Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Head and the Heart
Day to day, or rather every day, I know racism is real. I know White people as a body murdered, raped, and humiliated Black individuals in an effort to do the same to the Black community. Every day I know this, but rarely do I feel it.
When I can see it, I feel it. When I see it there is a glitch in my head. A message has come in from my eyes but went somewhere before reaching my brain. I felt it before my mind could register it. I know what it is, I know where the mental file folder is in which it will soon be filed. I know the context and the history; I even have several cross-references come to mind. I have all this and it still doesn’t make sense.
I don’t really understand it. I’m not sure it can be understood, and in that gap left by not fully knowing is left only feeling. I often wish I could feel more, or at least feel more often. The older I get the more I have to fight off the slide towards being cynical and jaded. I know myself. I know that feelings come slow and fear that if not nurtured, they may stop coming at all. I know this is not just me, but most people.
When it comes to race, we White people don’t normally feel it. Most of us don’t have a mental file folder for it, and when a mental message of racism shows up, it normally gets discarded, or maybe sent to some unreconciled “other” bin. Till we see pictures like this. When we see pictures like this, it is an idea no longer, it’s real. It isn’t “lynching”, it’s a two dead Black men hanging from a light post. It is crowds of White murderers laughing, pointing, and being proud. It’s a little boy beaten to death lying in an open coffin. It is systematic racism come to fruition, it feels evil, it goes right to your gut, then your heart, and if your head isn’t spinning by the time it reaches there… it’s too late for you.
Some time ago I learned a lesson. It was black history month and I was enthralled by the series of programs on PBS. I was motivated, I was horrified, I was feeling. While I was experiencing this I realized my normal partner on the sofa was gone. My ever TV watching wife was not watching black history month. It was not just once but every night. I asked her why and she brought home a message I think I knew, but needed to hear. She said, “you need those shows to learn and to feel. That’s good. I don’t need those shows, I feel it all the time.”