There is one incident that particularly stood out for me in 2020. It has fully and forever etched itself into my heart. The day I saw the video footage of George Floyd’s last moments, I felt helpless. I was overcome with a deep feeling of sadness and I felt ashamed for being a white woman in America. I spent the day lost in a perpetual cycle of contemplation and tears. My mind was flooded with questions. How can I right this wrong? What is the part that I have played in this despicable situation? For I believe that there is danger in distancing oneself from darkness, claiming that “It is not me. I would never! I am not the Hitlers, Stalins, or the slave owners of yesteryear.” So for two days, I looked within. I recalled each time that I held onto my purse just a little tighter, as I walked by a group of African American men in downtown Chicago. I remembered the moments that I judged others as inferior because of their weight, their so-called archaic beliefs, or their lack of education. I realized that I had spent years in denial and that I was, without a doubt, a part of the problem. I saw that I was not above righteous indignation or prejudice. I saw how I had been prejudiced against the prejudiced, hating the haters and criticizing the critics. I caught myself in my own web of discrimination, for which I needed to hold myself accountable.
From the Web and Into the Garden.
By the end of day two, I decided to head outdoors and get some fresh air, hoping that it would pull me out of my funk. So, I walked to a nearby outdoor garden center. While the radiant colors and the fragrances of the floral plumes slightly lifted my spirits, my heart remained heavy. I purchased a couple of seed packets and headed back home. As I walked through the barren parking lot, I saw a handsome, young African American man and his beautiful daughter standing by their car.
I walked up to the man, fearful and confused. Not sure what to say, I bore my soul. While my mouth was masked, my defenseless eyes spoke volumes. I looked deeply into his, and I said, “I’m not sure what to say or how to say it.” I paused a moment and allowing myself to let go, I continued, “I’m sorry. I am so sorry. As a privileged white woman living in America, I am sorry for what we have done to you. Please forgive me.” As my eyes filled with tears, my voice cracked, reminiscent of the last shameful declaration of guilt I made in a Catholic confessional, 40 years prior.
A Forever Moment in an Empty Parking Lot
We had a moment. A silent moment of deep communion. Then much to my surprise, he asked if he could give me a hug. As we held each other in the empty parking lot, the only armor we bore were our quarantine-approved masks. I felt vulnerable and so very naked. As we stood there, our hearts fully exposed, feeling the connection, his three-year old daughter wrapped her tiny body around our legs…such a precious moment.
I know that there are plenty more confessions, pro-active changes and heart-based communications required. While I continue to do my inner work, I know that no one and nothing can take that one moment of light away from me. In the years to come, may we all meet in our innocence and guilt, uniting in the healing light of committed, compassionate and open-hearted conversation. Bless you, dear man and thank you!
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