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Know Your Place

In Lee Daniels’ movie The Butler, Annabeth tells Cecil Gaines (played by Forest Whitaker)--

“When you’re serving, I don’t even want to hear you breathe. The room should feel empty when you’re in it.”

Reflecting on my career in athletics and academia, I recall distinct moments when I heard this subtle or sometimes not-so-subtle message to stay in my place or pretend I wasn’t present in the room. These moments taught me several valuable lessons.

Knowing one’s place and staying in one’s place are two different things. Knowing your place is to understand the social, political and individual contributions you bring to your position of power. Staying in your place is an act of oppression. Whether self-imposed or externally enforced, the “stay in your place” mentality is designed to ensure current power structures remain intact. It is an act of personal, mental and spiritual sabotage.

Many of us choose to “stay in our place” or not speak up due to fear. We fear losing a job, a friend, or financial, or political influence. When people ask me about being courageous or taking an opposing stance on a topic, I remind them that both our actions and inactions have consequences. Consequences are inescapable — silence is, in itself, a choice. And let’s face it, our collective silence has, and will always, bear a bigger price.

I encourage you to journey on, no longer bound by the illusion of place. Find your place of service and fill the room. Finally, remember to breathe; for the path is rarely straight and easy. As Jeff Foster, in “The Way of Rest” states-- “If it makes you weak, if it scares you, if it takes you to the bleeding edge of your identity, it may just be your true path.” (PLACE). #Navigatingcourage

1 Comment

Elissa Yancey
Elissa Yancey
Feb 22, 2023

This part: "both our actions and inactions have consequences" is so so powerful. Sometimes fear makes us think that no action is akin to invisibility, almost like not breathing. Boy, does that have deeper meaning today. Thank you for your wisdom and for taking your place in courageous leadership!

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