My LinkedIn account asked me, for the second time, to connect to my old boss. And I just don’t know what to do.
I worked for her for seven years, and rose through the ranks. Unlike my coworkers, I grew to love that job, and although I valued it most because I really needed the health insurance, the fact that I got good at it didn’t hurt. While that place had a revolving door of turnover, I was among the only two rank and file employees I remember (not counting the bosses) of all the people that I knew from there (and I knew a lot – people in other offices, at other locations too. I’m a bit of a social butterfly) who actually loved that job. And I did love that job. I miss it every day since I lost it. I didn’t realize until I lost it what a unique situation it was, one set up for me to thrive in, like Toastmasters is. I’ve discovered since losing it that I only seem to do well in “no lose” situations, where there are very few penalties for failure. Everybody at that job was overworked and underpaid, but in my seven years there, I earned six merit increases and a promotion. I made friends so close that one of them literally saved my life – we were on the news about it and everything. I have found that when people get to know me, they will either love me or loathe me, and at the time, that coworker loved me, and so did my boss.
And then… it all came crashing down, because the world we live in is Black and white.
I find it incredibly ironic that the first job I was ever fired from was the one that I was best at, and I fully own that I deserved to be fired. I got way too comfortable, I got into it for now reason with the person that extended my life, and so they fired me. Everything, in that sense, happened in a just and fair way, so I feel that I probably owe my old boss an apology. Or at least I would if it stopped there.
After I left, my old boss went and read every single one of my emails, forwarding every random unkind thing I might have said in anger about the people I worked with to those people, guaranteeing that I’d never regain their friendship (I did in most cases). Months ago, LinkedIn asked me to reconnect with the person who saved my life, and I got back an outright rejection for it, which I imagine would happen if I tried to reconnect with my old boss too (obviously, I’d said unkind things about her in those emails, as many do when they’re overworked and don’t think the boss is listening). The problem is, I really do miss that job, and a part of me wants to reconnect with her on the off chance that I could get it back. But I believe that there’s no way I could go back, and here’s why: even though we’re all human, and we all make mistakes, we live in a Black and white world, where there are many mistakes you cannot come back from, no matter who you are or what you do. It’s one of the things I hate most about humanity.
Nate Parker (above) is going through this right now. He was accused of rape when he was in college, and even though he was acquitted, we live in a Black and white world, like I said. He just made a film, ironically titled BIRTH OF A NATION. I say “ironically” because DW Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), made a century ago, was the first ever multi-reel narrative film, one that most film critics and makers consider a masterpiece. It is also considered one of the most racist films ever made, a movie about how the Ku Klux Klan saved America from the African American “menace,” post Civil War. Like Griffith’s movie, every critic who’s seen Parker’s feels that Parker’s BIRTH OF A NATION is also a masterpiece, possibly the best film of this year, and an Oscar contender. All of that may be derailed by something Nate Parker did when he was young and stupid, and nothing he tries to do – and he has been trying everything he can think of to get out from under this, in a manner of speaking – can redeem him. Nothing he seems to do, no apology, no denunciation or admission of guilt, nothing seems to matter to the chorus of people that think he’s a rapist, no better than the Black character (spoiler alert) at the end of Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION that preys on the heroine played by Lillian Gish.
See, this is why I don’t think there’s a point in trying to connect with my old boss, and since I’m talking about film and intolerance, I might as well mention that Melvin Van Peeble’s SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG (1972), the film that started the boom in Black filmmaking during the ’70’s, wouldn’t have gotten made without aid from one Bill Cosby, which should surprise no one, considering Cosby has given millions to other African American causes and artists, including helping Spike Lee make MALCOLM X (1992). Many children went to college because of Cosby, who dedicated his whole life to education as much as he did to making people laugh. He won’t be redeemed anytime soon either, last I checked. And to add even more irony to this whole thing, let’s talk about of what Malcolm X‘s life taught me.
I learned two important lessons from THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X, the book that won me a trip to Washington DC in high school when I wrote an essay about it. One was that I should never let myself be defined by others, especially others who don’t know or care about me. Lesson two was that a person can change, but the part I guess Malcolm left out is that apparently, you can only do that if people let you. The very first thing I learned in therapy was that my father, who raised my sister to be a human dynamo, who cared about me more deeply than anyone ever would, to the point of forgiving me for every awful thing I did and said to him, was the same person that beat the Hell out of my mother in the early part of their marriage, cracking her ribs at one point. I will never forget what my therapist said to get me past this, that “you can’t seem to wrap your head around the fact that your father, who did all those wonderful things for you and your sister, is the same person who did all of those awful things to your mother. [AS], people are not one way! Good people do terrible things, and vice versa. Just like it would help you to forgive him, I wish you could learn to forgive yourself!”
I’ve never raped anybody, but if I did, I wonder if I could forgive myself. More importantly, even if I did, would anybody else? My coworkers never forgave me for what I said about her in those emails. I guess I won’t be reconnecting with my boss after all either.