As an African-American woman, and the great-granddaughter of the former slave, turned famous educator, and founder of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, I can say for certain when it comes to racial inequity in America, and the world for that matter, there is much work to be done. The cause of righting wrongs must carry on. However, I believe there is an often-overlooked path that will lead to effecting more powerful and lasting change.
That path is a historical one, built on a foundation of strength. It begins on the soil where our ancestors, who survived the Middle Passage, first stepped in America. It leads all the way to the present day, where an African American female is the Vice President of the United States. It travels in between, through mountains, hilltops, valleys, rivers, farmlands, factories, institutions, and all of the other places where we stopped and achieved significance along the way.
This path involves a great number of us recognizing deep within, beyond the shadow of any doubt, how amazing, extraordinary, and remarkable we are as Black people, based on how far we’ve come. Not to become self-absorbed and cocky, but to become self-aware and confident in the strength of our bloodline. In so doing, we align with the medical, psychological, and even financial scientific law that asserts, like breeds like. Therefore, strength gives rise to more strength.
My wish for this month, and beyond, is this. No matter how bleak the present may seem to the natural eye, collectively, in growing numbers, we magnify the inherent, evidence-based power of our people from the spiritual eye. How can we do that?! I’m glad you asked. For the remainder of the month, let us speak only positive vibes into the atmosphere so that we meet every challenge, personal and professional, from a point of strength. Resist thoughts and utterances of disempowering, energy depleting statements all month. In this way, we stop giving them life. Let them drop dead.
Relative to the plight of our people, as if on auto-pilot, below are just a handful of common “broad brush” strength-depleting statements that I hear on an all too frequent basis. They come from individuals, groups, over the airwaves, and through social media. They are ingrained in the mindsets of too many, spilling over into the psyches of our children, and saturating our communities. Like an uncontrolled virus, they are on the attack to keep us feeling defeated and at a disadvantage. Each of these statements are followed by a positive more powerful mindset shift for the purpose of nourishing our souls. In turn, this will produce the strength necessary to influence lasting change as we continue on in the cause to make this world a better place.
Disempowering Statement Number One: We have to work twice as hard to get anywhere.
Mindset Shift: Hard work is not a bad thing. It is good. And the fact that we know what we have to do, to get where we want to go, is empowering. That’s why today there are more Blacks in high-powered positions than ever before: CEOs, CFOs, news anchors, state and national attorneys general and surgeons general, mayors, police commissioners and chiefs, fire chiefs, school superintendents, hospital administrators, judges, and on and on. If others on the outside choose to be lazy, let that be their problem.
Disempowering Statement Number Two: They never show this on the news (fill in the “this” with a positive action performed be someone within our race).
Mindset Shift: This statement isn’t true from my vantage point. I see a lot of positive stories on the news about us carrying out all kinds of positive undertakings, all the time. But let’s face it, the truth about the news is “If it bleeds, it leads.” Otherwise, the viewership would be low. Unfortunately, that’s human behavior. And besides, if they put everything positive that we do on the news, there would be no room to report anything else. Remember, we’re amazing, extraordinary, and remarkable people. Don’t let the daily news stop us from sharing with the world who we are. Not in arrogance, but in a spirit of enlightenment.
Disempowering Statement Number Three: The system is against us.
Mindset Shift: The “system” is a big broad blanket word that holds a myriad of meanings for a variety of people. In other words, the statement is overwhelming in itself. For this reason alone, it can impart weakness. I believe it is a misnomer. These systems are made up of individuals. Some decent and others who are disillusioned, and in some cases evil. It’s much easier to tackle any issue from that point of reality. Person by person, within systems. As mentioned above, we are running more “systems” than ever before. Increasingly, we are in places where we can impact change. Realizing that while we are bound to influence many hearts, unfortunately, some will never change. Thus, the cause of righting wrongs continues.
Disempowering Statement Number Four: Nothing has changed.
Mindset Shift: That’s simply not true. A lot has changed. We have no idea . . . When we make this claim, we dismiss, disavow, and dishonor all of the tireless work of our ancestors, and everyone else who made sacrifices so that our lives would be better. From those who suffered through the middle passage, to those who risked their lives helping runaway slaves, to those who sat on buses, drank out of water fountains, who marched, and climbed, and moved mountains out of our way. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” If we think nothing’s changed, maybe we should shift our focus. Look from an angle that produces the strength necessary to carry on.
Some hold on to the depleting thoughts because it’s all they know. Others, out of anger or resentment. Others, because it’s what they hear others say, or perhaps it was handed down from someone they hold in high regard. And others, because they naturally lean toward the negative. Evidence shows that none of these reasons are likely to result in any positive, effective, long-term change. Perhaps a positive mindset shift will lead to a greater shift in the right direction in our small space in a great big imperfect world where we are, beyond the shadow of doubt, amazing, extraordinary, and remarkable.
Finally, below is a statement of strength from my great-grandfather―Booker T. Washington.
“Tell them that the sacrifice was not in vain. Tell them that by way of the shop, the field, the skilled hand, habits of thrift, and economy, by way of industrial school and college, we are coming. We are crawling up, working up, yea, bursting up. Often through oppression, unjust discrimination, and prejudice, but through them we are coming up, and with proper habits, intelligence, and property, there is no power on earth that can permanently stay our progress.”
(From Booker T. Washington’s acceptance speech in 1896, upon receiving the honorary degree of Master of Arts from Harvard University)
Peace, Respect, and Blessings!