I am Privileged…

I make no apologies for it. I wish everyone in the world could be so privileged and I’d share it if I could. In fact, I became a teacher with the intention of sharing it, of maybe being that “one” person in the life of a child who makes the difference between privileged and non-privileged. You see, I was born privileged because I was born to parents who loved me, wanted me, believed in me, supported me, encouraged me, guided me and set standards for me. My privilege didn’t come from my skin tone or socio-economic status.

In the following post, I’d like to look at “privilege” through a different lens.

……………………………………………

In February 2020, massive flooding wreaked havoc in Eastern Kentucky, submerging entire communities. Most Americans remained oblivious to the devastation. Entire trailer parks were devastated. Uninsured, poor people lost everything and the world never noticed or seemed to care. Some of the most disadvantaged, poorest towns in America looked like the aftermath of a third world disaster, but it was barely noticed in the news.

Did you know that nine of the most impoverish counties in America are located in Eastern Kentucky? Did you know that around half the residents in several Eastern Kentucky counties live below poverty level? Did you know that across all of Appalachia the poverty rate is around 20% and in Kentucky, that is most prevalent amongst the young? Did you know Kentucky’s annual income is far below the national average? Did you know that in 2014, New York Times Magazine compiled a list of the worst places to live in America and Eastern Kentucky ranked number 1?

Did you know that Eastern Kentucky tops the list in joblessness, obesity, disability and lower life expectancies and that the suicide rate in Eastern Kentucky is higher than the national average? Did you know that meth addiction runs rampant in Kentucky and that the opioid crisis has hit this area harder than almost anywhere else in the nation? And, did you know that Eastern Kentucky is predominantly White?

When we compare apples to oranges, nothing makes sense, so let’s compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges and rural to rural and urban to urban.

If I compare my white nephew to Quincy Brown, Quincy is the privileged one. If I compare my black niece to Paris Hilton, Paris is the privileged one. If I compare my niece to my nephew, neither one is privileged. If I compare a black child born into inner city poverty with a white suburban child, the white child is privileged. If I compare a rural white child born into poverty to a black son or daughter of a doctor, the black child is privileged. So, it’s not entirely epidermis that makes one privileged; it’s socio-economic status.

Or is it?

In the black population, the fatherless rate is about 72 percent. By the way, that’s HUGE! Meanwhile, in Kentucky, one-third of all domestic violence cases occur in Appalachian counties. Kentucky child abuse is the absolute worst in the nation. That’s also HUGE!

Seems pretty evident that living with a father figure who beats you is just as bad or worse than living with no father at all. So, a child growing up without a father and the child growing up with an abusive father are both disadvantaged, regardless of ethnicity.

However, a child growing up in a loving family, regardless of skin tone or economy, is clearly still at an advantage (one that should never be taken away.) Parents, regardless of color or bank account, who raise their children in a stable, loving atmosphere, who put forth an effort to see that their children do well in school and make it a point to shape the child’s morals, automatically give their child an advantage. This has nothing to do with skin color. It has everything to do with personal character, responsibility and integrity. It has to do with putting the child’s needs ahead of the parent’s wants.

Think of how Chris Gardner (Will Smith plays him in The Pursuit of Happiness.) Chris’s mother told him he could be anything. Chris was born black. He was born poor, but he had one great privilege, a mother who believed in him. Ursula Burns was born black, poor and female—BUT she had a mother who sacrificed to make sure Ursula received an education. And what of Dolly Parton born “poor as dirt,” but her mother encouraged her to sing? And Loretta Lynn whose father’s unconditional love helped form the personal convictions that gave heart to her music? The list goes on. Poverty. Race. Inner city. Poor mountain. Rural America. It all pales in comparison to parents who surround their children with love, faith, guidance, hope and acceptance.

I think if we really want our children to be “privileged” we need to stop thinking of it as a race issue or an economic issue and realize that the best privilege we can give our children is to love them, support them, educate them and give them a moral fabric that will never leave them. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do everything we can to level the playing field for all of America’s kids and it doesn’t guarantee success every time but it does help build inner strength and long-term autonomy. If we really want to fix what’s broken in America, we have to start with what’s broken in Ameri-cans. Broken children become broken adults unless someone intervenes before then.

I remember an old story of a man who cut up a world map and gave it to his son, telling him to go put it back together. The son came back mere seconds later with the homemade puzzle perfectly put together. The father was astounded. “Son, how’d you put the world together so fast?” The boy beamed, “It was easy, Daddy. There’s a kid on the back. I just put the kid together right and that world came out the right way, too.”

How do we put our nation back together? Our world? We put our kids together the right way—instilling character, integrity, kindness, compassion, guidance and acceptance. We have to think beyond ourselves, our wants, our needs and do what’s necessary to ensure that tomorrow’s generation has spiritual roots, empathy, compassion and the moral fortitude to do things that benefit us as a human race.  We do this when we invest our time and energy into the life of a child. The world is made up of people and all people start out as children. If we want privileged people, then we must chose to privilege our kids.

So, yes, I was born privileged and I hope I pass the same “privilege” on to every child in my life.

*In addition to being an artist, an award-winning poet and novelist, Darlene Franklin-Campbell is a veteran teacher of over 20 years with a Master’s Degree in Education. She has completed countless hours in continuing education with a focus on human development, personality theories and cognition. She is an advocate for literacy, the arts and the preservation of cultures and languages.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids are More Than Matter

Human Trafficking (modern slavery).

Drug addiction.

Abuse.

Molestation.

Who bears the heaviest brunt of it all?

Children.

The post you are about to read is not political, not religious, but it is spiritual.

I’m speaking from my heart and deepest understandings, knowing that some people are going to potentially get “their panties in a wad.” But some things in life are more important than whether someone is offended or not, the biggest cause worth sticking my neck out for to me–is children.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,” a psalmist once said.

A heritage is a legacy, a gift by will, to be passed down to future generations.

A child is the most precious thing on this entire planet and according to Jesus, the closest thing there is to heaven. All the gold and silver on earth is less important in the grand scheme of things than the life of one child. Yet, each day, thousands upon thousands of children are treated with no regard. If you mar the child, you mar the future. If you kill a child, you kill parts of the future.

I believe the most important job any human has ever had on this earth is to raise children to be humane and compassionate and if we fail at that, nothing else we do matters. Nothing. It doesn’t matter if you are a biological parent or not, the way you treat a child (a neighbor’s child, a nephew, niece, cousin, student, etc.) makes a difference; each of us has an obligation to humanity to demonstrate what it means to be humane to the next generation or else, we get this:

 

Kids are not put here to pleasure adult sexual fantasies. They are not meant to work in sweat factories or be the source of black market body parts (if don’t believe me, check out the fate ofAlbino children Tanzania: ) Children are not meant to be tools that divorced adults use to “get back” at one another or to “punish” one another. They are not meant to be a means to getting government subsidies or punching bags for frustrated adults who were most likely abused themselves. Nor are they put here to live through vicariously, pushing them into things that are torturous to them so that a mother who never got to be a beauty queen can be one through her child  (like on that Tots in Tiaras show) or a father who was never good at baseball can shine through his son (the dad in at the little league park who yells and screams at his 8 year-old son over a ballgame that will be forgotten in a few weeks). They are not miniature adults and they DON’T understand all the things that can hurt them; that’s why they need parents: mothers and fathers and that’s why they need caring mentors, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) They are meant to be loved unconditionally, trained (notice that discipline is training and punishing is abusive and punitive) and taught that they have potential, unique callings and gifts to give the world.

Children end up bearing the brunt of brutality, abuse and hatred and they can’t fight back. They don’t have a voice. Who’s marching for them? Who’s standing up for the most vulnerable population in our county? Where are the protestors against thugs who shoot little kids?

Tonight I ask all of you who believe in prayer, to pray for the children, pray protection around them. Pray that the eyes and hearts of this nation be opened and that all those kind-hearted people of every shade, gender, spiritual and economic background unite to make this world a better, more-loving place for our heritage. And I ask that we band together and raise loud voices online, stating that we do not condone the harming of children, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually for any cause or purpose.

No more human trafficking.

No more drug culture.

No more abuse.

No more shootings.

Kids are more than a substance that takes up space and has weight. Kids are more than a clump of molecules and atoms. Kids are more than matter. They are humanity’s greatest potential.

#kidsaremorethanmatter #bethelight 

Tattered

Over the past week, I’ve spruced up my porch, painting things, planting flowers, etc. and in the process, I took down the American flag that’s been hanging there for the past ten years, because it doesn’t match the new decor. Today, I picked it up off the picnic table where I’d rolled it up and laid it down, intending to dispose of it in the proper way with the proper respect. But I stopped in my tracks, noticing how faded it really was, how frail, thin and torn. I noticed how it was so stained and that the red had turned rust and the white had turned gray.  Suddenly, there was a pain in my spirit and tears in my eyes, because I was no longer looking at a symbol of America. I was looking at America herself.

America: Stained. Torn. Tattered. Faded.

America: Land of the free.

America: Home of the Brave.

I cried, realizing that I love America, even when she’s stained, torn and faded. I’m an idealist. I know that. Some might call it a weakness, if so, then let me be weak, because I dream of a land where all life is respected from the unborn to the ancient, where there are no color lines and the only hue is humanity and the only responses humane. I straightened the flag as best as I could and hung her back on my porch, where she waved in the southern breeze that blew up from the cow pasture. She may be tattered, worn and faded, but she’s still beautiful to me.

I’m from a multi-racial family in a small town in Southern Appalachia. We have a modge-podge of ethnicities: White, Black, Latina/o and Native American. I don’t think we have any Asians—yet, but my CRI Genetics test says I have Asian ancestry, so, it was there at one point in time (approximately 5 to 6 generations ago). I believe we are all human and that genetically, we are 99.5% the same (according to 23andMe), and what we do to one, affects us all.

Now before I make the next few statements, let me say that my little spill here will likely not change the minds of most people. I’m not speaking to minds now anyway. I’m speaking what’s in my heart, because I need to speak it. So, this blog post is a selfish one. I’m doing it for me, not you! But hopefully, someone will find something worthwhile within it.

That broken flag is a sign of blatant symbolism to me. You see, I’ve caught myself praying a lot these past few days. I was walking through the Dollar Store and realized that I was praying, out loud, asking for America to be healed and then I realized that healing has to come one heart at a time and that the reason our country is broken is because our people are broken. If we want to fix our country, then we have to fix our people and we can’t fix people by killing them, robbing them, burning their homes, etc. We also can’t fix people by legislating morality to them. Politics can’t fix our country, because politics can’t mend human spirits or awaken the ones that are asleep. Only a spiritual awakening in human hearts can fix our country. Notice that I did not say a return to religion, by the way. I said a spiritual awakening.

I think about how Gandhi said that if we live by an eye for an eye then the whole world would be blind and how Jesus said that if the blind leads the blind then they would both fall in the ditch and Crazy Horse who said that a good leader was one who served others rather expecting others to serve him. Yet, I feel like so many people today are concerned only about serving themselves and they will blindly follow anyone who makes that a little more possible. That literally that they are lovers of themselves, angry, proud, arrogant, loud, aggressive and filled with hate and fear, while others are self-loathing, depressed (and some strangely proud to be that way). However, I know there are peace lovers out there who believe we evoke change in the world by being the change, that we can protest injustices without more murder and destruction. Jesus said that if you live by the sword you die by the sword. Or in other words, violence simply breeds more violence and it is never the answer. The only time it may be the answer is when someone invades your home and threatens your family. Then you fight for survival. A lack of the right tennis shoes or want of a better job is not survival.

I think about the man called John who wrote that if we say we love God and hate our brother (or our neighbor or our fellow human being) then we are lying to ourselves. How can we love God that we haven’t seen if we can’t love the human being that we do see? And what is love, anyway? Well, in this context, it simply means to treat others with decency. This is where healing begins, with brotherly love. And love has to come from a heart that’s been touched by love.

So, tonight, I pray for a healing in the hearts of Americans. I pray for Love’s light to over power the darkness that has settled upon our country and I employ every child of light to shine, shine and shine. Shine your light. Love, love and love radically because if ever there was a time when America needed the healing of radical love, it’s now.

So, my tattered flag waved in the afternoon breeze and I realized that through her thread-bare stripes, there were patches of sunlight.

Two and No More

underwater
Photo by John Cahil Rom on Pexels.com

I believe there are only two basic emotions that exist in the world; LOVE and FEAR and that all others — happiness, jealousy, anger, sympathy, compassion, etc. are  manifestations of whichever one we are walking in at the moment. I believe that it is impossible to act from fear and love at the same time.

If an action is intended to harm another, either physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, socially or spiritually, it’s motivated by fear. Sometimes, it’s a fear of being wrong about something, like politics or religion. The fear is that if we are wrong about one thing, then somehow our entire universe and grasp on reality will come undone. Sometimes, it’s a fear of change, because people fear the future or that the past will repeat itself. Some people are the opposite and fear a life of boredom and sameness. Some people fear a lack of control. Others fear being controlled. Sometimes, it’s a fear of being “without,” meaning having less financially or of being poor. Sometimes people fear those of another religion, race or ethnicity. Sometimes people fear getting older while others fear dying young. Some fear they will never have a relationship while others fear commitment. Ultimately, most are afraid of death, yet everyone must face it.

Some people have been raised up in fear, believing they might not be as good as other people, so they constantly lash out at anyone who threatens their notion of being “somebody.” Maybe they get angry over something as simple as a social media post that they disagree with politically or religiously or something like that, so they lash out violently with foul language and cruel private messaging, but it’s their own insecurities and learned behaviors that come into play, not really anything you’ve done.

If someone reacts violently or hatefully to you, they are reacting out of fear. Maybe it’s a generational fear that is buried so deep in them that they don’t even know it’s there. Maybe it’s a learned behavior, instilled and ingrained, but it’s still a fear.

If an action is intended to help another, either spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, mentally, or socially; then it is motivated by love. Love compels us to acts of faith, *true confidence, *true humility, kindness, gentleness, *forgiveness, *objectivity, patience, and selflessness. Love brings joy and laughter and fond memories. It doesn’t lash out in anger and understands that others get tired and stressed. It doesn’t hold others to impossible standards or double standards. It doesn’t act in covert contract mode, expecting something in return. Love gives for the sake of giving, not receiving and shows gratitude when it does receive. Love brings growth, joy and life to everything it touches.

Every kind, compassionate and uplifting thing is done out of love. Every unkind thing is basically, an extension of fear or just plain old habit. In some cases, it’s both. If I am secure in love, then it doesn’t matter what someone says, it shouldn’t rattle me, or at least not for very long.

Love is like sunlight and water. Where there is love there is life.

A lot of people live in fear and the ironic thing about fear is that it causes people to run away from the positive, from hope and encouragement. It causes them not to recognize what is good when they see it and to label the strongest attributes of humanity: gentleness, kindness, patience, meekness, forgiveness, mercy, etc., as weak and mistakes brutality and violence for strength.

The truth is that it takes great courage to be gentle in a world where harshness is the standard. It takes great faith to be positive in a world where we are bombarded by negativity. Love brings us that courage and faith.

I’m reminded of Gladys Aylward, a tiny English woman, who led a hundred orphaned Chinese children to safety over the mountains during a time when all of China was in the grip of fear and war and she did it with love.

Love is the greatest force on earth. It is greater than war, greater than violence. It is greater than fear and it is greater than disease. Love endures forever and nothing can ever change that.  Love is God and God is Love. If you want to know the Creator of the Universe, the One Who Never Dies, Great Spirit, Ancient of Days, the Force and Source of All, then look no further than Love.

*my definition of true confidence as opposed to cocky self-assurance is doing what you need to do with the faith that all will work out as it should and without the need to control people or outcomes. 

*objectivity–in my mind–is the ability to remove your “personal” preferences, likes and dislikes, from a situation and see it from many angles and from the perspective of others involved and make the decision based on what pathway yields the most positive or favorable outcomes for everyone involved, taking into considerations the effects on and motivations of others.

*true humility–I believe that there is such a thing as false humility where a person acts humble in order to appear to be a “good person” or “more spiritual” but in truth the act is motivated by self-interest. True humility doesn’t care who’s watching or who’s not and will often try to perform in secret without getting recognized or needing recognition. True humility doesn’t need a pat on the back or a trophy. In the same way, true humility will propel you to the stage even when self pride wants you to sit back and not make a fool of yourself. It does what needs to be done for the good of everyone involved, regardless of who does or does not get the credit. 

*forgiveness–does not mean forgetfulness. If a person has it in their nature to lie, cheat, steal or whatever, you don’t have to be blind to that fact, just accept that they are that way, keep your distance from them. Simply let go of any anger they caused you and don’t carry it or hold it against them. Caring a grudge will not punish them. However, it may add extra stress to your life and make you physically ill. 

A Penny’s Worth

 Johnny found an Indian head penny

under the seat in his truck

yellow Chevy 

primer paint

 

Hey, sis, you want this?

You could put it on a chain.

 

these thirty years later

I wonder about its worth

Red Coin Book says

it isn’t valuable, not rare

 

those book people don’t know

 

It’s a portal to see

Johnny

still seventeen

shiny brown eyes

shaggy hair

 

what might 

he have been?

*dedicated to my brother.