“Ain’t that the truth.” It’s an expression I heard often as a child. It was said to emphasize what someone knows to be the case based on lived experience.

I sometimes wonder what foundational lies would come crashing down in our world if the truth be told. If all the dyads got together— black/ white, male/ female, haves/ have nots and the like— and after the oppressed told their story, the response was, “Ain’t that the truth.”

Before I was a researcher, I was making my family squirm under the guise of my inquisitive nature and need for truth-telling. 

Yes, I told my brother that he was adopted, but it was true. Also, he asked why his name wasn’t the same as ours. 

I simply filled in the silence and blank stares. Somebody had to do it. 

I don’t know if I got it honestly. Thinking back, I always felt like it was something I had to do. 

It was better than keeping secrets and speaking in hushed tones. Tell the truth because you can’t fix a lie.

First-born daughter, I didn’t have much of a childhood as I had to be a leader and an example for the younger ones. My parents only needed to tell me once that my siblings were watching me. Ironically, I was the standard bearer–not them, who I had watched long enough to know they couldn’t be.

Consequently, with school and babysitting duties, I didn’t have much time to play. I was forced to grow up prematurely and to take life seriously. My siblings depended on me.

“Don’t answer the phone. Don’t open the door. Don’t leave the house.”

The stakes were high and if something bad should happen, lying would only make matters worse. Now, as an adult, I’ve seen how deception changes lives, destroys families and the futures they all had in mind. Lying just never did sit right with me.

It was a matter of integrity, an inner authenticity. I wanted to know the truth, but not just externally. It is as the psalmist said, “What you’re after is truth from the inside out” (Psalm 51:6, MSG).

So, don’t lie to me. Answer the inquiries about injustice truthfully. Also, don’t expect me to pretend that I don’t see what’s happening right in front of me. 

Tell “as much truth as one can bear,” James Baldwin advised in a column for The New York Times. Then, tell a little bit more. “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” he wrote. 

War and genocide, neocolonialism and fascism, legislated misogyny and the barbarity of police brutality, marginalization and minoritization fueled by capitalism and so-called white supremacy, I see it so I say something. I fill in the silence and blank stares because somebody has to do it.

Michelle Cliff said there was no telephone to heaven. So, I’m calling on all my fellow human beings to tell the truth about the world of hurt we’re in. It is not just the responsibility of historians, prophets and artists.

Times are too hard not to say what you mean or to bear witness to what is happening. Out with it! Promise me.

The stakes are too high not to be who you are. Truth-teller or deceiver, there is no in-between. Come clean.

Swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—so help you.” Because this is not about me. Seriously, don’t say it if you’re not committed to veracity.

Don’t conspire with your lips and get your tongue to agree to deceive. I would prefer to know what you honestly think and believe. This is a call for genuineness and sincerity.

I need to know where you’re coming from and, in turn, who I’m working with. This is an invitation to live into truths much bigger than “little white lies,” or however you figure deceit.

Because the work of consensus and community-building, of co-laboring for a “kin-dom” that is coming, can’t be done if we are feigning. Instead, we will need to call it like it is being seen by those “whose backs are against the wall” and rather than shake our heads in disbelief, we nod in agreement, saying, “Ain’t that the truth.”

We need the unvarnished truth, not more minced words or those that beat around the bush, duck the question, dodge the issue and then sit on the fence. This could be a moment of truth, but we’ll need to know more than the half of it.

So, open your mouth and let me see what the world would be like if the truth be told.

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