The last several days has brought me to my knees. I literally have felt like my heart has been broken. It feels like a persistent sadness creeping through my bones, slathered in anger and frustration. It feels sticky.
And I am on the peripheral.
I am not the mother of Treyvon Martin, or Eric Garner’s widow, or Michael Brown’s mother. Instead, I am a white, Jewish woman. I am part of a marginalized culture, who is persistently under violent attack. That's not enough:
I have privilege.
The color of my skin affords me this privilege. The fact that I am not racially profiled in this country affords me privilege. The fact that I am not looked at with mistrust is a result of privilege. I also have a choice. I can use my privilege it for good or I can use it to get what I want, when I want, whenever I can. I could abuse it. But the truth is, I didn't earn this privilege.
I am not better than anyone.
I have raised my son with this world view, one where he understands that he has privilege but that this privilege doesn't make him better. We talk about this all the time. It's part of our norm. As a young ,white man, this awareness starts the conversation of change so he hopefully doesn’t perpetuate the problem of misused, white privilege. I want to teach my son to go forth with integrity--To be the Atticus Finch of his times. Truth is, se’s been to protest after protest and learned to use his voice. He embraces change. I am grateful.
Today, when I picked my 8th grade son and his friend up from school, they exuded excitement. Their school staged a protest today. They were lying down on the floor, chanting “I Can’t Breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace.” I'm talking about 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. They were all there by choice. What began as a history class drawing attention to the injustice of the recent verdict surrounding Eric Garner’s murder, ultimately became a school-wide protest--A school-wide protest at a MIDDLE SCHOOL. HELL YES!
Young voices, burgeoning awareness, unmitigated compassion and a sense of justice is just part this picture. Things need to change. Things have to change. Because what we have is an epidemic of racially charged violence. We have ignorance fueled by fear, fueled by lack of training, fueled by a lack of awareness. We have men and women who go out day and night with the purported impetus to protect and to serve, yet they have been trained to shoot to kill and to completely empty their guns. They just want to go home--alive.
Our young men and women of color just want to go home too. And they want to go home alive. They don't want a feature in the evening news, or a stint on the icy cold coroner's table. That's not home. They want to be seen and heard and valued as human beings. They have families who love them. Truth: An officer’s family isn’t more important than the families of Trayvon, Eric, and Michael.
So, thank you to the City School for nurturing these young voices and for encouraging them to take action. Social action is powerful. We can’t change things on our own. We need to do it together. Knowing that this little school houses these giant voices gives me hope. It warms my broken heart.
Keep raising your voices. Keep gathering and protesting and making noise. Do it with compassion, and love and kindness, and don't give up. Black Lives Matter.
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." -- Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)