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Clinging to Hope

You clearly remember the first time you were called the n-word.

You were probably alone...or outnumbered..and in my case, a child. Our parents knew it was coming and tried to prepare us, to shield us through hard work, nice neighborhoods and education. But it still finds you. And when it does, there is loss, pain and ultimately fear. There is something in the eyes of the deliverer that exposes their heart; A chilling reminder of a history that tells you, you are less than, that you don't matter.

My brother and I shared our stories. We talked about how his dry clothing ended up wet, peed upon in a toilet, after our neighborhood rec center finally allowed its first Black members. He was eight. We talked about how recess got wrecked; kids armed with the n-word like grenades, after “Roots” aired.  Or how despite our Dad being an Army officer, Black families still had to live outside of base. We talked about the break ups, once parents discovered we were Black; despite our stellar GPAs, varsity athletics and military manners. We talked about the time I came to a boyfriend’s fraternity and found “n*****lover” written on his door. We talked about how a neighbor called the police after seeing JR jogging from his grandparent's home back to ours, only five doors away. We had far too many stories for that Sunday drive to our folks.

Despite the events of these previous weeks, I still cling to hope. I have hope because brave individuals are reaching out, unstymied by the fear of “saying the wrong thing.” I have hope because people are rejecting silence. I have hope because our kids are learning a broadened history, with a more inclusive perspective of the past. Fantastic work BSD. Students are watching 13th, discussing Emmett Till, and attempting the pass proof test Black people were forced to take to block them from voting.

I cling to hope because while we, Lord help us, desperately need new policy and awareness, we already have the power to take the first step: To look within our hearts. This may be the toughest part. It’s going to take being brave and not waiting for someone else to fix this. Drum roll…It’s going to take knowing and loving your neighbor. Maybe we start by asking someone who doesn’t look like us to go on a walk, or invite them for dinner. It could be asking a person of color, “How are you doing?” And then being prepared to really listen. Thank you to so many of you who are already leaning into this hard and meaningful step.

I’m spending a lot of time praying and looking up right now. What if our hope from above gains momentum from below?  What if it’s up to each of us to ask questions that allow voices to be heard? This is a mess. We can all agree on that. We can all agree that we need to talk. What has set the awesome conversations apart from the awful has been a simple formula.  Being slow to speak and quick to listen.  Acknowledging pain. Looking to understand and not to convince. Doing the work of educating yourself. This is the toolbox to soften hearts - to loving your neighbor.

My family is “in” for the above and I’m looking forward to having you over. Happy to listen and answer any questions. I’ll tell you all about my hair.