An Apple or Two for the Teacher

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Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Thaddeus, when I read the notification that you responded to my essay my gut reaction was one of Oh, crap. What landmine did I unknowingly step on? Then your headline truly gave me cause to erupt in laughter. But I’ve been out running errands all day, so that left me no time to sit down write you back. I can’t put together an essay on my iPhone. No way. But now, I’m back at my laptop.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to respond and for the links to your other essays.

But I continue to do it because I see it having a positive effect on a handful of people. And that’s a handful less that are on the other side.

The patience of a saint?

You crack me up! I’m glad it comes off that way online; but truth be told, several people who know me in the real world would beg to differ. Keep in mind, my friend, that you and everyone else on Medium are only reading what I’m posting. The highlight reel, if you will, that’s heavily and sometimes poorly edited.

The whole of these posts are only notes on what I’ve experienced when dealing with people or witnessed firsthand as filtered through tenets I believe (loving one another, treating others as I would like to be treating, speaking truth in love, etc.).

One Chorus, Many Voices

It’s funny (for want of a better word) that your subhead continues “…all of us can’t do what you do.” Dude (I say that as a term of endearment), even fewer people can do what you do. You cut to the heart of matters large and small with the precision of a neurosurgeon. You come correct, armed with facts and supporting evidence when need be. Now that’s a skill I’m betting is an integral part of your personality.

I know you know this (so this is really more for others who’ve come across our exchange) but, everyone has their own style of delivering messages that address racial equality, anti-racism, etc., and we’re all affecting change in our sphere of influence. And probably more often than we know, a lot of our own efforts overlap with those of others.

Yes, it’s exhausting and ludicrous that we even have to have these discussions breaking down racism, how it’s bad, how it effects us, blah, blah, blah ad nauseum. And it’s okay to have every imaginable emotion that comes from being on the receiving end of the racism stick. I have nothing ill to say of anyone who needs to take a break, a long break, to rejuvenate. I think a racism detox can do a lot of good. We are, after all, human. But we collectively can not give up.

A Watched Pot

The fact that racism still exists is more than evident and while the basic nature of racism hasn’t changed, the opportunities we, as People of Color, have now were only dreamed of fifty or sixty years ago. I’m in no way intimating that America is post-racial. No, sirree. That would be a bald-faced lie. But we can not overlook the gains made. And don’t get me started on “45.” I see too much of him in my social media feeds and in the news. Suffice it to say, you and I are of the same mind in probably all aspects regarding him.

And you’re right, the melting pot is beginning to boil over. And that’s a good thing. I see the white-lash as the last gasp of a dying dragon that has terrorized People of Color since we arrived here. After the boil over, the country can go about the task of getting things cleaned up and we can move on.

Why Continue?

Your Hows list is searingly accurate. See, I wish I could do that. You didn’t mince words, you didn’t conflate or inflate the matter. You told it the way it is, plain and simple. By the way, I didn’t know of the Einstein quote before reading it in your essay. And that’s teeny, but important example of what you do tirelessly — you educate. Thanks for that arrow for my quiver. Einstein assessment of racism is accurate. If black people could have fixed it, we would have fixed it a couple centuries ago, but that’s not the case.

Which is why I write primarily for white readers. I don’t have time for racists, hardcore conservatives, or their elite because they aren’t interested in anything I have to say. I write to white people who see what’s going on, recognize that something has to change, but aren’t quite sure what or how to affect change. Plus, I’m not one for trying to teach a pig to sing. You know the saying —

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pig.

Of course, I also write for us. How can I not? My hope is that my mad (crazy) ramblings buoy any and all who are weighed down and worn out by from having their humanity called into question or worse yet denied. Living to a higher standard and striving for a better tomorrow is what we do. That’s who we are.

Why Continue?

Last year, I remember being overwhelmed by a spate of events in the news and in my personal life. I asked a mentor of mine who turns 98 years old today, how did her generation hold their heads high with dignity and press on, and live, and find happiness in the midst of times worse than these? You know what she said?

We did for our children. We did for our ancestors. We did it because we came too far to turn back.

This begs the question —

What are we without hope?

This is all personal for me. Yesterday was the twenty-fourth anniversary of my father’s passing. He was by far the most brilliant and charismatic man I have ever known. He was the tip of the spear for equality in our community. But I also saw firsthand how racism can wear a man down and thwart his dreams. I wonder what he would say about the state of our union. I wonder what role he would play in the community today. He fought for and paved the way for many, many kids to have the opportunity to attend college.

As a forty-eight-inch tall, black, Christian, gay man (you can put those in any order you like), I get discrimination (receive my fair share and understand it) — and I say that not as a tiresome refrain of Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me; because we all get it in our unique ways — but I bring it up because that’s my reality and it informs me on so many levels. I’ve learned the hard way that there are circumstances that I can not control. I can either let them overpower me and rob me of my purpose and joy, or I can own them, turn that shit on its head, and make it work for me. The other stuff — everything else I can change or at least have a positive impact on — I’m coming for with meat hooks.

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m only doing what I can. We have to believe that goodness will triumph. If not, we can hang it up now and throw all the efforts of everyone who has come before us right out the window. We’re either out to heal the world and one another or we’re out to destroy it. I’m not going out like that. And I know you aren’t either. My message is simple: people can change, they can positively impact others, and love conquers all (maybe not in one fell swoop, but it will ultimately).

This may sound really cheesy, but the time to celebrate is now. Maybe it’s a little early to do an end zone dance that we’ve undone racism completely; but now is always the time to celebrate the making of today’s inroads.

you have 10,000 followers on this site alone that you’re impacting, which is no small feat. And you’re impacting them, maybe not everyday, but, my friend you are not wasting your platform because you know what’s at stake, otherwise there’s no way you could write with the passion and power you pour into every essay. And I ain’t mad atcha, either. I’m glad somebody’s doing it that way, because it if I had to do it like you do … well, let’s just say the end result would be sorely lacking.

So you (and others like you) are already doing what I’m doing: you’re being yourself. And no one can do it like you. And that’s all we’re called to do.

Thank you for writing me. You honor me more than you will ever know.

Now let’s go inside, school’s about to start. I have to see what else Professor Howze is teaching today.

Love one another.

Written by

Artist, actor, author, editorial director of Our Human Family ( Connect via social media: @clayrivers. Love one another.

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