There were lots of “signs” indicating that today is maybe the day to write this post. I don’t even know what this post is. But let’s start with these. Trayvon Martin. Rage. Undercurrents of racism. Riptides of racism. Prejudice. Hopelessness. Hopefulness. Motherhood.
Oh boy. I am not even going to pretend that this is going to come out eloquently with coherent theme or message. I just hope that at the end, most of you still think I’m a good person. What I’ve been wrestling with, for many years, boils down to this. I am aware of and do not like racism. I recognize that I am prejudiced and I loathe it. Now before you burn me alive, know that although I concede prejudice, I fight it. I fight it within myself. There is internal dialogue, I actively examine my reflexive thoughts and try to correct and replace them. I’ve never read a more perfect description of how I feel than Glennon Melton’s post today on Momastery…which was the final straw that pushed me to write all this here.
Let me back up and “establish credibility.” I am a white female in my early thirties, in case that isn’t obvious yet. I grew up in a white, Catholic, middle-class family, and have rarely come into contact with (what do I say here?) black people in my short life. I have no black friends. I have one friend on Facebook, a person I know from high school, who is black. But although I adore that person, I wouldn’t call our relationship anything more than acquaintances right now. I would love for it to be more (hello Facebook friend!). I admire that person and would welcome a friendship if one develops. I have two (that I know of) friends that I’ve met through the local social media scene that have mixed children. I have one neighbor who is black and another who is a self-described mulatto. I once slept with someone who is black. These relationships embody all of my worldly experience of black people. And then there is the popular media and our social culture, and in general the social norms I learned in childhood. And that all leads me where? I don’t know. A pretty heavy fog of confusion from where I’m sitting.
All I know is that my heart is absolutely BROKEN about this whole Trayvon Martin case. I believe that as mothers we are bound together by that transcendental experience of bringing children into our hearts. Or are they placed there by God? Whatever you conceive God to be. Or hormones? In any case, I look at the pictures, I read the stories and I see my own son, my own daughter and I grieve for the pain my sister in motherhood is suffering. My absolute greatest fear in life is that I will lose a child. I literally don’t know what to do with myself right now…with this incredible empathy that has been placed in me. I just spent 20 minutes milling around in circles in my kitchen trying to decide if I should blog about this. Maybe I should write a letter to my one black aquaintence/friend? WHAT DO I DO!? How do I, little old, insignificant me, add my own stitch to mend together this awful injustice and the collective broken heart of our nation?
You know, months and months ago I went in circles with myself about posting something about the internal conflict I abide that is my reflexive prejudice and my desire to eradicate it from my mind. I went on Amazon and looked for books about black-white relations, and you know what? I was so put off by the venom in the comments that I never bought a single one. It makes me sick to my stomach. I want to reach out and know what to do but I get this overwhelming impression (from those comments and the random things I’ve seen & heard) that black people do not want to have to educate me. And really, should they have to? It irritates them that I don’t completely understand black culture, black history and the fine (or even obvious) details of the black experience. And all I know to do is beg from this stupid blog. I don’t know. How can I ever learn if I am shamed for wondering?
Overwhelmingly, I feel that this case, this Trayvon Martin tragedy is a huge call for society to join hands. I want to join my hands with yours, all of yours and be friends, be advocates for one another. It seems ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous that I could be so ignorant about something seemingly as basic as black culture, black people, everything. I mean, I should know all that, right? The civil rights movement? Desegregation? I should in this day and age, by default, be up to my eyeballs in my deep understanding of what it’s like to be black. I mean, I listen to rap music. (That was a joke, people. Although I do like some rap) The fact is, I think it’s taboo to discuss. So taboo, in fact, that I have never had the balls to discuss it other than once. I was a flight attendant at the time and I attempted to discuss a race relations current event with a black crew member. It did not go well. Suffice to say that she was very polite and although we had a really cool connection about something BEFORE I went out on the talking about racism limb, she never called me to host that “toy party” we discussed. I don’t blame her. I’m sure most people don’t really want a “project friend.” They just want to be normal, like there’s no weird tension there. So, yeah, haven’t done that again because I was clearly a complete tool about it, although I’m not exactly sure how. So better to stay safe and not drive away any more potential friends. Which I seem to be pretty good at, regardless of whether they are black, white or whatever. So yeah, maybe not a good idea to write a letter to that Facebook friend about all this.
But there IS that tension for me. I am ashamed of it. I want to get past it, but I don’t know how other than by the grace of others who are willing to set me straight and not dump me like yesterday’s garbage if I make a misstep. There is so much fear in me of saying or doing the wrong thing, I never reach out to get to know people in the first place. Like that mom at the mall playground I wanted to introduce myself to. It’s so sad and pathetic. And yet here is this blinding beacon of a sign that I need to force myself to grow, force myself to go back out on that limb, and as one person begin to mend part of that national broken heart.
My heart is holding Ms. Fulton.