The seasonal decorations are put away, the first order of business at the New Year’s turn. The sweeping longing I have for order and empty surfaces eclipses the nostalgia of ornaments and holiday mugs. The return to normalcy, to less-cluttered, a deep need for my oft-complex soul.
One item, however, has withstood the deep clean, a red pillow with PEACE appliquéd across the front. I have decided to leave it as a reminder, wishful thinking perhaps. Visible to anyone who visits our home, in the main room, available for all to see.
Last night, the five of us watched the movie “Selma” together, on the day devoted to commemorating the toil and spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Eric and I want our children to be aware, to understand, the sacrifice and conviction displayed in his quest for civil rights and equal opportunity for all. Somehow the heft of the message failed to reach the two of us. It was not until Ferguson where our eyes opened, where our hearts began to break with the inherent and systemic lack of human dignity toward black and brown bodies. Our white privilege something we never considered, something that I hope has begun to inform our daily lives, how we parent, how we relate to others. The acute awareness of our protection as members of the presumed superior race of this nation.
While this recognition could lead to shame, I honor the process, the awakening. I need to see the chinks, the parts of me that function out of my white-ness, out of my privilege. I choose truth. I want truth to open my eyes, to reveal the patterns of thought and action that may contribute to another’s subjugation. Patterns that, if allowed to persist will render me immune to the asking of questions, the challenge of assumptions.
Why do I not have to have “the talk” with my teenage son? Why do I feel entitled to certain protections when others are not? Why did I have the opportunities I had, was my white-ness an asset? Why do I have certain resources that others don’t?
This morning, beginning the new day, heading out the door to drive my eldest to school, the pillow was upside down. Upside Down Peace. I resisted the knee jerk urge to right the position. The drive toward order overturned, for the lesson held within the symbolic.
Upside Down Peace is anything but calm. This peace demands. Ragged, dogged, worn. This peace fights, yearns for better, bearing the mantle of love, mercy, good – time and time and time again, marching onward. This peace divides and cuts, pressing for right and just. Upside Down Peace is the peace of Martin Luther King, the peace of Jesus.
Upside Down Peace rests not, awake until all people are bestowed with human dignity and equality. Striving for the day that every woman, man, child secures the deserved love and respect from their fellow humans.
I have done nothing to be a white American. I was born, to two white parents of European descent. I am a Christian by choice and heritage. I am welcome to vote, my rights are secure and unchallenged, my safety a priority.
My sixteen year old son, on the cusp of earning his driver’s license, I breathe easier, for he is not black. I breathe easier and I ask for forgiveness. I confess and recoil over my relief and gratitude for our whiteness.
I am a racist. I confess my ignorance, my assumptions, my ease.
It is my white privilege to have a choice. To choose to engage the battle, or to not. I don’t have to, my skin does not bear the burden. My loved ones are not marked. I have a choice. White, heterosexual Christians have a choice. Do we choose the Upside Down Peace marked by Jesus and King, or do we choose our comfort?
I would like to think I know the answer for you, for me, but the fact remains, I am not black. I am not gay. I am not Muslim. I am not Transgender. I do not have to choose the empathic route. I do not have to choose the discomfort, the challenging questions, the incrimination of my privilege.
But I hope I do, for I want to be counted. I want to be counted on the right side of history, on the right side of love when I am asked about these days – refugees, Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights, immigrants. I want to join hands and forces in the demonstration of hope, the demonstration of just.
For now, the pillow stays. The radical love and call of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr will be discussed in our home. We will train our children by his words and by his heart. We will choose to remind ourselves and others of the responsibility given, the responsibility not imbued by the color of our skin, but by how we love.
Right side up or upside down, I am grateful for the grace, the mercy, the hope I hold because of the work done by this great man, in the name of Jesus Christ. May we all stay woke, may we each question and challenge the privileges we embody.