BECAUSE I SHOULD HAVE SAID IT A THOUSAND TIMES

I’ve never thought about why this memory has always stuck in my mind. Maybe because my heart knew that a moment like this wasn’t supposed to exist between human beings. Maybe because the image of God inside of me revolted against what was right in front of me.

Maybe because it was evil.

I must have been 8. We were all on the playground. I was wearing a school uniform another family bought for us since we couldn’t afford them. The only reason we even went to this private school in Southeast Texas was that my parents taught there – free tuition.

I don’t remember what I ate that day, what the lessons were, or what game we were playing at recess.

I only remember the look on her face. I remember feeling frozen in place.

I heard someone say something about her hair – something about the smell. They said they didn’t want to touch her skin – because of how it felt. They said they couldn’t play with her.

I stared at her . . . an 8-yr-old’s mile between us. I watched her – unmoving. Both of us.

I never closed the distance. I never said anything.

I don’t remember how long we stood there, but I can still see the dust rising off the dirt on the playground behind her as the other little girls began their game.

I will never forget her face as those who should have been her friends openly rejected her because of her race. She didn’t look surprised . . . broken-hearted, but not surprised.

I only remember there ever being one black family at my private school in Southeast Texas – from Kindergarten through 5th grade.

The little broken-hearted girl was in my class all the way through Elementary School. She wore 5 ponytails. I liked to wear 3. She wore glasses. I did, too. She preferred the plaid uniforms. I liked the red jumpers.

I don’t know anything else about her because no one was her friend. I don’t know anything else about her because I was not her friend.

I never closed the distance. I never said anything.

Today, I have other faces in my mind. These faces I know well. People I love deeply.

3 nephews, 3 nieces, one brother in law – all shades of black and brown that make me look translucent sitting next to them.

I carry these faces with me now – my family and the little broken-hearted girl. Their eyes are pleading with me now, asking me to close the distance. Asking me to say something.

If I remain silent, they will not be surprised . . . broken-hearted, but not surprised.

Today, I am thinking of my 8-yr-old self, wishing desperately I had understood the power of my silence – and the pattern it would create.

For her and for the little-broken hearted girl.

For my nieces and nephews who have voices the world needs to hear.

For my kids who might just be able to shatter a system from the inside out.

For those who have no one to speak for them.

Because I should have said it a thousand times . . .

“Mia, can I play with you? I think your skin and hair are beautiful. I love the way God made you. I can’t wait to learn all about you – and from you. I’m so sorry for how people (including me) have treated you.”

I hope you hear me clearly when I say this: Black Lives Matter to me. Black Lives Matter to God. Black Lives Matter – period. I’m so sorry for the way my silence and our world has made you question your worth.

My daughter is 8-yrs-old. My son is 10.

They will learn to say something. They will learn to close the distance.

They will learn it from me.

 

 

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