I like to write a breezy SOL…a little funny, and hopefully warm, sprinkled with a little analysis. I love to read other slices that fit that description, too. That’s why this slice is a bit hard to write. It exposes a part of me that I’d rather not admit exists. It exposes a part of me that I don’t always understand. It makes me realize that there is such a fine line between fear and prejudice in my life that I step between the two, like a chameleon, blending in wherever I land.
I hold in my arms the most precious gift God has ever given me, my precious mixed-baby granddaughter. She embodies every reason that I don’t want to harbor latent prejudices that I know exists, but refuse to acknowledge. But, she also embodies the very reasons that I know this fear that is at the root of prejudice lives inside of me, right along side the deepest, purest, most unselfish love.
I stroke her cinnamon skin and play with her delicate curls, and see only Sophie…no color, no race issues. Just baby girl.
I love her with every inch of my very being. I want the best for her. I want her to live in a world where people are not judged by their skin color, clothes, age, gender, socio-economic status. Of course, I do. Most days, that’s where I live.
But, not every day. Some days I am overcome with a prejudice against all the things I try so hard not to judge. It boils up inside of me like magma, threatening to spew out lava. It’s always…always is grounded in fear.
When my daughter met Sophie’s dad in high school, she exposed my hidden prejudices. He was the star football player, well-liked by teachers and peers, ready to sign a national letter of intent to play college football. But, he lived in a neighborhood that was well-known for violence. I tried to face my fears. I went to his house to meet his family. His family lives a block from a public high school people use as an example of a “bad” school. I drove through the “hood,” past boarded up houses and run down corner markets with iron grates on the windows and groups of young men just hanging out in front. My then 16 year old daughter drove through these same streets to pick up Marcus and take him to school. My stomach twisted into a knot. Guns….violence…crime. I felt so lost and out of control. That’s all I could see. I was afraid for her and my fear was like a volcano that I tried to contain. It spewed bits and fragments of hot embers. My neighborhood, my background, my educational background, my daughter were all better than this.
Over time, I stepped back and forth a million times from the fearful, protective, prejudiced mom, to the outraged witness to unspeakable acts of society’s prejudices. When a football injury kept Marcus from being able to start as a freshman, suddenly his high school credentials were questioned, and an on-line course he took in high school made him ineligible to continue to qualify for his promised 4 year full-ride. When he got pulled over for failure to put on his turn signal 500 feet or yards or whatever the exact number was, and police surrounded his car car with four cruisers, cuffed him, searched his car without cause, realized they had the wrong young, black male, wrote him a ticket for failure to signal the proper distance and let him go, I erupted with rage. How could they? How wrong!
My baby granddaughter entered the world. Marcus got a job working security for a prominent local group of bar owners. He took classes and got a license to carry a concealed weapon. Fear and prejudice brewed. I gave him articles with statistics. I felt frantic. I forbid him from bringing a gun into my home. But, again, I had no control about what happened in his home, in his car, in his neighborhood. I had to drop my granddaughter, his daughter, off at his mom’s house….next to the boarded up house and the Pitt Bull, and down the street from the carry out/hang out with iron grates on the windows.
Fear and prejudice roiled in my gut.
His gun was stolen from his car one night while he worked security. He’s living with us right now. So, as I write this, my world is peace-filled. Sophie is tucked in bed after her bath and story. She is surrounded by a family who loves her. My big decision tonight was where to put the Elf on the Shelf. I can read the paper and watch the news from the comfort and safety of my suburban home, and judge other people who seem to be prejudiced.
But, lurking beneath the surface is the knowledge that I am not prejudiced at this moment because I am an arm’s distance from the fear that blurs the line that separates me from my other side. Lurking beneath the surface is the knowledge that my fear and prejudice will return.
I expose this side of me because it’s real and raw and messy. I expose this side of me in the hope that it causes other people to see how very complicated it really is to truly not be prejudiced and fearful.
I expose this side of me, because I owe it to Sophie, my beautiful, almost two year old miracle girl.