I didn’t grow up with black friends. I lived in a white suburb, surrounded by white neighbors. I don’t remember a single person of color in my elementary school and there were only a handful in my very large high school. I’ve worked with one black man in my entire career.
After my husband and I got married, I gained a black niece and her four children have become my great-niece and nephews. Through blogging, I have met some of the most thought-provoking women (and men) of color. These people, this family, and community is mine, regardless of the shade of their skin. Where I came from and what I experienced growing up no longer matter.
Right now, these friends are hurting. People act out because they are hurting. Just the other day, I was slamming doors and drawers and I actually punched a wall because I was hurting. It is not fair for me to judge others for their reaction to pain.
My niece and friends live in fear for their sons’ lives and my heart is breaking. I’m not even talking about the people protesting in Ferguson, I’m talking about my family across town and my friends in Cincinnati, Chicago, New York, Houston, Albany, Austin, Atlanta, and every other city across the United States. These are American mothers and fathers who go to work, love their families, and shouldn’t have to live under a different system than white people. It’s really that simple.
But, of course, it’s not simple.
At church last week, the homily was about treating every person you come in contact with as if they were Jesus. It’s hard not to gossip, judge, and be open to new thoughts; I know I am guilty of it. But, don’t we owe it to these young people in our midst to try? Just listen to the stories. Really listen. Without judgment. That should be simple enough. It’s a start, at least.
Just because I was privileged enough to be born with white skin doesn’t make me privileged enough to not care.
My great-nephews lives may depend upon it.