Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Because It Should Be Real for Us Too

Monday morning after dropping my children off for their first day of school, I celebrated by sitting down and lingering over a second cup of coffee. After writing a blog post, I clicked over to get reengaged in US/world events. As much as I profess to not want to live in a bubble, Summer break can become just that for a stay-at-home mother, as time limitations require that most of my news be gathered from 140 characters on twitter. It is restful, precisely because it is not real life.

You can imagine my shock as I started to read about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri. I don't live there. I live in a small town in Georgia. My house is on a street that is 100% white. The country club is literally my back yard, but one street over an aged neighborhood begins that stretches about 20 blocks of 95% African American residents. I drive twelve minutes round trip to school every morning and afternoon, through this neighborhood where foot traffic is the norm. As much as I love a good metaphor, it is not lost on me that I pass dozens people of color watching, waiting on the bus or walking, while driving a white Suburban that cost as much as the average home on these streets.

This is my neighborhood. I wave at some of the regulars and on my return trip home in the morning I sometimes pray for various ones as I pass. I vote at the baptist church that sits right in the center and am privileged to know their amazing pastor. His daughter is one of my dearest friends. I've been blessed to attend a worship service there...a vanilla sprinkle in a chocolate sea of praise. And not one iota of this is an attempt at activism. (Frankly, I have hesitated to even write about this because of fear that my intentions would be questioned or misconstrued.)

But Monday, after reading, watching and thinking I couldn't help but wonder, "Could my town be a Ferguson?" Do my neighbors feel the anger, vulnerability and frustration these protesters feel? I called my friend, T. and told her I wanted to talk about it all when she was ready. I don't want to be ignorant to the challenges my friends and neighbors face.

While we can argue the various disputed issues of the Brown case, one thing is clear:  race issues are complicated, painful and still very real for many of our friends and neighbors. I have watched videos and read heartfelt posts from mothers of boys: both white and black. One of the most profound was a facebook post from a woman named Loris Adams in North Carolina. (I tried to link but can't.) She posted pictures with her son and described how terrified she was to realize her son had taken a shortcut while walking home that night which involved jumping a fence. Her thoughts went immediately to a place I cannot imagine.

"... because there is a target on his chest and I've trained him since birth to NOT invite red dots to train on that target. I'm MAD that I lost it on him, but I'd rather now than at a funeral.
Can you imagine the police response if some of my good neighbors had seen the boys, who were just going home? You can't? Let me help you see this picture - ‪#‎MikeBrown‬ ‪#‎TrayvonMartin‬ ‪#‎OscarGrant‬ ‪#‎JonathanFerrell‬
I would love my friends and colleagues who are not parents of a black child to understand the complexity of everyday life for those of us who are. I have the same concerns about gas prices and paying for a college education as you do, but that's topped by the gnawing fear - "is my boy next?"
That's why I pray. That's why I march. That's why I push. That's why I teach...That's why you'll find me on my knees in my office. That's why I look so sad sometimes.
It's not news for me.
These are my sons.
These are my nephews. 
My brothers.
My friends.
This is real..."  -Loris N. Adams, via facebook

It is hard for me to imagine this reality. I thought of my children's friends, some of whom happen to have dark skin, the sons of my friends and the neighborhood children I see at the bus stop each day and I realized in its own way, this is real for me too. I gulped to realize there is even a landscaped roadblock at the end of my street...erected years ago to divide the neighborhoods.

I want to be more about bridges than barriers. In the same way we seek to understand the unique challenges faced by single parents, those with special needs, impoverished people--I want to be sensitive to the real fears and issues of Moms raising children of color.

Ironically (or not), the post I wrote Monday before tuning into the news was about loving our neighbors---Jesus described it as the second greatest commandment. While I am still sorting out exactly what that means as a Causasian housewife in the deep South, I know that as love so often does it starts with paying attention.

I can't 'fix' Ferguson, but I can be a caring friend and neighbor who prioritizes building bridges and relationships. I can listen. I can care. I can model that for my children.
So can you.


Elisia said...

Thank you so much for your compassion. Your writing always speaks to my heart. God bless you!

Keri said...

Wow, that post by the mom in North Carolina was powerful. It definitely opened my eyes in a way they hadn't been opened before. Since I have friends whose husbands are in law enforcement, I tend to think about how an incident like this affects their lives (as people generalize - "all cops are like that"), but I hadn't really stopped to think about the other side of the story...especially from a mom's point of view....

Sam said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I wish more people had your compassion. My husband is Vietnamese, our children are biracial, and we are in the process of adopting an African-American infant. In light of Ferguson, and the many, many other places this has happened, I am terrified. Terrified that I won't be able to protect this baby that I already love. We are blessed to live in an incredibly diverse area and we have many friends of color, so our child will have a real community as he or she grows up. But at the end of the day, I know that unless some real social changes happen, I will worry about him or her in a way that I will not worry about my two biological children.

Again, thank you. I wish more people were like you and tried to understand.