September 04, 2017

This Flag and Me

It is no secret that I'm political. It is also no secret that I'm from the South. Heck, watching a few of my Instagram stories is probably all the proof you need to see that I was born, raised, and live in the South. (The accent doesn't lie y'all.) I've always felt like a bit of a political outsider in the South. When Trae Crowder -- the Liberal Redneck -- became a viral sensation, I was thrilled. It was freeing to know that I wasn't alone in both loving where I came from and expecting more from it. Trae recently wrote an article for Esquire that I found myself nodding along to in several respects. Click over and read it if you have time: My Dad's Confederate Flag

Now, I grew up surrounded by this flag in many ways. I remember buying a necklace with this flag on it at a local festival when I was in middle school. At the time, I was very naive and thought the flag only represented my pride in being from the South. But in the words of the late great Maya Angelou, "When you know better, do better."

I know better now. I know the history of the confederacy and I've read of its horrors. I know what this flag represents to so many people. Growing in the Texas public school system, I was taught that the war was not about slavery. It was about state's rights. The horrors and inhumanities of slavery were, at times, glossed over by my textbooks and teachers. More importantly, the systematic institutional racism that followed the war was never discussed. I was not taught that the Federal Housing Administration explicitly refused to back loans to black people or even to neighborhoods near locations black people lived thus creating a disparaging housing environment for people of color. I was not taught that the government funded studies that deliberately allowed poor black men to be inflicted with sexually transmitted diseases and that sterilized poor black and Native American women. I was not taught that black people are 12 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug-related crimes than their white counterparts or that inequitable criminal laws and procedures have resulted in a prison population that is 58% black and Hispanic despite those segments only accounting for 1/4 of the US population. I was not taught a lot of things.

But I know them now. I know them and they haunt me. But more importantly, they haunt people of color and they continue to impact their lives and the opportunities they have in this country. So yeah, as a proud Southern woman, I support tearing down monuments that glorify and honor the confederacy. As far as I'm concerned, they belong in museums not the town square. And yes, I get angry when I see people flying a flag that has, and continues to, inflict such horror and inequality on people of color. I love my country. I love my state. I love the South. But I also love my friends of color. And the God I serve reminds me that I should do unto my neighbor as I would have them do to me. And frankly, I would not want to raise my child in a world where men and flags who fought to categorize that child as "property" continued to be glorified. So, I do not think it is Godly for anyone to ask people of color to do such a thing. They deserve better. Our kids deserve better.

So let's do better by taking down monuments of Confederate generals and replacing them with statues of Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, or maybe Lydia Maria Child. Let's quit pretending that the monuments to confederate generals are about remembering history (they aren't since most were built either at the height of Jim Crow or during the Civil Rights Movement in the 50's and 60's) or at least agree that history is best studied in context and thus, the monuments would be better suited for museums where the entire sordid story of slavery and the Confederacy can be told. Let's reserve our town squares and our college quads for celebrating people and ideologies that moved this nation forward and brought its peoples together. Let's take down the confederate flag and fly the American one. Let's tell our history to our youth. Let's warn them of how it happened -- explain to them how some were able to so easily devalue the life of their fellow man. Let's tell them that not everyone who fought for the Confederacy were monsters but that the Confederacy itself, was one. It was a monster that sought to tear this nation apart (literally) but that through blood, tears, and a lot of loss -- we survived. America survived. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't easy. And it wasn't perfect. It still isn't. But it is still worth fighting for...

Let's be honest. Let's be real.

But above all, now that we know better -- Let's do better.

August 24, 2017

It's okay to NOT be an expert

When I was little I always wanted to be the best at everything: the best third baseman, the smartest in the school, and of course, the biggest class clown. I wasn't satisfied that I got to dip my toe into all areas -- I needed to beat everyone else in those areas too.

As I grew older, I began to understand just how unsustainable that way of life truly was -- there were better third basemen, even in my small hometown. There were smarter kids, even in my tiny school. And of course, there were much funnier class clowns. At first, I found this disheartening. But with maturity, I came to see this as a gift that lightened my load. You see, I no longer had to be an expert on everything.

That realization was incredibly freeing to me. I could focus my efforts on being good at the things I truly wanted to be good at and could merely throw my support behind those who were, quite frankly, better than me in other areas.

I think a lot of people in our country could benefit from relearning this fundamental childhood lesson.

I cannot count the number of times I've heard someone start a sentence with, "Now, I'm not an expert but I think..."  Or worst yet, "I may not know everything but if you ask me, those experts don't either."
You see, for some reason, a large swatch of our population is under the impression that knowledge either isn't useful or isn't useful if it isn't their own. I find both of these ideas ignorant at best and dangerous at worst.

Knowledge should be celebrated. Now, I'm not talking about #alternativefacts knowledge. I'm talking about the type of knowledge that it takes years of painful study and careful observation to gain. And lest you think I'm only referring to "book smarts" I will clarify and specifically state that I appreciate all the forms that knowledge may take.

For example, a really good mechanic is going to have more knowledge about cars than I ever will. Now, this doesn't mean that I should just bury my head in the sand when it comes to cars. I shouldn't. But if an expert tells me its the radiator I would foolish to insist that it's really my transmission acting up based on a couple of Google searches. Likewise, a mechanic would be foolhardy to go toe to toe with me regarding the constitutionality of a new law armed only with the knowledge they obtained in a 90-clip from their local Fox affiliate.

Now, two mechanics can have a valid disagreement about what's wrong with my car and two lawyers can have a valid disagreement over the constitutionality of a law. And that's okay. But in those scenarios, it is the job of any non-expert listening in to ensure they are at least armed with enough knowledge to discern to who they should give their trust. For example, the certified mechanic with six years of experience and an excellent rating on Angie's List can likely be trusted a little more than your neighbor's uncle Joe who "has fixed a whole bunch of cars" and works out of his own garage. You don't have to personally be an expert in cars to know that maybe Joe shouldn't be your top source of information on the topic.

It seems to me though, that there are also people who simply abhor any knowledge that is not their own. I suppose I just do not understand that frame of mind. Realizing that I did not have to know everything or be the best at everything was so freeing for me. It takes so much time to become an expert -- it is literally impossible for anyone, even the smartest among us, to know and be it all. So, I do not see the harm in allowing others to be the experts in areas that you do not or cannot excel in.

Even worse, it breaks me heart to know there are parents who belittle knowledge simply because it comes from their child. Honest moment here, but I'm going to be really disappointed if my daughter isn't smarter than me. Like seriously. I want nothing more than for her to come home one day and talk circles around me about a topic I have little or no knowledge on. How amazing it is that I can help bring a human into this world that can do things for it that I simply cannot? Having a child be an expert in an area you know nothing about should be seen as a proud accomplishment for any parent -- not something to roll eyes about and use as an opportunity to talk about how youth just do not respect their elders like they used to.

A recent poll shows that growing numbers of Americans think that colleges are bad for our country. That's really hard for me to wrap my head around. As someone with a JD, married to someone with a PhD, I feel polls like that suggest that my family is not valuable to this country. But we are. In fact, we are just as valuable to this country as a plumbers, garbage-men (and women), crosswalk workers, retail workers, or stay at home moms. Everyone is different and everyone is capable of being an expert at something -- but none of us can do it all! We can however, work together because we all bring value to the table. And when we do that, we lift the nation towards prosperity.

But we cannot lift as a cohesive unit when we cannot acknowledge the gifts others have. Book smarts matter. Street smarts matter. The kind of wisdom that only comes with age matters. The type of innovation and fearlessness that only exists in youth matters too. It takes all kinds of smarts and all kinds of people to craft a successful society. So encourage your children to pursue their passions. And when they do -- when their knowledge outstrips your own -- enjoy it. Smile and give yourself a pat on the back for raising your very own expert.