Thursday, March 25, 2010

Please Allow Me to Elaborate

I posted something on my Twitter and Facebook accounts that no one understands (I understand why--the post was confusing). I hope that the reason five Twitter followers have stopped following me is because they didn't understand my post (I'm dolling out benefit of the doubt here).

Here's what I tweeted: "
Cotton balls at the black student union (U of Mizzo)? Name calling? I thought when I put down The Help (Stockett) I'd arrived back in 2010."

Allow me to elaborate

Last week, I read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. A truly powerful book--I loved it. It takes place in the early 60's in Jackson, Mississippi. Stockett's work captures the powerful hold of race relations during the 1960s. I told my husband that since I finished reading this book, I want to hug and high-five every black person I see because I'm so grateful that we can all use the same bathrooms and drinking fountains and shop in the same stores--and because I'm grateful that it's 2010, not 1960. When I think of the atrocities that black people endured, well, there's no way I can understand what their lives entailed.

Separately, an incident occurred earlier this month. Two white students at the University of Missouri threw cotton balls at the Black Cultural Center. I'm taking a stab here, but the white students who threw those cotton balls must be raging bigots. My stomach still hurts when I think about this and every other racist act, all continuing to keep us restrained from the progress we can and should make as a country.

The events at Mizzou and thousands of others make me think that maybe I am in a time warp, back in the 1960s, living with rampant bigotry and hatred. I'm not a Pollyanna...I know we still have major problems.

A friend of mine (that's him and me right up there), who teaches at a high school in Louisiana, recently sent me these photos from the boy's bathroom: and then this one:

How can this type of limiting, bigoted, racist thinking still persist? How can that be?

He also sent me a text describing this scene, at 1:00 am: four or five black teenagers, all 13 - 17 years old, hangin' out around the convenience store. In that same parking lot, four white teenagers proudly displayed a rebel flag and, in the highest irony, blasted bumping gangster rap from their bigoted speakers. Obviously, the irony of their actions escaped them.

When I see all of this, I spiral downward a bit, finding it difficult to remain optimistic--for my children, next week and years from now. This type of narrow-minded, taught and learned behavior weighs me down from the inside out. My kids notice differences--and I encourage that. We are all different. From the slightest nuance to the bold, chasm-forming: they're straight, he's gay, he's black, she's Republican, he voted for Obama, they're white, he's agnostic, she's Jewish.

For me, open-mindedness, empathy are paramount. I can only control myself, and my thoughts. So this is the one I'm going to choose: I will try to turn my anger into power. I will stay buoyant. I will give my kids every opportunity to discuss race, gender, politics, sexual orientation and religion. And I will teach by example. I will stay strong. I will not let ignorant rants drag me down. I'll close with this photo (of me and my two best friends from 1976). It always makes me smile AND gives me hope:

PS--to see some of my older posts on this topic, see: and