My Perspective

I have had the very fortunate experience of growing up in America as a Black male. That experience has taught me a lot and I am sure it will continue to teach me much more. But I want to do something I rarely do, unless I am teaching Diversity or talking amongst close friends. I am going to talk about my Black male experience and perspective in terms of my work as the Letting Go Pro.

Recently, I listened to a radio show on 88.1 FM, WFSK in Nashville, TN. It is called Beneath The Spin. This past Tuesday (last week) the fill in host of the show, Menaq Amurr, asked people to call in and share their stories/experiences in which they were called the “N” word. The point was to help younger generations, and others, to realize the negative impact that the word has had on people in this country. The other point was to help impress upon those who use the term as one of “endearment,” how STUPID, self destructive, self degrading, self deflating, self defeating, self diminishing, and self hating it is to do so – in this current age. Another point of the show was to demonstrate, and I stress,

I am amazed at how LITTLE young Black Americans know about THEIR OWN HISTORY.

Many people responded with very emotional stories. One lady, who is 51 years of age, told of an experience she had at age 7, in which someone called her the N-word. She began to cry as she told the story, which means that for 44 years the internal pain and torture of that experience has haunted her spirit.

Can you imagine holding on to something so painful for 44 years? It is hard for me to imagine it. Obviously, there are many people who are in her shoes. Many Blacks who have had experiences “similar to hers” have held on to those experiences for God only knows how long.

For me, I was spit on by a group of white kids who drove past me and a friend as we walked along a street in Nashville, TN. After they drove past and spit, they then drove back by and called us choice words, including the “n-word.” But hey, that was life in Nashville TN, in the 70’s, for many people of color.

That was in 1974 (or thereabouts), almost 24 years ago. I acknowledged it, processed it, went through changes over it, adjusted my attitude about white people in general, convinced myself that not all are “like that,” grew up, and the LET IT GO. It was a process however, and it took a while, but I was fortunate to have been able to let go and move on with my life. That, and other experiences like it, hasn’t become a chip that I carry around. Now that was just one of many experiences I have had over the years since. You adjust and move on. BUT what you don’t do – is hold on to the memory and allow it to taint your perspective about the people you deal with on a daily basis.

I received an email from a dear friend who asked me about another situation relative to Black Americans in this country. Apparently there is an email floating around (the author is unknown as far as I an tell) about how Black people DO NOT READ. The email paints a grim picture of our culture. The author of this email also says, in so many words, that

self destructive consciousness within the Black American culture is self sustaining – at this point in our short existence as a country.

The person who sent me the email suggested that I write about this on my BLOG. So here I am. But my friend also suggested something that I thought was powerful and want to attempt to expound upon it.

She said (I am paraphrasing here) that it is time for the Black culture to

“terminate its TOXIC RELATIONSHIP with its past” and “develop a new loving relationship with the FUTURE.”

Even though she didn’t say it in those terms – I am.

It is time for us to begin the process of Letting Go of Stuff™ so we CAN move beyond our pain and barriers of being able to truly get to know ourselves.

Now Letting Go of Stuff™ is a very complicated and involved process. It is not just a catchy phrase for the title of a book. It is a serious process in which the first step is to Acknowledge Your Stuff.

Okay, get ready ’cause here it comes…

I believe that WE (Blacks) have been “acknowledging” for FAR TOO LONG. It is time for us to move beyond this step. The dear 51 year old I referred to on the radio station (and others like her) needed to let go of her pain LONG AGO. She has held on to it for FAR TOO LONG. It is not her fault, but she is responsible.

In my humble opinion,

it is time for Black Americans, on an individual level, and then collectively, to move beyond “acknowledging” and on to the next steps for Letting Go of Stuff.™

It is also important to remember that if YOU are successful alone, then it does no good unless you reach back and grab the hand of another, whose face is similar to yours.

Finally, it is important to know, teach, and represent the accurate and true history of the Black American culture. But first you must learn it.

Want to learn?

Try the following two resources for starters:

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro – by J A Rogers

Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery – by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank

Stolen Legacy – by George M. James

More to come…

Darren L. Johnson, The Letting Go Pro


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    1. Thanks so much. I do appreciate your comments. Please come back to visit the Letting Go Cafe anytime. I also welcome your comments on any of the posts. Have you seen the one about toxic relationships?

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  7. Bill Hancy says:

    I was about 5 or 6 years old, playing with my brother in the living room. He did something to me, and I called him the n-word. From what I can recall of the incident, I had recently seen my first African-American man at the local shopping center. I am white. I was with my mom and a couple friends in the shopping center. I suspect it was one of my “friends” who taught me that word, because within a few second of me saying it to my brother, my mom was washing my mouth out with soap.

    A few years later, my family moved to the other side of town. The elementary school was the center of two communities, one all white and the other predominantly African-American. The first friend I made in the new school was Jerry; he was African-American. I believe that knowing him and hanging around him was the first time I ever experienced peer pressure. I felt “different” when I walked over to his house, and I’m sure he felt the same coming to mine. It felt like there were a thousand pairs of eyes staring at us, and I didn’t understand why. Jerry was one hell of a good musician, and I loved to hear him play his clarinet and sax. Jerry’s family moved away the following summer, but still today, I can hear his music.

    On the playground and in Jerry’s neighborhood, I remember hearing the n-word often. I didn’t realize then that I probably heard the word being used among African-Americans and among whites, but not between African-Americans and whites. The lesson my mom tried to teach me didn’t stick.

    The first summer living there, a white friend and I walked into a local grocery store. It was here that I experienced one of the most traumatic learning events of my life. I was deciding between buying two items, one of them a brownie, which I described aloud to my friend using the n-word. There was a young, African-American boy on the other side of the aisle who heard me. He stormed out of the store and waited for me outside with his two friends.

    I can remember my friend being scared to leave the store and the cashier’s hand shaking when she gave me my change. I had no idea at the time what I said or that I said anything wrong. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have walked out the front door. But, I was 10 years old and had a lot of life’s lessons yet to learn.

    One of the kids (at least twice size), met me outside the door and stood in front of me with clenched fists and a locked jaw. He was very visibly upset. I can still remember the painful expression of his face. I deserved to be beaten to a pulp, but he chose not to. Instead, speaking with great restraint, he told me to apologize. I did. He told me to apologize again. I did. He told me to get on my knees and apologize. I did. He told me to promise I would never say the n-word again. I promised. He and his friends got on their bikes and rode away. To this day, some 40 years later, I have kept my promise to him.

    I don’t ever want to “let go” of these memories or stop shuddering when I think of them. I need to be reminded of the hurt I caused others through selflessness, ignorance, and disrespect. I hope those three kids have “let go,” moved on, and rose above the pain I caused them. I will never forgive my behavior, but will always keep my promise to them and remember them with utmost respect.

    Thank you for inviting me to this blog, and allowing me to continue to learn from extraordinary teachers.

  8. Hi Mr. Letting Go Pro,

    Thank you for sharing with us. I realize this is such a touchy subject for us all, regardless of the skin we are in in this nation. We are one of the “free-est” nations on earth, yet we are still plagued by the heart wrenching “cancer” that has spread through the bows of our America called racism. It is so interesting that you should bring this topic up from the position of just: “letting it go!” because I had begun to recently think and believe the same thing: that the only way we (as a country) could get over “it” (the negativities of slavery) is to just let “it” go. It seems that the more we reflect on it; the more we silently hurt from it; the more we only talk in terms of how bad it has caused our lives to be today – the more we get more of the same that we (black people) had before – negativity.

    The only true way to heal is to forget about “it” at least in terms of the negative. I know this is possible because I did it in my own life, not with the slavery “thing”, but I did it with always reflecting on toxic relationships from a negative viewpoint. Once I saw the good in the person I previously thought had done me wrong, I was able to really move on. I began to love myself more and more, and I forgave myself for having even chose that person. I actually was able to see my own faults in the relationship and thanked them for helping me to become a better person. In doing this, I finally met and married the love of my life and the rest is, well, “his-story”…and my future 🙂

    Letting go is the only way we as a people can move on. I like Lisa’s point of view in reference to the “N” word. If we stop putting so much negative inference on the word, it will not have the sting it once did. I also do not use it, nor do I enjoy hearing it, but somehow without negating our past, we have to get passed our past. So it would be with mixed feelings that I would embrace the “N” word, but I would not be opposed to getting rid of it altogether while we stop thinking about it as the negative connotation it gave us so long ago. The same thing goes for slavery. Let us think about what good came of it…For one, we are in one of the free-est nations on earth and we have the ability to create wealth out of thin air and leave our children a plethora of knowledge and inheritance regardless of the skin we are in.

    Mrs. Intimacy

  9. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this information. While I agree with many of the points you make in your writing, I also see a bit of irony because, part of letting go is accepting yourself and others as they are. That means that we must accept that youth can “affectionately” call someone the “N” word and not be subjective to the exploitations of what this meant to us some odd years ago. While history will prove over and over again why the “N” word is a negative connotation, using the “N” word today may serve as an endearing term. Let’s take Susan, fake name, for example. She is of mixed ancestry. Her mother is white and her father is black. When she’s around her African American family, when she is called the “N” word by her same generation cousins, she take to this as it is a sign of her belonging. While the reverse may be at stake when she is around her white family, she is able to discern the difference at an early age, thus increasing her awareness of the world’s perceptions.

    As you cite in your writing, the “N” word stayed with someone for a long, long time. Today, as the “N” word is used by Generation X/Y more and more, it appears to ease the burdensome historical aspect of its past demoralizing meaning. This is no different what Richard Pryor and Eddit Murphy attempted to do in their comedy; making light of racial and stereotypical barriers in order to lighten a heavy situation.

    While I personally do not use the “N” word, and would prefer that others not use it, I am open to the hip hop generation and others using it as a sign of affection, solidarity, etc. To me, they have made a dirty word, clean.

    As we attempt to let go of the many negative connotations of our hair, our skin color, our vernacular, it is importantt that we also look at the shedding of these negatisms as a form of evolution; the evolution of acceptance of the past self and future self.

    Thanks again for your insight.

  10. Nikki says:

    Thank you for prompting another forum to publicly discuss the inner pain that many black people consciously and unconciously carry around with them on a daily basis. Any journey starts with a first step. So I applaud your comment that directs us to first acknowledge that we do have pain. Many people walk around coping with highs and then coping with lows. I use the word coping because so many of us have these temporary feelings- one day we feel good then one day we feel bad. I find myself even reflecting on the past and trying to determine what the total impact of slavery, racisim, inequality and injustice has had on our people. Especially when I think about the poverty rate, illiteracy rate, incarciration rates, number of single parent homes just to name some of the negative things that “continue” plague our people. When I reflect on where we have come from and how far we still have to go -I admit the pain is alive and visible in my heart. The pain that my child and others will have to continue this fight even when I am gone. Let’s not forget that we are still fighting for the things “our” Forefathers fought for. But the joy comes in knowing that the creator has given us the strength and endurement to continue the fight and that we all posses the power to inform ourselves, to educate ourselves, to learn, to grow, to spend time and talk with our elders, to be good stewards of our finances, to love and respect ourselves and each other, to be a legacy, to read, to give back, to be a role model, to make a difference in our community and to stand up for something so we don’t fall for anything. Its that joy that makes me proud and that makes me confident in who I am and what I am! Whether someone chooses the “N” word or the “B” word, it is the joy within me that that awakens the confidence, that awakens the power within me to change the world that I live in.

    1. @Nikki D. How are you? You should totally come back and visit at the Letting Go Cafe. The forum has grown immensely. I hope you can make it back here in 2013. Happy New Year.

  11. Rashanda says:

    I agree with Elisha. This needs to be approached by all. We as a society need to learn to create great new memories and history. This is so, our children and so on, can see the person – not what the persons ancestor has done to our ancestors. However, the history should alway’s be known – in order to make us better as a “PEOPLE”.

  12. ELisha says:

    Thank you for both addressing these issues, and for sharing your own personal experiences. I – like many of us, have had several painful experiences regarding race, color, ethnicity, social, and economic status. Sadly, I have also experienced this from our own people as well. I firmly believe it is because we do not know our history, and do not have the desire to learn it. We have not been instilled with the RESPECT to want to learn it. If millions of children and adults can be motivated to read several, lengthy books about a boy wizard, then I would hope the willingness to learn about one’s self; one’s own history – the REAL MAGIC that we have created on this planet – is not far behind. Mathematics, Science, Art and Literature – as well as other topics of study, would appeal to us more as a people once we are able to find our point of reference and relativity to them.

    We need to learn the truth about ourselves, be able to identify our truths, and have the courage to speak our truths out loud to others. We have to stop living our lives in resentment and regret and in silent defeat. Like Marcus Mosiah Garvey said, “”Up! You mighty race, you can accomplish what you will!”

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