For the past couple of months, my favorite trip has been to my backyard. Today the weather is cooler and cloudy. The skies are alternatively dark and light and I’ve been pursuing the sun.
Having found a patch of light and warmth, I sat listening to the water run in the fountain, smelling the jasmine in bloom and hoping to clear my mind. Nature has always been a reliable comfort to me. But, I couldn’t erase the images I saw on CNN last night. I couldn’t forget the president’s tweet this morning threatening protestors with “vicious dogs and ominous weapons.”
“You okay, ” my husband asked as he handed me a cup of coffee he’d brought from the kitchen. “What’s on your mind?”
“Ah, all of it,” I answered. “The burning buildings. Our cowardly, ignorant, incompetent president. The crowds. The masks. The lack of masks.”
People are taking to the streets in mass in the middle of a pandemic to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. And, as is the case always, there are those who are perverting the expression of free speech by using it as a license to destroy property, endanger others and create false narratives.
We sat last night watching the images of our country in pain as did so many others. Suddenly, it became familiar.
“I recognize that neighborhood ,” my daughter said.
CNN was showing images of protests from cities across the country. Suddenly we were in San Jose, California where my husband and I lived for 30 years and my daughter grew up. It’s the place my daughter still calls home…just 120 miles down the road. The protestors were gathering in the downtown district. We knew it well. My husband’s first post-college job had been in that neighborhood. We dined in the restaurants and celebrated in the hotels that make up the business center. We recognized storefronts and landmarks. It made the news feel more real.
Blacks make up about 14% of the U.S. population with only 6% living in my home state. I can not count a single black person as a friend. I have one black acquaintance, a close friend of my personal trainer, who I met at the gym. There was one black student in my high school. I’ve never had a black neighbor. My experience isn’t unusual. I grew up in an upper middle-class neighborhood in the suburbs. That’s where I’ve spent most of my life. The suburbs aren’t integrated.
I am a privileged white woman and I am ashamed of my country’s treatment and attitude toward people of color. I am saddened by the dehumanization of an entire group of people based solely upon their skin color. I am angered and deeply embarrassed by a president who exploits racial division for his own political gain.
I feel so incredibly powerless in moments like this. It’s a small thing, one voice, but that’s all I have. And, I will use it now to say that I recognize racism. I support equality. And, though I will not be literally standing with the peaceful protesters, I stand with them figuratively.
And, I will vote. Nasty women vote.