Charged rhetoric. Resegregation. Terror Attacks. Cop funerals. Black lives that don’t matter enough.
I weep for our world.
And as tears roll down my face and pool in my heart, I see the mirrored reflection of my humanity. Of our humanity.
Staring back at me is mi abuelo y abuela. Not mine by birth, but by my sister’s marriage. Growing up I remember their parties. Loud laughter; welcoming hugs; lively discussions; late night dancing under hanging lights; endless bowls of arroz con pollo y homemade mole. More than their parties was their presence: no matter what my brother-in-law and sister went through, they were there. They were there for Dave and I too, gifting us with a suite for our wedding night (espero que ustedes están leyendo esto porque quiero darle las gracias: gracias Abuelo y Abuela). And they were there in our home too. Mexican skin and tongue brought together by holiday family fests–the only translator needed was Mom’s chicken spaghetti or sweet potatoes. Brown Mom and White Mom were assaulted equally by breast cancer, and they quilted the tapestry of their hands together to comfort each other’s pain and fear. I, white, am them, Mexican; and they are me.
Staring back at me is the predominantly black fellowship that cultivated my formative years. Singing “black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in his sight” carried more potency when I held all those colors of hands and merged into all those colors of voices and hugged all those colors of bodies. I prayed with them. I ate with them. I served with them. I drove through ghettos with them to play volleyball. I dated them. I lived with them. And the rhythms of their souls and the swagger of their hips and the passion of their hearts became my own. I, white, am them, black; and they are me.
Staring back at me are the Muslim girls for whom I was a camp counselor. I greeted them with Allahu Akbar. I found reverence for their careful attention to cleaning rituals before meals. I saw the Divine in their five calls daily to prayer. I learned respect for their self-governed choices to cover their heads. I enjoyed the beautiful way they let go when they felt completely free. I, Christian, am them, Muslim; and they are me.
Staring back at me is the multitude of students who are at-risk in this world that should be guarding them. Their color and race does not matter, for they are united by the bedrock of poverty upon which others’ American dreams are built. They don’t go to the doctor when they are sick because it is too expensive. They are sequestered to schools where their success–and failure–is reduced to numbers. They hide in closets during territorial shootings outside their doors. They care for their mothers who have been beaten by abusive spouses. They work jobs at night instead of doing homework in order to keep their family together. They are pushed out of their neighborhoods by the oozing white tentacles of gentrification. They hide in drugs or gangs or sex because they have no other way to cope with the dark reality of their lives. And everyday I show up to educate them, but end up instead being taught by them. I, privileged and safe, am them, disadvantaged and poor; and they are me.
Staring back at me is my nephew-in-law. Day after day for years he has pursued a variety of assignments in his local police vicinity: first security detail, then cop, now detective. With a heart of integrity, he serves his community to build trust and security and prosperity for all parties involved. On his social media feed, he likes his black best friend’s white wife’s post of an image of their mixed son with the hashtag #mysonisnotahashtag. Meanwhile less than 800 miles away from his home, three cops left their wives and children in the morning never to return. He is not the enemy. They are not the enemy. There is no he or they. I, civilian, am him, officer; and he is me.
Staring back at me is the weight of my white privilege. To write a statement like “I am … and … is me” is something that I, a white woman, can get away with. I have a position of power that I recognize. But I also refuse to let it cloud my vision and steal my light.
I am done with lines and borders and binaries that cut bloody scars across communities.
Black/white. Legal/illegal. Cop/civilian. Muslim/Christian. Republican/Democrat. Poor/rich. Them/us. You/me.
They are us. We are them.
I am you. You are me.