I wasn't sure if I should even write about this. The world is so volatile right now. No matter how eloquently I express myself, I fear I'll be misunderstood or worse offend.
But peace doesn't come from fear of judgement. It comes from understanding. Understanding ourselves, our emotions, understanding others, their emotions. And then using that understanding to create something better.
So here is my messy trail of emotions... spilled out in hopes of gaining my own understanding and creating change in my own heart.
I've experienced so many emotions through this social uproar. I suppose it started with sadness. Then as the rioting began it morphed into anger and frustration. As I followed the varying opinions and stories, movements and experiences on social media my emotions mixed all together. And I am left feeling sad, frustrated, profoundly ignorant, and completely helpless.
I'm sad because of the heartache and loss so many have experienced. I'm sad because I know our American history, and in my ignorance I thought we had risen above racism. I'm sad because of the division and destruction I see happening in America, pushing us further and further away from unity and acceptance. I'm sad because I see good men and women who have dedicated their lives to protect ours being demonized. I'm sad because I don't know what I can do about it.
I'm frustrated because I'm being labeled racist simply because of my skin color, regardless of the fact that I have never done, said, or even thought anything racist my entire life. I'm frustrated because I'm being asked to apologize for my skin color, for sins (crimes I completely abhor) committed by people that aren't even my ancestors. I'm frustrated by all the violence. I'm frustrated because I feel pressured to join a side when I don't believe there should be sides. I'm frustrated because posting something on Facebook to prove I'm not racist seems small and insignificant, and racist in and of itself. I'm frustrated because I don't know what I can do about it.
I'm feeling profoundly ignorant. Racism is taught, and I never received that lesson in my family. I asked Santa for black baby dolls for Christmas as a child. My favorite drawing subject was women of color. I had Navajo cousins, (still do) and I never even thought to ask why they looked different from me. But, I just recently learned about Rwandan Genocide. My heart broke when I learned of the Anti-semitic shootings in Jewish stores earlier this year. I had no idea some people still hated Jews. And I didn't believe racism existed anymore. Not in America.
I was wrong. I just learned that this year.
I'm feeling ignorant because I don't know what I can do about it.
I'm feeling helpless because I believe that most Americans aren't racist and most police officers are good. I'm feeling helpless because somehow saying that makes me racist? I'm feeling helpless because this is all such an ugly mess and I wonder if we will ever be able to get back to loving each other. I'm feeling helpless because I'm sad, and frustrated, and ignorant and I don't know what to do about it.
I feel like America is in this moment, the moment when you're deep cleaning or re-organizing a room and you start pulling things out, emptying cupboards, drawers, behind drawers, under beds... and the whole room looks worse than before. You pause and look at the mess, overwhelmed, unsure if you're making any progress at all. But if you keep moving forward, little by little, one evaluated object at a time, things start to be put back together... better than before. Some things may be thrown out, old and useless for the new space. Some precious, dusted off and saved.
I'm looking around at this terrible mess, knowing we can't just tuck things away and hide them under the bed anymore. No more ignorance. So little by little I try to keep moving forward in the small ways that I can.
I will no longer let fear of judgement paralyze me from evaluating the mess. I won't let peer pressure guide me in what I should do next. I won't let the fact that I can only focus on one seemingly insignificant thing at a time keep me from trying. I won't listen to those telling me that if I am not on the streets or social media protesting that I am racist. I won't listen to those telling me that if I am quiet I am fighting against them. Just because I don't fight the same way you do doesn't mean I'm not fighting. I will no longer let the fear of saying something wrong, of adding to the mess, keep me from pulling my own stuff out from under the bed to examine it.
Peace comes from the heart. I can only start with my own. Empty my own drawers, in my own life, my own town, and see what is useless and what I need to hold precious.
So, what CAN I do?
I can be more loving and inclusive. I can be more accepting and inquisitive about other people's lives and experiences. I can be more loving and inclusive of EVERYONE. Color, culture, religion, political views, even personalities and backgrounds.
I can become EDUCATED. I can push against my own ignorance, read books about past world events, know what is going on in the world. Research the facts, not just ingest hearsay. Listen to people's experiences, ask questions. Seek to understand all sides of the story.
I can PRAY. I can pray for those suffering. I can pray for understanding, for enlightening experiences, for opportunities to meet and love different people. I can pray to know I'm doing all I can. Because if God is happy with my efforts and what is in my heart, then so am I.
I can TEACH BY EXAMPLE. Children don't see in color. In kindergarten my daughter came home and told me about her amazing new friend who was the smartest person she knew because she could speak Spanish and English. My heart almost burst. I also remember when my little one came home from school after learning about the civil rights movement. She was heartbroken. She was appalled. She didn't know racism existed. My heart almost burst.
Maybe we can learn from our children. Maybe sheltering them so that racism doesn't grow in their hearts isn't enough. Maybe being able to recognize it will give them the power to fight it when the time comes. Maybe we can communicate about it, about how far we've come and how far we still need to go. Maybe it starts with learning to love and accept ALL the kids she goes to school with, not because they're Hispanic or Tongan or Black or White, but because they're human. Maybe we can teach love instead of tolerance.
I can be that kind of mother. I can openly communicate with my children. I can learn from them. I can teach them to fight racism and ignorance while teaching them to be proud of the pale Scandinavian skin they inherited from me. I can teach them to love others and themselves. I can teach love not tolerance.
Hearts have to change, and nothing will change until we de-clutter our own hearts. Until we pull out and examine every part, little by little, until we are satisfied with what is in them. Until we've thrown out the useless and held onto the precious.
When our hearts have been de-cluttered, we will have more space to love others and we will start to see change because we will be the change.
That's what we can do.
*If you have differing thoughts and opinions, please reach out. Let's communicate civilly and understand one another better.
Hi! I'm Amy
I am a Christian wife and mother, a writer, and a recovering perfectionist who is tired of chasing happiness in all the wrong ways. I am now on a journey to find a deeper state of being. Join me on My Peace Project and we'll learn how to survive the chaos together!