus hears her.”


New Horizons for Marriage Equality


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True strength lies in submission which permits one to dedicate his life, through devotion, to something beyond himself. – Henry Miller

On Saturday, I went to a wedding. Who doesn’t love weddings?

A lot of people are more excited about marriages now that the U.S. is becoming more inclusive  about who it extends the “rights and privileges thereof” to these days.

But that is marriage equality under the law.

I am increasingly concerned about cultural norms in the context of heterosexual marriage that threaten equality among beings.  

Let me explain what I mean.

Back to the event on Saturday, the suits were quirky, the bride radiant, and the children attendants were adorable. So far, so good, right?

I got thrown for a loop though when the vows turned out to be different for the groom and bride.

No, it wasn’t because they had written it themselves or personalized them.

These were vows meted out to them by the officiating pastor. For him, the pastor asked that “God might grant him the wisdom to lead and for her.” For her, he prayed that “she would be faithful to the spirit of submissiveness to heed his leadership.”

Yes, I know that for many Christians, “him” being the head and “her” being the body are part and parcel of honoring how God designed marriage to be, right? It’s in the books of Ephesians and Titus and Corinthians etc.

But there are different perceptions about how the command to submit can be interpreted.

Here is what I have problems with:

1)      Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The metaphor of loving your bride as Christ loves the Church is a powerful one. It is a laudable aspiration, but unlikely to materialize even when people are diligent. Remember God is not a man or a woman. Despite the use of gendered pronouns and his human incarnation as male, the Holy Trinity does not have body, nor did Jesus have any of our human flaws, like pride, insecurity, or greed.

2)      Ephesians 5:24 says: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” According to the narrow interpretations of scriptures, it places the man in a position of unquestioned authority in the household. This creates a lot of space for even a well-meaning person to become a tyrant. Remember, even the President of the United States is subject to checks and balances for very good reasons.  Also, the power of the crucifixion is that Jesus decided to die for our sins. That is agency. This constraining language removes agency from the woman.

3)      Often there is undue focus on masculine and femininity, but Galatians 3:26-29 tells us:  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Marriage is a deeply personal institution and one of the few that is all encompassing of a person’s life. Creating such a strict binary can force people to “perform” gender norms that may or may not reflect who they authentically are as a person, nor the person Christ called them to be.

Now, let me also say something about the prevailing liberal discourse. I’ll be brief. 

There isn’t any such thing as a 50/50 relationship. Having this sort of tit-for-tat mentality would also certainly encourage distress. What matters is both parties feel that their counterpart is working for the benefit of the marriage, even if this is done in distinct ways.

Personally, I think it is time that we re-imagine adulthood and fulfilling relationships. Demographics and the economy are forcing this, but it can also be done intentionality.  

it’s simple. Keep each other informed and be considerate. Celebrate the talents, show mercy for the weakness and forgive the shortcomings, while still insisting on the best from each other. And above all, let the good times roll.

Keeping Count – Poverty in Focus


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In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.- Confucius

I’m at the airport. I just used my husband’s “premiere points” with an airline to check-in luggage for free. I mention the fees, because I loathe them and I’ve long thought that airports are one of the most visible vestiges of classism.

Have you ever seen the cocoons that first and business class passengers fly in on international flights? What about the literal red carpet that is laid out for “business elite” or “platinum” members. They have their exclusive lounges that my pinkie toe cannot meander into.

U.S. citizens hate to think of the USA as a place where only “certain people” succeed. As much as we’re enthralled by TV series like Games of Thrones which refashions and glorifies the intriguing secrets of lords and ladies, we hate to think that being of noble birth equates being “destined for greatness.”This would also inherently mean that those of ‘low birth’ will spend their lives toiling at their service.

Still it’s real. There are countless ways where: class matters.

For example, the New York Times recently ran an article about how talking to your children gives them a higher IQ. It also noted that parents from higher income brackets are more likely to talk to their children than middle class parents, middle class parents more than working class parents and so on.

I doubt this is about literacy or desire. I am sure that some of this is more about time…We’ve talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on this blog before. Suffice it to say, when you’re trying to address your survival needs you have less time and energy to focus on anything else.

Just think about it…

Here are a few salient moments for me in the last few weeks that have reminded me of my own class privilege. I needed the perspective.

1) I was on my hammock when I realized I was literally getting “paid to lay in the shade.” That’s right. I am salaried and have paid vacation leave (and sick leave). Even if most of the time, it’s exasperating and disheartening to calculate what my hourly salary would be when I work more sixty hours, rather than forty hours a week without any overtime in sight.

Still, I can take time off when I need or want it (within reason) and not have it affect my family’s bottom line. This is important. Hourly work is normal in the service and construction and such sectors do more physically demanding work, but are not able to take time off to rest or care for themselves or their families.

2) At CVS – when I went to have a routine prescription filled and I pulled out my health insurance card, while the woman who proceeded me spent ten plus minutes trying to see if Medicaid would cover hers. It was a stark reminder that as of 2010, 49.9 million was the number of uninsured Americans. That’s 16.3% of the total population.

3) Driving through Gary, Indiana: the husband and I were on our way to see MJ’s childhood home. Gary is considered a rust-belt town. The kind of town that used to have a thriving employed population at the local steel plant and the adjoining industries that supported it. When the plant boarded up, cut hours, and went automated most people were laid off en masse. You know that it’s cyclical. Unemployment begets poverty which begets decreased standards of living.

It takes means, motive and opportunity to get ahead, not just hard work. All of these are often shaped by your networks, which come from your community. If everyone you know is unemployed or underemployed, you’re resources are quite minimal compared to someone whose mother’s best friend chairs the hospital board and sister who works at a prominent engineering firm.

4) Continuing our conversation about access, it is important to note that access is NOT about proximity. Yup, this is really clear to me when I attended my sister’s graduation from Johns Hopkins University, which like many universities (Atlanta University Center, Columbia, University of Chicago, University of Southern California are all other good examples) that are smack dab in the midst of impoverished neighborhoods, full of children who due to systemic barriers may never attend these schools, much less consider it.

The reality is stark: “Three-quarters of students at top colleges come from the top socioeconomic quartile, with only one-tenth from the poorer half and 3 percent from the bottom quartile.”

But just to be clear, the epicenters of American poverty are not stagnant. Contrary to popular belief, American cities have not always been a place of decay. Right now American cities are experiencing the inverse of white flight as countless upwardly mobile people move back into the cities – it’s all about proclivities (and gentrification).

5) Then I did some research about 529 college saving plans for a family member. Yes. Their son or daughter is going to school and they have the disposable income to put some money aside for their pursuit. Our banking system is not the most egalitarian. People who can afford to keep large balances in their checking accounts get them for free and those who can make large investments get the best interest rates. The working poor get DISMAL interest rates and banks make money off overdrafts (which is easy to do when you’re trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents). This is not something that affects richer people. The same can increasingly be said for student loans.

6) Then – there is a wider world context. Even as I read heartening stories of individual triumph, like this one, I know it’s in part because of the infrastructure in the USA. Even as a homeless person she would have access to a free public school, clean drinking water, sources of light, libraries and health care. Just ask the Economist. “Nobody in the developed world comes remotely close to the poverty level that $1.25 a day represents. America’s poverty line is $63 a day for a family of four.”

None of these observations make me any less privileged, but maybe, just maybe they make me more human.