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I’m Mad With Your Race

A lady I know, let’s call her 223, approached me and said “I’m mad at your race!” She is white. The “good” news is she felt “comfortable” saying this to me. I like to know where people stand on issues of race and culture. The bad news is I knew where this was headed. I responded with two questions:
“What race?”  
“The human race?”
Her response was “no, I mean YOUR race.” I replied, “oh, you mean MY race.”
Before we continue, let me provide a little background information. The debate about confederate flags and monuments, and Neo-Nazis and the KKK, is currently engulfing our nation. It seems that community after community is facing the question about what to do with Confederate monuments that are a sense of pride for some, and a symbol of hate for others. Here in the Tampa Bay area, removal of a monument of two Confederate soldiers has been a hot topic and it has spawned a heated debate. With this as the backdrop, 223 thought it was appropriate to say to me “I’m mad at YOUR race!”
Now that we established 223’s anger with “MY race,” I pressed on with the conversation. “Why are you mad with MY race?”
223 responded, “Because you want the monuments taken down.”
These are the times when I go into my interviewer/teacher/great debater role. I welcome these conversations; you know the ones about “MY race,” provided the person I am speaking to is willing to listen. Most of the time, I know these conversations probably will not resolve anything or change anyone’s opinion. But, I believe that if we talk these things out and try to listen to each other, at least we might get a glimpse (and maybe a little understanding) of how others think.  I tend to ask questions too, in hopes of getting my “opponent” to think and provide answer to support their point-of-view. Hold that thought…
So I engaged 223 with my interviewer hat on. “You do realize there are plenty of (using Donald Trump’s words) “very fine people,” I mean WHITE people who also want the monuments taken down too. Are you also mad at them?”
There was my first question. I threw that pitch right down the middle of the plate! I just wanted an answer that would confirm what I already knew, but hoped was not true: she was really mad at MY race.
She didn’t give a response! Instead, she launched into the next talking point (also espoused by Donald Trump). 223 said “who comes next: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?” I was ready for that one. It was time to put on my teacher hat. “You do realize why Washington and Jefferson are viewed differently right?” No response to question two either.
Time to teach. Washington and Jefferson (and the other Founding Fathers), though neither saints  nor heroes in my eyes, at least had the forethought to put mechanisms in place to “decide” questions of race in the future. Although their idea was to produce a perfect union, they knew the society they created had flaws, which is one reason why the Constitution they created can be amended as needed. I give them credit for that. However, their reluctance to act upon their moral responsibility to end the “peculiar institution” has caused a, slow, but steady ripple effect that leads some people, even in 2017 to say: “I’m mad at YOUR race!”
Back to the story. This trail of logic would have been too much for 223, so I condensed it. I told her, “the difference is Washington and Jefferson never took up arms against the United States. The soldiers on this and other Confederate monuments (in particular Robert E. Lee) did. So monuments erected for them are viewed differently.”
Although this wasn’t a question, I thought maybe I could get a response worthy of continuing the “conversation.” Instead I got this: “well they were all involved in slavery.”  This is a valid point. But, it misses the mark because Washington and Jefferson are known more for the good they accomplished for our country. Robert E. Lee is known for his opposition to our country. I knew this response would require the great debater role in me. Should I take it there?
I did want to lay a tactful, yet pointed, smack down on my “opponent,” because unknowingly (I think) she put her foot in the slavery “debate.” All I needed to hear next was the talking point about how good slavery was for MY race back then. Believe it or not, in 2017, there are people who present and even accept as true the idea that slavery was beneficial…
Sometimes you should accept the fact that you have the high ground, and your opponent can’t take it from you. I was there. Any further conversation would have led to an “unnecessary” confrontation. I could not change 223’s heart or mind. It wasn’t worth it. I am the kind of person who can agree to disagree. By the way, I do like 223 as a person, and I think she likes me as a person too. However, I am not sure if our “acquaintance” trumps (pun intended) her opinion of “MY race.” It does mean I should keep 223 at the proper distance in regards to this topic, unless she chooses to have meaningful dialogue about it in the future.
I guess 223 is still mad at “MY race.”
What really concerns me is how many others feel the same way?

African American Cultural Norms

kente cloth

These are the cultural norms of African Americans…

The Extended Family

  • Cousins, Aunts, Mother, Father, Uncle

Informal Adoption

  • By blood relative and non-relatives… Play mom (Godmother, Godfather), play cousins, play nieces, play nephews, play grandmothers, play grandfathers)

Religious Orientation

  • Involved in some type of church religious activity

High Value on Children

  • Children come first

Respect for the Elderly

  • Always respectful to adults and especially to the elderly

Flexible Family Roles

  • Mother working and father taking care of kids


  • For self and community


  • Not doing something that you know you should not do. Knowing right from wrong


  • To self, family, and community


  • I keep the kids one day and you keep the kids the next.


Can you think of any examples of how these cultural values apply to you and your family?

kente cloth

Hill, Robert B. Ph. D 1999. The Strengths of African American Families- Twenty-five Years Later. University Press of America, Lanham, MD.
Sudarkasa, Niara. Ph. D “Interpreting the African Heritage in Afro-American Family Organization.” Pp 27-43 in Black Families, Ed. Harrielle, P. McAdoo, Newbury, Park, CA: Sage Publications, (1988).

Flashback: Two Thoughts About LeBron James

Enjoy this flashback to an article I published in 2014…


Two Thoughts About LeBron James

My first thought about LeBron James is I wish he would have stayed in Cleveland and won a championship for that city. Imagine the scene in Cleveland:

– LeBron James, the local hero, brings home a title to a town starving for a championship.

– Cleveland celebrates its championship with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a backdrop.

– A statue outside Quicken Loans Arena serves as a permanent reminder of his greatness.

But wait, none of this happened! Instead, LeBron James took his talents to South Beach and the rest is history. Sure, he left the team that drafted him in search of titles elsewhere, but other athletes have done this, too. He teamed up with other superstars for a coordinated run at a title. It was not the first time this happened, either.

Did he disparage Cleveland and all things about the Cavaliers on his way out the door? No, he chose not to do so. Surely he must have broken a rule that prevents players from ever leaving one “workplace” to go to another? No such rule exists.

So what is the “crime” committed by LeBron James?

Maybe he should have told the Cavaliers of his intention to leave the team first. Maybe he should not have gone on television to make “The Decision.” I get it, but did these two missteps warrant the venom spewed at LeBron James from both fans and foes alike? After “The Decision,” he was instantly regarded as one of the most hated athletes in professional sports. I have to wonder why he still receives this punishment.

We want our athletes to be well-behaved on the court. This describes LeBron James.

We want our athletes to stay out of trouble and be model citizens. This describes LeBron James.

We want our athletes to play hard, play smart, and play fair. This describes LeBron James.

Is the punishment worth the “crime?”

Our criticism of athletes, though sometimes valid, can extend well beyond what we really know about the world they live in. We seem to think that we know how it feels to be a world-class athlete. We also think we know what it’s like to perform while millions of people are watching. We believe that we know how professional athletes should act just because they are well-compensated. Then we use this information, lay it at the feet of our athletes, and take inventory. Is it really a “crime” if they don’t measure up to our lofty standards as fans?

My second thought about LeBron James is I think he has been punished more than enough for the “crime” he committed. I want him to be judged by his performance on the court, instead of a decision made off the court. I guess time will tell if he will ever be embraced like he was years ago. Who knows? Just ask the multitude of Cleveland Cavaliers fans still dreaming of a championship and a LeBron James statue for their opinion.


UPDATE: King James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2016, he led the charge and brought the city of Cleveland and fans of the Cavaliers the NBA championship.


Let’s Ball and Brand… with Humility


The 2017 NBA Draft is upon us and there is little doubt most, if not all, eyes will be on Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Ball will be in the mix as the top player in the draft and possibly the number one pick overall. Good for him. He is a special talent who should be able to make any team better thanks to his wide variety of skills. In fact, I believe he has a chance to be a great one. One thing I like about Lonzo Ball is he seems to be humble. He seems to have a splash of humility that allows him to stay grounded. I could be wrong, but this is the impression I get when watching him play and hearing him speak. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his father, LaVar Ball.

LaVar Ball, to his credit, has raised both Lonzo and his younger brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo, to be basketball prodigies and future pros. Forget what you may think about those parents who push their kids in sports, Mr. Ball has set his kids up for a bright future. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids? However, what LaVar Ball is also doing is putting extra pressure on his sons that does not have to be there. He could sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor, and then ride their talents all the way to the bank. Instead, he chooses to be the center of attention with his over-the-top, used car salesman antics. One must ask why?

I believe LaVar Ball is a smart man. He is trying to hype his sons in order to sell his (their) Big Baller Brand to the masses. It is a great strategy. In fact, the set up the Ball family has is a marketers dream. They have three good-looking, talented basketball playing sons with unlimited potential. They have created a brand. They have a platform to promote and sell their brand. They have name-recognition. They have a chance to increase their following by performing on and off the basketball court. With so much going for them, is there any way things can go wrong?

The answer is yes. If the Ball family, LaVar Ball in-particular, chooses to ball and brand with arrogance, then their brand could suffer. The built-in advantages they have could slowly fade over time. The fans that surely support them now, could turn and support other players. The sales they could make over the long haul could dry up quickly. To prevent this from happening, I suggest the Ball family, LaVar Ball in-particular, chooses to ball and brand with humility.

How can the Ball family ball and brand with humility? We can start by notating what it means to operate with humility. Humility means to show modesty and humbleness. In the face of having tremendous talent, I am sure this can be a difficult thing to do. Understandably, a talented player like Lonzo Ball may struggle with this issue, especially when people constantly remind him of his greatness. However, as long as he plays it somewhat “low-key”, I think he will be able to manage it. He could ball and brand with humility. I think he already does.

On the other hand, thanks to his father it appears he and his entire family is loud, brash, and in-your-face. Make no mistake about it: the Ball sons, and their brand, are coming. LaVar Ball wants us to know this, and he goes to great lengths to promote his sons and his billion-dollar dream. That’s great! However, many people resent the success of others, regardless of how it is attained. This resentment can grow if one chooses to flaunt their success and good fortune. So, the Ball family has a choice to make: ball and brand with arrogance or ball and brand with humility. Based on LaVar Ball’s track record in the spotlight so far, one has to wonder what choice they will make.

Mr. Ball claims to be on “the same” level as a player to some of the all-time greats. How he could put his name in the same sentence as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley is beyond my understanding. How he could compare his son Lonzo to Magic Johnson is beyond my understanding. How he could blame the loss UCLA suffered on slow, white players who played alongside Lonzo is beyond my understanding. How he could say his sons are set up better than LeBron James’s sons is beyond my understanding. I guess Mr. Ball, and the reasons why he makes the proclamations he does, is beyond my understanding too. Thus far, he is choosing to ball and brand with arrogance, rather than choosing to ball and brand with humility.

Maybe this what he wants: to be known as a loud-mouthed pitchman seeking the fifteen minutes of fame his basketball career never provided. Bravo LaVar Ball, bravo! You have turned yourself into the center of attention, as well as put a white-hot spotlight on your son before he even sets foot on an NBA practice court. Imagine what it will be like when Lonzo Ball meets Stephen Curry on the hardwood for the first time. By the way, LaVar Ball said his son Lonzo is better than Curry right now. I am sure than the two competitors will treat it as good competition, but the circus will follow Lonzo Ball for that game. Unfortunately it will follow LaVar Ball. I guess I am in the circus now too (but at least I chose not to give Mr. Ball any additional free publicity here by linking to stories about his antics).  

For the record, I hope Lonzo Ball has a tremendous, hall-of-fame worthy career. I hope LaMelo Ball has a tremendous, hall-of-fame worthy career. I hope LiAngelo gets there too. I hope their Big Baller Brand becomes a household name. I hope they build and accumulate wealth beyond their wildest dreams too. However, here’s what I don’t want. I don’t want to hear about those things from LaVar Ball as they unfold. I don’t want to see this pitchman every time one of his sons is on the court. I don’t want to listen to anymore interviews of this man either. But, something tells me this will not be the case.

Hopefully Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo Ball choose to ball and brand with humility. Then maybe LaVar Ball will choose to do the same.



Claim to Fame…Rise Up!

Claim to Fame: an excerpt from the book Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now, written by Gary A. McAbee

An important idea that African Americans can use is the concept of making claims. Making a claim is another way of saying making a declaration about something. The degree to which we believe in the claims we make is the conviction that we have when we actually make the claim. It is also all about faith. More faith means that we can make more powerful claims. More powerful claims are destined to become reality if we believe that they will come true.

There are different types of claims we can make and different expectations that African Americans can have for each claim. The first type of claim is what we can speak into existence. When we speak it, it becomes ingrained in our thoughts and daily routines. The claim becomes a call-to-action. The call-to-action puts us to work on what we have spoken. It is just a matter of time before the work we put in will produce the results we want.

If you want more peace in your life, speak it into existence. Your actions will lead you to find peace. If you want more money, speak prosperity into existence. Your actions will lead to greater wealth. If you want love in your life, speak it into existence. Your actions will lead you to find a suitable mate. We must be aware that the claim must be supported by effort or it will not come to pass. Faith without works is dead.

Another method of claiming is to know your best friend: you. Based on what you know about yourself, you can figure out how to make the right claims based on your talents and abilities. The idea is to use your talents and put them toward a goal that is attainable. Many people shoot for the moon with a slingshot, then question why their expectations do not come true. Instead, we should learn how to match our skill sets with our desires and claim what we want based on accurate conclusions.

What is your claim to fame based on what you know about yourself? Do you handle crisis situations well? Your claim to fame could be helping others. Maybe it is the care and concern you show for others. Do you handle your business effectively? Your claim to fame could be running your own business. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can make your claims based on your potential to be successful.

An example of the concept of making your claim to fame is finding your passion. Another way to look at passion is identifying what you are good at doing. Is there anything that you wouldn’t mind doing for free as long as you do not need it for financial support? Your passion is something that you do that makes you feel alive and at your best. It does not have to be work-related or tied to a specific job. Passion makes us commit all of our energy to what we want to accomplish.


After African Americans identify their passion, we must claim it. Let the world know your talents and abilities. This is the reason why we are given our talents. It does no good if an African-American woman or man is blessed with unique abilities, but does not live up to their potential. As a race, we all suffer every time this occurs. We must build upon our talents to make a difference in our communities. It all starts with making a claim.

Those who do not excel when they know their passion are usually good at claiming failure instead of success. How many African Americans do you know who choose defeat before getting started? It is surprising how many people accept failure before making an attempt. Also, if they speak failure into existence, failure will be sure to arrive. The concept of claiming your fame works both ways.

The enemy of making a positive claim is fear. When fear is present, it prevents people from seeing positive outcomes. Instead, we close the door to success. There is a familiar story of a man who worked at the US patent office in the 1800s. He was confident that everything could possibly be created was already invented. He made a claim that humans could not invent any more things, so he quit working in the office. This man’s claim to fame was underestimating the power of human creativity, ingenuity, and imagination. His claim to fame is also having his story used as an example 150 years later!

The example leads us to an important part of the process. If we make the correct claim to fame and make it come to pass, we will be remembered for our accomplishments. The highest achievers in our race made their claim to fame. Benjamin Banneker’s claim to fame was mathematics and astronomy. Lorraine Hansberry’s claim to fame was writing plays and essays. Matthew Henson’s claim to fame was exploration. Madame CJ Walker’s claim to fame was invention.

Imagine what would have happened if these great African Americans would not have claimed their fame? What if they did not speak about their vision and goals until they became reality? Suppose they did not find their passion and pursue it until they realized their dreams. These people, along with countless other African Americans, claimed their fame. As a result, our race is better off because of their successes. Our world has reaped the benefits their achievements.

Just like we will be remembered for our achievements, we will also be remembered for our shortcomings if we do not live up to our potential. So once again, we end up back at the same starting point. Claim your fame and work to make it a reality. Claim positive results and positive results will come to pass. Find your passion and make it the driving force behind your success.


Identification: Who Said You are _______? Do You Believe Them?


The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.

Along the way there have always been obstacles put in our way for us to overcome. There have always been challenges for us to recognize and face. There have always been questions we needed to answer just to become qualified. I think we have overcome numerous obstacles, faced several challenges, and answered all of the questions correctly. Now we must take the next step by defining our true identity.

During our journey, we have been identified in many ways. We have been called many names. We have been given many titles. Our character and worth as a people has been defined for us, and often not in glorious terms. We have been told we are inferior, unworthy, incapable, unlovable, unredeemable, ungodly, unlawful, uneducated, unteachable, unreachable, lazy, and ugly.

Now I ask a simple question: Who said you are _______? Do you believe them?

If you believe them, then they have won. They have defined your character for you. I am here to refute everything they have said. I am here to break every stereotype they can find. I am here to correct every false opinion about us.

Question Mark

Now I ask a simple question: I say you are __________ . Do you believe me?

If you believe me, wake up and seize your victory. Use self-identification to define your true character. Live up to everything I am about to say. Break every stereotype about who you are. Correct every false opinion they have about you.


Who said you are inferior?                                         I say you are superior!

Who said you are unworthy?                                     I say you are worthy!

Who said you are incapable?                                      I say you are capable!

Who said you are unlovable?                                     I say you are lovable!

Who said you are unredeemable?                             I say you are redeemed!

Who said you are ungodly?                                         I say you are God-fearing!


Who said you are unlawful?                                       I say you are law-abiding!

Who said you are uneducated?                                  I say you are educated!

Who said you are unteachable?                                 I say you can be taught!

Who said you are unreachable?                                I say you are reachable!

Who said you are lazy?                                                I say you are energized!

Who said you are ugly?                                                I say you are beautiful!


Now that you have been correctly identified, rise up and find success! The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.



Mass Incarceration: Maybe the Last of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers


Mass incarceration has affected millions of people across all races, and the result is many of these people become a part of a permanent underclass who will struggle to live a normal life. Of course, many of the people who are incarcerated committed heinous crimes that need to be punished. These are not the people this is meant to address. Instead, we must take a closer look at people who were sentenced for minor crimes and misdemeanors, either justly or unjustly. In these cases, incarceration causes an enduring legacy that disqualifies millions of American citizens from returning to a normal life. Far too often, these people are poor, uneducated, and minorities. This is why along with  credit, education, and voting rights, mass incarceration might be the last of the remaining great disqualifiers.

Mass incarceration is a great disqualifier because a criminal record will follow and ex-offender even though they may have paid their debt to society. Although prison is supposed to rehabilitate its offenders, we know it does not do a good job of rehabilitation. Upon release, “reformed” criminals who try to straighten up their lives have a hard time erasing the stain of their criminal record. It follows them as they seek employment, housing, and voting rights. This is due to the requirement to disclose prior convictions on applications to “determine” eligibility. We know the deal here: this disclosure is more likely to disqualify people from a proper evaluation and consideration. Who gets caught in this trap: primarily minorities, immigrants, and poor people who get incarcerated.

Recently I had to look for a job, and I was surprised at the new levels of questions that ex-offenders have to answer. Basically, these questions ask if a person has been convicted of a crime. Depending on the organization or company, a “yes” answer leads to a series of additional questions. The most important of these questions is probably whether the crime was a felony or misdemeanor. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for employment than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking for employment post-incarceration. When seeking employment, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

Ex-offenders are also left way behind when seeking housing opportunities. Once again, an application will probably ask if a person has been convicted of a crime. This time, a potential landlord has the power to determine whether or not the answer to this question will disqualify a person from obtaining housing. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for housing than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking for housing post-incarceration. When seeking employment and housing, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

We have seen wave after wave of challenges to voting rights in America. Perhaps nowhere is this challenge stronger than establishing, or reestablishing the right to vote for ex-convicts. Some states allow ex-felons to return to voting rolls once they are released from prison. Other states do not allow them to vote. The recent trend is to either prevent ex-offenders from voting, or to strike them from voting lists. Once again, ex-offenders are required to disclose their convictions upon reapplying for the right to vote. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for voting than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking to reestablish their voting rights post-incarceration. When seeking employment, housing and voting rights, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

I have provided just a few examples of how mass incarceration is one of the remaining great disqualifiers for minorities, immigrants, and poor people. Simply put, being incarcerated can disqualify a person for life because their rights post-incarceration are never fully restored. These people will find it difficult to get employment. They will find it difficult to find decent housing. They will find it difficult to vote. It is not a pretty picture, especially for those people who get entangled in the criminal justice system for “minor” offenses. For these people and millions of others, mass incarceration will remain one of the last remaining great disqualifiers. We need to ask some questions…

Is there something sinister at work that is designed to ensnare certain group of people into the web of the criminal justice system?

Is there a secret “system” in place to create a permanent underclass based on mass incarceration?

Is mass incarceration another disqualifier on the same level as credit mismanagement, a lack of education, and denial of voting rights?


We need to find answers. What do you think is the cause of mass incarceration: the last remaining great disqualifier?


This is a follow-up to my original posts:

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers