Yesterday I joined a protest organized by Catonsville Youth for Black Lives Matter.There was a noticeable police presence and a surveillance helicopter flew overhead, as if trouble were expected, but the protest remained so peaceful that it merited just a brief mention in The Baltimore Sun.They included a great photo gallery, though!
In spite of having been hastily rescheduled due Saturday’s thunderstorms, there was a great turnout of a racially diverse group ranging from toddlers to elders. Attendance was perhaps partially prompted by a recent controversy over chalked “Black Lives Matter”and “Dfund Police” messages at nearby Hillcrest Elementary School.
What Are the Children Learning?
As I walked to the protest’s starting point at Catonsville Elementary a father and young son, perhaps 8 years old, rode their bikes by me.
“Will we need to go inside?” the boy asked.
“No, we’ll only be outside. We’ll put on our masks, and everyone else will, too,” he said, in a positive, easy-going tone.“They’re all coming here because this is something they really believe in. They’ll be careful to make sure everyone is safe.”
These are the conversations parents are holding with their children now – explaining how, as part of a community, we take care of ourselves and one another.
The children are learning important things. Why we, as members of a community unite and stand up for equality and justice. Why we need to take care of ourselves and look out for one another. How we can use our voices to speak out and stand up for one another. The children are learning that they are loved. And they are learning to love.
Witnessing the Moment
It was good to be present to witness this moment, to see the power, anger and determination of our youth transformed into action, joining the voices in our small town with the millions of others who are protesting and pressing for change. The change sought is not ineffective police “reforms” but a complete rethinking of how we care for all – for the entire community.
Kerra Bolton writes in This Time is Different “Things change when the voice of the street roars.” So much depends on what we each do now.
Those of us who are White can commit ourselves to being anti-racist, trusting that if we each contribute what we can, we will bring about change.
Anti-Racism and Learning to Love
When we choose to be antiracist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives. Being antiracist is believing that racism is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in stopping it
I’m White. I am actively anti-racist. That’s my responsibility to myself and to the beloved community. This isn’t just a matter of saying I’m not racist. It’s an ongoing process of learning, reaching out, paying attention, falling short, trying to do better, listening, speaking out, and taking right action. I don’t always know what to do or say. I do what I can, and if I stumble, I trust that I will learn to do better.
We can all be like the father I overheard. We can hold a hopeful vision forward and lovingly share it with others. We can take the actions inspired by that vision. We can be anti-racist, encouraging change within ourselves, and working for change in our institutions, policies and practices through our everyday actions and our extra-ordinary efforts.
We can learn to treat ourselves with compassion and loving kindness, allowing us to extend that love to others.
I share Nelson Mandela’s belief that we all can learn to love. But to get there, we have a lot of work to do!