My heart is grieved to hear stories like these. I’m white. This means I sit in an unearned place of privilege. I haven’t walked through the valley of oppression and suspicion my fellow Americans of color have. But I can talk about it.
I can advocate and stand with them.
My middle child is fourteen. Last week, her Language Arts class had a virtual field trip online. A Holocaust survivor spoke to the children about being shipped off on a train with his younger sister at age nine in order to avoid capture by the Nazis in France. It impacted her deeply.
After the video call, she appeared in front of me with a Post-It scribbled with notes she wasn’t required to take. She breathlessly recounted the astonishing story of this man and his family. As she talked about how the children’s mother put them on a train and told them she loved them and would see them later, she wept.
I wept too.
The weighty truths of the hatred that fueled the Holocaust were not lost on her. Lives lost, families torn apart, countries in tatters. And a continent away, nearly a century removed, people still suffer at the violent hands of hatred.
It’s no small accident that only a few days after the heartfelt exchange with my daughter, I was similarly laid low by the news of black Americans yet again being victimized by white Americans. Though it should not be, it remains a regular fixture in the news.
After processing my own feelings about the news and my daughter’s reaction to a Jewish man’s harrowing childhood memory, I am further fixed in my resolve. Silence breeds conformity.
We need to talk about hard things. And I mean talking that fosters conversation and understanding. Arguing on Facebook and rage-tweeting are not genuine dialogue.
May we never miss an opportunity to talk to our children about hard things. In the busyness of teaching them manners and how to be responsible students, the weighty matters of humanity sometimes fall by the wayside. After all, they’re messy and cumbersome.
That’s all the more reason to speak about such hard things. We may feel inadequate and ill-equipped to moderate such conversations. Do it anyway. There’s too much at stake if we don’t.
Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.