I know that's a phrase for Christmas, and I used it on my Christmas cards for over fifteen years, my three children beautiful and pure looking out, but the word mercy strikes me this morning as missing from our consciousness. I lie on my bed in the blue light of dawn. My boys are 6000 miles away, far from the agonizing events of this week in our country yet closer to those in France and Turkey. My daughter lies curled up asleep on her bed across the hallway where I put her after picking her up off the floor. A beetle flings itself around my room making more noise than its size suggests, initially scaring me out of bed to a position of vigilance. I've let it be.
Courtney Martin wrote this on the inimitable OnBeing website as a guideline for how to talk to children about what's happening:
As a white child, you are afforded a range of privileges and protections that children of color are not afforded and it's important for you to recognize this and actively work to change it. This is deeply and historically rooted. This country was founded, yes on optimism and pluralism, but also on slave labor, exploitation, violence, dehumanization. Don't get bogged down in the guilt and shame of this history, but know it. Your story, our story, is a part of that.
The only way to "move on" from that reality is to never "move on," to understand that just as people of color have to spend a lifetime thinking about their own skin color and how it affects the way they are able to walk through the world, you are walking through the world, this country, this city, these streets, as a white person.
Make it a part of your daily consciousness even when it seems tiring and burdensome (this is not a choice for people of color, nor is it for you). Commit to interrogating the privileges that you inherit and constantly look for creative ways to subvert hierarchies, redistribute power, connect the unconnected. Understand that this isn't about being a "good white person." This is about being brave and convicted and imperfect and tireless and loving and devastated and sometimes feeling dumb about how to make change and taking it personally. You are not above bias and racism. Apologize when you say or do something racist. Shut up and ask questions.
Make real friends who will push you and hold you accountable. Push and hold other white people accountable. Push and hold other white people accountable. Push and hold other white people accountable.