This past summer and spring will certainly be remembered as one of the most tumultuous times in American history as it relates to crime, social injustice, and tragedy. We were inundated with broadcast news and social media as we witnessed the law enforcement community act as judge, jury, and executioner within a matter of seconds in the lives of citizens who by all accounts did nothing to warrant their demise. How could this happen we all wondered?
The media blitz of O.J.: Made in America reignited my interest in the case. Typically, I don’t consume television shows or documentaries about celebrities that have committed or are allegedly accused of committing a crime. I feel that the accused often becomes more famous than the victim of the crime. Nevertheless, thanks to TiVo and On Demand, I glued myself to the TV and watched the five-part series of O.J.: Made in America. For a long time, I struggled with and tried to understand what really happened. Part of me was intrigued with the same questions as everyone else. Did he really do it? How did he get away with this? If he didn’t do it, who did and why? Is anyone looking for the real killer(s)? The other part of me tried to reconcile his story of due process and acquittal with the present day stories of men like Filando Castille and Alston Sterling, who never got that chance.
Just as I had my fill of watching the series, I was about to change the channel and I heard a remark that struck me. It made me look at the trial in a completely different way. During one of the episodes, Fred Levinson, the director of O.J.’s famous Hertz commercials said, “He [O.J.] was an African, but he was good looking,” Levinson further stated, “He has white features and didn't have the typical black features.” It was then that I realized that O.J.’s life and the court proceedings were really all about perception. It was never about who killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Ironically, it was about how the defense team could make a man who had disassociated himself from the black community appear to be the quintessential black man. From the staging of O.J.’s house, to hiring a black lawyer, to making sure the trial was done in a predominantly black community, the defense successfully used it against the prosecution, the system, and society. This may have been the first time in history that being “black” got a man set free. It’s amazing that the way people are made to look can become a defining factor of who they are and whether they should be accepted or not accepted, guilty or not guilty, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. Levinson’s heinous remarks ticked me off because it insinuated that African Americans could only be attractive if we possess other features outside of our ethnicity. How ridiculous!
Now I’m not the one to be sucked into the divide and conquer of “black people vs. white people,” but for a moment, I wanted to pack my bags and be on my way with my fist in the air, my Afro, and my black is beautiful stance. But then my mind opened up and I realized that this is not just a black and white thing, it’s gray. It’s a problem that exists in our society and all over the world, and in every culture. As humans we never think we’re enough. We’re not pretty enough, we’re not endowed enough, or we’re not smart enough. We always want to change something and alter who we’ve been created to be. We are so quick to judge others and at the same time, we constantly question ourselves. ‘She’s pretty, but I don't like her hair. I have this, but if I had that…’ I won’t lie, I have gone through the but factor many times. ‘This dress looks nice on me but, if I were thicker, it would look better.’ I used to put myself down all the time because years ago society frowned upon someone as skinny as me. I never believed or accepted compliments. I didn’t see anything that I thought made me worthy of any of it. Again perception, that thing that makes you tilt your head, squint your eyes and blink until you trick yourself into believing that what you have been told to see is what you actually see and like (or don’t like).
One day I was walking past my mirror and something different and strange happened. Usually I would stop quickly and look just to make sure the lines in my clothes were straight and that I didn’t have any lumps or stains. I would do that quick “ok all is intact” glance, but I would never take a moment to look at myself to find my strengths and the things that I loved about me. I always stood there and saw what everyone else saw and said about me. I’m scrawny and my feet are too big and my chest is too small. But this day I just stood there and told myself I wasn’t going to move until I found one thing that I didn’t see anything wrong with and it was hard. But I mustered the strength and power to look at myself again. When I did I noticed that as skinny as I am, I actually have a little shape that fits who I am, my frame. All this time I was hiding it. I realized that if I had a bigger chest and a bigger butt I would look weird because of my slim figure. I have just enough for my size and I began to smile. I found the Latice that I needed to see. I found the beauty in my imperfections. Suddenly my head straightened up, I opened my eyes wider and I didn’t have to blink several times. The perception from everyone else that I allowed to affect me had faded and the facts entered. Yes, I am skinny and that isn’t a crime. I love my long legs too. I went from a slumped position and a lack of confidence to a straight and upright position. Then I realized I’m much taller than I thought. All of a sudden the but factor faded.
I wish I could package “The Power to Look at Yourself Again” in a bottle and sell it around the world. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the strength and power to do it on your own, due to strong outside influences. It’s so important for us to be satisfied with who we are. I am not against self-improvement or making healthy changes or doing those little things like wearing makeup. No one loves makeup more than me! What I am saying is when you find the power to look at yourself again, you will love yourself in the process, you will love yourself when you don’t have the makeup on and you will exude the same confidence. You won’t let the things you lack be greater than the things you possess. So find the courage to look at yourself again, make the mirror your friend, and learn how to love you. You are beautiful and enough just the way you are.
Latice Crawford is a recording artist and songwriter. Her new project, ‘A Diary of a Church Girl’ is available at digital and retail outlets everywhere.