I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but every time I sit down to write it I get upset and I can’t find the words. The thing is, we are not new to protesting. We are not new to marching for what we think is right, for having counter-protesters scream horrible things at us, but for some reason this time it was harder than before and I couldn’t pinpoint what made it so difficult to stomach.
Last month Jerimiah, Jackson, and I took part in socially-distanced, peaceful protests in our suburban Atlanta town with our friends Kelley and Bella, and it was exactly what we needed to be doing. We met Kelley and Bella through school (Jackson and Bella were in the same class) and immediately felt connected to them. They are cool, too cool for us. They are kind. They are smart, and funny, and socially conscious. We feel so proud to call them friends, which is why the day we drove by (after getting ice cream) and saw them standing on the corner of Lavista and Main Streets with signs supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, along with about 20 other people, we were like SIGN US UP! That sparked three days in a row of us standing on the same corner with our friends holding homemade signs (that we hastily made from material from The Dollar Tree), as well as taking part in a much larger protest on Saturday, June 6th with about 300 people. It was an amazing learning experience for the kids, for both good reasons and not so good ones.
Of course protests, especially ones in small towns like ours, are sure to bring out the counter-protesters, or simply the mean people who are mad at your very existence. They see protestors as “unsightly,” and of course they feel guilty when they see you out with your “Silence is violence” signs. But I honestly didn’t expect it on that first night we were out there with our signs, and if it weren’t for seeing it with my own eyes I would have not believed how horrible people could be. How filled with hate people are. How angry and afraid full-grown men are, that they feel called to lash out at people, even women and children. I’m not going to talk about them here, because it detracts from what we accomplished, but just know that grown men and women flipped us off, screamed things back at us, and even walked up and down along with us trying to push white supremacy agendas. It was sad and gross, and yes, we let the children watch them, because they need to know that there are people like this in the world.
Meanwhile our kids, our smart, strong, funny, rising 6th graders, smiled at everyone, held their fists up in solidarity, took a knee, not once but twice, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on hot, crowded streets to show their solidarity with George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and people who are like them, and not like them. We were so incredibly proud. They even made up their own chants, and taught them to the other kids. Then they separated themselves in front of what will one day be their high school and chanted IN THE RAIN. For real. Look.
But this was on the second night of protests, the first night was very hot, and a little more crowded, and somewhat chaotic.
The first night of protests (for us) we met with the Mayor who, although I am not a fan, was very polite. He thanked us for what we were doing, and gave the kids a token of appreciation to remember the occasion. It was a coin with out town’s logo on it, and Jackson thought it was pretty cool.
The second night we were rained on a bit, but didn’t mind, it felt nice after the heat. We had police escorts at all protests, thank you DeKalb County Police, and we had city council members, and supporters who honked, honked, honked all night at us in solidarity. Some screamed “Black Lives Matter” out the window, some threw their fists in the air, some just smiled and waved.
At one point Kelley and I saw an older man walking his dog in front of the high school. We were a little worried at first, he looked like a lot of the people who were flipping us off, but he walked up behind us smiling and meandered toward us sort of unsure. Kelley, being the outgoing and friendly person she is, said hi to him and told him that his dog was so cute. He smiled and walked a bit closer. He introduced himself as Joe and said that he loved that we were out there. Then he told us to look straight down Main Street. He asked if we knew that yellow building, the one that was a Halal restaurant. “Sure,” we said, “it is called Bombay.” It’s an old building that sits on the corner or Main and Lawrenceville Highway, about half a block from our kids new middle school.
“Well,” said Joe, “did you know that used to be the office of the Grand Wizard of the KKK?” Kelley and I were stunned. No, we didn’t know that. We didn’t realize how close we were to KKK territory. He said this sight, our children protesting on this corner, was just, well, perfect. He told us to keep on keeping on, then Joe and his old doggy walked back home.
The next day Kelley confirmed the story. She had researched it when she went home and found that along with our town once being an epicenter for the KKK, Stone Mountain, yes that Stone Mountain, was also. I mean it makes sense if you’ve ever visited Stone Mountain, but it was new to us since we are still fairly new to this area. If you’d like to read more, check out this article about Stone Mountain, our town is about ten minutes from the mountain.
We protested on this street corner for a few more nights, then we met up on a Saturday for the bigger protest. For a couple of city blocks, people were standing six-feet apart, masked up, with signs, chanting and raising fists. Ten minutes before we left we took a knee. Three hundred or so people taking a knee on the city streets as cars whizzed by honking and waving and yelling, “Thank you!” That was my favorite.
After the protest I asked Jackson what he learned. What new information he gathered from his days of protesting. “Not much,” he said. “I already knew that most people are good, and some people aren’t, and those people will probably never change.” Man, he’s right. I told him so. Then I added that those people aren’t worth your energy to try to change. I reminded him to start with the people who want to listen and work your way out. I told him to always vote. Always speak goodness into existence. Always, always do what is right and true. He shook his head and said, “That’s what we did.” We sure did. I told him more that day, but I think he learned more from my actions than my words.
Thanks, Kelley, and Bella, and Jackson, and Jerimiah. Thanks to those of you all over the world who are striving to do what is true and what is right. We have your back. Always.
I have been watching you for the past couple of weeks and every time I am uplifted by you, or you motivate me, or you energize me, the next day two of you will make me angry. For every one of you that is out there on the front lines doing the work, two of you are snickering at the rest of us from behind your computer screen. It infuriates me. So this letter is for you, those of you snickering behind your phone screens. The rest of you, keep doing you, ladies. You are changing this damn world.
First and foremost, why it is so hard for you to just be quiet? It doesn’t sound hard. I mean, we tell our kids to do it all the time. Stop talking. Stop making so much noise. Stop saying the same thing over and over again, yet here you are doing just that. White women, this is not your struggle. It is not about you. I’m gonna say it again for the people in the back , THIS MOMENT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! No one cares how you are feeling right now. No one cares how you were discriminated against one time. We get it, you have felt discriminated against and you think no one stood up for you. Yeah, that’s called real life. Welcome to it. But we don’t want to hear about it now. It just isn’t the time, read a damn room. This isn’t about you, yet repeatedly I have seen white women taking the Black Lives Matter movement and somehow trying to make it about their life or experiences. Do you know what that is called? It’s called white centering.
White Centering is when you take a story, maybe the story of a friend or someone you love who is a BIPOC, you take a story from someone, it could be a complete stranger like George Floyd, and you somehow turn it into a story about yourself. About discrimination you have been through. About how hard your life is/was. But this is not the time for you to cry over something that happened to you 20 years ago (on social media) while pretending to support the movement. No one wants to hear it or see it. If that is what you are inclined to talk about when Black Lives Matter comes up, then just SHUT UP and LISTEN!
I’ve seen this day in and day out from my family members, my friends, strangers on Instagram. Y’all want everyone to validate your discrimination (you especially want Black women to validate you), but no. It isn’t time for that right now, and Black people are not your audience. I will listen to you, I will talk about mental health with you and how important is. Hear me: If you need to discuss a situation that you felt discriminated against based on (insert reasons for white people to be discriminated against), a situations or time that has stayed with you for years and years and you are still trying to work through it, I WILL listen and try to help. But just so we are clear I will NEVER listen, or take a situation seriously, if you try to sneak it on the backs of the BIPOC community, or the Black Lives Matter Movement. Stop. It’s gross, and yes, your BIPOC friends are judging you for it. They are just trying to be polite and let you have your “Karen” moment because they love and respect you, and they know you are a little racist, but it’s not okay.
Now I get it. Right now, if you’re still with me, you think I am attacking you. Matter fact, you might actually be formulating a text to me, or a message, or a vague FB status about how “someone” has “attacked” you today. That is good. In fact, this’s part of the process. Feeling “attacked” by truth is how you know it’s working. It’s like when you put Neosporin on a cut and it burns. The burning means it’s working! You’re hearing what I am saying, you’re realizing that you said something at the wrong time, that was not important and did nothing to better your community, the Black community, or the social space in which you said it. You are feeling shame and guilt. Good! But it might take actual days, weeks, months, years for you to believe what I am saying is the truth. To understand. To, as the kids say, be WOKE AF. I just hope you keep thinking on it, and for the love of all that is holy, keep reading.
White women, on top of not being able to sit and listen to Black people, ESPECIALLY Black Women, and generally white centering the narrative, you are incapable of admitting that you are covertly racist. Whew. This is tough, I know. I know. You know how I know? I had to admit it to myself. And it was hard, and I fought with myself for weeks on this one. Jesus, I did switch my bag from one shoulder to the other when I was walking next to that Black man. Shiiiiiit! I did that. Shit, I did allow my white friend to use the abbreviated “N-word” in my presence and not say something to her. Shiiiiit. I did not speak up when that co-worker told a racist joke that one time. I mean, I didn’t laugh at it. I didn’t retell it, but I didn’t speak up either. Shiiiit! I’m racist, y’all. WE ALL ARE. Look at this image I found from the Minister’s blog at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville:
This is something white women just can’t understand. For the life of me, I want to shake some of y’all and scream, “You are awesome, I love you, but you are a little racist.” We all are racist because we were raised in a racist society. We were raised in a country that was LITERALLY FOUNDED ON RACISM! And no, it doesn’t matter if you have a Black husband. You don’t get a pass as a white woman, you still need to check your privileges and your racism. Ask any Black woman and she will fill you in, but wait, don’t actually ask them because they are a little too busy dealing with an influx of other dumb white women right now who suddenly want to unlearn what they were taught and expect Black women to be the ones to teach them. FOR FREE! OMIGOD, y’all. It wasn’t Black women who taught you how to be racist, and it isn’t up to them to fix your problem. It’s up to you. And while we are at it, it isn’t as easy as sticking a black square on your Instagram page one day. You need to be doing work. You need to be educating yourself. Reflecting, going inward. Walking through all the ways in which you have benefited from the structural racism that our country was founded on. If I may, it works best with a partner.
Because covert racism has just been accepted in our society. It is okay in a lot of places to be covertly racist. I don’t know any friend or family member who would actively take a role as a KKK Member, but I know several who have said things like, “I don’t like that bar because it’s too dark.” Meaning there are too many Black people there. I have friends and family members who, upon finding out that we were moving to Atlanta, said things like, “Ohh, you aren’t going to like it there, it’s pretty ghetto.” Meaning there are too many Black people there. They were wrong, on many levels. They are also covert racists. This is the kind of thing you need to be considering. Looking back at your life, seeing what you have done that is racist, admitting it, and working on ways to stop it from this point forward.
But please know that it takes time. I have been doing this internal work on my own unchecked racism for about six months now, and I make mistakes all the damn time. One of the biggest mistakes I made was thinking that Black people care about my progress. I actually thought I would get a damn pat on the back for working on myself, for admitting my covert racism, for standing up for the Black community. Uh, no. Black people don’t care if I am working on myself. And they don’t care if you are doing it either. And they don’t trust what I am actually doing will stick. They hope I am trying to educate other white people, but again, they don’t trust I will continue to. See a pattern here, white women? Black people, especially Black women, DO NOT TRUST US. Why should they? Have we given them a reason to? And again I’ll remind you I’m talking in general terms, and mainly about strangers you meet on social media, not people who you consider your friends and who know and trust your intentions.
The Black community does not want to hear about how hard we are working, because they have been working ten times harder their whole lives. They want to SEE how hard we are working. They want to see us banding together to stop other dumbass white people so they don’t have to. They want us to take some of the load off of them, and they want us to know that we should not expect a thank you for it. Because we should not expect a thank you for it. And the white women who are trying, please know that Black women may seem ambivalent to your work, and that is okay. Do not ask them to praise you. Do not ask them to educate you. Do not take, take, take from them. And for the love of all things holy, if you are relying on that one token Black friend to get you through this, get some more fucking friends! And please know that most of the Black women I have encountered through this process do not hate me, or what I am doing. But they don’t necessarily like me either. That hurt, at first. Then I recognized my own white fragility and moved one. There will be Black people, just like white people, who do not like you. You gotta get over it and keep moving forward.
Lastly, and this is the toughest lesson I have learned this week, white women you are not openly talking to your family, your friends, and most crucially your children, about racism. And your silence is deafening to your friends in the Black community. Instead you are making excuses like, “My dad is too old, different generation you know, I don’t want to upset him” or “I teach my children to be colorblind” or “My son is too sensitive it would upset him.” Let me tell you a little story about my very sensitive son and the first time I discussed racism with him.
We were at the Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Kelly Ingram Park is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led several peaceful protests. It is also where protestors were shot with water hoses and rubber bullets. It is also right across the street from where the 16th Street Baptist Church sits. The one that was bombed on September 15, 1963. The one where Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11) we murdered. You might only know them as “The four little Black girls,” but it is important that you read and say their names.
We were strolling through the park with Jackson. He was BARELY four years old. He was looking at the statues and taking in all the words, words he didn’t understand. We sat him down on a blanket, we talked to him about the Civil Rights Movement. About how people hate other people based on the color of their skin. And he sat and listened. I was so proud of how he did. It was like he knew the moment was heavy and he really wanted to hear what we were saying. Then just as I finished up I took a deep breath and I asked him if he had any questions. He said he did. Jerimiah assured him questions were good, and he could ask any he wanted. Then Jackson, in his little preschool voice asked, “Can we get Subway for lunch?”
Yeah. My four-year-old son heard what I said that day, but he needed time to process it all. Because it isn’t a one-time talk. He didn’t have nightmares from the statue depicting the police dogs attacking children. He didn’t have nightmares about a burning church or even appear to register all we had said. But a couple months later we were driving somewhere in the car and we passed a Black man mowing his yard and my son said, “Mommy, Dr. King was Black like that man huh?” And while I was a little taken aback at the rawness of the question I simply said, “Yes he was. Do you want to talk about Dr. King?” and to my surprise he did. And he has wanted to talk since that day, from time to time, about Civil Rights, about the Black community, about how he will try to help his generation make a change. And we have always discussed his concerns and questions. We have made space for him to explore it on his own. Because honestly, there are four-year-old Black kids who have a very different talk given to them about racism, and it is the least I can do with for my child.
Make no mistake, if you are talking about racism, your kids are listening. If you are not talking about racism with your kids, they are also listening. And learning. Because kids are smart and perceptive and they know that something is happening in our country right now, and they are relying on your cues to help them through it. The question is what are you saying with your words, and more importantly, what are you saying with your actions?
Thank you for reading, my friends. I’m sorry if these truths are hard to digest right now, but I ask you, I implore you, to sit with them in solitude for a little bit. Reflect on how they make you feel. Reflect on why you agree or disagree with them, then move forward to fight off the shame and guilt you have been carrying around. Move forward to talk to your family and friends. Move forward to talk to your children. Own your privilege, and own your beliefs, even if they are racist, because the rest of us need to know which side of this battle you stand on.
Hi, hello, how are you? Wonderful I hope. I hope you took some time over the last week to be quiet, to reflect, to amplify Black voices, to unlearn some of the things you have been taught in this life, if you are white person anyway. That’s what I did. I also protested, donated money and time to the Black Lives Matter movement, and I followed many new people on social media in an effort to better understand the movement, the revolution that is happening, and how I can learn to be a better person. And while I was doing all of this, I made some mistakes. Some big ones. I want to address some of them now and I want to tell you one of the things I learned from listening this week. The rest will come in little bits here and there because y’all know I process at a slow rate.
First, I need to apologize to the Instagram and Facebook spheres for giving you wrong information. I listened to the creators of #AmplifyMelanatedVoices do a wrap up yesterday (you can read more about it on my previous post) and I realized I didn’t do exactly what they wanted. I got my information second-hand from other white women and certainly the “telephone tree” missed some important points. The point of the challenge created by @blackandembodied and @jessicawilson.msrd was to mute white activists and let the Black activists have the floor. It was not to mute ourselves. We should have been sharing Black activists work/art/words/stories as well as taking the time to check other white people. I did that in my Stories, but I did not do it on my page and for that I apologize. I am committed to working on that and making it part of my normal life now. I apologize to anyone who was following my lead.
I am more conscious of my place in social media, especially places like Instagram where I share my space with so many Black women who are working hard to create open dialogue. I need to let them do the talking, especially when it comes to race. This is my space here, and while I will be sharing more that elevates both the conversation on structural racism, white supremacy, and how white people can unlearn what they know, I will also be sharing my lessons, thoughts, and stories like always. The point here is that life is not “back to normal” around here. It can’t be. It never will be again. The Goodnight House has turned a very important corner, and there is no looking back.
In the midst of my mistakes I did receive grace from a few people. In fact I read often, especially from Black women, that mistakes will be made. They will be made in the early days and in the later days. We are learning and they do not expect us to be perfect. They do, however, expect us to be present and continue to be present. To hold other white people accountable, to teach other white people as we learn, and to continue to support the movement. And just so we are clear, for those of us who can, supporting the movement is not just making our picture profile say, “Black Lives Matter,” it means to donate. And I don’t mean time here, I strictly mean money. Cold, hard, cash. Again, I’m talking to those of us who can. Donate money to the cause, donate it to the movement, donate it to the activists. Subscribe to their Patreon pages. Buy their books, their art, their time. Learning isn’t free, so put your money where your mouth is. You know I love y’all, but we have to do better.
So there it is, mistakes will happen. But we need to learn from them. “Know better, do better” said Maya Angelou. Every, damn day.
Speaking of donating (I think you brought it up), I’m leaving you with a photo of some postcards we made and passed out at one of the protests we attended over the weekend. We protested for four days straight, but more on that later. These postcards have organizations you can send money to right now. If you can’t donate money, think about sharing the names of these organizations, or making your own postcards to pass out. Because now it is time for action.
At the protest Jackson and I walked up and down the line of people and passed them out. He explained that they could donate, then they could send the postcard to someone else who could donate as well. We passed out a total of 40 of these, because we didn’t get the idea in time to do more! There were nearly 300 people at the protest and people wanted them when they saw them, so please know that people will DONATE if given the opportunity and they will SHARE the message. It was a small gesture on our part, just the cost of postcards and stamps, that resonated with people so much that they were finding us afterward to thank us, tell us what a great idea it was, and that they would donate and make their own postcards! We were happy with the outcome.
Please note that these are all Georgia organizations, mostly Atlanta-based, but a simple Google of similar organizations in your area can be done if you want to support local as well.
Remember, we are all learning here. We, as white people, can hold each other accountable, and we can help teach each other. Please do not bother your Black friends, and certainly not Black strangers, with your questions. I’m here as a resource, and so is Google. Today, reflect on your mistakes, take action, and donate. Tomorrow we will work our way through another way to help.
I’ve decided to take part in the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices Challenge created by @blackandembodied and @jessicawilson.msrd. I won’t be blogging, posting on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook from now until June 7th in an attempt to #MuteTheWhiteNoise. Instead I’ll be listening to what Black people have to say. I’ll be watching and looking at art created by Black artists and activists. I’ll be reading Black authors. I’ll be looking inward and reflecting on what I’m learning, how my world views need changing, and how I can help elevate the Black Community. Please follow the hashtags and the original creators of this challenge on Instagram.
Below you will find links to articles about white fragility and anti-racism by Black authors, as well as Black activists to follow on Instagram. I hope you can find time to educate yourself on these topics and listen to the unheard voices in the Black Community. Please remember that Google is your friend. Don’t rely on the people below, or any of your Black friends, colleagues, or Black people in your community to educate you. They are too busy and it isn’t their job. White supremacy and racism work because white people do not take a stand against it. It is a problem that white people created, and it is one that we need to work to end. It is time to take a stand, even toward people you love and admire. Our silence is deafening to the Black Community.
Read, read, read! Read the books listed in the illustration above for starters, and follow the authors on social media or on their paid Patreon accounts. Please keep in mind that some of these books have become very popular in the last few weeks (which is great), but I have heard of price gauging online. This in no way benefits the authors. Whenever possible, order the title from your local independent bookstore who supports Black writers. It may take a couple of weeks to get the book, because some are on backorder, but it is worth it. The titles from the illustration above are:
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge Good Talk by Mira Jacob Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz Citizen by Claudia Rankine An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Mindful of Race by Ruth King Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell & Aurélia Durand
In the meantime, here are some articles to get you started reading and thinking now:
On Friday I woke up, looked at the news and knew exactly what most of my friends and family would be talking about on social media: Riots. Looting. How violence was sweeping our nation in the wake of the murder or George Floyd. My first thought was, great, here we go again. Then I thought, wait, Can I help in some way? Can I try to open a dialogue with my white family and friends about why this is happening? I’ve been trying for the last year to understand the structural racism that our country was founded on. The same structural racism that our country began with–kill the Native Americans, move them to reservations, and take their land–and kept up with like an unspoken mantra for decades. The same structural racism that made Black people a fraction of a person. That made a rich country on the backs of minorities. The same structural racism that allows us to be okay with children dying in cages at the border, today. The same that makes “Not all cops are bad” as the only proper response to the killing of George Floyd. What I know and what other white (and some Black) people don’t yet realize is that our country was founded on these idea. Keep the minorities down. And as long as we don’t talk about it, just do it, all will be well.
So I got the bright idea to let myself be on Facebook all day long. Now y’all know I have been limiting my access to Facebook to 15 minutes a day for about eight months now, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I mean I would spend all day on there. I would work with the Facebook tab open. I would compulsively check my phone all day to see if someone “liked” or commented on something. That’s how I got my news, my recipes, my pictures of cute dogs and babies. But alas, I learned you can get all those from other places, and that the less time I spend on social media the better I feel. Now I know this is not the case for some of you. We know what social media is at its worst, but at its best it can do amazing things. It’s just that I am programmed to focus on the bad stuff, so it doesn’t work for me like it might others, and that’s okay. But yesterday I asked Jerimiah (the keeper of my Facebook time) to give me access all day. He put in the password, handed me the phone, then asked if that was a good idea. Of course, I almost screamed, I’m doing good today!
What I ended up doing was getting sucked right back into the “bad.” I got sucked back into sharing my opinion on other people’s pages, who quite frankly, were not as “woke” as me? Yeah, let’s say that. White fragility is real, y’all. I’ve been reading about it, but I wasn’t sure until I read something that a Black activist wrote a few weeks ago and suddenly I was offended. All, Well how could she say that about me? How could she clump me in with those white people? She doesn’t know me, look I’m different, I have experience with this, I blah, blah, blah… Then I was like, Oh shit, I just highlighted her point exactly.
White people, especially women, get so upset when you share truth with them, so offended, that they lash out. Not all, but most. Count me as one of them. One of them who is working on not being that way. How dare we suggest white women are just more of the same? Well, how do you think it makes Black people feel when you use stereotypes on them? When our culture, our society, has taught these stereotypes. Jesus, more than half of my white friends and family aren’t even friends with a Black person. They don’t even know Black people. Or they haven’t lived in a predominantly Black community. So they only know these stereotypes and these ideas about Black culture from what they have been taught by society.
Then there were the Not All Cops Are Bad people. No one that I know, or have talked to recently has claimed all cops are bad. Matter fact, I know several people in Law Enforcement. And the people I know and am related to would probably, I’d like to think at least, stick up for people like George Floyd. But who can say. Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Sheilds said it best, she said, “As law enforcement officers, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the police officer who is detaining. We have been there. We get that space. We need to stop seeing it that way. We need to step back and see the whole situation. Some people just should not police, and those people should be swiftly seen for who they are and removed.” Yeah, that’s part of the whole point. That’s why we need mental health checks, and psych evaluations on people before they become police officers. Better training, oversight committees formed by the people of the city, the very people the police are policing.
If you think about it, being a LEO is just a smaller version of a politician. They are there to serve the community, to keep people safe. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights era when police officers were tasked with spraying SILENT protestors with hoses and pelting them with rubber bullets, that suddenly police (some of them) began to see themselves as the keeper of “right” and “wrong.” We gave power to them that must be restored. Do they have a dangerous job? Absolutely. Do they get shot at in the line of service? Do they die for no reason? Yes. Yes. What does it stem from, do you think? Structural racism? Lack of mental health care for people who need it? Yes. And yes. I’ve met, had actual conversions with LEOs who truly believe they are God. Who put on the uniform and become someone else. I once knew a cop in Leavenworth, a young guy, new to the force, who was married with a baby at home. He liked to use his badge to fuck with young people, young men especially. Why? He liked to have sex with guys, but he couldn’t tell his family he was gay, so he’d use his badge to prey on young men. Should he have been policing? Uhh, no. But did people think this stand-up, married, dad was doing what he was doing? Uhh, no.
Just because someone has a badge doesn’t make them inherently good. You should hear the stories I have heard about male police officers and how they have random sex and affairs with women. Take advantage of women. Rape women in custody. Cheat on their spouses, and think it’s okay because they are “the law” and besides, don’t women always says shit like, “I love a man in uniform…” Le sigh. That sort of power can go to someone’s head. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. And those people should not be policing. I also think many law enforcement officers have witnessed their colleagues say and do things to Black people that is offensive, violent, etc, and have stayed silent. No one wants to piss off a co-worker. No one wants to piss off people they have to see day in and day out. But when you do you are aiding the problem. I know this is hard for people with loved ones who are LEOs to hear. I know it is hard for the “Thin Blue Line” people to hear. But it doesn’t make it less true. Think on it.
Then there are the protesters. I had a couple of people reach out, which I always prefer, and ask why I condone rioting and looting. I don’t. They just assumed that I do because I called bullshit on structural racism. I reminded people that the anger and hatred that fueled the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting there is now taught in school as “Patriotism.” I reminded people that last month white men walked into their state capital with Ak-47s and demanded to be able to eat at TGIFridays without a mask, and our president called them “Good people who are just angry.” Then I reminded them that if a group of people protesting at a #BLM rally turn to looting (which by the way is not the intent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement), they are “thugs” and it is “violence” not “patriotism.” Why do you think that is? I have a hunch.
Jerimiah and I sat in awe last night as we watched instigators tear down Atlanta. It was shameful to see. Damn it, Jerimiah sighed. Because he knows, like I do and a lot of us, that now people will only see this protest, this peaceful, non-violent, planned protest, as a “riot.” And I get the anger from people who say, “I don’t condone this.” Most people don’t. Most of the protesters were long gone, and their were more than enough people telling CNN reporters, as they stood outside CNN and watched the agitators break the glass windows to their office, that they do not condone this. That isn’t what it was supposed to be about.
The thing that got me was the amount of white people they were interviewing, who were A. Not from Atlanta and B. Just there to start some shit. White people busting out windows, white people screaming at the cops, white people burning the flag, which by the way, doesn’t bother me. You can hate me all you want, but I don’t give two shits about the burning of a piece of cloth. Would I do it? Probably not. Not unless I thought I had a good enough reason, like my son was killed by cops then my president didn’t give a shit, or you know, something like that. But the newscaster was all, “This is hard to watch” as two white people burned an American flag, and Jerimiah and I looked at each other and were like, This? This is hard to watch? This is the part that is hard to watch? Now we see how infuriating it must be to silently protest and be told you’re doing it wrong. You can’t kneel. You can’t burn a piece of cloth. You can’t stand with your hands up. You can’t form a chain and peacefully walk from one part of the city and then back again. You can’t call out white supremacy.
I know too many people who have watched the KKK burn down a Black church and sigh and go, “Well, what can you do?” then to sit and listen to them bitch about a Target on fire. (Eye roll). But it doesn’t matter how people protest, it’s wrong in the eyes of the US government. Unless, as mentioned before, you are a white male protesting with automatic weapons on the steps of your state capital, then you cool. Otherwise, no. No kneeling in silent protest. No walking across bridges. No burning the flag in protest. No standing in the street with your hands raised. No chanting, “I can’t breathe.” You get what I’m slinging.
I was actually really happy with the way Atlanta handled it all on Friday. And I was really happy with the protest itself. We did not go because we don’t feel comfortable going to fucking Wingstop to pick up chicken wings right now, so you won’t find me at any political rallies, but I was happy that people let their feelings out. That pastors spoke. That healing happened. But it was negated by the chaos that followed. So now we have two choices: We can either focus on the rioting, or the problem and solution. Too many of y’all wanna focus on the rioting and I get why. It’s easier. It is a cut and dry situation. They burned a cop car. That is wrong. And easy to fix. And a pretty agreeable stance. Burning cop cars is bad. Killing and imprisoning Black men, hmm, that’s harder for some of you to work out.
The last thing I saw before I turned off the television was Dr. Bernice King. She came to the press conference Mayor Bottoms held in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms was a mother up there. “Go home,” she said. “If you love this city, go home.” Of course as I said, many of the instigators were not from Atlanta, so no, they do not love this city. Most of Atlanta was already at home, worrying about how the city would look in the morning. Then T.I. spoke, then Killer Mike, then Dr. Bernice King. She reminded people that what you miss when you use her father’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard…” is the part about the “unheard” and as long as there is rioting, you will continue to be “unheard.” And she’s right. But, we are taught, in this white supremacy world that we live in, to accept that the murder of an unarmed Black man in daylight by a police officer as “non-violence” but looting a Target as “violence.” And until we can all get on the same page about what the “problem” is, no one will be heard. On thing is for sure about watching angry people light cop cars on fire in the middle of downtown Atlanta, we have a problem in this country, and you can’t ignore it any longer.
Listen, I shared the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote the other day on Insta and FB. The one that said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And a lot of people “Loved” and “Liked” it. Then when the protestors took to the street, y’all lost your voice. Got upset if someone put you in your place. Let your white fragility show. So which is it? Are you ready to speak up for all people. Black people being killed by cops. Brown people held in cages. Learn how to deal with it, learn how to combat it, learn how to better yourselves, or not? I know it is hard. I know it is hard to look at your overtly racist family member and say, “Stop. That is is not okay.” But if you don’t do it, who will?
I don’t know if I helped on Friday. I know I made my day a mess. My nerves were shot, and I just slipped into the hot tub with a glass of wine to forget it all. Isn’t that nice that I can do that? And I know I made mistakes. I know I reacted strongly to people, or didn’t truly understand what they were trying to say, all because I didn’t let it sink in. And I always welcome anyone to message me. To tell me how my words made them feel, even if it is anger. But I won’t tolerate passive-aggressive remarks, or blanket statements aimed at me. Like when the teacher yells at the whole class because they are mad at one student. Call me out on it, I don’t mind. You’ll feel better, and maybe I will have learned to see things from a different point of view. Or maybe I’ll realize you are a crazy person and unfriend you, who knows! And remember, that street goes both ways, y’all. You’ll never offend me if you need to unfriend me for your mental health. I will only respect you more.
Stay safe and sane, y’all.
Now if you have read to the bottom, thanks! And if you really want to educate yourself, and you really want to try to do better then do what I have been doing for months. Read books about how to be anti-racist. Follow accounts that teach you how to help the Black Community. I’m leaving some suggestions below.
The Conscious Kid on Instagram
Rep. John Lewis
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Dr. Bernice King/The King Center
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
The hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #IRunWithAhmaud #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor
I was born and raised in Kansas. But not the kind of Kansas you’re thinking of. I wasn’t Dorothy, living on a pig farm with my aunt and uncle. I didn’t know any farm hands, I didn’t run to the cellar when the twisters came (we ran to an interior closet, because we could never afford a house with a basement), and I didn’t have any ruby red shoes. Rather I grew up in Leavenworth, a small albeit diverse* town, in the statistical Kansas City-metro area. I was born in one of the two hospitals in town. I attended Leavenworth public schools (mostly Title One schools), and I graduated from Leavenworth High School with a class of about 1200 kids. My best friends in first grade were two little white girls, two little Black girls, and a boy from Pakistan whose dad was an officer in the Indian Army, and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth that year for Combined Army and Services Staff School or CAS-Cubed. So no, it wasn’t Oz or anything like that.
When I was 21, Jerimiah and I moved to Southern Missouri to live at the resort his parents bought on Table Rock Lake. Like really, really Southern Missouri. We lived about four miles from the Arkansas line, and had many run-ins with what I’ve come to know as “Hill People.” We spent five years on Table Rock Lake, where I couldn’t tell you that I ever saw a person of any skin tone other than white (other than our friends we worked with in Branson). We moved into Branson for the first five years of Jackson’s life, where at least it was a little more diverse. Still, we knew it wasn’t the place we wanted to raise our son. Southern Missouri is not reflective of real life, and we never wanted our son to stay there, so we figured we best move somewhere with a little more diversity.
We ended up in Denver, North Carolina because my brother-in-law said it was nice. And it was, but it was more of the same. White. Middle-class. Lake. Boats. Second homes. Sub-divisions. We lived there for nearly four years before we moved to Charlotte and actually lived the sort of life we wanted for our son. He finally had a diverse set of friends, he was in a Charter School during that time, but it was racially, economically, and academically diverse. We liked our little Charlotte neighborhood, and we were happy. Then we got the news we needed to move again. This time to Atlanta.
We’ve been in the Atlanta-metro area for a year now. We are in a small, diverse town on the edge of the Perimeter, which is the highway that runs around the city. We are twenty minutes from downtown. We can catch a bus, ride the MARTA, or Uber to one of the busiest airports in the world with great ease. We have everything we need here, and we are happy. But there is one little thing: Racists. And I’m not talking about the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. That is a different kind of racism, and it is my opinion that the man who pulled the trigger should die. The others should serve life. But I am not the judge, nor am I the jury. (Don’t worry I’m not gonna pull some “Jesus is Lord” shit here, I’m saying I am not actually in charge and my opinion doesn’t matter, but I hope the GBI does right by Ahmaud.) The kind of racism I’m talking about here is the kind of racism you find up the road in a town like Cumming, Georgia. It’s covert, not overt.
Cumming has a population of less than 10,000 and no, they are not all racists. I’m sure there are some fine people in Cumming, Ga I don’t know them. I don’t know anyone there because I have never been there, because I refuse to go there because the things I know about the city are not good. I’ve heard about “Sunshine Laws” in Cumming. You might have heard of Cumming from a story that Oprah did on the town in 1987. It’s known for it’s racism around these parts, and even if it is on Lake Lanier I’m just not interested in knowing “that part of Georgia.” The problem is Cumming isn’t a stand-alone, small Georgian town full of racism and unchecked bias. Cumming seems to me, in the year I have spent traveling through the state, to be normal. And it isn’t just Georgia.
We spent six weeks last year in Louisiana. We drove down there on three separate occasions and stayed for two weeks at a time. We drove through places like Birmingham and Biloxi, sure. But we also drove through towns like Newnan, and Opelika, and Chickasaw, and D’Iberville, and Thibodaux and I promise they are all more of the same. Covert, overt, unchecked aggressions and bias, and everything in between. Here read this blog post I wrote about Baton Rouge, or this one, or this one. I tried to share what I was seeing and hearing. The rampant racism that sits just under the surface and is ALWAYS present there is present all over the South. It is present in every, single state in The South, and I’m not saying it isn’t in every state in our country, it’s just so much more pronounced here, that it is hard to look away from.
It is present in my county, DeKalb county, where statistically speaking we are minorities. The Black people in DeKalb County make a lot of money. A lot of it. We are the second richest county in the country with a predominantly Black population. But guess what is here, covert and overt racism, unchecked aggression, and bias. Cause it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. It doesn’t matter if you are educated. It doesn’t matter if you are the kindest person ever. It doesn’t matter if you are small business owner, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, there are people who will hate you if you are Black and there is nothing you can do about it. And some people truly don’t know this. Some privileged white people really think racism is under control here, and they are walking around trying to save face with the rest of the country, but friends there is no face to save.
As I said, I’ve lived in some different places. Some backwards sorta places, where people chase their lost donkeys in the middle of the night, then smoke meth all day, and still the racism here, in Georgia, in The South, is the worst I have seen in any place I have ever lived. And it is sad. And scary. And unfortunately what happened to Ahmaud is not unique down here, and we all know that. And I think everyone needs to know that. We need to know it, discuss it, and deal with it.
Stay safe, y’all.
*I’m not doing that thing white people do when they say “diverse” and just mean “more Black people” I mean truly diverse when I use the word. Ethnically, culturally, spiritually, educationally, and economically, and yes, varying races represented in the community. That’s the ideal place for us, and one similar to where I grew up.
Today seems like an appropriate day to share a little story of how Jackson was introduced to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., first in Memphis, years later in Birmingham, then again in Atlanta. We’ve been fortunate to travel to these historical places, as well as many others, in Jackson’s first 11 years, and we always took the opportunity to speak truth to him, even when he was obviously too young to “get it.” Which was the case in both Memphis and Birmingham (the first times around), but recently he’s been more capable of understanding the way our country was several decades ago, and he’s starting to make some big connections to the world we live in today, like how things haven’t changed as much as we would have liked.
The first time Jackson heard of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his important work, his life and his death, was in 2012. Jackson was three-years-old when this picture was taken outside the Lorraine Motel on the south side of Memphis.
That’s an amped up guy, who loved old cars, smiling at his grandma and daddy standing just outside the shot. He had no idea why we were there, what had happened there, or whom those cars belonged to, but he liked them. He fell in love with finned cars on that day, but he was far from grasping the complexities of what he was looking at, or the spot he was standing on. Still we tried to explain, hoping something would stick.
It was a mildly, warm spring day in Memphis the day we visited the Lorraine Motel, and it was my first time paying homage to the late Reverend Doctor as well. I remember the somberness that followed me around for the rest of the day. That is until my toddler bought a blow-up guitar at ten pm on Beale Street and showed us all how to get down. A reminder that it isn’t all bad.
Our next attempt at teaching our son about the important work of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his many comrades, was during a trip to Birmingham a couple years later. We sat on the grass at the Kelly Ingram Park, formally West Park, and had lunch while we introduced racism to a wily four-year-old.
Kelly Ingram Park is directly across from the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham. In the 1960s it served as a gathering ground for large-scale protests led by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him. The church, of course, was the first “Colored Baptist Church” in Birmingham, and was infamously bombed in 1963 killing four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair–and injuring 22 others. This was the first time, sitting in this lush, green grass, surrounded by the statues built to honor the Black community of Birmingham, that I realized the depth of what I was trying to talk to my son about. I worried it was too much, too soon. Frankly, I thought Jerimiah and I might be crazy. Extreme even. But when Jackson looked up at us and said, “People hate others because of the way their skin looks?!” I knew it was necessary. And I knew then, that something was sticking.
The next time we would encounter the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was when we visited Atlanta for the first time in 2016, and then a couple years later, when we had the opportunity to move to Atlanta, a city rife with its share of racial division, yet home to the King family. We’ve learned so much about the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. since then, and about the people who supported and worked with him. About Rep. John Lewis, about Reverend Hosea Williams and Harry Belefonte, about the work they put into the Civil Rights Movement. We are so lucky to live in such history, fifteen miles from the King family home, from Ebenezer Baptist Church where Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and his son lead worship for many years. Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. taking over in 1927, and his son becoming co-pastor in 1960 until his death in 1968. We’ve visited this landmark, the King family home, and the National Historical Park named after the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and the King Center, where the King’s are buried, several times since 2016 and each time we have learned something new, and had some tough conversations with an ever-growing child who still occasionally has to grasp at what we are saying. But little by little, it’s sticking.
Today we honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. His life and his legacy. We honor those who fought alongside him. Those who peacefully protested and those who didn’t, because honestly, it was all necessary. We are not part of the Black community, but we strive everyday to be as educated, as kind, as accepting, as we can be. Because Black Lives Matter. And Black History Matters.
We want to lend our support to a fight that is still raging in our country. I’d love to say that an end is coming soon, but I don’t think it is. Instead, I put my faith in the next few generations. In my son’s generation. In the kids with extreme parents. With access to history. With open and loving hearts. We must remember that we have come far, but not far enough.