Friday, February 24, 2012

Don't need no baggage.

US Rep. John Lewis, now

"People get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord."

~ from People Get Ready

This week was interesting. I saw the pendulum of life swinging back and forth. Light and then darkness. Highest highs chased down by low lows. But not so much in the sense of joy and pain or sunshine and rain, really.  Instead, this week I saw the most beautiful parts of humankind right beside the ugliest. It was simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking.

U.S. Representative and civil rights leader John Lewis came to speak at the boys' elementary school this week. The teachers were amazing and reflective in preparing the children for the visit. Those educators were brave in their discussions and those children were appropriately serious in learning of some of the darker parts of American history.

civil rights activist, John Lewis, then

One of the faculty from the boys' school said this in a blog comment:

"I teach at your children's school and today we have the honor of having US Representative John Lewis come to talk to the 3rd - 5th graders. In the computer lab this week I have been sharing with the students a little slice of Mr. Lewis' life and his role in the Civil Rights Movement.

It is not an easy thing to talk to 8, 9, 10 and 11 year old children about things that went on in our country not very long ago. It sometimes is literally difficult for me to talk about it without a catch in my throat.

However, like I tell my students, that to take the easy route and not talk about these things, these painful things from our history is to do a huge disservice and dishonor to the men and women who did stand up, who got arrested; got beaten; got killed so that our country could fully live up to its claim of being the land of the free."

Interestingly, the post that this faculty member commented on included this photo--in which I just noticed includes a young John Lewis on the left.

Another teacher told me that Mr. Lewis got down on one knee just like he was doing in this picture taken several decades ago. Yes, he kneeled down and connected with those kids in a way that moved her deep in her soul. It resonated with those third, fourth and fifth-graders, too.

Little did we know that he had so much practice.

And this was beautiful. That visit, the children, the lessons, the everything. Mr. Lewis giving a testimony as one of the living, breathing people that was there. Right there.

Mr. Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Yes, he was there and now they were, too. Him and all of those educators determined to hold up the light and to keep that dark part of history in the past.

No, I wasn't there to personally hear Mr. Lewis, but I know that it was beautiful. I sure do. Beauty pulled out of the aftermath of ugly times. Beauty in humankind.

In this same week, I did something that I've never really ever had to do. I took down a blog post. No, not because I was thinking of having the story published somewhere or because I modified it in some way. I removed a post that felt cathartic to write and even more so to go back and reread. I had to because it revealed to me an ugly part of humanity that troubled me too much to walk straight through.

Many who come here often read the post to which I am referring; the story of this subtle yet painful racism that I perceived when scolded by a man in a pizzeria about the behavior of my children (and a group of others.) Not surprisingly, the story yielded a good number of comments from veteran readers and new readers. Some were in full agreement with my reaction to this man, and a few were not.

And the fact that some were not was cool with me. I even asked my friend Sister Moon what she thought of this and she said in so many words that as long as the person doesn't sound too crazy or offensive then yes, it's okay to not completely agree. (And those who read her, know she keeps it 100% realer than real.)

So I posted those comments right along with the others and responded with what came to my head and from my heart. But then something happened. I received a couple of other comments that weren't subtle at all and that could not--like my take on that man in the pizza parlor--be open to interpretation.

One referred to a photo of my children and said the they will be on their way to jail soon. Yes. Jail. This was the comment on a lighthearted post about banter between a 5 year old and 6 year old in the back of their mom's car. That they will soon be in a penitentiary. Because this, according to the quasi-anonymous commenter, was their destiny as black boys.


Another suggested to me that the man in the pizza parlor was trying to teach me about social norms. The very social norms that, in his or her opinion, I had moved to a predominantly white neighborhood to partake in. (Forget the fact that I moved closer to my job.)  That person went on to say that by bringing our kids into that establishment, we robbed that environment of what many there pay to enjoy. And what I left my "own neighborhood" to get away from.


I got one or two other even more overtly offensive comments that I simply read once and then deleted. I realized that the post was obviously linked by someone somewhere and that this unusually ugly traffic was not doing my heart good. And this blog? I write it mostly to provoke thought and reflection-- but even more than that and along with that, I write it to celebrate humanity and human-kindness. Which almost always does my heart good.


I know, I know. It sounds so sappy, right? But seriously? It's true. My usual party line when folks ask me about writing here is that "it's free therapy." I say that, but it's so much more than that. It's a place where we all show up with our brown skin, white skin, olive skin, thick skin, and our thin skin and feel alright. Where the believers rub elbows with the make-believers and the dis-believers, and where the elders pull up chairs right beside the teens.

It shrinks the world for me, too. When I read someone's comment and see words spelled like "favourite" and "realise" I smile big and wide. Realizing and realising that someone far away from me has something in common and that we are all so much more alike than we are different.

But those words I read this week. . . .oh, those nasty, venomous words. . . they fought hard to unravel that peaceful feeling and poison my mind. Troubling my waters and threatening me with some paranoia that I usually don't carry in my heart.

And so. I made a decision. I deleted every last one of those hateful comments. Then I tucked that post away in draft form. And yes, I know that the curious of you will want to either read the post (if you hadn't yet) or especially (hands rubbing together grubbily) see those comments word-for-word.

As for the latter, I assure you, you did not want to see those words. It would have done to you what it did to me. Left you with a feeling of dis-ease, akin to walking about with a hard pebble inside of your shoe. . . the kind of thing that makes doing something as everyday as walking feel uncomfortable and unnatural.

Yeah, like that.

Of course, I understand that people who leave comments behind a cloak of anonymity are. . .insert your favorite insult here. But still. They have hands that start up laptops and type over them just like me. Which means they exist and have feelings and beliefs and opinions.

Opinions such as:

"They got one foot in the penitentiary already, all they need is saggy pants."


Sorry for putting that pebble in your shoe. But today? I'm shaking it right out. 'Cause me? I don't need no baggage. No, I don't.


I just have to believe that human beings are inherently good. I just have to. Even if I am wrong about that, I have to hold that belief in my chest pocket as the gospel.

To survive, I must.

So I've said it before and will say it again: thank you for reading. Thank you for helping me to keep these beliefs in my grasp -- that human beings are more alike than different, and that yes, there is still human-kindness nestled deep down inside of humankind.

Yes, there is.

And you know?  That's my favorite part of it all. (And my favourite part, too.)

That's all I got today.

Happy Friday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . Zachary's favorite, favourite version of this song. (Curtis Mayfield, second place and Eva Cassidy, third.)


  1. I am ashamed at the man in the pizzaria, but almost more ashamed of the awful people who write nasty things about sweet young men. I'm glad you deleted that post, but only because it tharwted more evil words from awful people.

  2. When you think about that hateful prediction, please hold in your heart the picture of your BHE, in all his honor, teaching those sweet boys to be men. That is stronger than any projection a hater can bear.

  3. Wow Dr. Manning. I want to say I can't believe there are such ignorant haters out there but I know better. I am just sorry they soiled your beautiful blog and obviously did not take the time to read your words and see for themselves how you, as one person who stands for so many like you who don't blog, work hard every day to better this world. Shame on them -- they have to come to face their own peace-less selves in the end. I don't know you but I love and admire you. I am that anonymous poster that signs her name. Joanne P.S. I hope this gets to you because these robot words are getting harder and harder to read!

  4. De-lurking today to comment. I sincerely hate that happened to you. As your soror, fellow doctor that trained at Grady, and also mother of a beautiful black boy, I can empathize with 96% of what you share. Tagging my son as a future inmate, ‘dem’s fightin’ words, baby. ‘Prolly best they choose the cloak of anonymity.

  5. I know I do not want to read those hateful comments. glad you did what you had to do to keep yourself from being sad and angry 24/7.

  6. Dear Dr. Manning, I have been reading your posts for quite a while now and, while often moved to tears, have never commented. The knowledge that some hateful people made those awful comments to you breaks my heart. You and your lovely family are a treat to "know" albeit in cyberspace. Thank you for your insight and sharing your life with the rest of us.

  7. Delurking just to say I'm sorry that the original incident happened, and that it got even worse for you with the nasty comments. This is my new favorite blog to read - I just love reading your thoughts (deep or otherwise), and hearing your perspective on things.

  8. How do you tell ANYONE their children are headed to jail?? People really have some nerve. I don't care if these people have feelings. Keep them over there. I delete hateful comments from anonymous people, too. No hesitation. We can disagree on topics. Absolutely. But intentional attempts at vitriolic deliverance of your hatred and pain? Not over here you don't.

  9. Just as the selfless kindness of others can touch me in a way that surprises me; the hate and anger of some can shock me in a similar way. To think that in this day, in this country, such ignorance and meanness is considered acceptable breaks my heart.

  10. Gah! Comments like the ones you got about your boys make me SO mad! I have commented a few times but I read your blog every day. I am such a fan of your writing I think you have a beautiful, peaceful style. As I try to teach my students every day in my high school english class, words have weight and meaning. It is awful for someone to spew such hate. Your boys are beautiful, seriously just so so precious. I always think they are just the cutest things with their wide eyes and innocent faces. God bless you Dr. Manning, you are making a positive change in the world.

  11. We, as human beings, are inherently imperfect - whether you believe this fact to be steeped in religious/spiritual ideologies or otherwise. As you well know, we as human beings are , at the risk of sounding cliche, products of our respective environments.

    I often marvel at how each of us , as far as we know anyhow, are randomly born into the situations / families / lack of families by which we enter this world. We have no say, and not everyone has the fortitude to surmount a less than optimal experience-I don't know why, I just know that sometime it just is that way.

    The best we can do at times, is to live the best lives WE can , be grateful that we were dealt the hand that we were, and try to find compassion for those who were not.

    You lady, are doing more than your fair share in putting out the GOOD into this world-even when you are on the receiving end of the opposite of good sentiments. Keep doing what you do- I have no doubt that you will. As one of the categories of your blog posts describes-" when you know better, you do better". You are affecting more people than you know-me included.

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  12. Seriously?
    I am blown away.
    Haters gonna hate and all.. but what you've described?
    Intolerable and so very sad.

  13. I am really speechless. When do "social norms" include taking a woman to task about the behavior of a whole group of small children who aren't hers, and waiting until her husband has left the building to do so? Never mind the tone or what we call in Philadelphia, "addy-tood". I am not even responding to the all out hateful comments, because they do not deserve a response, they deserve to be deleted. Click. Gone. Hold on to the good. Whatsoever is good, kind, true, honest, pure, just holy, think on these things.

  14. All I'll say is that your boys are lucky to have such an awesome mom as you!

  15. Sending love to you, the BHE and those beautiful, smart, loving boys you are doing such a great job raising. x0 N2

  16. I'm glad I missed that post and the comments, I would have felt sick to my stomach that haters found their way here. I'm sorry for the ignorance visited on your blog and the awful words, the incredibly stupid words said about your sweet boys. There are just too many mean, angry small minded people in the world, trolling the internet, picking fights for fun.
    Once in a while I'll read the local online opinion piece, and the one where he predicted reelection for the Pres - not because he was a fan - but because the other party can't find an electable person - the comments went into the hundreds, and the bile, it oozed. Every where I read an article and glanced at the comments last week - science stuff, political stuff, just stuff, there were people just itching to belittle and demean and stereotype. It makes me wonder if we're regressing as a people, since so many find rude and cruel entertaining. I know I'm preaching to the choir, you saw it first hand and I'm sorry. It's one thing to read it out there, but in here, this little community that you described so perfectly, it's just wrong. I'm glad you removed the post, and hope you've seen the last of ignorance for a while.

  17. I'm sorry that you had this experience. In the four years that I've been blogging, I've had several instances of that sort of mean and ugly commenting. It made my stomach hurt, but I continued to engage with them until I was "educated" by other people about trolls. It sounds to me that some of those people were trolls -- purposely stinking up your blog to cause a ruckus. I know from reading comments on some of the big bloggers -- and even controversial articles in mainstream websites and papers -- that the truly ugly come out of the woodwork in droves. The stuff I've read about children with disabilities makes your hair curl if its straight and makes it straight if it's curly. It's unsettling, to say the least.

    Keep writing your words and sharing your experience with us, Dr. Manning. Those of us with different life experiences are learning valuable lessons from you and don't want to stop learning.

  18. I am so angry and so hurt at such inhumanity! I can only imagine the depth of your feeling, and I'm so sorry, sorry, sorry.

    Biggest hugs possible to you and your boys who are destined for GREAT things!!

  19. People hate in all colors and religions and people LOVE in all colors and religions. I only know you and your family through your blog and I am so sorry for the hate you received. At times I wonder if I should raise my kids to be more aggressive to push back at the hate in this world but that would only be creating more hate and wouldn't be a push back at all just giving it more power. I do believe the love outweighs the hate (the hate just feels louder sometimes). Peace to your hearts, I will hold you in mine extra close.

  20. I've been thinking about this more, and it's not just anger (a serious rage) and hurt I feel, but serious disbelief. Like, of course I believe you, but it's so far beyond my reality. I simply don't KNOW people like this ... or maybe I do, but when they recognize that behavior wouldn't be tolerated anywhere near me, they scuttle to their computers to spew hate on others.

    So thank you, huge thank you, for keeping it so real and educating those of us who don't face this first-hand.

    You are awesome, this forum is awesome, and we're all so lucky that you're here!

  21. All,

    Thank you. That is all I can say. Thank you so very much for your words of encouragement and affirmation. You guys rock.


    Kimberly M. aka gradydoctor

  22. Well, I agree that most people are kind and decent. And that we all have more in common than not. But, I am also quite aware that there are those who are just plain damaged and maybe even evil and we don't have to let those folks into our house. They are not leaving their hate-filled comments in order to be part of a conversation, they are just spilling their toxic stuff which- let's face it- they have to live with and so sad for them.
    You know the truth and you write it daily.
    In love. And in open-heartedness.
    Thanks for doing that.
    Love you, baby.

  23. Sister Moon,

    Thank you for helping me in the moment. Love right back at you.

    Sister Doctor

  24. Oh that made my heart hurt to know that people said those things to you. Wow. In talking with the kids in the computer lab I told them, "Unfortunately there are still people who think one race is better than another."

    Then I asked them, "Can we MAKE someone think a certain way?" I got a resounding "No."

    "But," I continued, "can we try to get them to think about things differently by using our voice and our logic and examples from the past?" It wasn't as loud as the answer to my first question, but it definitely got the kids thinking.

    Again, I am so very sorry that someone decided to pour their haterade all over your post. I'm glad you deleted it. No one needs to be unnecessarily exposed to such poison; unfortunately it's out there enough to find its way to positive places.

    Peace and love to you and yours.

  25. Dear LIsa, oh, this hurts my heart. I missed the post you took down, but i know how that one comment, among all the rest, the one about your boys and jail, provoked the deepest sorrow in you, along with the anger and hurt, because your beautiful, kind, smart, good hearted boys are virtually invisible to this hate filled person, and it just makes me feel tired, so tired, that your boys and mine still have to face this in the world, that we cannot protect them from it, but your boys will thrive, they will be amazing young men, you and your husband are seeing to that, so just cover them with your love and your prayers and keep the hate from their doorstep as you are doing, and don't let it plant a seed inside you either, what those hateful people said. Just gaze into your boys shining faces and know that they are gifts to us all, as you are, as you are. Bless you, dear soul. Thank you for being a witness for us all. Love.

  26. Wow...people sure have got some nerve. I had the opportunity to read the post in question, but fortunately I missed the nasty comments. I was thoroughly disgusted by it all, the man and the commenters. There are many, though, who fortunately have the decency and compassion to rise above all the hate and give our best to humanity no matter where they come from. That's what I see shining through this blog, and though I will probably never have the opportunity to meet you in person, I always get something out of reading. So just keep on writing and don't let the haters spoil something lovely.

  27. Wow. A quick google search led me to where your blog was linked and nasty comments on THAT blog as well. There are no words to describe the cruelty of some people. I'm so sorry you had to read those words. I read the original post and commented, but hadn't been back to read more. Keep on keepin' on, Momma Manning!

  28. I'm sad that you had to deal with this, that it exists in our world. I adore you and you spread the love and joy like no one else I know. Keep on.

  29. Dr Manning, you have grace. You are compassionate to all people, something most people can't say about many doctors in the hospital and most importantly to humans in general. It makes me sick that people think and comment like that in this day and age.There was just a guy on cops (yes cops is one of my guilty tv pleasures) who started being racist to a man and his son on a bus, as the police talked and asked him questions it came out that he truly was racist in and out and committed heinous crimes against people because they were black. It sickened my soul and scared me that there are people like that in this world, filled with pure evil. You seem like an awesome mom and I am a strong believer that parents/mentors/teachers lead children to their fullest accomplishment and future, not skin color, not your neighborhood, not any socio-economic reasons. Keep doing what you do write your stories and experiences all while being real- the good, the bad and the ugly, but you are honest and I as a reader love that. And keep loving on your kiddos and protecting them from crazy teenage check out girls at Target!! The world needs more people like you and I am sure your boys will grow up to be incredible young men.

  30. From the deck of the Poop,
    You know old Poopdeck's wants to be there to hug his beloved Dr. KD and let you lay your head on my shoulder as you did when you were my little " Kimbo", but old Poopdeck knows that your heart and spirit will get you through this . You know who you are and how beautiful you are and how beautiful my grandsons are. You know how smart they are and how great they will be. You and Harry will make sure of that. Of course they rest of the village will remain here to give you guys all of the love and support needed to help through these little rough patches.
    Keep writing Dr. KD. It's your gift to the world.

    Much love,

  31. Dr. Kim,
    I know I've mentioned before how much I love your blog and your beautiful spirit, but I just wanted to say it again. I'm so sorry some nasties felt it necessary to try to hurt you and your adorable boys. It sickens me to see what the cloak of quasi-anonymity allows some people to do and say.
    Keep on keepin on!

  32. I was in total agreement with you with regard to your deleted post. Whether white or black or yellow or red, we ALL must stand up for ourselves in a situation like that. If we would each do that, our world would be a better place. No, we can't actually change a person such as the one you encountered; yet, how do you know you ddn't give him some "food for thought" for the next time. Ane, yes, your husband taught your sons a good lesson. We CAN stand up for ourselves in these circumstances and only hope they have a positive impact. You never know...Keep up the Good Work Dr. manning!

  33. Delurking to say:

    I didn't read the original post or its comments, but based on what you've written here, my heart hurts for you. There are wonderful people in this world and there are evil people in this world. I am thankful that you are one of the "wonderful" and that I have the privelege of reading your blog and being blessed by it. As a mama who has a chronically ill child, it is a blessing to read your words about your patients and your professions.

    And your little boys...they are adorable! :)


  34. Delurking to say that I cannot believe that people would write such nasty things. I read the blog (as I have read your blog for a few months now) marvelling at your way with words as always but missed those comments. I am saddened that people think that way. Saddened.

    Melissa [from New Zealand, frequent user of 'favourite' 'realise' 'behaviour' and 'sulphur', unless I write for an American journal :)]


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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