I wanted to write about parades today. My little town just had a kick-ass HS graduation car parade… glorious, joyous, everything good. But, we are in unprecedented times, and when people are hurting parade talk can wait.
My mom was a secretary in advertising in the early 1960s. She was 5.7 and very thin, think Audrey Hepburn. She wore a girdle, every, single, day…full length, breasts to above the knee. Why? Because if you didn’t “you were sending a message” that you were one of “those girls”. When my mom was pregnant with me she was in the elevator with one of her superiors, he looked at her breasts and told her she was pregnant. He had been admiring them for years and knew they were bigger. Me Too happened 60 years later.
When Me Too exploded men walked around a bit nervous…had they touched a waist or left their hand on a woman’s shoulder too long? Was that hello kiss at the neighborhood BBQ ok, was that hug too tight? Would they be called out on inappropriately looking at someones breasts instead of their eyes. There was a bit of a panic. Guys listened to woman after woman, girl after girl, coming forward with their stories. They had no idea how their actions had effected women and many of them were horrified. That was good.
Right now many people in my little town are nervous. They have that same deer in the headlights look that men had at the beginning of Me Too. People of color are calling out those who have treated them poorly, naming those who have used racist language, exposing bullies and bad local cops. People are telling their stories of being the other, showing unimaginable photos, videos, and posts…both present and past. They are exposing the cruel, racist, evil they have lived. And the neighborhood watches, and listens, and reaches out…and holds their breath, just like the men did. And hopefully we listen and learn, because that would be good.
When I agreed to be a Girl Scout Leader I wanted to share an important piece of advice. You will remember your actions, you will remember who you were cruel to, you will remember the look in their eyes when you treated them poorly. Think before you do. Think before you act. I remember being a bystander while a friend was bullied…I will never forget her eyes…looking at me, hoping I would defend her. I didn’t, I was weak, I was 12, I was stupid. My goal was to educate the girls, so they could avoid feeling that shame for the rest of their lives…I failed. Some of them were exceptionally sophisticated bullies, I saw it with my own eyes. They will live with the shame, I could not save them.
So now we white people listen, we support, we act, we apologize. We hope. We hope that this movement will allow people of color to have their voices heard. We hope that they understand that we are learning and growing and want change.
There will always be bullies…sad insecure souls who build themselves up by putting others down. They will always exist. But but but…if we call them out, and if we support those who need us to have their backs, we not only make the outcast feel loved…we will love ourselves, with out shame.