Thursday, March 22, 2012
It's My Job to Speak Against Hatred
We were raised to believe all people are equal. My mother spoke out to relatives who used words that were not allowed in our house. I did not find out until much later that she denied my father on this subject. It has taken years of caring talk to change Dad's false assumptions. He was raised with the easy, ignorant usage of epithets and superiority too common to simple working people. Some of my cousins have carried on this lazy prejudice, despite being more educated, despite presenting an inclusive face in their churches and communities. White people assume other white people are included in the hatred; a secret exclusive club. Although they whisper. Oh, yes, they whisper; courageous enough to hate, but not to be overheard. And they teach their children to look down on people not like them. Long ago, walking Beaner home from kindergarten, little Rachel running in circles, and Bianca in her stroller, another student's mother whispered something to me. The school was in a white neighborhood, so she felt an automatic kinship. She whispered in the presence of her two sons. And the next week she said another stupid thing. I struggled with what to say to her that did not include punching her, because punching is not a teaching tool, as my wiser sister has to remind me. So I said to her, "Shirley, not all people feel the way you do." I use that phrase now. It's soft and gives the speaker a chance to think clearly. It also serves to evaporate my rage at people who hate at leisure. It took decades to help my Dad understand that what his family taught him is not really how he feels, because I love him. George Zimmerman is a whisperer with no one who cared enough for him to turn him away from hatred. And Trayvon Martin is dead because no one spoke against hatred to George Zimmerman. It's my job to speak against hatred. And it is your job, too. If not for yourself, than for your children and grandchildren, and all children who, because we chose to be complicit with silence, risk their lives walking a neighborhood street.