Years ago, I had a mind shift. I took a hard look at the sarcastic, self-described realist I’d become and recognized that I need to change. I worked hard on surrounding myself with people and resources that valued the things I wanted to work on: Positivity… Kindness… Moments, memories, and meaningful experiences over material things. It was a challenge, and it still is. There are no effortless days. Especially now that I work with kids, and have one of my own.
These last few weeks (and who am I kidding, years) have been harder than ever. And today, as I unsuspectingly sat down to write an entirely different post, I learned of yet another situation of hatred hitting all too close to home. To put it mildly, at this moment, I am struggling. I’m struggling with positivity and kindness. With compassion and understanding. I’m just so, so, so very sick of this stuff.
What, in particular, has got me down today? Three instances of racism involving children in as many days. Hearing about some from strangers, and some with family. Here’s the thing: I’ve been living with racism for decades. As much as people like me hate the hate, we can’t really do much to escape it. It’s a “just” fact of life. So with that being said, while I absolutely find it horrible and intolerable to see and hear race fueled action — from microaggressions to ignorance to prejudice to discrimination to intimidation to altercations to full blown violence — involving adults, I can manage. I can deal. Because it’s not the first time I’ve seen it, it won’t be the last, and unfortunately we’ve been dealing with it since the jump.
But like many, I find kids to be the chink in my armor. Why on Earth do any adults think that it is acceptable to hurl any of these things — the microaggressions, the violence, and everything in between — toward kids? Or any more acceptable to let kids behave that way toward other kids? I know the list of reasons is as complicated as it is long. I know that everyone has their own challenges and struggles in life. But that doesn’t make situations like these any less disgusting. In some ways, it makes them worse. They’re still vile. It still hurts like hell. And I feel completely cut down by it every single time.
Last week, I launched my first book in the Let’s Share! series out into the world. I can’t even describe the level of work I put into it; it was years in the making. Since A Hair Story went live, some amazing things have happened. The response has been so warm, so encouraging. Days later, I’m still a #1 New Release, and by the end of the week, I hope to start seeing reviews pop up, and also to get my first glance at sales numbers.
This work has been largely where I channel my fear, frustration, confusion, and anger. I write my words. I make my art. I connect with people, and we make each other better. I don’t take any of it for granted. It’s a big freaking deal, and I’m so thankful. I’m so privileged. Even still, I can’t always find that peace. And I can’t always find my voice.
When I hear about racist vitriol being spewed at kids barely old enough to understand the words, I am empty. I am searching. The hope I usually hold on to goes into hiding. I know what will get me through is my work. And my family. I know I’m lucky to have those things and more. Still, even with such privileged circumstances, I’m not immune. When I think about those facing scarcity and insecurity, I shudder. I worry about how they move forward. How they hold esteem. How they learn love. And kindness. And positivity. And even come to share those things. To give them so freely. To lead in so many ways. They truly possess a resilience unlike any have yet to test within myself.
This anti-racism movement that’s taking flight? It must continue. It must succeed. And the only way it will, is if those who can muster courage over fear and strength over hurt, use their voices loudly enough for the rest of us. Especially when we need it most. In whatever the most effect ways turn out to be. To use that voice to make those perpetuating ignorance and hate hear that enough is enough. Over and over and over again.
I’m not even talking about in the big ways: The protests, the movement. I’m talking about the day to day. When you see the slights and the injustice, and have the fortitude to snap out of the shock from what you’ve witnessed, let it be known: What just happened is not okay. Tell the person who did it. Tell the staff of the establishment. Tell the people in your life who need to hear it, learn it, and live it. (Yourself included.)
I’ve heard people saying lately that only white people can end racism. I’m not sure I believe that 100%, but it is compelling. White people certainly are the ones with the most power to do it. I don’t think they can do it alone, though. Communities will have to be open enough, vulnerable enough to share tough truths with each other. Individuals will have to do the same. They’ll have to leave their comfort zones and seek out information and experiences they never knew they never had. Even the educated. Even the woke. It’ll need to happen at every age. In every place. In all people. Maybe not everyone will choose change. But we sure as hell all need to be confronted with it.
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