I’ve had a version of this blog post written so many times. I’ve lost count which shooting it came before, or after. And for some reason, I’ve not published it until today.
Hold up, not true. I know exactly why I’ve not published it until today:
I’ve been too scared.
Scared I would offend someone. Scared I wouldn’t say the right thing. Scared I was wrong. Scared I would anger some, or step on toes.
But I’m tired of being scared. Because if I sit quietly, and I don’t say anything, then how do I explain these (in)actions to my sons?
When I teach them about integrity and about doing the right thing, what do I say?
I am meditating on this quote from Audre Lorde today:
“I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”
I’m starting a hashtag for myself today, though I know we’re all suffering hashtag fatigue (and believe me, I see the irony). I need it to remind myself that things need to change, and that change can start with me. Black lives are not a hashtag, they are someone's child. And they matter. #BlackLivesMatter, #YourChildMatters
Here’s my story, I’m sorry I’m late.
I’m so embarrassed. I am SO late to the party. I don’t know when the invitation arrived, but I kept meaning to RSVP and just never got around to it. Instead it sat on my table. Tucked between old hospital bills and the stacks of unread magazines waiting patiently for me to quit pretending and just recycle them already. It’s pathetic that I let it go so long. I’m almost ashamed to even show.
Except that I have to go.
I almost don’t even want to write about this. Because then not only do I have to admit my shame and worry that you will (probably) think I am a terrible human being for not getting to the party on time, but I am also putting my RSVP out there. I am admitting and committing at the same time. I’m telling you that I am going to show. So now you’ll expect me to be there. Maybe even expect me to do something when I get there.
But I have to go.
It’s not that I don’t want to go. Or that I didn’t listen to others who said I really ought to be there. I have a lot of friends already at the party. And yet, at times it’s felt like one of those direct sales parties I could easily tune out and ignore. I mean, I’m just one person, they probably won’t miss me, right?
But something happened last weekend.
I heard a story from someone at the party.
Now let me tell you, this guy has to be at the party. He didn’t get an invite. It’s at his house. All the damn time. I imagine he’d like to sneak off upstairs and get away from it for awhile, but he can’t. I suppose you could say the party is in his honor.
I can’t tell you the story. It’s not mine to tell, and you need to hear him tell it anyway. It’s a powerful story. But I think he’d be OK if I told you how it ends.
In the end, after a long night, a (far too) typical encounter with the police, and a long bus ride home alone the dark of winter, he folds his tiny eighteen-year-old body into his mother’s arms and he cries. Because for the first time, the veil is lifted and he sees the world as it just might be.
And this is the part in my story where I go: HOLY. SHIT.
NOT, mind you, because I didn’t believe that before. OF COURSE they do.
(insert some platitudes here that privileged people get to say to make ourselves feel better)
(and now insert some shame, but not enough to paralyze).
I have to say, it wasn’t my friend’s own experience – frightening, heartbreaking, and disgusting as it was – that brought on this revelation of mind-boggling simplicity.
It was his mother’s.
I couldn’t stop picturing that hug, that moment in time. What went through her head as she wrapped her arms around him and held him that night? Shivering, scared, and small. What did she have to tell him about what it means to be a black man? What kind of tears did she cry that night? Were they angry? Hopeless? Fury-filled?
I can’t imagine. And I will never have to.
The invitation buried somewhere on my table said to show up because #BlackLivesMatter.
I’ve decided to get my shit together and get there because #YourChildMatters.
I’m going to walk in sheepishly, I’ll probably be the quiet one in the corner, trying to figure out where I belong at this party, or what I can do. I imagine there will be a few angry people who roll their eyes and ask me what took so long. And I’ll apologize. And I’m probably going to need some direction, because I’m not sure what I should do here or how best to use my voice. I’ll probably second-guess everything I say, fearful of offending someone. And sometimes, that might even keep me silent. But I’ll still be there.
Because I have to do something. I have to show up.
What will I tell my boys if I don’t? How will I sleep at night remembering that hug?
I wish I had a magic wand. I’d put the world to sleep until we figured this shit out, like Sleeping Beauty. Only this shit isn’t beautiful. After a spell, everyone would wake to find that the party’s over. Because we don’t need the party anymore. We figured it out. We know now that #BlackLivesMatters.
If only it were that simple.
So my apologies for being so late. But I’m here now. Because #YourChildMatters.