“Houston, we have a problem…”

I couldn’t resist that line for my title, but let me be clear, our problem is a communication problem. We do not hear or understand each other. Right? You must see it. On this day after the election I see it profoundly demonstrated on my facebook feed as friends far and near are coming to terms with the aftermath of the results. There is much spewing and name calling and anger that does not know how and where to land its blows. And there is some celebrating, some relief expressed, and some gloating too. I made a promise to someone on that social media outlet that I would be part of the solution, part of the healing and the uniting and the good–not part of the demonization and destruction. Making that promise does not mean I won’t talk about what is sticky and uncomfortable and makes me squirm to reveal–not knowing how it will be received. However, it is that kind of thing is what we need to learn to do better, to be vulnerable to the degree that we expose our hearts and then hope we will be heard and understood. And to then take a turn to listen, hear and understand in return.

In that spirit, I have a message now to my friends and family and others who have supported Trump and are celebrating today. Please tread gently on the rest of our hearts.

Some of us are “never Trump-ers”, or Bernie or Hillary fans, and our hearts are broken and bruised today. Besides the normal grief of loss (which I hope we recognize could have been yours had Hillary won) there is another pain we are feeling today. This is what I want to know you understand: When we see you celebrate Trump’s victory, we think you are speaking the same message of hate and fear we  understood from Trump’s campaign.

Please understand that I opposed him based on character issues. I saw him denigrate women, make fun of the disabled,  disrespect the American muslim parents of a war hero, I heard him propose to build a wall along the Mexican border and threaten to deport EVERY immigrant family (legal or not), I heard him threaten to limit access to our country based on religion (causing me to fear for freedom of religion), threaten freedom of press and the right to free speech, and I heard how he talked of “the blacks, the Mexicans, the muslims, the gays”, etc. in a way that felt offensive and decried compassion or humanity, and failed to account for the greatness of this country’s diversity.

So because that is how I saw him, that is also the message I see and hear when you celebrate his victory. Ouch. In Trump’s victory, we who opposed him hear a resounding cheer for narcissistic, antisocial, misogynistic, sleazy, racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, immature, impulsive behavior. What we hear when you say “Make America great again” sounds like a code for a return to the 1950’s when the best and safest person to be in America is a white middle-class male. Really, we hear that and it makes us afraid.

Unfortunately, you may have noticed that much of the response today by “anti-Trump” folks on social media has not been kind or mature. I have seen us completely abandon the message of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.” It has been thrown out the window today with ugly memes and name-calling.  For that, I sincerely apologize. It is wrong to vilify you just because we are hurt and afraid now.

So, this is hard, because I actually do not think most of you are sending that message at all. I suspect most of you are not filled with hate for people different from you, and perhaps you are not willing to go back to the way life was in the 1950’s at the expense of all who are people of color or different ethnic origins. I think perhaps you have hopes and dreams that you have not talked about and you believe that Donald Trump as president will help. I think you share in some kind of ideology that makes room for all and considers the values and the constitution our nation was founded on.

Would you be so kind as to help us understand your true message as you celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief and talk of moving forward? Would you help your still troubled friends, family and neighbors see that you believe in a country that is big enough for all, and that you are willing to help bring understanding and unity across our divides? Tell someone what your heart’s hope in this new presidency really is? Try and unhook it from the rhetoric and the nasty memes. I will do the same.

Now, I ask all those in my social media circles who did not choose Trump to also choose to believe that perhaps hate and fear are not the victors here, or they certainly don’t have to be. I don’t ask that we ignore the facts when they are evident. But let’s try to be slow to anger and quick to listen some more to each other.  We have a lot of work to do as a country. Are we up for it?

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Dear President Elect,

On this, the morning after, I woke up with a few burning thoughts I would like to say to you right away, before you get caught up in starting your term and fulfilling all your promises to us, the people you will govern for the next four years. I heard you say that you will be a president for ALL Americans, and I want you to know that we  (both the people who voted FOR you and the ones who voted AGAINST) are going to rise up as one and hold you to that promise every second of your term in office. I woke up with a passionate realization that we here in the United States are a government by and for the people, so here are a few things the people expect of you.

In the United States of America, we like to elect a grown-up for president. And so, Mr. Trump, no matter how wild and strong your inner little kid feels in any given moment, we expect that you will choose to act as a grown-up man. That means when you are in an important discussion with anyone– your constituency, or your political opponents across the aisle, or with any leader of a foreign state (ally or foe), it will NOT be okay  for you to plug your ears, and stick out your tongue, literally or figuratively, and cry out  “No, no, NO, NO, wrong , Wrong, WRONG!” There will be no calling names and no petulant arguments or pouting. There will be no disrespect to women or to latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ folks, the disabled, or imigrants and the marginalized. We expect your inner adult to step up  with a cool head full of respect of the office you hold, and LEAD. We expect you to listen and to speak carefully, calling forth the wisdom of the last couple of centuries that embody the role of President of the United States. If this is difficult for you, we expect you to find the help you need in order to do this. We will stand and be that help as is necessary. This will be important to you as you govern, and it will be important to us and our children to see you model the kind of behavior we have consistently taught and expected of our fellow citizens.

Another thing we the people will stand together and expect of you is–You will NOT fundamentally alter the nature of who we are as a people. Sure, we are a country full of rogue individualists. From our foundation, we were rebels with a cause, people ready to rise up and fight the system. It is therefore only fitting that the majority has chosen you as our next leader–hoping you will buck the system in all the ways it needs bucking. BUT, and it is a big but, we do not give you permission to change the good character of our identity. We are a nation that calls out with a loud voice across the oceans from a high tower, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” That much loved saying on our Statue of Liberty is who we are! We are not changing that just because we elected you. This is still a country of welcome. We are a diverse nation, one that offers hope to the outsider, help to the needy. We are a people of freedom–including freedom of religion (both the ones we practice and the ones we don’t) and freedom to pursue happiness as long as it is fitting with the law–for all ethnicities, all languages, and all skin tones, genders, and ages. We do not choose to change that identity for you.

My last burning thought for you now is this. We expect that you will make good this unique opportunity afforded you to take us to a better place as a country. We need healing from the hurt we have already experienced during this long election cycle. Many of our hearts are bruised and battered and worn out. Some of our hearts are jubilant and exulting. We need you to guide us through the transition of power in ways that will not bring more damage, but raise us up to a higher good. So we will look to you to be kind to your people, recognizing that for many there is deep fear and uncertainty in what is coming next for us with you at our helm. We expect that you will learn as you go, and with our help you will find ways to give voice to the unheard cries for help around you . We expect you to choose a type of leadership that will help bring us together and not crush our spirits. We expect that your decisions will bear all of us in mind, and that what is good for some will not ultmately harm others. We will step forward in an attitude of collaboration, and we expect that you will receive that effort humbly and graciously.

With all respect to you, and for the excellent tri-part system of government we hold, we wish you the best. We EXPECT the best, and if we do not get it, we will exercise our freedom to make a different choice as soon as we can.

Sincerely,

a loyal citizen of the USA

Choosing Sisterhood

Recently I attended a reunion of my Hope College sorority and had a blast! Through social media we had started to re-connect but it had been far too long since many of us had seen each other face to face! So, through social media we grabbed the opportunity to plan, organize, and execute this weekend reunion. What a joy it was! We all edge on one side or the other of age 60 (yikes!!), yet we found ourselves giddily reliving our college years as hints of our college sorority personas were awakened. It might have looked a bit scary to outsiders (i.e. our neighbors, children, spouses, co-workers, and other friends)  but to each of us, our inner college student was still alive and well and wanted to come out and play!

IMG_3341The whole reunion gang

Friday evening,  we stepped away from our everyday lives to a lovely vacation cottage on the Muskegon River in Michigan. As woman after woman arrived, in cars, minivans and campers,  there was hugging and laughter and story telling. A gentle thawing conversation over grilled meat and shared salads was just the beginning.  Over the next 24 hours, a wonderful transformation happened that is sweetly lingering in my spirit. We all seemed to draw parts of our youthful selves–mischievous, raucous, idealistic and joyous–into our more mature, experienced, perhaps cynical, and now evidently aging bodies and minds. It was refreshing in a way that a fountain of youth might be, had we discovered it.

It had been well past 30+ years since any of us had been college students together, but we had one glorious weekend sleepover to remember what that was like. All day Saturday was spent under a tent with tables set for food and drinks. Adventure began in the morning for those non-wimps among us. The Muskegon River called and ten sisters answered with their cheap plastic backyard pool-style inner tubes and floating devices. The weather was moderately warm, and the threatening major storms to come seemed far away. So the adventurers drove a couple of miles up river to embark into the river and let the current carry them back to us (the Wimps) at the dock of the cottage. Within minutes, the rain started and the temperatures cooled a bit. Those of us enjoying great conversation and snacks (the Wimps) gathered under our umbrellas and strained our eyes up the river to get a line of sight on our tubing sisters….Two and a half hours later, the first of them came into view. We pulled each shivering and purple-lipped adventurer out of the water and got them wrapped in towels. Apparently, the current was fighting them with alternate direction and it took swimming and kicking and paddling to get themselves back through the increasingly falling rain and the chilling temperatures. Thankfully, all survived to tell the story.

IMG_0376The river adventurers

IMG_3285The Wimps

We shared a delicious, warming lunch and continued to catch up on our current lives and reminisce our past. Soon, guitars came out and we sang. Where besides church can you do  that? It was delightful! We were a group of women who had shared the camaraderie of song in college and we still sounded pretty darn good together. We attempted to remember and sing our sorority songs, and then moved on to the classic oldies. One particular sorority song required a chorus-girl line up with high kicks. None of us remember ever being winded after singing that song in college and at each other’s wedding receptions, but even those of us in the best shape found ourselves needing to catch our breath afterward.

The sky darkened and the promised storms came in waves for the whole rest of the day. We were very lucky that the worst of it hit south of us. There were power-outages and tornadoes touching down a few miles away. We stayed relatively dry under our party tent, and the wind got only bad enough to blow some rain on us and our food. Our spirits did not dampen and the weather did not matter. We were determined to enjoy this precious chance to be together. We ate our catered dinner and lingered over drinks well into the evening , swatting mosquitos and continuing conversations that reconnected valuable friendships, and started some new ones.

I cannot stop thinking about this remarkable weekend. Here we were, women for whom friendship might have been unlikely without our shared membership in one local college sorority. We were quite a hodgepodge of women–working and retired; married, single, divorced and widowed; mothers and childless; pro-Hillary,  pro-Trump, and pro-“let’s just skip this election.” We were scientists, administrators, artists, PhD’s, teachers, musicians, therapists, medical professionals, professors, pastors, entrepreneurs, and homemakers. We were mostly people of faith, yet each held to various types of expression.  Although we were not together long enough over our reunion weekend to truly start to get on each other’s nerves, it felt that something bigger than ourselves would have held us together anyway. What was that something?

The only answer that comes to me is this: We made a special agreement with each other when we pledged loyalty to our little sorority. That agreeement said that we had become family with our new sisters. You don’t always get to choose family, but you do have to live with them, honor them, respect them. You often share a name, and our name had become Alpha Gamma Phi. That commitment has lasted and superceded all else 35-ish years later. It meant that each of us can rely on the other, if for nothing else, to be a friend. It doesn’t matter that we may not always understand each other or agree with every opinion or life choice, personality style or behavior.The really great thing is that we get to be sisters with such a wonderfully quirky and diverse group of women. How boring it would be if we were all the same.

 So then, I got wondering, what if that same truth could work in other aspects of life? What if a similar  commitment could actually hold our blood families together? Our communities? Cities? What about our nation? What if it were true that commitment to something larger than ourselves actually works in establishing order and kindness, tolerance and forgiveness, and good for all who participate? I just can’t stop wondering.

If I could travel back in time to my college years, I would pledge my loyalty again to this sorority  in a hot minute. And now I ask all my Alpha Gamma Phi sisters, when is our next reunion? Let’s start planning now, girls!

Movie Weekend

During this past Memorial Day weekend we saw two movies, a tradition born out of too many cold and rainy Chicago Memorial Days to trust the weather for outside events. This weekend certainly was the exception weather-wise, but we go to the movies over Memorial Day weekend no matter what. We usually like to see the big blockbuster action films on such a holiday weekend, but this time we chose a couple of smaller, less marketed movies, and found them quite enjoyable.

What I am truly looking forward to, however, is another movie being released in the fall of this year that may also be considered less than a blockbuster type, Loving, which made its debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews and Oscar buzz. Directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, Loving tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the real-life couple whose interracial marriage in 1958 led to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision banning laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Interestingly, I researched the Lovings back in the early 1980’s when I was considering dating my  husband, Garrett, who is African-American. I read all about Richard and Mildred Loving, and also about a host of other couples who either dated or married across racial lines. I wanted to build a case, at least in my own mind, that it was possible to succeed in an interracial relationship and that life as an interracial couple would not be completely fraught with harassment and turmoil. When I learned that there would soon be a commercially released movie about the Loving’s story, I cried. I had forgotten the significance of their story, and now that I have been married interracially for almost 30 years I am struck by a couple of things about that landmark Supreme Court decision and about this particular couple.

What strikes me the most now is that the Federal decision did not come until 1967! Wow, that is only 12 years before I met my husband. Maybe as a 22-year old those twelve years seemed a long enough time to establish rights secured by this court decision. Now however, I realize how short twelve years really is. From the vantage point of an idealistic 22-year old young woman in love, 12 years must have seemed like half a lifetime–because it was!

The other thing that is fascinating to me now is what is said about Richard and Mildred Loving themselves. They did not set out to change the world. As a matter of fact, they were  unassuming and private people who had met in a small community in Virginia where everyone knew everyone and there was no segregation. Their relationship grew out of time spent together and as they got to know each other, they fell in love and decided to get married. They would have preferred to quietly raise their children and grow old together, to not have their name permanently posted in front of “versus” in a lawsuit or be any kind of lightning rod for change. Instead, they were arrested in the middle of the night, dragged out of bed and taken to jail. They were told they could not live in Virginia (where their extended families still lived) for 25 years. One thing led to another and a legal battle ensued, finally leading to the Supreme Court decision to overturn the remaining laws on the books that prohibited interracial marriage. But what is remarkable about their marriage is how ordinary it was.

When Garrett and I met we also had no intention of trying to change the world. We were not interested in making a scene, causing a revolution or rebelling against tradition. We simply cared about each other, wanted to be together and knew of no reason that we should not. We became one more story of a couple living an ordinary life, continuing on a path carved by those who went before us, thus helping make the next decision for the next couple seem normal and ordinary. I wonder whether it really is just ordinary people quietly living their lives with integrity who are responsible for all the positive change in the world. Perhaps it is people willing to put one step in front of the other, live by principle as best they know how, and follow God’s prompting, who are doing all that is necessary to make a difference in the world.

What are some ways you are making an extraordinary difference by living out your life in ordinary ways? I hope you will consider seeing Loving when it comes out in the fall. Put it on your list!

 

 

 

When Wearing Words…

Last Friday I received the new shirt I had ordered a few weeks ago. I excitedly opened the package at my office where it was delivered and expressed delight to see the bold colors and heavy cotton of the t-shirt I had been waiting to receive. Boldly emblazoned on the front it says “Black Lives Matter” and then right under that is says “Imago dei”–Latin for Image of God.  Someone nearby looked over to see what I was so excited about and immediately said, “Oh, those people are all crazy!”, dismissing my enthusiasm outright. It occurs to me on this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday that I need to be ready with a defense and disclaimer for wearing  words on my chest. In case you see me out in my new “Black Lives Matter/Imago dei” shirt, and we don’t have a chance to have a friendly chat, here is what I do and do not intend to communicate:

First of all, I intend to affirm that the lives of all black people are valuable, precious and important. Worthy to be loved, made in the image of God. I think that truth sometimes needs affirming, especially by someone who looks like me. Some of these black people are my family–my husband, my bi-racial children and my new brother in-law. Some are my neighbors and friends and co-workers. But some live across town in another neighborhood. Some are from all sorts of neighborhoods in Chicago. Some black people I intend to affirm live in Englewood–one of the most difficult neighborhoods in the city in which to stay alive. I am also affirming the value of all the lives of black folks around the world, in every continent. Those who live in countries that experience tragedy that does not make the front page of my newspaper often. All black lives matter.

Secondly, when I wear my shirt with words, I am saying that for too long we have stood on the sidelines while a disproportionate number of black people are arrested, jailed, and/or shot by some of the people who have sworn to protect and serve. I simply recognize that is the case–for too long and too many times. I  intend to bring attention to that because I do want our society to put better checks and balances in place to regulate the authority that we must give to our police and our government. Authority is needed, of course. And laws must be upheld, of course. There is simply a need for attention and correction when it becomes too easy to devalue a group of people in the name of caution or self-defense. Too many lives have been snuffed out unnecessarily.  I would also say to you that I understand this is a complicated issue and that there is no one simple solution to both deconstruct systemic racism and keep the good construct of wisdom, courage and self-protection in place for those who uphold the law in our communities. We need to work hard and carefully together to come up with a way to do this.

What I am NOT saying when I wear my Black Lives Matter t-shirt is that all police are corrupt racists. I am not denying most on the police forces around the country are  some of the most self-sacrificing courageous people on the planet. I do NOT intend to take away the honor or respect that the job of protecting citizens and upholding the law involves. I am so grateful that we do have such people in place who truly do serve their communities in ways that go beyond the call of duty.  I am not saying that I uphold anarchy and violent disrespectful protests that diminish the value of those very same police and government workers.

When you see my shirt, I do not intend to tell you who you should vote for or what party you should be affiliated with. I don’t really care. I also do not intend to communicate who I have voted for or what else I believe to be important in today’s political climate. And to be clear, just because I may choose to wear my Black Lives Matter shirt, I am NOT saying that I agree with everything that everyone else who has ever supported the Black Lives Matter movement believes, says or does. Just ask me if you want to clarify something.  I simply like the words, “Black Lives Matter/Imago dei”.

FullSizeRender

Call me crazy, but I  hope that we can choose to say such words as “Black Lives Matter” to honor and bless our brothers and sisters in the human race who have suffered, both in the past as well as the present. I have a dream that we can see such words and not feel like the jealous sibling at a birthday party who cannot stand someone else getting some attention for a bit. Instead, it will be a sign of freedom and growing up for us all to give each other a turn to be honored and blessed. Yes, Black Lives Matter!

 

 

Taking the Long Walk Across the Room

My husband and I were talking about the meaning of words the other night. Words such as racist, white supremacist, white privilege, and systemic racism. I bet we all have an idea of what those words mean. I also bet that we each give them slightly different meaning and weight depending on our own experience with them. It seems that many of us white people have had the idea that part of the definition of each of those hot-button terms is intentional evil. And for so many  Caucasians, since we have no intention for evil toward anyone as far as we know, racism must be rare and unusual. But, for people of color,  whether the racism that they experience on an almost a daily basis is intentional or not isn’t nearly as important as the fact that it simply IS. They know that racism still exists and it still leaves its mark. That disparity of understanding racism and all its forms is where we have much work to do, my friends.

The kind of work I am talking about involves building bridges of understanding through listening to each other’s stories.  I have had the privilege of being a part of two kinds of bridge-building in my life.

The first  has been my long-term incorporation as a white woman into a brown family. Living with and loving a person of color and becoming a part of his extended family certainly helps me gain an appreciation for what it is like to be in his skin. I have gotten to hear the stories of growing up as a black male in the United States from his distinct point of view. There was not one “Aha!” moment for me where I suddenly understood everything he ever experienced. Instead, it has been a steady journey of gaining eyes to see life from his perspective, and it has changed me. Hearing story after story of life experienced as a black male has eroded any sense I may have held that racism is over, done with, and in the past.

The second kind of bridge-building I have gotten to see and do involves the community of faith around me. My family has been part of a very diverse church for the last 29 years. When we started attending shortly after getting married, we were one of a handful of families of color in a sea of white people. Somehow we hoped that as this fellowship grew, the many diverse people groups in our local area would eventually be represented in equal percentages at church. Thankfully, that has happened!

However, recently this community is discovering that it is not enough to just enjoy what we look like on a Sunday morning, rows of people in a multitude of shades and hues worshipping together. It really is a lovely sight to see, but, one of our pastors challenged us to move beyond the “window dressing” of diversity.  We look all diverse and pretty together, but how many of us really know each other, share meals together, understand the struggles we each face? How many of us do what a friend refers to as “taking the long walk across the room” to really know someone of a different race or background than our own?

This fall we have been a part of 3 remarkable evenings of conversation around the topic of breaking down walls of racism. I say remarkable because this kind of thing does not just happen without intentional risk-taking and choosing to set aside time and energy to be vulnerable together. People chose to gather and share their stories–stories of pain and hurt as well as joy and change. We were white, black, asian, latino and mediterranean, sitting in a room together, talking, confessing, asking questions and moving a few tenuous steps closer to each other. Tears and laughter flowed.

Let me tell you, though, it was HARD work. As a white person in this multi-ethnic gathering, I was acutely aware of how my words could be healing or hurtful depending on how I used them. I felt a profound desire to listen rather than explain, to accept and receive the pain being described all around me. To acknowledge that the pain of my brothers and sisters is real. It felt important to just be there. To struggle with words–to ask questions about what is okay to say. As white people we often are quick to “know” the answer, to solve the problem, to move on. This time instead, I chose to sit with it, to hold it in my heart, to let it steep deeply in my soul.

This was only a beginning. I wonder, will we be able to continue, to move beyond beginnings and do the real work of healing, understanding, relating and knowing each other?  In the spring this community will make another go at “taking the long walk across the room” with each other. It won’t be easy, it will require intentional setting aside of our time and comfort. It might get messy on the way. That is okay, messes can get cleaned up, and I am in for the long haul!

 

 

 

Dear Caucasian People

Yes, you. I am one of you. We are us. Still the majority-ish in our country. For a little while longer. But guess what? The thought that our majority status is rapidly coming to an end does not bother me at all. Perhaps that is because I have lived for the last almost 29 years in a family of brown people, and by familial association, I left the majority years ago. Now, don’t get me wrong. I did not abandon my heritage, or my race, I love my heritage. I just did what all people do when they get married, I became one with my husband and his heritage as well.

Garrett told me before we married that if I married him I would, in a sense, become black. I didn’t quite get that at first. But here is what he meant. We as a couple, as a family, would only be able to go where he could go, live where he would live, and thrive as fully as he could thrive. Was I ready and willing to do that? It was the 1980’s, I thought, times have changed. We can do this, I can do this. And so we have, we have been family for these years, and I would not trade these people, my people, for anything or anyone. I love them. By loving them and living with them–being part of an extended family of African-Americans, I have learned a few things along the way.

I have had the wonderful advantage of getting to be a student in the best kind of environment. I am loved, I am a valuable part of my family, and I am given the grace to make mistakes, to be awkward, to be uninformed about what it means to be a black person in this society. And I have been awkward and made mistakes.

Case in point, I remember my husband first, and then my lovely mother-in-law and sisters-in law warning me how important it was going to be for me to learn how to take care of my daughters’ hair. Oh, yes! I understood, of course, how this was a big deal! I was enthusiastic in my assurances that I could handle this task. I, who have practically bone-straight flat smooth hair that generally takes just a few minutes to get presentable enough to walk out the door, did not really know what I was saying. Fast forward a few years to 7:00 a.m. getting 2 little girls ready for school. I regularly underestimated the time it would take to de-tangle and braid or pony-tail or brush out those two cute, but thick, curly heads of hair in time to get to school before the bell. I underestimated the power of a crying child who yelped in pain every time the hair pick came within inches of her curls. Just look at all the elementary school photos of my youngest to see the shame of me, having forced her to hide a tangled glob of hair inside a giant pony tail day after day through her early school years. Major fail.

The lesson I learned there was humility and respect. I needed to humbly understand that I could not so easily learn and appropriate the experience of hair-care for black women over the centuries. I needed to respect that as a white woman, I had a lot to learn from my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and their mothers and sisters and grandmothers before them. Most importantly, I needed to learn that I needed to learn.

My husband’s mother and sisters wanted to see that I, their new white daughter and sister-in-law, could appreciate the history of beauty and hair for black women. That I could respect the work that goes into cleaning and conditioning and combing and styling all kinds of African-American hair so that the wearer could be proud and confident of her beauty. That there was such a thing in black women’s vernacular as “good” hair. That my daughters, by virtue of their genetics, may have been blessed with “good” hair. But really, that there is no such thing as “bad” hair on African-American women! That they can glory in all the natural beauty that God gave them, despite the impossible white standard of beauty that requires long, straight golden locks. I needed to show that I understood the cruelty of a standard that regularly disregards the “kinky, nappy afro.”

And so, dear Caucasian people, we need to talk. We do NOT always know everything that we think we know,  you see. We do not truly know what it is like to be a black person in the United States in 2015. But, we can, with humility and respect, begin to better understand  our neighbors, friends, and co-workers who are people of color. In order to do so, however, we need to care about them, to care what has made them who they are today,what has hurt them or been unfair to them and to their families. We need to choose to listen, really listen, in order to understand what we cannot know by our own experience.