Racism Hurts

.US_Marshals_with_Young_Ruby_Bridges_on_School_Steps

 

Racism hurts.

Maybe that’s the wrong way to say it. Maybe I should say “the actions of racist people” hurt. The ongoing assault on and disrespect of, fellow human beings by a self-declared “supreme, superior race” hurts and has long-lasting effects.

It has been scientifically proven that the effects of trauma can be genetically passed down. Apparently, trauma causes changes in one’s genes as it is going on. Called “epigenetic inheritance,” scientists say the trauma passed down to children causes disorders including stress disorders. Findings in a study of survivors of the Holocaust were published recently. (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/21/study-of-holocaust-survivors-finds-trauma-passed-on-to-childrens-genes)

Native American children apparently show results of the trauma their parents and antecedents have suffered, and psychologists, sociologists and scientists are documenting physical conditions in African Americans caused by the trauma that ethnic group has endured in this country since slavery. (http://atlantablackstar.com/2016/06/05/post-traumatic-slave-syndrome-and-intergenerational-trauma-slavery-is-like-a-curse-passing-through-the-dna-of-black-people/)

The science notwithstanding, though, there is a very real component of racism that nobody really talks about – and that is that it causes emotional pain of the oppressed in the here and now.

Racism and racist terrorism and hatred..hurt.

I often tell the story of little Ruby Bridges, who at 6 years old integrated the William Frantz  Elementary School. This child was eager to attend her “new school,” but had no idea of the racist people who would jeer at her, yell and scream at her, and leave her to sit in a classroom in that school for a full year, all by herself.

Because of cognitive dissonance, white people who were involved in this child’s trauma probably did not think of how little Ruby must have felt, but it had to have been horrible for her. For a year in that classroom it was only Ruby and her teacher, a white woman named Mrs. Barbara Henry, sitting side by side, because white parents had pulled their children out of the school generally and out of Ruby’s class specifically …all because little Ruby was black.

It had to be traumatizing. According to stories of that fateful time, on the second day of her attendance at Franz, a white mother threatened to poison her; on another day, she was presented a little black baby doll in a coffin.

She was a little girl, for goodness’ sake!

Not only did Ruby suffer, but so did her family. Her grandparents were sent off the land where they had lived as sharecroppers for 25 years. Her father lost his job. The local grocery store where they had shopped banned them from entering.

It might have been expected that by now, the 21st century, all of this racial hatred and bigotry would have abated, but it has not. Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, says that “slavery didn’t end, it just evolved.”  That statement applies to racism as well, a fact that is sad in that too many white Americans live in denial, believe that racism is gone, while they continue to participate in and benefit from policies which support the continued oppression of people of color.

Not only are black people the targets of white hatred and bigotry, but so are brown people, and Muslims. Members of the LGBTQ community are oppressed not only by whites, but by blacks, Hispanics and Muslims.

A woman shared a story with me recently about two gay white men who had adopted two African-American boys. She said a neighbor hollered out to them one day that when Donald Trump gets elected “we, the white people, are going to get rid of people like you and your two little nigger kids.”

What is sad is that people who mete out this kind of hatred seem not to care that words are like knives, digging into the very spirits of those being attacked. Little black and brown children grow up in this nation fighting the belief that they are somehow bad and inferior; the fight to find one’s true Self in the face of such hatred is a difficult one, and many fail.

The emotional pain of racial hatred is as toxic and damaging is physical pain inflicted because of racial hatred. Public lynching has all but stopped (not completely), but emotional lynching is ongoing. It has never stopped. And the lack of concern for and appreciation of that pain is an issue …at least for me.

Black and brown people are criminals if they have a drug problem; white people are “sick” and need treatment if they have a drug problem. Ryan Lochte was virtually excused from his bad behavior in Rio de Janeiro after the Olympics, with many newscasters saying this 32-year old man is “just a kid,” and they accepted his statement that he “over -exaggerated.” Black people are rarely given such grace when they commit faux pas; Gabby Douglas was harshly criticized for not putting her hand over her heart during the playing of the National Anthem. Biles was said to have disrespected her country, but didn’t Lochte as well? The double standard meted out by racists…hurts.

The point of this essay is to say to people who apparently do not realize or do not care…that racist attacks, exclusion from jobs or opportunities or justice because of one’s race, disparity in the way black and white children are treated for the same offenses – hurts.  The lack of compassion for parents of black children who go astray, and the tendency to just want to lock black people up and throw away the key ..hurts.

The pain is no less than that experienced by a white kid who grows up in an emotionally and/or physically abusive home. The scars left are indelible; they do not go away. An abusive childhood produces abused adults who then, in their pain, go on to abuse more children. That’s not a color thing. That’s a human thing.

Listening to all of the racist talk, the hate-filled talk, that has swirled around during this presidential election cycle has made my spirit hurt, literally. The oppressors  apparently have no idea of how much damage they are inflicting on groups of people – which they have historically heaped on groups of people. They don’t know …and apparently they do not care.

And not being cared about is a hurting thing.

A candid observation..

The Boy Whose Father Never Came

 

 

There is an image I cannot get out of my mind.

It is that of a little boy, about 9 years old, sitting outside, waiting for his father.  This little boy was a part of a summer program, and the kids were going on a field trip; the boy’s father had promised he would chaperone.

At first, the little boy, who was no angel, was his normal, precocious self, bothering other kids, taxing teachers and denying any wrongdoing if a classmate accused him of some infraction.

But after a while, he slipped outside the school and sat on a rock, alone. I kept my eye on him; he sat there for some time, looking, straining, really, as he looked down the street.

Finally, I went to him and asked him why he was outside. Ignoring my question, he said, “Could I use your phone so I could call my father? He’s supposed to be here. He said he was going with us.”

I called his father’s number …but nobody answered. I told the little boy and he persisted. “Well, call my mother. She’ll be able to call him.” I followed directions and called his mother and gave him the phone. He asked, pleaded, for his mother to call his father, and I guess his mother said that his father wasn’t available.

Big tears welled up in his eyes…he hung his head, and said, before he hung up, “OK. I love you.”  I assume his mother said for him to be good…or some such.

There was a quiet moment, and then it was like I could see fire well up in his eyes, with a heat so hot it melted his capacity to feel. The teary eyes were now angry and hurt. This, I could see, had happened before, and not a few times. Part of the reason for his unruly behavior was now apparent to me.

Those who want to have children ought to wait until they are ready to have children before they bring new lives into the world. As I sat and watched that little boy, I thought of how angry children grow up to be angry adults; depressed children grow up to be angry adults. Kids who live with disappointment, persistent and regular disappointment, learn not to hope, not to dream, not to care.

Every child needs love and nurturing. Parents who promise their children anything …and then simply don’t do it…are messing with the lives of innocent souls. Children don’t know how to verbalize their disappointment; more often than not, when a parent is unavailable, either physically, emotionally, or both, are doing damage to little people who just don’t have the wherewithal to cope with what they are left feeling.

Contrast what a child who has love and support can and will do with one like the little boy I’ve described here.  Gabby Douglas, who wowed the world with her gymnastic skills, had not only a mother and family that loved and supported her, but had a surrogate family as well, who loved her.

Maybe…no, I am sure, this little boy has something significant that he’s supposed to share with the world as well; perhaps he was born to be yet another Olympics  hero…but I doubt we will ever know it, because disappointed, angry children get stuck, first in their own disappointment, and later in a justice system that is often not so just.

Too many children are born and dumped.  The men who produced the sperm that fertilized the egg that produced too many children make babies without even thinking about taking care of those babies, and the women who lie down with a man, any man, for sex that produces children are likewise, many of them, not interested in being a parent.

I sometimes wonder if pro-life advocates think about that. There is so much push to protect fetuses and not nearly enough attention paid to the children who are actually born…and dumped.

I don’t mean to be unusually harsh on the parents of these children. It’s likely that the parents are giving what they received, and withholding what they don’t even know exists. They parent as they do   because they never experienced love and support  and therefore,  they cannot conceive giving it…but that doesn’t make what they do fair to the children they produce.

Who knows what the little boy whose father never came has inside him? What gifts that might enhance this world will be  squandered and lost because this little boy feels detached and neglected and ignored by his father? Who knows that that’s the reason, or at least part of the reason, that there is so much crime, so many gangs? Little children grow into young people looking for ways to fill the gaps…and sometimes, that never happens.

I think I’ll follow-up with this little boy. I think I’ll try to show him that he is a child special to God, special to the world…and worthy of love. The fact that I cannot get him out of my mind must mean that my seeing him sit on that rock, alone and forlorn, looking for the father who never came, was not a mistake.

A candid observation …