Get Your Hands Out of Your Pockets

21st September 1963:  Black American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King (1929  - 1968) raising his hands in a restaurant.  (Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

21st September 1963: Black American civil rights leader and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) raising his hands in a restaurant. (Photo by William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

I almost do not want to write this, but I have to.  It's Sunday and I am getting ready for three hours in my studio. Painting, drawing, etc.  Before going in the studio, I decided to stop by an art store to get paint for today and also tomorrow. I am working with this after school project and I wanted the students to work with different colors than what I currently have. Any excuse to go to the art store is good enough for me.   There are two art stores on Woodward Ave. that I could go to but I was closer to the one in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, so that is where I went. 

I get there and was happy to see that paint was on sale. I grabbed what I needed, took a little bit of a walk around to see if there was anything else I wanted and got in line.  As I waited, I hear one of the staff members yelling from behind the counter to someone out of my site range. She said "Please take that out of your pocket and put it back." I hear someone say something and then I hear her again – very loud, boisterous and aggressively say "I saw you take that out of the box and put your hand in your pocket."  Then I could see the person she was talking to. It was a young black guy  in a tan jacket with a cool afro. The quintessential artists type. He said back to her "Yes, I did put my hand in my pocket, but I did not put anything in it. Do you want me to come up there and empty my pockets?" She says "I saw you put something in your pocket." The young man came up to the counter and  He said "You absolutely did not see me put anything in my pocket." as he empty all of his pockets showing them all to be empty beyond his wallet.  The staff member said, "Oh, I just had to make sure." The young man walked back where he was and continued looking at markers. 

I was at the counter heated. First of all he and I were the only black people in the store. Only people of color in the store. Secondly, she is yelling so that everyone dead or alive near by could hear, degrading a person, calling them a thief in front of a store full of people. Thirdly, she didn't apologize for her horrible behavior after she is found to be wrong.  So, I looked at the young lady who was taking care of me and said "You know what?" and before I could finish that, my spirit told me to handle it differently. Don't put all your paint away and walk out in a huff. Tell the young lady what you think.  Okay, I said to myself. After the cashier finish ringing me up or almost finished,  I looked to the young lady that rudely talk to the young black man. I kept calm. I looked her straight in the eye and said.   "I need to say this. I was about to put all of this back because of the interaction you just had with that young man. I understand you were doing your job, but it would have been better if you would have walked up to him and had a conversation with him instead of the way you handled that.  You should apologize." She looked back at me, straight in the eye and said, "You are right. I could have done that differently." She heard me and I had hope that she will do that differently if it ever happens again. 

She may not even realized the perception of what she did. Her act, which could have simply been an employee protecting the product of her company, could easily been perceived as a prejudice and racist act. That is how I perceived it.  This is something most people of color deal with on a daily basis. We are profiled and assumptions are made or we are the victims of people who do not understand our history and journey and react in a way that actually is very hurtful to us which, for them, may be a normal reaction to the situation. 

This young lady, from my point of view,  assumed this young man, who is black, was stealing. Then, like many people that look like her have done over many decades, she talk to him as though he was less than. She accused him before she knew and then, just like other whites in similar situation, she did not apologize. If she had better understanding of the world around her or had experiences like this herself or even had friends she cared about that had similar experiences, she may have acted differently.  

This young man and I knew that we had to react with less aggressive nature to be heard or that issue could have escalated and we would have been on the wrong side of that situation. We have to sympathize with her ignorance to enlighten her and at the same time keep us out of danger. That is our life. That is our reality. I think of Martin Luther King and his life and how many times he dealt with perceptions of who is was and what he was doing and how many times he just wanted to show his anger towards those showing hatred and anger toward him.  He and others like him had to be absolutely strong and a little crazy. I felt myself wanting to go over that counter and grab that young lady. A quick second and it would have been over for me. Thank god for spiritual guidance. 

It may be a moment before I go back to that art store if ever. I hope that the young man is also okay.

 

Self-Love

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Teaching school is a fundamental way of sharing. My sister is a teacher. She teaches kindergarten. It baffles me why, because I am not even sure she likes kids. I think she is just really passionate about education and how best to ensure a child will be educated than to catch them at the beginning of their educational journey.  She is just one of many teachers in my family. My aunt, father, cousins.  We learn so much in school. Math, science, how to play and color. We learn how to socialize and even about time (this English class is too long vs. gym isn't long enough).  I told my sister I wish that self-love was taught in schools. I think it would have changed so much in our society and has the potential still to do so. 

I know I may have written this in other posts, but I am going to repeat it. Love, for me, was something you expressed and gave to others. It was something others gave to you if they felt you worthy of it.  Love from others is something you wanted. It gave value.  Growing up in church, love from God was paramount. From what the preacher says, you come into a life already with God's love. Something you never have to worry about, but the world and its views make you work hard just to believe you've earned such unconditional love.

It was not until I was in my 20s that I learned of the concept of self-love.  Those feelings, thoughts, and patience you have with others, to have them for yourself. That was foreign to me. You hear the word self, and your mind goes straight to selfish, at least my mind did. But self-love is not selfish, and it is one of the best things you can do. 

Self-love is this appreciation of who you are as you are. When you appreciate, like and love yourself, you tend to make better choices for yourself from health choices even down to your relationships. When you appreciate and love you as you are, it becomes so much easier to do the same for family and friends. 

I actually did not love myself. There were things I was confident about. I was confident that I was smart. My report cards supported that fact. I was confident that I could draw, but not confident that I was good at it. I was confident that I was a decent musician. I held first chair in middle and high school band and even in community bands while in college. I was confident that I was not a "pretty girl" and somehow became okay with that. There was a lot of pressure that comes with being pretty that I did not have to deal with. I was not confident about love or like. I assumed people like me mostly because of my achievements not because of who I truly was. I accepted that. I tend not to care about other's accomplishments and always wanted to see people from within and to like them from that space. I think I chose to deal with people in this way because I was giving them something I did not have and wanted.

Self love came when I was at a rock bottom. Years of depression, could not think, work or create and no parent, friend or family around to spring me out of that hole. I remember being on my bed, in darkness, hugging myself. There was a warmth with that. It made me fall asleep when I probably hadn't slept for a while. That feeling gave me energy and mercy from the darkness. I thought it was a fluke feeling.  Later, I saw a book about self-love that really opened me to the concept and made me wonder why this is not taught to all. Why little kindergartners aren't told about self-love. 

If everyone loved themselves, no one would feel empty and try to fill it with others. No one would feel they have to give up who they are to be loved, feel secure, feel peace. If at five years old, you were told that love lives in you and you are truly beautiful as you are. If the world truly supported that philosophy this world would be all we imagined and it would be real.

Truth: I am still learning to love myself but I have seen my progress, and I have seen how it makes me feel about my parents, nieces and nephews, friends, associates. I see how it makes me feel about strangers and how comfortable I am with myself. I am not in a rush to be in a relationship, but I know as I am now and where I am continuing to go, I will have an amazing partner to share my life and love with and do it while truly being me.