Archive for June, 2012


The Negro Whisperer

Why is it that some folks think that all Black people speak the same language, or that we all relate to one another? I recall an incident years ago when I was up for a well-deserved promotion on my job. I was confident that my years of “superb & exemplary performance” were the keys to progression within that company. I was loyal, hardworking, and climbing one rung closer to that glass ceiling. Or, so I thought.

Then one day I received an odd invitation from the Chief Operating Officer of the company asking me to join her for lunch. Instinctively I knew that something was amiss. I mean, she and I had never worked together. We’d never had a reason to interact on anything over the years. She was not in my chain of supervision, either upward or downward. Yet, there she was over lunch telling me that the firm was “fully invested in me, but…” No promotion.

Then it clicked. She was the “Negro Whisperer.”

The powers-that-be believed that she had the magical power to communicate with me in a manner that they would be unable to. After all, we looked alike, right? We were both Black women.

Recently, I found myself in a similar situation in which I was invited to participate in a meeting that I traditionally had been excluded from in the past. I was being asked to deliver negative feedback to a colleague with the hope that perhaps she would be more accepting of the feedback since we “got along so well.” Plus, we speak the same language, right? We are both Black women.

I had a flashback to that incident years ago. My gut was telling me that something was amiss, so I asked – “Am I being invited because I am a Black woman who you want to talk to another Black woman?” A collision of silence and shock. Then one vehemently denied any mal-intent behind the invitation, while the other remained uncommonly quiet. If I’ve learned one thing in life, it would be to honor my gut instinct on things. It’s just too bad that they don’t understand that I will never be a black pawn in this game of theirs.

Plus, I only whisper words of revolution.



For some, it’s that magical word that opens doors. Silver spoon-fed. Gold-paved opportunities. Acceptance.


In my skin, privilege simply means:

• Walking through the store without eyes on me until I exit the doors

• Not worrying about the color of my skin being an invisible bullet on my resume

• Wearing my natural hair, kinky, proud, anytime, anywhere

• Not “fitting the description”

• Speaking eloquently without being called “articulate”

• Not bearing the weight of a race on my shoulders

• Having a second chance

They’ve got the whole world in their hands, and they know it. Privilege.


Prescription for Happiness

Have you ever met someone who was terminally unhappy?

Whenever you ask “how are you?” they rattle off a litany of ailments – my neck, my back…my neck and my back!

They’re always complaining about the husband/wife that just can’t get right,

Or someone at work that gets them to cursing like a sailor (ok…that’s me).

They just can’t seem to see the positive in any situation, ever.

If you know someone like this (or you see that person in the mirror), I’ve got just the prescription for you:

Laugh until you cry, or cry until you laugh

Something as simple as a side-splitting laugh or an ugly cry can be just what the doctor ordered to cure you of terminal unhappiness.

Whatever that “magic pill” is for you, decide today that you will be free of this ailment.

Don’t allow others to dictate how happy you can be

Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your life

And, have the last laugh


Shackles on my feet

Athletic shoemaker Adidas was prepared to release this new sneaker designed by Jeremy Scott despite an initial uproar over the offensive design. Adidas defended the design as being characteristic of Scott’s “quirky” and “lighthearted” style. Hmmm…I didn’t realize that slavery was lighthearted nor was I aware that slave shackles were fashion accessories. If that were so, then I lay claim to being the descendent to supermodels.

There was nothing quirky, lighthearted, or fashionable about slavery. Enough said.

I don’t know who this Jeremy Scott is, but I can almost guarantee that he doesn’t look like me. But, I can’t help but wonder where his creative expression comes from. Could it be the images of young, black men rioting at local malls when the new Jordans come out? Could it be the barrage of news stories that recount tale after tale of someone being shot over a pair of sneakers?

While I’d like to lay blame at the feet of Adidas for not exercising better judgment over the designs on which they stitch their corporate name, I think that we are partly to blame for being the muse behind designs like this. Seems like we’ve simply just traded in one set of shackles for another.


When the Klan comes calling

On an early morning walk with my husband, we turned a corner to see the letters “KKK” sloppily painted on the sign welcoming all to our neighborhood. Who would think that these three letters could generate such a range of emotions in us? We were shocked that it happened so close to home. We were accusatory that the offender must have come from another neighborhood. We were angry that someone would dare to deface our community. And, secretly, we were nervous about what all of that meant for our family.

However as we approached the sign, we saw spray-painted alongside the slur a graffiti tag name that likely identified the offenders as some Krazy Klueless Kids who don’t truly understand the history behind those letters. No doubt, these kids are merely regurgitating the hate that they’ve picked up from television, parents, or misguided friends.

We thought about pointing out the sign to our own children to educate them on the history of those hateful letters but realized that their generation is so far removed from outward displays of racism that they probably wouldn’t feel the impact of it as we did. For that, I am grateful, but I am reminded that we can never let them forget where we came from.


If only LASIK could fix hindsight

If only LASIK could fix hindsight…

I would have finished college in my 20s.

I would have been more focused.

I would have been less reckless with my finances.

I would have been more patient.

I would have hugged those I love more.

I would have been less naïve.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have sought God first before making decisions.

I would have been…who knows.

But I’m just thankful that I finally see.


Mothers are not Fathers

I recall periods of my childhood when I would call out for my father only to hear my cries echo back unanswered from my bedroom walls. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my father went on to live his life far away from the young, needy arms that reached for him. I would cry and often ask my mother where he was and why he didn’t love me enough to call or come see me. My mother would just console me, assure me with her love, and tell me that everything would be alright.

My father’s absence in my young life could have left deep emotional wounds within me, but I was fortunate to have the love of a strong mother who instilled in me a deep sense of self-worth that kept me from seeking love in the wrong places. My mother did what countless women day after day do for their children when the fathers have gone missing in action. She mothered and fathered me through childhood.

But, this role was never one that should have been played by one person. No mother should ever have to play the father stunt-double. We simply are not genetically wired to be fathers.

As a mother of two boys (from my first marriage), I find that more often than not I have to wear the mommy & daddy trousers as well. I have to love, nurture, and care for my boys while instilling in them a sense of manhood – as best as I can define it. And, to be honest, this scares and angers me all at once. I am afraid that I will likely miss teaching them some key element that they’ll need to become responsible young men one day; while on the flipside, I am angry that I should even have to worry about this. So, every day I pray that I get it right and rely heavily on my husband (their stepdad) to do what I am merely not equipped to do.

Fortunately for me, I was able to establish a loving relationship with my father at age 19, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder how many speed bumps in life could have been avoided if he would have been around earlier to guide my steps…and how much of that I would be able to pass on to my children now.


If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Recently, I’ve had several discussions about what is considered appropriate to call a step-parent. While for some the answer to this question might be simple, the issue within my own family is one that is clouded in generational conditioning that has been hard to break through.

In my family, children were taught to respectfully address any non-related adult as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Whomever. And, if the adult was related, than his or her name was preceded by Uncle___, Aunt ___, or Cousin ___. Never, ever, did a child refer to an adult by their first name, and if they did it was a sign of disrespect that was not usually tolerated. For the most part, I agree with this practice and have passed this along to my own children, but what happens to this “rule” when you add a step-parent into the equation?

My own relationship with my step-father is one such example where this logic may be flawed. For over 30 years I have called my stepfather “Mr. (insert last name).” At various times over the years, I tried to find a substitute alias that was more befitting of his position in my life (“dad,” “pop”), but every alternative felt forced and unnatural. So, I reverted to what I had been conditioned to call him – MISTER. Now years later, I am “Ms. Valerie” to my stepson and my husband is “Mr. ___” to my children. While I curse the distance that this formality brings into my home, I don’t know how to break away from this tradition without feeling like I’ve broken some unspoken commandment.

So, I ask, what do you call your step-parent when the mom or dad shoe doesn’t fit?