Bad Apples

My emotions are raw. I’ll admit this first.

It doesn’t really matter to me what preceded Jacob Blake being shot 7 times in the back.

It just doesn’t.

I’m also not sorry if that doesn’t fit your narrative.

Perhaps Jacob Blake shouldn’t have walked away from the police. I would always advise listening to a police officer and doing what they say to do. Not complying though, shouldn’t lead to executions in the street.

I don’t know what was said between Jacob Blake and the police officers, and I’m not sure how many people do. I don’t know why guns were drawn in the first place. What I do know is that Jacob Blake was shot seven times at point-blank range.

Literally, the officer had his hand on Jacob Blake’s shirt when he fired his first shots.

In front of his children.

If this is just the act of a “few bad apples”, why does this keep happening? Why are so many willing to jump to that bad apple’s defense over the man lying in a hospital bed with a severed spinal cord facing the potential of never walking again?

Why can’t we remove the bad apples from the bunch?

It’s always interesting to me to see supposedly pro-life individuals defending the use of guns to kill other people. It doesn’t compute.

As far as athletes boycotting games – I support them. Mostly because it is their right to do so. If peacefully kneeling doesn’t create the necessary changes, then other options must be considered.

As a diehard sports fan, with the NBA being my favorite league, I’ll say this: if you feel inconvenienced by players not playing their games, maybe it’s time to re-think your priorities.

If you wish you could watch them play because they provide a nice distraction for you, that’s precisely the point.
Now is not the time to be entertained.

Now is not the time to be distracted.

We hear all the time that athletes should “just stick to sports”. I’m still trying to understand that in a logical, rational sense.

It’s silly. Maybe we should start telling electricians to “stick to electrical work”, or plumbers to “stick to plumbing”. Should we tell our pastors to “stick to Bible stuff”?

Who gets to decide what other people’s opinions are? Who gets to decide how someone else should use their platform?

Don’t want to be bothered? Neither do I, but I also don’t want to end up as another name with a hashtag.

This shouldn’t be about Black people vs. White people. It shouldn’t be a liberal vs. conservative argument. For me, it’s not an anti-police argument. What it is though, is a plea for all of us to work towards meaningful change in this country. Where we ALL have equal opportunities, where we ALL can move freely without fear of brutality in the back of our minds.

Jacob Blake’s mother said it best when she pleaded for all of us to “use our hearts, our love and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other”

Let’s start doing that.

Father’s Day

I’ll just say it, Father’s Day is a bit complicated for me.

I can’t take sole ownership of that feeling, millions of people have experienced the same emotion, I’m sure. It’s a day that I love, as a father, more than my birthday. I get to be Daddy to the sweetest, most thoughtful little girl in the world. My daughter Jade is so much more than I ever imagined and in a few months, I get to meet another little girl who I get to share bloodlines with.

It’s a day that I can reflect on and be appreciative of my dad who raised me. Truly, my dad is a great man who helps everyone.

It’s also a day that I dread. There’s a part of me that dreads Father’s Day because it reminds me of the longing I have for the father I never met.

Here’s my story.

Being adopted by a white family when I was an infant, I was keenly aware of my “blackness” quite early on in my life. My parents incredibly made me feel like “one of theirs” so naturally. They were great at helping me learn my heritage the best they could while introducing me to famous African-Americans in history and genuinely teaching me what love and sacrifice really mean.

It doesn’t mean that being adopted was easy.

I grew up thinking I was “another statistic”, another black kid whose father had wanted nothing to do with me. That was the narrative told to my parents and why wouldn’t that be the truth?

The reality is, my father, nicknamed Tadpole, never knew that my biological mother had been pregnant. When he died, in a car accident on a North Carolina country road in 1999, he passed with the knowledge that I existed but without ever being introduced to his son.

I found out about his death five years later. It took some processing, of course, considering I had spent years hating the man I thought abandoned me. Months after I learned of his death, I stumbled upon his obituary online. That was when reality hit me like a load of bricks. It was the true moment when everything I had ever thought about my father came crashing down. I think the most difficult part of reading his obituary was reading about his sons, but my name was nowhere to be found. My name was missing. Of course it was. I simultaneously learned I had brothers I had never met while feeling the loss of my father as if it had just happened.

Suddenly, he wasn’t the antagonist I had always believed. No longer was he the villain my mind had created. He was my father, I was his son and the sudden realization that we’d never get to experience that relationship together was too heavy to bear.

It’s safe to say that I went through a bit of an identity crisis following that moment. I eventually met my brothers. I met my father’s wife, my step-mom Ernestine, who has taught me as much about love and compassion as any woman could. In the moment, it was all so surreal. I watched videotapes my father had made – he was big into recording the moments that mattered most – and I developed memories of him as if I was right there with him.

I learned that he was a family man, deeply devoted to those he loved and everyone, and I mean everyone, loved Tadpole. When I visit North Carolina, where he lived and died, the common phrase his friends tell me is how much they miss him. For me, I missed him.

I mourned him, yet felt guilty about it. Who was I to claim emotions for a man I never met and didn’t know? I didn’t want to take the grief my brothers had felt and pretend I knew what they were experiencing. My grief was different. I hadn’t been there when our father died, which led to more grief and guilt. It was a vicious cycle.

I’d visit his gravesite and I’d sit in that moment with him. I’d talk to him, cry or angrily demand to know why he had to leave all of us. It really wasn’t fair. Wasn’t then and it still isn’t now.

As time has passed, the mourning never ends, but I’ve learned how to cope with it all better. Or at least, I believe I have. I’ve become a father myself and have understood the importance of never taking anything for granted. I find myself gazing into my daughter’s brown eyes, searching, not for glimpses of myself, but hoping maybe I can catch maybe even a twinkle of her grandfather in her deep, thoughtful and always curious eyes.

Father’s Day is a day I love. I’m honored to be a dad and honestly, I can’t believe I get to hear Jade call me daddy. I’ve also learned to cherish this complicated day. I can’t really cherish the memory of a man I never met, since I don’t have anything other than artificial memories of him. What I do get to do is honor two men – both who are my fathers, one who raised me and has provided numerous examples of how to be a good man and a great dad, and one who devoted his life to be there for his family. I couldn’t ask for a better gift on Father’s Day than to have not one, but two great men to look up to. It’s complicated, but outside of Tadpole still being with us today, I wouldn’t wish for anything else.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

in or out?

Nope.

  • If you haven’t understood what it means when you hear the phrase – Black Lives Matter – the answer is not to find your favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote to try to shame black people into some sort of submission.
  • If you are still saying All Lives Matter, it’s not your best move to find a video of a black person reiterating your stance. If you haven’t or are unwilling to listen to opposing views on the issue, you probably aren’t qualified to be making a public stance.
  • If you get irritated when you hear Black Lives Matter because you believe all lives matter, but then seek out a Blue Lives Matter meme, that action is canceling out your supposed belief.
  • If you are pro-life and mad about police being killed on duty by people rioting but aren’t mad about black people being killed by police, are you really pro-life? Are you placing value higher on one person’s life over another? If you are, why? Like, really… ask yourself why.
  • If your argument against the Black Lives Matter movement is that white people are killed by police too… what’s your actual point? That’s literally the whole focus of this. Of course all lives matter, even white lives who have been victimized by “a few bad apples”. Police brutality against anyone is unacceptable.

Here’s the thing. It’s understandable why racism is such a hot-button issue these days. Black people have been saying it loudly for centuries -injustices to people of color (POC) are happening here in this country. Right now. It’s just that in the past, it was easier to ignore us. Now, white people have started listening… and responding. Now the mantle isn’t being carried solely by people of color. It makes some folks awfully uncomfortable.

So now, non-POC, it’s time for you to make a choice. Are you in or are you out? More bluntly, are you with us are you against us? Because if you are, it’s time for you to be an advocate for change. It’s time for you to walk with us, figuratively and literally.

Before I go further, let me emphasize something.

You can advocate any way you choose. You don’t need a megaphone. You don’t need a large audience. You don’t need a different stage. Don’t let people shame you for your choice of action. If you haven’t posted on social media, that’s fine. If you haven’t attended a protest rally, that’s okay too. All you need is your voice and a willingness to use it. The rest will come.

In our media-frenzied culture, we can usually wait a day or two and whatever storm we are facing will blow over. Normally we can just bunker down for a bit and we can survive with little resistance. It’s not the case right now. This time, people are actually mad. The storm is hovering over the United States and it’s not letting up.

So the decision becomes not about weathering the storm but about what type of response are you going to give.

If you have grown tired of your Facebook feed being filled with racial-tension related articles, ask yourself why. Of course, it would be nice to go back to a timeline filled with baby pictures and puppies. People of color would love to fast forward to a time where we aren’t facing prejudice simply for the color of our skin.

If you are searching for MLK quotes, stop. Instead, listen to his words. Spotify is a good utility for that. His speeches back in the 1960s are applicable today. You can find them on YouTube. Listen for his passion in his voice, feel it, and then apply to your own life.

Also, no, he wasn’t beloved back then. No, he wasn’t simply calling for pacification. He was calling for disruption. He wanted to grind the system to a halt. Why?

Because protests aren’t meant to be convenient. Change doesn’t happen on a schedule.

Are you in or are you out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Lives… Matter.

I remember, as a young kid, attempting an experiment I had been dared to try. Not just by kids my age, but adults too. What would happen if scrubbed my hands long enough?

Could my hands turn white? Maybe I could be like everyone else – a phenomenon I hadn’t really experienced growing up in a small Northern Michigan resort town.

I had been informed this magic trick might actually work. I didn’t have much to lose. After all, my skin was dirty, or at least, not very clean. I had been told this enough times, I thought it might be true.

It was never explained to me why being white meant being clean. It has always just been assumed. Think about the language we use in our culture. The color white has been equated with cleanliness, purity and every good thing.

Things that are black – dirty, rebellious, evil, sin.

We even sang it in church, “What will wash us white as snow? nothing but the blood of Jesus”. I’ve never liked that song. I remember wondering if that meant I would always be bad.

Moreso, I had never really understood what was wrong with being black. I guess that had always been somewhat assumed too. After all, it was black people who did most of the crime, it was black unwed mothers living on welfare, purposely getting pregnant so they could steal money from the government and eat junk food while sitting on the couch, watching talk shows and soap operas all day. Black people sold drugs, infecting our good, innocent white youth with all sorts of problems.

White people doing the same things? They probably were just victims of circumstances. It really wasn’t their fault.

It’s black men who deserve to get beaten by the police.

It’s been a rough few weeks. I mean months. I mean years. I mean decades. I mean, it’s been a rough history for black people in this country. We’ve watched the videos and read the stories. We all know what’s going on right now.

America is at a breaking point. Really, a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. It might be one white-hot summer.

We say Black Lives Matter, not because black lives are more important than any other lives, of course not. We say it loudly because, and it’s hard to believe this still needs clarification, black lives have not been valued equally. Ever.

Black Lives Matter because I want my daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities that white kids have.

I watch my almost 4-year-old daughter play or watch a movie or interact with other kids and wonder, sometimes in internal desperation – “how could anyone dislike my beautiful daughter simply because of her skin color?” And then think that my white parents probably asked the same question many times about me and my Hispanic siblings.

If my unborn daughter’s (expected arrival – September) life is so crucial for the Pro-Life crowd, consider that the life of my already born daughter is just as vital. And, not just until she reaches a certain age, either. Her entire life matters.

It really shouldn’t be that hard to say that Black Lives Matter. If it is for you, you should ask yourself why.

Being black in this country shouldn’t devalue a human being, it shouldn’t provide fewer opportunities and it certainly shouldn’t make black citizens fear going for a jog, driving a car, watching television at home on the couch or sleeping in bed.

Black Lives don’t deserve brutality and death simply because they might be accused of passing a counterfeit bill or selling cigarettes without tax stamps.

Black Lives deserve equality. Black Lives deserve the right to pursue the same lives, liberties and the ability to pursue the same happiness as anyone else.

Black Lives deserve the right to know that our skin is just as clean as anyone else’s.

Black Lives Matter.

Words matter.

“You’re really smart, for a black person” – I was told once.

“Don’t worry, she’s probably so curious because she’s never seen a black boy before” – I was told by a neighbor when I was around 9 years old, about her granddaughter, who was an infant.

“If you weren’t a black boy, I’d kick the shit out of you” – I was told once when I was 10 or 11 and hadn’t delivered the newspaper to my customer’s satisfaction.

“You speak really well for being, you know, black” – I’ve been told more than once.

“Do your parents know, that he’s… (black)” – past girlfriends have been asked.

“You’re the whitest black person I know” – I’ve been told as if being adorned with a medal of achievement.

“You’re not really black, you’re really a white man trapped in a black man’s body” – I’ve been told, almost as a term of endearment.

“Hey James, can you teach me ebonics?” – I’ve been asked by co-workers who are now pastors.

“Nigger” – I’ve been called this more than once.

America, words matter.

They always matter. They sting, they bite, they blind, they hurt, they kill.

They also have the power to do the opposite, if you choose.

I’ve lived in White America for most of my life.
At first, it wasn’t my choice. Then it was because it’s all I’ve known. I’ve never really known whether to take comfort in it or be ashamed for it.

I’ve endured endless amounts of ridicule, embarrassment and attempted shaming all due to the color of my skin. I say attempted shaming. because I’ll always be proud of the color of my skin. I’ll always be proud of my bloodlines and of those who came before me.

I know what it’s like to live in fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe – the right place – just with the wrong people nearby.
Countless times I’ve been told by someone that they thought they saw me somewhere I wasn’t, in an area I’ve never been.
They laughed it off, my fear rose.
When will they come for me with handcuffs and false accusations simply because I “fit the description”?

You see, the murder of George Floyd is about so much more than simply an act of “a bad cop”. It highlights the systemic failures of a society that has been rooted in racist behavior long before any of us ever got here.
I say “us” because you know, slave ships and all that inconvenient history and all.
They like to discuss the hostile takeover of the original inhabitants of this land by calling it “The Trail of Tears” as if it were just a few crying tag-a-longs, not human beings brutally driven from the only homes and land they knew. Oh, and thousands died during this.

This is the soil of America. This is the foundation this country was built upon.

The murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Malik Williams, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Heather Heyer and many more, are the results of generations of ignorance, misinformation and hatred bred right here in this land of the free.

Their deaths keep the fear alive. Fear that I’ll jog down the wrong street, be pulled over by the wrong cop, or wear my hoodie around the wrong person.

Yes, white people are killed by police too, and that is equally wrong. White people definitely have faced injustices of all kinds. Of course, not all police are bad and there are more than a few “bad apples” out there. But, for the sake of my young daughter and my daughter arriving this fall, I refuse to allow this to be accepted simply because “hate will always exist” or whatever tired phrase people want to throw out there.

I’ve seen a range of emotions regarding the rioting and looting that’s happening around the country. I don’t condone this sort of action outright, though these are people who feel that they’re very existence has been marginalized. These are people who have been told to protest peacefully, and nothing changed. These are people who feel unheard.

Dr. King said it best – “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”

When the president calls those involved in riots “THUGS” and white supremacist’s “very fine people”, he’s not listening. He’s not listening to the voices of those who have been calling for change long before he assumed his power. When you speak about how wrong people are for their actions, maybe think about the causes first, and not the effect.

Consider what it’s like to walk a day in someone else’s shoes, not just your own, where you know where they walk and are comfortable and content in that path. Others have a different path than you.

Racism is systemic. It’s taught. It’s not in our genes, it’s not in our DNA. It’s a choice. It’s a choice to remain ignorant of the pleas of others. It’s a decision to ignore the plight of others because they might look different, act different, or think differently than you.

So, when you speak, remember that what you say has life-lasting effects. Speaking without facts is dangerous. Speaking with love, kindness and empathy can be life-giving. Think about the experiences of others first before you speak.

America, words matter. Choose them wisely.

If you care about the living…

A man is dead.

If you claim to be pro-life, this should bother you.

Thousands of people have died this year. If life matters to you, this should be devastating.

It shouldn’t matter how people die, born or unborn. If you care about the living, the loss of life, any life, at any age, should tear at your inner being.

If you’re willing to sacrifice the older generation so we don’t lose our financial well-being, shame on you.

And… how we treat the living matters.

Please don’t ask why there is so much hate in the world, and then blast “that woman from Michigan” on social media – calling her a dumbass, a bitch, or worse… as I’ve seen on here. That is why there is hate in this world. Hate exists because we fail to see past our own ideals, our own beliefs and our own objections to consider the thoughts and dilemmas of others. You can dislike and disagree, of course. It’s actually expected, just please recognize that spewing divisive rhetoric breeds hateful actions.

We are, of course, free to have our own opinions and entitled, in this country at least, to share them. That doesn’t make us right. It doesn’t make us better, and it certainly doesn’t make us more dignified.

If you believe that we should all have equal access to the advantages America has to offer, the same freedoms and the same access to the numerous opportunities, then be just as outraged that there are STILL people in Flint, Michigan without access to clean water as you are about wearing a mask to your grocery store to pick up that case of bottled water and toilet paper. Because, as has been stated by some, all life matters.

If you think that it’s scary and sad for black men and women and young black boys and girls to live in fear of jogging, walking, driving, shopping, working or playing in playgrounds without the fear of violence and death overcoming them, think about what you can do to stop that notion from perpetuating further. Perhaps your voice is louder and stronger than you believe, and you might be able to use your available platforms to speak truths against injustices.

Use your voice when it isn’t Facebook popular. Use your voice even when it might cause others to squirm. Use your voice to support locally-owned black businesses and restaurants. GO to locally-owned black businesses and restaurants. Be a part of a community.

Also, please don’t expect black people to have the answers to the racism that comes from White America. Racism towards Black America doesn’t come from Black America. Racism is White America’s problem to confront. Black America doesn’t have the answers for you. Expecting Black America to have the answers you seek is futile. Start looking inward. No, I’m not saying you are racist. I am saying, however, that if you are white, you are much more part of the solution to racism in this country than I am as a black man.

Positive thoughts and prayers ARE actually helpful, it’s just not all there is. Of course, solidarity walks and runs, peaceful protests, calling publicly elected officials and demanding action on corrupt prosecutors also need to happen.

Remember how strong your voice is.

Above all, if you care about the living, consider how the lives around you are affected by your choice of words (on social media or otherwise) and your actions.

In the song Under Pressure, Freddie Mercury asks why can’t we give love, give love, give love – to which David Bowie responds – “Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love (people on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves”

We should be willing to accept that dare – we are as under pressure as we’ve ever been.

first, we are human

imagine with me for a moment this scenario, if you dare.

a scenario where together we saw a little girl, cold and sick and hungry.

let’s pretend that at this moment the stains of vomit, the stench of urine and feces were so great that our eyes watered and we covered our noses out of reflex, an involuntary motion. we were embarrassed by this, but we couldn’t help it. we hoped she didn’t notice our uncomfortable glances. yet we didn’t feel any sense of emotion rise up in us.

her breath reeked from the lack of available toothbrush for her teeth, her hands caked with dirt and dried mucus and who knows what else because she had been denied the basic necessity of hand soap. perhaps she had done something to deserve this, after all, no child would be treated this way if she wasn’t guilty of something.

instead of outrage, we turned our heads.

instead of demanding answers, we were silent.

it was so cold in this drab facility that housed this child that we couldn’t stop shivering, but she seemed numb to the cruel temperatures. how long had she been here?

she was so weak from lack of nutrition that she could barely lift her legs, her muscles turning to atrophy. it’s not like it was our responsibility to help her though, why would we when it wasn’t us that had brought her here?

in the distance, there were strangers milling about, chatting with each other and showing little interest in the child. they wore security uniforms but didn’t seem the least bit worried about securing the premises.

besides, it’s not like this was a prison. she was probably just here while her family figured things out.

as we looked around, we noticed that there were others just like this little girl, in similar conditions and with the same weary, blank and disconnected look on their faces.

we were still unmoved because these weren’t our children. when they talked, we couldn’t understand them. how could they expect us to help them if they couldn’t help themselves anyway?

we decided that when we returned home, we wouldn’t discuss what we had seen with others. why raise alarm when we weren’t sure about the details? besides, we had our own children to worry about.

the problem with this tale is that it’s not something that we have to imagine. it’s happening and we are allowing it, in the country we call home. in a week we will be celebrating with parades and flags and everything patriotic, while children continue to suffer in agony on the border. this is not okay.

we can debate policy and taxes and whether the state should use our hard-earned money to pay for roads and healthcare for all. we are liberal and we are conservative, democrat and republican. however, before we stage these arguments and hold these labels, first we are human, and so are these children.

we aren’t inclined to be silent about the inhumanity toward others simply because we don’t have all the facts. we know enough. we don’t get to use our citizenship as a ladder that we can climb to look down on others simply because they weren’t born here. inhumane treatment of humans, children or otherwise, is an atrocity.

imagine a scenario where we actually did what Jesus commanded us to do. to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty and clothes to the naked. He didn’t say that with a caveat. He didn’t offer a loophole. It was a command.

what if we did Jesus what told us to do? oh, what a world that would be.

 

For information about what is happening at the border, here are a few links:

The Youngest Known Child Separated From His Family at the U.S. Border Under Trump

What We Know: Family Separation And ‘Zero Tolerance’ At The Border

Family Separation by the numbers

If you want to help, here are some additional links:

Together Rising

5 Ways to Help Migrant Children and Families Right Now

Women’s Refuge Commission

Feel Helpless Amidst the Horrific Immigration News? You’re Not. Here’s What To Do.

This is where I come from

      I’ve never once thought to myself – “I wish I was a white man”.

It’s simply never been something I’ve aspired to. since I was a kid, I’ve just wanted to be comfortable in my own skin.

After all, God gave me my skin the same way he gave you yours.

Truthfully, it’s always been somewhat confusing why my shade of melanin has triggered as many conversations as it has over the years. Like sometimes it’s felt like some were obsessed over it. Why would the color of my skin matter to anyone? Yours never mattered to me, at least not negatively.

I suppose if I think deeper about it, it could make sense. Sort of.

I grew up not being like most people. I get it, I looked different. That must have fascinated people. When you’re continually surrounded by those with the same shades that you have, different is much more obvious. Different is weird. Different can be frightening.

Different can be threatening.

The jokes. The stares. The whispers. The glares.

It’s always been my normal so I carried on. What else could I do? not only have I fought to be comfortable in my own skin, I’ve strived, against my natural instincts, to just fit in. I just knew that the culture surrounding me wouldn’t assimilate to who I was, so it was up to me to be like everyone else.

In elementary school, when teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I naively said I wanted to be president, just like my friends did, though I knew better than to dream that big. America was never set up for someone like me to achieve an office that high, or really anything remotely close to it, which is sad because this is my country just as much mine as it is anyone else’s. This is where I come from. I never dreamed I’d ever live to view a man of color take that oath of office.

I cried on election night in 2008. It was like the constraints had been lifted. I thought America had finally removed the roadblocks that had suppressed so many. It was one of those “we can do anything!” moments.

In that moment, as tears flowed down my face, I remembered the pain, the comments, the insults, the jokes.

“James, can you teach me ebonics?’

“James, you’re really smart, you know… for a black kid”

“James, you speak really well for someone with your skin color”

“James, there’s nothing about you that is black, you’re really a white man trapped in a black-skinned body”

“boy”

“nigger”

yeah.

With a black man as president, I was as proud of America, as I’d ever been. We’d endured for so long. We had accomplished so much together.

That’s why these days are so hard. Here we are again.

We’re anything but united. We’re anything but civil toward those with opposing views. Left and Right. As if we were ever meant to think alike. We’re more driven by fear than we’ve ever been. Instead of celebrating our unique stories and histories, we ridicule. Instead of building bridges, we place dynamite and light matches. We wear red hats as a badge of honor but also as a warning. A shoe company’s marketing plan enflamed the nation. the flag has become a trigger and kneeling has turned from being a humble act to a condemned one.

I long for a day when the color of my skin doesn’t impact where I travel. Like Dr. King, I dream of a day when my daughter can live anywhere she pleases without concern. I wish my wife didn’t have to see the ugliness of this world being directed at me simply because my skin is a darker shade.

Aren’t we better than all of this? Weren’t we all designed by a creator who said we were all good? Didn’t that creator say we were all beautiful?

Instead of falling for invented headlines and becoming political pawns, when will we just say enough is enough? Isn’t there more to all of this than, well, this?

There was a time when we could have said we actually were better than this. This isn’t that time.

But it could be.

what have we become?

we are living in the twilight zone.

i’m old enough to not be surprised by much, but i’ll never be too old to be disappointed. that’s where i’ve landed today.

we’re living in an age where a woman’s pain and anguish is overshadowed by powerful men with louder voices. by rich men who take what they want because they know their defense can succeed by simply pointing at the other side in a fit of “whataboutisms”.

there are no winners and losers here. survival is determined simply by who is less dirtied by the mud-slinging.

is this who we are? is this what we’ve really become? is this who we really want to be?

we are citizens in a world that pushes back against truth by dictating the terms of how we consume our reality. the louder the voice and the more the phrase is repeated is how we become believers. we have become too lazy to search for truth. too lazy to realize how ignorant we’ve become.

in order to establish your truth, find a light. find your center. find what is real. not what’s been dictated to you. not what you’ve been told. not what you’ve been told to believe. fight for your knowledge, fight for your beliefs. your intellect isn’t dependent upon someone else’s negligence.

we don’t have to believe the same things. we don’t have to agree. but we do share this earth. we do share this community. what’s good for you should be in my best interests. we may fail, we may fall, but we should be helping each other out of the mud.

bloodlines.

i’ve tried writing about my biological father for years. it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me for a long time as i’ve navigated my feelings and i’m not sure how clearly i’ll be able to articulate my thoughts here. sifting through the rubble of uncertainty, pain and grief is the toughest task anyone could go through. it’s also tough to write about someone i’ll never get to meet.

i was adopted when i was a baby, and it wasn’t like I was lacking anything really. I grew up the youngest of seven kids, four of us adopted, with an incredible dad who worked extremely hard to provide for all of us. My dad was also the perfect example for us about how a husband should treat his wife. It’s just that you always will wonder where you come from when you don’t have any connections to your bloodlines.

i used to daydream about those bloodlines. maybe my father was a famous NBA star, maybe he was an actor. how cool would that be? for the most part, i figured he was a regular, non-famous, guy. even though i was born in north carolina and grew up in michigan, i wondered (hoped) if i would ever bump into him and just know that he was my father. sometimes, when i was a kid, i’d see a black man and i’d want to ask him “hey, are you my dad?” i just wanted to see someone who looked like me. i wanted to see someone and it just be so obvious that we were connected. i envied my friends who took for granted that they looked just like everyone else in their family. i never experienced that. i really just wanted to meet someone who had the same DNA as I did. anyway, as it turns out, he wasn’t an NBA superstar or an Oscar winning actor, which i suppose is okay. those who knew him would probably say he was much more than just a regular guy. he also wasn’t the man i started to think he was.

for a long time i thought he had abandoned me, leaving me as another statistic. needless to say, i grew to despise him and vowed to never be anything like him. i thought up a lot of names for him, none that i’ll display here. truthfully i was just hurt and disappointed and really, what kid would feel any differently? it wasn’t his fault though. he didn’t know that i existed for years after i was born. once he found out about me, he vowed that we’d find each other. he wanted to be my father and he wanted to be there for me. he just never got the chance.

well, i did find him. i had to go to his grave site to see him.

my father died when i was 19, on march 22, 1999. he had just turned 45 years old. his name actually was also james, though he went by the nickname “tadpole”. that’s all anyone ever refers to him as. i don’t believe in coincidences but it’s pretty crazy we both have the same first name. i never got to meet him or look in his eyes or see his smile. he liked to shoot home movies, so i’ve heard his voice and his laugh and seen him party and dance on camera. it’s pretty surreal to create memories of my father from VHS tapes. i read his obituary online and found out i had more brothers. it’s a strange way to discover that i had siblings and the younger brother i had always wanted.

sometimes i will look into my daughter’s eyes and wonder if there is any resemblance of her grandfather (“Paw Paw”) in her. i wish that they would have been able to meet. sometimes i will squeeze her extra tight and thank god that i get to be her dad, but more, that she will hopefully always have me around and not experience the emotions i’ve waded through.

never getting to meet my father has been one of the toughest experiences of my life. i remember the first time i went to his house in north carolina. it was surreal and was rainy of course, just like a movie. i walked in and i felt his presence immediately. it was overwhelming to think that my father had lived in that house, walked and slept in there and now i was there. now i get to bring my wife and daughter to his house. it’s incredibly surreal to think of the long road it’s been.

today marks 19 years he has been gone. i didn’t get to meet him, but i’ll always feel his connection to me.

i’ve often wondered how i could feel so much love and pain and grief for someone i never knew, but the truth is, you always know. you don’t have to be physically present to experience a connection with someone you love. what i’ve found is that no matter the distance, and especially when they are no longer on this earth, they will always be with you in some form. i’m proud that he was my father and that i’ll always be his son.

we’ll always share bloodlines and hopefully i’ll be the father to my daughter that i know he always wanted to be for me.