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Will you be ready for the test? You can have all the notes from class, study the material and prepare for years- You will not know you’re ready until adversity is looking you dead in the face.
October 12th, 2018- I was in the Middle East to play basketball professionally, specifically, Lebanon to participate in the Arab cup. While I was in the Middle East the Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was tragically taken from the earth. My friend named Teague who I love, sent me a message via Facebook that read “Be careful over there, there is some crazy sh** going down in Saudi & Turkey”.
I reacted, I was upset and very impulsively said to her, “Yo don’t bring that fear sh** my way please, have you looked on the map? I am far from Saudi and Turkey- Thank you I know you have good intentions but America has made us fear the world”
What she didn’t know was, the day before, I was stopped by a soldier patrolling the area I was in with an M16 assault rifle in his hands. At that moment, I had to consciously choose to not let fear consume my mind. I would not allow fear to manifest into the worst outcome.
I had to apologize to my friend because I realized she was only being concerned for my wellbeing. There was a series of events that were slowly unfolding that led to what I believe my biggest test to date. The first being losing my phone. I continued to communicate with her via an old MacBook my mother loaned to me prior to my trip. I explained to her I was being defensive because of the dreams I had started to have after losing my phone. In my dreams, someone is trying to convince me to leave all forms of communication behind and go to different locations that were incredibly strange. These dreams were almost a “warm up” to preparing me for what was to come.
I woke up the next morning questioning the false sense of security we have as Americans. Teague, is a white, millennial woman from rural America. A person who vastly contrasts myself, who is a Black millennial man from South Side Chicago. We often have conversations about race and how our cultures and the way we were raised affect our perspective. We could be in the exact identical situation and the way she would react would be completely different than how I would. I think as a whole, we as Americans, place a lot of stock in our possessions, jobs, status and location. I began to look deep within my faith and prepared for anything, after all I was in foreign land, I was uncomfortable and as life has taught me, anything can happen.
(At Dinner in the Middle East)
I told Teague about a lesson I had learned growing up. My father always said if it’s your time to die, nothing in the universe could stop it. So why add more weight to your life by trying to be overly carful about that moment.
She explained in greater detail what was going on in the part of the world I was in. She went on to tell me about her experiences in other countries and a time where she was stuck in Asia during a natural disaster and had little to no information on what was happening. She was using her experience, her frustrations in that moment to try and benefit me in my situation. She was reacting to the situation how she was raised to react, understand the facts, control the situation, and survive.
Still, I did not want to accept the energy Teague was presenting to me, I began to accuse her of being a scared white person. I explained to her my situation, “I’m here playing professional basketball, I’m with some powerful people and have a bodyguard.” I took it a step further and accused her of being rude, trying to make me scared and uncomfortable when she didn’t know the situation I personally was in. I told her, “Beirut is a safe city, I appreciate the heads up but I must not fear a thing”.
During the week I had lost my Aunt Renee to cancer. I was thousands of miles from home, grieving and on the edge of exploding mentally. At that point, fear for my life was the last thing I wanted to hear about. We both took a step back, valuing our friendship, and tried to understand where the other was coming from. Teague apologized, explaining her delivery was poor, knowing that I had a lot on my plate at the time, understood my reaction and did not take it to heart.
Teague and I discussed the differences of Fear between white people and black people. She explained to me that she believed White people often inherit the illusion of control from their ancestors due to those before them controlling nearly every facet of life except death itself. I have experience with this personally due to the mixed races in my family.
I told her about the time when I was a kid, my father was driving fast and hit the brakes, scaring the life out of me. I had freaked out and rushed to put on my seatbelt. My father cursed me out jokingly, “Boy you get that scary shit from your mom’s side” he said.
My grandmother, a racially mixed woman, is always worrying. It was a known fact in my family that my mother’s-mother worried more than most of my family that shared a similar upbringing as myself. She had the experience of someone of another ethnicity raising her, which gives her different experiences than someone who has two parents of the same ethnicity.
We fear what we do not understand and often hate what we cannot conquer. On one side of my grandmother’s DNA, the white side, controlled America at one point of time unanimously. While discussing this with Teague, I expressed that I felt white individuals are scared when they come into predominately black, low income communities due to what they perceive will happen. Growing up how Teague grew up, her only experience of these communities is what she has seen on media outlets or read about, which are often negative.
False imagery, exaggerated data to drive up ratings creates stereotypes in people’s head. You will not automatically be robbed in a black neighborhood. However, I believe if your thoughts are dominated with negative outcomes, you will often manifest that fear, leading to your demise.
As a black man who grew up in the South side of Chicago, I walked past gangs and drug trafficking my whole life. Every day I left my mother’s house I had to be Okay with the fear and possibility that it could be my last day. Growing up in any “Hood” you learn to experience without judging mentally and accept fear as another thought cloud passing by. I told her to be cautious when instilling fear on people, especially black people because we’ll just kick you out the house.
I explained to Teague that we are not in control of anything but ourselves and our tongue, so to move through life with fear is pointless. Young black men such as myself adapt to uncertainty, we do not get to pick the cards we are dealt.
Teague shared that where she was raised fear of environment wasn’t a thing. Because of that, she was raised thinking that she could do anything, almost negatively so. She was instilled with the belief that she could control her future and if she failed, it was 100% her fault. She acknowledged that as a middleclass white person, she didn’t’ really have any restrictions put around her besides the fact that she was female. With that however, comes the knowledge that again, if her outcome was different than expected, it was because she did or did not do something.
This was why she reacted the way she did. If she had been in my shoes, she would have gathered all the information possible and made conscious decisions to ensure her safety. Where on the flip side, growing up how I grew up, I accepted the inevitable because I learned a long time ago to except that I can’t control my environment, only how I perceived what was coming. To not walk through life with fear.
Race is such a touchy subject for all. We agreed that people of different ethnicities need to have conversations like this more often. We are all Americans at the end of the day; we all have the same basic needs and wants and just want to be happy. Conversations like this have allowed me to see life through a different prism.
The dialogue went from an intense, argumentative one to more of a shared perspective. Our news in America keeps us chained to fear. The entire time in the Middle East I was treated with respect and honor, which is very different than what you see on TV. I lived with a family, we all ate together, shared experiences and genuinely enjoyed each other. I’m sure there are horror stories, but you won’t experience the other side of the coin until you take a leap of faith. It’s not a color thing it’s an American thing.
At the end of the day it is important to remember neither side has full control of outcomes, the most important takeaway here is mindfulness. Having a tough conversation without ego, or emotion, getting to the roots of ourselves and explaining that only makes us grow as human beings. The more we understand about one another, the more we can benefit from one another. What we allow our minds to manifest positively or negatively will ultimately come true- no matter what color you are. Having a greater understanding and respect of those walking the same walk as us only improves everyone’s journey.
-Written by Gerald Jackson Jr. @G.wroteit