In one of my culture classes, a conversation ensues on surrogacy in India. The economic machine is driven by the desire of parenthood. The debate is on the most preferred genes. In my proud and African spirited fire, I suggest black people. That is quickly shut down by the revelation that the world desires a Viking’s gene.
“Who can guess the most wanted gene for a sperm donor?” my professor asks to a tense room.
“Black people. ”
“Who wants black babies?”
“I WANT black babies.”
What I really want to say is that the world may not want black babies but they sure do need them. The world went through a lot of trouble to get black people from Africa, killing millions in the process, strip them of their culture and use them to build the ‘greatest’ countries in the world. I am perturbed by racism against black people because Africa was busy minding her own business before the Jan Smuts of the world appeared and decided that we were ungovernable, needing civilization. You made your bed, now scoot over because this is officially our bed.
I recall this incident because it bothers me when I think of all the times I held my tongue to keep the peace. The moment I betrayed myself and my truth. How many times have you held back in a meeting when your colleague pitched your idea? Or when the boss says something that did not make sense? The one that irks me is the supervisor who takes credit for work done without acknowledging their team’s effort. It may be your parent who says something that tears you down but you smile because it is a joke.
That shit ends today.
We betray ourselves because of our conditioning. It starts with the teacher who calls you troublemaker for having an opinion. The family reunion where you are asked to be quiet because the adults are talking. We are groomed for fear as children. Sometimes it is passed on so subtly from our parents or those around us, it is hard to catch it.
I sit with my grandmother in her kitchen that houses shared intimate memories. She is making pork to have with Mukimo, mashed potatoes, greens, corn, fried in cooking oil and onions. She tells me stories of her younger days. The work she put in to create the life she has today.
My grandmother lay her life down for her children. No one asked her what she wanted. There was no room to think of self. Widowed at a young age with five children leaves no room to heal from a bad marriage. Before you celebrate being an empty nester your grandchildren crawl back into your house. It is motherhood all over again.
My grandmother is a happy and calm spirit. She is pretty smart with a resilience only life can gift you. She is known to feed anyone who walks past her house. It is very frustrating to cook with her because, by the time you are done, there is almost nothing left. The neighbours know this so they send their children to ‘deliver’ a message. They will say hello as they crane their necks through her gate to ‘check’ on her and she will quickly offer them a plate.
She will feed even those who make snide remarks behind her back. Those who mocked her struggle of singlehandedly raising her children. She tells me of specific ones who deserve an earful. I question why she says nothing. Peace. It is better to let them be than to address it. This is another level of the love your enemy commandment. I have been there and Egypt is not for me.
It’s hard to remember when the switch flipped but I woke up one day and could no longer betray myself. The truth of the person I am is founded on my faith in God. He defines who I am. To betray that person is to betray Him and the values I aspire to have. The first time you stand in your truth is scary because it is a displacement of every insecurity that has taken root in your life. It will feel out of order but gradually all the chaos in your life disappear.
You no longer settle for a phone call you don’t want to make. The annual Christmas trip to relatives who continuously demean you is cancelled. You will no longer let snide remarks that don’t sit well with you. The joke about black people that is not funny in any given context will not fly.
I have learned that being present in conversations makes it easier to stand in your truth. Put the phone down and actually listen to what people are saying. We tend to hear what we want people to say. Human beings are more honest than we give credit for. People love to talk about themselves and inadvertently reveal their truth. Being present allows you the thought process to understand and respond in a way that is truthful to you and what you stand for.
You will find in time that choosing to honour your truth, builds up your value. You begin to respect yourself and walk in confidence. It strips away people and things that take from you which is different from those who receive from you. The difference between the two is that the latter is founded on service for others but takers thrive on selfishness. Living your truth allows you to reciprocate valuable relationships. It will seep into the other aspects of your life. It helps you address toxic situations that previously seemed too sensitive. Eventually, you find yourself in a space where your core is grounded in your truth. From that comes your best contribution to the world.