Recently the stress of current events has been catching up with me. First, it was a worldwide pandemic that brought on so much stress. That led way into full-time homeschool, or “Distance Learning,” all while working from home. The pangs of social isolation were there too, adding additional compressed layers of stress.
The other day, I felt a strong need to unplug and decompress. So I changed into my pajamas early, got in bed and enjoyed the evening breeze through my open window. There was essential oil diffusing next to me on the nightstand, where my kombucha sat on a coaster. I was intent on reading my latest library book. The scene was set for relaxation.
I kept feeling distracted though. Frustration with my attention span was mounting. It was then I noticed my body posture – my hand was resting on my heart. I’ve found myself in this position more and more lately, quite literally holding my heart.
In fact, I think I’ve being holding my heart a lot since the tragic murder of George Floyd the last month. Because to be honest, I don’t have the words to articulate what kind of pain this has inflicted on the Black community. I don’t feel qualified to share in that either. I don’t even feel qualified to share my own pain, because it must pale in comparison to others’ pain in this.
You see, I’m white. I have white privilege. And while I know that having privilege doesn’t mean I never struggled; it does means my skin color isn’t the cause of those struggles.
This privilege is magnified when I read the stories of people of color in my community and around the world. I can’t imagine their pain and frustration. My presence is unassuming at best and I assure you, no one clutches their purse when I step onto an elevator. I’ve never been followed by a store clerk, intent on watching every movement of my hands. The only fear of police I’ve had is that they might catch me traveling a few miles over the speed limit. And of all things, I could never imagine a scenario where a police officer would have his knee on my neck as I begged to breathe.
Because I’m white.
The cannon of horror stories relating to racism all echo the same tired tune over and over: people of color don’t matter. “But they do!” I want to scream. Admittedly, I grew up in a pretty whitewashed suburbia with a friend group of all the same complexion. But fast forward to adulthood, and some of my son’s nearest and dearest friends are Black. I adore their parents. They matter so much to my family. I could never imagine the above atrocities occurring to these young boys. And I realize that is a heck of a privilege! As I’m sure their parents have had to give this topic plenty of thought and consideration. I can’t imagine teaching my child how to blend into an America that was made by them, but definitely not for them.
The murder of George Floyd has shaken our community to its core. It has grown beyond our hot dish toting land of Minnesota-nice to a national (and international) level of protests and calls for action. We can see plain and simple: we live in a broken system. It desperately needs to change. I don’t know how to fix it. I am just one person. I’m still learning, listening and growing. It feels heavy and it feels like a lot because it is. Just taking a glimpse at social media can leave me dizzy and wondering where to start when there’s so much to be done.
But then I realize: I’m raising a son of my own, so I’ll start there. I can teach him to do better. He will do better. We all have to do better.
I’m trying. I’m certain I’ll make mistakes along the way. I’m still holding my heart and will always hold space.