As is evidenced by my virtual absence from here for some weeks, I’ve been having trouble knowing how to write about what’s going on in our country now. I finally had to just sit down at the keyboard, not knowing what words would come out of my fingers. They seem to have a mind of their own, one that only wakes up and makes itself known when I start to type or hold a pen in my hand. I do know that this passage of words through and out of me is necessary to my survival. I hope it is also of value to others.
What’s going on
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
I am a white woman who has always thought of herself as aware and connected to the injustices inflicted on people of color in America. As a descendant of too many murdered in the Holocaust, I have an innate understanding of what it means to be discriminated against.
That being said, I am embarrassed to admit that it is the rash of police killings and “Karen” stories hitting the news that have brought me to understand how surface has been my awareness of the daily realities that people of color deal with. Some days ago, Don Lemon spoke with the aunt and cousin of Duante Wright. I had heard his first interview with the aunt, Naisha Wright, the day after Mr. Wright was shot and the sound of her voice brought me back to the sound of Arthur McDuffie‘s mother mourning her son, beaten to death in Miami in 1979. That kind of raw and recognizable grief transcends race.
But it was Mr. Wright’s eighteen-year-old cousin whose face and words touched me the most deeply. As she sat silently beside her mother for the initial part of the interview, what I first saw was a closed, sullen teenage face. But as she started to talk, her face opened, and I got a glimpse of what it is like for a young girl to have grown up afraid, not just in a car, but walking down the street. She never feels safe, whether it’s driving while Black, walking while Black, or even just living while Black in her own home.
A day or so later, I heard a young Black man, in another interview, say that when he sees one or two white people coming down the street toward him, he crosses to the other side, because he doesn’t want his mere presence on the same sidewalk to draw up their fears and inspire them to call the cops.
A couple of night ago, I was on the phone with a friend. “I’ve hiked my whole life,” he said, “wandering all over by myself. When I told another friend I was thinking of doing that this weekend, she said, Oh pease don’t. It’s not safe for you to go alone. I’m 67-years-old,” he went on. “I’m afraid to go out and take a walk in my neighborhood at night. I feel like I’m living in South Africa during Apartheid. I was going back to the office with a young man I work with the other evening after dark, each in our own car. He was racing along the streets at 40, 45. I called him. Slow down, I told him. If the cops stop you, a young white guy, the worst you’ll get is a ticket. If they stop me, I may never go home again.”
It breaks my heart to know both he and his friend are right.