To have a rational thought these days is a feat, when even thoughts about what Iʼll make for dinner are fueled by emotions of outrage and utter sorrow. My brain is in conflict with itself. On the left, it struggles to find logic, and on the right, at fever pitch, it attempts to emotionally process and react to what is taking place in our world.
I keep asking myself…how are we here, in this moment (as the world fights a pandemic that has taken 432,000 lives), experiencing an outbreak of the disease that is racism? How? And why NOW? As if the air isnʼt heavy enough, with nearly half a million lives lost, as if it isnʼt heavy enough with nearly 200 million jobs lost, but now with fear and uncertainty permeating our every breath, the world stood in horror, and watched the video of a man spend the last nine minutes of his life defenselessly uttering the words, “I canʼt breathe” while being murdered by a man whose job it was to serve and protect. And now, in the Aftermath, America struggles to breathe.
The tragedy of this is immeasurable. Breath is a right given to us by life, itself. This is something we all feel, without even the ability to know how to feel, upon the very first heave of our very first breath when leaving the womb. And as we watched a man being stricken of his inalienable right to breathe, it is something we all felt. George Floyd HAD A RIGHT to breathe. And we KNOW that. The outrage should be felt by all, regardless of skin color. Yet, we spiral. Into digression of subtext, into redirection of the narrative. Into the depths of our countryʼs gravest affliction: racism. Why does it always boil down to black vs white?
I am mixed. Both, of race and of my feelings on what is taking place now. Without question, I am outraged and heartbroken by George Floydʼs death, the image of which, is indelible in me. I will never be able to unsee it. And, whatʼs more, I never want to be able to unsee it. It is a solemn reminder that I am of a race who continues to be oppressed, persecuted, ostracized, belittled, demeaned, preyed upon and caged by my OTHER race. It is a solemn reminder of the systemic racism that not only exists, but thrives, in this country. Still.
I am outraged by the exploitation of a murdered manʼs criminal record in an effort to defame his character while attempting to justify the actions of a man who ALSO had a record…of police brutality.
I am outraged by the attempts to sabotage the necessary protests that have
ensued as a result of another black execution.
I am outraged by the mysterious counter organization, seizing opportunity for their own evil agenda by rioting, looting, causing chaos and destruction… knowing full well, that the automatic finger of blame will point at black people and the BlackLivesMatter movement.
Iʼm outraged by the staggering number of people who belligerently argue the obvious fact that all lives matter when NO ONE, not even BlackLivesMatter, disputes that.
Iʼm outraged by the indignant defense of white privilege. I dare anyone who has it, and feels justified in defending it, to wear the shoes of someone who doesnʼt, then walk down the street while wearing a hoodie, or have your home invaded while youʼre sleeping, or beg for your life while you have a knee, literally crushing your neck.
Iʼm outraged that politicians are trying to make it about themselves. Seizing this moment as an opportunity to position for a win in November.
Iʼm outraged by the racist comments Iʼm seeing on social media, the racist comments Iʼm hearing in conversation. Iʼm outraged by the complacency, the ignorance and the oblivion.
Iʼm outraged that one of my own (white) family members ‘just wants to live on an island surrounded by wealthy white people.ʼ And thought it was ok to not only think this, but express this to my daughter, whoʼs mixed.
Iʼm outraged that some of my own (mixed) family members think Iʼm a ‘white bitchʼ and thought it was ok to not only think this, but express it to me, while simultaneously protesting racism.
Iʼm outraged by the lack of understanding and by the annoyance Iʼve heard expressed over black people ‘flaring up againʼ, as if enduring perpetual racism is the problem.
Iʼm even outraged by my own outrage.
Where is our compassion? Where is our empathy?
And where do I fit in, being both black and white? The black community, doesnʼt perceive me as being black because my skin is lighter, because my features lean toward Caucasian. And so they assume Iʼve had an easy experience navigating through my life, enjoying the same privileges that white people do. The white community, though they donʼt perceive me as white and put me in the ‘exoticʼ category, they donʼt realize Iʼm black, and often feel free in my presence to let whatever racist notions they have show, whether latent, overt, inadvertent, or oblivious. Iʼm always left in the uncomfortable position in these situations of either choosing to let them know Iʼm half black, and reprimanding them for their racisms, or simply ‘remain in their clubʼ by quietly allowing their ignorance and racism to occur.
I was severely discriminated against as a child. I was subject to painful name calling and ostracizing. Was pointedly excluded from parties, school organizations, parts in plays. Had vicious rumors spread about me. I always had to be twice as smart and work twice as hard as everyone else, just to be treated with half the amount of respect as everyone else. And my brothers have all been victims of police brutality. The wounds run deep. They may heal some but they donʼt go away. And the scars are constant struggles with self esteem, and self worth that get picked at and reopened with the daily task of squelching feelings of irrational shame over my race. Like Iʼve done something wrong by merely existing.
But there is a flip side to these struggles. I feel a great deal of purpose about my existence, too. I am the product of love between two races, and beyond that, I am proof that it is possible to eradicate racism altogether as there is truly only one race. Human. We are all equal. Iʼve always felt in my soul, that it is not only my duty to understand and have compassion for both black and white, but my purpose, by nature of my very existence, to bring them together so we could be one. Finally. Forever.
How we get there, I imagine will be a long and painful process, just as it has been. We need to understand one another. We need to accept one another. We need patience with one another. We need compassion. We need love. We need to forgive.
UNDERSTANDING. Of sooooo many things. One, that racism existed before America existed, that our forefathers were racists and brought their racist tenets to this country and used them as a foundation in which to build our society. Itʼs woven into the fiber of our flag. And we ARE growing past it. Not quickly, as we know we should grow. But, we are growing. It is also understandable why black people are tired. Its been 401 years since slavery was brought here. Black existence has been a struggle every day since. Things are not equal. Aside from all the obvious ways in which things are not equal, there is gerrymandering, and redlining, and targeted incarceration, and exclusion from opportunity. And the list goes on. Even hailing a cab isnʼt equal. Hell, even the simple right to life isnʼt equal. We all know this. It is time to truly understand why this is wrong.
ACCEPTANCE. We have to accept that these things are wrong. We must accept that our ancestors, great grandparents, grandparents, and parents, and even ourselves have contributed to this wrong that we now have the power to make right. We need to accept that there is nothing we can do to change our past. And that there is everything we can do to change our future. Starting with conversation. Unpleasant conversation, heated conversation, even outright arguments that force us to look at ourselves, call out racism in our best friends, our families, and our leaders. Some friendships will end because of these conversations. In some cases, even familial relationships will end. Thatʼs ok. If thatʼs what needs to happen, then thatʼs what needs to happen. Our country will be better for it in the end.
PATIENCE. We have to be patient with one another. No one reacts well to being told theyʼre wrong. Especially when they know theyʼre wrong. Especially in the case of racism, where many are wrong by default and not actively partaking in the wrong, other than enjoying the privilege that they were born with and may not even be aware that they have. We are in the midst of an awakening. As painful as it is, and as volatile as the climate is right now, this is a very positive moment. Things may get a little worse (though I pray they donʼt) as people naturally have a tendency to resist change. But, I predict that this moment in history will bring about the next major step toward abolishing racism.
COMPASSION. This should be a basic human tenet. Humanity should have humanity for humans, regardless of race, creed, monetary wealth, sexual orientation, and gender identity…Employing the simple concept of, if you hurt, I hurt. Period. Just. Period.
LOVE. If we all treated one another as family, and had genuine love for one anotherʼs own, as if they were our own, imagine what a country this would be? Imagine what the world could be?
FORGIVENESS. This is the hardest thing to grant. It requires all of the things… Understanding, acceptance, patience, compassion, love, and a WHOLE LOT of surrender, yet it yields the greatest reward for the forgiver AND the forgiven. Even when the forgiver and the forgiven are one and the same. I speak from my own experience when I say this. Given the choice between holding on to bitterness and anger or giving way to forgiveness, Iʼve mostly always chosen forgiveness, and in doing so, have always freed not only those who have wronged me, but have freed myself of their wrong doing. Thereʼs no greater lightness than the liberation of oneʼs own spirit. There are no chains that can hold down a free spirit, be them societal, or self imposed.
Maybe itʼs because Iʼm mixed that I feel this way. Maybe, because Iʼm mixed, I see things in black and I see them in white. Maybe I see things in black and see them in white because Iʼve always had an innate need to understand and be understood, To accept and be accepted. Maybe, because Iʼm mixed, the very nature of my existence is one of hope for humanity. So, as I live through this moment in time, processing my feelings of outrage and utter sorrow at the killing of my people by my people, witnessing the nonsensical hatred of my people by my people, I have hope. I have hope because I AM hope, personified by the union of two races who saw past the color of each otherʼs skin to the light in each otherʼs souls.