Sunday, October 1, 2017

state of the union

I’ve been stewing all day about how to put my feelings into words. I can tell you that it’s not going to be pretty, but tonight I needed to sit and try to get some of this out of my head. More often than not recently, it seems like I’m talking to my children about some new ridiculousness that has happened in our country around race and inequality. Part of me wonders how in the actual fuck we got to this place, and the other part of me knows that just because there was a time we elected a black president doesn’t really mean that we ever really got to a different place. That is ever so clear today as I TWICE had to talk with the girls about racism, bigotry, and how I expect that they will call out this kind of inequity and ridiculous behavior as they come across it. Notice I didn’t say “if” they come across it. That ship has clearly sailed on.
Just last night I heard a story from friends who were at a charity fundraising event in THIS very city, where the woman speaking and encouraging people to spend their money actually said that they would take any kind of payment for items that evening, “but not Puerto Rican money.”  Um, so FIRST OF ALL, Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. Their currency IS our currency.  Even my 12 year old knew that. Secondly? The woman who actually uttered those words was once a pretty big part of that daughter’s life. Guess what? This is the exact kind of nastiness that doesn’t fly in my house. We are honest, and we are open, and I will tell these stories to my girls because it’s hateful and needs to be called out. I had several friends find her comment so disgusting and offensive that they actually left the event.  The worst part? This woman calls herself a Christian. She and I have long had political differences, but I’ve always taken her at her word that our differences are what make this country great, and we can still discuss them and respect each other. Not anymore. Making this country great has a new meaning these days, and good Christian values apparently only apply to white folk. I’m so bothered by this that I can’t even write anymore about it other than to tell you that I feel if people are giving their money to a charity, they should know it’s run by someone who thinks it’s ok to joke about a country full of citizens who don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes, and who are in dire need of our aid right now.  What would Jesus do? Oh, that’s right. HE was brown, too…
I’m tired of people saying and doing horrible things without being held accountable. Kids setting up red solo cups in the shape of a swastika? Disgusting.  A school’s administration choosing not to make examples out of those same girls involved in this heinous behavior? Gross. Adults making racist comments in public at a charity event? Shameful. People making terrible comments on social media from behind a computer screen? Shameful AND cowardly. I don’t consider myself a Christian. I was raised in the church and have plenty of reasons that I’m not a part of it now. But, the great thing is, I don’t have to be part of a church to be a kind and good human being. If you call yourself a Christian, at best you’d better behave like someone who has thought about what it means to love your neighbor. 
In my home, I’m teaching my children to call out racism and hatred. I’m teaching them that it’s NEVER ok to spread hate in any way, and that they should be the ones to stand up when they see discrimination happening toward or by their friends. We talk about privilege in this house, not because I think my children will fully understand what their privilege means until they get older and see more of the world, but because it’s the absolute right thing to do. Because I hope that one day these conversations we are having now will mean that they are the ones who stand up when others around them make jokes about the Holocaust. Or, they’ll be the ones to stop and say how fucked up it is when a grown adult makes racist remarks about people of color.
I am exhausted. Honestly some days I feel like a broken record and it makes me beyond sad to continue having these conversations, but still we have them. Last summer I took the girls to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. We walked through that powerful place and talked at length about what they were seeing. My girls sat at the Woolworth lunch counter. They stood next to the burned out bus that the Freedom Fighters rode in. They stood in the very place where Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life. They asked why I was crying when we got to that place in the museum, and I couldn’t even speak to them other than to say that there is a reason we stand up to hatred. There is a reason we continue to be kind people even when others aren’t. We might not understand the power of it, or the importance of it at the time, but people died standing up for these things. Isn’t that enough?

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