I kept meaning to write a blog post about being called an Uncle Tom but procrastination got the better of me. Amid all the back and forth, sharing and unfriending on facebook I find more people are trying to use their platforms constructively.
There was a time before all the protest and rallies that my husband would do post after post of the injustices toward black people to the point I got tired of it. I wanted to shield myself from seeing the unjust hate and violence. I was also angered that while he shared all this knowledge he was not taking action to make things better.
MY SILENCE MADE ME COMPLICIT IN THEIR DEATHS
But then this happened, Ahmaud, Breonna and George were killed. Their senseless deaths gripped my heart and squeezed out tears of remorse, hatred and self-loathing. How for all these years could I be silent? My silence makes me complicit in their deaths. I was willing to sit on the sidelines while others raised hell about black men and women dying for no reason. I reap the benefit of their diligence without paying any dues.
I can no longer allow that and I'm determined to change. I will admit I am not the protesting type but I have a loud voice, I'm a writer and business coach. Those are a few of my super powers. Those are tools I can use to make a difference in the fight against injustice. First, I stepped forward and offered to coach three black men for free. Then I made connections with a couple of people with hopes of connecting with black youth who are a year away from aging out of the foster care system. I want to make the same offer of business coaching to those who have interest in entrepreneurship. As I continue to try and liberate myself and have impact I sometimes find myself wanting to take a step back and once again shield myself.
MY OLD MINDSET WAS FEEDING ME A NEGATIVE NARRATIVE...
I called this out in myself when someone asked for my thoughts on a facebook thread when I commented "very enlightening" about the vandalism of a statue in Portland. I even told my husband I'm not getting caught up in an argument with a bunch of disagreeing white people. While I was nagged by the request, I was resolved not to say anything. My old mindset was feeding me negative narratives that my saying something would serve no purpose. The truth was I had the feeling a lot of black people get when they are the only black person in the room or the only black person invited to a party. I was giving myself social anxiety on a virtual level.
It took the better part of the day before I shook off what was holding me back and began to tap out what I thought would be a short response. The writer in me had other plans and took over. You can read my response below if I haven't worn you out with words yet.
“My thoughts are people want to keep on blinders. I myself kept them on for a long time so much so I unfollowed my husband even though I knew and agreed with most of what he shared. No one wants to hear about me living in a constant state of anxiety because I can't tell who hates me and who doesn't when I'm the only black person in the space. No one wants to hear the disgust I feel when I pull up next to a car full of young white boys listening and singing along with lyrics that use the word nigga repeatedly. No one cares if I turn a corner so I'm not driving along side someone with a flag and gun stickers in the window. No one cares about the tears I hid from my daughter when someone spit on my seat when I went into Wayback or when the seemingly nice little old white lady called me out of my name in front of her as we drove pass the defunct Toys R Us. I've experienced more racial hatred in my 21 months in Medford than in all my yeas in L.A. I've been flipped off, cussed at, dismissed and stared at with looks that wish they could kill. White people who hear these things give bs I'm sorry that happened to you comments and call them some sort of name as if they stand in solidarity with me. They think because they would never do it they are not like THEM. And as far as that statue, I went searching for other videos and pics and that's a young white guy setting the flag on fire. Majority of onlookers are white as well. Yet and still black people are blamed because they did it in the name of BLM. Those kids think they are helping a cause and their hearts may be in the right place but all they are doing is hurting it. This is how they were taught to respond when they're upset. Right now I speak for every black person I know and am related to PERSONALLY when I say we teach our kids to stay away from that kind of crazy for fear of them ending up dead. That's why we try to stay peaceful. I saw video after video of white kids tearing up shit in the name of BLM. I even saw a white girl take a shit on a turned over police car while folks just stared at her. I saw a young white boy bash windows not as part of the cause but to wreak havoc only to have it snatched out of his hands by a black protester. Enslaving black people is a black mark on American history and they want us to stop talking about it. That's not possible because we're still trying to get the freedom of justice and equality our ancestors wanted all those years ago. I don't feel safe in my own skin but I go out in these streets everyday with my head up and a smile on my face because I have to. I have a black daughter that will not be raised on fear. If I don't know you, I don't trust you. If I can't have a conversation about race without you trying to dismiss everything I say with some lame ass reasoning then we will never be "friends" in the true sense of the word because I will never trust you to have my back when one of your "friends' comes at me with some racial bullshit.”
The woman who asked for my thoughts thanked me and wrote, "I’ve gotta think about this some more.." I don't know what she's thinking but at least she's thinking. Had I stayed silent this wouldn't have happened. Two others from the thread thanked me as well for not staying silent. The thread originator asked for my permission to share the post and I gave it.
Yes, I'm still a work in progress but at least now I'm progressing. Love y'all!
Phyllis Williams-Strawder is a published author, Certified Business Coach and a 20+ year veteran entrepreneur. In addition to Espresso Mischief, she is the creator of Spresso Mischief Designs, the Founder of CKO Creator and co-host of the podcast, Chasing Dollars Making Sense.
Phyllis' published works include That Damn Girl Stuff: A Mother's Truth and Far From the Tree. The books she published for others included, SPICE: The Variety of Life, written by her husband, Morgan Mischief, written by her daughter, Song of Solo, written by Cybill Aros-Pearson, and Book of John, written by John Pye.
Phyllis has a degree in business with an emphasis in personal finance. She is an alum of Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Executive Program as well as the Leadership Long Beach Institute. She is a former member of the Long Beach City College Culinary Advisory Board and a certified bbq judge.