Monday, May 12, 2014

The KKK Defense Backpack

I was pretty young when my parents got divorced. I don't remember how they broke the news to me and my little sister, but my mom tells me that they tried to make it sound like everything was going to be just fine and these changes would be an adventure for us. "Daddy is moving out and mommy's best friend and her kids are moving in! Won't that be fun?"

My mom's best friend was an African-American woman, and so it really goes without saying, but her three kids were too. They had always been around and I don't remember thinking they were different than me, other than the fact that two of them were boys. (And of course, boys were gross.) We lived with them for several years after my parents' divorce, our two families relocating to California together. As far I as was concerned they were my siblings, my family.

One day the five of us kids were downstairs watching TV and the local news came on. They reported on a KKK rally that had created quite a stir in the community. This was the specific moment when I learned that racism still existed. Prior to that I had falsely believe that it was long dead. I was shocked, horrified, and scared. This was the early 1980s, racism was over, right?

I watched this newscast with my brothers and sisters becoming more and more scared and hurt. How could people feel this way. How could they go our in public and preach it?! How disgusting. And I was scared for my siblings. If these horrible people were in our town what if they tried to hurt them? If racism still existed than it was reasonable to believe that they were in danger.

What is the point of sharing this story with you? Well, this is sorta how my month has been. My system has been a little shocked. Humanity has been disappointing me left and right. I wish I could go back to thinking that all people were beyond hating each other. I wish I could go back to thinking that the world had moved beyond intolerance. I wish I could go back to how the world felt before that newscast.

That afternoon my brothers and I went and created a KKK defense backpack. I can't recall all of the items that went into the bag, but I do remember a bat being a key ingredient. We were ready. If the KKK came to the house we would be able to stop them!

I think about that KKK defense backpack often and what I might put in there today. What would help me to get through this rough patch in my relationship with humanity? What could help to shine compassion and tolerance to the people who most need to see it? It seemed so simple back then.