Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It is time I made ready for what is to come

I have been slower than I intended in blogging as of late because I am working on some very important applications. After the exhaustion of completing my master's degree finally began to wear off I knew I needed to move on to the next step, but something kept stopping me. I was tired of not making much money, tired of used furniture, budgeting, living paycheck-to-paycheck and watching the majority of my friends back home making big money and moving into gorgeous condos and large homes. I thought now is the time to make money. Then current events and frustrating interactions put a hold on that $$$quest and spun me back to my original goal.



See, first there was Trayvon Martin. Then after his story hit the news there was the slow accumulation of other names. Men, women and children who were killed before and after him. Their deaths were no longer individual events that only their families or local communities cared about. A movement was growing. Their stories became a collective narrative of state sanctioned violence in a polarized country that was still unable to honestly handle interracial conversations about slavery. Which "ended" almost 150 years ago. When the verdict came back and Darren Wilson went home without an indictment, I was not surprised. When Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer, I was not surprised. When that officer was not charged I was not surprised. And then suddenly I was staring at my laptop at an ever lengthening list of the dead and I was enraged. I could not write a summary of how my slavery workshops went. I could not answer any of the docents post-it note questions about how to handle a racist cousin, or was George Washington kind, or how do you explain to a black 8 year old that yes the house you work in is a memorial to a man who special ordered a little girl from Africa 200 years ago and funded a stinking, swaying ocean going dungeon that killed more than half of its prisoners. I Could Not! I could not write anything that was not an outpouring of my anger. 

My first slavery workshop last month went so well. I gave the briefest most basic history of slavery I possibly could without skipping some necessary information. Then we got the questions rolling and had a wonderful conversation. Then I hosted the second workshop for more than twice as many people. I had been told to cut the general history and instead discuss the history of slavery in Rhode Island followed by an extended period of discussion time. My time ended up being cut down even further thanks to parking issues and announcements. But how do you have an informed conversation on a topic you know little about. Without the general history I had a difficult time during the second workshop reading the room and figuring out a baseline of knowledge. We had an interesting discussion but I received some very frustrating questions and comments that told me A) the workshop was a bandaid, B) further education was needed and C) there needs to be more diversity among docents and staff. I will address C in a separate post. I was so incredibly frustrated after that second workshop. I had to do something. When I am upset and stressed out I have to do something that feels constructive or my brain will refuse to shut down and allow me to sleep at night.

Soon after that second workshop Darren Wilson went home backed by a supportive local white community and with his pockets lined with donations from people around the country who believe he shot a good for nothing thug. And then there was Eric Garner. And then there was Tamir Rice. And my empathy sensors broke down for a few days. I felt helpless. I have four wonderful intelligent nephews. What will happen to them. One is a tall healthy looking 16 year old with autism. He is so quick and has an amazing memory and spelling skills and comes from a loving family. But will his awkward social skills get him killed one day? Will his crime be looking menacing when he is actually scared or threatening when he is just confused? Will he walk forward so that he can hear better when he should back up? Sometimes he goes out wondering around. He got hit by a car last year while lost in his own neighborhood. He was so terrified. What if someone said he had attacked their car? What if the police had seen him walking and tried to question him. He may not have reacted the way a non-autistic kid reacts. I can't continue these thoughts because it breaks my heart.

I have been thinking about my nephews and nieces, my friends who just gave birth to black sons, my own desire for children, the workshop discussions and all of the poorly handled race conversations I have witnessed over the last few years. I have to do something. I've tried marching. I've tried letter writing. I have tried arguing. But my life's mission is to educate. Sharing knowledge and passing down stories. There is a movement stirring and I cannot sit here numb to it all. There is a part for everyone to play. Mine is to continue studying, teaching and engaging average Americans in difficult but necessary histories.

Education is the greatest armor in the war for the American dream. It is time I made ready.

My favorite Moment of Zen

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