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I’m Still Here.

I’ve been absent from this space for quite a while. I could give you a list of viable excuses about how busy life has been with very good causes. I’ve started several posts then filed them away unable to muster the energy to write the next line. But the truth is sharing the present is much more difficult than recalling the joys and the trials of the past. Telling the stories of my life experiences and how I evolved through it all was much easier than sharing my trepidation and visceral fear I sense as the pre-human beast of white supremacy thrashes about to destroy whatever it feels is a threat to its survival ignorant of the reality that it is only creating what it fears.

A clear example of this was the tsunami of global outrage at the callous, public murder of George Floyd. For me it was the defiant expression on the face of Derek Chauvin as he choked the life out of a helpless Black man. I had seen that face before in a photograph of a white man standing beneath the feet of a dangling black body. I have also seen it on the faces of many white men with a look of displeasure with my presence as I move through public spaces.

Earlier on this blog, I wrote of the “fly in the milk bottle” metaphor I had heard my elders use to describe being Black in America. That sense is reemerging now. I feel myself withdrawing, less willing to be in public spaces, becoming more paranoid about being in crowds of unfamiliar white people, people whose expressions must first be taken as threatening until proven to be otherwise. This not academic for me. I have come face to face with that unprovoked threat of violence, which justifies my anxiety. But my work requires me to wade into the “milk” ready for the polite dismissals, reading between the lines and delighted when my misgivings are unfounded.

In an odd way, I see myself as guerilla activist working covertly to undermine the stereotypes my skin color is chained to. I’ve been told, “You’re not like the rest.” Insulting as that was, it was also possibly the beginning of a reassessment of a bias long held. A pebble dropped into a sea of racism. My nonprofit, SAWs Virginia, builds wheelchair ramps for those who cannot afford one on their own. Besides meeting a desperate need, for me it is also an opportunity to perform a bit of that guerilla activism. We once built a ramp at a trailer beneath a tattered Confederate flag. I engaged with the couple as I do with all others but wanting to challenge any assumptions they might have had that kept that flag fluttering overhead. Did the interaction have any effect? Who knows? But if you wait to see what difference doing the right thing makes, you won’t get much done.



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