My silence on this topic is not out of indifference. It is, however, out of three other reasons: Samaya, Violet, and Isaiah. Yes, there are also elements of fear and ignorance. Of offending. Of saying the wrong thing. Of exposing my own prejudices. I will own that. I must own that. After all, it is denial that has not only kept the gaping wound of racial inequality from healing, but has driven it deep under the skin to systemically poison our collective body.
It is just that at this moment and most of my other moments, I am surrounded by tiny, open ears. And what I want, need, those ears to hear is this:
How generous of Violet to offer you her only cookie!
You show such love toward your brother!
How just of you to stand up for your friend!
I am moved by your compassion.
The manager at this store is ALWAYS joyful.
I notice your patience.
I see your kindness.
I want them to hear these comments and others like them so many times that they cannot help but notice these qualities in themselves and others before they notice anything else. I want them to walk through the world noticing justice and unshakeable joy. I want them to walk through the world seeing genuine kindness and love. I want them to walk through the world feeling and acting on compassion. I want them to walk through the world really seeing all the beautiful bits and pieces of their brothers' and sisters' souls.
I am not naive. I know they will also see things uglier than I can imagine. I am certain they will encounter unspeakable injustice and deep sadness. I know that they will hear of shocking cruelty and hatred. I even know that they themselves will turn a blind eye to another's pain and do nothing at all.
I am just praying that when they find themselves in a dark room, their immediate inclination is to find the light switch. Strike a match. Pull the curtains.
Abdu'l-Baha once said, "Darkness is the absence of light: when there is no light, there is darkness. Light is an existing thing, but darkness is nonexistent."
It seems to me that healing our collective broken family will be achieved not through the tearing down of nonexistence, but through the building up of the existing good, however small it may be. Even if exists only in the state of potentiality.
My oldest daughter is in kindergarten this year at a public school in Maine--the whitest state in the country. She is the only brown child in her class. She is acutely aware of this fact because, as it turns out, children are not blind. I listen carefully to her observations. I validate her feelings of wanting to be white, of having straight hair. I tell her, honestly, that I think her skin color is beautiful. That I used to desperately wish for curly hair. I tell her what Abdu'l-Baha had to say on the subject:
"Flowers may be variegated in colors but they are all flowers of one garden."
And then I ask her what acts of kindness she saw at school that day. Because it is true that we are many colors, but it is more true that we are one race: the human race. And kindness--love--is our shared currency.
In October, Oprah interviewed Raven-Symone, who boldly and unequivocally renounced all other labels (including African American), declaring, "I want to be labeled a human who loves humans."
This is what I want for my children: to grow up as humans who love humans.