I don't even know how to begin this one.
Two Sundays running, I have had heartbreaking conversations with two friends, both women who raise(d) and love their African American boys. Their sadness about Trayvon was not universal. It was personal. It was about living with the knowledge that a son's mortality risk is raised just by the darkness of his skin.
I have a son. I know something about the worry I had when he was out late. It did not include a worry about him being harassed by police or "neighborhood watchmen". I did not have to explain to him that some people might lock their car doors if he drove up next to them at a stop light, or follow him in a store, or hold a wallet or purse tighter just because he walked by.
I watched one of these women in tears and anger today say "It's as if we have made no progress in all these years".
And there is truth to this. Author and speaker Tim Wise addresses the statistics in a recent essay. A portion is reprinted below; click the title to read the rest of the article.
How do we as a community begin to change this? First, by acknowledging racism exists, in our country and in our own (sometimes sub) consciousness. We can't resist what we refuse to see. Educating ourselves about the effects is a start. Calling it out when we see it is another.
The national outrage over the shooting of an unarmed boy by a grown man who followed him, chased him down after deciding based on the color of his skin-- that is justified outrage. While his killer will have his day in court-- if, indeed, he is ever arrested-- Trayvon will not even get a hour in adulthood.
We cannot save Trayvon Martin. I hope we can begin to save our country, our communities. In the past few weeks I have been blessed with the opportunity to begin to know dozens of "others" through a world-wide community photo project . There are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and the unchurched. Artists from Germany, Findland, India, Korea, Iran and Serbia, to name a few, post a picture from their day. That project has done more to shrink my world in three weeks than I could possibly imagine. I get to know these "foreigners" a little and suddenly, they are not the Other. These are my brothers and sisters. I wish them love, freedom from fear, enough for their needs. Empathy is the answer to fear, but there can't be empathy without resonance. And for that, we have to get closer to the Other.
I read a story on the website of one of the project participants. It was written by author Paulo Coehlo.
A master asked his disciples:
‘Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?’
the disciples thought for a while, and one of them said
‘Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.’
‘But, why to shout when the other person is just next to you? ‘Isn’t it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you’re angry?’
The disciples gave him some other answers but none satisfied the master.
Finally he explained:
‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.’
Then the master asked:
‘What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small…’
Let's start a conversation. If you live in the Willamette Valley and would like to be a part of it, e me for details. We will meet this week to think of how to shorten the distance between our hearts.
Elizabeth Lesser inspires us to Take The Other to Lunch
...and here's that except from Tim Wise's essay.
"What is Post-Racial? Reflections on Denial and Reality."
To believe that the United States is post-racial requires an almost incomprehensible inability or unwillingness to stare truth in the face.
How can we be post-racial, after all, when the typical white family has 20 times the net worth of the typical black family, and 18 times that of the typical Latino family?
How can we be post-racial when studies find that even white men with criminal records are more likely to be called back for job interviews than black men without them, even when all other credentials and personal characteristics are indistinguishable?
How can we be post-racial when evidence suggests that the lightest-skinned immigrants earn roughly 17% more than the darkest-skinned immigrants, even when qualifications and levels of productivity are the same?
How can we be post-racial when Asian Americans, Latinos and blacks with college degrees are anywhere from one-third more likely to nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts? When schools serving mostly students of color are more than ten times as likely to be places of concentrated poverty, and far more likely to have the least experienced teachers?
Welcome to the middle path
- Jana Svoboda, LCSW
- Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.