Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pay Attention

Earlier this week, Lucy went on a field trip to the court house.  Before she left I reminded her to pay attention.  "Don't be too busy talking to your friends to see what is going on," I told her.  "Because it really is important, you are going to learn about our justice system and laws and courts and...oh gosh, sorry I get so into this stuff."

"I know mom, I will pay attention," she said.  Lucy is used to me going on and on about my passion for politics and justice and injustices and getting involved in THE system, and paying attention.

The field trip is a really good one that every fifth grader goes on in our school district.  I remember when Peyton went a few years ago.  The kids get to sit in court and watch actual hearings.  Then a judge talks to them about the legal system.  They even get to do a mock trial and the kids play different roles.  It's a great way for them to learn how the system works.

When Lucy got home from school that day, I was excited to talk to her about her experience.  

"Mom, there was a man crying," she told me very seriously.  "He had to go to jail and he's going to miss Christmas with his family."

She was upset and went into great detail about how sad he looked and how sad she felt for him.  She had definitely paid attention.  We talked about breaking the law, consequences, desperate circumstances that might drive people to make bad decisions, mental illness, "bad" people and "good" people and all the people in between.  We talked about judges that have to make incredibly tough choices and people that work hard to find the truth.  

Lucy went to the courthouse to learn about the justice system and she came back with a better understanding of empathy and compassion.  My girl who has said before that she is interested in everyone's "back story" appropriately was assigned the role of defense attorney in the mock trial.

I'm so glad she paid attention.  

After Lucy and I talked, she walked into the kitchen and saw the video of Eric Garner on the news.  "What are they doing to him?," she asked horrified, her eyes filling with tears.  "Why don't they stop choking him? He just said he can't breathe."

She was paying attention again.  I didn't have any answers for her as we stood in the kitchen.  

My eyes are also filled with tears as I watch the news and read the Twitter and Instagram posts of many of my African-American friends.  

The fact that I got an opportunity to have conversations with my daughter about empathy and how "fascinated" I am with the justice system and that I didn't have to talk/warn/educate her about racial profiling makes me feel both grateful and sad. I also feel confused and angry and uncomfortable and hurt and helpless.

Yesterday, a woman I was honored to stand on stage with and tell a story with at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History last fall, Sabrina Nelson, posted this on her Facebook page: 

She is a woman/artist/mother/activist who inspires me and educates me.  I have read her posts on social media and learned so much about what her experience has been like being a mother of a black son in our country. And I am with her. I am with all the people that are hurting and wanting to be heard and wanting change.  I am with people, black and white and everybody, that feel confused and angry and uncomfortable and hurt and helpless by what is happening right now.  

And I am paying attention.  I am watching and reading and feeling and talking and writing and wanting to understand.  I hope my white friends are paying attention and trying to understand what it would be like to have different conversations with kids after field trips to the courthouse because of the color of their skin.  I hope my white friends aren't afraid to talk about how they feel and that they ask questions and dig deeper.  I know people won't agree on everything, but I hope that we can agree on some things.  

I hope we all do more reading and watching and listening and supporting and understanding and protesting and empathizing. And I hope together we all can create a more just system.

I seriously hope we are all paying attention because it is really important.

Here are a few good reads about what is happening:

Follow #blacklivesmatter on social media.

1 comment:

  1. So true. I wrote about my own experience as a young (white) woman making some really horrible choices, and how my experiences were/are so different than what I'm seeing and hearing in the news. It crushes me, and listening and talking and changing things one day at a time will hopefully make a dent in the injustices that are occurring :(