I have been afraid to write this. I am embarrassed that it has taken me so long. I’m fearful that I will say the wrong thing….that I will say something that is unintentionally inflammatory. Please know, if I have, it is OK to call me out on it. It is the only way I can learn. Being silent is no longer an option. By staying silent, I am speaking volumes. I am becoming (or already am) part of the problem. I am saying it is OK when it is clearly not.
I’m working on a project for my growing family. It is a kitchen table that I picked up from a family moving to another state. See, we have a 4 person table. I love that table. It was my mom’s. But with baby 3 arriving soon and frequent dinner guests, we need to expand. This was the perfect opportunity to create something I love for my family.
As I sat in my garage making repairs before I start painting, I realized I was alone.
Like REALLY alone.
There was no phone to distract me. Few interruptions from the kids. No Disney soundtrack to fill my head. It was just me. And my thoughts. I thought about all the family dinners we would share and how we would cool our Christmas cookies on that table. My children would always have a seat there well into high school, college and beyond.
Then my mind wandered to the many mothers who don’t have those same thoughts. They worry that their table will be empty because their daughter was pulled over in a white neighborhood or their son matched a description of someone who may (or may not) have committed a crime. They worry that the officer detaining their child is one of the very few who lacks basic human empathy and will take things too far. They worry that a neighborhood watch will act first and ask questions later.
The thoughts never left my mind the many MANY hours I worked quietly by myself. I kept trying to put into words how I felt and tried to put myself in another mother’s shoes. Every time I did, the tears swelled and I pushed the thoughts away.
I live a very privileged life as a basic white woman, living in the suburbs, married to a basic white man with 2…almost 3…basic white children. I grew up in Chicago. But let’s face it, it may have well been the suburbs. Everyone looked like me in my insulated neighborhood. There was no diversity and therefore no opportunity to learn from peers about their very different experiences growing up. I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember even socializing with a person of color until high school. People of color were not in my elementary school and my family certainly wasn’t seeking out those experiences for me.
Over the years, I have made lasting and meaningful friendships with black and brown people. I have listened to their experiences and tried to learn what I did not know. But there is so much more that I can, and should be doing. In the last few days, I have seen a video snippet that we should all see. Take 48 seconds to watch it. Full disclosure that I have no idea what else is on this YouTube Channel or anything else this speaker has ever said. But this video speak volumes.
Jane Elliot short video WATCH IT HERE
By not doing anything…not saying anything…I am allowing people of color to be treated in a way I do not want for myself or my family. I know it’s wrong. But I stay silent. Why? Because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing. I’m afraid I will offend someone. I am afraid of exposing my own ignorance.
I am no longer afraid. I am angry that people of color are being treated less than human. I am angry that when I saw comments and videos about Christian Cooper birdwatching, people were more concerned with the dog’s wellbeing than the man who may have become another statistic. I am mad that people are shouting about looting and riots before they are about someone being suffocated on the street in front of dozens of witnesses. I am angry that people are crying for peaceful protests when those have not worked. Kaepernick tried to peacefully protest by taking a knee to highlight the exact injustices we have witnessed over the last week. People called him a disgrace and unAmerican. He tried like so many others before him and yet it didn’t work. I certainly can see the direct line from Kaepernick’s ignored peaceful protest to the violence of the last few days.
The very vast majority of people in the world are good. Police officers and first responders are inherently good. They follow a calling I never could. They serve and protect when the world turns against them. They stand up for those who are repeated trampled. We cannot let the very tiny minority of bad apples diminish the fact that police officers are outraged and disgusted by what happened in Minneapolis. Most are trying to peacefully keep order in their hometowns and cities right now while those who are angry protest. Supporting our brothers and sisters in blue does not mean that I do not hurt from the violence of the past week. It does not mean that I am not outraged by what happened to George Floyd and dozens of other black men and women. It means that I can be conflicted and sad and angry and a million other feelings all at once…as I imagine many of us are feeling right now. Maybe that’s wrong. I don’t know. I’m still learning.
I am still uncertain as to what to say to those who are hurting right now. I still fear that I will offend someone. And if I do, please tell me. I want to learn. But what I will say is this.
I see you.
I pray with and for you.
I hear you.
And I wish you peace.