“As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy.
Children can be cruel. Before we learn to be kind and thoughtful, we often say the first thing we think. There are many ‘viral videos’ that are evidence of that, of children saying the darnedest things. One of the ways we are taught to fight back at those who continue to say mean things, even after they know how hurtful they can be, is to chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” And yet they can.
One of my observations as a teacher, is that children not only absorb what they are told, but often embody it. Self-conceptions of body image, capability and aptitude may have evolved from a seed planted in childhood, a throw-away line that has remained embedded in the psyche. And because most parents are not child-psychologists, they may be guilty of doing permanent damage purely out of ignorance. Of course in the present era there is such a plethora of self-help books, TV shows and facebook advice, that it is impossible to be as unaware as we used to be. Now it is possible to be far more informed, to be far more thoughtful about the way we should be, the positive messages we should send, the reframing of how we wish to state things. I imagine I would be a far different parent if I were to start out now (or would I?).
Words matter. The larger your audience, the greater the potential impact. The world has been watching as two giant egos seem to be playing a game which could end in nuclear annihilation. Women and children will not be able to exit the sinking ship first. How did we get to this place? Every time I think about how carefully our last President measured his words, preplanned his speeches and ultimatums, tried to keep his actions squeaky clean, I feel as if my head will explode. For it is true, as said by the author Ta’Nehisi Coates, that we will not be able to say that America is free of racism, until a black man with as many flaws as our current president, can be elected president. How did this happen?
The examples of racism that still exist are far too blatant and deadly. How can a young (white) man who shot and killed multiple children, be arrested without being harmed, yet a young black man can be shot and killed for a) holding a cell phone; b) sitting in a car; c) fill in the many, many blanks. And each example above (for both white and black males) is repeated over and over, so that we cannot pretend that it is due to chance.
I am not a follower of royal affairs. I was raised by a pair of Christian socialists who believed that no-one should be placed above anyone else purely because of an accident of birth. We know of too many examples of privilege that is due purely to geography, chance, and definitely skin color. I remember getting in an argument with the father of an English school friend when I was barely a teenager, on the topic of equality, and the role the royal family had played in exploiting the resources of the world. He accused me of being a republican (had to go look it up!). But I have never been overly impressed by the pomp and circumstance. Yes it is fascinating as living history, but the wealth and history has mostly been obtained at the expense of others.
And yet I found myself encouraged at the beautiful show of diversity at the latest royal wedding. The demonstration of black culture which was on display throughout the entire ceremony was both refreshing and entertaining. It was especially entertaining to see the reaction on the faces in the audience, at the full-frontal, in-your-face message delivered by the Rev. Curry. To those who are exposed to such fiery delivery, such soaring rhetoric, such emotional appeal, there was nothing strange about it. What was beautiful was that he was unrestrained by the history of the chapel, the lack of responsiveness by a congregation unprepared to give him verbal reactions (‘Amen, brother!), the lack of encouragement from the church as a whole. His is the face that will be placed next to the ‘tell it like it is’ phrase, in the book of definitions. His is the voice we will hear when we think about the power of love. His courage is what we will remember, when we shy away from uncomfortable conversations about the legacy of slavery, and the continued disgrace of inequality and disparity in this world.
Sure as tomorrow’s sun will rise, sure as blossoms reappear on the trees after a long winter, sure as nature rebounds after forest fires, so sure we can be that the best in us will be brought out by the worst in us. There are good examples to match every bad example, love conquers hate. Black people (and anyone who is not white) should not always have to be better than, to remain safe and alive in confrontations with anyone (whether that other wears a uniform, or a white skin). Black people should not have to measure their every response, their body language, their words, lest it trigger an over-reaction and a racist rant. But it will take more than white people thinking, but I’m not like that, I would never do that. It is time for everyone to acknowledge the truth, and try to change the society, before it is too late. We must teach the children well.
With apologies for a late start to the weekend, I wish everyone the power to create messages of hope and upliftment. I hope my words may be read by those who may need to see things in a different light. And as we walk along the road, I hope we all can share the load and the burden of others. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
One Love, Family!