Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I Didn't Understand

As many of you know who read my blog regularly, I am a White single mother living and working in the African American community on the south side of Chicago. I have lived here for 6 years. I moved here when I began to attend church at St. Sabina. I am a firm believer in living in the community you choose to minister in, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of those who live there. I couldn't have been more correct on that score.
You see, before I lived here, I would ask myself, "Why do Black people seem so angry?" I would hear about looting and riots, I would watch Spike Lee throw garbage cans through windows and just shake my head. I just couldn't understand....
But then I moved to my community where I had to go for miles for decent groceries, or anything else for that matter. Where I couldn't get DSL for years after everyone else in the city had it, where they wouldn't deliver my pizza, and where the condescension of the police was outrageous. I saw the difference between the pristine schools of the suburbs and the inner city schools of my neighborhood where sewage leaked out of the walls.
My sons were stopped by two white female police officers who wanted to know what two "White boys" were doing walking down the street in this community. They used the term Negro in a menacing tone over and over that made it clear what they really meant. My boys tried to walk away from the car but were repeatedly commanded to return to the vehicle so that they could be forcibly subjected to further harassment and racist jokes , such as "What do you get when you cross and negro and a gorilla?" I saw my pastor , and other leaders of my community ridiculed and caricatured by the media... Their valid concerns ignored...
I felt my anger build. It was the anger of an unheard voice, crying in distress. It felt like falling backwards down a well, after being pushed. It was the anger of having your deepest wounds summarily dismissed as childish, irrelevant, exaggerated... It was the anger of having been slapped in the face, only to be blamed for wearing the bruise.
I would never presume to understand fully what it feels like to be Black in America, but I can state I understand a little better now...

4 comments:

madcapmum said...

It's impossible to know until you're in the thick of it, isn't it? Blessed be you, Angevoix.

voixdange said...

Merci, MCM!

Dan Trabue said...

Wow. Such power and grace. Amen.

voixdange said...

Again, I thank you Dan.