Surprised I Was Surprised

Sitting in my comfortable 120-year-old farmhouse in the rolling hills of Howard County, MO I can't help but notice the pit in my stomach. It has been close to two weeks since George Floyd's death and our country went ablaze with rioting. Why do I feel this visceral queasiness in my gut? I think many of us are feeling this same uneasiness these days.

I live in the once called, Little Dixie, along the Missouri River. Slavery was big in Central Missouri along the Missouri River even though slave owners didn't own as many as the antebellum slave owners of the deep south. The pre-civil war hemp farmers of this area could not have prospered as they did except upon the strong black backs of their slaves.

We seemed to have reached that tipping point once again in America. The point when a seemingly insignificant or small thing occurs and there is an explosion of some sort, and then everything catches on fire and it doesn't' simmer down. This current civil and racial deep unrest appears to have boiled over. It may never simmer down in my lifetime.

I am not saying George Floyd's death was insignificant in the least, he was a loved member of a family and created by the same God that created me.

I have a biracial niece of color and an adopted nephew of color from Haiti. My niece and other family members have been in dialogue on our countries systemic racism and current protesting and riots. Sadly, we had not asked before this national upheaval her thoughts and or how we may support her as a female of color living in a biracial family in Kansas City. Many of us waited until everything hit a tipping point. I wanted to share a part of our conversation as it is becoming more appropriate to say these words to every person of color in my country at this moment of our history. I can’t begin to understand your life experiences and perspective of living in a biracial family, a woman of color in your community, and in the United States of America in the 21st century. I am guilty of adding to our collective systemic racism, and for this, I owe you and every person of color an apology.  I apologize for all the little white lies I’ve harbored since early childhood, every time as a Youth and teenager I didn’t speak up when my classmates Of color were the brunt Of the classroom jokes. Maybe I knew better than to laugh, but I didn’t speak up and announce the injustice of this childhood racism. I apologize for every time I thought twice of which route to ride or walk and whom to befriend. I usually chose a safer light-skinned neighborhood or a familiar white-skinned new friend. I apologize for being surprised at a classmate's brilliant answer in my college Religion class when I turned around to see who it was. I was surprised that my brilliant classmate was a person of color. I was surprised I was surprised! That was the day I realized I was prejudice. I was 20 years old. I’m still amazed at my subconscious level of resisting those different than me. I’m ashamed of harboring a conditioned fear of those different from my comfortable and familiar culture and associations, especially inner-city black people. Why? I can only speculate that my ignorance has gone to seed. There is no good or intelligent answer, except that I harbor an intentional ignorance of my privilege. I hate that it has all come to this and we, white folk, are still so confused with people of color’s deep seated despair, frustration, and rage that has hit a tipping point. I’m learning to voice my fears and the uncomfortableness of my own racism, and my own contributions to the systemic marginalization of people groups not white near me. I don’t begin to think this really makes a significant difference. Yet, I do believe I need to start somewhere.  I’m not apologizing for being white, but I’m apologizing for not celebrating you and others of color as you deserve. I apologize for abetting this traumatic dismissal of a race of people all my life. I need your help to act better, more welcoming, and inclusive. Help me to love better ️. I appreciate you my sister, niece, and neighbor. I’m honored to be in your family.

To continue the discussion contact me at Be Still and Listen. I am open and willing to learn more about the stories of persons of color and those open to continuing the necessary dialogue to start anew for a more inclusive and welcoming society where everyone belongs as they are, not as I or others would have them to be.

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Be Still and Listen