My son just turned 15 earlier this month. I signed him up for driver’s education classes and he started his first job. All these responsibilities also mean he soon will be out in the world acting in more adult roles and will be seen as such. A brown young man. Driving, walking, shopping and hanging out.
I’m so proud of him and also terrified. Joy and celebration followed closely by the news of the senseless killing of Duante Wright and the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. I went silent on social media. Reading news articles was all I could absorb—no videos, no TV news and even avoiding the emotional reactions of people I follow online.
Each day I’ve been trying to pull myself out of this. Telling myself to at least keep posting about new items I have for sale. After all, I’m not obligated to share my feelings about news events, no matter how local. However, a post about anything else just felt empty and I could not do it. But I also could not bring myself to post about these events either. The sigh of relief that came with the conviction of Derek Chauvin certainly helped, as it now at least brings hope that change is possible. And today is Earth Day, a time for renewal, reflection and plan for action.
You may be wondering, what does earth day have to do with racial injustice? Environmental stewardship and equality for all people are deeply interwoven. If you do nothing else this earth day, I implore you to start learning about the connection. This is beautifully explained in a short video on the website for Intersectional Environmentalism, founded by Leah Thomas. Watch it here: https://www.intersectionalenvironmentalist.com/
On top of all the above, about a week ago I experienced a co-incidence that seems so eerily timely. A book arrived at the library for me: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Before telling you about the book, let me explain why this was so random. I went on a reserving rampage on the local library’s website. The only theme was that I was looking for fiction written by women 50 years old or younger (and why I was doing that is another story) without paying much attention to genre or content of the books. I reserved about two dozen books, and this one arrived first.
Now, the reason this was so uncanny is that the main character watched one of her best friends, a young black man, get shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. I mean, how can that you get more relevant than that. (Not a spoiler- this happens near the beginning of the story) This is a must-read. By everyone. If you are afraid to pick it up thinking it might be anti-cop, it’s not. If you think it’s just for teens, it’s not. If you think it is only for those who want to fight racial injustice and think you are not affected, you are. You’ll have to read the whole book to understand the title, which gets to that point. So go on, my friend, read it.
I firmly believe that reading creates empathy. You are pulled into a world that may be different than your own, or maybe a perspective you wouldn’t otherwise have. Or maybe you’ve rarely seen yourself reflected in a book before. This book is told from the point of view of a person who is often silenced and ignored: a young, black, teen female. One theme of this book is that your voice has power. Reading this gives your ear and mind temporarily to her, thereby giving her due power of voice. It is also inspiring and encouraging to use your own.
Again, there is another weird synchronicity. My fear for my son was depressing and silencing me. And a book fell into my hands encouraging speaking (and writing) even when you don’t feel like it. My paralysis had far less cause than this character had, a character who had and has many real-life counterparts out there in the world.
So, here I am writing this for you and for myself. Thank you for reading.