Thursday, February 20, 2020

It's real. It's really real

I went to a nail salon today. It's not a typical thing for me, but I had a free morning so I thought I'd take the opportunity. I really like this salon. The Vietnamese girl who owns the place is so sweet and always provides great conversation. Today was no different. We chatted about a recent trip to Vietnam she had made and about different news stories that were playing on television as she worked. An older lady came in and sat next to me, starting up a cheerful conversation as well. 

The news aired a story that shook me. In Las Vegas, a kindergartner came home to tell her mom of a new "game" her teacher had played with the class. She said it was "kind of like duck duck goose, but different". The game was called "Hunter Chase the Slave" and the little girl went on to say that you could have a gun or dogs or whips if you catch your slave. I was appalled. In the story, the little girl's mother, a black woman herself, was interviewed and explained her horror at this being played with children at her school. She met with the school principal who immediately took action (the teacher was removed from the classroom pending a full investigation). 

In the salon, we talked about the story. I'll admit I didn't say anything for a moment, as I was trying to hold back tears at the thought of such a horrific thing. My nail tech said, "What was that teacher thinking?" The lady beside me then sighed heavily and said, "Well, here we go again. Another story of a black lady just wanting people to feel sorry for her so she can get something for free or her five minutes of fame". She went on to say "It's crazy that people actually try to get us to believe that racism is still real. This is not slave days anymore. Do they think we're stupid?". I was completely shocked at that point, and stated, "I disagree. Racism is real. I'm looking at it and hearing it right in front of my face in this very moment". 

She was defiant and angry at that. How dare I suggest that she was racist? And so I told her that I was the mom of a beautiful black daughter who had endured racism personally. I explained to her that I knew it was real because we had experienced it. My voice faltered a little as I spoke, and she chuckled that I was "actually convinced this was real". 

Last year, while a 6th grader, our daughter was victimized via social media. Another student, using an account at the school, posted pictures of our daughter with her face "X"'ed out and statements about how ugly she was. They also posted vile and graphic statements, both racial and sexual in nature about her, and finally they ended with a statement about how they wanted her dead. Not everything that was said about her was racial in content, but enough of it was. And it was so hurtful. Thankfully, Ellie did not have social media at the time and thus did not see all of the posts. Some of her friends saw and reported it to their parents and teachers (Thank you students for handling that so beautifully!). 

I won't go into details about the case, but law enforcement had to be involved as a threat was made to her life via a school account. And I'll tell you that the school swept it under the rug and caused a great difficulty for law enforcement to even investigate fully. In the end though, we were sure of who the culprit was, and that student has moved out of state. But the hurt remains. 

In all of this (as in instances in previous years), Ellie remained loving, graceful, compassionate, forgiving, and altogether heroic. I wanted to rip someone's eyes out of their head, if I'm blatantly honest. I was angry. But Ellie simply said, "How bad must someone's life be to want to hurt me like that, mom?". Geez. Talk about putting me in my place! Ellie taught me in that moment a couple of things. 1. We can't fight injustice with just anger. Love must be our weapon. And y'all, that girl is FILLED with love. It oozes from her. 2. My being angry didn't change things; My actions could. Jeff and I worked with law enforcement, and when given the opportunity, we were able to speak to the principal about our disappointment in how things were handled on her part and how she could do it differently in the future. BECAUSE IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN. That's a guarantee. 

I've looked for where I'm supposed to speak into these issues. I am convinced that we've walked through this experience and others in previous years for a purpose. We have a voice. And today, that voice was needed to speak TRUTH to a lady in a lofty position of whiteness and arrogance and ignorance that racism is still very real. It hurts and destroys and maligns, and if left unanswered it spreads like a cancer. 

I have come to believe that a big part of what's wrong in this world is that we refuse to acknowledge and believe each other's stories. If that lady today had been willing to just listen to our story, maybe she could have seen something different than her current belief. And don't get me wrong: I've been guilty too of not hearing people out. But y'all, when we take the time to really listen, we hear the heart of a person. And that's where change happens The people in my life who are the least like me are so very dear to me because we've taken the time to hear one another's hearts. That changes things. 

So, who do you need to listen to today? What is it you've been refusing to acknowledge as truth because you haven't experienced it yourself? How can you make a change in the direction of understanding and empathy today? Perhaps if we each take one small step toward each other every day, we can truly come together eventually.