Letter from a Privileged White Girl

It was all over the news this weekend. Inescapable in conversations. Blasted on social media- images of thousands of people gathered, scrawled signs pumping in the air, voices going hoarse from chanting, a sea of people silently crying out as they lie down in the streets.

My heart aches. I must admit, I don’t know how to respond.  

To my neighbors. To the people I brush shoulders with in the street. To the thousands of people that are feeling oppressed, my heart aches for you.

I hear you.

I see you.

I don’t know what to do.

Because reality is, I don’t know what your reality is.

I don’t know what is like to not have white skin.

What is like to be treated with knee jerk suspicion everywhere I go.

To feel like entire systems and infrastructures are set up to my disadvantage.

I do know that this is not how things should be. This is not how it was meant to be.

I am sorry for my ignorance– for being oblivious to the injustice that stares you in the face everyday. For speaking about racism to my third grade students in the past tense- as as part of our history that Martin Luther King Jr. “fixed.” As an ugly part of our history that is not a thing anymore.

Please forgive my lack of awareness– my homogeneous background, that continues, through passivity. I do not share life with people that are much different than me. I must admit that has been easier to surround myself with people who think and act and look like me.

Please forgive my human heart that is prone to create dividing lines, quick to throw out an “us and them” mindset that perpetuates the current circumstance we find ourselves in.

Thank you for bringing to the light the oppression you have been feeling, the things which have been, for me as a privileged white girl, behind the scenes all these years.

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So, I have this small garden in my backyard, that has sat neglected for these past few months. Brittle tomato vines twisted in the corner. Rotting produce that I never picked blanched and mushy sit forgotten in the dirt. Once rampant weeds now lie dormant, carpeting the plot of land that was so verdant and alive just a few short months ago. I had been ignoring it, half-heartedly adding it to a long to-do list each time I walked outside and glanced at the sad looking joke of a garden. It needed to be acknowledged. More than acknowledged, it needed a Gardener that would come and uproot the dying plants, remove the rotten and forgotten eggplant and crunched up basil. It required someone to come, willing to get their hands dirty and clear away the debris. To remove the festering and moldy so that new life will be able to start fresh next spring. In the midst of my labor, I saw the parallel. Oh how we need this in our country. In Ferguson. In New York. In my neighborhood. In our hearts.

We need to do the messy, humbling, and uncomfortable work of reconciliation.

To uproot that which is not bringing life- that requires bravery. It means acknowledging. Stepping into the uncomfortable. Grieving- all the stages of grieving.

Reconciliation requires seeing things for what they are. And asking for forgiveness. On both ends. It means being stripped bare, going low. Things may feel barren for awhile.  But maybe, after the downpour of weeping and quiet and subtle healing of time and lots and lots of listening, new growth will spring up.

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Again, I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to respond.

But I want to.

I am here.

And I want to listen.

To see the change of clenched fists into interwoven hands held fast.

To see the breaking of glass be replaced with the breaking of bread at the dinner tables of strangers turned friends.

To see the breathtaking transformation of the barrenness neglected garden into a bountiful beauty, ripe for harvest.
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But I need your help.