I heard about the horrific events in Charlottesville on Saturday, and my heart broke. I first saw the news on Facebook, and as I scrolled, I saw thoughtful posts by people expressing outrage, demanding justice, and standing up for what they believe.
Then I read a post about the importance of speaking up. It reminded me of this quote by Desmond Tutu:
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
My thoughts went to the Between Us Parents Facebook page. A few hours earlier I shared a cat meme there.
While it is a funny meme, I thought that I didn't want to be the lady sharing cats and burying her head in the sand, ignoring the hate and bigotry that is antithetical to what the country represents.
At the same time, I've worked hard to keep that space apolitical and I love that the page is where people can come together over their shared experiences. I worried for a moment that posting something would not be something my audience is looking for from me.
Parenting hormonal adolescents can be common ground, and I'm grateful for the firm bond I've formed with those who are in the tween and teen trenches together. I didn't want to threaten that. But I also thought that those bonds can not only survive but be strengthened during challenging times that require tough conversations with our children about hate and love and who we want them to be.
So I decided to just speak from the heart. I said this:
I am heartbroken by the events in Charlottesville. I am also so sorry that we as parents have to explain them to our children. I wish I had advice on how to explain hate. But I don’t. I know only that white supremacy is abhorrent and that love is powerful. Today I am more motivated than ever to put more love in our world. I’m going to love my family as best I can and together we are going to come up with more ways to work for peace and justice in our communities.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
It turns out that not everyone agrees with me.
Dozens of people liked the comment, a few people shared it. (Thank you to those who did!) I also has some people "unlike" the page.
In the online world, that can be very upsetting. Bloggers regularly angst about followers and worry about losing them.
This time, however, I don't see it as a loss.
The importance of speaking up for love, kindness, compassion, and equality cannot be quantified.
For me, a decrease in numbers also meant an increase in perspective. It was more than worth it.
I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I even hesitated to post something.
It is not about numbers, it is about humanity. It is about respect for others, and that demands speaking up.
It means reaching out. It means knowing that we may never fully comprehend their experience but that we will try. One place to start is reading "Jewish in America: Explaining to My Daughters That People Hate Them Who Have Never Met Them," a blog by Carrie Goldman. This article in the Los Angeles Times offers some good tips on discussing racism with teens as well as younger children.
We will listen, and reach out and use our voices to stand up against hate, racism, and bigotry.
It means being an upstander, not a bystander or just a cat meme poster. We want to be allies, and that requires using our voices in addition to taking action to promote equality. Doing that silently is really tough.
Do I think my Facebook post had a big impact?
Do I think it was better than saying nothing?
Do I think that it sent my daughter the message that saying something in defense of human decency and dignity is better than being neutral?
And I hope she never hesitates.
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