I would like to tell a story about my heritage. For whatever reason, my father’s mother and my mother have done much research into our family history. Therefore, I know that one of my great-grandfathers was named after Abraham Lincoln, and another watched his father (an overseer) shoot a slave for being lazy. To my great-grandfather’s credit, when the story was passed down he is remembered as being disturbed. But, it’s just one generation back to the overseer that pulled the trigger. I have long been proud of my Northern roots, but I have Southern roots as well and the uncomfortable truth is that I, and my family, have profited from systemic racism in this country since my family came here in the 1600’s.
The story doesn’t end there. My sister-in-law is black. My immediate family is about as white as they come. So now, just in the last few days, I fear that my sister-in-law’s brother will get shot during a DWB, or that my nephew will lose his life in an equally senseless way. For whatever reason, I ended up marrying a Jewish girl, so now by the rules of her heritage my kids are Jewish too. Didn’t take long for that pure blood to get mixed up!
I volunteered on the Obama campaign in 2008 and was thrilled to bits — he was young, he was exciting, he was transformative, he was black — maybe our country was really hitting its stride. Then came the Republican vows to stifle and destroy Obama at all costs, led by McConnell in the Senate. Obama has managed to do some significant good — but I’m disillusioned, as I can’t help thinking about his lofty goals at the beginning and how his wings have been clipped by determined partisan infighting.
For the past several years as I’ve begun a family of my own, I’ve been growing increasingly disillusioned about the US. SPLC has reported consistent increases in hate groups since Obama came into office. For a year, we’ve been having Trump overtly and covertly supporting racism and xenophobia. In that time, I have been quite busy, it’s true — mostly what I’ve done is shake my head, donate to good causes like SPLC and NAACP LDF, and try to think about better things.
I can’t do that anymore. The culture of guns, guns and more guns has gotten us to the point where anyone who becomes unhinged can get a weapon and destroy many lives. I have only seen it once, but I can’t rid my mind of that poor man who was shot, point-blank, in the chest multiple times. I can only imagine what it must do to a man who looks like that man to see that image over and over again. I think about Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of love not hate, but I am so angry that our country has come to this. I am fed up. I don’t know what I can do to help, but I’m damn well going to try. I sent a note to our local black lives matter chapter and asked for a yard sign. That may upset some neighbors, but that’s ok. If they’re upset, they probably need to see it. If not, it may be heartening to see a white neighbor in a mixed neighborhood take that public stance. For years I have chosen to only talk about race with friends that I know are comfortably progressive. I can’t do that anymore. If someone like myself, who is as WASP as they come, chooses to sit this one out, more innocent african americans will die, and more white people will die at the hands of african americans who simply can’t take it anymore. Everybody and their uncle in this country can get their hands on an assault rifle. So, until we can pry our legislators out of the hands of the NRA, we have to work to diffuse these tensions.
For me, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. But I’m going to do something. I can’t let my kids inherit a world where race plays out this way. I see little black kids playing in the street in my neighborhood all the time. And I think to myself, what would I tell that child about what is going on in this country? What a horrible burden for those parents, and for those children who are exposed to a harsh lesson that just because your skin is dark you are in danger.
My laptop says that it’s 4:03 AM. I am hoping to get some sleep now. If not, perhaps tomorrow. This has got to stop, and I’ve got to be a part of it. I have no other choice.