Meet my two beautiful grandsons. I am very blessed to be their MeMe.
And I can promise you that both of their lives matter a great deal to me.
As you can tell, my older grandson is white and my younger one is bi-racial.
I have watched the events of the last several weeks unfold with confusion and a little bit of a broken heart. These are my thoughts, for whatever they may be worth to anyone. But I hope one day, they will be worth a lot to my grandsons.
I am 55 years old and spent much of my life in the south in a predominantly black county. It is the county that my parents grew up in and where I raised my two daughters. There may have been some racial tension, but I honestly don't remember much.
When my daughters started elementary school, one was the only white girl in her class, and the other was the only white child in her class. And I can tell you that racism isn't a trait someone is born with. Because neither one of them had any problems there at that age.
Racism is taught. And not just by white people. And I'm not defending anyone or anything, I'm just saying that parents and culture have a huge influence on children and the adults they soon become.
Jokes, TV shows, comments made when you think no one is listening, conversations with others, reactions to events; all of these things are witnessed by our children and leave an impression. We can preach one thing all we want, but they will pick up on what they see and hear from us in our daily lives.
We owe it to future generations to be aware and diligent and purposeful in our goal to teach love and respect to everyone, regardless of skin color, culture, or ethnicity.
My oldest grandson's father is a police officer. My youngest grandson's father is a black man. Does that mean my grandsons will not get along? I absolutely cannot bear that thought. Right now they love each other unconditionally and immeasurably. And I'm going to do my best to keep it that way.
My oldest grandson is not going to be taught to be suspicious of someone just because their skin tone is different from his. And my youngest grandson is not going to be taught to be afraid of someone in a blue uniform and a badge.
It starts with us, the adults. The generational experience, of both good and bad, start with how we raise our children. Unfortunately, not all parents act like adults. And that is a huge problem from the get-go. And often parents pass down traditions, biases, and sentiments without stopping to examine if they are positive and serve a greater purpose.
The Golden Rule is a fairly simple concept. Treat others the way you want to be treated. In one of the greatest nations in the world, why is that so hard to understand?
We must do better. The future for our children and our grandchildren depend on it.
My parents grew up in the depression and they literally had nothing. They worked hard all their lives and provided the best they could, but we were not rich by any means. I wore hand made clothes and learned never to ask for the latest of anything because money was not to be wasted on foolish things.
I am not asking you to feel sorry for me. I was happy. I was loved. But it never occurred to me that I was 'privileged'. And I know that means something different in this arena. That the term represents the ease at which opportunity is available or nods of acceptance more freely given.
And maybe they were, and I didn't see it or recognize it as such. I have always believed I am the product of my decisions and earned my way. My first job was in the tobacco fields, with as many blacks as whites. My second job was as a waitress, where I served just as many blacks as whites. I have made decisions, some good, many bad when I was younger. I have been homeless, penniless, and then one day a single mom with two small children, working multiple jobs to keep the bills paid.
Again, I'm not asking for sympathy, nor am I comparing myself to those who have suffered discrimination or harassment, or worse because of the color of their skin. I know racism exists, in all walks of life, jobs, and cultures. And it breaks my heart.
What also breaks my heart is the amount of hate and discord that is being spread at an alarming rate over social media, the news, and in person. Good people, honest people, kind people are fighting each other because we, as a country, are scared.
Scared of losing our freedoms in an attempt to secure freedom for all. Scared of going too far in the other direction to prove we understand. Scared of calling right/right and wrong/wrong because we never truly know what to believe. Scared of the manipulation and downright ignorance in some cases that run freely and openly on both sides.
And I'm scared for the world now that my grandsons are growing up in. I used to just worry about bullies, the school system, and maybe even how the economy would affect their lives. Now I'm worried that my oldest grandson will be vilified or targeted because his father is a cop, even though that sweet child had nothing to do with that. I'm worried that my youngest grandson will always be seen as either "half" white or "half" black, and not the whole beautiful boy that he is.
And the experiences that await them will come from, in part, by how we as a society handle what is going on now. And we are handling it terribly. On both sides. Everyone would rather point fingers and show statistics and graphs to prove they are right, then to actually work together to help the ones who really need the help.
And I guess I'm part of the problem because I don't have a solution. Because the solution involves mature, clear-headed, reasonable people coming together and requiring better of themselves and those around them. And I don't see much of those characteristics on display. We have gotten way off course.
My Hopefuls, I can only pray every day that God sends healing to our land and our hearts. That people see the value of love over hate and acceptance over ignorance. That we have the discernment to recognize when we are being played or lied to, no matter the source, no matter the side. That we use wisdom in how we deal with people. That our conduct is based on basic goodness and being fair.
It can, and should, start with me. I pledge to do that. For my innocent and beautiful grandsons.
Will you join me?
And as always (even in these times, and even more because of these times)....
Hope With Abandon!