There’s a thing my dog does.
It’s pretty beautiful.
My Sadie is always watching me. I suspect she thinks I’m going to abandon her, which is just heartbreaking, but anyway. Occasionally, as I bustle around the house, she’ll climb down from the couch and peek around the corner to see what I’m doing. And sometimes, when I come her way, she starts this slow-mo, tentative tail wag, a graceful, not-yet-frenetic move as if to say “I think you might do something awesome soon. Regardless, things are looking better because you’re in my sight.”
A few days after Darren Wilson’s lack-of-indictment came down, I read a tweet that has haunted me. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of it was, from a black blogger to white bloggers:
If you aren’t talking about this, you’re not helping.
I heard, with horror and dismay, the howl of anguish and outrage that boiled over after that shooting and after the non-indictment. But I kept quiet, because, well, I’m white, and who am I to comment on what it’s like to be black in America? And because I knew that there are many facts about that situation that we, the public audience, didn’t then, and don’t now, have.
And I guess I think judgment without facts isn’t what we should strive for.
Still, on the night that Darren Wilson was not indicted (as most who know the law expected would be the outcome), I sat in my car and cried, because the law was not going to give those who fear for their young black sons any solace, or any hope.
I often turn to Jon Stewart to help me make sense of things. But I haven’t been, recently, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized why. It’s because somewhere in the quagmire of birthers and Obamacare and FoxNews and Ferguson and a widening income gap and rising sea levels and god knows what else, Jon Stewart is having a hard time pulling out humor. Can’t imagine why. His response to the lack of indictment in the Eric Garner case says it all. Our divisiveness and fear and hatred are not really funny anymore. The knife edge of the kind of satire I enjoy rests on recognition and hope in the face of absurdity, I think, and when hope is in short supply…it’s not funny. And PS, the snarky reference to Obama’s campaign slogan you were about to make? Resist it. Rise above the snappy comeback. We need better.
Three days ago, I attended an event for work. It was a concert at a local elementary school. Hundreds of kids and parents packed into an auditorium for a choral and orchestra concert; little souls sawing away at basses and cellos and singing their hearts out for their beaming families. It was the most hopeful thing I’d seen in a while, and it healed a few of the cracks in my heart.
I was one of very few white people in the room. I have learned enough about racism to forgive myself for noticing, and instead chose to look around the room, to look at each dad craning over the crowd to catch a glimpse of his daughter, each mom waving at her son, and to try to imagine what it must be like to wonder if their children will be safe when they walk down a street with their hands in their pockets. I couldn’t. It was simply beyond my capacity. I tried, I wanted to, but I had no frame of reference for such a fear. The inadequacy of that, the unfairness of it, settled uneasily into my stomach, where it lingers.
I had a nice Thanksgiving, my first here in Boston. I ran the Ugly Sweater 5k the other day, then came home and put up my Christmas tree. I am a few long days away from completing a big project at work. My staff had me in stitches the other morning over some silly joke, and today I ran 2.5 miles and felt really good about it.
And yet with each happy experience I collect, I add another layer to the ball of guilt in my gut. It feels wrong to be enjoying my simple yet entirely comfortable life. How can I post cute articles about dogs when there is so much anguish and pain happening to people who I share a city and country with? How can I say anything that anyone dealing with racism could possibly appreciate? And more importantly, what can I do? I can’t dump a bucket of ice on my head and make this better. Blogging about it won’t make it better.
But I guess keeping quiet doesn’t make it better, either.
So I will just say these things:
- I am heartbroken that my country is so divided by hate.
- I hate the media and politicians who make it their jobs to make the divide bigger.
- I don’t know what it’s like to be anything but a white woman. I can empathize with those who face racism each day, but I will never, ever know what it’s like.
- I think I should be able to both be grateful for the police officers who try to keep me safe, and shocked that there aren’t more consequences for killing another human.
- I should be able to respect the rule of law, and be dismayed at it’s bias.
- I don’t want to be accused of being a liberal loser when I say I believe that there is still a major problem with race in my country.
- I don’t hate my country because I want it to be better.
- I want someone smarter than I am to tell me what real, tangible action I can take to make things better.
- I want to believe that we will make things better.
I have always feared being thought naive, but I would rather be naive than hopeless. It might be naive, but I wish more of us would greet each other like my dog does me, with the gentle, instinctive, eternal belief that, just because we’re moving a little bit closer, something awesome might happen.
2 thoughts on “The inadequate and incomplete prose I’ve been trying to write since Ferguson”
Thank you Jodi. I am in tears reading this. I have felt ridiculous for even saying anything about Ferguson, felt as though I have no right. I have also been afraid: afraid of criticism that I can’t respond to (from friends on both sides of the political aisle) and afraid of sounding entitled, privileged, amd naive. You and Sadie express it well.
Thoughtful and heartfelt post Jodi. I appreciate your honest look at these difficult situations. Like you, I’ve been very hesitant to talk about race issues as a white male, but maybe that’s part of the problem?
And I frequently post on social media to encourage peace and inclusiveness. The divisiveness is painful and very unproductive.
to finding ways to work together for a better world for all…