American Skin

3 years ago

My blog started out as a blog about being a mom. Grace and Lea's mom to be exact. Thus the name GandLmom.

Over the years it has evolved, but I always try to inject a tidbit about being a mother in each post. Try.

Writing my daily assignments for NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month, and using the writing prompts, has taken me to some very interesting places. However, the perspective is mine, so inevitably, it comes back to me, being a mom etc.

Today, the writing prompt is about Ferguson, MO and the aftermath. Specifically I am prompted to write about the most important/powerful hashtag or account I read about this event and why it affected me.

I don't have one. To be honest, I read very little about this and I watched very little coverage. I did this on purpose.

HOWEVER: I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I know he is not everyone's favorite, but boy is he mine. He did an episode last week on this very topic and it has since been re-aired. I watched it again. I just now watched it for the third time, online, in advance of writing this blog.  

In essence, his take on the entire subject of race rings true to me. I am white. Most of my family is white. I live in Northern California. However, I have a niece and a nephew of mixed race. I cannot help but think of their faces when I see a situation like the one in Ferguson. At the end of The Daily Show Jon Stewart said, "...if you are tired of hearing about this, imagine what it is like to live it...”

Yes, let's imagine. Imagine that no matter your class or position in society, if you are black you have faced some sort of indignity, from being unable to get a cab to being stopped and questioned just for walking into a building. This happens every, single, solitary, day in America. Like it or not. The white perspective is skewed and monumentally irrelevant to black America. I have watched my sister raise her children with a nod toward what their life will be like as well as deference to what they are deserved of. Equality is not discussed as a privilege, it is a right, but with a face of color, it may not be meted out in equal measure and they have to be aware of that fact. My heart aches for the discrimination they face for no reason. My nephew is a wonderful young man. He does not put himself in situations where his skin color is going to dictate how he is treated. Or does he? In his life, with past and present history as an example, EVERY SITUATION IS OPEN TO DISCRIMINATORY REPONSES. That is so sad. And wrong.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called 41 Shots (American Skin). It is a poignant song that cuts to the heart of racism. In my town, a young Hispanic boy was shot by a Sheriff's officer. The boy was carrying a TOY gun. An airsoft gun that looks like a machine gun. As this child was walking across an open space, the officer saw him and called to him to stop. The boy turned toward the officer, with the gun still in his hands, and he was gunned down by the sheriff’s officer. My initial response was as a mother. Horrified. My next reaction was as a white woman, with a familial understanding of race in America. Why did this boy not know to drop the gun? Why was he EVEN OUTSIDE with this lifelike toy? My last response was as a human being, living in a world that sees every action as an assault on our INALIENABLE rights and that all of these "episodes" must be met with violent protests. Deeply saddened.

I have no answers. I only have my experience. My perspective. And most powerful, my desire for my girls to understand that they are living in a city, state, nation and world that sees people through eyes tainted by ignorance and born out of racism. It is a fact that their cousins will have a different experience walking to the store at night than they will. Their understanding of that will serve to open their eyes to how damaging snap judgments and superficial labeling can be. Maybe they, like me, will see J and P's faces in their head when they see, hear, watch or read about some of these DAILY occurrences in our racially charged world. It will help them to develop their own opinions on this highly volatile subject.

Denying this is our reality is intolerable. Another Jon Stewart quote, "Just because it snows where you live, it doesn't mean the world isn't getting hotter".

Of course this quote only rings true with you if you believe in global warming.

Which, not surprisingly I do.

But I believe in Science. And I also have a bit of a crush on Neil DeGrasse Tyson. So that's where I am coming from.

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, "On these streets, Charles
You've got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite
And that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"

Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife)
Is it a wallet (is it a wallet), this is your life (this is your life)
It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret)
It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

PERIOD. The End.

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