Editorial Staff

Toni: “Don’t Judge” = “Help Me Save Face”

Any Twilight Zone fans out there?

“Neither sympathy nor compassion can be handed out wholesale like cheap bubblegum.”

This is a quote from the “One More Pallbearer” episode, one that has stuck with me for some time.


I am more than happy to offer sympathy and compassion to others.

There was a comment on the Ciara Baby Mama post, and apparently people felt a way about Tracy’s observations, because black people showed up to throw around the word “judgement”. Yep, like that red herring wasn’t easy to see through plain as day.

Did Your Mama “Judge” You When She Set You Straight?

If you had the kind of upbringing I had, you can probably think of things that young people get away with today that if you had tried it, they would be carving the outcome on your tombstone. Because MOTHER DEAREST would not have had it. Oh no, she would have helped you back out of the door to L-I-F-E that she brought you through.

But mothers aren’t always going on about how they brought you in the world and can take your right back out. Much of the time, these women lend wisdom and love. And when they tell you that you’re doing wrong, they know…because they’ve been there and done that.

If someone’s been there, done that or been there and didn’t do that because they knew better…are they “judging” you? Do you really think that being grown means when you mess up, everyone is going to “there there” you and pat you on the head and not bring up the fact that you screwed up and are letting yourself down? You think it’s love that makes someone refuse to tell you the truth, which is that you can and need to do better?


Don’t Judge = Help Me Save Face

I didn’t say what I just said to call myself anyone’s mama, because I’m not. But I do say that it isn’t love and compassion and sympathy that keeps someone silent about dysfunctional behaviors and potential danger.

If you know a bride to be’s future husband is an abuser and she will be beaten everyday for the rest of her life, would you say nothing?

If you answered yes, it’s actually not an uncommon answer. Many black women are given these sort of death sentences by black people who “don’t judge” or who feel it’s more important to have the facade of happiness and functionality than the real thing.

Judgment isn’t what is really the concern. The real concern is that you’re going to hit too close to home and someone who can’t face their own demons is going to get exposed. The real concern is the mistaken belief that it’s more productive to coddle and nurture the lowering of the bar among black women than to allow individuals to understand that they’re messing up and can do better.


You can’t do better when you don’t know better.


Don’t Be An Example For Someone NOT To Follow

That’s the moral to the story in the discussion of famous black women messing up. In case someone was waiting for the point or waiting to hit back with, “Don’t be talking all sage when you’re just gossiping about some singer.”

People notice and people talk. And some parents say to their kids, “Don’t be like ______.” or “Do you want to be like ______? No? Then get your butt to school!”

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a conversation is an opportunity to glimpse the decisions that others have made and take an unapologetic look into the sort of decision-making that has plagued some women for years.


But hard heads and soft behinds are another matter.


If you want to ruin your life and be miserable until you die, you have every right and nobody can stop you. Just don’t expect the mistakes you make to disappear quietly into a corner. Sometimes, they will proceed you before you enter a room and follow you out the door.

But that is everything that is entirely on you.

This doesn’t mean that a person will make an observation (X can do better) that is motivated by some need to feel morally superior to someone else. That does happen.

But not always.

Sometimes the judgement that makes you so angry and insecure are words you’re only just now hearing in the aftermath of your own screw ups. When you were too hard-headed to listen to reason and wisdom, and too grown to be sensible for your own good, you didn’t hear a damn thing.

Perhaps the lesson isn’t about who is judging who. Instead, the lesson is about about how and when we listen.

It can be hard to hear people making observations without the coddling behaviors that are supposed to “save face” or cushion the blow of sliding towards the bottom.

But these conversations are going to happen. And perhaps hearing truth about what to avoid rather than waiting to be enabled might give you something to think about other than how you’re going to continue to rationalize all the terrible mistakes you’re determined to make because you’re “grown now”.

A lot of grown folks knew better before you got the chance to be grown.

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