After a year of loved ones worried about safety abroad, I returned home and saw one of the most abhorrent scenes unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia in breaking news across every television station. For readers who may not be aware of what happened, there was a protest of the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, as well as a rally for the “alt-right,” which had been advertised beforehand and included groups of Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and white supremacists. There was a second group of people standing against the hate-fueled group. In the end, a white supremacist sped his car into the crowd, killing one woman and injuring many others from the opposing side.
During the first week I was back in the States, I remember being floored by how many Confederate flags were waving proudly outside houses and tied to trucks in the backroads near Columbus, Ohio as I drove to a family function. I had a hard time stomaching the blatant reminders of hatred from a time in American history that I typically feel removed from in my everyday life. As I drove past the flags, I thought, “This is 2017. Hasn’t everyone grown out of that kind of hatred by now?”
The subsequent events in Charlottesville are a massive reminder that not everyone understands that all men and women are created equal.
People around the earth are so similar, despite unique cultures, languages, and different skin tones. To hate someone of a different skin color is to hate your brother, which I believe is hating part of yourself in a larger picture. We are all one, and need to recognize this so we do not repeat the unfathomable events that have already happened in the world we share.
It was hard for me to read about the news in Charlottesville, but I believe it is my duty to stay informed as an American and world citizen. After trying to take it in, I told a friend that I wished I could help, but I did not know how. That is part of what I would like to share with you today, because I am sure there are many of you who, just like me, have a heart to help the common good but may not know how. (These are just a few ideas. There are many other things you can do.)
My friend and I spoke about the importance of talking together about racism and other issues in order to promote long-term change. I expressed that I never want to say anything wrong in such important conversations. Even though I grew up learning about the Civil Rights movement, the Holocaust, and white privilege, I rarely ever spoke about it. For a long time, I assumed it was most appropriate for me to listen and not speak on the subject, in case something came out wrong or uninformed on my part. My friend told me that we still have to have the conversations. Things may get messy, people may misspeak or say something hurtful, but it is absolutely important to have the dialogue. We can go into those conversations with loving, open hearts, and hopefully any uncomfortable moments will be teachable moments that help everyone learn and grow.
We also discussed using our own gifts. She suggested that I write a post, which you are now reading. Whether you are having a conversation on someone’s porch, attending a time of prayer or event, writing, or photographing people, there are little things we can do to help the big picture and show that we are one and that racism is not acceptable. I encourage you to think about what you can do.
These are just a few ideas, and there are many more things you can do to combat racism and hatred. Please add your own ideas to the comments below so we can share with each other.
One last thing – I often think about my nephews and how their minds are sponges. I am keenly aware that I am modeling things for them with my words and actions. Even though I do not have children, we all play a part in raising and teaching the next generations about the world. I invite you to keep that in mind and realize that we can help protect our country and world from such hatred by teaching our kids about love, kindness, acceptance of others, sharing, and using their gifts to promote goodness instead of evil in our world. Just a little food for thought.
Note: Photos are street art from Tel Aviv, Israel and I think they are fitting for this post.