Stop Being a Part of the Problem
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
January 19, 2011
My heart is so heavy this morning. For Real. It's been months since I've woken up in the morning and actually felt good. And on top of that, I can count on both hands the number of balanced meals I've had in months because my GI system is off. The doctors are saying my brain is not telling my stomach what to do and that is causing havoc. Nonstop nausea, no appetite, sporadic diarrhea, and no matter how much I eat, there's an overwhelming feeling of fullness. But in my hardship, I'm not so self-centered that my heart can't be heavy for something/someone other than myself.
So this morning when I saw a tweet about 90 girls pregnant at one high school in Memphis, I surely thought it was a joke. I went searching and found that it was true. I'm absolutely heartbroken to hear this, but I'm equally heartbroken about a culture that makes this acceptable. A double standard in our lives that celebrates unacceptable behavior on the one hand and curse it on the other. We have helped to create this culture where teen girls believe unprotected sex is acceptable and having a baby is a prize of some sort. A culture that says the dangers of unprotected sex are minimum.
I'm gonna start at the top of the food chain. There's a denial in the black community that HIV is a problem. We continually say that the statistics must be wrong. The other night, Anderson Cooper had a program about AIDS in the African-American community, and the tweets I saw, even from AIDS activists, disturbed me. Tweets that said, "Stop making AIDS seem like it's a "black" problem, other people are infected with HIV also." Well hello, African-Americans are 46% of the HIV cases and 45% of all new cases in the United States, and we are only 12% of the population. I don't know about you, but I consider that a black issue.
It seems that we are stuck on stupid. I even hear people saying amongst ourselves that the "white man" is just making us look bad, that the statics are not true. With this continued denial we send a subliminal message that we are not at risk. Which on the one hand makes it acceptable for woman, both young and old alike, to have unprotected sex. What's the worst that could happen? Get pregnant, no big deal.
But the fact of the matter, in Memphis, Shelby County, 80% of all HIV cases are African-American. So it stands to reason that each time a young lady lies down she is putting herself at risk for HIV and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases; birds of a feather tend to flock together, including STD's. It would be a shame for a young girl to be told all at the same time that she is pregnant and that she also has HIV. Her life will never be the same. She becomes an instant adult, not only a child raising a child, but a child who will have to start fighting for her life for the rest of her life.
But this double standard is not just in the African-American community. It's a part of the larger society. This culture that says anyone can be famous. No need to work for it. Get pregnant and you can be on a reality TV show with all the fame and perks. There is not just one reality show, but two. 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. Girls are getting pregnant just for a chance at reality show fame. And teen pregnancy is not just occurring among African-American girls. A group of girls in Gloucester, MA, made a pact to get pregnant and raise their children together.
If we are going to change this tide we all must become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem. We must challenge abstinence only programs in schools across this country. We must give young people all the information so they can make smart decisions. Even churches need to stop threatening teens with sin and God's wrath. God is a loving God and wants us to live whole and healthy, but how can they live whole with only some of the information. How can young people respect and trust you when Pastors are being accused of sexual abuse of young men and other Pastors and church leaders across the country are silent.
How can our young teens respect your advice when you are still lying about how Uncle John and Aunt Mary died. When no one in the family has mentioned the word AIDS at a family gathering but are whispering about it in the corners of our homes. And when are mothers and fathers gonna take a real leadership role in our families and sit with our teenagers and give them honest information about sex.
Change must take place at the top of the food chain. We must all become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem. Just the other day someone asked me if I had to use profanity on my blog post to make a point. It was one of my Fuckin Friday blogs. You damn straight. If cussing is needed to get the point across then that's what I do. I will never be so damn self-righteous that it interferes with my desire to help bring positive change. My sex blogs get more visits and retweets on Twitter than any other post. That means young people are getting my message and sharing it.
Let's move beyond our hypocrisy, self-righteousness and denial so that we do not lose a generation of our young people. We must all become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem.
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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