Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Can We Just Start from There?

Back in May of 1996, I attended a conference in Greensboro to
discuss racial relations, the ways in which people, black and white,
relate- or don't relate- to one another, and how this could be
improved. I do not recall the name of the church which hosted this
all-day meeting, but I do recall very well some of the feelings I had,
both during and afterward, as I listened to the voices of some very
angry black sisters and brothers talking about the special problems
faced by those in the black community which we white people
never face. At one point, late in the afternoon, I went to the micro-
phone to share my frustration with the assembly, saying- haltingly
and with deep emotion- "I don't know what it is like to be black, but
I hope you will believe that I am trying to understand, trying to be
part of a solution, trying to be part of building a better community
for all of us"...or something like that. The exact words elude me all
these years later, but I can still feel the sense of frustration and
sadness which welled up within me...the feeling of not being heard
because of the color of my skin, of being discounted because of that-
all of which, in retrospect, was an existential lesson in what it must
often be like to have a black face in an all-too-white world.

When I got home, I sat down with my journal and what emerged was
a poem of sorts, which I ran across quite recently as I was cleaning
out some of my closets. Reading it again, in the light of all that has
been happening over the past two decades since this conference,
over the past several years in our recent national history, makes it
feel very current to me, as if the words had been written yesterday
or today...as if they had only recently emerged from my heart and
from my pen. And so I share them with you, (with apologies if this
speaks too much from my white, heterosexual  privilege.)

A Beginning
I am a woman.
I was born that way...
   it was not a choice I made,
   an option given me...
   to be or not to be female.
       It is who I am...
             as surely as you are a man.
My skin is white.
I was born that way...
   it was not a choice I made,
   an option given me...
   to be or not to be white.
       It is who I am...
              as surely as you are black- or brown, yellow, or red.
I am heterosexual.
I was born that way...
   it was not a choice I made,
   an option given me...
   to be or not to be heterosexual.
        It is who I am...
            as surely as you are homosexual- or transgender or queer.
I know I cannot get inside your gender...
   inside your skin... inside your sexuality...
      As for walking a mile in your shoes-
      they don't fit me and I stumble and fall...
             get up and fall again.
I want to know you...
I'm willing to try to understand...to feel...to hear your pain...
   to walk with you.
Please don't shut me out because of who I am...
   don't turn me off...
   don't look away...
Please don't discount my being who God gifted me to me...
   Female...
   White...
   Heterosexual... true.
But I can't help being me any more than
you can help being you.
It's something that we share, you see...
    You created you...
    Me created me...
                     SO-
CAN WE JUST START FROM THERE?

No comments:

Post a Comment