I’m perturbed and scared. Society has lost its flea-picking mind, and I watch it play out with venom spewing between white and black friends alike rushing to conclusions and seriously ignoring the actual people involved. I’m a mother of two beautiful black children, adults now, but they are still my babies. I see Facebook posts from friends arguing their points about shootings and the justification or not, a peaceful protest hijacked by a sniper, and all the confusion of the day, and my heart begs for clarity. I get none. Even when the narrative plays out and details unfold, the damage is done. Tempers flare, and reason escapes the walls of social media. I don’t see a solution, and that scares me to death.
Many of my white friends don’t get the tension and rage, and I understand why they don’t get it, but I sit with my own black children and hear the cry of their hearts, and I want to see change. I just don’t know how.
This week, a black Harvard professor published his Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force, and true to form, one side jumped on one conclusion while the other picked out what suited their argument. We’re still not listening to one another.
I walk through life with white skin. I cannot apologize for that. My son, my daughter, my son-in-law, my brother-in-law, my grandchildren all walk through life with black skin, and they should never apologize for that.
From an early age, I was sensitive to racial issues. At five years old, I remember commenting to a church deacon that two wrongs did not make a right when he defended the KKK because of some ill he saw in the “black community.” I have a visceral reaction to racial slurs. I knew I lived through tumultuous times, but I thought times had changed. I thought we had learned to love and accept one another.
When we adopted, we did not ask for black children to rescue. We asked for ANY children in need to make a difference in their lives, and I mistakenly assumed that if I reared them well, and they worked hard and did the right thing, they would not suffer the same prejudices held against their ancestors–as every black mother should also be able to assume.
Yet my son cannot take a walk in Grand Rapids, MI without being stopped and asked where he’s going and what he’s doing in “that” neighborhood. He gets pulled over nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, and given no reason why he is stopped, often by the same police officer repeatedly, and sometimes at the expense of getting to work on time. This actually happens in my own family, not to the faceless guy on the news but to my own son, and it is not because he looks like a thug.
Yet in my extended family, we have law enforcement officers who love peace and justice and bear no ill will against anyone. Wendell has an uncle he loves and respects who has retired from the Richmond Police Department in Virginia. I feel tension; my children feel tension. Right now, I worry because my son is big and doesn’t smile much, and should not have to smile when he doesn’t feel like it just to keep people from being afraid of him. He is clean; he is well-dressed; he is a hard worker; he is respectful; he cares deeply about people. Is that enough?
Will my friends who keep posting knee-jerk reactions to every incident ever grasp what’s happening in the mind and heart of an average black kid who is doing the right thing but sees the world reeling around him and can’t understand his place in it? Will they understand the heart of a mother who knows how such posts are received? Will they realize that most of the statistics they post can be manipulated to suit the purpose of anyone who wishes to skew an opinion their direction and that only a comprehensive analysis of the entire situation from all sides sheds meaningful light on our culture? Will they ever realize the assumptions my boy will face every day of his life and how deflating a simple interaction can be?
When interviewed by a white manager for a job and asked to relate a story where he displayed patience in the workplace, he laid out an incident where a well-meaning white man, upon observing his work ethic wrangling carts at a local grocery store, gave him a fifteen-minute pep talk about how he could be anything he wanted to be if he kept working hard. He could be the first black this or the first black that, occupations already filled by thousands of black professionals. This man walked away so proud of himself for his forward thinking, and Wendell stood there shaking his head, feeling degraded, and this likely college-educated human resource manager asked him, “So where is the part where you were patient?”
How did this kind man, who meant absolutely no harm, become so tone deaf as to assume he was doing some good with his unsolicited lecture, and how did a man in management within a major US corporation not see the shocking assumptions that Wendell endured on that parking lot?
I have no answers because the issues are far deeper than my understanding, but I know a frenzied and irate meme or status will do little to further healthy relationships. I know that real change begins in the hearts of individuals, but I can only change my own. No change will ever happen in a culture or a community unless it first takes place in the heart of a person who will look honestly in the mirror and say, “I am part of the problem.” I will faithfully pray for hardened hearts covered with both white and black skin to soften toward one another, and I will NOT be silent.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.
Bottom photo provided by Allure Photography RVA
Top Photo provided by Karner Blue Photography
Thought-provoking article by Albert Einstein.