(My daughter’s birth day was Monday, but this post has taken me three days to write.)
Today, July 15, is my daughter’s first birthday. I want to write her a letter filled with tenderness and joy. Instead, as I sit down to write, all I can think of is Trayvon Martin and the verdict announced this weekend.
When I first heard of Travyon Martin’s death, I remembered this poem by Audre Lorde. I’m not shocked and outraged at the verdict. I’m persistently furious and deeply ashamed.
When I presented my thesis last month, I opened by asking: “why does a white girl care about race?”
And I answered, after giving my family history, with this: “Because these crimes (murder/genocide/hatred) were committed in my name and to secure my future, as a white woman, a German, and an American.”
I feel that again today. When an act of racism is committed, it is the responsibility of all white people to take responsibility and respond.
Tim Wise rightly says that our white children cannot be innocent or naive. We, white parents, need to teach our children.
There is so much for me to celebrate today: my daughter’s mischievous, intelligent smile, her persistence in distributing the contents of the lower kitchen cabinets, her loud and relentless joy at seeing the kitty cat, her laughter.
A friend recently asked me what I loved most about this, my first year of motherhood. An image immediately sprang to mind: I love the way my daughter buries her face in my neck. (Our daughter has a happy personality and loves meeting people, but on the odd occasion when she is either over tired or afraid, she clings to my body to shelter her.)
Today as I celebrate my daughter, I am thinking of shelter, and all that we need protection from.
I think of the mothers over the centuries who have protected their children with their bodies, their words, their lives. I think of the mothers who have not protected their children. I think of all the children we — all of us, as a community — were unable to save. I think of the ones we — white people — murdered, the ones whose names we forgot (on purpose), the stories we swallowed in silence and denial (“it’s not about race”).
Last week at the Oregon State Hospital, administrators shut down the sweat lodge used by the Native patients and fired the Native American social worker who served the community acheter viagra 30 pilules viagra 100mg. The reason they gave? Security. Security.
As I reflect on the Zimmerman trial, what stands out for me is that Zimmerman lived in a gated community. Siege mentality.
Parker describes it as a kind of disembodiment. She says whites fear our own violence, and project this fear onto others.
Thinking about racism and white fear this way, I began to see it as a kind of spiritual illness: a projection of our inability to be grounded in our bodies and to treat the bodies of those human beings who do not share our body with utmost respect.
As I’ve read the furious flurry of online comments on various news articles responding to the verdict, I’ve wondered: Would those people say the same to my face? In my presence? After I called them out, and they could see, in my stance, the hand set firmly on my hip, that I was intolerant of their racism?
And how could I, in the physical presence of Travyon’s family, not weep with grief and shame? How would I not reconsider my quick, defensive words in the presence of their brown bodies, reminding me, with their skin, that it isn’t just about Travyon?
It is about centuries-upon-centuries of the sacrifice of brown bodies to secure a sense of safety for whites. It is the over-incarceration of African-Americans in this country, and the neglect of justice for Native women facing domestic violence and abuse.
Throughout my studies in spirituality and religion, I have realized again and again that our bodies matter. They matter deeply.
Our spiritual quests are struggles to discover what it means to be human, and to live deeply and whole-heartedly so that others may live too. We need one another, not only in a metaphysical sense (interconnection) or in an economic sense (global village) but in a deeply physical, heart-beat sense. We need each other the way we need TREES: to breathe. To exist.
What will my daughter learn from me, a white woman, about black men? What will she learn about fear and protection, security and shelter?
I hope to teach my daughter to love her own body fiercely, and to find security in whole-hearted, respectful connection, rather than in fear. And because my daughter is already learning, alert and watchful in her Mommy’s presence, I nurture and name this for myself:
I resist the crimes that have been committed in my name and to secure my safety. I name them evil and denounce them. And I reach out, open-hearted, to claim the beloved community that is my home, my only shelter.