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Sunday, September 14, 2008

What can one person do?

I'm devouring news sources today concerning 2 items that are related - Hurricane Ike and the Presidential election. The election is now in freefall and who knows where it will land - not unlike the storm surge that swept away Crystal Bay, TX and pushed Galveston into downtown Houston.

We are on the precipice of choosing a fork in the road - going down one will produce a neocon revolution that GW could only dream about. The other will produce a reality that reflects our nation as a diverse, energetic, bold, and entrepreneurial people. While I tend to promote the dramatic and rely on hyperbole, I believe there is some truth here. The stakes are high and those that think nothing changes have got their heads in the sand. I have many friends and colleagues who are working in the campaign apparatus for Obama doing all the things that organizers do (and yes, Guilliani knows what an organizer is despite his repulsive commentary). And the campaign of Obama encapsulates what race relations could become in the USA - a thoughtful, purposful, realistic integration of people and ideas into the fabric of our culture.

But today I write about inspiration of what one person can do to affect race relations. Can one person make a difference? Yes, they can. Obama is making a difference on a big stage. MLK made a big difference on a world stage. And there are scores of people who are making a difference on smaller stages in their communities. Touching the lives of others is important work of the human realm. We forget that sometimes because we are busy fighting with our boss, tending to our kids, picking up the groceries, checking our email...We forget that touching - as in touch, move and inspire - another person is a way to have an impact.

I was in a movie theater yesterday and I was really eager to see this movie. There were 3 women behind me who started to chat it up during the previews and on into the intro of the movie. Being on the east coast now, I did what any eastcoaster would do - I whipped around and said glaringly - Am I going to have to move? They shut up. Well, didn't I feel vindicated. Unfortunately for me, my behavior nagged me throughout the movie. I knew what I had to do. When the credits rolled and people stood to exit, I stood, turned around and said, Ladies, I'm sorry for my outburst. I've had a bad day. I hope you enjoyed the movie. They said no problem and thanked me. I think they were shocked. This doesn't happen on the east coast.

Here's one more detail. They were all black. I knew that when I chastised them. It had flashed through my mind - oh here we go - black people like to talk it up to the movie. I felt I had to let them know I wasn't gonna stand (or sit) for it. Yeah, it's like that. Racism rears its head everywhere. I was exerting my privilege. I would not have done that to 3 middle aged white women. I might have done it to 3 white teenagers - but that's an age thing. So I had to repair the harm - which I did. But it reminded me how slender a thread this election hangs on. There is so much talk about how white working class women won't vote for Obama and Sarah is their shiny new hope. Sarah gives these women the ability to tell Obama to be quiet - there is a new girl in town and she deserves to be heard. Why? Because she's new? No. Because she is white and a woman.

2 comments:

KC Sponge said...

Your honesty and self reflection are always so refreshing. kansas City misses you (and needs you) more than you'll ever know.

I'm sorry I didn't get to see you off, but hope you are making an impact on the East Coast (upper East Coasts to us Floridians) and inspiring many others to find the honesty within their own hearts that will open up these wounds - the only way we will start to heal. =)

kcsandy said...

really? you don't believe you would have said the same to a group of middle-aged white women? i don't think i would have made a distinction. there is a level of noise above which i cannot concentrate at a movie... i would have said something regardless...i wonder if you have given any thought to what would have stopped you...