Freedom and equality are two important things America was built upon. It is what attracts foreigners to this country with dreams of being free in a land of opportunities. It is a country people refer to as the “melting pot” where “indivisible with liberty and justice for all” is inviting to all people. But, as we know it seems to sit very far from THAT truth as a Nation, especially right now.
I believe it is time for real change, that all of us no matter what color or creed need to educate ourselves, to understand what is broken and why. Anger and hate will not bring change, education and communication will. There is no way any single person can understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of another human being, period. The only experience in life we will ever understand as individuals is the one our own feet have traveled. It does not mean we can’t try but we have to realize that our inner belief of the world around us is made up from our understanding through our own experiences. It revolves around what our parents taught us, what teachers told us, what we choose to believe and who our friends were and are today. Whatever peaceful or traumatic experiences we have had within our lifetime affect what we believe to be true and that is because of the way we internalize those experiences as human beings.
I see more anger, opinions and labels being used today than ever before. I believe it is vital that we start learning how and why we are feeling what we are feeling. I also believe we need more honesty and integrity in order to be better and to do better. If we dont I fear we will continue to destroy our civilization through greed, selfishness and a lack of empathy.
I think that 2020 has created fear and anger in us all through isolation, the change in the economy, the political realm for the upcoming election and the constant need to voice our opinions. We all have become super hyper sensitive to all that is being shared.
I cried more this week than I ever remember without having anything directly related to myself. I felt anger over the details of George Floyd’s death, with the looting and the riots. I felt sadness and compassion with the peaceful demonstrations. I see a younger generation of all colors and backgrounds uniting together who will be our leaders someday standing up for what they believe needs to change. This week, because of these things I personally felt I needed to look deep inside of myself based on my life knowledge and journey. I need to understand how my life experiences have created my own personal belief system. If I am to be a better human then I should start to learn more from others who have a different story. I want to understand what a person of color feels, recognizing I will never directly know, if I listen and educate myself maybe the insight of life from a different perspective will change my thinking. I have to realize I have lived a life as a white privilaged person…because of the color of my skin how ever niave I may be to the fact. Honestly I have never given it any thought because I have never paid attention to the label directly. Understanding the value of this and what it could offer within my life…I decided to try and learn more so this is what I did…
I called my elderly neighbor to do my biweekly check, to make sure she was ok and to see if she needed anything. She is a strong 70+ year old black woman who lives alone and speaks with conviction. She is someone I have known for 19 years and whom I have secretly admired because of her energy, her knowledge and her story.
At the end of our small talk I asked how she felt about all that was going on over the George Floyd situation. As she shared her thoughts I dove deeper and asked her to share with me her experiences of racism, something I have to honestly admit I have always been afraid to ask a black person directly. As a white woman I understand the direct effects of sexism and bullying but I have come to realize that I am naive to the truth behind racism, how could I know, I have white skin. I heard a person protesting this week say “I didn’t choose the color of my skin, I was born black and have had to deal with the card I was dealt my whole life.” That really had to sink in.
For more than an hour my neighbor shared with me her path of growing up in Little Rock Arkansas and her journey to make a better life for herself as a black woman. The story that hit me the hardest was this one…
As a young child she had always wanted to ride the bus and one afternoon her father decided they would take a bus home after shopping. She was around 5 years old and was so excited as she walked up the steps and plopped down in the first empty seat she saw. By the time her father had made it up the stairs behind her a white man began unleashing racial slurs toward her dad about the rules of riding the bus. After the man insulted her father verbally in front of the others and her, they were told to get off of the bus. Her father picked her up in his arms, apologized repeatedly and they exited. As the bus pulled away he held her hand and quietly started walking home. She could see a steady flow of tears streaming down his face and not understanding what had happened she started telling him how sorry she was for sitting in the wrong seat. She pleaded with him to forgive her for whatever she did wrong that made him cry, she had never seen him cry before and thought he was crying because of her. He kneeled down on his knee and said to her “honey it is my fault not yours, we can’t ride the bus today because I should have told you the rules beforehand, you did not do anything wrong, I did,” he hugged her and they walked home in silence. It was a time that people of color had to sit in the back of the bus or to leave the bus should they be told to do so.
As she told me the story I fought back my emotions and tears, I could tell she was emotional from the change in her voice. This was a memory she has held since she was 5 years old, one of the anguish seen in her father’s eyes, a man humiliated in front of his young child for the color of his skin. A man who also understood what harm might have come to him or his child because the rules of that time did not match the constitutional rights of ALL Americans. This is just one story of many that she shared with me, a story I could never truly understand because I did not experience it first hand, I did not walk in her shoes.
The conversation with my neighbor has made me want to know more, to try harder to understand others and why they are the way they are based on what they have endured. No matter what you believe, please think about what I have shared here and the importance that knowledge and understanding has with any solution to a problem. While the key issue in this moment is equality for black lives I invite you to think of the equality of all lives. No matter who you are, consider what it might be like to walk in the shoes of others who have a different story than yours. Racism, sexual abuse, sexism or any other unchosen factor that may have not been a part of your life experience. If we can get past the labels and see people for who they are individually maybe we can start to understand how to fix things.
This is not about black vs white, right vs wrong, good cop vs bad cop and so on. It is about each of us “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” It is about change and why it needs to happen. It is our responsibility as human beings in this country to be considerate, to be kind, to be honest and to be equal. In my opinion that has to start with an understanding of the things outside of ourselves first, with education, with humility and with integrity. Anger can fuel strength but education can provide change.
This week has been draining, sad and yet inspiring. I am tired of crying and hope that next week will allow for less tears. This is a time when I need to take in each day carefully, to be kind to myself and to believe better times are around the corner. The hamsters in my head have been in full throttle, my mind is all over the place and I can’t seem to stay focused on one thing so I will take it step by step as it comes. I miss togetherness, hugs and laughter.
I hope that you found some common ground with what I shared, I enjoy writing and want to bring people together through authentic insight. Feel free to share your thoughts here or on social media but please keep them positive, it is the only space I choose to stand in and how I prefer to contribute.
Sending love….pass it on.