The Other Side

The Right to Protect

The right to bear arms, afforded by the Second Amendment, essentially gives people the right to protect themselves by allowing them the right to own a firearm. But what happens when safety or hobbies are taken to the extreme? Is there a limit? And what happens when the wrong person is able to possess a firearm and enacts harm against others?

Schools, churches, malls, movie theaters, workplaces, festivals, and other public places are all supposed to be places for people to enjoy safely, but have all been scenes of mass shootings and gun violence. When these tragedies occur, one group sends thoughts and prayers, one group demands gun control reform, and another group doubles down to protect their Second Amendment rights. There must be a way to bring all perspectives to the table to make the world safer.

The conversation has to happen regarding who can own, what one can own, how much can one own, and where one can carry. Boundaries are needed to protect rights, as well as to protect lives. The end goal doesn’t have to be to take all firearms, but there has to be rules to ownership.

Remember how we started this conversation on rights – one person’s rights end where the next person’s rights begin. We are all given the right to live, not by any government, but by the Creator of the Universe. Let’s work together to live together.

The Other Side

The Right to Protest

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

~Martin Niemöller

America – a place where every voice has a right to be heard on every issue. Whether it’s the majority who comes together for a common cause, or the minority who at times can be the loudest, the right to protest is protected under freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in the First Amendment.

Over the years, protests have taken on many forms for many issues – from marches to demonstrations – from civil rights and women’s rights to social injustice. But what inspires protest? What moves a group of people enough to the point of needing their voice to be heard in such a demonstrative way?

People who feel mistreated, overlooked, or treated as less than will eventually get to the point where they feel the need to take a stand. Alexander Hamilton said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Maybe you’ll never participate in a protest, but at some point in life, you’re going to have to take a stand for something in some way.

Protests give a voice to those who want to be heard, but what happens when those people don’t feel heard? Dr. King said, “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear?” Many times when protests cross the line from peaceful to violent it’s because the frustration has reached a boiling point; and while I don’t condone it, I can certainly understand it.

While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to participate in a protest, if we can understand people’s motivation behind it and see the need for change, we can find our own ways to come alongside others in support of causes that we believe in, whether that be through volunteering, donating, or even prayer.

Your voice matters because you matter.

Have you ever participated in a protest? Is there a cause that means enough to you that you would take a stand for it?

The Other Side

The Right to Vote

It’s that time of year – election season! Remember when who you voted for was a private matter. Sure some folks had signs in their yard supporting their candidate, but once social media came along, political opinions became a dime a dozen. Nowadays it’s virtually impossible to avoid friends’ posts giving their strong opinions on who to vote for and why.

With so many voices, sometimes we may forget that there was a period of time where women and black Americans were not allowed to vote. While the 19th Amendment established women’s suffrage as part of the full responsibility of citizenship, the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote, but it wasn’t that simple for black Americans. States were still allowed to determine qualifications for suffrage. Many used literacy tests and poll taxes to keep people from voting.

On Sunday, March 7th, 1965, marchers set out from Selma to Montgomery on a day that would be known as Bloody Sunday. The nation watched as Americans were beaten by state troopers, as they attempted to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge. Ultimately, the Voting Rights Act banned discriminatory practices that would prevent black Americans from voting.

It was a long, hard fight that some people gave their lives for. We now have the right to vote; some would even say the responsibility to vote. That was precisely what the fight was for – the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

While we may love to go back to the days when who we voted for was personal, I would add that the decision to vote or not vote is also a personal matter to be respected. Voting may indeed be a responsibility, but it is also a choice. If you can’t stand by who you’re voting for, a non vote is also a vote. A vote outside of the two main parties is a vote as well.

Stand by your principles. Be a responsible citizen beyond the voting booth.

The Other Side

Can You Believe It

With all of the differing beliefs over controversial topics, it’s important to remember that not only do people have certain rights, but we also have the right to believe as we choose. The first amendment allows for freedom of religion, giving everyone the right to practice their religious beliefs freely or to not profess any religion.

Often times, our opinions on controversial topics stem from our core belief about God and faith. The fundamentals of faith won’t always align with what society or the government says is okay. People’s stances on certain issues and religious teachings may not be the same. When this occurs, we must recognize that we cannot force someone to not believe what they believe.

I remember once when a Mormon approached me in a grocery store parking lot to share some information with me. I let him know that I am a Christian. He briefly shared what he believed, and I did the same; but I quickly let him know that neither one of us was going to change the other one’s mind, so let’s just keep it moving. Part of believing is sharing our faith with others, but we also can’t force anyone to believe the way we do.

Religious liberty allows me to believe without anyone prohibiting me from exercising my beliefs, and it also allows the next person to not believe or be forced into practicing a religion.

What do you believe?

The Other Side

Love is Love

We’ve all heard the story of the Christian baker who refused to render services for a same-sex wedding. The question is how do we protect civil rights and religious rights at the same time, especially when the two clash.

Same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. No demographic of society should be discriminated against or mistreated. At the same time, people of faith have core beliefs, and supporting certain things that are accepted by society would go against those beliefs. Disagreement does not have to mean discrimination.

I’m sure there are some people of faith who believe business is business, and providing a service to someone whose lifestyle they don’t agree with does not mean they are co-signing the way they live. There are others who feel that providing the service means that they are supporting those life choices.

I would also think that a same-sex couple would want to give their money to a business who has no problem serving them well, as opposed to someone who is being forced to although they are against it. I do understand, though, that everyone wants the opportunity to choose and not be denied because of who they are.

It’s a fine line and a potentially slippery slope on both sides of the dilemma. Not being required to provide a certain service to a select group could open the door to other services and other groups. Being forced to provide services could require faith leaders, people of faith, and houses of worship to go against religious beliefs.

I’m not sure what the solution is exactly, but I do believe that respect will lead the way. Respecting one another’s rights, both civil and religious, as well as lifestyles and beliefs is where to start. Respect each other’s decisions and recognize when it’s okay to disagree.

Photo: Write. Dream. Do. Photography

The Other Side

The Choice of Life

In 1973, Roe v. Wade ruled that a woman’s right to have an abortion was protected under the Constitution. Last year, the Supreme Court overruled this decision, returning the law making to the states.

Let’s break it down. Pro-choice: a woman has the right to choose to have an abortion as it is a private matter. Pro-life: a pregnancy should not be terminated for any reason.

Generally speaking, faith plays a role in people’s opinion of the matter. Could I dare say that both are accurate?

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!


In this verse, I see both the right to choose and the right to live.

There are many people who disagree with abortion, but I would hate to ever be in a position where I was face to face with having to consider that choice. In some situations, there are other choices people can make before they ever have to confront this ultimate choice; but in other cases, such as rape or the mother’s life being in danger, it’s not a choice that is easy to make.

I would imagine that most people who do choose abortion don’t make the choice flippantly. I would imagine that they wrestle with it, perhaps they even think of what could have been after time has passed.

My faith tells me to be pro-life. Women’s rights tell me to be pro-choice. Whatever your stance, let compassion be your motivator.

The Other Side

Your Rights, My Faith

Everyone has rights. Everyone has beliefs. What happens when one person’s rights and another person’s faith collide?

My middle school Civics teacher, Mr. Wright, taught us that one person’s rights end where the next person’s rights begin. We all have rights, but our rights can’t override anyone else’s.

If a person’s faith disagrees with same-sex marriage or abortion, for example, but another person’s rights give them the freedom to choose, how do we live harmoniously? I would argue that not only do we all have the right to choose, but we also have the right to believe.

We must learn to respect one another’s rights and beliefs. This goes beyond tolerance, which is simply putting up with each other. People of faith, part of believing is sharing your faith with others, but the reality is that not everyone believes the same, and each person has the freedom of choice. On the other hand, those who choose things that may be contrary to someone else’s beliefs can recognize that faith is often the core of who people are, and they must stay true to themselves by standing firm on those beliefs.

If we can understand each other’s rights and beliefs, perhaps we can live in a world where they can coincide.

The Other Side

Where Do I Fit In

“What are you?” It’s a question I got a lot growing up, even from strangers. First of all, I’m a daughter of God and a human being, but if you must know – no, I’m not mixed. I could be a Latina; I could be Jewish; I could even be white, but I’m just a light-skinned black girl.

In school, I was usually one of two or three black kids in class. I played tennis – a historically white sport – with other black kids. My church’s youth group was quite diverse. My circles growing up and even now usually had some degree of variety, but in the back of my mind I find myself always thinking do I fit in. Sometimes white people don’t even know I’m black, and sometimes I’m not black enough for black people. I would either overcompensate to prove my blackness or downplay it to blend in.

When you’re obviously different, it can feel hard to find your place in the world, but that uniqueness is just what this world needs. I may sometimes feel like an anomaly, but I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. My uniqueness actually allows me to connect with many people.

At the end of the day, yes I am a black woman, but I am also a woman of faith, a creative, a thinker, an athlete, and so much more. I have to embrace every part of me to truly be myself. Even when I feel uncomfortable, I must believe that it’s okay to be me. I am learning to be authentically me with all people, in all situations. It is then that I am most free.

Have you ever felt out of place? Remember there’s only one you, and only you can be you. The world needs who you are.

The Other Side

32 Shades of Black

Growing up as a kid, I always heard that there are 32 different shades of skin tones for black people. I have no idea if this is true, but there certainly are a variety of complexions from light to dark and everything in between, even in the same family.

While we do celebrate the beauty in our differences, there are still times where even we ourselves are our own worst enemy.

Colorism is discrimination within a racial or ethnic group based upon skin color. What I find interesting is that it mostly points to a preference toward lighter skin tones. I would say this is true, as society seems to prefer lighter skinned African Americans when it comes to art, business, politics, sports, or any facet of society. Even those who people say don’t “act that black” are seen as less intimidating and more acceptable.

But colorism doesn’t end there. It impacts both ends of the spectrum inside the black community.

I remember watching an episode of Black-ish called “Black Like Us” where the characters confronted their own trauma and bias in their multi-hued family. I held back tears as I thought about my own experience. Darker complected black people are always calling me white girl or saying I need to get some sun. While they laugh it off as jokes, there is no way that I would get away with making dark-skinned jokes at their expense; and people don’t realize how it can make you question who you are.

Light-skinned privilege is definitely a real thing though. I can certainly understand how those of us with more melanin can often feel overlooked, underrepresented, and even demeaned.

The work to see a change first starts from within. No one else will see us differently until we first see ourselves differently. Colorism may not have stemmed from us, but we can dismantle it.

Have you experienced colorism? How did it affect you?

The Other Side

An Open Door

In 2001, I was admitted to the University of Richmond (U of R), a predominantly white institution in Virgina. I was a smart kid in high school – an honor student and scholar-athlete – but my SAT scores were not quite to the requirements of UR. So how did I get in? Perhaps, Affirmative Action?

Affirmative Action, as we know it, goes back to the 1960s when workplaces and institutes of higher education were required to take “affirmative action” to ensure applicants and employees were treated equally, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin. In short, the idea was to solve for past generations of discrimination and segregation.

Recently, the Supreme Court struck down admission policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, effectively preventing colleges from considering race in admissions decisions.

But is it fair to other qualified applicants who feel I’m taking their spot if colleges have to fill a quota?

There are two types of people in the world – one who has a plethora of opportunities to choose from, and the other who is limited by their background and environment. One student may have access to more opportunities simply because of where they live, the programs available at their high school, or even who their parents are; while another student is limited by these very same things.

If a program or resource can help well-deserving students who just need a chance and a way to get their foot in the door, then so be it. It’s the idea of equity rather than equality. Equality gives everybody the same tools and resources. Equity accommodates for what the individual needs to set that person up for success.

Maybe we can agree that race shouldn’t be a factor in neither accepting nor denying applicants for college admissions or jobs. But the fact of the matter is “separate but equal” created these issues in higher education that we are still trying to solve for today.

Did you ever benefit from Affirmative Action? Have you ever felt like you missed an opportunity because a quota filled your spot?