I woke up this morning to the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I read the articles and I watched the videos and my guts twisted up while I drank my coffee. I felt myself becoming impassioned, mentally composing a response filled with angry words.
But I did not have time to sit down and write those words because I was busy raising my six children. Three boys. Three girls. Two white. Four black. All mine.
Instead of writing about oppression, I cut waffles into bite-sized pieces and poured glasses of milk.
Instead of writing about injustice, I braided my daughter’s hair and folded her clean laundry.
Instead of writing about inequality, I rubbed sunscreen into my son’s black skin.
Instead of writing about violence, I watched a back-flip contest in the deep end of our swimming pool.
Instead of writing about hate, I loved my children.
At the end of the day, after everyone was safely tucked into bed and I sat alone in the darkness of my living room, I was ready to give voice to the thoughts that had plagued me since sunrise. I opened my laptop and was appalled to read the news reports about Dallas. Eleven officers shot. Four officers dead.
Sitting there in the quiet, I realized I was no longer filled with anger. Anger is a secondary emotion, after all.
My anger had dissipated and in its place there remained a deep sadness. I felt sadness mixed with a touch of fear and a burning desire to affect change.
And at the absolute core of it all I felt love.
I love my children with a fierceness that startles me at times. I love them wholly and completely and profoundly. I see in them the possibilities of tomorrow.
It pains me to realize some people will see only the color of their skin.
Someone will miss out on my child’s compassionate heart because they notice only the shell in which it is housed.
Someone will miss out on my brother-in-law’s gentle soul because they notice only the police uniform he wears.
But, as I remind my children time and time again, we are not in charge of Someone. We can not control other people’s actions. We are only responsible for ourselves.
Instead of focusing on what Someone is doing wrong, I am going to focus on what I can do right. I am going to focus on love.
Love in my words. In my actions. In my home.
This is where we wrestle with the broken. On the couch where my daughter rests after coming home from school. She asks about Trayvon Martin and I must decide how best to answer her. Where we recognize the phrase “love is colorblind” for what it is: an insufficient band-aid for a centuries-old wound. Where we celebrate our differences while we discuss how those same differences might need to shape our behavior.
Around our dinner table. Where I invite a friend to sit across from me as I ask him the hard questions. How does the color of your skin change the way you experience the world? What do you think of the Black Lives Matter movement? What do I need to tell my son about living as a black man in America?
At our family gatherings where I listen to my brother-in-law discuss his career in law enforcement. He uses words like “hostility” and “turmoil.” I hear the fear in my sister’s voice as she talks about the nights her husband works late and she doesn’t know where he is. I learn the code for their alarm system. The alarm system they were forced to install because of threats he received while in the line of duty.
Something has to change.
This change begins with me. It begins with you. It begins with our children.
Change begins with love.
The change our country needs can only be achieved if it is rooted in love.
Love is a verb. How will we be love to this broken world?
We must talk. With words bathed in truth and kindness. We must listen. With open hearts willing to receive each other’s stories.
Fear hides in the silence. We can not remain silent. Our words will shine a light into the darkness. We can say, “Here, right here is where we have gone wrong. There, right there is where we can do better.” If I talk to my children and you talk to yours, we can bring about change where it matters most: in our families. A toxic river can not flow from a pure headspring. If we change the source, we change the world.
This is not everything, but it is something. It is a beginning.
Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Let us be an example of the light and the love our world so desperately needs.