The 5 Things Black Women Must Do in 2014 to Live Happier, Healthier, Healed Lives

 The 5 Things Black Women Must Do in 2014 to Live Happier, Healthier, Healed Lives

Posted: 12/27/2013
The funny thing about stereotypes is that they often have some measure of truth to them. As black women in America, no group has been more stereotyped, or misunderstood, or more devalued than us. As we begin the countdown on the year that was 2013, it is time for us as black women to look toward our future in the New Year that is 2014.

As someone who has traveled the country for the last two years, talking and engaging almost exclusively with black women in corporate America, in universities, in our sororities, in industry, in our organizations, in the media and in our churches — I think it is time that we, as black women, faced some challenging truths about ourselves. What I’m about to say will be hard. And it may offend some of you. But that is okay, because the truth always hurts us before it heals us. Years before I wrote my award-winning book Black Woman Redefined, I founded an organization: I Am My Sister’s Keeper.

This organization, was dedicated to helping college-educated professional black women to better navigate their careers, their health and wellness, their spirit, their finances and their relationships. The organization took off and grew much greater than I ever expected, and was nationally recognized by media outlets like CNN and The Washington Post as the go-to organization for Black women’s personal development and wellness for over six years. The organization was the catalyst for the book Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.

One of the things that I have discovered about living life as a black woman in America, and by talking to and engaging with literally tens of thousands of black women throughout the United States, is that we have some very negative self-destructive patterns that we need to own, face and be courageous enough to fix if we want to have happy, healthy and healed lives. It is my goal in this column to challenge us as a sisterhood of women to take the necessary steps, to heal ourselves, both individually and collectively. Before we get into the steps that I believe are necessary for us to truly get to the places that we desire in our lives as black women, I ask you to keep an open mind, try not to get defensive, and share the steps in your sororities, clubs, and workplaces so that other black women can benefit. Sometimes it is as simple as people NOT knowing better so that they can do better.

The steps that I have outlined below, are based on qualitative and quantitative research, focus groups, coaching and speaking at large women’s conferences, HBCUs and interactive workshops I have conducted throughout the country over the past several years:

1. We must deal with our unresolved pain, wounds and baggage that often result in angry eruptions, broken relationships, failed relationships and unrealized dreams. This is a huge stumbling block for us in our interpersonal relationships. We carry lots of stuff, and lots of people on our backs and in our spirits. It results in us being weary, tired and frustrated.

2. We must stop doing emotional violence and damage to other black women. Other black women are not the enemy. Other black women are struggling and fighting the same battles that we fight every day, no matter their station in life, no matter what you think they may possess in terms of wealth, status or lifestyle. We have to stop “hating” on other sisters. It is just wreaking havoc on our emotional wellness and sisterhood. “We are all we have,” as First Lady Michelle Obama once said. Let’s start acting like it!

3. We must love ourselves enough to take care of our physical bodies and learn to eat healthier, sleep better, exercise more, tend to our feet (for diabetics) and wean ourselves off of generations of destructive emotional eating (comfort foods) that has literally millions of black women in America stuck in a pattern of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression and heart disease.

4. We must learn to teach people how to treat us with value, respect, love, honor, dignity and peace by showing them that we live by a WOMAN CODE that honors the very same values in our own lives and in how we treat other people.

5. We must commit to engaging in healthy, functional, committed and loving relationships with the men in our lives. Where those relationships are unhealthy, abusive or destructive to our soul’s landscape; we must be willing to put an end to those relationships immediately. We have got to stop making excuses for other people’s abusive treatment of us and toward us. It is NOT acceptable, sisters. We have got to put an end to the pain we feel because our fathers left us or were absent. Or the pain that we feel because the men we love betrayed us, cheated on us, raped or beat us. We have to believe that there are still good, loving, healthy and functional men regardless of their race, who will see our value, our worth, our beauty and our possibilities. And when they find us, we must commit not to run away, push them away or punish them for what our fathers, brothers or uncles did to us.

The truth is, there is no magic checklist for getting any of us the life that we desire. But there are critical life steps that we can take starting right now, and right here to helping us as black women to heal. And sisters, we need to heal.

Far too many of us are walking around with a smile on our face, with beautiful clothing, with our hair perfectly coiffed and with expensive handbags and shoes to make us feel valuable. When deeply inside, we are simmering pots waiting to erupt. We look so good on the outside. But some of us are badly broken on the inside. And we are killing other black women with our venom.

And for those who have been courageous enough to do the work on themselves, it is time for us to be our sister’s keeper. I am not asking you to burden your life with another woman’s pain, I am not asking you to save another woman’s life, what I am asking you to do, is to be kind to other black women. Reach out. Care. Show some empathy. Be a mentor. Be a friend. When other black women try to help you do not treat them as the enemy. When they are there for you say thank you. When they have stuck with you in the trenches and storms of life honor them. When they have your back, don’t stab them in theirs. When they bless you with their gifts for free, support your causes, organizations, and the like or help you and your family in desperate times of need, don’t later discard them because you believe that you no longer need them. It is just immoral. It violates the WOMAN CODE.

Sisters, this will be the last column that I will ever write on the issue of us as black women. I’ve grown tired and weary. I love us, but the world is bigger, more global, and sisterhood is about all women coming together to lift, heal, inspire and change the world. We need to do the work on us so that we can fully participate in that global sisterhood and all the benefits of it.

I have, like many others before me, devoted the last decade of my life to helping the rest of the world try to see us as the beautiful, fabulous, fierce, loyal, kind, nurturing, intelligent, committed and loving women that we are. But in the last year, in particular, I’ve experienced first hand, and heard far too many stories from good black women, from all walks of life, about other black women who have cursed them, cut them off, betrayed them, manipulated them, stolen from them, slept with their men, slandered them, ruined them, fired them and literally broken their hearts with treachery for the smallest of offenses, or for no offense at all.

We love to do what I call “The Go Off.” It is what we do when anyone dares challenge us, correct us, upsets us, or in some cases, tries to love us. Sisters, you have no right despite whatever kind of pain you may be in, to heap abuse on another black woman. The most disturbing part of this “go off” mentality, is that we feel entitled to do it most of all against one another. We don’t do it to the men in our lives who mistreat us and abuse us. We would never do it to the “other” people in our lives or at our workplaces. But we will do it to the sister in church, the sister who has taken us into her home, the sister who has been with us through hell, the sister who has lent us money, the sister who bathed us when we were too sick to bathe ourselves, or cared for us when we were sick. Sisters, it’s time to heal (see my 2012/2013 series for essence.com: “Sisters Heal,” it will bless you).

In the final analysis, each of us must determine her own journey for herself. Each of us must do the work that is required, for us to rise above the pain that was unfairly inflicted upon us as children, as young girls and women, and now as grown middle-aged or aging women. It is never too late to fix yourself, if you are willing to do the work. It is never too late to apologize, to make amends for the wrongs that we do and to forgive those who have wronged us. Sisters, it’s time for us to stop pointing the finger at everyone else and take a long hard look in the mirror at the woman was looking back. If your life is not what you imagined it would be, or if you are unhappy. The change has to start within. You can never skip doing the work. It will destroy your destiny.

If you want 2014 to be different than 2013, then the work has to start now. Your life will only become what you want it to be, when you find the courage to love yourself. And when you learn to love yourself, I promise you that you will learn to love, respect and honor other black women.

Sophia A. Nelson

Award Winning Author; Corporate/Personal Development Coach, Cultural & Political Columnist for The Daily Beast, NBC’s theGRIO, Essence Magazine, & USATODA

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The Reactionary Nature of Black Politics l Pascal Robert

The Reactionary Nature of Black Politics

Posted: 05/11/HUFFPO
Pascal Robert

Lawyer, Co-Founder of The Haitian Bloggers’ Caucus

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2013-05-11-BlackPolitics.JPGThe image above is the cover jacket from Professor Frederick C. Harris’ excellent book, “The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics”In 1619, the first 19 Africans brought to the shores of the United States landed in Jamestown, Virginia starting the tortured history of what would be the centuries long relationship between Black people and the United States. The nature of the relationship was innately economic and political from the start. Sadly, the organizing mechanisms of the Black American social enterprise since that time have been poorly grounded in sound application of either economics or politics, barring rare exceptions.

What has caused Black people, after almost 400 years in North America, and after 150 years of emancipation from slavery, to be mired in a social condition that is becoming more debilitating by the day? One need not sound off the various statistics available illustrating the evisceration of whatever illusory semblance of progress Blacks have made, particularly since the post movement era after the 1960s.

Contrary to the inclinations of racists and many self-hating Blacks to deem this failure as some innate shortcoming in the Black American psyche, the social and political condition of Black America is a direct consequence of the level of political sophistication and sheer brutality of the tactics that have been used to deny them clarity of vision and planning as a means of rectifying this pervasive cavern they have found themselves in for generations.

The main vehicle allowing this constant social and political demobilization of the Black community stems from the problematic reality that Black politics has traditionally been grounded in a purely reactionary response to the phenomenon of racism — particularly without a clear understanding of the purpose of racism in its application to Blacks.

This stems from a failure to understand basic key aspects of the relationship of Blacks to America and racism, mostly because the sheer terror used under the guise of racism to maintain the prevailing order has been so atrocious that the political focus by Blacks has been to concentrate on that terror and attempts to neutralize it without truly addressing its root cause.

From the beginning, Europeans did not bring Africans to the Americas because they were racist. They brought Africans to the Americas to expropriate labor from them as workers in an economic system that denied compensation for that labor to maximize return on investment for the presence of those Africans. The function of Black people in America was an innately economic one from the start rooted in a politics that was based on protecting the sanctity of that economic relationship. All the terror and brutality used to maintain that system was purely ancillary to the goal of protecting that economic system of exploiting free Black labor. Yet many Blacks, even educated ones, will say that Europeans brought Africans to the Americas because of racism and White Supremacy. Racism is merely the rationale and tactic used to justify that exploitative economic relationship, and White Supremacy is the subsequent accrued benefit of the successful maintenance of that relationship — in varying degrees — over time.

A perfect example of how these realities are confused can easily be shown by attempting to ascertain from most people what the actual purpose and function of Jim Crow Segregation, which started with the consummation of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, and lasted to the end of the Civil Rights Era in 1968, actually was. Many would say things like: keeping Blacks subjugated, or denying blacks the ability to compete with Whites, or racism/White Supremacy, or fear of Black male sexual potency via White women. In reality, Jim Crow was a purely intentional reaction by White Southern agricultural interests meshed with Northern industrialists to combat the rising political and economic militancy and mutual co-operation of Blacks and poor Whites during the progressive era of the 1890s with the combined efforts of the Farmer’s Alliance and the Colored Farmers Alliance in order to maintain economic hegemony and cheap exploited labor for capitalist interests in the South, primarily Agricultural but also industrial, with the slow but new development of Southern industrialization. Jim Crow was rooted in economic control, not simply racism and brutality. Those were the tools used to keep the system intact.

Moreover, few people will admit that the main reason for the collapse of Jim Crow starting in the 1930s, and expanding rapidly into the post World War II era, had more to do with three key factors as opposed to the romanticized notions of how the valiant fight of the ancestors during the Civil Rights Movement brought us freedom: First, the new methods of mechanized agricultural farming technology started to make the need for Black farm labor in the South obsolete. Hence, the need for the disenfranchisement and related oppression became more about form rather than substance; second, the rise of Hitler and Nazism made the notion of race-based exclusion in the United Stated unpalatable, particularly in the face of Hitler’s anti-semitism; thirdly, the Cold War era and the fear of American racism being an obstacle to the competitive advantage over the Soviet Union in winning the hearts and minds of the newly independent Black, Brown, and Yellow third world would rapidly assure desegregation and ending Jim Crow being an American primary domestic agenda.

As African American political science professor Adolph Reed, Jr. states in his essay “The Color Line Then and Now,” found in the anthology, Renewing Black Intellectual History, when discussing some of the egalitarian social science and legal strategies to end Jim Crow:

This intellectual enterprise was no more responsible for defeating early-twentieth-century race theory than Charles Hamilton Houston’s and Thurgood Marshall’s legal arguments were for defeating codified racial segregation, probably much less so. Factors like the leftward shift in the domestic political climate in the 1930s and 1940s, the embarrassment that Nazi extremism presented for racialist ideology, and cold war concerns with the United States’ international image were undoubtedly more important.

An excellent treatise that explains the relationship between the Cold War and the Civil Rights victories we often wrongly think were a result of these romanticized protest activities is Cold Civil Rights: Race and the Imagery of American Democracy, by professor of law and political science, Mary L. Dudziak, in which she states about Brown v. Board of Education: “According to the Justice Department, the interest of the United States in school segregation was that race discrimination harmed American foreign relations.”

This is not to diminish the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who waged moral protest to the brutal and racist treatment of our nations Black citizens. To diminish in such a fashion could have the effect of discouraging the belief in the human capacity to make social or political change. The point is to show that our desires to romanticize certain periods of history, especially dealing with African Americans, lead to a limited and pedestrian understanding of the factors that truly shape events.

In the face of the reactionary nature of Black politics, we can better understand the post Civil Rights dilemma that has plagued the Black political scene. If the illusion of racial equality is touted as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century American democratic experiment via these Civil Rights victories, how do you create a Black politics in a post Civil Rights era when the political traditions of this group has been rooted in combating or reacting to the racism that society now forces them to accept as no more, when in fact that is not the case?

Now we understand the root of the past 45 years of increasing Black political demobilization — meaning Black politics being unable to actually achieve lasting policy that succeeds at remedying the true root of Black suffering: economic inequality.

The ultimate sign of that demobilization is the over 97 percent support of Black America for a president whose agenda is to introduce neoliberal privatization of government resources at rates never seen before that might ultimately demolish those same communities that supported him — i.e. Barack Obama.

This is why Black America is in a crisis, because Black politics is in a crisis. That crisis is a product of the place from which Black politics was born and grew. We now need a new politics, if we shall even call it Black politics, that is not rooted in reactionary response to racism, but seeks to foster cross-racial coalitions with those similarly situated to crush the barriers to economic equality while allowing Blacks to maintain social autonomy and ideological integrity in recognition of the need for nuance in neutralizing the tool of racism that has been used to distract them from the ultimate problem of economic injustice. This is the work that must be done, but the question is: Who is up to the task?

 Follow Pascal Robert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/probert06

Economic Mobility For African Americans May Be A Myth l Pew Report Finding

Economic Mobility For African Americans May Be A Myth, Pew Report Shows

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 07/17/2012

Economic Mobility

The fine line between the American Dream and the African-American Dream is becoming more distinct, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit research organization.

The survey of economic mobility across generations compared the income and wealth of Americans with that of their parents at the same age, and it offered a promising outlook for most Americans — 84 percent to be exact — who were shown to have higher incomes than their parents, when adjusted for inflation.

African Americans, however, haven’t had the same success, with just 23 percent of blacks raised in the middle class surpassing their parents’ family wealth, compared to 56 percent of whites.

The study’s project manager, Erin Currier, said the results aren’t far off from what a simliar 2008 survey found. “With this newest update to the data, we can see that not much has changed with a few more years of data added in,” Currier told The Huffington Post. “Specifically, African Americans are much more likely than whites to be stuck at the bottom of the income ladder over a generation, and also at the bottom of the wealth ladder,” she said. They’re also more likely to fall from the middle.

Currier and her team analyzed income data over five years from the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a nationally representative sample of more than 18,000 individuals living in 5,000 families in the United States. During the years they chose — 1967, ’68, ’69, ’70 and ’71 for the parents; 2000, ’02, ’04, ’06 and ’08 for their kids — both groups were at a common age (in their early to mid 40s) and at similar positions of marriage, income parity and post-secondary education, Currier said.

“It is the case that African-American families manage to get to the middle class and they have some sense of economic security, but their ability to pass that on to their kids is not as high as the white families,” she said.

And while this particular study didn’t delve into specific reasons for this gap, Currier pointed to previous research showing the impact neighborhood poverty has had on maintaining wealth disparities over time. “Two thirds of African-American children born between 1985 and 2000 are being raised in high poverty neighborhoods,” compared to just six percent of white children, Currier noted, proportions that haven’t shifted much over the last 30 years. “It isn’t the case that two thirds of African-American families are poor, but a lot of even middle-class African-American families are living in high poverty neighborhoods and research shows that, that environment in childhood increases a person’s chance of downward mobility by 52 percent,” she added.

A study published in May by the National Bureau of Economic Research may have hinted at one of the barriers to moving out of those poverty-stricken neighborhoods, revealing that black and Hispanic homebuyers pay as much as 3 percent more for their homes, regardless of their income, wealth or credit profiles.

Pew research has also examined the roles that marital status andincarceration have played in the black-white economic mobility gap in recent years. Meanwhile, others have looked at the roles of higher education and even differences by region. (Those with a college degree and those who live in the Northeast U.S. have a higher chance of moving up, researchers say.)

Since 2006, Currier and her team have set out to examine the health and status of the American Dream, which she says is more than a cliche, but rather a part of our national fabric based on the notion that your children can do better than you did.

“Our research shows a pretty mixed view of the degree to which that’s true,” she said. “On one hand, there has been significant economic growth over the last generation, [wealth that] has been broadly, equally shared. But at the same time, we see some lack of movement on the ladder as a whole.” So even though Gen Xers may have greater incomes than their parents did within a certain income bracket, they may not make enough to move to the next bracket up, Currier explained.

That finding contradicts what is said to be the crux of the American Dream, that all Americans have equality of opportunity regardless of their economic status at birth.

“A defining factor of the American dream is that a person’s family background or income has no bearing on where he or she ends up, but the study shows otherwise,” Currier said in an interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal.