Posted on | August 14, 2014 | 4 Comments
This morning, my son made himself toast with butter for breakfast. He made it all by himself and my GOD I want to be thinking of that milestone and celebrating that milestone and being the mom who is so caught up in the amazing intricacies of my son’s life that I can’t be bothered with the world outside.
But I am bothered by the world outside.
And honestly, if you’re not? If you’re not bothered by the world outside the four walls of your space then maybe you and I should have a little talk.
Last week, the Leadership class that I’m a part of had a “Race Relations” day. We did a lot of listening about the history of racial tension in our own town and a lot of talking about things that maybe don’t get talked about enough. Things like “Driving While Black.” Things like the clash within the Black community over Rap and Hip Hop culture. Things like knowing people aren’t somehow thinking less of you because your skin pigment is different than theirs.
At one point, one of the young black men in my class stood and asked an honest question. He asked how many of us, how many of us on the other side of the room… the white side of the room, hear a joke with the “n” word in it and laugh. And how many of us say to the joke teller it is wrong.
My gut reaction was one of denial. I NEVER laugh at those jokes, I announced, horrified that someone would ever do so. But as the week has passed, I’ve thought of the times some of the older generation in my family have said that word. I thought of the times I’d held my tongue because of the “respect your elders” that has been drilled into me. I thought about the times I’d turned a blind eye and blind ear to the racial comments, racist undertones, and just plain wrong assumptions that are made around me on a daily basis.
And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me want to weep, not for myself… not for the Black community… but weep for the world I am handing to my son. A world where Ferguson, Missouri exists. A world where members of the White community immediately roll their eyes and say “We don’t know the WHOLE story, though do we?” Should the WHOLE story matter, at least in this case? In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if words were exchanged or even if violence was exchanged, when the end result is an 18 year old on his knees with his hands raised, and a police officer still shooting him? Am I handing my son a world where my Black friends are scared to pull over when a police officer is behind them because they just don’t know what he or she might do to them? Am I really sending him out into a world where White privilege is so prevalent, so overwhelming, that the White people don’t notice it and the Black and Hispanic communities can’t avoid it.
I want to focus on the fact that my son made himself toast this morning.
I want desperately to focus on the fact that he made that damn toast.
But what a disservice I would do to my heart, to my brothers and sisters in the Black community, to my brothers and sisters in Ferguson, Missouri and around the world who wake up every day knowing that THEY might be harmed for no reason… for being young… for being black… for being disrespectful or too respectful or maybe just for BEING. What a disservice I would be doing if I focused on toast, while the world around me weeps over or ignores another example of how far we still have to come.
Forty some years ago, a lone Black man stood at a podium and made a speech that should have changed the world. He stood and spoke words that should have stirred hearts for decades, for centuries even.
“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
One hundred years. Will it be that long before another change comes? There is a shameful condition being dramatized right now… today… in Ferguson Missouri. In your town. Maybe even in your neighborhood. And it’s been forty years since that speech was made.
It will STILL be here in forty more years, if we turn our eyes away from Ferguson, Missouri, from Trayvon Martin, from the immigrants in Texas, from the poverty and the abject humiliation that so many of our brothers and sisters face every day. We are all one, are we not? One nation, indivisible.
Indivisible. Not Invisible.
Seeing. Not blind.
Open your eyes.