While conversing with a woman connected to the organization I work for in Miami-Dade, PACT (People Acting for Community Together), our talk shifted from small to large and sometimes controversial topics. As we progressed, she revealed that 20 years of her professional career was spent working in public housing. This sister of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated went from being an intern to an administrator, learning much along the way and forming an affinity for justice, a process that started many years before as she is a product of the segregated south.
In our talk about housing, I inserted my personal opinion, something organizers are discouraged to do in a field where our job is to work for the people and not our personal agenda. At that particular moment, in my “I have only been here for seven months but I have Miami-Dade all figured out” voice, I stated “the housing issue in Miami-Dade is just awful, to have more than 257,000 families paying 50-70% of their income in housing is not right.” Although, I do have that problem of inserting my often generalized feelings or projecting thoughts that exist mostly in Flose-world out onto the public, my frustration with housing in Miami-Dade is supported with data.
Anyway, part of this sister’s, who has lived in the county and has seen it evolve, response was “it’s the Hispanics and the Haitians” and she began a thought about mass emigration to the most southern state which a flight attendent interrupted as we were on our way to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a conference at Xavier University.
It’s the Hispanics and Haitians. It’s the Hispanics and Haitians who have put pressure on public housing in Miami-Dade. Interesting. Such a quick insertion immediately shot a bolt of tension to my brain. In a more informal setting, I would have challenged her. However, I held on to that tension and asked myself a question, “Flose, why the tense brain?”
Good question self, was it not you who made an observation to me just a couple of months ago that Miami’s infrastructure is suffering in part because of immigration. Well, yes but I don’t like how she said it’s the Hispanics and Haitians.
Come on, Flose. You work in Miami. Some of the largest groups of immigrants have come from your home country, Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Canada, and the list goes on, so what’s the source of that tension.
Let me turn my attention to you, kind reader. Do you have siblings? If not, you lucky duck, but even if you don’t have other humans who you grew up in close proximity with, shared hand-me-downs with, and had silly fights over things like the last piece of mom’s favorite dish, you must have at least a friend or an individual who you hold dear. Now, have you ever criticized that person, been in a fight? Maybe noticed something they could be doing better to increase quality of life or happiness. Okay, great. And you did it because you care, right–or let’s hope and say that’s why. Have you ever been in a situation where an outsider, by outsider I mean someone who isn’t your sibling or that friend, criticized the same trait or behavior. Growing up, when other people criticized my siblings, it made me tense automatically. Although, I knew how annoyingly pesky they could be, that outsider doesn’t know Andy and Fanfan like I do, so maybe their criticism is mean spirited which meant it was not welcomed.
It was through that same lens that Sister’s comment, which is rooted in truth, hit my ears. Therefore, something which I have reflected on as I am armed with the difficult task of organizing in such a complicated city, felt was offensive and I refused to swallow the pill. In my defense, I don’t swallow many pills, I’m much of a hippie that way. But worry not, I have enough of an elementary education to know I should vaccinate my children if God decides I’m mature enough to cultivate life someday.
I share this short anecdote because I think it’s important for me and my peers to learn to swallow a useful pill even if it’s given by an outsider. It might make you feel rocky at first, but allow yourself to digest the pill because truth is what it is whether it comes from a smiling or a cutting tongue. Luckily, this sister’s intent was not to cut but to give me perspective on the housing crisis th
That’s why I watch FoxNews, because through all that mindless idiocy, sometimes there is a truth I need to swallow and work through. Do not become so consumed in your world that you fail to set triggered fight feelings aside for the advancement of your community or movement. There is much to be learned from tension, so get out there and swallow some pills!
Side effects of this post include feelings of disagreement, intellectual trauma, and the need to continue a longer conversation as there are missing perspectives from my views.