As you are no doubt painfully aware, the last week was a horrific one in the U.S., and the weeks and months before that: for the LGBT community, for Muslims celebrating Ramadan, for travelers in Turkey, for the new country of South Sudan… and the list goes on. So much hatred, suffering, and bloodshed.
It is a very hard time to be a caring citizen of the world.
And it is a very hard time to be a caring citizen of these United States. I spent the last week shaking my head and weeping. When I woke up to the police murders in Dallas, after the two black men were shot and the rest of the world suffering, I sat at the kitchen counter and wept.
And then I got on a plane and flew to Florida to spend a few days with my mom, who is slowly dying from Alzheimer’s. My sister and her fellow picked me up at the curb, and after we’d caught up – talking about Lilly’s graduation from college and mom’s health, me chattering from the back seat – I brought up the Dallas shootings, the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the despair and grief I was feeling. Because even as I was chatting about other stuff I had been thinking, ‘I can’t wait to ask what they think about all this.’
“Can you believe what a horrible horrible week it’s been? It’s so hard to know what to do to change anything,” I said, leaning forward between the bucket seats.
There was a pause and the roar of the air conditioning was all I could hear. Then my sister said, “What are you talking about? What happened?”
I love my sister and I do not mean to pillory her while making myself look good. She’s a wonderful person and much more loving in many ways than I am. I mention this moment to point out two things about myself that maybe you can relate to:
I saw that I am part of a community – online and off – that talks about, learns about, and takes action on issues. That is politically aware and active. It’s a given. My sister doesn’t have that kind of a community teaching her, reminding her, pushing her, lifting her up. I am a product of the people I am privileged to know, to read, to learn from. Education + community + access shapes me.
How does it shape you?
When I realized my sis was not obsessing about the state of race and economic injustice in our country, I felt relief. My body sagged against the back seat. A tempting thought floated through my mind: What if I just forgot about the whole thing? All that suffering in the world, all that racism, all that gun violence, all that need for the very hard work of mending and changing our country. I almost heard my dad saying, “You were always so dramatic, Jenny. You got enough work to do. Don’t go trying to save the world, too.”
How easy it would be to let my busy lucky life reabsorb me.
To turn away from the pain and divisions racking my corner of the world.
I share my two reactions because they perhaps point to how we can help create change: education+community+staying awake.
Change requires community. It only happens with others and for others.
I know many of us don’t know what to do. I believe having conversations is one vital place to start. Did you know 75% of white Americans have no friends of color? How can we stand for each other if we don’t know one another, break bread, watch our kids grow up? I can imagine a completely differently U.S. when 75% of white Americans have friends they love of all colors.
I’ll leave you with these questions:
Who are you learning from? Is it stretching you, disturbing you, but also empowering you? Who are you hanging with, whose voices and energy are influencing you? Do you need some new influences? Support?
How will you stay engaged? It’s normal and understandable to feel hopeless and helpless. And while tending to your own livelihood and heart is essential for the long haul, none of us can afford to go back to business as usual. If we do, we become complicit in injustice and suffering. No more.
I’m going to share this post on Facebook so we can discuss you can share what you are doing to heal and mend, and additional resources.
Just go here.
P.S. Here are some additional resources:
“Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism”