Workshop, it was fabulous. But I'm tired and I just want to go home. And so, apparently, there's some kind of storm activity or some mechanical problems. So that evening, I go to catch my flight, they say it's canceled and that I have to fly the next day. And so, I'm really bummed out because home is where I want to be. And so, I'm a little bit frustrated, but I can handle that. So they give me a voucher to go to a hotel. I go to a hotel just to have a night's sleep and prepare for the next morning. My flight's supposed to leave at 7:10. And so, I get up the next morning about 5:30 because I have to return the rental car. So I didn't get a whole lot of sleep, and sleeping in smoky hotels isn't necessarily the best way to start your day.
But at any rate... So I go to the hotel. I took the rental car back. I'm going back to the airport, and my 7:00 flight is canceled. Now, it was canceled the night before, and now it's canceled again at 7:00 am. And so, the next flight out that I can take to Milwaukee is at ten o'clock. So having no other choice, I go there. Now, I really want to get home, and I'm starting to get a little hot into the collar. But then I remember the thing that I always talk about. Right?
So I'm practicing what I preach at this point, because this is where the rubber meets the road, that people are doing the best they can with what they have to do their job and that there's dignity and honor in being human. I always say that. That's like my mantra. Right? I mean, you've heard me say that here, as well as other places. Right?
So I say that all the time, "There is dignity and honor in being human." But here is an opportunity for me to... I'm being challenged on this. Right? So how do I deal with this craziness of being stuck? So my flight leaves at 10:00. I get on the flight and I'm going to Milwaukee, and I'm saying this whole mantra of, "There is dignity and honor of being human."
So we land in Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee flight to Minneapolis is also canceled. So now, I'm in Milwaukee, I finally made it out of Indianapolis. I'm in Milwaukee, it is currently now 11:00. The next flight doesn't leave until 4:00. Now, I don't know about you, but these long layovers drive me crazy. So now I have to wait until 4:00.
Well, as it gets closer, they actually delayed the flight because there is another flight from California that needs to catch this flight. So now we are not leaving until 6:00 pm. Now, at this point, everything that I have in me is being tested. Right? I'm really frustrated. I don't have any food coupons, all of the stuff. So I just wait around. 6:00 comes, board the plane, get to Minneapolis and they're holding. I mean, they really put you...
You can feel the G forces. Your face is like Botox central or something. So we're blazing on the trail to Minneapolis. We get to Minneapolis and we are ahead of schedule. The only problem is, there is somebody at our gate. We got there too early. So we have to spend about an hour on the tarmac before we could get off the plane to Minneapolis.
Now, by this time, everything... I've been tested and tried and I've really been trying to keep a good attitude. But I get a little bit snippy and I request two bags of pretzels and a full can of soda. I'm getting back at them. Right? So I have that stuff and I finally get off the plane, and my first inclination was to give everybody at AirTran a piece of my mind.
And that would have been my reward. Had I given everybody a piece of my mind, they would have known how dissatisfied I was, how much they inconvenienced me and all that kind of stuff. But then, that still small voice at the back of my head said that they were doing the best they could with what they had to get you to your destination.
And so, I listened to that voice and I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. I just kind of... I said, "That was a learning experience. Something great may happen out of this, or maybe I was supposed to learn patience." Because that is how you learn it, by practicing. Right? And so, I just kind of left that alone and didn't talk about it to a whole bunch of folks.
And then I got a letter from the mail from AirTran. Now, these were the folks who kept me waiting and all of this kind of stuff. So I got this letter from AirTran and the letter said, "We apologize for the inconvenience that we have caused you." Now, I didn't say anything. Right? So they sent me this letter, "We apologize for the inconvenience. We understand the importance of you getting home, blah, blah, blah..."
These were all things I'm thinking and they are saying them to me. Right? "And because we want to keep you as a valuable customer, we want to send you on a round trip flight with a ticket to any place that AirTran travels, any place. Within the next year, you can go anywhere." Now, my first inclination would have been to tell these people off and give them a piece of my mind. And that, probably, would just get extra peanuts.
And it is really interesting that I would have got the satisfaction of giving them a piece of my mind. That would have been my reward. But I held my peace and I understood that they were doing the best that they could. And I got a totally different and more beautiful and more special reward.
Pause today, pause today. And when you have that first inclination to make that move, pause and just sit back, take a deep breath and think about what lessons could be learned and what's your reward. I'm Andre Koen, until next time.
It's 7:00. My mother gets us ready for bed, and she does three things before we go to bed. She makes sure that we've brushed our teeth, that we've washed behind our ears, and she makes sure that we get a big spoonful of cod liver oil. Yuck! Seven at 7. So, she'd line us up every night before we went to bed and made sure those three things happened. We brushed our teeth, washed behind our ears and got a big spoon of cod liver oil. Fast forward 30 years. Before I go to bed, what do you think I do? I brush my teeth, I wash behind my ears, and I do not drink cod liver oil. But why do you think I do those things 30 years later? Because those things have become a part of what I do. They've become a habit.
But how do we structure, how do we get habits? We get habits through routines. Because I did those things on a regular basis, I did those things on a regular basis, they became a habit. So we know that a habit is a learned pattern of behavior that's become automatic, but what is a routine? A routine is a cognitive, something that you think about. It is also something that is scheduled, so it is a cognitive scheduled behavior that we do on a regular basis. And we do that so much that it becomes a habit.
So if you have bad habits, what does that mean about your routines? You once had bad routines. Smokers, when they first start out, have to think about buying and getting cigarettes until it becomes a habit, and they don't have to think about it.
It's funny, Kung Fu fighters and Wing Chung masters and boxers and athletes, they practice these moves over and over and over and over again. They go through drills. They exercise their mind, thinking this thing through. They stretch. They prepare. They do all of these things so that when game time comes it has become a habit.
Whatever you do on a regular basis, that you're cognitively thinking about, something that is important to you, those things become your habits. Be careful what routines you set because that's a powerful thing, because those routines will become your habits, and those habits become the sum total of your behavior. And your behavior is what people see about how you act.
So I don't do a whole lot of shout outs to different companies or what not, because they don't give me... I don't get any endorsements from them, right? But there is a place that I absolutely love at the Mall of America. That's a plug. All right, and its Nordstrom Rack. I'm a shoe dude. I don't know if you... I like shoes. Shoes are like... I don't know, I think they make... Shoes and belts, shoes and belts make an outfit. It doesn't... If you got nice shoes and a good belt, you got an outfit.
So I'm at Nordstrom Rack and I'm in the shoe aisle. And their shoe aisles are amazing, because it is like the Matrix. So you stand and it is just like rows of shoes everywhere. I love the shoe aisle. So I'm standing in the shoe aisle and I'm trying to find the perfect shoe on... I'm hunting for big game, right? So I'm in the shoe aisle and in the next aisle, I hear a bunch of teenagers and they're using the "N" word.
They are referring to each other in a... Using the "N" word. Right? Now, the "N" word is very confusing for white people because they are like, Why is it bad for me to say, but black people call themselves that all the time." Well, let me just tell you, not all black people call themselves that and you still can't say it. I mean like there are things that you... Somebody... You can talk about your mama and you can talk about cousins, but nobody else can talk about your cousin and your mama, right? But we'll get back to the "N" word later in the story.
But at any rate, so the kids were calling each other the "N" word back and forth. And, "What's up, man?" And, "Hey, man," and "Aw, man..." Like that, right? And so much so, that they weren't catching a breath in between using the "N" word. So as a stand up member of the community, a diversity trainer, a person out to make sure that our young people are engaged in positive activity, I said to myself, "If they say it one more time, I will say something."
Yeah. So guess what happened? They said it one more time. Now, I don't know about you, but I personally am not afraid of kids. Right? Because I can... But I do have a respect for young people, and I know sometimes they can get out of hand. Right? So I try to interact with everyone that I interact with in very positive ways. And so, I kind of garnered up my courage and because I said I was going to walk over there, I decided to follow through because something I want to follow through, right?
So I decided to follow through. So I walked over there and I kind of stand over there and I say, "Excuse me, would you guys mind not using the "N" word?" And they stopped, just stopped. And one of the bigger boys of the group kind of parts the group and he comes face to face to with me. And so, I kind of puff my chest a little bit and he puffs his chest a little bit. And I kind of lift my chin and he kind of lift his chin, and I kind of brace myself and he kind of leans a little bit because he was taller than I was.
I used to wrestle in high school so I know how to... I did restraints when I work in residential treatment centers so I know what to do, right? So I'm ready. And he looks over at me and he kind of clears his throat and he looks down at me and he says, "Yes, sir." Not quite what I was expecting. So he says, "Yes, sir," and he turns back around. So I mean, outside I was cool. All right, thank you. All right, good, good.
On the inside I was like, "Wow! We made a difference!" Right? And I wouldn't think that was amount. What was going on there? I mean, these are kids that folks would label them thugs or gangsters or be afraid of. And what did I do to those kids? Well, it's been made very clear to me that everybody needs direction and everybody has goals and desires. At the same time, everybody wants to be accountable to somebody for something.
Will those kids go off and use the "N" word in public and with each other? Probably. Will those kids think about their behavior out in the public? More than likely, they will. Did I change the world? No, I didn't change the world. However, what I did do was make them accountable for being a part of a community. I hear people say, "Well, we got to take back our communities, and we got to do this to our communities and snatch these back from other folks."
No, all we really have to do is have standards on our community. We have to stand up and say these are things that are not acceptable and these are things that are acceptable, and we can be in this together. Could I preach to those kids? Yeah, I could preach to them. "That word is a bad word. Don't use that word, blah, blah, blah." But no, I didn't choose to go that route because priest speech, so forth and so on.
But what I did say to them was that I have some standards, and I respect you and I want you to respect me, too. So what is it that you stand for?
Sunday. Oh, church all day. But you know what? I'm feeling a little spunky. So, I'm like I'm going to gamble on Jesus. I'm going to "Come on, Jesus, come on." All right? And so, I go asked my dad and I said, "Dad, can I borrow the car?" And what does my dad say? He says, "No." Not only does he say no but he gives me a lecture on top of it. No would have been just enough but he is like knowing... All these kinds of stuff. And so, I take all that and so I say my dad has what kind of an attitude? A bad attitude or a negative attitude. And consequently, what did he say about my attitude? That I have a negative or bad attitude. So, what is it that actually determines an attitude? Perspective? It starts with G and ends in O. Your goal dictates your attitude.
Think about some of your employees, right? When they have that attitude, it is clear what? What's clear? That they're not... That work is interfering with their goal. I remember working in a couple of places and people are like, "Man, if I haven't had to work today, I would be doing this or that other thing." Guess what I have told him? "Go do it. Quit bugging me and go do what your goal is because you won't be happy. As a matter of fact, you make the rest of us miserable."
And so, attitude is a symptom. So, if I see someone with attitude and I deal with kind of a special team in infant, right? Minnesota family investment program and so I'm dealing with social workers and they deal with people who have lots of attitude. And so, one of the things that we know that if we have a person that is giving us a lot of attitude, it is obvious that they are not what?
Meeting their goal. So, when we have someone with an attitude, what is the first thing we have to find out to be able to be hopefuls in them? What's your goal? What's your goal? And I'm sure we all have been to a department store and either had a problem with an item or it didn't fit or you got a lot of complaints with the warranty or what not. And you have those people who are not listening to you at the customer service pieces and we'll just give you coupons. No, I don't want coupons or we'll just give you 50% off of that. No, I don't want 50%. This is funny, right? So, I had a dog that is a Chow Chow. Is anyone familiar with a Chow Chow? All right. So, they are really fluffy and they have a black tongue and curly tail and Cassius, that was my boy. Oh, Cassius, I love my dog Cassius, right?
So, we go to a... So, Cassius... I forgot what happened but his hair got a little mad because if you don't comb it like in on a regular basis, it will be tangled. So, I decided this is summer time. Oh, this is... So, it's summer time and we are going to get those tangles out. Well, my girlfriend at the time was like, "Well, I'll cut his hair." I'm like "It doesn't sound like a good idea." But she can piss him, right?
So, I come home and I look at my dog and he looks a little different. And she was like, "Well, I can fix it." I was like "No, let's just take it somewhere. You done way too much work already. I'm sure it was tiring. Let's just have somebody else do it, right?" So, Io take him over to PetSmart. Now, I thought PetSmart knew what they were doing first of all, right? So, we take him over to PetSmart and so, I gave him specific instructions.
I say, "Look, obviously, this is a Chow and I'm wanting him to keep that Mayan look. So, I know, just nick over here and nick over her. Cut that part down and leave the rest so leave his tail bushy and leave his head bushy. I know he is going to look goofy but that is what I want, right?" And so, I leave the dog. That same day, I actually have dental. I have a dental procedure that was going to be done, right? So, I dropped the dog off.
I go get my dental procedure done and then, they call me and tell me that my dog is ready. So, I go in to go pick up my dog and I had a cavity filled. So, I still had... My mouth was still numb and so, nothing is working. So, it was easier instead of biting my tongue, it was easier for me to like this. So, my tongue was contained and what do you all think? Now, I do not want to be alarmed but I'm African American.
And there's something about talking like this as an African American that is extremely intimidating to white people. So, I'm already like this and so, I'm looking for my dog and I cannot find him. And I see this lamb. I see this little lamb running around the pet store and I'm like... Right? So, I realize that they have shaved my dog completely. And so, I'm talking to the guy and he's like "That would be $74." No, no $74 here.
So, I'm like talking like this, "What is going..." My girlfriend is going to kill me because I just put it off on her, right? Because she is not there and it's easy to do. "She is going to kill me. I got to put up with this woman." So, at this point, I have decided I'm not paying for this haircut but they are trying to make me pay for the haircut. And I'm like this is not happening.
And so, finally, the manager comes and he's like "Sir, I understand that you are upset." I'm like "I'm not upset. I'm not upset. All I just want... I'm not paying for this." He was like "OK, Sir, well, how do we work this out?" And so, they brought me like mugs and cups and all sorts. Everyone is crazy that I walk out with bags, fancy stuff.
But I was never satisfied because I left specific instructions and I wanted them to hear that they not follow those instructions. And so, I had an attitude and guess what? I've never gone back to PetSmart. Right? And I will not go to PetSmart. As a matter of fact, I might right a Facebook posting about how to boycott, no I am just kidding.
So, those are some things to remember in terms of how to talk with people and things that I have learned from my classmates. So, this is me as a new baby. Wasn't I cute? And this is... That's me and that's my brother Will and my sister Krystal. And it is really funny. Krystal has five kids and two girls. Krystal was bald and her two daughters were also bald which is just like weird.
Her boys have full heads of hair. It's interesting and then this is my grandmother and my grandfather. This is my Uncle John and this is my Uncle Waldo and this is my Dad William. And this is my family. This is our Cosby years. If you look more closely, you can see Theo, Vanessa and other staff. And I said that at one thing and one of the kids, "You were really in the Cosby?" "No."
And so, OK, I love Facebook and I hate Facebook all at the same time. Love it and hate it, right? I love it because I have put my persona on Facebook. And I'm a highly evolved individual, right? So, I do vermicultures so I have worms that you may compost to in my kitchen. I eat organic. I do yoga. I do landscaping. I'm highly evolved. But Facebook... People keep putting up pictures that are blowing my image.
And so, this is one of those pictures that I have forgotten about and hope it would just go away. And as a friend of... It's a picture of my friend, Samesha, and I at a concert and Samesha is holding a boozie, a semi automatic weapon in her left hand and I'm holding a double barrel soft air shotgun to Sharon's head. Sharon's in the middle and Sharon is like "Oh, my goodness" because that is cute for some reason. I know that could be scary but let me put it in context because the context will make it equally as scary, right?
So, we were at a concert and I don't know if the band sings, it doesn't matter but the name of the band kind of give you the spirit of the event. And we were at the concert by a band called Public Enemy, right? So, Public Enemy. So, we were fighting the power and also, I have to apologize because in this picture, I'm also sagging my pants. We kind of started that in the late 80's and early 90's of the second instinct and I just...
We did not know the... Pandora's box that we open because now people... They are showing their boxers. They are showing their trump stamps. It's just crazy all the stuff that they are showing that. And so... But that was it. And I thank God that I don't have to be who I used to be. That I can learn changing growth but there's one thing that you must know about me that is extremely important that is a theme of this picture.
And that is I am my father's son.
I remember when I was 13 and I was really kind of getting into myself. I was really proud of growing up and being independent and able to do things on my own, and all sorts of stuff. And this is going to sound kind of nasty, but I had an ingrown hair in my thigh, right? And it was really kind of concerning me because it was just horrible.
And I remember I went to my mom and I asked her, "Mom, I got this thing on my leg and it's...aagh!" And all that kind of stuff. We were standing in the kitchen and she said "Show me." And I looked at her and I dropped my pants. I mean my pants and my underwear. I mean I just dropped them. All of the self pride and dignity that I had as a 13 year old, being proud of being independent and on my own and able to do things, went out the window when I needed help.
I didn't really care that I was standing in the kitchen. I didn't care that I had dropped my pants and my underwear. I didn't care that I was showing my mom some of my most intimate parts, because I needed help. Sometimes, we get so caught up in ourselves and being proud and being boastful in who we've become and what we've done. But sometimes, we are not able to humble ourselves enough to get the help that we need.
On that day, I learned a lesson. That I should never get too big or too proud not to drop my pants.
I'm at the grocery store and I'm standing in line. It's one of those just kind of typical days at the grocery store, and just running in to grab something at the deli. So I'm standing in line and there's a woman in front of me. Who is, what my grandmother would call, acting ugly. Right? So this woman is huffing and puffing, she's folding her arms [makes huffing sound] and kind of mumbling under her breath a little bit. Because in front of her there was a woman who had a basket full of groceries. A cart full of groceries she had four kids she spoke limited english. And I want to say her predominant language was spanish, right.
So she's trying to negotiate with the cashier and getting her groceries in. And these four kids are just kind of all over the place and they're in the candy aisle. So they're trying to sneak stuff into the cart she's trying to put it back. She's trying to get her stuff taken care of. And the woman behind her, which is the woman in front of me, is just acting ugly. But it's quite embarrassing, right? So I'm standing there, and I'm like ooh, I'm a diversity trainer. I've got my PowerPoint in the car. I can do my presentation because I know what this situation's about. This is a diversity moment!
No. That doesn't make sense. So I scrap that idea. And then something occurs to me. Bing, and I think about when I was a classroom teacher. One of the things that my students taught me, because they taught me way more than I think I ever taught them. The one thing that I learned from my students was this. And so I went and used this tactic. So the woman is huffing and puffing and folding her arms and tapping her feet and mumbling under her breath.
And all of a sudden I do this: [exasperation sound] . Now what happens when I do that? Her behavior stops. Why? Well, it's very clear, as much as people want to be on America's Top Idol, model whatever. Nobody wants to be watched. When she realized that someone was watching her, she became conscious of herself. We call that cognitive dissonance. I offered her a different way to analyze herself. To look at herself, and say is this the kind of behavior that I want to exhibit.
Now, did this woman, will she do this ever again, I don't know. But what I was able to give her was a gift, that all too often we don't give people. Which is cognitive dissonance. I stopped her in her tracks and allowed her space to think about her behavior. Well it's very interesting. We get that same kind of cognitive dissonance when we look in the mirror. Right? We look in the mirror and when things on the outside don't align with things that we think about ourselves. Have you ever looked in the mirror and go, oh my goodness, I've been looking like this all day? Cognitive dissonance. The mirror isn't talking to you, it's showing you who you are and what you are.
All too often we don't create enough cognitive dissonance for ourselves and we certainly don't provide it for other people. Now I'm not talking about telling people about themselves. But I'm offering that we need to show people in an injective way. The kinds of things and ways in which they show themselves and the world.
Did that woman's parents teach her how to act ugly? I would say no. So how did she get that way? She became less aware of herself, of others and hated herself. And so we have to offer cognitive dissonance. Just like the mirror, just like the coughing. So that people can stop and think. We don't think enough, we don't think enough.
New Car SMell
Why is it so difficult to change? I said a New Year's resolution. I started a diet. I stuck to it. I started an exercise regimen. I was working on it. Why is it so difficult to change? One word, gravity. Now, I know. What does gravity have to do with change, right? Gravity is a scientific term. What does that have to do with my social well being or even philosophy for that matter? Gravity, gravity, gravity.
First of all, what is gravity? Gravity is a force that pulls. It's something that keeps us on the earth. Without gravity we would fly off into...float off into space, right? Gravity was discovered by Newton, the falling of the apple, all that kind of stuff, the force that pulls.
Now, one of the basic premises of gravity is this. Well, actually there's two and they're related, right? They counter balance each other. So gravity is a force that pulls. One of the basic premises of that concept of gravity is that the larger the mass of an object the stronger the pull and that larger objects pull on smaller objects. So, larger objects pull on smaller objects. So, the larger the object the stronger the pull, the smaller the object the smaller the pull. Gravity, right? That's the basic concept.
For example, if I'm flying out in space and there are two planets and one is just this huge planet and this other one's just this teeny, tiny little planet, which will my ship be drawn to? Based on the principles of gravity, it will go to the larger planet, right? It's almost automatic even though I've got thrusters and all this kind of stuff. So I will be drawn to that larger planet.
Back to the original question, why, oh why, oh why is it difficult to change? It's difficult to change because the old habits that we have are very similar to that large planet. They have a strong gravitational pull on us. We try to do things different, but that gravitational pull is so strong that we fire our jets, our engines and our space ship, and we try to go to this new planet. But when we run out of gas, we have to cut back. What happens? We float right back to that old behavior or those old habits or that old planet with the big gravity.
And so, a lot of us, we think positive. We're doing positive affirmations. We're doing all of these things, and our ship keeps floating back to this old way of being. So, Andre, what do we do? I mean, how do we change that? Well, one of the things we have to understand is that this is just a metaphor that I'm using and that in this metaphor... Well, let's just do this.
I'll tell you this story, right? I took my car in for service, and while I'm at the service place they say, well, why don't you test drive one of our cars? I'm like, no, no, no. I don't want to. I don't need to do that. And they're like, no, really, just test drive one of the cars. And so, while I'm waiting, I'm like, this seems like a great idea. So, I get in the car, and oh man, let me tell you.
I don't know if you've ever bought a new car or a car that's new to you, but they are absolutely ‑ I mean they lay it out, right? You sit in the seat and it's so comfortable. It is just amazing, right?
The ergonomics of the steering wheel and the shifter and all that kind of ‑ it just...ooh, feels good.
And it's clean. I mean just sparkling clean. The stereo works. There's no crackling. And it's like you've got like 30 million speakers surrounding you, like you're in Orchestra Hall and turn up the [sings] , all of that stuff.
You're sitting in the car like "ooh", and they even have their own fragrance. Yes. New cars have their own fragrance. And so you get in the car and you're like and then you're like "oh", and just peaceful. Where I go, they always have it turned to the classical station so it's like, [makes sound] . And it's feeling good and everything is clean and it's working and it's driving smooth and it's just oh...it's amazing. Absolutely amazing.
And then I return the car. Yes. Because my car's done, it's time for me to go home. I had my fantasy and all that kind of stuff.
So I just experienced this new car. I experienced the smells and the feeling and the sounds of this new car. And then I get in my Saturn. Now, mind you, I love my Saturn. Love it. But it's not new. Because when I turn on the stereo, like two of the speakers work but only if I turn the bass all the way down. Otherwise [makes deep sound] , so that's that.
And then, one of my...so, you know when you do the squirt for the windshield wipers, one of the things trickles a little bit but the other one squirts out gallons, like [makes swoosh sound] . So like, I'm filling that sucker up like every time it rains. And so there's that.
And, I have a bad habit of eating in my car, so there's...yeah, OK, so you can see that.
And so I'm a little dissatisfied with my Saturn. Great car. Great car. But I'm a little dissatisfied. What happened?
One of the things that car dealers know that you and I need to realize about ourselves is that when I have this planet of old behavior over here that gravity can take care of the rest of my decision‑making. I'm drawn to this because it's the largest piece.
And so what car dealers do for you and I when we go there is, they want to make that car so appealing, they want to make that new behavior, if you will, so beautiful, so colorful, that it tantalizes all of our senses so that we become dissatisfied with the old planet.
You see, one of the things that if we want to make a change and why it's so difficult is because we're not dissatisfied with this old planet. We're not dissatisfied with our old behaviors. When we start seeing the beauty of what these new behaviors have to offer, we get to see how big and vast this new planet can be ‑ of opportunities, of choices, of ways of living ‑ that we become dissatisfied with the old.
So, once I decide and I create a new attitude and I create new routines and habits and ways of thinking and seeing the world in a different way, I can't go back to that old planet. Even if I wanted to. Because now, gravity has kicked in. And so my ship starts to float towards this new behavior.
I just want to know, what planet are you going to be on?
I want to eat
I'm starting to get a sense of how women feel sometimes when they go places, right? Because while I'm in this restaurant, I'm looking for signs of safety. I'm looking at the exits. I'm looking at who's in the restaurant and all this stuff. So, I walk into the restaurant, and I sit down at the bar. It's, I don't know, it's probably about 10:30 almost 11:00. I had a lot of errands to do, so I just thought I'd just run in and grab a bite to eat. And so, I'm sitting there and what I notice is there's a guy at the end of the bar, and this guy is drunk, I mean, just toasted, red nose, slurred speech, the whole nine. And it's not even noon yet.
So, I'm sitting there, and I notice this guy. I don't know about you, but I always have to aware of drunk people around me. So, I'm aware of this guy. And so, I'm sitting there and I get my menu and I'm looking at the menu and chit chatting with the bar staff and all this kind of stuff. I make my decision. I fold my menu. I give it to the bar staff.
In that short amount of time, the guy that was at the end of the bar is now sitting next to me. And so, I don't know how you are about drunk people, but I'm always aware of them. And so, in my processing there were two things that became real clear to me. One was that this place, he considers home because he's this drunk this early in the morning.
The second thing that occurred to me was that the bar staff, the people who work there know this dude because they wouldn't let him get this drunk otherwise. So, the dude's sitting next to me. We start talking about man stuff, scratching and spitting and we're men. And then, he breaks into the thousus of why he came to sit next to me.
He sits there and he looks over at me in the middle of our conversation. He says, "You know what? I don't like the "n" word." Now, he did not say the "n" word. He actually said that derogatory terms that many of your grandparents refer to as Brazil nuts, what they call Brazil nuts.
That's what he said, the "n" word, the derogatory word that people don't say. The word that white people get confused about because if they say it, it's bad and they think that when black people say it, it's cool or good. That word, the "n" word, the word you're not supposed to say. He says it to me in the bar.
And so, he says I don't like the "n" word. My first reaction is, what do I say to that? What a heck of an introduction. So, he's sitting there and he says I don't like the "n" word, and so I try to change the subject. I say, hey, let's talk about baseball. Let's talk about the team. And something in my spirit said, well, go back to that. Ask him some questions.
And so, I asked him some follow up questions. I said, well, when you talk about the "n" word as you describe those folks, how would you describe them? What would you say about those "n" folks? What do you really mean when you say the "n" word?
And he said, well, when I talk about the "n" word, I'm thinking ghetto, uneducated, illiterate, uncouth. So, he has this whole litany of bad things of what it means to be the "n" word.
And so, I asked him, do you know any white people who would fit that description that he gave, ghetto, uncouth, illiterate, blah, blah, blah, and he looks at me and he goes, yeah.
And so I say, how about baseball? Let's talk about baseball. And so, we start talking about baseball again and he leans over to me. And he says, you know what? I don't like the "n" word but I like you. This is one of those mixed compliments that I'm never quite sure what to do with. It's kind of like, in spite of the fact of what you are, I like you. So, I wasn't quite sure what to do with this. I'm like, what do you say to that?
And so, I just ask him a follow‑up question. I say, "Well, what is it about me that you like?" And he says to me, "Well, you are well spoken. You seem educated. You've got just a great personality." And so, he came up with another list of pretty good things about me.
And so, I turned to him and say, "Well, what if all of the people that you have met, that you described as that N word. What if all of those people that you've met were idiots? What if they were all idiots? And everybody else that you haven't met yet is just like me." And he looked and he turns to me and he looks and he says, "I got to pee." So, he stumbles out to the restroom and I'm great.
I'm so excited. I'm ready to go. I'm just like oh, yes, we're on a good note and that I can get out of here, right? Now, I don't know if this has ever happened to you but it certainly happened to me. Every time that I go to leave, there is not bar staff anywhere. There is no restaurant staff anywhere. And they are taking their time but I figured out the secret.
So, what I did was I took my keys out of my pocket and I jingle them and it is so funny, they seem to run like Pavlov's dog when they think I'm about to leave, right? So, I finally get the check and I'm excited. I'm about to leave and the guy is coming out of the bathroom at the same time. But there's something different about him, this particular time.
I mean I'm looking at him and he's got droplets of water on his face. He has his hair combed over and he just seems a little more sober. I mean it is just crazy. He was like... I almost had to ask myself, is this the same dude, right? So, he walks over to me and he has this damp paper towel. And he leans over to me and he says, "My name is Ron. If you ever need fresh eggs, give me a call."
Now what did you say to that, right? So, I take the towel and say, "Thank you, Ron. My name is Andre and hopefully, I will see you around." And I went my way and he went his way. Now, what do you think the lesson was in that story which is a true story, by the way? Yeah, often times, when we tell our folks that we would say our races or bigotry, we right them off.
I mean what I have been within my rights to give this guy a piece of my mind. You don't call me that and we are... And just gone after him with both barrels. Would I have been within my rights? Tons of people would say yes.
And in another situation, I might agree with that. However, had I gone off on that guy, had I given that guy a piece of my mind, what would have been the result? I would have confirmed every negative thing that he thought about people who hear things look like me.
So, I'm not asking you to do what I do. I'm not saying that you have to take things that are outside of yourself, that you have to put yourself at risk or not being respected. But what I will offer you and what I will challenge you is to oftentimes try and see what the lesson is. I don't know if I have changed that man's life forever. He may feel the same way. He may still use those words.
But one thing I do know is that the next time he goes to use that word, the next time he goes to interact with someone who he thinks looks just like me, he will think about the encounter that we had. It is my hope that he'll make better and different decisions. What do people say about your life in your encounters?
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I work for Anoka County. We have been doing a number of videos as teasers for a number of our hard to reach communities of color. Let me know what you think about this approach.
Andre's purpose is to reconnect people to their Dignity and Honor in Being Human.