Ears to come
It is not peaceful, it’s powerful.
I’m feeling it. Are you?
I’m feeling the walls coming down inside of me. The walls crumbling a little more with each book I read of black lives, by each black face I see on a video sharing his or her thoughts and pain.
There are many people helping me see better, helping my walls to crumble. The people marching, protesting, disrupting. Thank you for speaking and shouting, for crying your injustice, for showing me the videos, the photos, reminding me of your history, putting your face in my face. And even, yes even, tearing down our statues erected to celebrate bigots.
Thank you to my granddaughter, who shared with me, and with her family, the video created by the descendents of Frederick Douglass this fourth of July as they recited the speech he gave on another Independence Day, July 5, 1852. I watched their young black faces, these young people caring enough to deliver the speech, to prepare the video to the world, to help us understand. You may have seen it, it’s out there now. Here, if you haven’t.
I am a writer. I write of my own family history. I write white. I write of my Norwegian immigrants, immigrants who arrived on the American shore of their own free will. I was born on the pedestal of privilege handed down to me generation after generation by my white ancestors.
They sailed from Norway to New York in 1846. A fast trip for the time, eight weeks, eating the food they packed in barrels and boxes on their homeland in Norway. 92 fellow countrymen in one long belowdecks.
Were their feet shackled?
My people trudged North and then north again until they clung close to the northern border of this country. They found land, cut down trees, cleared stumps and debris, built a log home, they sweat and shivered.
Were they forced by gunpoint to travel to the far North?
Were they building a home for their masters?
My great-grandfather had seven children, four boys, three girls. They were sturdy and learned to work hard and help with the chores of household and field.
Were the children sold when they were old enough to work?
Were the girls prized in a particular way by their owner?
My grandfather struggled to eke sustenance from his labor, worked long hours on his fields, growing crops for family and beasts.
Was he paid based on the production of the crop?
Did he then go home and work more hours on his own small garden plot, for his own family?
Was he ever prevented from voting?
The answer to all of these question is No. It is more than “No.” It is “No, of course not.” It is “No, why do you ask such a thing?”
It is “No, who would do those things to another human being?”
Whether or not my great-grandfather was involved with the Wisconsin residents efforts in helping over 100 escaping slaves to freedom in Canada; I don’t know, records are few. But my great-grandfather’s oldest son enlisted and was sent to fight in the Civil War at age 17. He fought with the Wisconsin 15th in the battles to hold Island #10 in the Mississippi River. Then he died of chronic diarrhea at age 17.
Today, I want to be out there with the protestors. But I’m 82 and I’m afraid of Covid-19, afraid of the heat, afraid of my undependable feet. So I won’t be marching today, but I can write. My audience may be small, but I can keep this subject high in my and my readers consciousness. I can watch for black faces in the park where I walk and I can say so glad you are here.
I don’t know how this information revolution, this time of protest is going to develop. There is much to do officially, re-purpose the police, open education opportunities from kindergarten to graduate school, welcome black faces in art and industry and technology and yes the world.
It will take more than laws. We have laws, laws we have ignored, or found our way legally around them, or decided they weren’t meant for us. It’s easy to see and to hate white supremacy; harder to see its mate, white complacency, sitting on the sideline.
This revolution is going to take all of us together, black and white. And the more we get to know each other, to respect each other, the more effective we will be in making change happen. Sympathy, shame, rage and fear? No place for that, no time for that. Black and white marching together declares that we’re working together. Authors and bookstores, news stories, videos, bloggers, social media exposure, help to keep the story going, to confirm our purpose.
I am feeling the walls crumbling in me. Oh, there’s rubble. There’s a lot of rubble, we’ll stumble and sometimes fall, but it’s rubble, not a wall, we can clear it, gather it up and use it for mulch in our garden and keep the flowers brilliant and the vegetables strong.
Thank you to the outraged.
Keep marching. Black and white, keep marching together. My grandchildren, keep marching.
Keep writing. Despite my supposed literacy, open-mindedness, curiosity — I have read so many stories I never heard before, seen history I was unaware of, watched horrors I had ignored, all in the last month.
Keep Showing. Videos, movies, TV series, with black faces please.
Keep Promoting. Editors, producers, blog writers, bookstore owners, history researchers. Publish these books, essays, opinion pieces, videos. On the front page.
Keep Repeating. Bloggers, Facebookers, Tweeters, Instagrammers, forget the politics. Post those stories that have meaning to you. Like them. Share them.