There is a feeling I have that I don’t know how to describe. Now that we are one month out from George Floyd’s murder, I think it might be safe to say “this thing is going to stick”. It seams to me that the general, American consciousness has been woken up to the idea that racial injustice and inequity still exists. There is probably a term for this, but it reminds me of when you would be told something is super important but never care enough to take action on it. Like when you would hear adults talk to you about saving for retirement. Then all of the sudden one day you realize they were right, and you should probably get on that. You always knew it was important and that you should care, but that level of care never materialized until much later. Or maybe it’s a little like when you know you should wear sunscreen, but you just forget because you don’t really understand the consequences of not using it.
I think the collective we is starting to understand the consequences. I am talking about race with friends that I have never talked about the topic with before. It’s coming up naturally in conversation. I am spending part of my day at work, figuring out how to promote equity in education. It’s great, but it’s strange at the same time. I keep telling Meg it feels like we went from being fools to being geniuses over night. In large part, that fool label has come from interactions with friends, family, and acquaintances that have no frame of reference as to why someone would want to live in the inner city. I don’t know how to articulate this politely or kindly, but for every person I told where we lived that thought it was interesting or noble or at least not insane, there were 9 others that responded with blank stares. Being asked where you live is a pretty standard question. I’d say I am asked that about once every other week. So if I’m asked that 26 times a year roughly 3 people respond positively and and 23 just stare or ask why I would want to live there. Extrapolate that out over 14 years and that’s a lot of blank stares.
It’s different now, though. I told a group I was working with over Zoom about where I lived and they seemed genuinely interested.
“Oh, that’s cool”
I don’t think I have heard a random person I explain where we live respond that way in over five years. I had an almost identical interaction, not on Zoom, back in February. Instead of “oh, that’s cool” I just got “oh” followed by silence accompanied with a confused look on the guys face. I’ve gotten used to changing the subject quickly for fear of being rude or coming across like an asshole. But I didn’t have to do that this last time. Someone even asked me a question about it. I now understand what it feels like to be the guy in the movie that everyone blows off as crazy and turns out being right about it in the end. We went from being whackos to being trend setters almost over night, at least that’s how it feels when blank stares are replaced with genuine curiosity and a desire for whites to understand what it is like to be poor and black.
Ok, so pretty soon that push into understanding by the average white person is going to manifest itself in action. Besides protesting or reading a book on race relations, what is the average white person going to do? One time service events or rallies will probably be what occupies the action lists on the low end of supporters. On the high end, people, most likely younger millennials, will want to make a bold move much like we did back in 2006. At the very least they will be hungry for the same types of experiences that brought us to the conclusion we should move into the Ghetto.
The strange feeling I have is a mix between I told you so and preparation for a realignment or resources away from the suburbs and into the inner city. It’s a combination of I never thought “you all” would get it and now I think you might and if you do get, watch out, because my family and I were able to piece together some powerful change over the last 14 years, but that was just one family. What would happen if we had others being thoughtfully intentional about where they lived. How much change in the right direction could take place if enough people decided they were going to do something bold and a little out there. They decided they weren’t going to do what was easy and “normal”. They were going to push back against what they were told growing up was the safe and smart choice. Maybe the strange feeling I have is almost feel like the last 14 were an experiment around the hypothesis if you sacrifice for the service of others you, in particular, if you fight against injustice, you are rewarded with a rich and fulfilling life. I’ve never been more proud of the 22 and 24 year old versions of Alex and Meg. For whatever reason, we were blessed enough to be put in situations where injustices were obvious to us and had enough guts to try and do something about it. Along with that pride comes a sense that there are other 22 and 24 year olds that see the same injustices we saw back then and now want to do something bold about it. If the trend toward understanding race relations and desire for a more racially reconciled America continues at its current pace we are going to see more and more young people using their resources to push change in the right direction.