AND Feed the Light

July 10th, 2016

Anything that happens in our world, at any point of the day or night, is nothing more than an invitation for us to consider investing our energy, dreams, and emotions. AND any unconscious investment of those dreams, emotions, or energy automatically amplifies whatever gets our attention.

Barrages of tweets, name calling, and portraits of a world in turmoil pervade our political dialogue and media today. They individually and collectively issue an invitation to invest our energy in fear and anger. If we accept the way situations are framed by politicians, pollsters, and media, then we, often unwittingly, make the situation more scary and make ourselves more fearful about how bad things are or will be.

Are there events calling attention to the treatment of members of our society that have been wrong for a long time? Absolutely. Will we solve them peaceably and wisely by feeling more scared and imagining how bad things could get? Absolutely not. Investing in fear, rather than in focused and thoughtful reflection about where we want to invest our energy only makes the situation worse. Responding with fear amplifies fear.

A clear-headed response with thoughtful insights about what we want to bring into the world amplifies light and inclusivity. We might ask ourselves, when issued the invitation to choose fear, how else we could respond that would add more light and love. Rather than musing and fussing about a world gone wrong, a political environment that disgusts us, and individual and community lives in turmoil, how might we invest the power of human creativity and light to create the world we want to live in?

As I was writing my blog entry, my friend Valerie sent the perfect illustration of responding to the darkness with human creativity invested in adding more light to this world. I am not the mother of a black son, wife of a black man, or leader dedicated to advancing black men, however, I can still lend the light that is mine to give to one who is all those things, AND one who invests her human creativity to create a better world for all.

I have, with her permission, copied it into this entry on feeding light. Perhaps it will cause you to consider where and how you will invest your light.

 

We Will No Longer Be Silent

Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD

President and Dean

Morehouse School of Medicine | Atlanta, Georgia

 

My daughter, who will start medical school in the fall, asked me as we watched the shooting of Mr. Alton Sterling, “when will you speak out, when will you as a President of an institution that educates and trains black males to become health care professionals, speak out?”

So, today I am speaking out, not just as President and Dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, but as a mother of a black son, an aunt of a black nephew, a wife to a black man, and as a citizen of these United States, one Nation under God, indivisible….

My heart fractures daily as I turn on the news, or read the latest statistic.

As President and Dean, I often lecture on the lack of black males in medical school, using a pipeline to illustrate where, along a continuum, they “leak” out of the educational system. Today, I am adding another hole to that pipeline, a hole that represents the number of senseless shootings of black men in this country, either by the law enforcement officers charged to serve and protect us or by other black men, who have become predators based on systemic economic disparities that have created a sense of hopelessness about opportunities that will allow them to become contributing citizens.

In 2015, of the approximately 20,000 students who entered medical school, only 515 were black males. This number seems even more significant when faced with the realization that so many black men will never even live long enough to graduate from high school. In 2015, The Guardian recorded 1,134 deaths of Americans at the hands of police officers, with black males nine times higher than that of other Americans to be killed. So, to think that we can plug up the leaking pipeline to increase the number of black males prepared to enter medical school seems to me to be more of a pipe dream.

We have silently stood by and watched; yet, these statistics should not be a surprise to us.

We look in our classrooms and we know that they will not be there; we know they are invisible.

Do you see them; do you know what missing them feels like?

Some of us have known for years what it feels like to miss them. They were absent in our homes when we were growing up and our strong mothers tried to fill their void, by wearing all of the hats and telling us to be independent and stand on our own. Our mothers knew that they were systematically being plucked from the world. To protect our hopes, we, the daughters of the absent fathers, were asked to dream our dreams without them.

In part, this was to prepare us for what was to come.

And when we did find them as their girlfriends, lovers, or as wives, we were already conditioned to overcompensate for their “lack thereof” or their behavior because we knew they were few in number and that they were systematically being “plucked from the world.

Yet, we watched in silence.

And when we birthed them, or adopted them, or surrogated them as our sons, we were overly protective of them from our husbands, their fathers, if present. We were torn between celebrating every milestone of their development, while osmotically preparing them for the system that was preparing to pluck them away.

We lived in fear when they started to drive, recanting the lines of hands on the steering wheel, position 10 and 2, and no sudden movements: “I am reaching in my pocket, sir, to get my license.” We knew the ones who didn’t come home.

Yet, we watched in silence.

And when they started to date, we hoped they would bring home someone who understood their worth, and was not a part of the system that is systematically plucking them from the world. Intellectually, we knew that “she” didn’t know she was of the system, nor was he insightful enough to see that the system changed his value based on his capital prowess, but no matter how the value grew, it would never see his worth.

As mothers, we were silent. We wanted him to be empowered to exercise his choice, knowing all along that the choice was not really his. That this, too, subliminally, is a part of the system that would eventually pluck him away.

We watch in silence and become more damaged in their absence.

We will no longer be silent.

Martin Luther King, Jr once said “in the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.

So, friends I ask what will you do. What do you want others to do?

Let’s begin by raising our voices. It’s time to take these issues beyond social media hash tags. We must leverage our platforms and utilize our circles of influence to advance our concerns to Capitol Hill. Until we address the system plucking away our black men, we are just a grieving community.

And we will outline the change we need and the outcomes we want.

And we will integrate ourselves into the process, ensuring our voices remain at the heart of solutions and policies that will safeguard our families, our black men.

And we will not stop until this country understands the worth of all of its citizens, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

 

 

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