I'm ashamed that after all these years racism is still alive. It is not only alive but it is rearing its ugly head in some of the most heartbreaking and infuriating ways. The side by side pictures that are surfacing of years past vs this past week look identical. This is the type of history that should not repeat itself. I'm ashamed that as a human race we are still having to learn lessons on respect, love and just down right dignity.
I'm angry that the color of ones skin can directly affect and dictate the type of treatment they receive. I have wrestled all week with the phrase, "white privilege." I hate it. As much as an African American person hates being judged for their darker skin, I absolutely HATE the assumptions that come with my lighter skin. However....just because I hate it does not make it false. It angers me so much because there IS truth in it. It is a reality that devastates me, but one that I must leverage for good.
I have looked at numerous pictures online and there is one of a lady looking at a camera and she is wearing the exhaustion and heartbreak on her face. It is an image I have not been able to shake. I am sad that a small number of people are choosing to respond with violence and looting. It is heartbreaking to see police using tear gas, tanks, batons, shields and guns. THIS IS AMERICA! There is no FREEDOM in those images. I'm sad that there are children holding signs that say, "Don't Shoot." Children. They are growing up with this as their reality and it is formative in these young minds.
I have started paying more attention to what people say or do not say regarding race. I have immersed myself in a community and a culture that is 95% African American. I can go an entire day without seeing another Caucasian person in my neighborhood. I have worked so hard to be accepted by my neighbors and for the most part, I think that I am. I am also aware that no matter how hard I listen, learn or try to understand. I will never be able to understand 100% the thoughts, feelings and issues they face due to their race and it's a gap that I feel every day. I have listened to peoples concerns for mine and my husbands safety because of where we live. Deep down I know those concerns would not be the same if we lived in a neighborhood filled with people of our same race. I know that some people reading this will say, "Oh that's not true," and if that's you....sit on that for awhile. Think about it. Examine it. I had to as well.
I was sixteen miles from Ferguson last week visiting a friend in St. Louis and I attended a community prayer gathering. It was one of the greatest pictures of Heaven I have ever seen. There were people from all walks of life and different races who came together in unity to pray for our communities. One of the pastors talked about how in the midst of such chaos we need to remember "the God who sees and will set everything right." That brought such comfort to me. Not only does God see what is happening as a whole, He sees each person individually where they are. He knows the depth of our sadness, anger, confusion. He sees the unanswered questions and the aches and groans that feel too deep for words. I'm hopeful because I see peoples of various races coming together united in the midst of division. I see an invitation extended and people accepting. I see the church coming to the city and people standing on the front lines in a cry for change and justice. I'm hopeful because I see this starting to happen in our city as well. Families crossing neighborhood lines and watching children of different races playing together. This gives me hope.
Listening is something we all need to be doing right now. There are voices that need to be heard. There are books, blogs, stories that we all need to read. I want to know what is actually happening and how people really feel. I want to be able to take part in the conversation without appearing or actually being ignorant. I want to know the issues that my neighbors face. I want to go deeper in knowledge and in self reflection. I need to have an opinion. I need to educated in things that I do not understand.
It is my problem.
This is not just something happening on the news somewhere else. This is not someone else's issue. This is my neighborhood. My community. My town. Any of the boys I work with could have been Mike Brown and I have a responsibility in making sure that does not become a reality. I can not change the thoughts and opinions of people in our entire country. My place is not at a peaceful protest in Ferguson, MO. My place is in a small neighborhood in Savannah, GA and a member of a large predominately caucasian church. I live in a city where I see segregation every day. I have a voice and I have an audience. You have a voice and you have an audience. What are you saying...or not saying?
I came across this quote that sums it all up for me:
"Everybody thinks about changing humanity,
nobody thinks about changing himself."
It starts with me.