8.12.2017

Help me, please.


In the wake of white supremacist gatherings, rioting, and violence, will someone please help me explain these things to my kids.

Help me explain to their cousin, who is the best basketball player my kids have ever known, that she will likely be paid less because she is a Black woman, despite the fact that she will work harder and be more educated than her peers.

Help me explain to their cousin, who can play any tune by ear and analyze NBA efficiency statistics in his sleep, that he should develop a healthy fear of the police because he could, at any time, be targeted because the world sees him as a tall, Black man.

Help me explain to their cousin, who plays shortstop and point guard like his dad, that the Japanese Internment memorial he attended earlier this year illuminates the same America that marches with torches and claims an America that wants to drive people like us away.

Help me explain to their cousin, who already writes poems and stories, that people will not expect her to speak her mind, to exude confidence, to preach because they think she should know and keep her place, and that if she dare speak the pidgin her mother speaks, they won't listen at all.

Help me explain to my daughter, who is equal parts princess and soccer star, that there are people who will tell her, "Go back where you came from" even though she was born here, but she speaks Spanish and her racial ambiguity provides her with some privileges, but she will never know when her passing-privileges will be revoked.

Help me explain to my boy, with inexplicably long eye lashes, that there are people who do not see him as American, because he is brown, because the names Ichiro and Nakada identify him as "other," and that the immigrant status of grandmother on one side, and great-grandparents on the other, some how make his citizenship worth less.

Help me explain that people in this country hate them, hate us, because we live in cities, and we value diversity, and we want to help others who have come to our country for a better life, and some people are threatened by the expansion of the American Dream.

Tonight, with images of burning torches and hate-filled faces peering at me, I need help explaining it to my family, but next week, I will also need help explaining it to my students, to the black and brown and white faces who gaze up at me when I ask a question. They hope I will have the answers, but I don't have them, and I don't know who does.

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