Saturday, July 9, 2016

Let It Begin With Me

Where do we begin to advance change?  Everyone wants it.  Politicians promise it.  Rioters demand it.  But how do we DO it? 

We left the British Virgin Islands and returned to Puerto Rico, where our AT&T data plan provides us lots of lovely access to the Internet.  Imagine my disappointment when I opened up Facebook to find that once again, there has been a tragedy in the US.  And once again… it has unleashed innumerable opinions and accusations about why evil happens.

Whose fault is it? Who can we blame?  And I am… yes… I’m going to say it… I’m GLAD I’m not on US soil right now.  My pride in being an American was of course inbred.  It’s un-American to NOT have pride in being American… How dare I even think it???  It is physically impossible!  But travel and distance from the American media has allowed me to have a more objective view of “us” and my lifestyle affords me lots of time to think about things.  Seeing my country from a distance has not been pretty.

A conversation that occurred some time prior to this most recent event came rushing to the forefront again.  A person I know stated: My parents didn’t raise me to be racist… they just told me not to play with them (Blacks) or have anything to do with them.  They’re just “different”.  

Outwardly I just blinked for a moment... while inside my head there were alarms and whistles going off… fireworks were spewing and my eyes were popping out of their sockets like in the cartoons…  But outside I responded (as calmly as I could) THAT’S WHAT RACISM IS!!!

I don’t think the person was trying to be funny or anything… I think this person really thought it was OK to think that way… that it wasn’t being racist, it's just the way things are.  I understood then that racism is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we may not even realize that many of our thoughts and actions are racist. 

I’m not racist… I have lots of (insert name of any group other than your own) friends…  Even that sentence is subtly racist…  The fact is that there is no one alive who doesn’t have SOME sort of mental filing cabinet into which all other persons are grouped… and referring to them by their group is, in fact, being racist or bigoted or discriminatory on some level. 

But that’s not really where I’m going with this…  Going back to that conversation… It got the mental wheels turning.  I began to think about all of the times I’ve had conversations with friends whom I believed to be “just like me” in their opinions about other races.  I thought about all of the instances in which I learned just how wrong I was in that assumption.  I remembered the shock I felt when I listened to a friend making an openly racial remark… and I did nothing. 

I said nothing. 

And in saying nothing, I may have maintained a friendship… but I failed as a human being. 

That must change.

Today I saw that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Bahamas has issued a Travel Advisory to all Bahamian Citizens... especially young black males.... planning travel to the US.

There you have it.  We have arrived!  We have finally become the "People our parents warned us about".  We can no longer stare down our noses, comfortably superior in the fact that OTHER countries are dangerous and we should beware when considering travel to these places...  WE ARE THE ENEMY!  WE... are dangerous.  And I am afraid.  

We are traveling on our boat in countries where there are people of many colors.  They are in charge. We are not.  They have rights where we do not.  If they wanted to, they could just massacre us and that would be the end of it.  But mostly they don't.

I have had friends ask me point blank "How it is in the BVIs... I mean... with those people."  When I realized that the question was about black people (!!!!!) I just stammered something like "Oh, um... they're good... not a problem... (blink blink)"

I failed.  This must change.

And the fact is... the people ARE good!  There has not been one minute in any of the countries we've visited that we ever felt any kind of fear of a racial nature.  Never.  And I recoil from shame that anyone has had to feel that type of fear in MY Glorious Country...

And then I feel a sense of dread sink in... What if people from other countries were to decide to treat us the way our country treats others?  It just doesn't bear thinking about or I would be paralyzed with fear and nowhere to run...  And I send thanks to whatever God there is that the people we've encountered have been, well... if not all warm and welcoming of us pesky foreigners... at least they've been benevolently tolerant of us as a necessary evil.  Knowing what I know about the US I'm not so sure I would want us in my country either...  (Does that make sense at all???)

My husband, the history teacher has tried to educate me many times about how Americans repeatedly make the same mistakes and fail to learn from historical events.  So many times I have thought he is just the bringer of Doom-&-Gloom that doesn't belong in my "magic bubble of happiness".  But at this point, I am becoming truly afraid about where America is going.

And as much as I hate to say it... Bruce is right.  (don't tell him I said that... he doesn't read my blog)  We continuously fail to learn, not only from historical mistakes... but even recent ones.  This must change.

If I were Queen-of-the-World, there would be no lawyers or politicians or religion or insurance or media...  But I am not and I can't just wave my scepter and abolish all of the ugly things.  So what can I do?  What can we ALL do?

First... we have to admit that WE are the problem.  No... not those people over there... YOU!  Me!  WE!!!  We can all take a good hard and honest look inside ourselves and admit to all of those hidden little notions.  All of those thoughts like: "We must teach our children to be tolerant of all races"... WHAT???  Our children don't have any problems with intolerance of others outside of those WE have TAUGHT them.

It is inside all of us and we don't even know it's there.  Once Bruce and I were riding our bikes through a "bad neighborhood" in Sarasota, Florida.  I led and Bruce followed as I pedaled through the streets of some very shabby homes.  Thin young men played ball in the streets and hung out around clunker cars.  Old ladies sat in doorways with their skirts up to their thighs to catch a cooling breeze.  Tiny children chased skinny cats around dusty yards... and young girls, all "done-up" sashayed past the boys with their noses in the air.  I know you have a mental picture of this neighborhood populated with Blacks... Even though I didn't say it.... and you're right

While Bruce was inside the auto parts store we came there to visit, I admired a "low-rider" car that was a glistening cherry apple red and exchanged complementary remarks about it with a dreadlocked dude...  Inside my head I was congratulating myself at my lack of fear of these people as we invaded their domain...  Ha!  There you have it!  I MUST not be racist!!!  But because these thoughts even entered my mind... they prove to me that racism is buried deep... but it is there.  Had I not had SOME bit of it in me, being in that situation would have been no big deal.  So you see?  It's HARD to overcome what has been instilled within us from birth.

If you think about it... many of these recent tragedies would never have occurred if there wasn't so much fear and hatred for people who are different from ourselves.  With the exception of the mentally ill... it could all just go away.  No need to blame anyone... no need to hate.  We could all be spending our mental energy on much more beneficial pursuits like maybe coming up with a valid Presidential candidate... Whoops!  Did I say that out loud???

It's all so monumental.  It's all so huge and out-of-control.  There's no way to stop this speeding freight train that we're on...  But there is.  Instead of doing nothing, I can all start by doing some self-reflection.  This is my blog.  It's where I share our lives and now it's where I will put out my apology to the universe.

And I can start my own little wave of change.  I can speak up.  I can stop implying agreement with racists by remaining silent.  I can be thankful that I have never felt racially discriminated against and I can do my small part by not contributing to the cacophony of racial remarks that are flying about the internet like a great fog keeping us from seeing what's really important.

Let change begin with me.

This is another blogger's post on the subject that impressed me so much I would like to share it with you.  Click HERE to read it. 


  1. Such an excellent, insightful and honest post. Thank you for sharing it, Tammy.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    1. Thank you. I'm just so tired of the media blitzes and all of the blame-slinging and ugliness. Where will it all end? I fear to ask!

  2. Linda. SV DevOceanJuly 9, 2016 at 9:33 PM

    Enjoyed this read. It's been hard to watch all this for sometime now.

    1. Thank you. It is so hard to quantify it and denying it doesn't change the facts. If each person would just worry about themselves and how they can individually change...the rest would fall into place. It's difficult to see the good when the bad is splashed everywhere.

  3. Excellent, thought provoking post. I share many of your feelings. Thank you for this.

    Joe, SV CloudStreet

    P.S. How long do you plan to be in P.R.? We are leaving Marsh Harbour, Bahamas next week for Marina Pescaderia on the west side and plan to spend several months exploring the area.

    1. Thank you. We will be in Salinas through October most likely. We enjoyed our stay in Marina Pescaderia very much. Say hello to Jose from Dos Libras! He is very accomodating and there are lots of places to visit by rental car very close. I'm sure we can arrange a get-together.

  4. Love and my thoughts also. Hoping to get out of here soon....before the world all goes to pot.

  5. So beautifully put. "Be the change."

  6. Thanks for thoughts.
    DAVID SV Liza