I hate it when a peaceful protest goes violent. I can see it coming. You know what happens next – those looking to delegitimize a movement sit back and say “You see.. the Black Lives Matter movement is violent”.. and there goes the wide brush painting everyone in the broadest stroke possible.
Then I get mad at myself – whites don’t have to answer for the most obnoxious, hateful or violent among them? Nobody said after the Charleston church shooting “You see.. they’re all like that…”
Last night – 15 minutes from my home – a city erupted. A peaceful assembly turned violent. Different accounts say different things. The National Guard was called in. One civilian was shot. The former reporter in me knows the truth is in the middle somewhere – and sadly fiction travels faster than fact. I want to be there – as a mediator getting different sides to understand different things; but I’m a mother to two small children and now my service lies here to them first. So I live in a safe North Mecklenburg suburb near downtown Davidson. I gave a few black gentleman a nod today on a quick trip to Northlake Mall and they seemed overly happy to get it – like the world was judging them all because of the actions of a few and they were relieved a light-skinned brown woman pushing a stroller was not afraid of them.
Yesterday morning at the dentist’s office – while I waited for the novocaine to settle in – I overheard my dentist (a petite blond) telling another patient, “Well, if the cop says stop then stop.” Do I correct her and set the record straight? Is she even going to listen to me? I don’t say anything – she’s about to get up in my mouth with sharp tools – and there really isn’t changing anyone who doesn’t want to be challenged.
Sometimes I blame myself for remaining silent. Years ago when I was still on TV I was asked to speak to a Girl Scout group. An 8-year-old asked me, “Are you Christian?” I said, “No, my parents immigrated from India, I’m Hindu.” She said, “But you’re so nice!” In an effort to avoid awkward conversations I, like most people of color, steer away from discomfort and maybe that’s been a mistake. Often times I find myself having an angry monologue after leaving those conversations. All the things I should have said…
I did reach out to the leadership at my gym, the local YMCA. I normally would not suggest a dialogue on such a divisive issue – because the people that need to really hear my point of view and the point of view of so many others won’t show up anyway – but I did. I told them that the nation is at a tipping point – we need to get together as people. People are sick of staying silent because they don’t want to have awkward conversations with white people. Two Charlotte area YMCA’s had to shut down early because of the protests. They agreed, we’re meeting next week to discuss a community forum.
I am never suggesting violence. My great uncle fought along side Gandhi against the British in India. And many times I find myself thinking of this MLK quote to calm myself down: “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral… It is impractical because it is descending spiral ending in destruction for all… It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue.”
I fully expect the usual suspects to show up to my forum at the Y – brown folks – black folks and the same white folks who know we have an issue. There are the white folks that need to hear it they and won’t be there. They live in a bubble – they don’t want to be challenged – they ain’t gonna hear and they ain’t never gonna get it. Meanwhile our country is in the middle of real growing pains. I’ve told myself it’s okay. I know me and my folks will be at this forum standing for love and creating dialogue instead of monologue.