Monday, June 24, 2013

Open Letter To My Brothers

Years ago, I wrote an article that ran on several publications.  Every now and then, I feel the need to re-run it because I believe that the words are profound.  At the time that I wrote it, I was of the mindset that we as a people have lost our way; and when I say we as a people, I mean everyone, not just African Americans.  I started to think about how we could reclaim ourselves and begin the task of tearing down old ideologies and creating new ones...ones that will enrich our lives as opposed to taking from it.  I thought about it carefully, and this is what I came up with:

Open Letter To My Brothers

            Observance.  Some of us do it more than others.  Some of us have the capacity to do it on larger scales. We’ve observed everything, from the injustices that have been inflicted on races and cultures deemed as the minority, to the triumphs and celebrations of those same communities.

            Observance.  It’s a strong word that carries a different meaning to some of us, and yet, it’s something that I’ve repeatedly had to do over the years since observance and objectivity should, but oftentimes does not, run hand in hand.

            I’ve watched my brothers from all races transcend stereotypes…watched them as they loved and lived, and I thought, without trying to come off preachy, maybe I could compose an open letter to them and perhaps open an eye or two.

            Now I don’t believe for one moment that I’m some know-it-all guru, perhaps looking to be the next Dr. Phil.  Those are shoes that I couldn’t begin to fill on my best day.  Still, I’d like to think that me approaching fifty buys me some wisdom, or at least my interpretation of it anyway.

            When we elected President Barack Obama to office, we were all in agreement that it was time for a change.  However, at the time, I didn’t realize the depths of how true those words would be.  You see, it really is time for us to change not only how we view ourselves, but how we view our race as a whole.  For African Americans, we as a people have been divided for far too long, probably for as long as we as a people have been in this country.  It was always us versus us - field niggra versus house niggra, light-skinned versus dark skinned, haves versus have nots…and the list continues.  And what better way to conquer a race of people than to have them divided amongst themselves?

            We’ve been taught to degrade our women in music, television and literature.  At times, we don’t allow for anyone elses opinion but our own, as if an opinion that conflicts with what we believe somehow translates to we are not being respected, no matter how articulate the words presented are spoken.

            Somehow, we as African American men have brought into the hype that we don’t have value - as if somehow, we are not deserving of a high paying position outside of sports or music which directly impacts our right to live in affluent neighborhoods, afford a comfortable lifestyle and leave a legacy to our children.

            Somehow, we’ve taken the terminology of respect and morphed it into something that we are deserving of, but yet we don’t always feel the need to give it.  This is not to say that all of us live by these principalities, but enough of us do that it warrants a letter.

            So here’s a thought…and take from it whatever you may.  What if we begin and end everything with love?  As simplistic as it may sound, it really isn’t as easy as it seems to be.

            You see, you start off by loving God, or whatever you deem God to be.  It doesn’t matter what you call God.  What works for me may not work for you, but one thing is certain that most of us can agree on. There is something much larger than ourselves at work in our lives.  So let’s start with loving that.  For me, that something is God.  With that being said, it doesn’t matter what your experience with traditional religion has been.  Positive or negative.  Religion is just man’s way of worshiping God as we know Him.

            Love yourself.  Don’t let anyone dictate your worth - and if they try, you don’t have to accept it, because no matter what you do, there will always be someone who will think that they are better…perhaps even having a false sense of entitlement which to them translates in their mind that they are better, smarter and more deserving than you. Give yourself your props, take your knocks and keep on going.  If you get hit hard and it knocks you off kilter, dust yourself off and keep it moving.  The world will keep turning whether you are on it or not, so hang on with your head held high and know that you were created in the image of love.

            Love your woman or life partner.  This applies to straight and gay alike. At the end of the day, the person that you’ve committed yourself to is the person that you should be laying down with, and at one time if not presently, they should have your back.  So cherish them.  Hopefully, you’ll get that love and adoration right back.

            Love your children if you have them.  Teach them, nurture them, lead them. Sometimes, we may associate a bad relationship with them, but they are innocent.  They had nothing to do with whatever happened with their mother, so love them because the simple fact is they need you.

            Love your people.  Greet one another.  Look each other in the eye…especially at work.  Take a stand and lead in your community.  Step up and love outside of the box, because believe it or not, someone, somewhere will always have it worse than you.

            Brothers…and by brothers I mean all of you.  Black, Asian, Latino, White or whatever culture that you belong to…gay or straight, it doesn’t matter.  It really is time for a change.  And it starts with you.  Love God.  Love yourself.  Love your life partner - whether it is a he or she.  Love your children.  Love your people.

~  J.L. Whitehead

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