I sat and listened.
Story after story told by new friends about their personal experiences with racism. These weren’t stories they heard from their grandparents or stories they read on Facebook. They were not retelling a story filtered down from a friend of a friend of a friend. These stories were theirs. The experiences were owned. They were open and vulnerable, sharing pieces of their life experience.
If you have good friends of color, find a time to have deeply personal conversations. It will benefit you greatly to what they have to say about their experiences and how those life experience relate to the system our country has in place. It will not only inform you of the injustices that happen on a near daily basis but it brings a human element to what men and women of color have been saying for decades. It’s easy to dismiss stories of injustice and oppression when you read about it online or hear a news story on your local station. However, when you hear stories in person it changes the nature of truth. When you know the person even reading their story is a shock to the spirit. It’s much harder to dismiss a story when you can hear the voice of the person who experienced it firsthand.
Sunday night not one person of color sitting around the table was without a multitude of stories about how they encounter racism on the regular and encountered it in the past. Every single person, whether the instances happened in Los Angeles, Kansas, New York, or Lubbock, each had gone through things no person should ever be subjected. Geographic location had nothing to do with whether or not racism was present – it is everywhere.
Later that night the stories kept replaying in my mind and a realization sat in – the next time I see these beautiful people there will likely be more stories of racism to share from the few weeks I didn’t see them. While I hope this is not the case, it most likely will be. Sadly this is the reality people of color live in our country. I want to be specific by saying “our country” because these stories of systemic racism are ours to own.
My friends would say, “This is just life for us.” and such a statement must be our call to change. As a nation we can’t let “this just be life” for any racial group.
If this is what civil rights leaders fought for in the 60’s, and we are still fighting today, is there hope that our country will change?
I have to believe that there is still hope. I must cling to hope for my kids and generations to come. When I give up I have given up on people’s capacity to love.
I will not give up.
Generations of men and women are depending on us to fight now. The desire for my kids to know what loving people looks like in the flesh, in real life, is paramount. I pray they see myself and others be a voice of change in our community, in our state, in our country.
May you be a voice of change.
May you build relationships with men and women of color and listen to their stories.
May you listen and not speak.
May you find compassion in your spirit and allow love to be your purpose.