Category Archives: Lesson

Dear America…

On the day when millions gather together to protest gun violence, to advocate for better gun control policy, to remember the victims of senseless acts of gun violence, I can’t help but weep when I think about what happened in Sacramento. We have a problem with guns… and it’s not just in our schools or on our streets. The gun problem is deeply imbedded in our police departments.

My heart breaks for Stephon Clark and the terror he must have felt moments before he was gunned down by agents of the state who never identified themselves as police officers before murdering him. 20 bullets. 22 years old. His whole life ahead of him. Hunted. I can only imagine that’s how he felt. Hunted. In his own backyard. Terrified. Thinking, “If I can just make it inside Grandma’s house, I’ll be safe”.

My heart breaks for his family who looked out the windows of their own home to see their loved one dead in their own backyard… refused even an attempt at medical assistance until backup had arrived. My heart breaks for his Grandmother who couldn’t keep him safe. My heart breaks for all of the people who choose to blame someone for being fearful (obviously rightfully so. Hello!), instead of choosing empathy.

My heart breaks for all the people who will mourn the students from Parkland in one breath and blame this father of two for his own death in the next. My heart breaks for the people who passionately support these kids who choose to “March for [Their] Lives”, while vehemently criticizing Black people for choosing to march for theirs. And my heart breaks for those who think that a group of people that has been systematically targeted, imprisoned & executed for literally hundreds of years should be the ones to remain calm and deescalate situations with guns drawn on them, rather than those who are supposed to be trained and paid to protect them.

My heart breaks because we already know what the likely repercussions in Sacramento will be: Paid administrative leave. An internal “investigation” by the same organization that trained these officers to do this. No charges filed. No consequences. The police officers will be found to be justified in murdering people in their own backyards because they “feared for their lives”. They will continue to perpetuate the 400 year old American myth that Black men are so dangerous that trained public servants can’t even contain themselves long enough to have a conversation with them. Back to business as usual…

Meanwhile, a (white) man who intentionally targeted and blew up Black people in their own homes in the Austin suburbs is being described by the media as a “polite” “deep thinker”. His smiling high school photo is being circulated, while military veterans like Walter Scott, shot in the back by police, have mug shots circulated by news channels. A (white) 19 year old walked into a school and murdered 17 people and was peacefully detained… so “unassuming” in fact, that the police officer driving past him admits he nearly kept driving. I have yet to see a single report condemning Parkland as “white on white crime”. Examples of the disparities are endless. And people wonder why we feel the need to affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.

Racial bias is real. Please have some empathy and do some research. Please stop for a moment if your initial reaction is to get defensive when you hear about white privilege. No one is condemning you for having it. We’re just asking you to first recognize that it exists. And then asking you to use it for good. To stand in the gap in places where our voices are heard when others’ voices aren’t. Please have some empathy for your Black brothers and sisters, neighbors and coworkers, strangers and friends who are exhausted by having to live in a constant state of alertness, a constant state of awareness, a constant state of feeling like they have to prove that their lives are worthy. You don’t have to understand it. You don’t even have to agree. But please just try to stop with your analytics and opinions on how they should navigate their blackness and instead choose empathy.

As you’re praying for the families of students gunned down in their own school, please leave room in your heart to pray for the family of the man gunned down in his own backyard. While we advocate for stricter gun laws for citizens, let’s not forget to advocate for more deescalation training and understanding of implicit bias in our police departments. While we expect to see the full extent of the law when it comes to citizens who kill people, let’s hold paid public servants accountable for the lives that they unrightfully take as well. They should be held to a higher standard, not a lesser one. We treat frightened wild animals better than we treat frightened Black men. #StephonClark should be alive right now. This is an American tragedy…


Dear Dr. King…

Sometimes I wonder, Dr. King,

Have we done enough?

If you were still alive today,

What would you say to us?

“The fight is far from over,”

I imagine you’d still say.

To keep fighting for the dream

‘Cause we have yet to reach “one day”.

I imagine you’d be proud

Of the progress that’s been made:

Of rainbow families and diverse friends,

Rooted in the foundation you laid.

But sometimes I imagine

That it would break your heart

To watch Jim Crow evolve into crowded prisons;

Families still torn apart.

I imagine you might celebrate

Just how far we’ve come

And tomorrow you’d be back on the picket lines

Because there’s still so much to be done.

How many people would still love you

If your legacy had yet to be written?

If your fight were still ongoing?

If you weren’t yet a historical figure?

I wonder how many people

Would be unpleasantly surprised

To see what you’d still be fighting for

If you were still alive.

Heavy is:

Telling someone you love – someone the color of coffee, someone whose smile lights up a room – the Walter Scott verdict… and hearing the wind get knocked out of his sails. Watching tears well up in his eyes. Seeing him speechless for the first time since you’ve known him. Watching his shoulders sink and his head drop. Listening to his voice crack as he says he’s feeling sick…

This is why we proclaim that Black Lives Matter.

…Because when he asked what happened and I broke the news, it sent a stark message to him that his life is less important than mine… It was a reminder that people who look like him are so often deemed unworthy of justice.

This is a grown man who’s seen more than his fair share of struggle, who has beaten every odd stacked against him, who grew up poor in blue collar America only to become one of the most sought after people in his field… A man who literally slept on couches while he was pursuing his dream, eventually rising to the top of his craft… A man who went from unknown to world renowned… The embodiment of the American Dream facing the reality of an unfulfilled MLK Dream… A man who could just as easily be targeted by someone who does not recognize him and questions why a man who looks like him is driving such an expensive car… A man who laughs at me when I remind him to make sure his tail lights are always working.

This is a man who purposely steers clear of politically charged conversations. He has no social media. He avoids controversy in his interviews. His art is his activism. A grown man who’s seen it all, just got shook by what went down yesterday. I’ve never heard him so defeated. “We’re just asking for our lives to matter. We’re not saying we matter more. We’re not saying we’re better. We just want to matter.”

I broke the news of Walter Scott, and a grown man broke down and wept.

Dear White People…

I get it. It’s hard for you to understand where they’re coming from. You think they’re overreacting. You’re tired of them assuming everything is about race. You see authority as mostly good, rules as mostly good, the status quo as mostly good… because for you, they’ve been mostly good. Your life experience validates your beliefs (or vice versa). Perception is reality. Our experience shapes our world view. So I get it. You don’t understand why they’re still so angry. You don’t understand it because you haven’t lived it. And if you haven’t lived it, you assume other people haven’t either. But your assumption is wrong.

You assume that it’s just as easy for someone with an “ethnic” sounding name to be called in for a job interview. It doesn’t seem fair to admit that there could be deep-seated bias in people who don’t even recognize it within themselves, so you justify their behavior by thinking those job candidates just must not be as qualified, even though countless blind studies prove otherwise. You assume it’s just as easy for a person of color to get a home loan, get an apartment application approved, find a decent, safe neighborhood for their kids to grow up in. It’s too shocking to think that someone could be denied a place to live solely because of their race, so you decide it must be that their credit isn’t that great or their references must have not pulled through for them. You see upwardly mobile Black families in your community, and so you think these issues don’t exist, not realizing that even your Harvard professor neighbor, in your upper middle class neighborhood is not immune to racial profiling.

You assume that if someone is approached by police it must be because they’re doing something wrong because police have never approached, harassed or interrogated you unjustifiably. And so you justify the disproportionate numbers of interactions between police and people of color by attributing fault to the citizen, even though crime statistics categorized by race tell a different story. You hear ghastly statistics of the demographics of our prison population and can’t bear the thought that something could be devastatingly broken with our judicial system, that sentencing is subjective, that black juveniles are significantly more likely than whites to be tried as adults with harsher punishments for the exact same crimes. And so, to make yourself feel better, you justify these numbers with the argument that their culture celebrates violence, their history dictates their criminality, and every problem would go away if they’d just stop breaking the law.

The problem, white people, is not that Black people are overreacting. The problem is that our experience is not the same as the experience of those who don’t look like us and you’re failing to recognize this truth: Our reality is not the same as theirs. You think, “How could that be? How could someone treat them any differently than they treat me?” And the answer is just that – you see “them” as different from you. We tend to give more grace to our family than to strangers. We fear what we don’t know. And most of us don’t truly know enough people who don’t look like us. The reality is we will never fully understand the Black experience because we haven’t lived it. The good news is, we don’t have to understand to empathize. The good news is, we don’t have to understand to empathize. THE GOOD NEWS IS, WE DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND TO EMPATHIZE. Empathize. Empathize. Empathize. Don’t try to understand. You and I never will. Just. Try. To. EMPATHIZE.

What you’re missing here, white people, and why you’re seeing messages of disdain, hurt, anger & resentment splayed all over your timelines is that the very benefit of the doubt you want to give these officers should actually be given to the people they’re killing. Our laws say we are to be treated as “innocent until proven guilty“. Until we change the laws, citizens are supposed to be presumed innocent regardless of color, gender, class, background, beliefs, or what we assume they have or have not done. It’s what our Constitution was built on. And yet, it’s not the truth for much of our population. Since the birth of our nation, the people we forced here were not even considered fully human (Literally, they were labeled as property and 3/5 of a human being in the Constitution). 200 years later, and Black people are still approached and treated with less dignity and more fear than people with different skin. (The officers who killed Alton Sterling called him “boy” before they took his life. If you don’t understand why that matters, pleaser refer back to MLK.) The reason that we are seeing a new civil rights movement unfold before our eyes is not just because sworn public servants have harassed, abused, and killed Black citizens at disproportionate rates. It’s because too often, no one is held accountable or responsible for doing so. That is why Black people are asking for their lives to matter.

“Well what about the Black cops?” This situation isn’t about good cop, bad cop, Black cop, white cop. It’s systemic. It’s about the institution they’re a part of. Plenty of cops have spoken out about the problems within their forces. Our prisons are privatized money making operations. There is a vested interest to keep them full. Law enforcement often dehumanizes civilians, and time and time again we see people of color on the short end of that stick. Why? Separation, detachment, FEAR. Police officers have a hard job. It’s easier to do when you don’t see other people as people. It’s a biological response of “us vs. them”. And just like biology creates dichotomies, fear triggers an automatic fight or flight response. The police are faced with a choice to fight or flee in the face of fear, and our judicial system has given them the green light to fight.  The ratio of Blacks to whites in our country is 1:5. The ratio of Black people to white people killed by police is 2:1. And unarmed white people are less likely to be killed than unarmed Black people. Why do white people walk away from these situations with their lives still intact? Sorry to break it to you, white people, but it’s not because we’re just more upstanding citizens. It’s because more often than not, law enforcement walks into interactions with people of color with the presumption of criminality, while they primarily walk into interactions with white people with the presumption of innocence, even when they don’t realize they’re doing so. The interaction is different before the first word is even spoken. How do we know that? Because almost all of us do it. 

“Well what about Black on Black crime?” That argument is a moot point. What about white on white crime? 84% of white people are killed by other white people. It can be assumed then that violent crime amongst a given race has more to do with environment and access than race… and has zero to do with paid public servants treating different groups of people differently. We all know that violent crime is more prevalent in the inner city than it is in the suburbs. But to jump to this argument as a means of justifying cops killing Black people is apathetic at best and shamefully racist at worst. The question you should ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to use the “Black on Black crime” argument to justify law enforcement’s excessive use of force is, “Did the people responsible for the crime receive punishment? Was there even a charge brought against the perpetrators?” Find the answers to those questions and then maybe you’ll start to understand the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement. By the way, if you’re so concerned about Black on Black crime, what are YOU doing to help make a difference? Nothing? Then stop bringing it up as justification for your apathy.

“Martin Luther King would be rolling in his grave if he saw the Black Lives Matter movement”. You’re wrong. Just plain wrong. Learn some history outside of what our 8th grade whitewashed textbooks taught us. This comment is so ridiculous, I won’t even explain all the reasons you’re wrong because it’s already been written. Educate yourself.

“Well why don’t Black people work on bettering their own community and take ‘personal responsibility’?” Another moot point. While all of us bettering our communities is indeed important, it also has nothing to do with paid public servants treating people of color differently. It’s irrelevant to the topic at hand, and bringing it up when we’re talking about disproportionate numbers of Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement is an attempt to minimize the real issue. But if we want some facts, the Black community IS working to better their own community just as much if not more than other communities. In fact, the Black community is the most charitable racial community in the country. There are THIRTY organizations in Chicago alone, most of which were started by people within the community who are directly affected by the issues they’re facing, trying to make a difference and address inner city violence. Countless resources and organizations are out there. They just don’t make the five o’clock news.

And personal responsibility? Really? Every human being I’ve ever encountered in life (of every race) has at one point or another blamed someone else for something they should’ve taken personal responsibility for, myself included. That’s why programs like Landmark and MITT exist. It’s why the “self-help” industry is a billion dollar industry. It’s why I have a job – coaching people to take personal responsibility for their lives and their successes and their failures. We ALL lack personal accountability. This isn’t a disease unique to the Black community. Blame is a universally human response. But let’s just play along for the sake of argument. All the Black people I know do take personal responsibility for their own lives. It’s a common practice in the Black community to educate their kids about how to interact in police encounters, including being overly respectful so that they come back home alive. It’s so common in fact it has a name: “The talk“. It’s a common saying in the Black community that, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” In other words, they literally teach their children to outwork everyone else.

Now to the more important question: Why is it every Black person’s responsibility to speak and act on behalf of an entire race of people? Do you take personal responsibility for the nineteen million white people on long-term government assistance? Did you even know that nineteen million white people were on government assistance? Do you take personal responsibility for all the white people in our country who’ve committed atrocious acts of violence? If not, why do you expect all Black people to take personal responsibility for all other Black people? I’m sure they would LOVE if they all could be treated by the content of their individual character, by their personal achievements. But, in general, we treat them as one homogenous group. Why do we expect to be judged by our personal character and achievements, but don’t grant the same grace to other people?

We have to stop criminalizing victims, white people. I know it makes us uncomfortable to think an innocent person could be gunned down with less regard than the gorilla in the Cincinnati zoo, but it’s the ugly truth. We have to stop with the immediate assumptions that these people did anything you or I wouldn’t have done in a similar situation. We have to stop looking for reasons to blame people for their own deaths. He had a past criminal record (Totally irrelevant. You smoked weed in college and that was illegal too. You just didn’t get a record for it. Or maybe you did. You’re still alive). He had a weapon on him (A week ago you were screaming about protecting “our” second amendment rights. Exactly who is the “our” you were talking about?). He shouldn’t have been resisting arrest (Legally we are supposed to have rights. You can’t just be arrested to be arrested. All arrests are supposed to have probable cause. And have you ever been tackled? Your body doesn’t go limp. It tightens up. It’s science). He should have just complied (Philando Castile tried that so what else you got?). Becoming a police officer should not make you immune to the laws of this country. You should not get to use a position you are entrusted with as a means to intimidate, harass, bully, attack, threaten or in any other way treat citizens as if they’re servants, slaves or animals.

Imagine a scenario with me for a moment, white people… What if for the last couple centuries, a disproportionate number of white college frat boys were killed by police for legitimate criminal behavior (smoking weed, selling their mom’s prescription pills, public intoxication, minors in possession of alcohol, sexual assault, etc). We wouldn’t say, “Oh well those boys were drunk and rowdy and breaking the law. They should have behaved and they’d still be alive.” We’d be outraged. We’d say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. We’d demand justice. Now imagine even more of these college frat boys were killed because it was assumed they were partaking in the drug activity even though they’d never been involved in that. Would we write off their lives as “guilty by association”? Would we blame them for their own deaths because they were hanging out with the wrong people? Or would we be appalled at the police? Seriously, if you know a white guy who was in a fraternity, imagine it was him. That guy. The one with a name and a face and a family and a story. The human being you know and love.

Now let’s take it a step further and imagine the officers killing these “upstanding citizens” received no punishment because they “felt their lives were in danger” every time they walked into those frat houses. We’d think that was ridiculous. We’d see that as a huge miscarriage of justice. We certainly wouldn’t allow it to keep happening. Now imagine how you would perceive police in the face of all of this if you were a white college frat boy. You probably wouldn’t feel safe when they were around. Multiply that feeling by a few thousand and you’ll start to have some understanding of what all these Black people are talking about and why they’re so angry. The biggest difference here: the white boy chooses the fraternity. A Black man doesn’t choose his skin color.

I get that you don’t get it, white people. Because I used to not get it either. I work in the “self-improvement” industry. I coach clients every day on taking personal accountability for their lives. I’m a firm believer that your words precede your thoughts and your thoughts dictate your actions and that hard work trumps talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I firmly believe that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to react to it. I used to think that personal responsibility was the problem and answer to everyone’s struggles. I didn’t get it until I took it upon myself to learn. I didn’t get it until I studied real American history (not just what they teach us in K-12) and uncovered that the reality is, the playing field between us and them is not the same to begin with. I didn’t get it until I recognized that while I can absolutely take accountability for my choices now, they have nothing to do with the privilege I was born into. The “privilege” part of White Privilege is not solely referring to monetary privilege.  The whole point of white privilege is referring to the privileges we don’t realize we have. It’s about the fact that we actually have to research this stuff to know what’s going on because we don’t personally experience it. It’s about the fact that we actually have a choice to tune it out or ignore it or turn it off. We’re talking about things like the fact that “nude” is a color that describes a variation of white skin and “flesh toned” bandaids are the color of white flesh, and what kind of impact visual messages like that have.

Take some time to study The Willie Lynch letter and then read some books on psychology and sociology to understand the lasting damaging ramifications of that sentiment. Slavery wasn’t just 400 years ago when the mindset and systems that created it are perpetuated, and the effects are lasting to this day. Jim Crow was in place only 50 years ago. Our parents and grandparents lived through it. And policy doesn’t change people’s minds. Just because the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were passed didn’t mean that overnight people’s biases that forced the need for that legislation in the first place, just disappeared. Learn about the history behind drugs and perpetual drug culture in poor (primarily minority) communities and where it came from. Do some research on the historical prevalence of planted evidence and you may start to understand why so many people of color distrust the police. Spend some time learning about all the work The Innocence Project has done to find out how prevalent it is for wrongful convictions to be against people of color. Read the Moynihan report to understand how the welfare system is a trap that perpetuates single parent households. Read up on where pubic school funding comes from to understand that the education gap is not because poor Black kids can’t or don’t want to learn or that they’re intellectually inferior. Access is not the same. Learn about Reagan’s War on Drugs and Iran-Contra and then ask yourself about how altruistic the administration’s intentions really could have been with eradicating drugs. This wasn’t 400 years ago. This was in the 80s and 90s. Learn about mandatory minimums, which crimes are targeted and who the perpetrators of those crimes are likely to be. It’s all over Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The information is out there, white people. It should outrage all of us. The only excuse at this point not to know our history is at best apathy and at worst, racism & denial.

But ok, white people… You don’t want to make it about race? Make it about policy then. Make it about protocol. Make it about training. Make it about SOMETHING because this is unacceptable. These are paid public servants. They are paid to protect and serve. Nothing about protecting and serving implies intimidating and escalatingOur police forces spend FIVE TIMES more time on firearms and self-defense training than conflict management, deescalation, and ethics & integrity training COMBINED. It’s not just a Black and Brown issue, it’s an issue about excessive use of force and the lack of accountability in such cases. There are countless examples of excessive use of force against every race. There’s a problem if you don’t see a problem.

The police don’t get the “benefit of the doubt” until they stop reaching for their guns when they’re interacting with Black, Brown & Native people. You don’t get to CHOOSE a career that includes putting your life in danger as part of the job description, and then kill people with the justification that you felt that your life was in danger… especially not in an open carry state. If you are afraid of the people paying you to protect them, FIND ANOTHER JOB. Why don’t we give the man on the ground the benefit of the doubt? What if history has proven to him that law enforcement is something to fear? What if in the face of HIS fear, he too was forced to choose fight or flight? So far this year, nearly 600 civilians have been killed by law enforcement, and we’re only halfway through 2016. The number of officers killed in the line of duty so far this year? Fifty-nine… (And that includes traffic accidents and heart attacks while on the job.) In other words, an officer is 10 times more likely to kill a civilian than the other way around. So who are the ones who should really be fearing for their lives? Last year over 1,000 people were killed by police; ZERO police officers were convicted. This isn’t just a policing issue. This is a human rights issue.

I get that you’re not quick to jump to conclusions about race. The fact of the matter is, you’ve never had to. The fact that you want to “wait for an investigation” is actually not your fault. It’s a product of your experience. Your experience with law enforcement has probably been mostly cordial because there is mutual respect between you and them. But the truth is, white people: That doesn’t mean that all police officers are super humans who do no wrong. I think it’s safe to assume that most people think that most police officers have good intentions. But if someone in any other line of work acted with gross misconduct, we’d say they weren’t good at their job. They would be fired. Why can’t we admit when law enforcement is making mistakes? What is so scary about that? Why can’t we see that a badge and a uniform does not make someone superman? Why is it so hard to utter the words, “Not all cops are bad people, (in fact most probably aren’t) but clearly something is wrong”?  We can love our children and still recognize when they’re misbehaving; We can love our country and still recognize there is something egregiously wrong. While it’s natural for you to feel the way you feel because of your life experience, what the Black community is desperately asking the rest of us to have empathy for and open our eyes to is that their experience is different. It’s not your fault you were born with the skin you were born with. It IS your responsibility to seek understanding. 

As white people, we have to stop giving advice to Black people on how they should be navigating their blackness. Until we have put on Black skin, we don’t get to tell Black people how they should feel or respond to the injustices they perceive and experience.  Nobody wants to hear about how you would act in the presence of law enforcement if you were Black. You’re not Black. Your words are not helping. They’re hurting. Our opinions on how they can “save themselves” in police encounters are irrelevant. If the only words you have are to criticize or downplay their feelings, please white people, just don’t say anything. If you are more prepared to defend the good cops than you are to condemn the bad ones or the problems woven into the institution they’re a part of, please white people, keep your mouths closed. If you are more concerned with talking about the crime in the Black community than you are with the systematic oppression of their people, please look in the mirror and work on fixing yourself first. If your first response is going to be anything other than empathy, concern, love & anger on their behalf, please just keep it to yourself. They’ve been hurt enough. They don’t need a layer of our apathy to be added to the pain. If you are at a loss for words and don’t know what to say, just say this: “I can’t possibly understand, but I am sorry you are hurting. I am with you.” Period.

Just to be clear: Being pro-Black or supporting Black Lives Matter does not equate to being anti-white, anti-authority or anti-police. Being FOR anything doesn’t automatically make you AGAINST anything else. Being FOR my family doesn’t mean I’m against yours. It means I love my family. Asking for equal treatment and respect does not imply that Black people believe their lives are MORE important than ours. (Key word: EQUAL). If you see no problem with Irish Americans celebrating St. Patricks Day, but you are uncomfortable with Black people celebrating their blackness, you have a problem. If you see no problem with Italians having restaurants in Little Italy and Chinese people having shops in Chinatown, but you see a problem with Black people celebrating Black community, you have a problem. If you march with the LGBT community for gay pride, but Black pride threatens you, you have a problem. If you don’t even blink when employees protest and picket for higher wages but you see a problem with Black people protesting for respect of life, you have a problem. If you think the Confederate flag is a perfectly acceptable symbol of Southern “pride” but dashikis and afros and kente cloth are “militant”, you have a problem. If any of this makes you uncomfortable, the problem is not them, it’s you.

#BlackLivesMatter is not divisive. You know what is? The rest of us saying it is. What’s divisive is our silence, our blatant apathy. What’s divisive is the fact that our Black “friends” and colleagues see us vocally opposing the shooting deaths of lions in Africa and gorillas in Cincinnati but not other human beings. What’s divisive is our support of attack victims in Paris and Germany and Turkey, but our silence regarding the attacks on our own neighbors. What’s divisive is that we are outraged when a civilian walks into a nightclub and murders innocent people but we justify when someone we pay to protect us murders innocent people in a traffic stop. Why are we ok with saying they were targeted because they were gay but we’re so hesitant to say they were targeted because they were Black?

What’s divisive is the rest of us refusing to acknowledge that Black lives matter, the rest of us who can’t wait to discount this movement by screaming, “All lives matter!” Yes, all lives matter. We’re not talking about that right now. We’re making a distinction about the Black ones because the actions of our law enforcement agencies and judicial system and white apathy keep telling us they don’t. Imagine how you would feel if you were venting to your significant other about having a bad day and their response was, “Well I had a bad day today too. Everyone has bad days.” You probably wouldn’t keep them around for long. You’d probably think they were totally clueless, lacked empathy and were completely self-absorbed. What if you went to the doctor with a broken leg and, without acknowledging your leg, he started to give you a lecture on nutrition and diabetes and talk to you about your cholesterol and heart health. Wouldn’t you think, “Yeah I know my whole body is important but let’s fix the broken part right now because I can’t walk!”? I’ve never seen October roll around and heard any kind of outrage because it’s BREAST cancer awareness month instead of ALL cancer awareness month. It doesn’t mean we forgot about all the other cancers. Yes, all cancers matter. Does it upset you that the NFL wears pink shoes for a month?

“But I don’t mean it that way”. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are when they’re telling you it’s insensitive. They’re telling you how it’s perceived. So stop. When your kid misbehaves or makes a mistake and says to you, “But I didn’t mean to do it,” do you just take his explanation and let him continue to misbehave? No, you course correct and expect him to learn and expect that he won’t do it again. How many cartoons and explanations and analogies and examples do you need before you realize it doesn’t matter that you don’t mean it that way? It’s insensitive. It’s a slap in the face. It misses the point. It is the exact reason the Black lives needed to be specified in the first place. It’s not about us for once. You’ve been informed. So stop acting like a whiny child who feels like he didn’t get invited to the party. Just stop.

Here’s where I’m about to shock you, white people. Get ready for it… We should not just be tolerating the Black Lives Matter movement, we should be supporting it, encouraging it, applauding it, on the front lines with it. Because BLM is not about targeting white police or hating white people. #BlackLivesMatter is simply calling, asking, peacefully protesting for a better, more compassionate, less aggressive, less reactionary police force. Period. We all aim to benefit from more compassionate public servants. We all aim to benefit if police treat us with less presumption of criminality and more willingness to listen. We all benefit from demilitarizing our police force. We all aim to benefit if police don’t see themselves as members of a military gestapo on the front lines of a war. Storm troopers are unnecessary outside of Star Wars and war zones. We all aim to benefit if the police stop the culture of “us vs them”. Take a moment and do a Google search. The videos are everywhere. There are unarmed people of all races harassed, beaten, handcuffed without probable cause, and killed at the hands of an overly aggressive police force. There are children… CHILDREN… who have been maimed and killed by overly aggressive law enforcement agencies who “accidentally” targeted the wrong people. Now there are also examples of police forces who have taken a good look at themselves, admitted there’s a problem, and are working to try to fix it with better training. And in those cities, it’s working. Now if some of the police forces across the country can admit they have a problem, enough to start to try to fix it, how in the world are you still in denial? The first step is admitting there’s a problem. The next is doing everything in our power to help support change. When BLM succeeds, we ALL benefit. We should be thanking them for taking the charge. Fifty years from now, I believe we will.

If the rest of us stood in solidarity with hurting people, realized “they” are not so different from us after all, recognized that they were celebrating our country’s independence on July 4th with cookouts and family and fireworks, just like us… If we weren’t so threatened by “Black Lives Matter” because we put an invisible “ONLY” in front of the statement instead of the assumed “ALSO” at the end, we’d be starting to get somewhere. If the rest of us said, “Yes, Black lives DO matter. I stand in solidarity with you. I’m with you. I, too, oppose systemic institutionalized racist discrimination. I, too, want to see this changed…” If the rest of us joined the movement instead of so vehemently opposing it, we’d come to unity in an instant. If we looked deep at our own hypocrisy, if we were willing to swallow our own pride, if we would choose to humanize victims instead of detach from them, we would start to bridge the gap. We have the CHOICE to stand up or be silent. They have no choice. We know we matter. Our history tells us so. Why can’t we let them matter too? We did not choose our skin color any more than they chose theirs. We did not choose the socio-economic environments we were born into any more than anyone else chose theirs. Stop taking credit and assigning blame for something none of us had any part in.

It’s our responsibility to have empathy & to seek understanding, white people. It’s our responsibility to use our positions of privilege to respond with more love and less criticism. If millions of our fellow citizens are telling us they’re having similar experiences, maybe we should listen. No part of listening requires giving our opinions. Just. Listen. Maybe, just maybe, we should respond with empathy and open hearts, instead of blame and disbelief. Recognizing the validity of someone else’s message should not threaten the integrity of your own. Your light does not diminish by letting someone else’s light shine. On the contrary, we shine brighter together. Our light has been shining for 400+ years. It’s ok to let someone else shine too.

The Answer

Daddy, we need You.

Our police departments are broken. Our law enforcement agencies are broken. Our judicial system is broken. Our prison system is broken. Our country is broken. Our people are broken…  Our capacity for empathy is broken. Our willingness to listen and understand is broken. Our humility is broken. Our pride blinds us, our fear of being wrong suffocates us, our ignorance stifles us, and our complacency is killing us. Where is our humanity? Where is our humility? Where is our love? Where is our respect for human life? Another name added to the list of people whose country has turned its back on the people who broke their backs to build it. The list is too long. There are too many hashtags.

I realized I’ve been waiting for this. Since Freddie Gray, I’ve been waiting for this. Who will be next? It was only a matter of time. I’ve been angry, sad, disgusted, outraged, and every time, after I’ve exhausted every emotion, I fall to my knees and weep. I weep for every mother who has buried a child, I weep for every child who has buried a parent, I weep for every human being – no different than I except for varying levels of melanin in their skin. A variation in melanin intended by its Creator to be a work of art. A variation that we’ve turned into a means to demonize anything that is different from ourselves, as if appreciating the beauty in someone else somehow subtracts from our own. A variation in melanin that dictates everything from access to opportunity to how we are perceived by people who do not know our character but choose to judge us in ways they wouldn’t dream of being judged. I weep for each and every one of them. Humans. People. Brothers. Sisters. Mothers. Fathers. Friends. I weep for the feeling and thoughts they must have had in their last breaths – fear mixed with peaceful acceptance of their fate. “So this is what is to become of me. I’ve watched it happen to countless others, now it is my turn.” I fall to my knees and weep. And every time I ask God, “Why?”

Why do so many people who look like me have such a hard time seeing the truth? Why aren’t more people who look like me shaking in rage? Why can’t more people who look like me accept that there can be good people wrapped up in a bad institution? Why can’t more people who look like me acknowledge that one can identify a problem without assuming that he will be blamed for it? Why don’t more people who look like me seek to understand before being understood? Why don’t more people who look like me accept that history runs deep, and if we tell the broken-hearted that for every year spent with a lover it will take 2 to heal, it is foolish to expect 300 year old wounds to be forgotten in half the time? Why can’t more people who look like me be appalled at slavery, injustice, Jim Crow and his son the Prison Industrial Complex, without thinking it means they’re taking responsibility for it? Why don’t more people choose self-reflection? Why are we so fearful of change? Why do so many leaders choose pride over principle?

And every time I ask Him Why, He reminds me that asking Why is not my place and asking Why will not solve injustice. Asking Why will not bring anyone back from the grave & asking Why will not fix a broken system that was never intended to be fixed. The answer to Why is because we live in a fallen world full of fallen people. Bernie Sanders can’t fix it. Hillary can’t fix it. Chris Christie can’t fix it. Obama couldn’t fix it. Vibes and crystals and karma can’t fix it. Our obsession with self love and slacktivism can’t fix it. Only Jesus can fix it. He is crying for His children to return to Him.

The problem is always sin. The answer is always Him.

Travel Lessons

I believe there are few better teachers than travel.

I’ve lived in 12 cities in 6 states, in 3 countries. I’ve traveled to 27 states in the US, including the northernmost state and the southernmost state. I’ve been to 15 countries on 4 continents…. And I’ve barely touched a fraction of all this world has to offer.

So while I still have miles to go before I sleep, I’ve compiled a list of the top 12 things I’ve learned in all my travels:

1. I have so much to be thankful for.

   I’m not talking about material things. I’m talking basic standards of living that I take for granted – access to clean drinking water, running water, warm water; access to great public education, roadways and plumbing and a roof over my head. I’ve never had to go to bed hungry. I have a loving family, my relative health, all of my senses, all of my limbs, sound mental health, and my gifts. I’ve been blessed with countless opportunities to hone my skills, develop my talents, and carve a path toward success. My basic “rights” are not rights at all, but rather privileges I’ve been afforded, most of which I do not deserve, and most of the time I take for granted.

2. Our education system leaves much to be desired.

    To truly learn about the world, taking what’s spoon fed from elementary education isn’t enough. Why do we learn about the Holocaust but not the Khmer Rouge? Why do we romanticize Thomas Jefferson but villianize Malcolm X? Where is the rich history of South and Central America in our text books? Why can’t this generation spell properly? Why can no one count change any longer? We have a serious problem in this country that we seem to be totally ok with ignoring. When it comes to math, reading, and science, our teens rank 36th in the world. Thirty-sixth.

   It wasn’t until I got to college and sought out education on Asian history and African art and Spanish literature and African-American studies that I learned about so much of the legacy we don’t learn in lower education. Had I not had a desire to learn, however, I’m afraid I still would not understand white privilege or The New Jim Crow or Asian codes of honor or the offensiveness of the term “Orient”.

    Our children dislike school. They fight to go. Parents argue with teachers. Meanwhile, ask millions of people in the Congo or Nigeria or Ethiopia or Korea or Japan what their number one priority is, what their hope for a future is, and the majority of the time, you will find young people replying, “education”.

3. Money does not make one rich.

    Some of the most joyful people I’ve seen are people in “third world” countries. Some of the most broken and miserable people I’ve known are people on your favorite TV shows. I’ve seen the biggest smiles on the faces of people with little material wealth, and the biggest bouts of depression tormenting the minds of people who live in million dollar homes.

4. There is a Columbus Street in every city in America. (This may or may not be a slight exaggeration).

    You may not be paying attention, but I notice it every-freakin-where I go. 😒

5. There is so much beauty to be found in differences.

    One of the biggest fears is the fear of the unknown. We fear that which is different from us. Our fears lead to misunderstanding, lack of empathy, stagnation, and violence. There is so much to learn in examining our differences. They are what make us beautiful. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to function as a society Imagine if we were all good at the same things, or worse yet, imagine if we were all bad at the same things. The world wouldn’t just be boring. It would be downright dysfunctional. There is so much beauty in the fashion, traditions, music, art, architecture, and history of other cultures.

6. Music is the universal language.

   It doesn’t matter whether you know the actual language or not. In fact, much music is strictly instrumental. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you know, the right song can often speak to your soul in a way nothing else can. Music moves us. It is the oldest form of praise known to humankind.

   Throw on some Celia Cruz or Ibrahim Ferrer or Los Ilegales and see if they don’t make you want to move your feet. Listen to some fado and tell me you’re not moved to tears. Throw on some Mozart or Wagner or Chopin or Yo-Yo Ma and tell me you’re not in awe of greatness. Listen to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Etta James, Billie Holiday, and try not to feel something. Listen to Jimi Hendrix or the Beatles or Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan or Bob Marley or MJ, Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder or Fela Kuti and tell me you can’t hear the message. Listen to a Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” or Handel’s “Messiah” and tell me you don’t get chills. And if none of those names evoked any kind of emotion in you, I’m not sure you have a soul. Music is powerful.

7. We don’t seem to be learning all of history’s lessons.

    Why 70+ years after the Holocaust are we still seeing news stories of mass genocides? Why 300+ years post slavery and 50+ years post Jim Crow do we still have a penal system that systematically creates a second class of black and brown citizens? Why 20 years after Rodney King, do we still see video after video of police brutality? Why 1000+ years after the collapse of Rome do we not see the impact of governmental regulation on society’s chances for success?

   I took a trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello recently. It was beautiful. It was ornate. It was a feat of genius engineering. And it was home to our country’s most shameful atrocity. A tour guide told the story of one of Jefferson’s most skilled and accomplished slaves who, despite his great accomplishments at Monticello **insert sarcasm here** he tried to escape to freedom on more than one occasion. His work at Monticello garnered him some wages – so much so that when he first ran away and ended up in Ohio, he had the means to buy some nice clothing and fake papers so that he could pass as a free black.

   However, the story goes as such: A police officer in Ohio was suspicious of a well-dressed black man in his town, so he stopped the man and asked to see his papers… He stopped him, simply because he was suspicious of a well-dressed black man.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Not much has changed…”

8. Our preconceived notions are often blindingly incorrect.

    Take for example, the French. I love Paris. To date, it is my favorite city in the world. I love the art and the architecture, the history and the rail system. I love the beautiful buildings and the awesome cathedrals and the breathtaking sky. I love the shopping and the eating and the language… and the people. Contrary to popular American folklore, the French were some of the kindest people I met in all of Europe. Proud, yes. Confident, yes. Blatantly rude for no reason, no. They sing good morning to you, for goodness sake. “Bon jour!”

9. Love is the most powerful force in the world.

    From Mother Theresa to Gandhi to MLK to Pope John Paul II to the headmasters in Ethiopia that run schools for orphans and the mothers in America working 3 jobs to send their kids to school – there are few forces in the world more powerful than love. And you don’t have to go far to see it.

   I remember talking to the janitor in my office building one night. I was working late. We were the last two there. I asked her about her day and her family. She was an immigrant with no formal education. She worked two to three jobs at a time… and she didn’t complain. She was happy. She was proud. Her daughter had just started college. She was making a way that she never had. She did what she did out of love.

10. Children can teach us some of our greatest lessons.

     In the Matthew 18, Jesus encouraged us to have untainted, pure, unbiased, childlike faith. It’s amazing what we can learn when we see things through the eyes of a child. Teaching Sunday school, I was amazed at how quickly they learn, how much they pick up, how open their ears and eyes are, and how much they just want to be validated and loved.

     Anybody who’s spent any amount of time with young kids has probably learned patience, understanding, forgiveness, and love. Any parent will tell you their children taught them about the immeasurable capacity of their own heart… and taught them to be more patient than they ever thought possible. Children become what they’re told. They become what they’re taught. It is our responsibility to teach them well.

11. People who have less appreciate more. People who have more expect more.

   I sold books door-to-door in college. I met thousands of families of all different backgrounds and socio-economic statuses, in all different types of neighborhoods and communities. What I found to be true, time and time again, was that the people who had the least in terms of material possessions appreciated what they had. They were more joyful about life. They were more thankful for their blessings. They were more hopeful for their children’s futures.

   To be fair, I found the wealthiest people were often just as kind. They made it; they didn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. But it was the group in the middle – the “upper-middle class” who appreciated the least, expected the most, and were constantly competing to keep up with the material possessions of the people around them. They were, in essence, the most miserable.

    In my travels around the world, I also found it to be true that the people with the least in terms of material possessions are often the most joyful, the most appreciative, and the most thankful. From our driver in Bali, to the mothers selling sugar cane on the side of the road in the Dominican Republic, to the guide leading us through the rainforest of Belize, they were grateful and happy and joyful and kind.

11. Two words: Spanish tortilla.

     I studied in Spain for a semester. I survived off of café con leche, Mediterranean olives, puré, churros con chocolate, and Spanish tortillas. Go to Spain. Eat one. You can thank me later.

12. I still have a lot to learn.

     That’s the funny thing about wanderlusts and sapiosexuals – the more we learn, the more we realize we have so much more to learn. There are still so many places to go, people to meet, places to see, experiences to be had. From the beaches of Rio to the falls at Iguazu, the bazaars of Marrakech and the Australian Outback; From Goree Island to the Taj Mahal, Cape Horn and the Berlin Wall; From the skyscrapers of Tokyo to the pyramids at Giza to the whitewashed walls of Santorini and the waters of the Dead Sea… There is so much more of this world I cannot wait to see.


Morning Lessons


Isn’t it remarkable how a good morning often translates into a good day and vice versa? Think about your morning routine. Is it inherently positive or negative? Is it deliberate? Does it even exist?

“Successful people make habits of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” ~Albert Gray

It boils down to habits. The good news is we can control them. The bad news is they can control us. Thankfully, attitude is 100% within our control. The fastest, easiest way to change your reality is to consciously change your habits.

With that in mind, here are 12 morning habits that can literally change your life. Don’t believe me, just watch:

1. Set your alarm for when you’re actually going to get up.

First things first: Break the habit of snoozing. Hitting snooze in the morning is literally starting your first waking moments with a negative thought – “I don’t want to start my day”. Instead, set your alarm for when you’ll actually get up.

2. When your alarm goes off, jump out of bed. Seriously.

Studies show not just the physical benefits of movement, but the mental boosts as well. You immediately get your blood pumping and release endorphins which literally translates to happier feelings. If you have to set your alarm on the other side of the room to do so, do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

3. Positive affirmations work!

What you tell yourself first thing in the morning is critical. What you tell yourself ALL the time is critical. Say something positive. Literally. Out loud. It will be uncomfortable if you’ve never done this before. But do it. Nothing great ever came from comfort zones. My go-to mantra: “It’s gonna be a great day!” The less I feel like it, the more I say it. Our words become our reality. Speak positivity and possibility. Studies have shown that you cannot physiologically say one thing and think the opposite at the exact same time. So the more you speak positivity, the less time you give your mind to think negative.

4. Make your bed.

It’s not just something for your mom to chide you for. It’s the quickest, easiest way to start your day with structure, order, and a small win. Private victories pave the way for public victories.

5. Wash your face with cold water.

There are all sorts of benefits to this including clearer skin. Google it. And do it. It feels amazing.

6. Have a morning playlist that gets you motivated and moving.

For me, this includes Pharrell, “Happy”, U2 “It’s a Beautiful Day”, Charles Jenkins “Awesome”, and Beenie Man “Rum & Redbull”. Whatever floats your boat. Hold off on the sappy love songs. Save those for sexytime evenings with (or without) your boo. The morning is not the time to reminisce on what could have been. Start your day with something that will put a smile on your face and a pep in your step.

Sunshine she's here, you can take a break.
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break.


7. Eat breakfast.

Anybody who knows anything about  health will tell you how important it is to eat a healthy balanced breakfast. Seriously. Tony the Tiger says it so it must be true.

Be grrrrreat!
Be grrrrreat!


8. Exercise.

Hopefully, I don’t need to list all the reasons you should be exercising. (See #2). But I will say, do it in the morning. Wake up earlier to get it done. Like anything else in life, if you put it off until later, often times it won’t get done. And getting your body moving first thing in the morning just makes you feel better for the entire day. There’s something so rewarding about knowing I’ve knocked out my workout before I’ve started my workday.

9. Read something positive.

My go-to morning reading material since I was in college is “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. It’s quick, easy, and an amazing way to start the day. Take a few minutes to feed your mind. Read some scripture, a devotional, something from Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie, Dr. Seuss… Read SOMETHING. Readers are leaders. According to the Wall Street Journal, the top 1% of income earners read, on average, a book a week; They also read the front page of a major news publication… DAILY. There has been too much genius passed on through history in the form of print for anyone to say they’re “not a reader”.

10. Express gratitude.

There’s something so humbling about consciously remembering all that we have to be grateful for. It’s hard to have a “bad” day when we’ve reminded ourselves of all the reasons there are to have a great day. Write down all the things you’re grateful for – even if all you can think of is that you woke up with a roof over your head.

Isaiah 40
Isaiah 40

11. Write down your goals.

Studies have proven the impact of written goals. Write down your goals for the next 10 years, 5 years, this year, quarter, month, week, and day. No matter how much you think you know what you’re working toward, writing down goals on a daily basis is quite possibly more powerful than anything else you can do. Like anything else, setting and writing goals is a habit that has to be cultivated. The more you do it, the better (more clear, precise, and focused) you get. Write down your focus and goals for today.

12. Take one last look in the mirror and tell yourself how great you are.

Write on your mirrors if you have to. Remind yourself how beautiful, talented, capable, driven, focused, successful, thoughtful, loving, and impactful you are. Whatever character traits you’re working on cultivating, meditate on them. We’ve all heard it a million times – You have to love yourself first.

I woke up like dis
I woke up like dis


Notice “Turn on the TV and watch the news” didn’t make the list. The point is to start the day with POSITIVITY. If you absolutely can’t live without television, A. Try it. and/or B. Turn on sports. You can almost always count on SportsCenter to put you in a good mood.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Try something new for the next 21 days. Schedule it into your day. Wake up a little earlier. Cultivate positive habits, see positive results. Try it. See what happens.