The story of Dez Bryant’s childhood nearly gave me nightmares.
Dez Bryant is a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and sometimes superstar. April 9, 2017, he put up five Instagram posts saying, in effect, that to advance the prosperity of black America, black Americans need to attend less to racism and more to individual accountability. Here are the first four of the five posts.
The fifth post, I will not reproduce here. It’s a screen shot from a 2015 profile in Rolling Stone. Bryant cannot have posted it for any other reason than to substantiate his Blackness. It left me profoundly distressed for two days. Things go on in the black world that white folk don’t want to know.
If Dez Bryant and Charles Barkley dissent from black orthodoxy, then black thought is not monolithic. The political correctness of media responses to Bryant’s posts, however, is. Varying in merit, they are well represented in this Dallas News piece.
Kiersten Willis, author of the Atlanta Black Star piece where I first saw Bryant’s actual posts, began, “Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant exposed his lack of knowledge on American racism by claiming Black people are to blame for the lack of success in the community.” Stephen A. Smith flat out questioned his Blackness. Shannon Sharpe said Bryant needed to educate himself on racism before he can speak as a black man — in effect, that the sole metric of Blackness is hostility toward whites.
Not one mentioned the Barkley quote. Not one mentioned the fifth post.
The Rolling Stone profile looks at Bryant’s childhood in detail; and, indeed, he did not see much racism coming up. What he did see was that the adults in his world shunned individual accountability, devoting their lives to the pursuit of squalor, making life needlessly more difficult at every turn, and generating chaos in the likes of which no one can thrive.
But this post is not about racism or Blackness,
but about responsibility and love.
Many years ago, when I was first exploring reincarnation and developing notions of karma, studying the works of J. Everett Irion, it seemed to me that avoidance of responsibility accounted for almost all the problems I saw in my then-world. Responsibility seemed to be terribly important. But I was then a mainstream person, living in a mainstream world, where the problems people create for one another are, comparatively, not that dire.
I came up in a world where you could walk anywhere you liked, anytime of the day or night, and no one would ever bother you. It just
It can be said that the social fabric there is strong. It provides a foundation for the community to prosper.
I had not yet seen, nor lived in, that world where people live in fear; where they’re afraid to be outside at night; where the paramount concern is to be slick, get over, get away with it — to live without accountability. Where the police are hated not because they abuse, but because they stand for order, whereas order reflects accountability. Where the most hated of all persons is the snitch, because she or he makes one accountable. Where the drama-seeking games folk play actually risk lives.
It can be said that the social fabric there is weak. It provides no foundation for the community to prosper. It can also be said that there’s a dearth of love there.
Honesty and responsibility are somehow very closely related. I recall that in the home I grew up in, honesty was held up highly. To this day, in conversations with my brothers, I am surprised how often references to it come up, without prompting. And the rationale each one of us cites is always the same: it’s not a matter of right or wrong, but that lying creates confusion. It tends toward chaos. At one level, truth-telling is a choice between chaos and order.
But there’s a level more fundamental than that. If I love you, I will tell you the truth. If we are accountable to each other, we have a relationship. We are responsible to each other. And the various, hopefully strong bonds among people are what create a social fabric.
I recently said elsewhere,
Love is the ordering principle of the universe.
But where does this love come from?
In reading Everett Irion, I came across this quote from Edgar Cayce:
Until you see, in every one you meet,
some thing of that which you worship in your Creator,
you have not begun to think aright.
A few nights back, I gave myself my monthly treat of a night at the hotel, away from the homeless shelter. I dropped off my stuff in my room, and then went out the front door to buy supper at the nearby 7-Eleven. Along Gay Street, from Front Street to Orleans, 50-100 people were milling about, those some folk would call “riff raff.” They’re always there. To me, the darkness about them, the darkness they emanate, was palpable. To deny that I saw this, I’d have to lie to myself. Radical honesty is the price of psi.
That darkness is the real reason most folk, rich and poor alike, and homeless, too, seek to avoid them.
I have the task personally of learning to discern the image of God in each and every such a one. It’s there. Underneath race, background, sex, culture, opinions, beliefs, prejudices, material poverty or wealth, it’s there; the core, the essence of that person’s being. A nitzotz, a “spark” of the divine, a portion of God’s own essence. And it evokes, it merits, sheer adoration.
The love with which one may love another, begins with love for oneself. And this is accessible. Deep within oneself is, likewise, the image of God that one may discern, the nitzotz, a portion of the Divine that is the core of one’s own essence. One can behold it, see its brilliance; and it, likewise, evokes and merits sheer adoration. This is who you really are.
Loving oneself is not narcissism, but honesty.
On this basis we can establish relationships, mutual accountability and responsibility, the bonds among people that compose a social fabric and provide basis for a community to prosper.
I have answered Dez Bryant’s critics.