Two tiny children curl up into me, two side bodies filled with purity and openness. You slept. Now you awaken. Another day awaits you filled with hope and fun and love and abundance.
Meanwhile the world has erupted. Meanwhile a sore that appeared to be nothing but a silent scar, blew up threw up spit up rampaged screamed yelled threw pounded broke shot stole galloped carodded crowded spilled up and out and with all its might and power cried out STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!
And you, my precious little pale children, slept. The sun rises slowly, just as it always has, shining its deep oranges and reds and pinks and yellows through the crack in the window onto your sweet pale faces, your eyes peer naively eagerly anticipating a new day filled with fun adventure learning curiosities and most of all SAFETY.
I hold you. I hold you for me. I hold you for the world. I hold you for our present. I hold you for our past. I hold you for our future.
This is the moment, I think. This is the time to wake up those melodious sparkling eyes. At 7 and 9 it is time. If you didn’t have your pearly white skin you would know already. I wouldn’t have the choice to wait until you were cuddled in my arms and the dew is gathering on our precious two pane windows while I hold you, the softness of the blankets and the beating of my heart sheltering you from, well, everything. You would have known it before you knew it, how they looked at you, what they assumed, where you were and weren’t supposed to be, how safe you felt some places, even if you didn’t know why, what your parents said and what they didn’t say, the neighborhood, the Barbies, cartoons, superheroes, politicians, the world would have quietly, or loudly, spoken it to you and even if you didn’t yet have the words, though at this age you most likely would, you would know. You would know there is a They. And that it isn’t you. You would just. Know.
But here I am with my pearly whites, especially my daughter which somehow emerged from my dark belly with freckly skin and auburn hair. And today the world has announced – it is time.
We did the first piece already, it was last year MLK day. And we sat with our kiddie comic biographies of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. We read the books, we spoke the fight, and I saw your faces – my daughter whose BFF’s are African sisters, and my son who idolizes Derek who used to teach him kickboxing, and whose life dream it was to become a cop, but who retired within a year because of the overarching racism. You, who saw no color, just joy and fun and laughter, you looked at me with surprise and dismay “A dream? Two little girls holding hands?” But of course you would hold hands with Jocelyn, every day you did, should you not? Could you not? And in that moment, my heart was torn, because you need to know, my innocent little child, but knowing is Knowing. And suddenly you know – I am white, that friend is Black. It doesn’t change anything, no, and it changes everything. But you are a child and your heart is abundant and the next day you forget again – that there is, that there ever was, a divide. Because you can forget. And your mama struggles with how to teach what was without eradicating the beauty of what has become. For you.
And now, the world has erupted, and I turn to my friends of every color and they are sad, heartbroken, dismayed, angry. The world has erupted, is erupting, but to me it’s a volcano that has been brewing for a very long time, a pimple waiting to be popped, there is nothing new under the sun. The sun has just gotten way too hot. And the people must speak. Because you can only quietly acquiesce to a broken system for so long. And it can only keep on breaking for as long as it does. Before it erupts with fire. Before the people yell Enough! Enough! Ennnnnnnnnnough!!!!
And their insides and their outsides erupt, and the peace and the war and the things, the things just staring at them in the storefronts – look at me! Buy me! These are all the things you cannot have, will never have, glistening and glimmering, behave act nicely, quiet down, do your job, stay in your place, and you will have us. Wait patiently, quiet down, don’t make waves…. And everything enflamed and erupted and catapulted and guffawed – and you said NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
And you. Were. Right.
Dumplings. I say. The world is sick right now. Sick with secrets. Sick from not listening. Sick from stepping over. Sick from not being fair.
They perk up. Not fair, this they understand. I read them a chidren’s book about a police shooting. It peers into a liberal white home where they discuss it and then a liberal black home. “Will the police man go to jail?” the Black boy asks. “Nope,” the dad says definitively, not looking up from his paper. “Why not?” the little boy asks.
This is happening in real life, I tell them. And their little eyes try to take them in. “Is it a true story?” you ask. “It’s an example,” I answer. “Something that has happened far too many times. And just did again two weeks ago.”
I try to explain to their 7 and 9 year old brains about white privilege, about race inequity about generational trauma, slavery, social justice, marching, doing what’s right. “Do all black people get treated unfairly?” my 7 year old asks. I nod. “What about kids?” He pauses. “What about Derek?” Derek is his hero. When he was 5 he used to say things like – “Derek can pick up a car. Daddy can’t. Derek could lift this, do this. Not Daddy.” Could it be that Derek was treated unfairly?
My son has a remote kickboxing lesson with Derek the following week. I check in with Derek. I ask if he would mind if my son asks him a couple of questions, not to put him on the spot but because he is his muse, his superhero, and he wants to understand. Derek graciously agrees. And my 7 year old interviews him- “I want to know if you can tell me how you have been treated unfairly so I can understand how Black people are treated.”
When he gets off the phone he comes to me and says. “People have yelled bad names at Derek. I am going to stop that. I am not going to let this happen anymore.” His baby blue eyes shine with ferocity and determination. A superhero is born.
I smile with tears in my eyes. I am touched by his passion. And his naivete. I share it with Derek and we are both moved to tears. It all starts with a yearning, a desire to change. But even that starts with a knowing. And it is maybe never too young to learn.
I hold my precious doves close to my heart. “Are all white people good? Are all Black people good” my son asks. And I try to explain sometimes we are, sometimes we aren’t, we are all hurting in the world, we are all scared, but we are trying. We, our family, for example, we want change, we want to help, but it’s hard, because to truly make change, we have to give up a lot. And many of us aren’t yet ready for that. We want to be, we are trying to be, but we also need to give up a lot of our toys. We are also part of the broken world, I say, but we are trying to wake ourselves up so we can all speak, and more importantly, listen, and fight for what’s right. And all of us hold each other, knowing we will keep on trying. Trying together. And I know, but I don’t say aloud, that as we try we will also fail, again and again and again. But the trying counts, and eventually it WILL get us there. IT MUST.
The next day my kids fill up 4 giant bags with stuffed animals.
It’s a step.