Those were the words I was taught by my grandfather and uncles as a child growing up in the 60s and 70s in Cleveland, Ohio. To them that was one of the critical components for survival in our neighborhoods. During those times many men of color were being profiled, beaten, jailed and killed by “some” of the men in blue who were sworn to protect. There were other challenges as well, such as black on black crime to contend with. Today, some things have changed, but many things remain the same. Video documentation and repeated streaming of brutality and death on the Internet is forcing America to acknowledge the long-standing elephant in the room called racism.
Once up a time there was a narcissistic king who ruled over countless subjects. One day two swindlers convinced him they could tailor new clothes so magnificent that only loyal subjects could see them. As the king strutted through the town wearing his new clothes his subjects were impressed – all except one brave boy who yelled, “He’s naked!” Afterwards, others opened their eyes and the truth became known. I’m sure you’re familiar with this famed children’s story.
Citizens of Orlando my heart goes out to you. As a proud member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) I’ve visited your city during one of our annual conferences and found it to be very beautiful. While in the process of recovery from your tragedy I sincerely hope a few words in this blog will help with your healing. My name is Dr. LaMarr D. Edgerson and I am a clinical mental health counselor. My specialty is post-traumatic stress.
During this month, as we celebrate Father’s Day, I think of my grandfather. He was the primary father figure in my life as I grew up. My grandpa was the strongest man I’ve ever known. He served as an Army enlisted man during World War II and somehow made it through the entire conflict without a scratch. After discharging he moved his wife and five children from the South to the North, then took a blue-collar job for the Chrysler Corp until he was of age to retire. Being approximately 6’3, at least 225 pounds, hard as nails and with an overbearing personality, my grandfather could be a very intimidating figure. When he spoke we listened and that was the end of the discussion. It was he who stressed education the most to all of us.
All forms of life begin as a seed. Even the mightiest of oak trees took root from a small seed. Nourishment from water and sunlight allowed it to grow to magnificent heights providing us with oxygen, shade, absorption of carbon dioxide, and even a habitat for numerous species. Hatred also begins as a seed. When nourished in ways such as insecurity, paranoia, blame, fear, ignorance… it can erupt into a fit of uncontrollable anger. One such explosion of hatred and bigotry occurred this past Sunday in Orlando, Florida as innocent people seeking nothing more than a night out on the town were left traumatized, injured, and killed.
In the ‘90s there was a well-known female rap group called Salt-N-Pepa who recorded a very popular song entitled “Whatta Man” that eventually reached number 50 on the Billboard R&B Chart in 1993. Currently a favorite commercial of mine is one for Chase bank that features this song. It stars a little girl of about seven or eight who appears to be celebrating her birthday with a princess theme. All the little girls at the party are dressed as princesses when suddenly this big, bearded man enters the scene also dressed as princess. The little girl is overjoyed that her dad showed up dressed as a princess and runs to him with the biggest smile. It is without a doubt a moment she’ll remember for life.
As I stood in the shower this morning I wondered how many beads of water were falling across my shoulders. I then wondered how many tears have fallen in my office due to the violence experienced from twenty minutes of action. It was impossible to count the number of water droplets that touched my skin. Just as it is impossible to count the number of tears that have fallen in my office as I help victims of violent assault.