Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

Skip Gates Moments

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Most people of color who read this post will be able to identify at least one Skip Gates moment in her/his life.  As you know, Skip Gates is the Harvard professor who was arrested in his own home by a Cambridge, Mass., police officer.  Dr. Gates knows that he is not alone and that people of color all over the world have experienced incidents similar to the one he experienced.

As an academic, I can identify with him on many levels with regard to issues of race and injustices.  I’ve been in higher education for the past 17 years and can list the incidents that have happened to me.  I can also list the incidents that happened to me prior to my arrival in higher education.  While they are too numerous to list here, I will share some of them.

During the first semester of a graduate program, I was asked to write a research paper. I never received any feedback on the paper and never saw the paper again.  When I asked the professor about the paper, the retort was, “I just wanted to see if you could write.” A peer translated it for me, “He means, African-American students usually cannot write and he wanted to see if you could write.”  Although I had met all admission requirements for the program, the expectation still was that on some level I would not be able to perform at the same rate as my majority peers.  I proved them wrong.  The same professor later “borrowed” pages of my writing to use in his own writing without giving me credit for my writing. And yes, I challenged him that time.

At another time, after having participated in a television interview, a colleague commented that I was “articulate.”  My question was, “How is an African American with a Ph.D. suppposed to sound?”  Why would anyone think that I was not articulate?  The colleague thought that he was rendering me a compliment.

Still at other times, I was questioned about my participation in different events and activities.  Questions were asked such as, “Are you working with them because you’re black? and “Did you get to do that because you’re black?”  Each time the question came with a painful sting because somewhere in my mind, I wanted so badly to be recognized and accepted for the gifts and talents that I brought to the environment.

I have even been asked if I could provide vocal music for entertainment purposes in higher education. Those of you who know me know that I can only make a joyful noise when it comes to singing, but that I did study piano for nine years as a child and youth.  My piano teacher in prep school was a famed Austrian musician with whom I often played duets.

As an administrator, I’ve been wrongly accused of only hiring people of color and supporting them.  The truth remains that rarely can one work in a majority institution and hire only people of color.  Rarely can one only give support to just people of color.  Not only is that unlikely, but it is unethical as well.

These are all examples of injustices visited upon me simply for being who I am and in the place where I was supposed to be. No, I was not arrested, but these were painful racially rooted experiences nonetheless. So, what have I learned from these experiences?

1.  Many people do things with their heads and not necessarily with their hearts.  They act and respond in senseless ways that often reflect the power and privilege they have had all of their lives.  Many times, no ill will is intended, but it doesn’t hurt any less.

2. Words carry tremendous power.  We should all watch how we use words whether written or oral in reference to others.

3.  Dare to speak up for yourself.  Tell the offender how you feel and then have a candid discussion about the offense.  If you’re in public office, be prepared to have your opinion censored.  You see they even censored President Obama’s voiced opinion.  He was right in what he said.

4. Understand that you will be the recipient of injustices.  Things happen.  Just learn how to rise above the perpetrator.  Find constructive ways to work against the injustice.

5. Overcome evil with good.

6. Never use race or gender as a crutch.  Yes, people will use either or both  against you, but do your best anyhow.

7.  Dare to talk about  race, especially in situations that make you uncomfortable.  It is only when we begin to become transparent in our conversations about race can real change occur.  Find someone unlike you to have a discussion about race.

8.  Finally, understand that talents, abilities, and gifts were not given based on race, gender, or anything else that has the potential to separate us.

Skip Gates moments will come and go.  Where will you be standing at the end of your moment?  I’m still standing.


Unleashing Your Shine

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2009 at 3:43 am

How do you unleash your shine?  Polish!  Polish can mean that you simply work to improve upon who you are as a person both on the inside and on the outside.  It means that you strive to look and act your best at all times.  It means fleeing from those things that would prevent you from being all that God has designed you to become.  Polishing your appearance is important, but polishing who you are is far more important.  It is important that as you polish your personality, you begin to define who you are, who you want to become, and then work to achieve your goals.  Through polishing your personality and behaviors, you begin to develop into the person you want to become and grow into the kind of person God would have you to become.  You unleash your shine.

Although society would have you to believe that your outside appearance is most important, it is not.  The world judges you by how you look on the outside, but God looks at the intentions of your heart.  Outer beauty only leads to vanity and it fades with time, while inner beauty only gets better with time.  Inner beauty is what will sustain you in difficult times and will make the difference in what you are able to achieve in the world as you interact with others.  Everyone enjoys being with nice people, because it is through such people that we are able to see God’s love for us manifested in their lives.  Polish your inner person so that others can and will see the God in you and be drawn to Him through you.

Think about polishing silver.  When polishing silver, you take away the tarnish, that is, all of the things that pollute the outside and keep the silver from shining.  What’s keeping you from shining?  What’s keeping you from being all that you were designed to be?  How will you remove the tarnish and unleash your shine?  What will you polish?

In Desert Places

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 at 10:09 pm

In Desert Places

Veda McClain, Ph.D.


When God takes us to desert places, He also takes us through those places.  Desert places test our faith; that is faith in His ability to act in our lives.  Faith must be tested and like the refined, we must be tested through fire.


One characteristic of the desert is heat.  When we are in desert places, God uses the heat to draw us closer to Him just as a refiner uses heat to create the silver metal object.  Before the metal is placed in the heat, it has a form or shape, but it has not taken on the shape for which it was created.  It is only through the fire that the object begins to be shaped for its purpose.


As humans in desert places, we experience extreme heat.  Through the heat, we sweat off the impurities that hinder our walk with the Lord and that keep us from becoming more Christ-like.  The heat makes us evaluate our own faith as we pause and look to God for our next step.  As we lose the impurities, we are able to better focus on God and His design for our lives as we become more like Him.  It is said that the silver refiner holds the silver object in the heat until he can see his own reflection in the piece.  And so it is with God, that He allows us to remain in desert places until He can see more of Himself reflected in us.


Another characteristic of desert places is dryness and the absence of water.  Wherever there is a fire, water is absent, or at least is absent in amounts that would put out the fire.  As we go through desert places, we experience a feeling of dryness and we thirst for water.  We want water to quench our thirst and to relieve us of the dryness that we feel on the inside.  As Christians, we thirst for the living water that we can get only through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as we make Him Lord of our lives.  It is that living water that brings refreshment and promise of things to come.  As we experience the taste of the living water, the dryness leaves us because we are renewed in our Christian walk.  We come to know and understand the real purpose behind the desert place, and rejoice in knowing that our heavenly Father cared enough for us to take us there.


Deserts also have sand which can represent uncertainty.  Unlike solid ground, sand moves when we walk on it, and we leave unsteady footprints as we walk through it.  One thing that we do know about the sand though is that while moving, it rests on solid ground.  As we walk through the desert, we can rest assured that the God of all creation still holds us up on a firm foundation.


As we leave the desert, we find that we are strengthened and that our faith has increased.  It has increased, because while in the desert, God walked with us and kept His hand on us through that hot and dry place.  The refiner cannot refine us without keeping his hand on us. So although we may not always be able to see God’s hand on us in the desert, through faith, we know that He does indeed have us in the palm of His hand.


Our faith is further increased because as we sauntered through the desert, we kept our focus on God and on His ability to lead us through the heat, the sand, the dryness, and the lack of water to a place of finding living water in Him on solid ground.  As we walk in faith with Him, we find sure footing and begin to deepen our understanding of how our steps have been ordered by Him.  We begin to wonder at the awesomeness of the desert experience and at what the desert place has done to strengthen our walk with the Lord.


Although no one likes desert places, it in those places that God refines us and makes us become more like Him.  It is in those places that we learn more about His love for us and about our purpose here on earth.  It is in those places that we learn how to better love others and ourselves.  And finally, it is in those places that we grow in our faith in what a loving God can and will do in our lives if we let Him.

The Faith Walk

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I am thinking about the reality of the faith walk. It’s a lot easier said than done. What do you do when you can’t see what God is doing? Trust His heart and understand that He has your best interest at heart. Through it all, He still has His hand on us.

Trust Him

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm

I am thinking about just how God is in control of everything in our lives. As the Creator of the universe, He designed it all, put it all in place, and now runs it all. Surely, our problems, however big they are in our eyes, are mere specks in His eyes. He can and will handle them. Trust Him (On this one, I’m taking my own medicine. Gulp!)


In Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I am thinking about all of the talk about Michael Jackson being worth more to his children dead than alive. Well, guess what! Proverbs says that a righteous man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. He did what he was supposed to do. The rest of us who have children should be so fortunate as to be able to leave such an inheritance to our children and grandchildren.