"All That Remained" - mixed media on yupo, 26" x 20". Inquiries.
I last wrote about listening. Deep listening at the edge of the cliff. This post is about one of the things I've been listening to. It's both personal and societal. But it isn't an easy conversation. So if you want to skip this one, I get it. If you want to read on anyway, thank you from deep within my heart.
Recently I ran head-first into a Facebook post that asked one question: why do white people hate black people? It tossed me into a tailspin for days. The writer is a prominent local artist, and one I happen to admire. So I decided to listen. He was gracious enough to take the time to personally answer my questions, speak his heart and educate me on his perspective. This lead me to probe more deeply into why I stumbled over my words when talking about this issue. After all, my husband and son and bonus boys are black. I've basically had a private tutor on race for the last two decades. But I haven't felt confident that I understand the issue well enough to speak without causing more misunderstanding.
And then I tripped over an article about Jane Elliott. You might remember her - the woman who pioneered the "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Exercise" decades ago. On her website, she has a tab labeled Learning Materials. I thought these might be something sweet and helpful on the topic, but instead, Typical Statements and Clarification to Typical Statements slapped me in the face and woke me up.
More thinking at the edge of the cliff. Which had me asking myself what can I do with my white privilege that will help solve instead of perpetuate the problem in our country? This will be a question I ask myself often, as there are new opportunities each day. But one thing that came to mind immediately was to use what I have to amplify the voices of the minority.
Ok, that's all well and good, but whose voice and how? The universe heard my question and sent me an answer the next day when my son sent me a poem he wrote. I cried. I am still crying. It is based on something that happened when he was three - in a loving, unbiased mixed-race home.
you were three
when your mother
saw you trying to scrub the skin your father gave you
off in the sink
trying to sand the pigment from your forearms
until the raw-dust dampened and clogged
until all that remained was porcelain.
grating your arms until you were white enough
until you hit bone.
This poem dragged me to the edge of the cliff and hung me over the edge, wind whistling through. Even the youngest, most loved of children in the best of environments can feel what society is telling them. My son gave me permission to share this with you.
There isn't time nor space in this small arena of blogosphere to say all that needs to be said. But perhaps, just maybe, this little platform and the heart-felt words of one man can cause a trickle of thoughts and conversations. And if everyone is thinking and talking with open hearts, we can change this thing.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation