Did you read that intriguing Chicago Tribune story about six young black male students who were visiting our beautiful city from prestigious Washington University in St. Louis? Two of the young men were officers of the University’s senior class council. One of them, class treasurer Regis Murayi, had arranged in advance for nearly 175 of his classmates to party at Original Mother’s, the Chicago watering hole immortalized in one of my favorite movies, “About Last Night.” (Don’t barf; I have a romantic drama/comedy fetish.)
When Murayi and five of his black classmates darkened Original Mother’s door, they were denied admission. The reason, according to Murayi: They were wearing baggy pants; two donned backwards baseball caps.
Reportedly, management was afraid of gang violence, and these young men looked like trouble. Even though they explained that they were part of the student group (not to mention that all the folks whooping it up inside trusted one of these young black men with the class treasury), management would not relent. To test whether their attire was the issue, one of the six detainees exchanged pants with a Caucasian classmate. To their outrage, that young man, baggy pants and all, strolled through Original Mother’s door without incident.
For souls who have been judged by the color of the bodies they are wearing, rather than their divine nature, the alleged incident at Original Mother’s comes as no surprise. We have witnessed it happening every day—somewhere in this country we love.
This incident reminded me of a lively telephone conversation I’d had the previous night with my sister-friend Janet. We were bemoaning the complexity of romantic relationships. Janet, formerly a math teacher, now teaches Chinese language and culture.
In the middle of our Venus-Mars discussion, she blurted, “Do you know what I always ask my students on the first day of class: ‘What is the most important word in your vocabulary?’”
Our chat had suddenly whiplashed from male behavior to something much simpler to understand: the Chinese language. Maybe confusion is the common denominator, I thought.
“They shout out everything under the sun: Love, God, peace, faith, forgiveness, joy, charity,” she ranted. “But no one ever gives me the right answer.”
Most of those would have been my guesses. But before I could ask what in the world the word was, Janet shouted with exasperation, “It’s I! I is really the most important word in our vocabulary!
“Why don’t we understand that? How can we value another person if we don’t value ourselves?” she wondered. “Everything starts with I. How we see ourselves and see others ultimately determines what happens to us in life.”
True, that—something the folks at Original Mother’s haven’t yet figured out. Have you noticed that people who don’t value others appear to be singularly focused on the word I: I do not have to respect you, your rights, values, wardrobe, emotions, abilities, intelligence, opinion, job, possessions or your physical body. I am important; you are nothing. What I want is the only thing that matters. I am not bound by the law of reaping and sowing.
These lost souls view this world through what I call the “Visible I,” the most deceptive and myopic eye in the Universe. The directional system of the “Visible I” is extremely limited and highly ineffective. It leads its disciples down a crooked but well-worn path to short term physical, financial or psychological gains before hitting a dead end.
Even when fully functioning, the “Visible I” can’t find its way to the Light. It makes us deny the presence of the “Invisible I am that I am” within us. It dupes us into acting without asking, “How would I want to be treated under the same circumstances?”
You can spot these people in a crowd because they radiate no light; they have no “soular source.” They are solely powered by that fear-mongering mental midget, Ego. And it shows: Their interactions with others are forceful rather than powerful. They intimidate because they don’t have the spiritual strength to inspire or embrace. They lack the spiritual discernment to see others’ value—and honor it.
Original Mother’s management saw black guys, and the “Visible I” instantly painted a sketchy picture in their heads of potential violence. They panicked—not the optimum mode when sound judgment is required.
Actually, the folks at Original Mother’s had every right to be afraid. Regis Murayi is a bona fide gang member, and he was packing. He simply wasn’t packing the weapon that Mother’s management thought. His was more damaging.
Murayi is part of the new generation of Word Warriors. Armed with nothing more than intelligence, truth and an Internet-connected computer, Word Warrior gang members can bring an icon to its knees with their bare hands. Some even do it with two fingers at blazing speeds. And they work in concert with others. Before a misguided bully can audibly whimper, Word Warriors from major media outlets are on the scene, turning their embarrassing short-sightedness into a public spectacle.
And there, spread out like boiled lasagna noodles, are the latest victims, deluded into thinking that they were Word Warrior road kill. They were not. They simply underestimated a Word Warrior’s intelligence, resources and ability to wrestle injustice to the ground and pin illegal or unethical behavior to the mat. Ultimately, they were laid waste by their “Visible I.”
This day, every card carrying member of the Word Warrior gang is bursting with pride and admiration for young Regis Murayi, who fearlessly scribed his divine right to be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. In a brilliantly written essay on the Chicago Tribune website, he nimbly mangled Original Mother’s public image, exposing the bar’s management as racist—a blight on the reputation of any business that caters to non-racist consumers.
He’s received additional aid from the Worldwide Word Warrior Web. Thanks to the social media and the blogosphere, Original Mother’s short-lived encounter with six African American men from Washington University will live in infamy for years. Imagine Word Warriors blogging about the incident, mentioning Original Mother’s so many times that stories about alleged racism at the bar on Rush and Division will rise to the top of the online search results. Already, many of those posts have made it to the first page of results. Yesssss!
Who knows? Original Mother’s latest story might even take on a life of its own—heaven forbid, in another cool movie.
The moral of this story: Always question your motivations and listen to the tone of your inner voice. Is it loving and respectful? Does it encourage you to look beneath the surface appearance before judging others? Does it direct you to only do what you would want done to you? Are you viewing the world and its inhabitants through the eyes of the ego-driven “Visible I” or the eternal “Invisible I am that I am?”
Allowing the “Visible I” to guide you is an option you can choose through free will; but the “Visible I” lacks the peripheral vision and depth perception required to successfully navigate your path, long term. Just when you become smug because you’ve managed to avoid the minefield of consequences from your actions—you step on the wrong one.