Relation to Race

Deep Thoughts No Comments

**This is from my heart. It’s my attempt at processing and feeling through these experiences, and not intended to simplify or pretend to know what anyone else experiences**

brothers and sistersToday I visited a small town, just north of KCMO, with my family. Since it’s Tuesday, there weren’t a lot of people out on enjoying the shopping and incredible weather. In fact, we were the only shoppers on the block.

I spotted some vinyl records inside one of the antique/jewelry shops. The Captain and Tennille and “Love Songs of the 50s” were on top. The covers were in good condition and still brightly covered, and I thought of a friend who is a music producer.  When my parents were getting rid of some of their records 15 years ago he nabbed some, so there was some schema there.

I sent my friend a Facebook message about the records and described the street where the shop was located, as well as a couple other stores since he mentioned looking for decor.

As the conversation was winding down, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that was incredibly unsettling. Was I sending my friend into danger?

Let me be more specific: Was I sending my black friend into danger in small town Missouri?

As I was thinking, my friend posed the question as to whether or not it was a friendly place for him….and my heart felt as sick as my stomach.

I couldn’t answer with an immediate “yes” because I didn’t know that to be true.

As much as I wanted to say it, I knew the answer would be based on my own experiences; which are provided by a whole lot of privilege.

I reached out to two other friends familiar with the area to see what they thought, and while I waited for their replies, I was taken back to other times in my life where I was confronted by racism concerning my friends.

Around ages 21-22 (I’m almost 35 now) some ladies and I went to a late night bar in Gladstone with a long-time no one is born hatingblack male friend. While sitting a booth, as a group, my friend became uncomfortable because an older, white, bearded man at the bar was turning around frequently to stare at him. I had not noticed this one bit, and when my friend explained that he should probably leave, I became indignant. In my mind I was indignant FOR him, and put my arms around him in what I thought was a show of support and an “eff you” to the man at the bar.

What I thought was a good move, or something I could visualize happening on TV, was naive. I’ve looked back on that moment many times over the years and realized how stupid I was. I could have endangered my friend. Although I could never imagine someone harming me, the reality may not have been the same for him.

Another time, also around the same age (It’s the bar-going age, after all), several friends were going to a small bar in Northtowne for karaoke. I invited a ton of people and my friend (the same from the current “records at the antique store” tale) asked if it was safe for him. I looked at him strangely, as if he was nuts to as that question in the 21st century, and said yes. Just after I did, two of my friends, who were/are married to each other, looked at each other, then looked at me and said, “no.” The husband was/is in law enforcement and is Latino. We didn’t go to that bar. In fact, I never went back again…..

How was I so oblivious?

That answer is easy. I’m white…and I was naive.

But I’m not anymore, and that is why I couldn’t give my friend an immediate “yes” when he asked about going to check out the records.

Eventually, the two opinions came back in agreement that it would be “friendly” for my friend, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct.

In fact, it feels very wrong to have to ask if a place is safe for a black person near our world-class city.

I know racism is alive and strong in so many places. I know it doesn’t look like a man in a white hooded outfit. It doesn’t sound like the vile N word.

It manifests in more subtle ways, and that’s scarier to me because it’s harder to recognize with my eyes and ears…

who wants to changeYet somehow, my heart still senses it every day as I scroll through Facebook; watch TV; and see generational, cyclical poverty.

 

The only thing I know to do about it is to acknowledge it; to stop pretending that it doesn’t exist just because we check certain milestones of the list.

Much like any true change and conversion, it doesn’t come with just acting better and watching our language in public. It doesn’t come from a checklist. (I would say all of this about “Religion,” too)

Meaningful, long-term change….It comes from the heart.

How’s yours?

Love,
Lisa

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