Mary Bourgeois belongs to a book club in Battle Creek, Michigan, that exists to promote racial healing through relationship building and the development of authentic conversations.
Every Monday they meet to discuss some topic relevant to that theme. On Monday, June 1st, the subject of their conversation was the death of George Floyd which is prominent in the news and in people’s conversations right now.
Mary said one member, who is black, suggested that they had to teach their son and grandsons to “survive by simply being black.” If that meant extreme measures like burning or looting it didn’t matter because objects can be replaced, but human lives cannot. This was an elderly woman who could remember the Civil Rights Movement and all of the pain and struggle that took place.
Mary wanted to make a distinction and ask her, “Is it that you don’t care, or that it’s out of your control so you say you don’t care?” Mary had the realization that this 80-year-old woman had lived a life with personal experiences that shaped her perspective. Racial healing cannot take place, Mary thought, unless we engage in meaningful conversations, and part of that authenticity is being able to see through the eyes of another.
Mary, who is white, said that she too is angry, frustrated and disappointed. She also realized that she has no control over how others behave and the choices they make. However, she says, she has control over how she chooses to react.
The same is true of law enforcement. There were officers engaging in civil conversation. There were and continue to be others making choices that can provide hope. Mary thinks that in knowing how to react in response to this terrible situation we should look for the kernel of hope. That is a choice that is available to us all.
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