A Few Important Reminders

One day, I will offend you. It may be intentional, unintentional, partly intentional, or perhaps something I do will disappoint you, especially if you have admired me for so long, especially if you have done so from afar. In fact, that day may have come for you already, or it may be today. I may offend/ may have offended you in my writing, in my poetry, with my clothes, with my faith or with my existence. All I ask is that you be prepared for it – because Jesus knows I’m trying to be, if and when it happens on a grand scale.

Kindly do not “queen” me or “goddess” me or make me your role model. I am none of these things and I do not want to be – especially not if these attributes are ascribed to me because of physical features or a nationality I had no say in choosing. Do not ascribe these attributes to me because of things I actually have achieved myself, or will in the future either. Refrain from regarding me as anything more or less than human, no matter how renowned – or infamous – I ever happen to get.

When the Day of Great Offense comes (and there might be multiple), I need you to remember your ideals, if you have them, and continuously question your capacity for forgiveness and love, despite your disappointment, because I will certainly be questioning these things about myself and everyone around me. Before you ruthlessly “cancel” me, I want you to evaluate the gravity of my misstep and what you think should be done if you had made a similar one. But I also want you to think about what you would do if the action had been done by a stranger on the street rather than me – assuming I had a platform influential enough for more people than yourself to know my name and be affected by my words and actions. I need you to ask yourself if your standards are fair enough to judge me with the same criteria you would judge any human being (that is, if you had to judge at all). As yourself if you see the human in me and in yourself. [Human: simultaneously intrinsically flawed and intrinsically capable of compassion and virtue.]

If I retract my speech or action, in genuine repentance, I need you not to already have written me off completely, with zero shot at redemption in your eyes. I have seen things I have done, thought or said a few years ago – or ten minutes ago – that disgust me now. That’s okay. I allow myself license to change because I make myself acutely aware of my humanity. When the Day of Great Offense comes, I aspire to maintain the same attitude. I want you to forgive me because I am learning to forgive myself, and I think if you forgive me, it will be easier for you to forgive yourself whenever you need to.

If I do not retract my speech or action because I genuinely believe in what I said or did, please still do not write me off completely. We may disagree. We may possibly never agree. But as I am determined to treat everyone with whom I unfortunately must disagree with as much respect as I am humanly capable of (even if I have not done so in the past), I desire the same kind of respect to be applied to me. I do not expect respect. (It would be highly egotistical to expect to believe anything I have done with my life merits automatic respect.) But I do desire it. If we have disagreed and I do not retract my speech or action, it is not because I expect you or the rest of the world to agree with my eventually. Nevertheless, I highly doubt an avalanche of online slander directed at me (that I may or may not ever see) will help me solve the problems you believe I have. And with regards to these problems, I hope you never think that I am too far out of redemption’s reach. If you cannot love me through this incident, I would at least ask that you try to tolerate our differences.

I know – in fact, it would be more accurate to say that I hope – that there are some things in which I shall remain steadfast all my life, despite the societal pressure against them. One of these things is my faith, which will offend someone somewhere whether I am being actively offensive or merely being – and I must learn to be okay with this. And so if it is for any of those reasons that I do not retract my speech or action, I genuinely hope that you will be able to live without hating me. If you can’t – and I am sorry for you if you can’t – I pray the animosity neither kills nor breaks me.

In all this, though, I would like us all to continue to keep in mind that no ordinary human being is above fault or mistake and that neither stupidity nor ignorance have age limits. I am stupid and ignorant now, as I write this at eighteen years old, about a lot of things. Depending on how long I live, I know I will be stupid sometimes, ignorant about some things and occasionally both at the same time when I am twenty-one or seventy-seven. I stopped believing in the myth of the direct correlation between age and how good a person is (at anything, including wisdom) a long time ago, and perhaps you should too. I hope I never let myself off the hook for being “too young”, or punish myself too hard for believing I am “too old” to have done something. I hope I always, always show myself – and am shown – grace, in every circumstance.

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Fun fact, I didn’t write this recently. I found it in a notebook from about a year ago. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for ages. Recent events only reminded me of it.

I suppose when you heard that no girl’s job was to make people like her, that she should never be afraid of offending people, you applauded the speaker’s fearlessness – and you never considered that you could be “people,” did you?

-Akotowaa

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