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 .
As I recounted in a previous blog post entitled Racist Pt. 1: How Did This Happen?, my experiences with Black people growing up were limited mostly to how people of color were portrayed in the media - characters in Shirley Temple movies, Gone With the Wind, the nightly news. As psychologist Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum wrote in her book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?", it is not uncommon for many White people to have grown up in environments that are very homogeneous, lacking racial or ethnic diversity. While I did have exposure to various ethnic groups since they existed within my own family, I did not have much exposure to other racial groups. As Dr. Tatum calls it, I had merely "second hand knowledge" when it came to races different from myself.
I do have a distant but distinct memory of the first time I ever saw a Black person. It may sound odd for some people to hear that. I wonder how that experience might translate for Black people in America. Can many Black people remember the first time they ever saw a White person? By and large, probably not, since most Black communities in the United States, being part of a minority population, interface regularly with White people as a daily occurrence. It may feel "taboo" to talk about this topic. But we must dialog about such things, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Back to upstate New York: I was perhaps three years old, not yet in kindergarten. Standing in line with my mother at the P&C grocery store on north Main Street, we awaited our turn at the check out. Several people were ahead of us. I was looking around, keeping myself occupied, when I noticed him. A middle aged Black man stood in front of the cashier as she rang up his groceries. I had, to my recollection, never seen anyone like him. His face, neck and hands were all dark brown. I seem to remember him wearing a fedora style hat as men commonly did in the late 50's and early 60's. As a three year old might do, I stared. Some people have argued that small children are color blind. I heartily disagree. Children do notice people, especially people different from themselves. They may NOT yet associate fear with the differences they see. Or they might, for other reasons. I could not take my eyes off of this man and I recall feeling some measure of alarm. I did not feel fear. It can be described more as a deep level of concern. In my mind, something must have happened to him to change him to that color. I assumed he must have been my color at one point in his life, and some horrific event must have happened to cause such a pronounced change. Had he gotten in an accident? Was he sick? Had he gotten burned? Was he okay?
"Mom!" I said quietly, "What happened to him?"
I don't recall if my mother shushed me. Perhaps she did, since we were around other people. But I do recall her eventually giving me an answer.
"Nothing happened to him, honey. That's just the color that he is. He was born that color."
"Oh...." I said.
I remember feeling an immediate sense of relief to know that pain had not been associated with a color "change". But now I had a new piece of information that brought surprise and curiosity to my small world and a whole new set of questions! He was born that color? Well how did THAT happen? What did his mother think when he was born? Was she surprised to see that his face and hands were brown? And how did MY mother know that he was born that way? He was an older man and she didn't know him. She wasn't there when he was born! Answers such as this led me to believe that my parents knew everything. It was quite a let down for me upon finding out that they didn't. But that's another story.
Seeing this man and hearing my mother's answer did not yet elucidate for me that this man was completely brown from head to toe, that his mother and father would likely also be brown, that brown children came from brown parents (most of the time), and that there was a whole WORLD of brown people out there! That understanding would come with time. And with it would come the realization that brown people down through history and into the present, had indeed experienced their lion's share of pain.
Originally written October 2005 -
"Fall break" for you who are not from New Mexico, is really the school district giving in to the "voice of the people" here. You see, we in Albuquerque are now in the final days of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! It is 10 glorious days of the largest hot air balloon event in the WORLD! Balloonists and tourists come from all over the world to see this spectacle.
Different balloon events are held at the Balloon Fiesta Park during this time. Hotels are filled to capacity. All kinds of languages are heard around the city. It's not unusual for local families to keep their kids home for a day here or there to attend the event. So, in an attempt to cut down on absences happening throughout the 10 days, the school district just decided to give the schools a day off, in hopes that families will just decide to go that day. And it works!
Each day a "mass ascension" is held, with approximately 400-600 balloons taking part. Thousands of people flock to the field at 5:00 in the morning, in the cold and darkness. The stars are bright and shining still. Concession stands line one side of the field, where you can buy and wrap your frigid fingers around a cup of hot chocolate, a steamy cinnamon bun or a green chili and cheese burrito to keep warm. People are dressed in wool hats and mittens and wrapped in blankets.
Small helium "test" balloons (the birthday party kind) are sent up to test the winds, and everyone waits to see if the winds will cooperate. Balloonists unpack their gondolas and lay
out their envelopes on the grass in row after row after row down the length of the field.
The "Dawn Patrol", the first balloonists to go up, inflate their envelopes and take a morning test flight. As they fire their burners and ascend, their envelopes glow starkly set against the black predawn sky. Excitement is building. Things are going well! The perfect breeze is blowing, enough to send the balloon riders on a beautiful ride.
The sky starts to lighten, and soon the sun sends its first rays of the morning over the east mountains. The word is given and everything is go! Burners roar and huge fans push the warm air into the envelopes all over the field as the balloons come to life. Crews and ropes and lines control each envelope until they are all standing upright, bobbing from side to side and bumping against each other, straining to leave the ground.
The huge crowd, men, women, children, seniors, babies....are out there too. No standing at the sidelines required here. Everyone is out there, amidst the raucous noise, the burners and the balloons, the radio announcer and the music, staring up into silk globes and feeling the warmth of the propane flames as they blast the balloons awake.
Special shaped balloons are there too. A cow, a bee, a sun face, a chili ristra, a dragon, a soda bottle, a tree, Noah's ark and the Jesus balloon, the Energizer Bunny....shapes you couldn't even imagine...as big as buildings....all creatively stitched together in rainbow colors of silk!
Then the word is again given. The first row to the south takes off! Then the second...the third.....the fourth....the fifth.....as all down the field row after row of balloons fly up each in their turn. After the first rows take off, the second wave of balloonists lay out and inflate their envelopes as the balloons to the north are taking off. New rows of envelopes bob and bounce against each other, crews straining to hold them to the ground until the given moment. Then the second wave takes off, row after row, until the sky is filled with color. The crowd on the ground watches and points and laughs and smiles in awe and takes another 20 pictures. As the sun warms the morning, coats and hats are peeled off. But the party is not over! Have another cup of coffee. Buy a balloon event pin to add to your collection, and wait for the balloon races to begin! Activity is a buzz until about mid-morning. It's such a warm, happy, pleasant atmosphere! You can't go there and not feel happy.
Last night my husband, Scott, had to work late, so I took Cole and Beana to the Glodeo. This is where only the special shapes are set up in the late afternoon.
Once again the crowds flocked to the field by the thousands. At night, the concession stands sell nachos, smoked turkey legs, and roasted corn on the cob. Envelopes and gondolas again lined the field, waiting for the sun to go down. Teen-agers, hired for the fiesta, hawked calendars, glow toys and a wide array of jester hats! As the sky started to mellow and the western horizon became ablaze in a pink, yellow and purple sunset, the burners and fans roared to life again as envelopes were inflated. But this time, they didn't take off. Tethered to the ground, the envelopes thronging the air around us, the crowd wound through the maze of balloons, collecting trading cards from the various balloon teams, trading pins, asking questions , taking pictures and greeting people.
The sun went down and the sky darkened. Individual burners fired here and there to keep the envelopes up and moving, giving off a warm, colorful "glow" against the night sky. But the best part....the most magical part....was when the announcer started the countdown. Then the whole crowd joined in...thousands of people counting in unison...
And every balloon on the field fired it's burner......every envelope filled with light.....and there we were......smack dab in the middle of 300 balloons.....all glowing and warm and jolly! It's like a huge, magical toyland.....supersized! A roar went up from the crowd as it shouted its approval! This same countdown happened 10 times or so over the next hour. It's quite a time!
Then, as propane tanks burned towards empty, envelopes were deflated. Gondolas were packed away for the night. Now all the people took out their blankets and found a comfortable place on the ground. Snug and warm as the desert night's chill started to settle in, hot chocolate in hand, sharp reports started to echo through the sky, and the fireworks began.
Ohhhs and Ahhhhs rose from the crowd with each blast of light and sound. Beana, Cole and I cuddled together on our blanket, watching this event with our stomachs full of smoked turkey. They had their share of comments to make about the fireworks. It was funny to listen to Cole's. For some reason, as the explosions blossomed in the sky, they reminded him of Beana's hair falling in braids around her shoulders. Numerous suggestions came from him such as....
"You should do Beana's hair like that, Mama."
"Ohhhh look at that one! It looks like a waterfall! That would be a nice way to braid Beana's hair....huh, Mama."
"Huh, Mama." Pronounced as "HUmuma", like it was one big word with the stress on the first syllable. Such a sparkling little boy. I like how he sees things, like his sister's hair as beautiful and tempestuous as fireworks! We snuggled deeper under our blankets, our bodies curled up together for warmth, sipping hot chocolate, as we settled in to watch the magic erupt across the darkening desert night.
There's a video going around Facebook of a White guy doing a "social experiment". My friend posted it. Have you seen it? In a White neighborhood the guy holds up a sign that says, "Black Lives Matter". In a Black neighborhood he holds up a sign that says, "All Lives Matter". Then he sees how people respond. In the White neighborhood, people minimally engage him. In the Black neighborhood, he gets physically threatened, chased and kicked. If you haven't seen it, check it out.
I couldn't stop thinking about this video. Numerous things cross my mind. One is that not many folks of any race may feel comfortable commenting on it, for a variety of reasons. We as a nation are not used to engaging in dialog about racism in a functional, respectful manner. We don't know how to do it. It's too uncomfortable.
I'm reading a best-selling book called, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting together in the Cafeteria? The author is Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, a Black female psychologist. In the book she explains the development of racial and ethnic identity. She has some insightful things to say about this issue.
Dr. Tatum says:
"I'm often asked by parents and educators about.....how to combat racism in daily life. White parents and teachers, in particular, often ask me questions about how to talk to children and other adults about racial issues. They struggle with embarrassment about the topic, the social awkwardness that can result if the "wrong" words are used, the discomfort that comes from breaking a social taboo, the painful possibility of being perceived as a racist. Parents of color, too have questions. They are sometimes unsure about how to talk to their own children about racism, torn between wanting to protect them from the pain of racial realities and wanting to prepare them effectively to cope with a potentially hostile world. "
Let's read that last line again:
"(Parents of color) are sometimes unsure about how to talk to their own children about racism, torn between wanting to protect them from the pain of racial realities and wanting to prepare them effectively to cope with a potentially hostile world. "
Please let that sink in a moment.
Dr. Tatum also says:
"My audiences often tell me that what they appreciate about my articles and public presentations is that I make the idea of talking about race and racism less intimidating. I help them to see the importance of dialogue about the issue, and give them the confidence they need to break the silence about race at home, at work, among their friends, and with their children."
Lastly, Dr. Tatum 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."
In my opinion, we desperately need dialogue on these issues. So here's my take, all awkwardness aside and forget about being embarrassed about this topic anymore. It's time to hear each other. Although I think this video was an interesting social experiment, I think it has the potential of reinforcing the negative stereotype of, "See, white people just verbally express their disagreement while Black people get violent." This does not represent all Black people. I've had many great, sensitive and mutually respectful conversations about racism with Black people, and they didn't threaten me with physical harm.
Dr. Tatum writes about how often her White students would ask, "There's still racism in this country?" She makes the point that that kind of answer becomes dismissive of very real, tangible racial inequalities. If you disagree with the organization of "Black Lives Matter", then what about just the concept of Black lives mattering? When White people, as in this video, disagree with or do not show support for Black Lives Matter, it can be dismissive of a very real problem in our country.....that problem being that for too long Black lives haven't mattered. Accept this. They haven't.
When a Black parent has to STRUGGLE with wanting to "protect (their children) from the pain of racial realities and ...to prepare them effectively to cope with the potentially hostile world" .....that's a problem! I know those kinds of conversations happen every day across our country. Being part of an interracial couple, my husband and I have had those very conversations with our children about how they will be perceived by people outside of our home, by people of different racial backgrounds, by potential people to date, and how to react to police inquiries. Especially with our son!
"the pain of racial realities......the potentially hostile world....."
Those are realities that I'd say, in general, White people are clueless about. I was. For a long time. Or they don't want to face them. Or they don't think they have a part in perpetuating them, so they avoid the dialogue. THEY NEED TO ENGAGE IN THE DIALOGUE.
The violence in the video by the Black men toward the White guy with the sign? While I can't support it, I can understand what lies behind it. I believe it goes back to what Dr. Tatum says has happened for too long: White people dismiss the problem and say that racism doesn't exist. Or that Black people have been discussing racism for a long time and are frustrated that change hasn't happened more quickly. When frustrations are dismissed, especially when those frustrations involve life and death encounters for yourself or people you love, the potential for volatile reactions increases.
I would love to have seen a third video. What if the White guy went into the Black neighborhood and held up a "Black Lives Do Matter" sign. I would love to see what would have happened with that. That message just might build bridges.
(Continued from previous post "Self-Revelation")
So I was a racist. It was sobering to realize that that heinous word applied to me. I sat on the bed in my college dorm room contemplating exactly how and when that happened. It didn't just pop up out of nowhere. It had to start somewhere. So I began to go back through the years and revisit where that "superiority complex" could have taken root. I didn't find the answers immediately. It took some time.
I thought about my early experiences with Black people....which were few and far between. I was born in Buffalo but moved when I was three to a small town in central New York State called Oneida with a population of about 12,000 people. In addition to growing up in a small town, we also lived in the country. My closest friend lived about 3 miles away so my daily playmates were my 4 siblings. My elementary school had one classroom per grade level up to the sixth grade, and none of the children who attended the school were Black. Everyone - students, teachers, support staff - to my recollection, was White.
I am also a second generation immigrant on both my mother's and my father's side. Two of my grandparents went through Ellis Island. My mother's father heralds from Glasgow, Scotland. My father's father "came over on the boat" from Valledolmo, Italy on the island of Sicily. My father's mother was first generation Polish. Those paternal grandparents were both bilingual and it was common to hear Italian and Polish spoken on visits to my Buffalo relatives. Scottish kin came down from Canada speaking a brogue I could not yet decipher at 5 or 6 years old. The influence of where I came from played heavily into the development of my own ethnic identity. I identified significantly with my Italian heritage mostly because my last name was obviously Italian. "Parlato". But I had no first-hand experiences with Black people.
My limited knowledge of what it meant to be Black came from the television, and we were a family of movie watchers. I loved seeing Shirley Temple as she tap danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and other Black actors. Those Black actors sang and danced wonderfully, but were not characters of strength and power. Theirs were roles such as butlers, chauffeurs and other service oriented positions. Little Shirley Temple seemed more empowered than they did. "The Ten Commandments" cast Black actors as dancers for entertainment, as litter bearers, as conquered people. "Little Rascals" had Buckwheat with his exaggerated facial expressions and unkempt hair. And of course there was "Gone With The Wind", with Black characters that reinforced stereotypes of subservience, enslavement, and ignorance. As I grew older and the 60s started to unfold, the next round of Black people I saw were from newscasters, harbingers of negativity, criticism and fear as the issue of Civil Rights made front page headlines.
In her book, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?", Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum states more succinctly the conclusion I arrived at.
The impact of racism begins early. Even in our preschool years, we are exposed to misinformation about people different from ourselves. Many of us grew up in neighborhoods where we had limited opportunities to interact with people different from our own families. When I ask my college students, "How many of you grew up in neighborhoods where most of the people were from the same racial group as your own?" almost every hand goes up. There is still a great deal of social segregation in our communities. Consequently, most of the early information we receive about "others" - people racially , religiously , or socioeconomically different from ourselves - does not come as the result of firsthand experience. The secondhand information we do receive has often been distorted, shaped by cultural stereotypes, and left incomplete.
These were the role models that as a very, young child began infusing stereotypes into how I thought I understood Black people to be. These "second hand" experiences left my thinking deformed and inaccurate. As I began to understand where my prejudices came from, and admit to myself that I was indeed, "prejudiced", I knew I needed to put myself in situations where those biases could be challenged and countered with real relationships and truth. This was a new road for me to walk. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but it did prove to be fruitful. My hope is that other White people, like I had to, become more introspective and examine what biases they might harbor because of how or where they grew up, and the experiences that influenced the development of their identity from their earliest years, forward.
(To Be Continued...)
My daughter, Beana (nickname for Gianina) , has discovered my essential oils and scent combinations. She likes the less chemical smell and the musky aromas of amber and sandlewood. So on a recent grocery run to the local health food store, she found a scent she "knew" I'd like and "bought it" for me. Of course....Papa was paying for the grocery bill. The bottle of Vanilla Amber happened to make it's way into the cart along with everything else. None the less I appreciated the thought, and she was right. I do like the scent. So does she.
Now it's become a regular part of our routine to share my oils, which I don't mind at all. I love that we have this relationship and she wants to share things with me. She winds her way into my room most mornings.
"Mama, can I put on some oil?"
This morning she was running a bit late. I'm on "drive them to school" duty on Wednesdays, so I was headed out the door for the car. She was headed toward my room to put on Vanilla Amber, but the door was shut, which meant Papa was in the room, possibly dressing. They know better than to just bust in.
"Mama, can you go into your room to get the oil? Papa's in the room and the door is shut."
"Yes," I said, and headed toward the room.
Our master bathroom is off our bedroom. I entered the bedroom and the bathroom door was closed, which could mean Scott, my husband, was in the beginning, middle or end of could be anything!
I knocked and asked, "Are you sitting?"
"Yeeeeeeeeeees," was the response.
Well, I'm not interrupting THAT!
"Okay, never mind. Bye!" I left the room and started heading out to the car.
"Sorry Beana, Papa's in the bathroom 'sitting'."
Her response: "What, and that stops you?" She was totally serious.
"Yes that stops me! "
"Why?" Again, totally serious.
"BECAUSE HE LIKES HIS PRIVACY WHEN HE'S TRYING TO USE THE BATHROOM!"
What is it with teenagers? Just because they now know their parents actually have seen each other naked does NOT mean that we share other personal intimate moments, especially those that require a modicum of privacy ! They're so funny! You have to cherish these exchanges.
September 21, 2001
Dear Cole and Gianina,
It is a different world today.
A week and a half ago, on September 11, 2001, four commercial planes were hijacked. Two slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City causing them to both implode within 30 minutes of being hit. One plane slammed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. And one plane crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania. The world was different from that moment on.
I had been out for a morning walk around the golf course across the street from our house here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, taking in the sunshine and thinking what a beautiful day it was. As I entered the house, your father was watching the news. He quickly called me to come in and see what he was watching. I remember how serious his voice sounded. And then his voice cracked as he told me, "A plane just crashed into the Pentagon."
I watched the pictures on the TV for a moment. My sister, Dee, works in the Pentagon. Everything seemed so surreal....like I was just watching a movie. A thought crossed my mind that Dee was okay, wherever she was. That this did not effect her. Then it all came screaming home to me that indeed she may have been hurt or killed. I called Grandma and Grandpa Parlato in Oneida, New York. They had not heard from her yet and were watching the events on television. Then I tried to call my sister, Lisa, but she was not at home. As I hung up the phone, it rang. It was Dee.
"Where are you?" I screamed into the phone. "Where are you?"
She was in Texas. She is the personal photographer for the Secretary of the Navy and she travels with him wherever he goes. They were on travel this week. She was safe.
But so many people are gone. The twin towers of the World Trade Center lie in heaps on the ground. Rescue workers, police and firemen who responded immediately to the attack were buried when the buildings collapsed. Many people were able to evacuate the buildings, but many were not and died in the attack and collapse. Immediately, airports all around the nation were closed and all planes grounded. Government buildings and labs were evacuated and people told to go home. Our nation ground to a halt. Everyone is immobile and in a state of shock. Suddenly, "home" does not feel so safe. Everyone feels like a target. And we are. Osama bin Laden, a very rich Saudi man who now lives in Afghanistan, has been identified as the main organizer of the terrorist attacks. He has made it clear that his wish is for all Americans to die.
Our government has gone into overdrive. It has declared "war" against terrorism and has focused on what it needs to do to protect our country. Our president, George W. Bush, has suddenly been catapulted into a global spotlight. Our military has been deployed to Asia and the Middle East, and may soon attack military targets in Afghanistan in an effort to close down terrorist camps and oust Bin Laden. Nations have come together to rally an organized effort to fight. Locally, we see signs of increased security all around. Soldiers wear green khakis and carry weapons at our airports and bases. Even the armory just down the street is now cordoned off with razor wire, cement barriers and soldiers on 24-hour guard. And our nation has been brought to its knees in prayer. All over the TV, media, radios, billboards, etc, the call has gone out to pray. Signs are everywhere, invoking the name of God in a very open and public outcry. People, in the sudden realization of their vulnerability, mortality and grief, are understanding their need for God. And they are seeking Him. Prayer vigils and religious services are being held all over the country, in houses of worship and in public stadiums and plazas. Churches are filled to over-flowing. Our president called for a national day of prayer on the Friday after the attacks. Two minutes of silence were observed by people in nations all over the world, to exercise a moment of reverence toward the impact of the attacks and the people effected. The news showed footage of major cities in numerous countries where traffic, movement, and activity came to a complete stop, as nations observed the moment. We all, as a global whole, are effected. May God hear us.
And you, my precious children, play at my feet, unaware of any changes in your small lives. You still play, and eat, and sleep, and cry, and laugh. I watch you with very, very different eyes. Suddenly, you seem so exposed. You seem so small and fragile, and I in a mother's fierce desire to protect you, cannot. All I want to do is hug you and kiss you and keep you close to me. Since the moments you were born, I have prayed for your protection, and for God to keep my eyes vigilant over you. I will continue to pray for this, and for God to use me to maintain your safety as much as is humanly possible. You have only been loaned to us, your Papa and me, for a short period of time. Ultimately, you belong to God, and I must remember that. You are His. And for that, I am thankful. He loves you even more than I could imagine myself loving you. He's concerned for your safety, and has ultimate ability to keep you within His loving gaze. What I can only wish to do for you, He is able to accomplish. And I am learning, through all this upheaval in our world, to release you into His trusted hands. I know that this insures nothing while we live on this earth. That as I sit at this computer and write this, we are still in danger of more terrorist attacks that may effect us personally and could very well kill us. It is frightening, knowing so much is out of our control. But ultimately, you are in His hands, and He is still on His throne. And He is still in control, no matter what we see, no matter what we hear, no matter what anyone says. Nothing escapes Him. I must remember to "walk by faith, and not by sight".
I don't know at this moment, if you will ever be old enough to read this letter on your own and understand it. But I write it in hope for the future. I hope one day you can read it, and take in this eye witness account of a period of your own lives. Grow, in love and submission to the Lord our Father, knowing how fragile and fleeting your lives are. Seek Him. Find Him. Trust Him. Follow Him. He will lead you. Live in the present, with your eyes on the future. Not just an earthly future, but an eternal future in His heavenly kingdom, in His heavenly presence.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
"Be still, and know that I am God."
May God help me to remember this; to trust Him with you, and with Papa, and with me. That no matter what happens, He is still my Lord and Savior and loving Father. And you, are His.
Your loving Mama,