I’ve been thinking a lot about race since the shootings. Not the shootings in the movie theater. Not the shootings of the military people. I’m talking three shootings ago, the ones in South Carolina. You know in America where the shootings fall like rain, you have to be really specific.
As my kids and I watched Obama sing Amazing Grace, I cried. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about those African American people getting killed at their Bible study by a hateful white man. And I thought, What can I do? How can I make things better for black people in America?
And I came up with nothing. Nada. Well, I came up with “I voted for Obama”, but that doesn’t really count. Since he’s been elected, it’s not like we’re all holding hands singing Kumbaya.
Then I heard a report on NPR about the gay rights movement. It said that one of the reasons gay rights have changed so quickly is that everyone knows a gay person. Therefore, the issue touches everyone. I thought about a fundamental Christian conservative friend I have who really surprised me by supporting gay rights but then I thought, Oh! It’s because she loves her gay hairdresser. Their bond made his struggles her struggles.
Ah-ha! So now we’re onto something! The problem is that for the most part, black and white people in America lead completely separate lives. I know I don’t have any black friends. I have one black Facebook friend, rah-rah for me. My husband has one black friend. Out of my three kids, my son has one half-black friend. (Whoa, slow down there, Selma!) The community we live in is primarily white. The parties at our house are just seas of white people, their lily white legs sticking out of bermuda shorts.
So the answer I came up with to the question “How can I help?” was, “Make friends with black people.” I even offended myself writing that down. It sounded inherently racist. I felt like I was objectifying black people. What am I supposed to do, walk up to an African American person on the street humming Ebony and Ivory? Post an ad on Craigslist? “Do-gooder white woman seeks black person as friend.” The whole thing just seemed racist and presumptuous, which is the opposite of what I’m going for. I genuinely want to help.
And doing something is always better than doing nothing. So in order for things to get better for African American people in America, the issue has to become personal for everyone. Which means maybe black and white people need to awkwardly meet. Maybe we need to openly talk about “how weird this is” and move on to getting to know each other. Because it’s not happening naturally.
Until we all start hanging out, bonding, and making things personal, nothing is going to change.