With kindergarten done for the day, I was hungry for a snack. A plate of cookies sat on the table. The old radio on the counter cranked out a tinny Doris Day. “Que Sera, Sera? Whatever will be, will be.” My mother sang quietly along with Doris as she rinsed silverware at the faucet.
What will it be? Which cookie is the biggest? My finger touched each cookie as I recited the familiar words:
“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a n#$@&r by the toe,
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”
I reached for the chosen snack, but my mother’s hand stopped me. Her eyebrows came together in a troubled wrinkle when she knelt down beside me. I felt the weight of her hands as she set them on my shoulders. Am I in trouble? Her words came out in quiet, measured tones.
“Susan, I don’t ever want to hear you say that word again.”
“Which word, Mommy?” I had said many words. Which one was "that word"?
My mother drew me close to her. The “N” word struggled out from her lips. “N#$@&r. Do you know what it means?”
To me, the word sounded like “booger”. I had always imagined it to mean a big monster made entirely of boogers all green and yellow and drippy, so of course you would not want to have any bodily contact with him. A toe was a small enough appendage to grasp without getting your hand too sticky. He would not like you gripping him by the toe, so he would open his dark toothless maw and let out a wretched groan. Then, you would let him go.
I thought I knew the meaning of the word in question, but apparently I did not.
My fingers fidgeted with a shirt button. “No. What does it mean?”
“It’s a word that some people use when they’re talking about a Black person. It’s not a nice word. It hurts people’s feelings. We don't use that word.”
It means a Black person? My 5-year-old brain had trouble processing this thought. Why would anyone need to catch a Black person in the first place, and by the toe no less? Why catch anyone by the toe? An arm, maybe. But a toe?
The more perplexing questions were, why was there a word that was meant to offend a Black person when he or she had done nothing to you? And, why was this in a children’s poem? It was my first exposure to the concept that some people devalue the humanity of another because of skin color.
My mother’s hold tightened. “You’ll never use it again, will you?”
“No, I won’t.” I said. There was no reason to, now that I knew what it meant. It made no sense to use it.
Racism. It takes root at a very early age. I had had a glimpse into the world of adults where individuals said things to wound someone else who was merely different than themselves. The purpose was to inflict pain and degradation, without cause. My wise mother had spoken into my heart that afternoon and set a precident. I'm thankful for a mother who seized the moment and planted the seed to examine and question while I was so young. Still, a peculiar door was cracked open that day, and a little bit of my innocence ran through it.
Thanksgiving with the Revels family!
A THANKSGIVING PRAYER FOR 2016
"O God of all Creation: You have cared for the earth, and have filled it with your riches. Abundance flows in your steppes, through the pastures and wilderness. You provide for our land, softening it with showers, bathing it in light, and blessing it with growth.The hills sing with joy; the meadows are covered with flocks; the fields deck themselves with wheat; and together they glorify your name!
On this occasion of our Thanksgiving, we as a nation take rest from our labors to consider your many blessings. We thank you for our freedoms, and for the opportunity to contribute our skills, our attributes and our values toward the good of society.
We thank you for the mixture of our cultures, blending us into one people under God. Help us to be a light unto other nations, and to further the cause of freedom and justice all over the world.
We remember those who are less fortunate than we. We lift up in prayer the victims of poverty and racism, and all those who suffer from forms of political and economic oppression. Let the word that goes forth from our mouths speak of your peace, and let us proclaim our hope in Christ as Savior of all humankind.
We pray that you will bless all those who gather here, as we have come to experience your presence among us. Give us your guidance, O God, and empower us for your work. For we claim nothing for ourselves, but return all honor and glory unto you, and offer our thanks and praise. Amen."
From "Prayers for God's People"
Thomas P. Roberts, editor
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12
“To me, the scariest part of what we saw with Donald Trump was not understanding how much racism still existed in this country,” Reiner continued. “It was kind of papered over for a while.” A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook. The author of this article says," So while Trump and the GOP and their racists voters will enjoy their victory now, they have ignited a progressive wave of rage that is going to bury them and drag them kicking and screaming into the future America deserves. http://addictinginfo.org/2016/11/15/director-rob-reiner-moron-trump-is-last-gasp-of-the-civil-war/
These are words by Rob Reiner today. I love Rob Reiner. I love the movies he makes. I love him as an actor. But these words are incredibly disappointing in what they reveal.
In this post election environment, I don't condone the things hate groups are doing in their actions toward others. I have skin in this game. My husband is Black, my children are mixed and the threats being made towards others have personal meaning to me. I know what a burnt rainbow flag thrown in a yard means, as happened in Rochester, NY. It's akin to a burning cross on a lawn. I also maintain that those hate groups do not represent the Republican Party. There are many Republicans I know and none of them are a part of or defend such activity. For Reiner to brand all GOP voters as racist is uninformed at best, and mean spirited at worst.
In like manner, I cannot support the violent, destructive activities being carried out by those protesting Trump's election. Businesses are being destroyed and people feel their safety is being threatened by what have now become hundreds if not thousands of people rioting in the streets. This is not “loving” behavior either. There are Democrats who say the rioters do not represent their party, and neither do they represent Hillary Clinton. I believe them.
I do not know how this will all proceed regarding Trump. I am as eager as the next person to see what happens. Numerous people in this country were going to be unhappy with the outcome of the election no matter which way it went. And so here we are.
One issue stands out above the rest, to me. The "racism" issue being levied against Trump and anyone who voted for him is striking. I have long known there are places in this country where I will not live or travel to because of the hate groups and the intensity of the intolerance that exist there. I won’t put my family or myself in harms way like that. Having lived in Harlem, found a place within in the Black community, and having married a Black man, I know the arguments against racism by Black people have been around an inordinate amount time.
Reiner says, “it was papered over for awhile. ” Papered over? To whom? Not to the Black community.
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a Black female psychologist and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting together in the Cafeteria? says:
"Talking about racism is an essential part of facing racism and changing it. But it is not the only part. I am painfully aware that people of color have been talking about racism for a long time. Many people of color are tired of talking, frustrated that talk has not lead to enough constructive action or meaningful social change.”
Mr. Reiner, if you could not see it until now, if you thought it had been “papered over” and ended at some point, you are sadly, ignorant, or blind, or both. I don’t say “ignorant” to be insulting. I mean it according to its definition: lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified; unaware; uninformed. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ignorant
For a man of your wealth and access to the world, this SEEMS to indicate a lack of intentionality on your part to truly understand those who are different from you. Have you not taken seriously the news this past year? I am saddened to find how far this is from the definition of “progressive”. I hope and expect progressives to be more fully informed, especially a man of your stature.
As a White person myself, I find that White people in general recoil when challenged with discussions of race. When Black people bring up racial injustice, many White people shut it down. They have not stood up and spoken out against the shootings of Black men, women and children by White police officers. They have not "heard" and accepted the pain of this recurring issue. I don’t say this lightly. I do have family members that have been in the police force, and I love and respect those men and women whose lives are endangered every time they report to work. Still, it grieves my heart to hear of “one more shooting.” Yet the White community largely remains silent.
When confronted with "Black Lives Matter", the frequent response is, "Well, ALL lives matter, really." That in itself is dismissive of the message that a specific community is in pain because their loved ones are being killed. When that ache is spoken of in a cry to alleviate it, the “All lives matter” response does nothing to comfort or bring resolution.
This subjugation is felt, daily, in homes of Black Americans across the country. It’s been happening for years, but only now is there a collective White voice speaking out against what they define as racism. In my own writing about self reflection on the part of Whites to examine the possibility of an inner bias, a common response from White people is, "You know, Black people are racist too. What about reverse racism?" That is not the point. Facing the prejudices in ourselves, which is often times unrecognized, does not merit finger-pointing in the other direction. That becomes "transference" and "deflection". White people don't want to consider themselves "racist". It is a heinous thought to most, which is a good thing. But, they don't know what they don't know. And now, there is all this talk about racism and Trump and "the Deplorables" by a vast number of White people. But is it truly genuine? Trump is not the only person to examine. It’s time for self-reflection even by those of us who are claiming racial foul. Are we White people in actuality ready to participate fully and with vulnerability in this dialog? Or is this merely playing the blame game in order to find a sufficient scapegoat? I hope they (we) are ready, because it's time. And if that kind of transparent dialog can come out of this election process, then I welcome it, and have reason to hope in the American people and the healing of the racial divide .
Susan Parlato Revels
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