I am writing tonight because I want to tell you something in the big words. Right now you are just five and seven. The words I use are often (but not always....sorry) chosen for your developmental age. I choose my words carefully so that you are not overwhelmed or confused. I guess I am lucky enough to have some schooling on the brain development of children and how to talk to small people. But there are times when I want to dive deeper and give you more language. Waiting is hard for me.
I was just thinking about how someday when you read this, I could be gone. And so I write this just in case you need to read it.
Right now this minute I am watching you goof off with the neighbor kid. You are laughing and, yes, sometimes fighting over who's turn it is on the swing. But as you go about your summer free to play and be silly and learn about how to get along in this crazy life, there are big things happening in the world.
Honestly I can't even summarize all of those things in one post. Maybe I will write to you several posts over time to show you how wild, beautiful and yet still unjust this world you live in is.
I just got back from five days away at what our church calls Unitarian Universalist General Assembly . When I got home, you smothered me with kisses and asked why I went away for what probably felt like forever to you (I know I'm old or whatever but I do remember how summer days felt like as a kid). I told you that I was at a conference for work. And I told you that my work is important because I am working to create a better world. I told you that part of the way I do that is in caring for all people and also by showing YOU how to be good people because that is my most important job.
But let me back up.
Pants, do you remember last February when you learned about Abraham Lincoln and I asked you who he was? You said that he freed the slaves. You said this with a giant smile on your face and with the regurgitated words of the adult who told them to you. I asked you to tell me who the slaves were and you began to cry. My heart swelled. I could feel your pain as you lived the reality. "They were the people with the brown skin, mama, like Josiah" You wept, my darling son. The thought that your best buddy in all the world would have been a slave gutted you and you cried in my arms for what felt like forever. Then you looked at me and said, "I'm so glad Josiah is not a slave. He's my friend" and I didn't have the strength to tell you the truth.
Son, I have to tell you that its not over.
My beautiful and beloved children it is NOT over. Human beings of color are still fighting for freedom and justice. They are still to this day resisting the chains that our white ancestors shackled them with. They are still dying from a system of oppression that never went away but instead slipped underground hoping that good white people would not notice.
And I have to tell you, my children, that they must not fight alone. We must join that fight. We must stop pretending that we have nothing helpful to say or do. It is beyond time that your mama stands up. If I ever had a job to do, it is this. And I am ashamed that it took me this long to see with such clarity that if I am not shouting my allegiance than I am allowing the oppression of our fellow human beings.
So I am pledging this to you. Over the course of your lives you will know this is a fight worth fighting. You will see your mama standing up, speaking out and never sitting down.
I will teach you that you though you are white skinned, you do not deserve your privilege. I will teach you that your white skin does not give you a pass to sleep through the revolution. I will teach you that to be a righteous person in this broken world is to stand with the voiceless, the abandoned, the marginalized and the oppressed. I will teach you to work for justice.
And I will teach you that there is NO OTHER WAY.
I vow to you that I will not just tell you these things but that you will see me working. You will see me voicing. You will see me confronting this cancer that has metastasized while laying in wait for years to finally be seen in living color by the well meaning white people for what it is and what those of color have seen all along. I vow to you that you will learn that all human beings are born with inherent worth and dignity, yes, but that those born with color are starting life from a different starting line that is unjust and miles behind your own.
I vow to teach you that your white skin is not special.
And as you grow I will expect you to stand with me. I will expect you to open your eyes and see the world for what it is. I will expect you to help make it better. I will do this because I love you. And I will do this because you are needed in this fight. And I will do this because it is the right thing to do.
I don't expect you to fix it. But I promise that I will do my part and I will teach you to do yours. And maybe together with everyone else who is fighting to dismantle this oppression, your friend Josiah will grow up in a world that values him for who he is the way that it already does for you. And maybe, just maybe, we will be a part of a wave of love that flows over the globe.
Maybe I'm dreaming. But maybe I'm not.
My beautiful children, please keep fighting with me.