n trying times, why do we sometimes make the decision to freeze, flee or fight? Perhaps it is because our backs are against the wall, there are too many opponents or we have no clue what to do. Whatever it is, it is believed to be based in fear and how we cope with that fear.
Recently, NBA Clippers Coach, Doc Rivers gave an emotional message on social injustice and police brutality in America because of the fear Trump’s administration has perpetuated in Trump’s campaign. This was in response to many of the NBA teams boycotting the postseason games in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting. However, it was this same perpetuated fear that cops felt, which gave Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioche, Illinois, permission to use an illegally obtained assault rifle against protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin shortly after he walked past those same fearful cops.
America seems to be in a dangerous mental state, attacking itself like cancer to eradicate a threat that’s not actually a threat. Many people are exploding with aggression and fighting, imploding by inflicting self-harm, running away to the safest places they can, or doing nothing because they don’t know what to do or don’t see the gravity of their action and inaction.
Fear is wired in our biology as a means for survival but just like anything else, it’s not good when there is too much fear or too little. Fear allows us to prepare for crises like Hurricane Laura, Global Pandemics (Obama’s Pandemic Plan) and even plan for corporate crises like acquisitions and mergers. On the flip side, fear can put us in a stagnant state feeling hopeless about ever getting out, put us in the mindset of always fighting or running away from our problems until we make some major changes to our perception.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Deer in headlights?”. If you haven’t, it’s that brief moment that a deer freezes in front of oncoming cars while they cross the road. Many people believe that this action is rooted in fear, however it has less to do with how they cope with fear and more about what they can’t see. To put that into perspective, how many times have you stopped everything you were doing because you couldn’t see what was coming or where you were going? And how long did it take you to clear your vision so that you could move forward?
Yes we were given our senses, along with intuition or that gut feeling, patterns and other anatomical and psychological skills to recognize danger. It allows us to discern in those moments what the appropriate response and actions are. But at RBKF, we can’t help but wonder if what we think is fear is actually a lack of vision.
Did you know that there are over 40,000 known species of spiders and only a small percentage of them are venomous and deadly to people? However, most people have been conditioned to dislike spiders because of their fangs, legs and webs. Too often certain patterns get perpetuated in our society that leave us to believe that something is dangerous that is often not. This is classical conditioning, which may sound familiar to you if you know the psychological and scientific study of Ivan Pavlov’s dog. This sort of conditioning can be favorable in certain industries like advertising, but harmful in others like politics, religion, cults, leadership and the news, creating drawbacks for certain people, groups and movements.
So how do we manage and live with fear? Much like anxiety and depression, fear is not something that will go away. We often have to implement practices, connect and share with people who may have the same fears, and educate ourselves on how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s okay to fear failure and to fear the unknown as long as we continue to have a vision on how to move forward.
This lesson is no better taught than by our fellow legend and hero, Chadwick Boseman. The loss of such a brave artist, philanthropist and inspiration has taken all of us by surprise as he quietly fought Colon Cancer in the most gracious way. He did not let his cancer define who he was to the public as he kept his diagnosis private. We don’t know if he was afraid, but if he was- he turned his fear into motivation for change and paved the way for the telling of black stories with his portrayal of many legends and heroes, support of the community’s real-life heroes and for people like him, who were also fighting against cancer. He didn’t let his prognosis cripple him into doing anything less than what he loved because he had a vision beyond his death for those who are still living.
Much like a parent-to-be or new parents, perhaps he had sudden changes to his worldview given the news of his illness. But like Boseman, we shouldn’t let fear become who we are. We shouldn’t let circumstances become who we are. And we shouldn’t let death be our final story. We should all live to leave behind a legend, big or small, for the ones we love and for humanity.
At times that will require us to fight, much like the peaceful protestors marching the many city streets of America. At times that will require us to flee, like the many ancestors that escaped slavery. And sometimes we’ll even freeze (and play dead) like King T’Challa of Black Panther, who literally had to lose to Killmonger, freeze for survival and come back from the ancestral realm with a new vision.
Fear not but fear itself because it will try to stop you, but we all know we have the power and strength to turn it into fuel to inspire and execute our vision of a better world. May we all bask in the light that was Chadwick Boseman to guide us through fear.