This time of year, when the sun is hot and warm breezes sway the trees, I am reminded of a particular June I lived in 2006. I distinctly remember being at a cemetery, walking across the open field, to pick out the plot that would be where we laid my dear dad to rest in a matter of days. It’s a strange feeling, anticipating death, knowing there’s nothing you can really do about it. It had been a long goodbye, as cancer escorted my dad to the door of eternal life. I am not fond of terminal illness at all, but there is a blessing in getting the chance to be with someone as they journey into heaven. Three times in my life thus far I’ve had the honor to be present in this way to a loved one.
Death is shocking enough as it is, even when anticipated. I cannot imagine the nightmare of getting an unexpected phone call that announces a loved one has died suddenly. One step further into that nightmare is learning that it was due to a senseless act of violence or a murder by way of poor judgement, panic, ignorance, and even hate. One more horrific step is to learn it was because of the color of their skin. Many African Americans live in this chronic trauma daily, either grieving such a loss or fearing this sudden devastation could happen to them or someone they love.
The very real problems of systemic racism were not built overnight by a percentage of malignant police officers. It developed over centuries by the greed, indifference, and exploitative behavior on the part of citizens occupying this nation — lawmakers, voters, sailors, farmers, investors, judges, attorneys, clergy, educators, and everyday people in privilege looking the other way, to name just some. In other words, countless have played the role of oppressor, knowingly or unknowingly.
On her website, regarding “Race Relations & Reconciliation,” author and political activist, Marianne Williamson, explains this gross history succinctly (See: https://www.mariannenow.com/issues/racial-reconciliation-and-healing). She asserts, “America’s fundamental race problem is a moral issue.” While our country has made some amends over time, there is a long way yet to go to address the numerous, destructive ripple effects of each transgression. And ultimately the healing required is each person’s responsibility.
My dad was the kind of man who reached out to lift others up, including young African-Americans in need of access to opportunities his children had. At his funeral, very few could tell you what my dad did for a living but many said he was their role model for fatherhood. As I reflect upon the gift of his life, and the current events of our country, I think how small, conscious steps to improve things can make one an agent of change. And every bit of goodness helps to creates the kind of world I want to live in.
May you be inspired!