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As a white female, I feel as though I need to preface this article by saying that I can’t presume or assume trajectory of what a day in the life looks like or feels like in the eyes of a Black American. I have not been burdened by the same things, nor do I share the same woes, but my heart aches and I am seeking understanding. This is a ‘human’ issue, and it needs to be addressed mindfully.
I do not write this piece to create controversy or assumptions but to try and encourage and facilitate open dialogue and conversation. I desire peace and I am reaching into my heart and soul to write this from a purely anthropological perspective. I want to find a light.
Yesterday, a friend asked me,
“What are your thoughts on all that has transpired in the last 48 hours?”.
‘All that has happened’ being, the insanely publicized, heart wrenching and graphic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Both incidents were beyond tragic representations of events that have been on-going for hundreds of years. These deaths spurred a “Black Lives Matter” protest in Dallas, Texas – where five innocent lives were taken from two snipers that were located on the top floor of a parking garage.
My answer to my friend was,
“It makes my heart sore, I need more time to read about it and digest”.
I did not even realize the luxury of what I had just said, the fact that I actually had time to digest and process. His response was deeply articulate and heartfelt.
“My heart is also sore. I’m still digesting recent events, but information isn’t my concern. I’m thinking of how I can make better contributions to understanding and dialogue. This issue is hundreds of years old.”
I went on to tell him that the only time I have been made aware of my ‘whiteness’ or gender was on a trip to Egypt in 2010. It is a gift that I have been born with, this seemingly gleaming ‘golden ticket’. However, this gift has also made me unable to see how others struggle – racial awareness has now become a means of survival, and I do not know how that feels. I wear a veil that I can’t even see.
He told me,
“This is an everyday experience for me. Being reminded of what I look like, that is. That I am black, or have at least question the possibility of why someone reacted to my mere presence in a particular way”.
If my heart wasn’t sore already, it was now swollen. I realized that I had never asked the perspective of a young black male. I have been so insanely ignorant, and ignorant to my ignorance. At first, I felt a proverbial slap to the face – I’m an idiot, I thought. But, no, I have not asked these questions because I have not been exposed to the dialogue, and so many of us haven’t.
We both exchanged ideas and thoughts on the concept of fear. The deep-seeded, archaic fear that seems to lie within us all. We agreed that social fear, specifically, seems to be at the developmental core of racism as well as a driving factor in the general intolerance and mistreatment of others.
We have plenty of outlets but we typically do not use them for mindful discussion. Peaceful protests turn into blood baths, Facebook posts turn into a platform for verbal war and dissection. Where is the engagement, where is the exchange, where is the desire to understand?
I am writing this because I desire to understand, to empathize. I think that many other people do as well but they are not sure how to express it. They are afraid to admit their lack of understanding or knowledge because it may make them appear as weak – of the body or of the mind. However, quite the opposite is true. If you know which muscle is the weakest, you can give it greater attention, feed it, allow it to grow.
Your heart is a muscle, a muscle of which life is impossible without. We can live without our ego, without our judgements, without our material goods, but we cannot live without our hearts. Love is the inverse of fear, and the only place love comes from is from our hearts. I think that is where understanding begins.
What can I do?
I do not want to ignore the tone or shade of anyone’s skin, or say “I don’t see color”. ‘Color’ is beautiful, ‘color’ gives diversity and life to the human race. But, more importantly, I want to know, what color is your soul? How deeply do you feel? What is the cadence of your breath? What is the rhythm of your movements?
I want to understand and I want more people to want to understand. The power of potential is too strong to ignore and too precious of a gift to leave under this tree of life.
This isn’t personal, it’s universal.