I've been at a loss as to what to do or say lately. Do I have a role? Am I part of the problem? Will I offend anyone if I say this, or that? What is the solution, or is it too soon to figure that out yet? What can I do?
I am a white, Anglo-Saxon female. I grew up in the South and was educated at private schools, raised by two educated parents, and while I have certainly had my own challenges in life (a story for another time), being a racial minority is not one of them.
I moved to California when I was 19 years old, went to college, and majored in Sociology. I spent many an evening with my sociology professors in small, culturally-diverse study groups, contemplating how we function as a society and having open, honest conversations about our differences. Because of those conversations, my eyes were opened and I gained a newfound understanding for struggles that were happening to people close to me, right under my nose - that I was oblivious to. An awareness that I never would have had, but for those conversations.
I met and eventually married my husband, Sean. He grew up in Compton, raised by a single Italian mother, and dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. He'd been told his black father left one day when he was about 4 years old, and never came back. Sean doesn't talk much about his childhood. What I do know is that he had a lot of friends in gangs, saw a lot of murders, and witnessed violence daily, yet he never turned to violence, drugs, or illegal activity himself. He just knew he wanted out. So he'd ride his bike for miles and miles every day after school, until dinnertime, then fell asleep - rinse and repeat, this was his childhood.
Out of survival and a desire for a better life, he left Compton as soon as he could, and though we live 40 minutes away, he's never been back.
Last year, we found Sean's dad via Ancestry.com. Turns out, his dad has his own version of what happened in 1969. Sean and his dad now talk every week. Years of pain has been released, and misunderstandings have been forgiven - and it all started with a conversation.
Sean has his story. And so does my friend Joyce, my friend Steve, my friend Khym, my sister-in-law Michelle, and everyone else who has lived in this great country of ours.
I've been having a lot of conversations lately, and I've learned that there's pain everywhere. There is also a numbness to it, and an oblivion to it. But no matter how numb or oblivious we are, it is still there.
I've struggled with what to say, what to post on social media, if it's appropriate to advertise and market in my businesses, and if so - what right messaging is. I've been told that remaining silent is making a statement, so I don't want to do that either.
For now, I need to listen. And that means that I need to initiate and invite conversations, and then be open - and listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply.
"I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone." ~ Maya Angelou