Current situation: I am outnumbered 4 to 1. The house is filled up with kids, which is never a bad thing, but not usually a quiet thing. The neighbors went out and left us their kids, and then the Husband promptly left. We took a hike over to 7-11 to pick out an ice cream. Four kids is a little different than two in the sense that they can all go down a different aisle in the store. We left with 3 sluprees and two Sponge Bob ice creams later.
Now, the boys are playing video games via the internet right next to each other. This seems pretty strange considering they are both sitting directly in front of the tv which has a PS4. They could easily play together without having to deal with the internet dropping out, but they prefer their own method. The girls are trying to manage the boys frequent cheers of success or groans of sorrow when the WiFi drops out.
The Husband has been engaged in a "conversation" via social media regarding racism. He gets hunkered down over his phone screen now and again. He didn't mean to stir anything up but had been thinking about stuff for awhile and wanted to write it out. We talk about such things a lot lately. I suppose you could lay the blame at 45's feet, but I don't know if you are aware of this, racism has been around a lot longer than he has.
I've heard a lot of well-meaning people lately talk about being "color-blind" and that we are all "the same". I 100% understand what they are trying to communicate. I know that they are talking about inclusion, connection and unity. The truth is, though, we can't have unity if we dismiss another human being's experiences. Because I am old and have taught for over two decades, I've got 100s and 100s of former students. They do not have a unified set of opinions regarding, well, anything. Some of them are marching with Black Lives Matter, some of them attended the Woman's March, some of them fought for and won the right to marry whoever they wanted, some of them have posters of Ronald Regan hanging in their homes, and some of them voted for 45. They are all my students.
The biggest problem with becoming "color blind" is that it leaves you blind. You become blind to injustice, inequality, and other people's needs. It reminds me of the time Michelle Obama talked about the wonder of living in a house once built by slaves. I was awed by the beautiful thought. I could see the slaves laboring in the darkest injustice, suffering unaware that the House they built would one day recognize the horrific travesty committed by the Nation, and even further down the line of time, would one day house a family that was a fulfillment of the dreams of the thousands that came before them. That is a tremendous and beautiful thought. I was stunned when people protested outrage at her comments. The worst being spoken by Sean Hannity who actually said, "The slaves that built were treated well, and some were indentured servants." As if being sold temporarily was a good thing.
I've come to realize that the people who claim that activists or people who are "woke" are the ones "causing a division" has everything to do with discomfort. No one likes their errors being brought to light. We like to keep our weaknesses and mistakes tucked into the shadows. Shinning a glaring, bright light on wrongs brings discomfort and shame to us. We prefer to remember the past in such a way that brings comfort and pride, not shame. We prefer to remember our past color-blind. We enjoy watching movies about the past, but only if the characters adopt a modern sensibility - characters that embrace equality, feminism, and openness. We reenact battles from the past, but not completely accurately - we live out the racism, sexism and injustice.
The truth is our Nation was founded on greed, and slavery was just a means to ensure a greater profit. It was a part of who we were at our very foundation. It isn't just a sad chapter of our history; it is our history. Our desire to ignore the past and live our lives color blind, is just another attempt to distance ourselves from all the things that make us so uncomfortable. We want to believe we live in a world where things are fair and even, but they are not. Closing our eyes and pretending won't make it so.
If I want to really embrace my neighbors, I need to start by listening to what they have to say. I cannot deny their experiences, ignore their cries, or turn a blind eye. I cannot have it both ways. In no way would it be welcoming for me to say to a stranger, "You are welcome here, but don't tell me about anything that has happened to you, ever. Let's just live in this moment." We must throw open wide the doors and accept all who enter without judgement. We listen to the stories and value the words that are spoken - not brush them aside with a "I don't think that really happens very often or I've never known anyone to act like that." I've told the story of the Husband going to work at 3:00 a.m. in the morning and being pulled over by three police cars. He had just pulled out of our driveway, and was pulled over. Immediately a second police car cut him off at the front and then a third car pulled up boxing him in. The officer said to him, "Well, it just seemed suspicious, you leaving so early in the morning." He was given no ticket. When I tell this story people are quick to explain to me that maybe it was the car, or maybe something had happened recently to cause this event. They are quick to make excuses or tell me about the police officers they know who would NEVER do anything like this. People rarely say, "I am sorry that happened. That was wrong." Our story makes other people feel uncomfortable, and so they ignore our very real and somewhat painful experience. Their comfort supersedes the injustice of that moment. I could tell you about all the other times he has been pulled over, sometimes with me in the car. My favorite when an officer leaned in and saw me, and did a double-take. "Oh," He said surprised. "I thought . . . you are driving her home from work?" My Husband who has the patience of Job replied respectfully, "Yes. My wife just got off work and we are going home." And I don't mean this to be a post about time the police has wronged us - that isn't the point. Color-blindness leaves you blind to the weight of injustice. I am never comfortable when my Husband runs to the store late at night. What if a taillight is out? What if he wandered into the wrong store with the wrong folks waiting inside. Recently, when we were in traffic, my daughter and I sat behind a truck with a giant confederate flag. I realized that I had to educate her. "See that flag. When you see that, you need to extra careful. Sometimes the people who have it can be mean. If you see it, pay really good attention about where you are - make sure you can see a path out." This is my reality and the reality of so many people living on the earth today.
Inclusion is never the simple ignorance of history and experience. Inclusion accepts those around us as they are, honoring their experiences and embracing all the things that join us together; the love of justice, the beauty of peace and they common pursuit of a different future for our children.
Keep moving forward,