My mother likes to tell the story of how, when I was a little girl, I would cover my eyes and playfully giggle, “You can’t see me!”
Logic wasn’t my strong suit back then.
But really, I was not unlike every other kid who thinks the whole world revolves around them.
In fact, I remember riding in our car at seven or eight years old singing along with the radio only to have it turned off once we’d arrived at our destination. I couldn’t understand why, when we got back in the car a few hours later, the song didn’t pick right up where it had left off? Center of the world, alright.
That’s fine for kids. Life orbits around the child, at least in their eyes. And it should. But eventually we grow up, our perception shifts, our perspective adjusts, and we realize our place in the world is no more or less significant than any other.
And yet …
There are people who still think the world revolves around them.
One home in our neighborhood hosts a haunted house in their garage each year. The teenaged boy who lives there works hard to make it as creepy and scary as possible. And based on my then four year-old’s reaction to it last year – he does a bang up job. Side note: nightmares at 3am are no fun.
But this year there was something different. Hanging from the tree in their front yard was a noose. I’m going to give them the teeniest bit of leeway here and suggest that he (and his parents) didn’t know how incredibly offensive this symbol is (read: lynching). I will also give him the benefit of the doubt that his intentions were purely fright-filled and of a Halloween nature rather than a ‘let’s hang ’em from the nearest tree’ nature. So when one of our neighbors (an African-American woman) voiced her concern about the noose on our neighborhood blog, I figured the situation would be remedied. I should note that her post was way more polite and gracious than mine would have been.
I am embarrassed and deeply disappointed to tell you that her comments weren’t met with compassion and understanding. On the contrary. To my astonishment, others on the community board came to the homeowner’s defense citing the historical nature of the hangman’s knot and its presence in society long before it was ever associated with lynching.
Other comments implied that people should just lighten up and give the teenager credit for his decorating ingenuity.
Like this one: relax it’s just a Halloween decoration.
Or this: if one decoration can be considered racist, then any decoration can be considered racist.
This one: we should just ban saltine crackers because they’re racist.
Or, my personal favorite – all this political correctness is getting out of hand.
Any guesses to the skin color of these commenters? Small hint. It rhymes with shwhite.
There were no sincere apologies from the homeowner, either. Just round-a-bout statements about how ‘we’re sorry if this offended anyone, but –.’ Real apologies offer empathy and sincerity. They aren’t followed by the word “but.”
I waited until the fifth or sixth comment before sharing my thoughts on the post.
How is it possible that in 2016 nooses are still a thing? How is it possible that racism is alive and well not just on TV and online but in the neighborhood where I live? How is it possible that people still hold beliefs of superiority? How is it possible that people cover their eyes (and their hearts and minds) and think the world can’t see them? How is it possible that so many people still believe the world revolves entirely around them?
When I was in my 20s I had opinions, but I kept them mostly to myself. Oh I was vocal when I needed to be, but by and large, I was all head down, focused on work and school, and trying not to make waves. My 30s were kind of a blur as they were the early years of my parenting motherhood. But man. Something clicked in my 40s. There are memes all over the inter webs about this but dang if it isn’t true – turns out in my forties I have zero fucks left to give. They’re all gone.
You know how the terrorism thing is if you see something, say something? Well, I’ve adopted that mindset and will be saying something when I see injustice. When I see something that is wrong and hurtful. When I see behavior and actions that divide us instead of lift us up. I’m not perfect and I can be the most passive aggressive person in person and online, but I will not stand by and let stupid people (and let’s face it – that’s what they are) ruin this world, this country, and my neighborhood.
Ignorant is when you simply don’t know.
Stupid, is when you know – but you choose to do the wrong thing anyway.
I don’t believe these people didn’t know, despite my willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Covering your eyes and saying “I’m not racist!” is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.