I started this way….I motioned for him to look out in the distance in the direction of where my 13 year old son sat on a fishing bank, alone, secure, relaxed, and unafraid. He was the only Black male or female within 50 miles of us and where he sat, confident, focused and completely in his element. He looked liked he belonged to that bank and the only thing that should be afraid today is the unlucky fish who might happen upon his unrelenting determination to catch one. I answered him with, what I see out there is all that matters. And what matters today for me should matter to all of us. What really matters to me right now is that you found the courage to ask. That matters a lot. That's what matters to this country.
And then just after his wife intentionally showed me pictures of her son’s rainbow coalition of friends on a bus, I took a brief pause to let everyone catch their breath while also trying not to display my slight agitation of “so what” to her misdirected act of patronization. It wasn’t her fault really and I was used to this moment. It happens a lot. Once back on our feet I told him what I really came to say.
The country was not experiencing an urban problem. We have before us a defining Country Problem. It is going to take conversations like ours that begin in the suburbs to begin to fix it. It will take brute mutual understanding of the real issues on all sides to make things better, not for my child but for our children. What is happening in America did not start with Black Lives Matter and it will not end with them. What we are experiencing is an epidemic of untreated ignorance, bias, and oppression by a majority society on its minority population. The characterizations of organizations like BLM by majority audiences as threatening and illegitimate are immaterial to the discussions we really need to be having. By distracting ourselves with time spent defending our relative positions on their existence is belaboring the work that is really needed.
That work involves looking for ways to institutionalize real reform wherever it is needed. It will take Troy, La Detra, our children and everyone to punch their dance card in that discussion. If we don't fix what is broken our country will be like a house built below a sleeping volcano now awakened. Once awake, the lava which flows will show no favor.