I Wonder

woman sitting at the end of a dock looking out at the water

I married a man who often has a swirl of controversy about him. It seemed like a good fit because I was the skinny girl on the playground who faced down big six graders for being unkind to the Brown third-grader from India. If someone made fun of the child who was wheelchair-bound with hydrocephalus in the hallway of my elementary school, I had no problem stomping my foot and glaring at my foolish classmate.

Loving others was what I heard preached on Sunday mornings and was taught in Sunday school classes. In 1963, when the four little girls were killed by the bombing by a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated racist group, I don’t remember that being talked about at church.

I wonder what the minister would have said if he had chosen to speak?

I remember in 1965 watching armed police on horses brutally attack Civil Rights demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. I don’t remember a sermon or Sunday school lesson about Blood Sunday.

I wonder what the minister would have said if he had chosen to speak?

I remember watching Eugene “Bull” Connor’s German shepherd police dogs! The fire hoses turned on against children, knocking them to the ground and spinning them down the street! After they turned the hoses off, they brought out German shepherd dogs and chased the children down the street. I don’t remember anyone talking about this.

I wonder what the Sunday school teacher would have said if she had chosen to speak?

In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and the greatest wave of social unrest swept the United States since the Civil War. I watched the burning of cities and rioting across America on the television for years. I don’t remember teachers or adults in my world talking about this.

I wonder what our youth ministers would have said, if they had chosen to speak?

In the spring of 1972, my roommate and I moved home because of race riots on The Ohio State Campus and on our floor in Baker Hall. I had been seasoned to this trauma for over a decade. So, I ate it. I did not talk about it.

I wonder what I would have said if I had chosen to speak?

Today, the question my adult children ask is, “How did the riots in 1972 end?” “Did the riots just stop?” I tell them that I don’t remember.

The truth is, I have not had to know or speak or remember because being white gives me the privilege of not needing to know.

Lisa Sharon Harper is writing a new book called, Fortune. I watched her June 3rd IGTV (Instagram) episode (@Lisasharper) and wrote out every word. It’s that important to me. She can trace her family history back ten generations to 1682 in Maryland. (In case you have your D.A.R. papers, that is a big deal.) She addressed over and over again throughout our country’s history that:

“America could have chosen humility over domination. America could have chosen honor over exploitation. America could have allowed First Nation individuals deference instead of genocide.”

It is a stunning speech accounting dozens of atrocities of harm endured by people of color. I felt stunned by her kindness and mercy. If I had suffered for centuries what she has endured, my heart would not have been so generous. Her invitation is clear when she spoke her heartbreaking refrain again and again: “They could have chosen wholeness and humanity, but they didn’t! They could have chosen wholeness and humanity, but they didn’t!”

For such a time as this, it is my choice to speak. It is my choice to, once again, stand up against bullies and not be silent. I choose wholeness and humanity. It is my time to speak of my white privilege and listen to people of color and their experience.

I wonder what I will say? I wonder what you will choose?

Originally published on Red Tent Living.