“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
John F. Kennedy
I tell myself daily that there is always something to be grateful for—and for me there is. I have a home, two healthy sons and one gorgeous, smart daughter-in-law, more than enough to eat and share, one goofy-looking, but adorable dog, and friends who love me. But if I were the mother of a young black man today I would be afraid. Because even if I could provide for myself and my children in exactly the same way I've listed above, I would know he would be at greater risk. His chances of getting a good job, even if he were well-educated, would be less, and his acceptance into the broader society would be reduced. In my lifetime, having grown up, first in the segregated South, and later in the integrated South, I can say there is great improvement in the circumstances of African Americans, but there is not yet equality.
In Alabama, black and brown parents who want their children to receive a quality education have to be mobile—they have to be prepared to go where the systems are that provide it. Incorporated communities, which became self-governing in order to control who lives and goes to school there, control the influx of people of color to their schools, by tearing down affordable apartment complexes, and declaring imminent domain over whole neighborhoods. They redraw their boundaries to shut out the unwanted. I don't face that now, and I never have, simply because I am white.
When I see the European countries erecting walls of barbed wire to shut out desperate people, I feel gut-wrenched, but the same thing exists right here in Alabama. And, to be honest, I saw it in New York City and in northern California when I lived there. It may be more subtle than barbed wire, but it is nonetheless clear and effective. We, as a state, as a country and as a globe have to get past the notion that one people—those with white skin—can and should dominate the entire world. That they should possess all the wealth and decide who prospers and who does not. And then to wrap that belief up in a flag and the cross of Jesus is simple blasphemy. There is nothing godly about it.
I am grateful to live in a country where peaceful protest is possible. I believe in it. It will move the needle a little further in the direction of equality. Each of us needs to walk a mile in the shoes of the mothers who have had their children shot dead in the streets; or those of the police and their families, who risk their lives to stop the rioting. And, most of all, we should open our hearts to one another in understanding and peace.
In the Spirit