While my six year old was home recuperating from her recent tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, her classmates drew her cards and wrote little notes, wishing her well. Remmy’s teacher and I arranged a FaceTime session with her classroom, and the phone was passed around the room so her classmates could say hello.
The phone stopped in front of James, a friendly black boy in a school uniform navy blue fleece. James and Remmy said hello and mostly waved, but James made sure to say “feel better” and “I miss you” before the phone was passed off to the next classmate. It did Remmy some good, to see her friend and say hello.
I’m raising white daughters. They don’t look “ethnically ambiguous” like me; no one can tell that they’re part Pacific Islander. The three of them have fair skin. In ten years, when Remmy’s walking down the road, it’s likely no one will cross the street to avoid her. In ten years, I’m not so sure I could say the same for James.
The Ferguson case is a volatile one. And we could sit and debate what Wilson said or what the witnesses corroborated, we could point to the protestors or point to the riots, we could reference cases that are like this one, but void of national media attention. We could get red-faced with anger arguing a point, or explaining what a grand jury actually does. And maybe that’s necessary. But what’s more necessary, I think, is to stop and think about what the black community is going through. Regardless of which side we all stand, if any at all… outside of Ferguson altogether, I can look at my black friends and realize that raising black sons is scary.
I’ll point to my own ignorance on this one. And truth be told, I’m still really ignorant to a lot of what my black brothers and sisters face. Until recently, I didn’t know the concept of DWB, driving while black. I didn’t know that some parents have to coach their kids on how to talk to police officers. I didn’t realize that often, a mom will look at her black son and worry about the day that society suddenly sees him as a person to fear, and that her worries are backed by data. I didn’t realize that kindest, most gentle-mannered black man could ask a group of people for directions only to hear the words go away, we don’t have any money.
Racism is hard to talk about, and I’m so afraid of saying the wrong things. But ultimately, I’m more afraid of not saying anything. I got wrapped up in a Facebook debate this morning. A friend (we disagree a lot; it’s ok, we’re still buds) posted something (insensitive, IMO) related to race, and we went back and forth on it. Not much later, we were berated for arguing. We should be able to talk about this without feeling like we’re stirring up trouble. Remove that last part. We should be able to talk about this.
Where my white friends at?
(Religious sidenote: Where the white Christians at? We can talk about the love of Christ all damn day, but when it comes down to it, when people are hurting, when an entire community is in mourning, politics of a judicial decision aside, when we need conversation to happen in order for understanding and empathy to spread, maybe some of us — me included — are being a little too quiet.)
Some truths that I think we can agree on:
1) It’s okay to disagree.
2) It’s okay to not make sense of the Mike Brown case.
3) Racism is still alive in the US. And if you disagree, check out any comments section on any news site to be proven wrong. :/
So what can we do? I don’t know; I really don’t. But I don’t think we should be silent. I’m watching black friends post on Facebook, calling on white people to start conversation. Open, thoughtful discourse is important, and I think we should offer as much empathy as possible. Talk to our white friends. Talk to our black friends. Don’t have any? Probably time to make some. We can read what black people (and parents of black children) are writing. I don’t have to agree with every word someone says in order to learn from someone.
While we’re all sorting this out, if you want to do something immediate and tangible, I like the suggestion of making a donation to the Ferguson Public Library. They’ve tweeted today: WE ARE OPEN! Teachers and volunteers are here 9am-3pm to help kids who can’t go to school today. Library open 9-4, presuming it stays safe. A safe haven worth supporting. Additionally, Natalie DuBose’s bakery was severely damaged by rioters after she pleaded with them not to burn it down or destroy it. People have sent up a gofundme for her to get her bakery back in operations.
These are hard conversations to have, but they’re important. We may never do it the best or the most eloquently, we may the wrong things and have to subsequently apologize, but all of that’s okay, I think. I’d rather do it sort of badly than not do it at all.