You Are More Than What We see
I am a dreamer. Maybe that is because I am a writer, but however it came to be I honor it. I don’t know what my life would look like with out dreaming. I have always been able to make things up. I was the kid that could make you smile by showing you something in a different way. That is great, but still, I am more than what you see.
How often do you look at a person and sum them up before they can speak a single word? I get that all of the time. I have a certain level of confidence about myself that I have built up over time. It is not arrogance in a manner that would be offensive, but it says that when you speak to me you should speak at your best. I have always been taught to have a high opinion of myself. It took some doing, but over the years I have come to understand and know my worth. I encourage women and the girls that I mentor to do the same.
I came across this TedTalk by Bryan Stevenson and it was an AH-HA moment for me. I am familiar with the work that he does with the Equal Justice Initiative, but I had never heard him speak. I got goose bumps.
As I listened to him tell the story about his grandmother I realized what the end result would be before he got to it. How did I know? I had a teacher like that. I wrote a short story in the fifth grade and I won a first place ribbon for it. My teacher told me that I was special and that I needed to make sure that I always wrote no matter what it took. I later found out that the teacher had told all of the first place winners in every category the same thing. I was not upset or disappointed. I thought it was funny. I was still proud because I was one of the best. I got the speech.
Years later I would be having lunch with some coworkers and we would start talking about inner-city youths and how things looked gloomy for our future. I remember one of the women saying that the children didn’t know anything but dealing drugs and stealing because that is all they had ever been exposed to. Yes, she was black. I could not believe that. I did not want to accept that. Surely there were other people in the community that they could look at and see different things.
That made me think about my neighborhood. There were no writers that lived on my block that I knew of. There were no teachers or professionals that lived on our block or around us. But, what did exist were grandmothers. Matriarchs that stepped in and stepped up when mother or father couldn’t or wouldn’t. There were women who told you to believe in yourself and who believed in you. Didn’t these children that my coworker spoke of have any of that?
I did not want people in the world to look at my sons and clutch their bags closer to them. I did not want one childish mistake to steal their innocence and kill a future that they hadn’t even begun. Mr. Stevenson makes a point in his TedTalk about how a white judge was turning a black teen into something that he wasn’t. An adult. Most black children are forced to grow up quickly. I am not talking about the simple esthetics of being taught manners. I am talking about something altogether different.
Equal justice has to start in our communities. It has to start with every child that you see. You have to tell them that they are special and that they matter. You have to tell them that their life matters.
We have to tell our children that they are good and that they have done good and that they can do good and that they can be anything that they want to be. We have to instill in them that where they are is not the only place that they can be. If we don’t plant a seed of confidence and self-worth, then people will be able to easily turn them into something that they are not. I am not talking just about the legal system. I am talking about the others. The ones that we missed the opportunity with. They will grab our children and turn them into prostitutes, drug dealers, thieves, murderers and any and everything that isn’t good.
“America, America, God shed his grace on thee
And crown they good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.”
We already know who America sees as good. Change the vision and you change the outcome.