After nearly fifty years of living, I understand the theory that most of life swings on a pendulum. The theory where a trend or a thought or a cause jumps to top of mind and sends the world into a frenzy of ‘we need to fix this immediately!!!’ Or, closer to home, the theory where my husband swings 180 degrees away from line of thinking. Both with very good intentions, working towards landing 90 degrees closer to each other. And sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes the world overshoots so effing far that the pendulum ends up completely on the other side – a straight line directly across from where it started, versus somewhere in the middle, where the sweet spot of success lives. I really will have a point eventually. I guess the summary is that I feel like there are pendulums flying by my face so fast right now that I about have whiplash. And as I wait it out – waiting for it to slow and steady and relax, well it just doesn’t seem to be.
If you don’t know where I’m going with this – that makes two of us.
Right. So, unless you’ve just returned from a two month coma, you know all about the push for an end to bias and racism. Something many of us didn’t even register as a ‘real’ problem, suddenly was very obviously a real problem and very real examples popped up everywhere. Fast forward to riots and marches and demands – so many that I’m not even sure anymore if the goal is still clear. Yes, take down the monuments. Yes, rename the schools. Absolutely, weed out corruption. I actually didn’t even understand the importance of the first two of those until I had a long chat with a friend who lives it. That part is key – right? – being able to have open discussions? Being able to (ahem) write out your thoughts in an attempt to figure them out? Slowly, the monuments are coming down. And buildings are being renamed (I’ve heard – I’m sure @hanoverschools will get around to it). Now – did I every think ‘oh, hey, once that’s done, everyone will be back around the Maypole (stops to look up Maypole, yes, seems like an okay word)? Certainly not. Did I think there was a way to demand ‘oh, okay, yes – corrupt people on the left, decent people on the right, great – if you’re on the left you’re all fired. Right people are in charge now.’ No, absolutely not. Did I think in the span of less than two weeks intolerance would land on my doorstop four times? Directed at me? Someone I consider to be super tolerant, in conjunction with some easy “I really only identify with white suburban moms” ignorance? Yet, here I am.
I’ve been reading. Enough to understand that racism isn’t specified as only applicable to one particular racial or ethnic people. But just like if you hear the word ‘sexism’ the assumption is ‘oh, some fellow did something inappropriate to some woman,’ though the opposite could be true. We often think and hear about the African American population being targeted due to color. What we tend to be able to admit to is that sometimes it does go the other way. I know, I know – calm down – we tend not to hear about it because it isn’t a systemic, unresolved, oh-it’s-everywhere problem. Happens here or there, move on. But as I watched that pendulum whoosh by my head this week I quickly thought ‘oh, shite…this is not very encouraging.’
When we started the pandemic, I got email after email after email from businesses that started with “We care for your safety…”. It was as if a chip was removed from my brain that held the names of every company that I’d ever driven by and signaled them to send me a note about washing my hands. Places I’d never even purchased from and places I had but whose Covid plans I could have cared less about. I’d often open up my email, watch the ‘unread’ number tick up and start reading aloud, “Hey guys, good news – Bass Pro is going to wash their door handles,” “Oh, look, Jimmy John’s employees are no longer permitted to cough ever again without suspension,” “Nice! Goodyear tires will remain safe to swing on,” “In & Out Burger, wait what? We don’t live on the right coast for this one, why are they emailing me? Is this meant to be a snarky jab that I’m nowhere near the most delicious food in the world?” “American Airlines? Have I ever been on one of their planes?” It went on and on.
And now, round two. I pretty much have the cyber game plan for how the same never ending list of CEOs is handling racism. While this is important to me – the onslaught of emails has kind of made me check out. I actually don’t need to know that AC Moore, Lands End and AutoZone have spent what’s likely only the last few weeks reviewing their practices. Yes, it’s important they are fair – but isn’t telling everyone ‘yeah, but we’re really trying now…’ just a bit too close to the side of a publicity stunt? I can’t imagine I’m the only one who has heard from my own company that hiring practices will change – focusing on certain genders and ethnic groups. Wait, what? Because that reduces my chances by 50%. It reduces my husband and son’s chances by 100%. I know, one of them is only 14, let’s not panic yet. Except I am. What will this mean for him? Can no one figure out how to assign all applicants a number and remove the ethnicity/gender from the resume thus focusing the hiring on those that are most qualified? Just doing some brainstorming here.
I’ve had a hell of a ten days. The kind where where you fear the sound of your ringtone because every stinking call is another shocker. Is it like the Covid tests? If I don’t answer does the bad news go away?
Listening to the daily breakdown of protests turned riots turned back to protests turned *shrug* has been difficult. Listening to it and then hearing how it’s also affecting the families of the officers involved in them has made it doubly difficult. I want to support my friends and family – I have acquaintances downtown each night on both sides of the fence – and yet I feel like silence is my best option. Those with relatives working for the police have had an unbearable month – not only because of the amount of hours away from home, but because of the intensity of those hours (if your thought right now is ‘well, they deserve it’ then, hello, you’re likely not part of the solution). I don’t think most people know how this is affecting the families of the officers – it’s not enough for the protesters to scream at them or throw things at them or threaten them – they are also going after their families. These officers are people with spouses and children who now live with patrols in the neighborhood because their pictures are being posted all over the place by groups who think they should be eliminated. Their addresses public knowledge, their feeling of comfort at home gone. Maybe it seems okay because those making the threats aren’t aware that there are young children in the homes they point out – sitting scared each day that their mom or dad isn’t coming home. Surely, that’s not the goal – to instill complete panic on the way to equality? And despite the fact that none of the majority of these serving-the-public officers have so much as a whisper of corruption within them? But they’re all the same right? Isn’t that the exact line of thinking we’re supposed to be eliminating?
That was my first hit – listening to some panicked friends explaining how they could not fit anything trivial in their brains at the moment because they were too busy trying to shield their children while praying each time a patrol car drove by that it wouldn’t turn down the driveway to bring bad news. They can’t even go out for a fun dinner to break the monotony anymore as many of the restaurants that were so welcoming the first several months of the year would prefer them not to dine with them for fear that someone will see that they’re feeding the officers. Mind you, these are the same officers who did their best to keep these same restaurants open during the first months of the quarantine by bombarding them with take out orders. These are the same officers who did their best to protect these same restaurants when bricks were flying and fires were being set. I just need to know how this helps the cause. And maybe there is a super logical if-this-than-that equation and if someone could just give me the lowdown, it will all make sense.
In the midst of all that, I lost a very dear friend. Not a loss in a death sense (thankfully), but a loss in the ‘I got ghosted’ sense. No explanation, no discussion, I did not get a vote, just an end to our five year relationship without a whisper. The only ‘good’ thing is that it wasn’t just me, it was most of the people he knew in our little town. This is a person that we welcomed into our family, welcomed into our stories, welcomed to our table and always had a bed in our house. We let him into our kids’ lives and he knew our mothers and the business piece was the tiniest part of our relationship. We’ve been supportive of everything he’s done as he has us – we took turns being the sounding board or creative thinker for each other. At the age of nearly 50…if we help you move, we must really love you and consider you one of our pack. So, when we were hauling his boxes just three weeks ago – the last thing we ever thought while huffing up and down the was ‘oh, I bet by the end of the month we’ll need to change the locks on our own house because we’ll find out that maybe we really didn’t know this guy at all.’
The last conversation I’d had with him was about the chaotic state of the world and how it was messing him up. I did not know that was a cryptic way of saying that maybe I (we) were no longer a part of his plan. I did not know that was a cryptic way of saying that I actually didn’t rate any higher than the rest of his clients, despite all of the above. I did not know that it was a cryptic way of saying that maybe he wanted to focus on people who were more like him. The irony is – if he had just said it…if he had just said ‘hey, this whole movement is taking my breath away and I really need to focus myself elsewhere,’ we would have said, “HELL YEAH – the is the kind of stuff you were born for.” But we didn’t get that. No, I’ve never felt what it’s like to be cast aside due to the color of my skin. Had never. And yes. It does suck. As someone always willing to grow and listen and learn – and here I was, unable to grow enough and listen enough and learn enough to change the part I was born with.
Have I mentioned it’s been a hell of a few weeks? Because when I relayed all of that (up there….) to friends, it came back to me within minutes that I’d said something completely different and much more harsh and rude and, well, yeah – very racist sounding. Maybe not minutes. But less than 24 hours. Whoosh. Stop answering the phone. Do not talk to anyone. The rumor mill is no longer a mill – it is a full out factory filled with people coming to their own conclusions as quickly as possible and announcing them to the world in some sick ‘let’s really stick it to her/him/them’ way. How is that helpful? How is being the first to speak a completely reconfigured statement a win? Is there a trophy for destroying the most lives? The explanation part was easy because the statement was so preposterous, but the fear of the fall out made my stomach turn. Did I need to do damage control? Who should I call? No one, that’s not really my style. But should it be? Does ignoring it work anymore? Or is silence the same as admittance? Can we go back to talking about masks?
It’s been a hell of a few weeks. So far, so good on this one, but it’s only Monday. I’ve stopped watching the news, the scroll-by thumb is beginning to look like it belongs to Popeye and I’m committed to really just laying low.
PS, that doesn’t make me a supporter or non-supporter. It doesn’t make me more wrong or more right. It just makes me, well me – and if you don’t know who that is by now, do me a favor – just ask.