Mutima Imani answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Wow, that's a really powerful question. I want to say that I have some really nice people in my life, so people have done some nice things for me, but this one friend that I have is independently wealthy, and we've been friends for about 20 years. As an African American woman, I've been against paying taxes, because I believe that my family didn't get its reparations from the government, and so, why should I be having to pay taxes?
My father was a Vietnam vet and suffered from PTSD... and the family was very much devastated and harmed by the effects that war had on families... and my father dealt with moral injury. And I felt like as an African American I had two things that made me not want to pay the government, the feds any money. Over the years my friend has seen me struggle with this, and see them come after me, and they seize bank accounts, and they do all kinds of stuff. Finally, she said to me, "I'm going to pay your back taxes."
I said to her, "I don't want them to have my money. Why would I want you to give your money to them?" She says, "Because I can, and I'm willing to do it." It took me a long time to accept the gift, but after we really started talking deeply about her family wealth, which part of it comes from owning slaves, and the fact that I now am looking at the effects that slavery has had on me as well as the effects that being a military brat has had on me and on my family, I finally said, "Thank you and yes."
The results have been very, very interesting. Her nice thing has turned into the right thing to do for her own ancestral shame, and it's been the right thing for me to accept to relieve the stress because this fight that I've been in that’s really taken its toll mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So it has been a great gift, but not a gift that's nice. Between the two of us, it's the right thing to do, and I really hope that my story would inspire people, especially white folks who are living from the overflow, because when is enough enough? When is it the right thing to do to share with someone whose life is stressful because of economic shortfalls, or a drought in someone's life, or a decision that causes a lot of stress?
My friend, I'm going to be eternally grateful for her, because I feel like I don't have to struggle as much mentally with this debt over my head, and her and I are wanting to tell our story so that people can get that there are ways to level the equality of the playing field — not that it's going to be equal because she's doing this for me, because racism is alive and well, and it's hurting all people. But we can begin to mend personally if we decide to offer something that's nice, that is actually right, and to receive it. So thank you for the question, Phil.
Mutima Imani is a social justice visionary, master trainer, and facilitator working to heal the heart of humanity by providing 21st-century tools for personal and professional development and transformation. She is a global diversity specialist who understands and inspires people to think locally while planning globally. Highly skilled at bringing diverse groups together to resolve conflicts, Mutima conducts Civic Leadership training and Restorative Justice Circles. She has a master's degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Phenomenology. Mutima is passionate about how all things work together and what humans can learn from the natural world.
Click here to visit Mutima's website.
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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 15: Thriving in Your Third Act Summit