There has been no rain. No wind. No stirring. A rose floats listlessly upon the water. No stem. No roots. Nothing to ground it. Only a stagnant puddle to attract the mosquitoes of society ready to pounce, to smother, to take rights that should be equally possessed. Those mosquitoes are blood suckers, parasites, only thinking of themselves. They have no benefit. They own a pesky hatefulness with a power that has been bestowed upon them, not legally, but complacently from those who rank above them. Looking the other way. Making deals. A disease from within transmitted through each bite. Swatting, running, and even staying inside does not keep those most in danger, black men and women, safe from their needless wrath
How does this make me feel? A white woman who has been fortunate in life not to experience a fear unfathomable. The need for black mothers and fathers to explain to young black children, especially boys that they have to act a certain way in preparation for a chronic fact of life. Most likely will be targeted and harassed by the police and imaginative civil vigilantes only because of the color of their skin. Those who are supposed to serve and protect, yet are the bullies, the offenders. It is hard to put into words how this makes me feel. Empathy. Angry towards those who abuse their power. Irate towards those who enable it and pay off families to push the sediment of truth to the bottom of a murky puddle.
As a white woman how do I help? What can I do? Use my gift of writing perhaps. Realize that because I am treated one way does not mean all who are not like me are treated the same. As a white woman, even I feel trepidation when I see a cop car behind me, but this is an ingrain distrust and dislike for the police, not a justified fear for my life. What my black brothers and sisters feel in the same position is unrighteous and utterly unnecessary. No human should have to go through life worried about wearing a hoodie while walking to the store as Trayvon Martin did. He was an innocent 17 year with his entire life ahead of him only to be snuffed out by a racist claiming to be watching out for the neighborhood. We all know the truth, even those who defend the monster. He is racist in the cruelest way; in that he derives pleasure from harming and killing others especially those he has decided are beneath him.
It sickens me. I feel ashamed to be white because there are so many who joyfully snuff out life because they feel they are made superior by the paleness of their skin. Perhaps our skin is pale because we are untouched by the kisses of the sun, buried in the sand of our own insecurities. I love my black brothers and sisters. Always have. They are no different than me. They have dreams, hopes, ideas, children, parents, lives. There is no reason for them to be marginalized except for the hate and fear of what not only white supremacists think, but normal, everyday people who like to believe they are not racist. One does not realize when growing up in the south just how bad it really is until you leave and start listening to people you knew say certain phrases that seem out of place once removed from the context of place.
I may be white, but I was born into a Jewish family. Given a Jewish name. Had amazing Jewish great grandparents who I visited in Miami Beach regularly as a child. I will never forget a conversation I had with another kid as we were playing on my back porch. My mom listening from the kitchen. Allowing me to handle it.
My friend asked me “Where are your horns?’
I was a bit confused. I did not understand. “Horns?”
“Yea. All Jewish people have horns.”
I shook my head. Still incredulous. I had never heard this. “I don’t have any horns.”
“Maybe it’s just the old people.”
Still not understanding that this is an ingrained prejudicial misconception taught by her family I replied. “My great grandparents are old and don’t have horns.”
That was in Georgia. I do not remember exactly how old I was. Maybe six. We had just returned from Germany where we had lived five years off base. A place I loved but did not understand why we had to hide Hanukkah and put up a Christmas tree. This was the beginning of hearing such preconceived notions, but not so much Jewish. The deeply, sedimented hatred of African Americans was the prominent course of bigotry, dictums used to deprecate people who were no different than me. I am lucky I lived in a family who did not promote this when I was young and after my parents divorced my mom made a point to keep teaching us that all are equal.
There is no room for hate in this world.
I would like to say these coated racial adages are innocently spoken, but they are not. There is a superiority complex rooted in the fear of their own inferiority. When negatively referring to anyone different from themselves it is not out of innocence. It is an inane prejudice festered deep inside, cultivated from the time they were born. The sediment does not move. Is not stirred. The majority targeted only desiring to live life and keep their heads down. A great ability to keep the peace.
Choosing not to stir pot.
Equality and compassion by all are necessary for a healthy society, but it seems that it is a difficult mindset to change. I rejoice in seeing that the tides are churning and this time all those suppressed have a fighting chance. A confidence fought for by those who came before them. I recall reading Frederick Douglass’ book My Bondage and My Freedom. I am enthralled at all he overcame to become free and his determination to educate himself so that he could pass this on to other slaves and freeman empowering them as he had been. Education was key for Douglas. He is not only someone to admire and aspire to emulate but celebrate. He was one of the strongest, most intelligent men to have ever lived. I am amazed by his determination to learn to read and write using whatever resource such as letters on the side of a ship was available. Frederick Douglass was more than my equal, he is someone to look up to.
Olaudah Equiano was also a natural leader who knew how to grow within his situation to attain the respect of those who bonded him as well as become a respected writer of the British Romantic era. There are many who have not heard of him and his book The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings which enthralled me and gave me another lens to view slavery from one who had not been born on a plantation such as Frederick Douglass. Equiano’s slavery began as a child taken from his village by another tribe. It is his story of how he became a slave. How he learned to read and write. And very much an inspiration to the overcoming of impossible situations.
Douglass and Equiano are two men who are an inspiration of climbing the mountain of suppression and oppression. Their writing is clear and precise. It is motivating and a testament that slavery should never have existed. I am grateful to them for taking the time to share their story, advocate for freedom and continue to learn and grow using their experiences to help others. It is their narratives such as the videos of today which make those who have the ability to help made aware of the problem at hand. They are videographers of yesteryear.
These are heroic men just as Nella Larsen was an artistic writer herself, giving voice to mixed race men and women during the Harlem Renaissance and of the difficulties and segregation of life as a non white in the 1920’s. She also observes how Harlem was a place of interest for whites to visit and ogle blacks as if they were on display. Larsen was of mixed race which brought on its own injustices illustrated in her fiction. Larsen wrote Passing and Quicksand, which enlightened me on an entirely different reality many African Americans live. Nella Larsen is one of my favorite and most prolific writers of all time possessing a poetic, timeless prose.
It is these writers who prove that there is no inequality except those created by the human mosquitoes swarming around, trying to suck the very life from those they have decided are inferior. I am here to state that there is no such thing as inferiority except of those who suppress, oppress, harm, maim and kill both physically and mentally. Equality is what is paramount. If someone looks different, rejoice in them. Learn from them, but honestly it is no different in my eyes if someone has brown hair versus red. Skin color is a genetic trait and has nothing to do with what is in the heart.
We are all human.
It is how we choose to use that humanity that can make us great or turn us into monsters. I, for one embrace diversity. I seek diversity. I love diversity. Without diversity there is nothing but sameness. No growth. Only a stagnant puddle hovering above the sediment of complacency.
BLACK LIVES MATTER!