I didn’t sleep well last night.
Outside was a typical summer storm – lots of distant lightning, some thunder, a little rain. That is not what kept me awake. What kept me awake, and I hope kept you awake as well, were the incidents of the past two days. What kept me awake was the knowledge that my children witnessed two men being shot and DYING on the television. Let me say it again so it sinks in. They saw two men – real men – being shot and dying on the TV. This was not a movie. There were no special effects. Both were shot and died at the hands of police officers. Both were black. And both had their moments of death broadcast on the television.
Even writing these words I feel like I threw up in my mouth just a little bit.
But the story doesn’t end there. As the kids retreated to watch Netflix, I continued to watch more violence unfold. This time 5 police officers were shot and killed, 7 more people injured, in a calculated attack aimed at assassinating police officers in Dallas, TX. Some of their deaths were captured on video. Over the day maybe we will see more real death on the big flatscreen TV in the den.
Watching real people die on television has become too common.
Over the course of our lives we tell ourselves stories. Stories that ease our minds. Stories that justify actions and thoughts. Stories that motivate us. Stories that scare us. We live in stories. Stories are often self serving, mind easing and deliverers of comfort. Stories almost always have elements of truth and as well as fiction. We believe our stories to be 100% true; some even are willing to die for their story. Too often we ignore others’ stories.
Think you don’t have a story? Think again. You have a million. Are you white? Are you educated? Are you wealthy by the world’s standards? Republican? Democrat? Can you eat out at a moment’s notice and have the privilege of deciding whether or not you will return based on the quality of the service? Can you educate your children in the way you want them to be educated? Do you fell like you have control in your life?
The stories of the world are, for me, like the distant lightning in a summer storm. As a privileged white woman, the lightning strikes are often from far-flung corners of the world. I watch them from the couch with my kids beside me. We can talk and try to process the events. We can chew on the situation, look at it from different angles, listen intently to others. But we are far far FAR away.
I can hear the thunder, though. It gets a bit closer and becomes a bit more real as each day passes. Deep down there is a sense that things are going really wrong in this country. I hear hateful talk from people who are lauded as future leaders of this country. I watch anger overtake anything and everything good. I see real men die on the TV. Watching men and women die on the television should be like a rumbling of thunder for all of us.
And then it rains.
What is the story here? Do you wonder? Some of you know the story; others don’t. Stop and just honestly sit with where and what you thought, in the first split second you saw this picture. That is one of your stories. I suspect, whether you are white, black, asian, or any other race, you were struck by the whiteness and the blackness of these three boys. My guess, if you are being honest, is that you were curious at the very least. I would be if I didn’t know and love all three of these boys immensely – one my son and the other two my nephews.
Over the next few weeks I am going to tell you parts of their stories on this blog.
I am going to tell you how they came to be a part of my very white, very privileged family.
I am going to tell you their story in the hopes that it influences, maybe even changes, the stories you tell yourself.
For now, this is a part of my story…
My nephews know that color matters. They have the same privileges as all of the children in my family have – loving parents, supportive families, quality education, clothes, houses, food, friends, vacations….and yet they know they don’t have every privilege that the rest of us have. Only because of their skin color.
Sam and Will have had conversations with my sister that I will NEVER have with my son. Only because of their skin color.
My son and his neighborhood friends played with air-soft guns in my yard, even were mischievous and climbed upon my roof during the hot days of summer a few years ago, and hid behind the chimney with their toys. I have definitely rethought why I allowed this (so please no haters on this subject – THAT would be a diversion and a straw man argument to take away from the real point here). I suspect ultimately I didn’t take enough time to actually THINK – a white privilege problem for sure. I never worried someone would assume the guns to be real, though. Little white boys running around, laughing. No, those guns would never be seen as threat. Will and Sam will NEVER be able to do that. EVER. Only because of their skin color.
Will and Sam matter. Their stories matter.