A Lesson in Respecting Elders

I graduated from Cornell business school about two months ago, and I’m on the job hunt. During my time, I’ve accumulated some debt and I’m feeling on fire. Unlike some financial advisors, I don’t believe that school debt/college loans are unnecessary debt; I think that school is a way to level the playing field for certain groups of people, namely minorities (women, POC, LGBTQIA, and First-Gen graduates) and going to college should be seen as an investment, not a cost. While I’m not sure when or how I’ll clear my debt, I’m optimistic that it’ll be sooner rather than later. I’m still trying to figure out to write about my conquest without TMI so bare with me while I figure out how to share it all.

I also moved back home about two weeks ago – moving to Little Rock went from being a back up plan to being a part of a master plan. This is the first time that I will attempt to live in Little Rock as an adult. The most striking thing that has occurred in the last two weeks — Black Arkansans open disdain for “gays.”

Most of these negative comments about the queer came from the age 50+ crowd, causing me to ponder the question: what exactly does respecting elders mean? I heard this a lot in the black community that I grew up and currently live in. I, like most Black kids, was taught not to “talk back” to my elders, which pretty much consisted of not saying anything mildly offense to a senior adult. A number of the older Little Rock Blacks remember not having basic civil rights, participated in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and witnessed the Central High Crisis of 1957, all of which make them the products of an unimaginable oppression. And like most southern, Black communities, the center of their world was the Black Church. The Black Church provided hope during slavery, acted as a hiding place during the Underground Railroad, fed and motivated during the Great Depression, and organized during the Civil Rights Movements. Today, the Black Church continues to be the “source of knowledge” for many southern Blacks. Questions about health, finances, job/career advice, and fashion trends are all asked and answered at a Black Church.

The majority of the Black churches in Arkansas have openly come out against same-sex marriage.The unwillingness to re-evaluate the Biblical text for meaning, or cultural appropriations is my issue with the Black Church. The disapproval of organized religion has become clear to me now. Black communities depend on pastoral leadership in order to make decisions about their own faith, but moving beyond the beliefs of the Church is not only frowned upon, but also openly judged and ostracized.

Taking a closer look at the meaning of “respecting my elders,” I believe that respect for all people is important and recognizing the suffering that individuals have endured is paramount; respecting my elders means nothing more than that. It does not mean that I avoid informing an 80+ year old about her ignorance of the “gay disease,” or “getting the gay problem.” Politely inform with facts. For those who struggle with the idea of a friendly debate with the elderly, think about an issue that is important to you.

For example, my black identity is hugely important to me. If I had a non-Black friend whose non-Black parents were against the #BlackLivesMatter movement (created by Black women, some of whom are queer), then I would want them to inform their parents about the purpose of the hashtag and its mission. Am I wrong to think that we, as humans, should treat, respect, and defend others the way we would want to be treated, respected, and defended?