I'm pretty liberal, progressive, tolerant, accepting...all those nice, fuzzy things. I'm also pretty proud of that fact and pretty proud that I am raising my kiddos to be the same. Every once in awhile, though I realize that, perhaps, I still have a way to go. This post is full of not-so-fuzzy admissions so please forgive them and know that I am just a little girl trying to make it in this big, crazy world.
If you would have asked me ten or even twenty years ago if I was supportive of gay rights I would have said, "of course, they are just like us" and I would have been happy with that answer. Here is the rub, though - those seemingly innocuous little words that break through to the real truth. They and Us. By using dividing words, I was showing what was deeper than my conscious beliefs. I thought I was accepting, I voted and talked and taught acceptance, but did I really, all the way down, believe that I was, perhaps, maybe, just a little, better than "them?" Looking back, I can't point to any examples, but I might need to admit that a feeling of superiority might have been there. I have had the privilege over the last year or so to get to know on a deeper level many homosexual individuals and families and with that familiarity has come an internal breakdown of walls that I didn't even know were there. I will say that I am much closer today to truly seeing We instead of Them and Us.
Now, what on Earth has gotten me thinking about all of this? Race. Specifically, the Trayvon Martin verdict. I am not going to get into that other than to say that I think the real travesty is not that the verdict was not-guilty or the act of violence in the first place. The real travesty is that Zimmerman apparently acted within his rights. The fact that the Florida laws allow a man armed with a vehicle, gun, and police backup to kill an unarmed person on foot is the real problem that needs to be addressed. Whew, for not getting into it, that was a lot said. Sorry.
It is no secret that I love our President, but there are definitely times that remind me just why and his impromptu remarks on the verdict are definitely one of those times. If you haven't seen them, it is totally worth the twenty minutes to do so. The gist of the speech is that we have room for improvement and until everyone can admit that, we are going to continue to have problems. There are still truths that African-American men, in particular, live that color how they see the world around them and unfortunately, too often, those are negative truths. The fact is that, even today, if President Obama were to walk down the street alone, many people would not let him get close enough to even see who he is because his gender and the color of his skin would blind them well before he was close enough to ID.
Much like the homophobia discussion, I thought I was well passed the race discussion. I have a lot of "checkmarks" in the boxes of race equality - I have black friends and co-workers, Tracy and I tried to adopt a black boy, I dated a black man, I live in an area with a lot of black people and knew that when I bought the house. But, I realized during Obama's speech that I still segregate in my thoughts. They and Us. When black teenage boys walk past my car while I am unloading groceries, I watch to make sure they keep walking. Would I do the same thing if they were white? I'm not sure, that hasn't happened that I remember (predominately black neighborhood, remember). I do know that I have had thoughts when getting to know and like a black man that he is different than I expected. So why do I expect black men to be "bad" and white men to be "good"? I know that at least part of the reason stems from a negative experience I had growing up, but to place blame there is really a cop-out and serves no purpose other than to slow my growth down.
What do I do with this knowledge? I don't know, yet. I'm going to spend more time pondering. I really, truly want to judge all people based solely on what they bring to the table as an individual, not on their physical characteristics or to whom they are attracted. I welcome any advice!