Monday, August 18, 2014

We Are More Than a Picture

I want to tell you about my friend, H (I am not going to use his real name here). I’ve know H since I was 9 years old. He was a year older than me. We went to school together in Germany. We’re both military brats. We rode the bus together and we teased each other about being short. This is funny because we’re both short. We had that in common. What we don’t have in common is our skin color. H is black and I am very white, shockingly caucasian as Bill Burr would say.

Recently we got to talking about the Michael Brown case over Facebook and how there is always a picture war after an unarmed black man is shot. You know the one, the pictures of the young black man where he looks like he is in a gang or a criminal to counter the pictures the same black man in a cap and gown or with his family, looking innocent and child-like, like an upstanding citizen. I asked him if he had seen the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag on Twitter. He responded with his own, a picture taken at a Halloween party.

And then I cried.

I cried because I know that I will never have to face that. H and I have know each other since the 3rd grade. We grew up together. We had the same friends. Our parents had the same job. We both grew up overseas. We come from the same background and the only reason that I will never face what he faces is because of the color of my skin.

If they gunned me down, I know what picture they would use. It would be a family picture. It would be a picture of me with my husband and my children. I’m not worried that they would use that picture of me in college drunk with my friends. I’m not worried that they would use one of the pictures of me smoking or that time I dressed up as a pimp for Halloween. I know no one would judge me for a picture or even a questionable choice when I was younger. I would be a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend. I know that. But if my friend got gunned down? There is a good chance that to some he would be simply a thug.

That is not okay.

If you asked me to pick one picture that showed who I am I don’t know if I could.  I am all of them. I am the sum of all my experiences and all the pictures. I don’t know if I’m good or bad. I am neither, or both.  But what I do know is that I am a human and I know with certainty that I am no more human than anyone else because of the color of my skin.

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's Fight Club Up In Here

Hudson and Kenzie have decided that they would like to go to karate class. Kenzie is pretty sure she could break a board if given the opportunity. God help us.

This all started when Eric showed Hudson a video from Apollo’s Martial Arts. He was super excited, mostly about the belts. He would like a black one. This kid is a sucker for a uniform. We had to tell him he actually had to work for it and they didn’t give those out just because he was wearing black shoes that day. He assured us that he really wanted to do it anyway and would be a black belt in no time. Kenzie came over to watch the video and decided that she would like to be a black belt too.

Since then it has been Fight Club around here. They found a stepladder and decided to do jumps off of it. It was as if WWE merged with Kidz Bop. This has been mixed in with karate gymnastics and kung fu ballet. They’ve also taken to sparing with each other. I thought it had gone to far when Hudson announced that Kenzie had kicked him in the…well, you can guess, but he was laughing so I guess it wasn’t too terrible. Kenzie followed this up with the exclamation; “I AM THE BEST GIRL EVER!” and a crazy face that would make Brad Pitt lose his shit.

Here are some snippets of actual conversations we have had.

Kenzie: “Daddy, come down here and fight me.”
Eric: “I don’t think so.”
Kenzie: “Daddy, come here and hit me.”
Eric: “That’s not happening.”
Kenzie: “Kick me.”
Eric: “Kenzie, I’m not going to kick you.”
Kenzie: “Mommy, you come down here and fight me.”
Me: “No.”
Kenzie: “Why?”
Me: “Because you’re scaring me.”

We’ve also been assured by our children that karate skills will come in quite handy when killing bugs.

So I guess karate class it is. I’m sure I’ll have more to report on this subject, but for now I will sign off with a HIIIIIII-YA!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Five Desks

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Leadership Boot Camp and I want to tell you about all of it. I want to tell you about the amazing moms that I met that are changing this country. I want to tell you about the survivors I met that carry on and stand up to make my children and your children safer. I want to tell you about the mom that I met whose 14-year-old son was shot and killed but she continues to fight every day and is one of the fiercest, bravest ladies I have met. I want to tell you about what it was like to listen to Richard Martinez speak, the father of Christopher who was shot and killed in Isla Vista earlier this year. I want to tell you about all of it, but I can’t. I can’t make you see this incredible experience through my eyes. I do, however, want to share this. This one moment that I know I will never forget. The moment that I will draw on for strength and for bravery when mine is faltering.

During one of our training sessions, I ended up in a small group with one of the teachers from Sandy Hook.  She teaches second grade. Second grade…the grade that comes after the first. I know that seems like a simple thing to point out, but I mention this because in this case it is not necessarily true. Because on December 14, 2012, 20 first-graders were shot and killed in their classroom. Twenty children never got to the second grade. This teacher had in her classroom two students that escaped that day. They got away when the shooter reloaded. They got to see the second grade. Many didn’t get that chance.

And here is the image that will stay with me. It’s what I have thought about constantly since she shared it. While preparing for the school year, she said, they had to pull five desks out of one of their classrooms.

Five desks. I can’t keep that image out of my head. Five desks. A hole in this classroom that was robbed of five second-graders. Five desks being pushed in a storage closet. And for every desk there is a family, a family that is grieving. Families that should be going into second grade classrooms for parent-teacher conferences, looking at homework, and going to holiday parties, but instead face a lifetime of grief.

Look, I get it. It’s hard to talk about gun violence. It’s not pleasant. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary to have those conversations with people. It’s scary to speak up for what you believe in, but we have a choice to make. We can either be brave and fight for what’s right or we can keep pulling desks out of classrooms. I choose the former.

Not one more empty desk.