I sit in my chair, reasonable and upright, falling apart inside. I eat semi-sweet dark chocolate chips one at a time. The mouth-body happy they bring me feels a dim reminder of how I used to feel here in America, before Donald Trump was “elected,” before he began trampling lives and and Earth- and citizen-protecting regulations, before the novel coronavirus swept through our cities and towns, before the unchecked systematic racism in our country finally blew the doors down. I want to weep all the time. Weep that I haven’t been awake sooner, sad I’ve been awake one layer, but with countless more to awaken. Wishing I could help more right now.
I pull myself up onto my lap the way a parent would to read a child a bedtime story. I stroke my head, kiss the top of it and rest my face there. What can I say? How can I find words? This love comforts us both. That’s always how it was, holding my daughter. I wondered if that was selfish, much the cuddles helped me as much as her. I’m just so sorry, black America. So sorry for your countless losses and recriminations, so glad to be part of a white America in masse at last coming to our senses.
Forgiveness. It is all I have. How can I do otherwise? To blame is to ignore my own darkness that stares me in the face. I could have done more, and sooner. But I was afraid, and I was selfish, and I punished myself mercilessly and hated myself for these things. I’ve known for a long time what has finally, truly landed in my conscious mind front and center: Not being racist is not enough.
When I found the part of me that resisted taking action for others, I found she both despised me and didn’t want to forego her safety and happiness, the small slice of heaven afforded me. But she knew that made me pitiful, and had decided I therefore wasn’t worthy to live a real life, the life of achieving my dreams, taking risks, living big, because only brave people do that, and here I was, being un-brave.
I’m just guessing that the self-loathing that the greedy and the racist and the selfish hurl at themselves with great stubbornness is one of the greatest blocks to our progress. I only know this from tapping into these places in me, like this one.
Some places in me only get willing to change for my daughter. They won’t forgive myself for myself, because they are 100% sure I’m not worthy to forgive. This one, for instance, she was just stubborn as a mule. But, as I understand it, my daughter and I shared a lifetime where she was a slave and I was the daughter of the plantation owners, and that I didn’t do anything to help raise her up.
So this time, I told this intractable lazy selfish one inside me, this time we can do something. Will you take action for her? I’d tried everything else, and only this made her change her mind. Yes. Yes, I will.
What’s in it for me? A real life, I’m pretty sure, and the end of self-hatred, at least from this particular self. What’s in it for black America? An actual ally, the one they’ve never had from me, though I’ve loved black people and wished for their wellbeing for a long time. But action? Sacrifice? These come new, I’m sorry to say. New and only because of my love for my daughter. But then, what haven’t I been willing to heal for her? She inspires me to be a better human.
Thank you, Hannah. There’s nothing else to say. Only do.