June first! School is out for the summer!
Monday, June 01, 2020
My very weird school year is done! It was challenging from start to the strange and disappointing whimper of an ending! I turned in paperwork today and am now the distance learning craziness is done for now. This has been extremely stressful for dozens of different reasons and it just keeps going from bad to worse. The riots are reminiscent of the riots in 1967-68. Maybe a bit of PTSD that hit me and I hadn't even thought of that summer about a million years ago.
The story found me a young (17 years old) wife in the last few months of her first pregnancy. My husband worked evening shift (3-11 pm) and we lived less than half a mile from the scene of the rioting in Plainfield, N.J. My husband was worried about leaving me alone at home when the riots were so out of control. He gathered his cousins and asked them to come over and protect me. They arrived with guns and took my protection seriously. There were six of them who came over every night. Their guns were loaded and they stationed themselves in front of every window. There was an armored tank that day in his uncle's gas station just blocks away. It was a hot summer and shops and houses were burning every night. I was terrified. I was scared of the riots but also of my so-called army of protectors. I had never been around guns much and the cousins were armed and drinking. It bothered me back then because it didn't make sense to me. I was either very naive, stupid or just plain shetered. I didn't understand the racism then and understand it even less now. Plainfield wasn't as big a city as NYC, LA, Boston, etc. but it was big enough that half the town was destroyed and many lost their lives and even today when I go back to NJ for a visit, the scars are still visible. When I drive through that area, I cringe and drive through carefully. My baby was born into that scary world. That baby is now a grown man of 53 and today's riots make no more sense to either of us today. I am not talking about the protesters - their cause is legitimate, I am not talking about the police they are doing their jobs. I am talking about an underlying attitude that some people are less than - less important, less human, less deserving, less relevant than others. I am talking about my lack of understanding of the pain, grief, anger, fear, and terror that so many people live with. I don't live in a hotbed of diversity. I live in a primarily white, poor, rural community with fewer than a dozen people of color. I know what it is like to lose a son, but can't imagine living for every day of his life in fear that he was going to be murdered for nothing more than the color of his skin. His loss devastated me but he died of a disease not someone's hatred of him. When he was 9-10 years old, we stopped at a deli in that same Plainfield, NJ. His mind confused by a racist comment he had heard asked a young black teenager about the comment in his innocence and naivety. The young man bristled up and snapped one word before attacking this little boy who made this racist comment, "SO???" My brave little boy responded in total openness, " We didn't need to do anything because WE aren't racist so we didn't have to DO anything." It was so simple to him - at 9-10 and still until the day he died. We don't respond like racists because we are not racists! He didn't comprehend the concept and neither did or do I. It is time for there to be a change and unless WE stand with the protesters WE are part of the problem. The riots about Rodney King in the 1990s, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the various flare ups through the years bothered me but not the way the riots in 1967 or today have affected me.
Sorry for rambling but I needed to say this. I do not want to argue about the right or wrong of setting stores on fire or displaying anger in violence. I don't want to argue. These rioters are behaving like the students I teach - they have been traumatized and are striking out blindly. They are deeply saddened, angered, and hurt by the repeated abuse and unfairness of inequality for all their lives. They are as helpless to stop reacting because of the trauma as my students who have been victims of neglect, abuse, and cruelty. We are told over and over that we must just LOVE them until it eventually might reach them. I see their eyes glaze over as they seem to leave their heads acting out of control! I see so many of these protesters with that same look. It has to be stopped!
I am not making a political statement but a moral statement. Where is the law, where is the leadership, and where is sanity? Can nobody find decency or honesty? Hypocrisy reigns, liars rule, and marshal law is being imposed! I am ashamed that for the first time in 70+ years, I ashamed of our government and am in tears as I sit here!
Pray without ceasing, stay safe, stay strong, have faith that we will survive until this mess can be resolved.