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Blog

These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Tag: Memories

Just Tone It Down A Bit, Okay?

jasmine banks

I am surrounded by an incredible crowd of people who generally believe they want what is best for me. I'd say about 30% are the kind that REALLY dig deep and support me how need support. Another large percent are people who are just generally good people. They don't set out to be intentionally offensive. They don't cook up ways to be hurtful or damaging to others... they just live. Part of just being, though means that messages that are dominate in our culture infiltrate how you see the world. Not being actively intentional about how your beliefs and world views are formed means that you can, at times, accept the status quo. When the status quo is antithetical to the wellbeing of minorities, just being can become detrimental. Thinking critically is hard, there isn't an app we can use, and often it takes owning mistakes that we don't always feel are our responsibility.

So you aren't marching with the Klan... that doesn't mean you aren't guilty of racial bias and racism.

So you aren't saying people should "keep it at home" or encouraging "reparative therapy"... that doesn't mean you aren't guilty of overlooking LGBTQ needs because of your hetero-normative world.

No one likes to feel guilty. Guilt serves the function of letting you know when you are off track. Guilt is the red flag that signals that something is not right in me and in the world.  There are times that we feel guilty and instead of slowing down and reflecting on what is prompting our guilt signals, we try and squelch whatever experience activated the guilt. Lately, this has meant that those of us who have been calling out the racism we are still experiencing in our communities have been asked to pipe down. We can't make people see too much or feel too much or think too much. We can't remind people that it is 2015 and Eric Garner's family is still wondering how to navigate a new year with the loss of their beloved family member.

You seem so angry and aggressive

You are making this about race when it isn't

Can you focus more on the solution than the problem

You are ruining your reputation by being so hostile

These phrases that folks who continue to talk about race and social justice hear are indications that something is being activated in the people who read and hear our words. We are stirring something up. The request to temper ourselves is a request to lessen the strength of our impact. Did my words offend you? Good. They should. Deaths of unarmed Black boys and men should offend you. Injustice should offend you more than my words reflecting the injustice. 

A couple of days ago a friend saw me for the first time in a while. After she promptly freaked out about me being "SO skinny", a concerned look came over their face. She shifted her feet back and forth waiting for the line to move forward at TJ Maxx and then grabbed my hand. "I want to say this in love. I've seen your posts about Ferguson and all the race stuff... I know you aren't a hateful person." I just stared. And she continued, "I don't think you realize how many people you are alienating. Especially with your "Dear White People" post." I felt my whole body get warm as she squeezed my hand and continued on, "I remember being in my twenties, and being so passionate, but just tone it down a bit, okay? NWA is a small community and I am concerned no one will want to hire you because of your Facebook."

Maybe they won't hire me. But do I want a job with people who require my silence about justice?

I inhaled and looked at the phone cases hanging on the display in the check-out aisle. They were tussled about and damaged from being handled over and over. I looked at her with a controlled smile and I spoke: "It sounds like my feelings about injustice have stirred something up in you... I wonder what it is." She looked jarred. I wondered if she expected me to accept her advice and saunter off. It was clear she most certainly didn't expect me to not take responsibility for how she was reacting to what I had to say online.

She didn't say anything else to me as the cashier gestured she was ready to check me out and I walked away.

Angst, John Brown University, and Gratitude

jasmine banks

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This content originally appeared in the Siloam Springs Herald Leader

 

I landed at John Brown University by happenstance. My first choice didn’t work out because I needed to stay closer to home than New York allowed. I asked my youth leaders if they had an idea on quality Christian schools. Larry and Donna Moore recommended JBU, and raved about their son’s experience. I logged onto the internet, emailed an admissions counselor for a campus tour and the rest is history.

When I arrived at JBU I was in a very interesting transition space in my life. I was heavily involved in my local church and a Christian university education was valuable to me. The thing was that when I arrived at JBU I found myself out of place. My sister and I worked full time jobs and our rough backgrounds made it hard to fit in with a lot of the conservative and homeschooled kids. I began to feel as though I wasn’t the “right kind of Christian” for John Brown University. My liberal ideology and support of my LGBTQ friends and family made it hard for me to meld into the culture. I started to feel isolated, jaded about the goodness of “Christian Community”, and mistrusting of the “JBU type.”

Because I arrived at JBU during a time that I was wrestling with identity, it was easy to assign all my angst on JBU as a global entity. If I struggled with feeling alone it was because I wasn’t “JBU enough”. I am not the only one who has had an experience like this. I’ve had the chance to talk to multiple alumni who report having the same experience. When they found themselves in the same places they felt a desire to reject John Brown University along with all the other cookie cutter Christian identities they’d held dear. I’ve struggled not to be embarrassed to admit that I am a graduate of JBU when some of my first launch into discussions about how closed minded people who attend JBU are.

JBU has become a place I, sometimes, love to hate. If I am honest, though, and we are all honest John Brown University has held the mantel of hope for so many of us. Regardless of whatever problems JBU has and what JBU needs to change, the university does this right: JBU is filled with the most gracious and kind people.

When my brother died Andre Broquard showed up at my brother’s service with my RA. Jackie Wright and Becky Lambert bought me gifts during my first pregnancy. I struggled with how to fit in the undergraduate population while being pregnant and married and Holly Allen sat with me for hours at a time encouraging my journey. Melanie Kennedy and Julie McGarrah cheered me on as I raised a toddler and finished up my requirements for graduation. Frannie O’Neal, Edelyn and Tim in the bookstore, Carla Swearingen, Dave Johnson, Carol Maines, Jennifer Pastoor, Rick Froman... all these people loved me and cheered on my success.

cranky mommy club

It is true that JBU’s campus holds some bigoted and close minded ideals. It is true that people from diverse backgrounds can feel marginalized on the campus and struggle to fit in. What else is also true is that the community at John Brown University is deeply compassionate. The people I have met on this campus wrestle with the tough questions and love fiercely. I am moving pass the period of my life where I need scapegoats. My angst at JBU was and is more about my feelings of insecurity than anything else. If we focus on the broken parts of something we may be too distracted to see the most amazing parts of something. For me, the most amazing parts were the people who invested in me and forever changed my world. I owe them a debt of gratitude. I am thankful to all of you. The future success of my children will be because you helped their mother become a better version of herself. The people I help in my life will be because I was helped by each and every one of you. Your love has been a gift to me and will be the legacy I remember of John Brown University.

 

What My Momma Taught Me About Sexual Orientation

jasmine banks

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blue roundI've never written about this, so I am going to need lots of love and encouragement. I have no doubt there are going to be some haters. There always are. More than anything I sense my growing fear is the rejection of those people that I like and care about... but with authenticity comes risk, so here goes. My first girlfriend's name was Sara. I loved her. She had pale skin and long brown hair with giant green eyes that looked like the color was stolen from the underbelly of a tropical leaf. Her teeth weren't straight. They overlapped a little and her lips would curl back over them as her mouth turned into a smile. We would walk for hours barefoot in the creeks near our homes and would explore the trails around our neighborhood. We shared secrets and held hands. We stole kisses and talked about dreams and were as carefree as two girls with families like ours could be.

As much as I've struggled to come to terms about some of the more dysfunctional things about my childhood I can say with certainty that my mom taught me well concerning sexual orientation. She taught me that I don't have to choose to check a box. I could dig deep into myself and be still. I could listen to what my heart told me. Isaiah, my brother, and I were taught this:

You fall in love with a person, not their gender

I was raised to believe that what makes a person is not their sexual organs or even their gender expression. That lesson afforded me the freedom to discover that I could love and be attracted to all kinds of people, and that the sexual expression that follows connection and love was neither heterosexual or homosexual. It was simply an extension of loving a person and wanting to express that love physically.

Though my story takes a brief pit stop into the world of fundamentalist Christian dogma and a quick dance with shame about my identity, the same truth has always stayed cemented in my heart. It found itself buried under the imposed beliefs of those who taught me "marriage (and true love) is only between a man and a woman", but it wiggled itself free of the dirt of bigotry and grew in spite of the polluted soil. You fall in love with a person, not their gender. 

So I have.

I have fallen in love with girls and one boy. I married the boy. I don't know if it is an anomaly. I don't know if I should have married a girl. I don't know. I don't think about it. I don't feel like I need to extrapolate my choices that way. He asked me to marry him, I loved him, wanted to be in a relationship, and I said yes. We had kids. We built a life. I don't know the answers because I am not interested in taking on  a title or quantifying my connection with people to make myself more understandable to the world. This can get me in trouble. It makes people uncomfortable. "So you are bisexual? Have you ever had sex with a girl? Why did you marry a man? Do you want to leave him for women?" I don't answer these questions. These questions aren't asked because someone cares about my quality of life, the quality of life of the people I love, or ethics.... they ask because someone without borders feels an awful lot like a threat or they are curious.

My mom has known my whole life. My mother-in-law knows, my best friend Sadie knows, my sister-in-law knows, my husband knows, my sister Paige knows, and my kids will know.

And now, I guess, you know.

I don't talk about this much openly because I live in a small town with small minded people. They struggle to understand my interracial marriage, much less a marriage with a member who has a mixed orientation. I was never cut and dry with any kind of definition. My personality, my race, my skill set.. I've always been a "bit of this and a bit of that" but mostly I've been about love and kindness and connection.

I am learning to be okay with it. I hope, one day, the world will too.