Life

Three Hacks for Dealing with Racism

Photo by soulrebel83/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by soulrebel83/iStock / Getty Images
“Racism is pervasive but not persuasively  effective.”
                                                    —Thomas Sowell

Slavery and discrimination have existed for as long as humans have inhabited planet Earth. Since the beginning of time people the world over have treated others from tribes they didn't know differently. There were forms of slavery in which a slave could earn his freedom, marry into, and become part of the family.

Two things made American slavery stand out. One, the intercontinental movement of slaves, and two, the sheer brutality of US chattel slavery. Although slavery existed in various forms around the world, no form of slavery came close to that which existed in the New World.

While different groups worldwide discriminate against other groups it is debatable how effective those discrimination efforts have been. Jews have been discriminated against throughout the world, yet they have managed to gain skills and dominate in key professions such as law and entertainment. In the US black people have been discriminated against since setting foot in the new world, yet we dominate in sports and hip-hop. White people did not want us in basketball. But when we wre admitted, we took over. Whites did not want us in tennis. But eventually we took over. Whites did not want us in golf. We took over. White people understand better than black people that we take over.

Black people in the US have been actively resisting racism and discrimination throughout our history here. The whole world is influenced by our culture and struggle. We have turned resistance into an art form. Our resistance will continue.

Racism and discrimination have changed in some ways and remained the same in others. Black people no longer get lynched publicly. We get shot by the police, and videos of the shootings flood social media. Discriminatory government housing laws have been abolished. However, the income gap between blacks and whites resulting from those discriminatory laws has never been addressed even though black people are legally allowed to live anywhere. The Ku Klux Klan used to hide their faces behind white sheets. Today they find cloaking themselves and their racism unnecessary. So while things have changed, in some ways they have remained the same.  

What should a people of color do?

Even though racism and discrimination continue to exist I do not mean to imply that people of color are not making progress. We are. Many laws have changed due to our protests and resistance. Even though our pressure on the system has borne fruit, our work is far from over. We must continue to resist.

Resistance is personal. Each one of us has to decide how to make a difference. No one can measure another person's willingness to protest and bring about change. Diversity is our strength. We need to resist in different ways and in every way. Here are three suggestions.

1. Marketable Skills

People around the world who have effectively dealt with discrimination and racism have acquired marketable skills. They have been able to gain the skills necessary to support themselves and their families while resisting. After acquiring marketable skills if we are shunned by white people we can offer those skills to other black people to generate income and opportunity for ourselves.

2. Establish Your Primary Purpose

So many individuals and businesses derail from either never establishing a primary purpose or forgetting what it is. Do what you do to the best of your ability an do not get distracted by the noise. Changing your Facebook status does not a protest make. As stated above, focus on improving your skill set and your skills can be marketed to anyone.

As a psychotherapist, I am trained to work with people who can afford my services. My training and practice also involves the development and delivery of treatment that serves as a means of resisting racism. Historically, in all areas of both medical and psychological treatment development, people of color were excluded from anything other than the experimentation process. Treatment advances were not made for us. By gaining access to the treatment development process I make sure that people of color are included.

What's good for black people is good for everyone. While people of color predominantly make up my practice, if a white person finds their ass on fire, they don't usually care when they discover me holding the fire hose.

3. Don't Forget Hack #1

Skills matter. If you can increase your income you can use the money to protest. With money, one can buy legal and political support to push the resistance further. Poverty plays a significant role in undermining our resistance efforts. Protesting with picket signs in the street has its place in any resistance movement, but financial support cannot be overlooked. Money makes a difference.

Don't be so “Down for the Cause” that you get left out. If you can't secure your own food and shelter needs you will not be able to sustain the resistance. We have a long way to go. Resist by any means but do not forget to acquire and sharpen marketable skills so you can live to resist another day.

Racism is challenging to deal with. If you have specific ways that you successfully cope with it please include them in the comment section so that we can help each other. Remember to share this post. 

 

Take Charge of Your Life

Photo by damedeeso/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by damedeeso/iStock / Getty Images

boss (bôs)
noun
1. a person in charge of a worker or organization.

It’s alright to lay back and take life as it comes. There is something to be said about living life on life's terms. It's OK to relax and chill. But if that's your default mode or a socially acceptable way for you to avoid making hard decisions, I invite you to explore what it might be like for you to set goals, create a plan, and press for the mark. If your life feels stalled, you may have to put yourself on the line and step into the responsibility of whatever it is you want. All the cliches, jargon, and psychobabble in the world will not do it for you. If you haven't reached that point yet, then this post is not for you. But if your life is feeling like “Groundhog Day,” keep reading.

It’s so easy to slip into complacency. You wouldn't tolerate anyone stealing from your bank account. You would act a fool if you discovered anything like that, but when it comes to your attention like money it can be stolen. By keeping your attention on your intention and resisting this society’s tendency to steal your most valuable asset--your time-- you can take a proactive rather than reactive stance in your life.

Tim Campbell wrote in New Philosopher (Spring 2018), “We have a great deal to lose if the external world so captivates us that we never turn inward.

So contemplation supports identity, creativity, and morality—no small matters, to be sure.”

According to Tim Ferriss, author of Tools of the Titans, 80 percent of the Titans he’s interviewed have some morning routine which includes exercise, meditation, and journaling. Do you? I don't mean to be critical, but I do mean to throw a bucket of cold water on you in an effort to get you to wake up and realize you are, as the existentialist say, “condemned to freedom.” You can choose to do something different. In fact, your life has to be different before it can be better. It's up to you to make the decision to change.

Cultivate a mindset that promotes pushing your growth edges. It's that mindset that will help you identify opportunities and to work through anxiety and fear to create meaning and value for yourself. Everyone is anxious and everyone's afraid, the people who get things done, the ones who ship, know how to compartmentalize fear. With practice, you can learn to be more courageous.

If you're in a rut, according to Erika Andersen in her article “Learning to Learn” (Harvard Business Review, Spring 2018), “I'm talking about resisting the bias against doing new things, scanning the horizon for growth opportunities, and pushing yourself to acquire radically different capabilities—while still performing your job. That requires a willingness to experiment and become a novice again and again: an extremely disconcerting notion for most of us.” Good bosses have time to breathe and reflect. They manage themselves and their time in ways that enable them to see both the snapshot and the big picture. That facilitates managing projects and their anxiety in ways that produce results.

Get started. Don't get hung up getting ready to get ready. You will never have all the information if by information you really mean a guarantee that what you want to accomplish will work. If you're waiting to feel motivated, don't. Motivation usually arrives after you begin the work. So again, it comes back to your willingness to experiment and feel like a novice.

A boss sets goals, establishes timetables, and allocates resources toward the objectives. But the main thing good bosses do is learn how to learn.

“Managers and employees must practice looking inward, reflecting critically on their own behavior, identifying how they may have contributed to a problem, and then changing the way they act.” —Chris Argyris

Try doing the same thing and take charge of your life, like a boss.

 

Life is a Terminal Illness

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Riding my folding bike I arrived at the bus stop at the Fruitvale BART station as the bus pulled away from the curb. Quickly, I turned my bike to catch the bus at its next stop on 35th and International Blvd. I pedaled hard, weaving through commuters as I headed toward the intercept.

Panting I arrived at the intersection of 38th and International Boulevard to find the stop light red and the grid blocked. A new white Mercedes-Benz with two young black women in the front seats, idled at the crosswalk inside the grid like the start of a drag race. The light turned green for me and I started to pedal, rolling into the crosswalk, trying to beat the bus to the stop across the street.

I felt a jolt, looked down to my left, and realized the Benz had hit me. As I lifted off the ground, holding onto my bike, flying through the air, I yelled. I jammed my left arm into the asphalt to break my fall. I landed on my ass and backpack simultaneously. As I hit the ground I lost control of my bike. It fell just outside of my reach. I locked eyes with a Latino man crossing the street, in the same direction, thinking he was coming to offer me assistance. But, instead of helping me, he nonchalantly picked up my bike and attempted to walk off with it. I jumped to my feet, took a few steps toward him and snatched my bike out of his hands as we both walked to the other side of the street together.

The two soul sistas in the Mercedes-Benz drove off as I squinted to read the license plate. Too late! The Latino man played off his aborted crime by patting me on the back and asking if I was okay. When I reached the corner, I surveyed my damaged bike and tried to fold it before the bus arrived, but something was clearly wrong. It wouldn't fold easily. I boarded the bus suddenly exhausted.

I found a seat and assessed my injuries. My left wrist felt hot and tender. The same wrist I jammed one night months ago when I fell near my house returning from Dorothy's. My lower back hurt, but it had been hurting prior to the accident, from my early morning workouts—too many Jack knife exercises. I felt fire in my left hip, but nothing was broken.

Sitting on the bus, I began to seethe thinking about the motherfucker who tried to steal my bike, the sistas in the Benz who hit me and drove off, and the bystanders who didn't attempt to help me. The pain in my left wrist and hip exceeded my frustration with all of them. By the time I reached my stop, I felt happy to be alive.

In the days following the hit-and-run, as my body began to slowly heal, I noticed I was thinking differently. My own denial about death, which I had concealed without knowing it, diminished enough for me to take in a glimpse of reality. Secretly, I believe I'm special. Death happens to other people, I told myself. It won't happen if I don't think about it. If I'm good enough to other people, if I work my 12-Step program well enough, I can prevent death from taking me at the wrong time. I can resolve all my problems, lace up all my loose ends, and die peacefully with all my family and friends around. I don't have to worry.

I don't know if I figured it out while flying through the air or in the days afterward, but life is a terminal illness and as such I need to be aware of death to live. Animals live unaware of death. Zebras don't get ulcers because they only think about lions when lions are present. I, on the other hand, am aware that, at some point, I'm going to die. I have the ability to push it to the back of my mind, which is a kind of death, but I'll get to that in a minute, and go on about my business.

The moments I laid in the street were personal. That was my brush with death. Nobody really cared. The driver didn't care. Latin dude who picked up my bike didn't care, and bystanders didn't care. It was me and death. I have to say, we have a more intimate relationship than I want to admit. Oh, he’s around. He took my mom. He took my dad. He took my friends Antonio and Lane both out of the blue. Within the last thirty days I've narrowly avoided death twice. Prior to getting hit, some nights ago, I straight-armed a car and lifted myself out of death's way again while in the crosswalk with the right of way returning home from Dorothy's house. Death is a stalker.

Life is what we do while death is busy with other people. We all live with the knowledge that death hasn't gotten around to us yet. But have I been really living in anticipation of death? Remember, I said I would get back to the idea of how well I live, pushing the thought of death out of my mind. There is no sense of urgency like the sense of urgency one gets from death breathing down one's neck. DO IT NOW! I really don't know how much time I have left. No one does, but because of my ability to push thoughts of death out of my mind I can drift into a state of complacency.

With humility, I can look at death now. I don't have unlimited time available to waste on trivialities. Thinking about your own death will make you prioritize life like nothing else. Thinking about my own death makes food taste better, makes my relationships a priority. Thinking about my own death makes connecting with family and friends that much more important. Thinking about my own death forces me to live like only the dying can with urgency and in the moment.