By David Lund
The concept for this post has been rattling around in my head for some time. I’ve gone back and forth about posting about it and I’ve decided it has merit and I want to get this off my chest.
Who are you? I can tell you who I think I am: husband, student, son, friend, businessman, father, advocate, and more. I rarely think of myself as “felon” or “convict” these days. I know that there are some folks that do. I encounter them from time to time. Sometimes I have applied for jobs that I was denied due to being a “felon.” I was denied by a property management company for being a “felon.”
I’ve had people complain about things that I said, not really because of what I had said but because I said them and have a criminal history.
It’s interesting because the vast majority of the folks who do listen and want to hear my perspective, are the folks who are policy makers. They are largely willing to gain new insight into the criminal justice system. It’s common folks who are the most judgmental. People have their minds made up about people like me sometimes and nothing will change it.
That got me thinking about the labels some have used against myself or other people who have had criminal justice involvement. Terms like “convicted felon,” “dangerous,” “can’t be trusted,” and worse have all been thrown around, mostly on social media or in political town halls. In an effort to attempt to destigmatize folks like me, I have been open about my past, my experiences, and my work within the criminal justice realm. Hopefully it changes a few minds. Even more so, I hope that those who come behind me will know that words are just words. You may experience the judgment and discrimination for past behaviors but you will also learn to define yourself. That’s what I wish anyway.
Deciding that you are strong, capable of overcoming the past, created in God’s image, and worthy of a good life, will help you step out of the shadow of shame and into the light. Own your past, it made you who you are. Acknowledge your mistakes and use them to be the best version of yourself. Do not let others define you or dim your light.
Your power comes from being honest, open, and embracing who you are. But you have to know who you are in order to embrace it fully. We are almost in a new year. 2021 will have to be better than this one. It can be even better if you choose to embrace who you are and move forward in power, not in shame. Your experience has value. Where you’ve been has value. What you’ve survived has value. Your dreams have value. Don’t let your value be diminished by naysayers. Choose to be a person you can be proud of and keep moving forward towards your goals. I wish you the best as you do it.