It’s happened again. A senseless act of hate, terror and racism took the lives of too many and brought our country to its knees. The bloggers have lit up the internet, the cable news outlets are spinning this way and that, the talking heads are trying to make sense of evil. But here’s the thing, you can’t make sense of evil. Evils main goal is do harm where harm should not be, to confuse us when we should know better and to shred our hearts. Evil’s goal is to separate us from rational thought and turn us against each other.
Are we going to let evil get the best of us? When evil thinks it has the upper hand the thing to do is look it in the face and challenge it. Recently in our country evil has been taking the form of racism. Are we going to continue to let racism get the best of us? Charleston has brought us to our our knees and quite frankly, on our knees, is where we should be. But not to ask God “why”? We know why. Racism is still alive in this country and many Americans turn a blind eye or pretend that it’s really not that bad or that we have come so far. Guess what…evil=hate=racism. There is no greater than or less than, racism is a product of hate is a product of evil. Or better yet, racism is a product of one group insisting they are better and more important than another which facilitates hate which is the child of evil. Don’t try to tell me that this recent act of terror was just a product of one sick, twisted mind. While his mind is most certainly sick and may be beyond repair; one isn’t born with racism, it is a learned behavior. Mental illness may be at play here but that is not an excuse. Timothy McVeigh had a sick and twisted mind but we did not excuse his act of terrorism in Oklahoma City as a result of mental illness.
The time for asking “why” is long past. Now is the time to ask ourselves what we will do to stop this cancer that has been eating away at us for so long. I have listened to interviews and read blogs and the prevailing response seems to be to take a stand for what you know to be right. We cannot shrug our shoulders and say how sad and then go on our merry way. We must do something. But what is that something?
What am I to do? How am I to react? What is my response? I have been asking myself what the answer to these questions are and what does this mean to me as a white privileged mom living in the suburbs. Life has been handed to me on a silver platter. I will probably never know what it means to be looked upon with hate and disgust because of my heritage. I will probably never have to fear for my life because of the color of my skin. I will probably always see the police officers in my town as a friend and not a foe. What then, as a white privileged mom in the suburbs, is my role in the Charleston response? Yes, I can pray for Charleston, the victims families and stand in solidarity with a hashtag but my response can’t stop at prayer. It is time to take a hard, hard look at ourselves, our history and the type of people we want to be. As hard as it is, we must look into the darkness that resides in our country and within our own hearts and call it out.
Responding to Charleston means teaching my children lessons that they can take with them their entire lives. Lessons that will shape how they respond to injustice in the world. Apathy towards racism and injustice can be harmful and is a slippery slope to condoning violence towards others. “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.” We can talk all we want but until we show our kids that we won’t tolerate racial injustice we are just a bunch of clanging gongs, which are really noisy and annoying. Each year in school our kids learn about Martin Luther King. Each year the lesson becomes a little more mature. 4th grade is an amazing time to have real conversations with kids. Their minds are ripe for learning and their self awareness is stretching beyond themselves. They are beginning to learn about the world, our history, where we are headed and they begin asking questions. I love it when I see kids begin to use their critical thinking skills, when they recognize that there are no simple answers to hard questions. This year we had serious discussions about racism, what happened to black americans in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movements and what Dr. King really stood for. Our 10 year old son asked if black people still had bad things happen to them because they were black, if there was still racism in our country. He has not witnessed it in his school (even though his school has a diverse population) and he doesn’t have access to social media so he assumed it no longer happened. He was genuinely surprised when we told him that there is, indeed, racism in our country. His naivety was a combination of sweet, sad and hopeful. I cherished his sweet innocence and felt the need to protect him from the ugliness of the world. I was also a little saddened to know that it would not be long before this innocence was broken and he would have to face these ugly truths.
Meeting darkness and injustice face to face is where we as parents can make a difference. Yes, it is our job to protect them from all that is evil and unjust but it is also our job to give them the tools to know how to handle it when they are faced with it. This is the time, while they are still young, while they still listen to us and still heed our warnings when we have to sow the seeds of acceptance and love and teach rejection of injustice. Before they begin to rebel away from us for the sake of rebelling and independence we must show them how to stand up for what is right. So when they do have to make tough decisions, when they are faced with whether or not to ignore hateful words or say no more to those perpetrating hate and violence, they will know in their hearts what to do. They will know because we have shown them the evil and taught them to make the right decision even when it’s hard. They will know what to do because they will have seen our example when we say no more violence, no more symbols of hate, no more words that dehumanize.
As a white privileged mom in the suburbs it is my job to teach compassion and reject racial injustice. It’s up to us as parents to take hold of our future and steer it towards what is right. If we don’t take this responsibility seriously, evil will gladly take up the role of parenting our children. In the grand scheme of things I do believe that there is an arch towards justice and that love will win but it takes more than time. It takes us. It takes parents facing the darkness, making tough choices, doing the right thing even if it makes us uncomfortable.
If we don’t, then who will?