Wednesday, July 13, 2016

GOOD BONES




All week, I ached to lie down on a blanket with my babies and welcome the sun into our little circle. We had plans for the park but it was closed so we let the girls lounge about for a little bit while Sloane shared her book with friends, and then went off to the playground for sweaty romps through pretend forests and dives in the imaginary sea. 

So here's where I am. I'm incredibly sad about the news from last week regarding more incidents of police shootings - black people being profiled and shot by police officers, and about police officers being targeted and killed. The sadness feels endless. 

I wasn't going to write anything at all for fear of it being trite and pat, but writing is how I process and I need to process this. This is my point of view.  

It stunned me because I viscerally felt in my chest, my bones, how unfair it is. I'm not saying we live in a world where all things are fair, I'm saying we live in a world where we look back at horrific injustices that have happened in the past and say "Oh thank God we have come a long way from that" ...until a moment where we realize we haven't. We really haven't.

I imagine a different world, where I get into a car, I'm driving around and then I'm  stopped by a police officer. Being stopped by a cop in itself is a harrowing experience, but then I imagine it is a white or black cop and he is looking at me with eyes that first see the color of my skin, Asian, and that in this different world, Asian is a color that carries with it the weight of history, of injustice, of violence, and in that moment I can see the instant judgement in his eyes, using his own personal experiences as his road map, and I can't do anything about it in that moment to change his mind. I imagine the fear - of being detained, of the unknown, of wanting to do the right thing, of the anger that boils at the surface, of the confusion, the miscommunication. And then, just like that, a shot, mistake that can never ever be reversed, and the whole world shifts. 

I'm proud to be an Korean-American, happy to be Korean, to be Asian, to be American, to be a traveler, and now to be a Richmonder. I'm grateful for the community we have of various people. I'm delighted by our differences. Because that's part of what makes America wonderful, right? The different stories? The way that varying people of all backgrounds and races and ethnicities and socio-economic status can have a story and be heard in a country like this? It is...Until it isn't.

I don't know what it's like to be a police officer, but I imagine that there is fear on that side too. Fear of who might be in the car, of not being able to go home that night to your wife and kids. It can be terrifying and can make you do stupid things. But it's a different kind of fear than the one that is living in the person who doesn't have the authority to make a person get out of a car and put their hands in the air. It's different than a fear that lives in a person already marginalized by society. 

I also don't know what it means to be black. Asian is different than black, especially in this country, and most of my grief comes from imagining what it would be like to carry a burden that is yours, but also not yours. To feel like you're yelling, but not being heard. To wake up and hear about a horrific tragic thing that could have been you, for no reason at all except for the color of skin.

Fear can be helpful, or it can be completely irrational. One thing I know: fear does not justify racism. 

There's more because it's not only about race - oh yes it is VERY much about race, but it's also about who has the power. There are black police officers who let fear and racism dictate their decisions, too. There are Latino and Asian cops that were shot down in their car last December by a black man who expressed anger about police shootings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. A month later, a white policeman was ambushed in his car and shot by a man who felt a similar anger. And so many more incidents of retaliations and probably even more incidents of unjust stops and killings that we don't know about. It's complicated but it's also extra heavy because the kind of racism that comes up in these sorts of cases is intertwined with a power issue: who has it and who doesn't. And why.

Here's the thing, and this might not sit with everyone's politics, but it's my soapbox. What we need is education and conversations to open our eyes to the reality of racism, and to teach and practice true empathy. We need to listen to each other, and more than that: we need to seek out the voices and stories that will help us understand. And there is also a kind of racism - not all, but a kind - that comes from economic inequality that feeds into the fear, and by that I mean that there is a majority of black people in prisons, in the projects, panhandling on the streets, playing the bad guys on tv shows about bad neighborhoods and drugs and guns and so on. Whether you believe that is a result of social construct, politics, or laziness, it doesn't matter, let's use every single means available to diminish that disparity. 

And here is why I believe that: because my faith clings to a Savior who came to redeem us, who came to provide reconciliation for all people, but while he was here, he was especially passionate for the marginalized of society. He preached hope for all people, but I think his favorite people to preach this hope to were the ones who needed it the most - the people on the outskirts. I love him for that. 



This post is a post about something incredibly real and sad and it also has photos of my kids at a playground. Which seems real. That's the juxtaposition of my life. Because I'm processing all of this as a citizen of this country and of this world, but I can't help also process it as a parent. I think about how this is the world I must raise them in and I am forced to consider how I will explain things to them. Most importantly, how I will explain hope to them. 

You know what my epic life is going to be? It's going to be raising these children, and creating moments of community and letting each of those moments feed this hope monster that lives inside all of us, starving for attention and nourishment. I think my job both as a citizen and as a parent is feed this hope monster: with words, discussions, speaking up, supporting programs, laws, protests, education- whatever it takes. 




I've been reading this poem over and over again after a friend sent it my way a couple of weeks ago. It's called "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith, who is also a mother. It resonates so loud and deep within my sadness, and helps me hope.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

2 comments:

  1. wow Christine, so beautiful and so well written

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well said. Way to share this.

    ReplyDelete