My hunch is that the majority of those well-meaning folks who say, “When I see you, I don’t color,” or a variation, have no idea how exhaustive it can be to many Black folks. And to Black folks who hear this constantly, the typical response is usually a deep inhale and a …. “well, here we go again!”
Case in point is Oprah Winfrey’s latest magazine “O” with an advice column headlined, “How to Deal with Your White Friends”– advice for Black women feeling worn down by the neediness of others to help them deal with racial issues.”
So why this recent surge in interest in racial issues, Black ones in particular?
“The Black Lives Movement wants to see the destruction of the nuclear family.” “BLM is a hate group that’s planning to destroy the police.” “Let us not be confused. BLM is nothing but a Marxist group.”
These are actual quotes – from politicians running for office (surprise, surprise, surprise) – that typifies how Black Lives Matter has become a convenient boogey man – a political wedge issue – these days. However, the words have moved from baseball caps and posters. They’re now painted in large letters on streets in New York, Washington, DC and other cities. You’ll even find the words on tattoos, and even engraved on protective masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Okay, you don’t know me and I don’t know you. And maybe that’s a good thing because you may not like what I’m about to say to you Ms. “What’s your name?”
You see, I pulled up in my SUV the other week, parked, put on my mask and was about to head into the grocery store when I saw you and your three young kids – two in car seats if I remember correctly – in the parking space next to me. And by the way, your kids – all less than five years old I’d guess – are absolutely beautiful. You must be one proud momma.
Now there was nothing out of the ordinary for me until I saw you roll down your window and pluck out a still smoldering cigarette you’d been puffing on. Hey, I thought (and wanted to shout) “hey lady, haven’t you heard about the dangers of second-hand smoke on children?” as I walked towards the store.
If there’s an upside to the images of those protesting the death of George Floyd, it’s dismantling the myth of angry blacks alone roaming the streets, looting, setting fires and burning down their neighborhoods. I mean, one must be blind if they did not see people other than African Americans holding up “Black Lives Matter” posters, getting tear gassed, hand cuffed, arrested ….andlooting. Truly a watershed moment in social history if ever there was one.
Pssst, hey COVID-19, sit your behind down. I have something to say to you. If you’re looking for us to throw in the towel because of what you’ve done, well it ain’t gonna happen.
Sure, you caught us off guard. We didn’t see you coming. You snuck into our back yard – “West Coast” yard, they say – and spread your destruction across our nation, snuffing out over 100,000 lives along your hellish way.
My son’s an avid jogger. For him, circling the track in a nearby park enough times to reach his 4-5-mile daily goal is no big deal. Shucks, his jogging regimen was enough motivation for me to join him on that track; not as a jogger but, okay, as a 2 mile “fast walker.” Thus, I’d not given more than a passing thought on the inherent dangers of “jogging while Black” until the Ahmaud Arbery story went viral.
“That could have been my son,” was the disconcerting thought – and rage – that unsettled my mind as I watched that sickening video and heard those gunshots that snuffed out that young man’s life.
Your phone rang late that evening: You: Hello my friend. What’s up? Caller: Wanted to let you know of some bad news.
“So-so” passed away unexpectedly. You: Oh my! I meant to call him months ago but never got around to it!
With the spread of COVID -19, I suspect that many of you dread getting that phone call that someone you knew came down with the disease. Or worse. And little did we know. In fact, little does anyone always know “why” when tragedy unfold in our lives. But in many ways, we do have control over what can we do now before that inevitable bad news heads our way. Continue reading Run Shay, Run – by Terry Howard→
BREAKINGNEWS: Airlines banish the dreaded middle seat (USA Today, 4/23/20)
To further the goal of social distancing driven by COVID-19, the hugely unpopular middle seat has been ushered into retirement leaving millions of dangling elbows, including mine, breathing a sigh of relief.
Years ago, I pushed my way through first class out of breath having barely made the flight. I eased my way down the aisle and — as is the practice with Southwest Airlines — tried to find the first available seat. Not surprising, the only remaining ones were those in the middle.
An interesting thing happened to me last week. You see, I was in the middle of reading a piece by a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist on “social distancing,” the latest add on to COVID-19 discourse these days, when the columnist, an acknowledged introvert, alluded to another writer he’d recently interviewed for his story; Susan Cain, author, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.”
Now raise your hand if you an extrovert or an introvert? Go ahead, nobody’s looking. How are you faring in home confinement these days if you’re one or the other? And if you are closed in with someone opposite your style, how’s that going for ya?
On the way to I forget where recently, I was listening to the radio during which the news was, not surprisingly, about the coronavirus pandemic that’s sweeping the world. Businesses are closing, schools are closed, and people are strongly encouraged to stay home.
However, I was suddenly stunned when one report cited surges in reports of domestic violence when an increasing number of “stay home” directives are being issued. For me, there are few things more troubling than the thought of anyone suffering from domestic violence. More disturbing is the unsettling image of victims forced by edict to remain home with her abuser.
And on top of that, feelings of helplessness when grappling with what to do before – or what you could have done – when you find out later that the victim you knew was further abused …orworse… is unfathomable.
Which takes me to petite little “Kim,” a credit union cashier of no more than 110 pounds soaking wet.
When we left church one Sunday afternoon, I saw Kim and her spouse who I’d not met heading to their car. But they drove off before I could say hello and introduce myself. The next day I went to that credit union to take care of some business.
“I saw you at church yesterday Kim and had hoped to introduce myself and my family to your spouse, but couldn’t catch up with you,” I said as I completed a deposit slip.
“Can I share something with you Terry?” she whispered while leaning closer to me to make sure no one was within earshot. “When we were halfway home my husband used the Bible you probably saw him carrying to hit me over the head because something upset him. He’s my second violent husband.Because I only seem to attract abusive men, it’s all my fault.”
Recalling that conversation with Kim haunts me to this day, even after I assembled literature on domestic violence and slipped it to her in an envelope a few days later.
Was that enough? Did I further jeopardize her by sharing literature and he was to find out? Was there more I could have done? What can we do to help as outsiders to help people like “Kim”?
True, there are social services available, police (911), agencies and churches. But how can we help the victim who fears getting caught reading literature on the subject, let alone utilizing external resources?
And bring this into today’s realities, how can we help victims who are trapped at home because of a pandemic with no end in sight? Where once they could escape to a job outside the home, that’s no longer an option.
Well, if a home visit is not possible or safe, consider using technology. Check in on someone you know, or suspect, being abused by phone or text, particularly if they’ve evidenced signs of physical (and emotional) abuse. But here you should consult with local resources for other ways you could help since the abuser may monitor her phone calls and text messages.
You could also muster up enough courage to speak directly to someone you know, or suspect, may be a domestic abuser and point the person to resources for counseling and anger management. Here again, an expert can provide a composite profile of a typical abuser along with what and what not to do if you may be weighing speaking to him directly.
Will this help prevent domestic violence? I don’t know. However, this does present opportunities for education on domestic violence and sharing resources to those we know – or suspect – may be its victims. The National Domestic Violence Hotline – https://www.thehotline.org/ – available around the clock in 200 languages – is a good one to start with along with local resources.
For me, there’re few things more upsetting than regret for not doing something (e.g., intervening in alcohol/drug, tobacco abuse) you could have when you hear later about a tragic outcome you may have influenced differently.
So, what became of Kim? As much as I want to know, a part of me doesn’t want to know.