Underneath the Layers

My Cousin Carolyn, sturdy woman that she is, emailed from Minnesota yesterday, “We had a blizzard Wednesday night through Friday and got 5.5 inches of this lovely, fluffy snow with high winds, so the drifts are everywhere…..wind chills for the next three days are going to be -30 and even -50 in some areas of the state! I ventured to the mail box to mail some bills and get yesterday’s mail and froze my balls off!”

Another cousin once descibed winter clothing she endured as a child in the Midwest, “We wore long underwear and over that we put on long stockings that were held up with a parachute harness type of garter contraption, wooly type of snow pants and buckle overshoes, jackets, wooly caps, wooly mittens….I remember how cold my toes would get.”

One of the best parts of a Montana winter that I remember was the winter thaw in March or so. The temperatures would ease, the sun would come out, and suddenly we’d have only patches of dirty white instead of the white blanket that covered everything. It was a muddy mess, but it would always expose a few toys we had left outside in October–old friends, uncovered.

We live with layers in our lives. I think one gift of the last four years has been the stripping away of some of those layers. We had openly white supremacists in the White House, advising our President. They’ve always been there, but we’ve never seen them as much as we did in the last four year. They’ve come out from under cover. It’s right in front of us.

My white friends are grappling with the Black Lives Matter movement. I am amazed at how many of them arre reading books on the subject and asking questions. They’re looking for actions they can take, support they can give. My son and his family have a Black Lives Matter poster in the front window of their city home. A dear friend, a gentle friend, recently said to me, “You know, I never thought I’d ever say this, but I think I’m racist.”

Me? I’ve always longed for some neighbors who would move into my neighborhood and give it some color and diversity. On the other hand, it is so easy for me to avoid talking or thinking about “racism.” Those issues are happening in other places, not here. And then I read the words of a large black man who describes not feeling safe to take a walk around his city block unless he has his little white, fluffy dog on a leash in one hand. and maybe his young child holding his other hand. Never alone. And I remember every single black parent in this country who has to indoctrinate their children on how NOT to attract attention, on how to avoid any suggestion of suspicion. How can we think this is an acceptable way to live?

A friend once told about a festive dinner party she and her husband attended with several other couples many years ago. The host told an ugly racist joke. Everyone laughed, but not my friend. The host apologized to my friend’s husband–but not to her. She now regrets not speaking up. When I asked her if the same thing happened today, would she speak up?

“Well, of course I would!”

We’ll continue to hear those kinds of comments, but they’re much subtler now. We’ll hear criticism of black athletes who risk their careers to protest the continued killings of unarmed black men and women. We’ll hear someone lump together all the destructive behavior under the Black Lives Matter banner, even though millions marched and protested peacefully. We’re getting better at being able to hear the racist comments. Now it’s time to speak up, as well as find ways to support action for change.

Lots of mud and dead plants and mess under the layers of melting snow, but glimmers of hope and growth, too!

“A distain for history sets us adrift, and makes us victims of ignorance and denial. History lives in and through our bodies right now, and in every moment.” –Resmaa Menakem