My head is swirling from the news these past few weeks.
Orlando left me absolutely speechless. When I think of the people in my life who identify as LGBTQ, I grieve for the hatred and the fear they face on a daily basis that was shoved to the forefront of their minds and the minds of their loved ones. I saw their faces and read their stories. I soaked up the humanity that was snuffed out and I imagined my own friends who could have easily felt safe at their favorite bar, not knowing they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It could easily have been my friends gunned down while they innocently sipped drinks.
The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile rocked me in utter disbelief and sadness as I grieved for black mothers and their sons. Black mothers are forced to have conversations that other mothers don’t have to have out of fear for their sons who are regarded with suspicion and fear, first, and innocence, second. I look at my own son and know that the privilege of his skin color excludes him from being a statistic; whereas, a black mother prays her son won’t become that statistic. Those men were little boys once too.
Now, waking this morning to the news of the shooting in Dallas, I am heartbroken once again. I am sick to my stomach that such blatant hate and fear are permitted to occur and occur with such frequency – on both sides. In the wake of the deaths of five police officers, I am stunned to still see the swirls of hate being fueled on my Facebook newsfeed. All I’m left with is a burning question: When will the actions of a few bad people quit speaking for the countless good? For African-Americans? For police officers? For Muslims?
I can be heartbroken. I can be angry. I can be appalled. I can be all of those things in a political post on Facebook (which I actually did for the first time). But what can I DO? These systematic issues seem so large and so abstract. What could I possibly do?
- I can mother. I read a GREAT article on Huffington Post about mothering white sons. From conversations to books, there is MUCH I can do for my son and my future children in making them better human beings in this world. With a PhD in Language and Literacy, as a former teacher (who taught a course on multiculturalism), I have made it a priority to include books in my son’s library that show characters who are unlike him. We have books that promote LGBTQ families, Non-English speaking books, Immigration books, books that challenge gender roles, and books where the characters are people of color. My son is five months old, but the future holds time and space for conversations and questions that I can’t shy away from. Hiding and ignoring oppression simply feeds it.
- I can speak. I’m no longer speaking in classrooms. I’m not speaking in large halls. But I can have conversations with people in my life who don’t understand privilege, who don’t know about historical events (i.e. Rodney King) that have influenced current events. I can speak behind the computer screen and “like” and comment to change the narrative on how people of color are represented in the media. While I can always post (that’s all well and good), I believe that one on one conversations with people of my own racial make up are where I can be most persuasive. People of color do not need me to tell them about the struggle. But other white people might.
- I can write. Writing is activism. I am extremely privileged in the sense that I am well-educated and able to articulate ideas and thoughts clearly. I owe that education a spot on a platform that promotes social justice. If I am writing about issues like this, I am acting. I am writing for change. I am writing for attention to important human issues that need to be addressed. Not everyone can write. That’s where activism can be personalized. What do you bring to the table?
Me? I bring a pen.