So, on this day that we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his compatriots, I don't want to blog about him. Because everyone else is. Logical or not. The truth is, we don't celebrate this day particularly as a family. We celebrate MLK, Jr., his work, and all those who stood with and for him and since him, every day.
Every day when we look at our daughter, who according to the world's standards and the conditions the early civil rights afforded the black race in the US, should NEVER have been our baby.
We celebrate the strides these men and women made when we sit and laugh with friends we couldn't have hung out with in our home 60+ years ago.
We feel loved by friends when they share with us the hurts, disappointments, and discrimination they have lived through as a condition of the color of their skin.
When our son at 5 years of age said he could not imagine a life without his sister and a sister with Jerica's black beauty (because that would be a boring family), our hearts soar with what is SUPPOSED TO BE.
What is RIGHT, LOVELY, and FAMILY.
And we get this in a way that words cannot express, nor is it a feeling that can be contained in my head or my heart. And we are forever changed. I try to live a life that remembers MLK, Jr. and his sacrifices, receives the blessings of the civil rights movement, and makes proud the people on whose shoulders Keith and I stand--and depend--as we raise our children of 2 different races and genealogies. We want them both to know where we would be without the work of these heroes and heroines. Where we'd be? Without Jerica. And that is a sad, emptiness I can't even fathom. Yet one we've all had to face.
So. Here I am. On MLK, Jr. Day, blogging about it, about him.
There's a word that has been rolling around in me for some time. The word is SILENCE. I referenced this some in an earlier post about raising children with mental illness and how much it hurts when life-long friends go silent in your lives. That silence leaves a vacancy as you miss the friendship, miss the unique people, miss the history your families have shared, and miss the support you once thought would not wane.
Where this term SILENCE and MLK, Jr. coincide for me today, is in the following quote:
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Seeing this quote again today from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded me of these last few months of unrest following Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Eric Gardner's death in NYC, Tamir Rice--only 12 years old, Ezell Ford, John Crawford III, and the list could go much longer. Unarmed men and children. Tragedies, all.
In the early days following Michael Brown's death and the unrest and protests that filled our news feeds, news channels, and papers, I sat and watched it all. And prayed. And cried. I didn't post a whole lot during those 1st days. Questioning posts popped up from some of my black friends a few days in. Some posts were heartbreaking, some were sarcastic, and some were angry. My black brothers and sisters wanted to know where were their white friends? Where were their Christian friends who claim to value all life? Why were WE not speaking up FOR THEM and WITH THEM in the face of prejudice, hate, stereotyping, blaming and judgment, as well as the sheer LACK OF JUSTICE.
And those are EXCELLENT questions. Questions they should be asking of us. Questions we should be answering for them.
I told my friends who pondered these things, that I was only remaining SILENT for the moment. I wanted them to speak freely, to share, and to say anything and everything they needed to say. My friends needed to lament and scream and shake their fists. I didn't want my SPEAKING to hurt them further, to interfere with their grieving processes, and I didn't want my SPEAKING to come from a place of ignorance or misinformation. I told these friends that I would stand and walk with them.
Any time. Any place.
There is a time to be silent. When we don't have all the answers, when we don't understand what we are seeing or hearing, when the tears and sobs drown out words, when we haven't walked in someone's shoes, when tragedy takes our breath away--those are times when SILENCE is warranted. Silence is warranted when words are said simply to fill space. Words that only serve to fill a silence that you are uncomfortable with as a listener should remain silent. Words should love, encourage, challenge, and support. People often do not wish for or appreciate advice from anywhere and everywhere. Most people want to be heard. And validated. So, there is a time to be silent.
But only for a moment.
ONLY after really and truly listening, should I begin to speak. And that speech should be with words that are affirming, acknowledging, encouraging, and supporting these friends and families I love. Words and questions that seek answers, that seek to educate, that seek to unify, that seek to bring healing--these are the words that should move us to break the SILENCE.
I know the pain of silence. Silence that judges and abandons. I've been silent at times. Sometimes to listen. Listen and validate. It should never be interpreted that I won't speak up. I will stand up for and with my black friends, my black neighbors, my black daughter and all of my children's black friends and their families. Sometimes silence means I'm listening, that I'm walking right here beside you. Supporting your arms when you feel weary.
But I do not stay silent forever. I do not stay silent for very long. And I hope you can hear and receive my words now, whatever your color, culture, or beliefs. For my friends, neighbors, but especially for my son who knows life no other way than as it should be, as it is. And for my daughter who sometimes is spoken to differently when someone realizes her parents are white even as she is fully black. And we witness. And educate. And hold closer.
Staying quiet and staying away, are both SILENCES that hurt. And this SILENCE hurts even more when it's from our friends and family, much more than from our enemies.
I hope I've never done that to someone who needed me to show up and speak up. Yet, I'm sure that I have. Before I knew more, understood more, loved more. Before I listened more. For that I apologize deeply, and I hope you can forgive me. And join hands with me in speaking the healing words and marching out the actions that communicate volumes more than our filler, empty words ever could.