I read the book The Hate U Give in June. I was only a few pages into the book before I was full on sobbing. From start to end I needed to put the book down several times to pull myself together.
Angie Thomas tells a story of racism with such intelligence and truth. Her brilliant use of characters to drive the storyline captivate you in such a way that tears down the predisposed thoughts on issues you default to when you hear them being talked at you. You are left being able to truly see the other side regardless of if you understand or agree.
For me, it was the first time I could see myself in a story. The dialect was familiar, the setting similar to my childhood, the struggle relatable, and my love and respect for 2Pac sufficiently celebrated. It caused me to come to terms with issues in my life I unknowingly suppressed.
Living in Two Worlds:
Late last year a good friend whom I’ve known for thirteen years and is listed as my kids’ emergency contact on their school forms, casually mentioned that she noticed I never have her and her family over at the same time as my extended family. I had to think about that for a minute but she was indeed right. It wasn’t something I consciously did. It just never occurred to me to combine my two worlds.
When I am with my family we spend our time remembering our childhood and life in the neighborhood. There is an overt use of slang, laughter, and the decibel level of loudness is off the charts from everyone talking over each other. It’s who we are. It’s who I am.
When I am with my friends we talk about marriage, raising our kids, ministry, life, and our own personal goals and dreams. There is laughter, tears, and the kind of fellowship that refreshes my soul. It is who we are. It is who I am.
You see, I am being my true self in both circumstances. However, I didn’t realize I stopped being my whole self a very long time ago until it was depicted in the plot development of the sixteen-year-old main character Starr who lives in a predominately black neighborhood but goes to a predominately white private school. You guys, I’m forty-one.
The book is based on the fatal shooting of a black young man by a white police officer. The depths of racism are brought to the forefront by the reactions and events that followed from the supporting characters from both worlds, eerily mirroring our world today
Where I live phrases like “I just don’t see it.” and “Racisms doesn’t occur in our community.” are common. Listen, just because it doesn’t happen to you or you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s not a cliché statement. It’s truth.
I live in your community. I go to your church. My kids go to your kid’s school. I work out at your gym. I shop at your grocery store. I am a citizen. I am upper middle class. I pay taxes. I. Am. Your. Neighbor. And I am a frequent recipient of racism.
Here is the thing, the backhanded racism I have experienced throughout my lifetime has become my normal. What is not normal is the recent blatant hate directed at me solely because of the color of my skin in public places.
You see a few months back, while at a concert, a white man who was obviously furious with Anti-Trump comments made by the band was walking in my direction. I happened to look up from my phone and consequently made eye contact with him. Anger radiated from his eyes and the most hateful, disgusting words spewed out of his mouth directed at me as he walked past.
To be clear, I said not one single word to him prior to that. I had never seen him before. I made not one act to suggest I agreed with the band. He saw the color of my skin and made assumptions based on pure hate. The fact that I just felt the need to justify myself makes me ill and yet it has become a knee jerk reaction when discussing my dealings with racism.
I stayed silent after that happened, telling only one friend. When the images surfaced from Charlottesville I was shook me to my core. Those men reminded me of that night. It was the same kind of evil.
I was abandoned by my mother when I seven years old. She kept in touch only to cause a level of emotional abuse I’m still struggling with. It’s not something that can be comprehended by others. The thought of a mother choosing boyfriends over their children, dispensing verbal abuse with pleasure, and just flat-out neglecting any type of care for their children is unimaginable. But it happens.
When a similar storyline unfolded on the pages in this book for a supporting character the truth of my struggle was validated for the first time ever. I was equally refreshed and saddened. I am still processing from the emotional wreckage it stirred up inside me.
When I finished reading the book I knew it needed to be read, processed, and then discussed by everyone. However, it has taken me three months to articulate my thoughts. Throughout that time, I have come to this conclusion: I can no longer stay silent.
I need to live a whole life and stop pacifying racial tension in my circles of influence because it is easier than speaking the truth. I need to be willing to have hard discussions and not let fear keep me from telling my own story.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. He created me to live life fully, unapologetically as Mexican American Woman. I am a child of God. It’s time I start living like it!