As some of you may know, me and Harriet Tubman have a thing going on. As a matter of fact we’re like this. Or this. . We’re tight. It doesn’t matter that she was buried 101 years ago, her spirit stays with me and, in times of difficulty, her example provides me with guidance. Like today.
Before I begin, let me make this clear: This is not an invitation for anyone who is made uncomfortable by my expressing myself to attempt to justify their discomfort or the mistreatment of others. Please don’t do so here.
So — today I found myself frustrated and hurt by the attitudes and actions of those who feel that brown people have to justify our right and desire to be treated with respect; or who believe that brown people shouldn’t receive the same consideration given to folk who aren’t brown. Often we are challenged with conditions: Are we “good” brown people? Did we behave perfectly in said situation? Did we say or do anything to make someone else uncomfortable? Did we fail to smile widely enough or keep our voice to a soft enough tone? Did we dress in a way that was different? Were there too many of us in one place? Did our presence or our voice or our facial expression or our youthful arrogance or … make someone else so uncomfortable that they felt threatened? So often we must PROVE that we deserve considerations that so many others simply assume will be given to them.
(Sometimes, watching police procedurals on television, I laugh. On TV the character, when questioned by the police, will respond arrogantly, “if you’re not charging me with anything, I’m leaving!” And they’ll get up and march out. I know that that is just TV. I know that it is often dangerous for disenfranchised people — poor or brown or under-educated or gender-different — to behave that way or assume that they will be treated as innocent until proven guilty. I know that.)
So what has this got to do with Harriet Tubman? Well, a lot. Harriet, (named Araminta at birth) was born enslaved. She was physically and emotionally abused from childhood. She suffered from narcolepsy as a result of a traumatic head injury. She never learned to read or write. But this in no way lessened her faith in God or her commitment to do what God directed her to do. Her faith in Someone/Something bigger than herself provided her with strength when things seemed hopeless. When she prayed for freedom she said God told her — “clear, like I’m talkin’ to you”– to free herself. And so she did. When God told her to act, she acted. If she hadn’t, if she’d waited around and thought about it or waited for somebody else, she might have died on a slave plantation in Eastern Maryland instead of becoming the iconic heroine she is. She never embraced hate. She did not waste her time raging and ranting. Instead she got on her knees and when she received her guidance, she got off her knees and did what she was guided to do. She did not act before she sought guidance. And she did not waste time when she got it. She knew that friends and allies came in all shapes, colors and genders and she embraced those who, like her, were following a higher guidance. Even when she found herself in situations that I doubt I could stand. And she maintained a belief that she could carry out her directives despite everything she endured, and she was not afraid, because she believed that Someone or Something bigger than herself had her back.
Harriet is my hero. On days like today she reminds me to follow her example. I want to make the world better in any small way I can. I want to be light in darkness. I want to be a catalyst for positive change. I want to be strength for someone who is faltering. I cannot do this alone. I believe that Someone/Something bigger than I, has my back. And daily I get on my knees, even when I am afraid or frustrated or angry — especially when I am afraid or frustrated or angry — and I ask for guidance. I ask to operate from love and light and not fear and hate. I ask God what to do and when to do it.
I know that not everybody believes in a Higher Power. But when I look around, I am HORRIFIED to think that humans are the ultimate authority in the universe. So I pray. And then, when directed, I act. Today I am writing this blog. It’s different than most of my posts and different than what I had planned, but I am following in the steps of my hero and doing what I’m told.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” – 1 John 4:18