The other night my George W. Bush look-alike friend, Jack, was here for supper with his beautiful bride, Jeanne. The next morning I washed many of our dinner dishes by hand because the dishwasher broke. That’s the sad side of the tale. But the near-flood made me slow down and do one unexpected chore for while.
The sweet side of my reality on that recent morning was while I sunk my hands into the warm bubbles, I watched the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Fine black and white leaders talking and singing and celebrating and, for lack of a better word, bridging with me over the suds and airwaves. Even my least favorite president to date, that devil George W had signed the original legislation to create the museum 13 years ago. Who knew? He spoke eloquently at the event. Let me say, George W is looking better and better all the time as I consider the alternative. The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, reported that President Bush insisted, “This museum must be on the national mall.” Guess he isn’t all bad, just like the rest of us. But I digress…
I must admit: I have my own stories of race; watching the event reminded me of some of them. Almost 50 years ago and early in my decade of experiencing black and white often and personally, I was a young adolescent standing alone, a white girl in a crowd of black age-mates on the steps of Chandler Junior High in Richmond, Virginia. That’s a longer story. The story and its aftermath left me with a deep and abiding understanding of what it means to be visibly different in a 2 % minority.
Yes, I came to make friends and appreciate those experiences. But after I moved west and for the next thirty years of my life, my best friends looked and sounded like me. The people who came into my home spoke English and were white, almost exclusively, not to mention usually relatively wealthy.
Now in these dark, troubled times, a few white people are choosing the verbal ugliness, the blatant racism that I witnessed in the South. Most are unintentionally perpetuating institutional racism and some are even choosing violence. I am embarrassed, sad and tired to say the least.
I do not know how we are going to get past this. What can I do besides weep?
Watching the museum opening helps. President Barack Obama is now stepping to the stage to conclude the series of speeches. In his usual stellar words, he reminds us, “Protest and love of country don’t merely coexist but inform each other.” I find myself pondering, grateful beyond words that I had the opportunity to vote for this man and live during the eight years he has served us as president.
I am encouraged as the dishwater cools and then drains. I realize that regardless I can choose my prayers. I will also continue to consciously nurture friendships with those who are different from me. I am not a marcher necessarily. I am a writer and a welcomer. So I can naturally get to know and invite a much greater variety of people whom I love into my home. And into my heart.
My hope is that I will continue to sink into and wash myself with wonderful events like this museum opening. I will reflect on fabulous current events that shine like gold and are encouraging, especially and finally, to my black and brown-skinned friends. As Stevie Wonder just sang, we are in search of “A Desperately-Needed Love Song.” I intend to be part of it.