Letting the Stupid Little Ni**er Go

Letting the Stupid Little Ni**er Go July 15, 2013

Today I started my new job as a Program Director for a local nonprofit.  It was fabulous.  There are many aspects of this position I know I’m going to love including getting to train several non-profit Boards in volunteer management & volunteer recruitment.  It’s amazingly up my alley.  Thank. You. God.

So.  I guess Ima’ gone ‘head & do my business woman thang, y’all.  (And keep using my beloved slang in about the only place it’s appropriate).

Most of you know my departure from my 12 yr. career in full-time professional ministry was a sad one for me in 2012.  I’m sorry for how I’ve droned on and on about it, maybe one day (maybe even today) it will be the last time I ever talk about how painful it was to realize I wasn’t going to be with InterVarsity career-wise so-long-as-we-both-shall-live.  Additionally, I feel a tremendous amount of relief to know I’m not gunning to be a full-time writer-author-blogger though there was pain in that decision too.

But now I’m here.  In a new place.   Now, I’m in a place where I’m throwing a tremendous amount of energy into where I believe my entire career trajectory will take me: in non-profit leadership & management.  My current position is a tremendous learning & growth opportunity to do just that.

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A lot of things changed for me when I started to believe I could do anything I wanted to.

I remember the first time I heard Will Smith say that.  It annoyed me to my bones. My FREAKING bones.  Because, seriously he’s Will Smith OF COURSE he can do, he can be anything he wants.  Eventually, I realized my annoyance was mad jealous raging butting up against what I believed was true of me: that I was still a “stupid little ni**er.”

My older white brother called me that so many times growing up.  It’s easy for other people to rage against him now though I don’t at all.  Because, forgiveness.  And Jesus.  And life-is-too-short.  The thing is, he said it out loud to me, but it was all the other racism from my white Church and in my white school that confirmed it to me. I was going to be the “stupid little ni**er,” no matter what.  Like my skin color, that girl, she was going with me.  A life sentence.

For me, growing up black in America meant carrying that sentence was EASY.  I was less than, and what was proven over and over and over and over and over again is that our lives had little to no value at all.

///

sem

A few years ago, I started a Master’s of Divinity.  I received a prestigious & bountiful Career Advancement scholarship from the American Association of University Women.  Myself & 79 other recipients were chosen out of several thousand entries.  I was the only woman of the 80 pursuing a Divinity degree –that is how much they believed in me.  It didn’t matter to me because the 1st day I stepped foot on campus the “stupid little ni**er” mentality came with me.  She sat right down next to me, cozied up, slurped on my Hazelnut cuppa joe & settled in.

I will NEVER FORGET the day I told my Spiritual Director in my Spiritual Direction class that I simply wasn’t cut out for this degree even though I was carrying a 3.4 GPA.  When we went in circles long enough we talked about her, the “stupid little ni**ger” that was me.  Do I have to caps lock how sad it was that that was ONLY 5 YEARS AGO, y’all?

This older white man he said it back to me.  HE SAID IT BACK TO ME.  He said “when are you going to let the stupid little ni**er go?”  I gasped.  Actually gasped.  It was so jarring hearing and seeing an old white man with a full head of white hair utter those words but I was not even the slightest bit angry because I get it, y’all.  He wanted me to know how ridiculous it was for me to believe what my brother said was true.  He helped something click in my brain like an antique clock that needs to be wound when it’s neither too hot nor too cold for it to work.  It has to be wound at the right time.

He wound my clock.  At the exact right time I needed to hear it.  I never wanted him OR ME to say it ever again.

///

People in my seminary who met me then, new people who meet me now, they never guess these things about me.  No one ever guesses I was 31 years old until I didn’t believe I was stupid because -and only because- I am black.

Let me remind you of a life certainty…

Anyone can put on a power suit.  Anyone can style their hair and decorate their face, mind and heart to resemble confidence and beauty, but you never know what’s going on deep in their soul.  You never know they can’t fathom believing in their inherrent worth.

A few months ago, in my last job I parlayed around a room chalked full of celebrities in a FABULOUS little black dress in sky high stilletto’s and I WORKED THE DOGGONE ROOM like I owned the mug.  If they had allowed me to unleash my charm and fund-raising abilities I would have had folks writing $10,000 checks.  You could have watched me that night and NOT IN A MILLION YEARS ever thought “now there’s a girl who thought of herself as a stupid little nigger for the first 31 years of her life.”

Looks can be deceiving.  Success can be deceiving.  Hell, LBD’s can be deceiving.

///

So.  I’m doing my business woman thang now.  And, I’m choosing to believe in myself, who God has made and gifted me to be.  I ditched the M. Div not because I couldn’t finish but because I don’t want to.  I want a Masters in Non-Profit Management or Creative Writing.  Whatevs.  Life goes on.

Okay, Will Smith, you win.  You AND I can do anything we want to. (Though probably not together, eh?)

And God, I hope if anyone reading this is struggling to believe in yourself that you will find ALL THE COMFORT THE WORLD HAS TO OFFER in the fact that you can survive whatever lie is embedded in your brain.

You can truth tell.  You can survive.  You can do anything you want to.  You can stop hiding.  You can be you.

Cuz I’m gonna rock this mug out, fabulously y’all!

 


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  • Michelle

    Thanks for sharing this Grace & as always I love and appreciate your honesty. It’s so easy to read your writing and clearly picture everything you’re talking about. And, I actually GASPED out loud and snapped my head back when you wrote, “When are you gonna let the stupid little N go?” powerful!

  • This. Is. Fabulous.

    We all carry around “I’m a stupid little_______” label that keeps us from being who we are supposed to be. And no matter how many times we have heard that we are not that thing, it takes that one ‘old white man with a head full of white hair’ person in our lives to make it stick!

    Keep on rockin’ it girl!

  • How to do that? Just believe. Not sure personally.

    • Melody, I don’t think it’s a ‘just believe,’ thing for me either. Of course this happened over time, and I had another friend who was constantly challenging my belief of “stupid” for over 3 years, but when the spiritual director said it, it hit me in a particular way that made me want to change the direction of my thinking…from there I kept going…slowly taking risks and slowly learning to believe in myself and shut down the “stupid” lie. It was working on it slowly, in the same manner of working the same muscle with increasing resistance a little bit each day and one day ‘ta-da’ you’ve got a big bulging muscle. I’m not sure what your “stupid” is that mirrors mine, but I hope and pray that little by little each day you (&others) can challenge it enough that one day you will realize through all of that mental labor that something has changed. xoxo

  • Jerry

    You. Go. Girl. So many need to hear real life like this. Congrats on the new job.

  • Jerry

    You. Go. Girl. So many need to hear real life like this. Congrats on the new job.

  • Jillie

    Oh Grace…This is GREAT! You’ve kinda encapsulated my young life here. Only I’m the stupid little FAT, LAZY girl. The girl who was told I better take business courses, ‘cuz a husband wasn’t likely to come along anytime soon…and I needed “something” to fall back on. The one who was good at typing and shorthand, which was good ‘cuz I wasn’t “pretty” like my baby sister, who was sure to get a husband early in life. (Just as a point of interest, I’ve now been married for 37YEARS! TO THE SAME MAN! And my sister, the pretty one, has been divorced twice and has many other ills.)

    Yeah, those are hard words (lies) to throw off one’s back! I am so glad you met that white-haired, white guy. The one who made the lie suddenly become real for you. ‘Cuz you have important stuff to say–stuff I thoroughly enjoy reading! Congrats and God bless indeed in your new career! Me? Still not sure I’ve overcome the lies.

  • Jillie. wow, you story shows that truth….one never has to be the lie folks tell them they should be. I’m so happy for you & congrats on 37 yrs. that’s amazing! Thanks so much for sharing here! And for me, it’s always process. I don’t think I’ll ever fully be healed in any HUGE area until heaven. But we can keep working on it!

  • Melody, I don’t think it’s a ‘just believe,’ thing for me either. Of course this happened over time, and I had another friend who was constantly challenging my belief of “stupid” for over 3 years, but when the spiritual director said it, it hit me in a particular way that made me want to change the direction of my thinking…from there I kept going…slowly taking risks and slowly learning to believe in myself and shut down the “stupid” lie. It was working on it slowly, in the same manner of working the same muscle with increasing resistance a little bit each day and one day ‘ta-da’ you’ve got a big bulging muscle. I’m not sure what your “stupid” is that mirrors mine, but I hope and pray that little by little each day you (&others) can challenge it enough that one day you will realize through all of that mental labor that something has changed. xoxo

    • thanks. just getting a handle on this commenting system. i appreciate your thoughtful reply, even if it was ages ago.

  • yeah, that’s so true, Carol. We do all have our something or other. God bless the truth tellers who challenge it!

  • yes! me too deidra! he was the final push God gave me to give it up!

    Thanks for your encouragement & support. I SO appreciate you!

  • thaunak

    I still have some lies to shed…I think I got them and but find it’s like an onion and I’ve only shed a thin layer. Growing, learning, always. Hmm, now you got me thinking. 🙂

  • Jasmine

    You know. I read your “Meet the Racists” article and I wasn’t sure what to think about you and your writing. It intrigued me enough to find your blog, however, and read some more of you.

    I’m so glad I did. We are cut from the same cloth, friend, except you have the guts to write about it.

    It’s a pleasure to get to know you. And, yes, we can do anything!!

    Jasmine

  • Ebony

    Jasmine, I felt the same way when I say her blog “Why I Married A White Guy.” I was like Oh Lord he we go with some craziness but it intrigued me to come and I am so glad that I did. I am really enjoying her writing as well.

  • People don’t realize that the words they use over us, stick with us and help form who and what we believe about ourselves. I’m so thankful that a living God, who created us ALL, reached down and pulled the veil of deception off your eyes. All we can do is live through Him, because without him, we’re nothing anyway.

    Blessings,
    Debbie

    • Debbie, yes the veil of deception is exactly it. Thank God he pulled it! Thanks so much for your kind words today!

  • Moni Washington Padula

    You have a right to grow…at your own pace. And those of us who “get it” will grow and stretch with you, patiently, impatiently, and sometimes painfully, waiting for you to get us through the humps and valleys along with your new insights. I can definitely attest to this struggle, as I’ve often questioned if I have “deserved” any of my degrees or if I’m intelligent enough to complete a Doctorate because I don’t feel “smart enough.” I’ve questioned if I’ve earned my degrees or if Affirmative Action gave me a nice sail through college. I have wondered if I earned my own scholarships by my intellect and wit, or if my skin color made it an obligation for me to receive them. I’m only 1/2 Black technically, but I wonder if people take me seriously in the “real world” when I sometimes let it proudly “slip” that I have a Masters Degree. I have to ask myself all the time why I don’t believe in myself more and I KNOW BETTER than to allow my race to dumb down my expectations of myself just because I think others may be doing it…so thank you for admitting that you struggle with this too, and you’ve worked on it. We do deserve what anybody else deserves. And Will Smith is a great inspiration to me as well 🙂