In the spring of 2010, dressed in an oversized purple graduation gown, I somewhat gracefully walked across the stage as a high school graduate. Somewhere between the excitement of completing high school and moving away for college laid a new reality. I was stepping into a society where opinions were plentiful, the news was constant, and the world wanted to shape me.
Before 2010, the biggest news stories in my adolescent mind were the 2008 recession, the election of Barack Obama, and knowing the release date of the newest iPhone. As a teen, I barely kept up with the news in the U.S., and the world’s events were distant, irrelevant, and unentertaining. So generally, there was no incentive to track the happenings of the world.
Coming of age is a time where you build on the platform established at home. For me, coming of age in the past decade meant that some of that platform had to be reestablished. As I grew and took a more significant notice of the earth’s crisis, I observed my bubble built around Americanism and Culturalism that shaped the way I viewed life outside my American borders.
Making America Great Again…Well, On Second Thought
Over the decade, I have come to see that the world is broader than just the United States. I can remember watching news clips when the Arab Spring ignited in 2011 and thinking, “Boy, that’s a mess,” as I grabbed more cereal from the food hall. I can recall watching the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014: shot down due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. My thoughts, “Where is Ukraine?“, as I threw my golf clubs in my car to practice my short game. Positioned behind those comments towards world events was a lack of care, concern, and compassion for people’s lives outside the land of the free and home of the brave.
The comfortability of Western life had numbed me to the loss of life and the atrocities taking place around the world. The distractions of the iPhone, trying brioche French toast at a new brunch restaurant, and deciding my career steps after college, consumed my thought life. These considerations left no room for the civil war in Syria in 2011, the earthquake in Japan in 2011, and the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015.
As I got older and began to shed aspects of my selfish American adolescent mentality, I started to pay attention to the events of the world. The increased pace of crisis sent an alert to my system, telling me that I needed to be more aware. Neither the title of “youth” nor “American” was an excuse to tune out the world. However, before I could fully shed my Western mentality, I had to resolve my identity apart from my race.
I Am My Brotha’s or Brother’s Keeper?
“Brotha” is shorthand for black male. Can I use it in a sentence? Sure, let me give you a few examples; “Look at that brotha over there in the suit, who does he think he is, Obama?” and “Brothas don’t play hockey or golf, only basketball, and football.” “Brotha” is part of a lexicon which symbolizes a culture that builds mentalities only to see life from a racial perspective. As a young black male, I was entrenched in this racial culture. I even had a sticker on my laptop, saying, “STAY BLACK.”
Do the names Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown ring a bell for anyone? These two young men and their deaths in 2012 and 2014, respectively, would be catalysts for the Black Lives Matter movement in the mid-2010s. Spurred by police violence, systemic racism, and culturalism, this movement swept across the nation through social media and constant news updates.
Engulfed in a barrage of emotionally charged clips and sound bites of racial slurs via social media, I was trying to understand my fit as a black male. The atmosphere of a racial America cultivated frustration, fear, and anger inside of me. The rhetoric of the movement made me believe that I had to choose a side. Are you with us or them?
I can remember watching MSNBC and seeing one side of the story, then turning to Fox News and seeing a whole different perspective. I vividly remember seeing Don Lemon spar with Sheriff David Clarke on CNN about police shootings and thinking none of this makes sense. I would hear both sides of the argument, but neither viewpoint gave me peace or clarity.
As I looked around and viewed news reports, the hypocrisy leaped out. Did change mean that only the other side had to change? Did any group want to report on their personal need to transform? How could having more black police officers solve the problem? How was creating organizations void of other races a viable solution? How was I going to build a life not accepting help from others because “they don’t understand the struggle?” Was anyone willing to see beyond race or their narrative?
The narrative was what anybody wanted it to be. The story was what helped “your people” the most. I couldn’t support a movement that made me hostile to others because of their pigment. I couldn’t hold others to a standard when I lacked compassion, redemption, and a history of personal change. At that time, I knew that I had to come out of the binds of racial paradigms and view the world beyond it. I needed a platform that rose above the winds of life.
Letting the platform for your life be the Truth
This decade brought a host of destabilizing world events, such as the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, the emergence of South Korea in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage is a national right in 2015, the European migrant crisis in 2015, and the enduring Hong Kong protest in 2019. As we stand at the edge of 2020, how should we view the world in which we live? As I came of age in this decade, that was my main question.
The year was 2017 when we were graced with the phrase “Alternative Facts”, by presidential aid Kellyanne Conway as she defended a false statement made by a colleague. I am still searching to find out the meaning of alternative facts. But the past decade has been filled with alternative perspectives. This side has a view, that side has an angle, and then all other parties have their outlooks.
The perspectives change like the wind. They are built on emotion, preference, or what the people what to hear. These standpoints become easily offended if you don’t accept and implement their viewpoint. So how do we navigate these treacherous waters?
For me, its complex but simple. Build life on Biblical truth. Personally, this is more than memorizing scripture. But it involves measuring my mentalities, actions, and overall lifestyle to the spiritual and faith-based realities of the bible. I’ve had to be willing to look “eye to eye” at my shortcomings, incorrect perspectives, traditional views, and choose to change.
Building this pattern over the past decade has kept me from being totally swept up in the perspectives culture and will lead me, and hopefully you, to a sounder interpretation of the happenings of the world.