We have all, myself included, lived our lives under the disillusionment that the real dangerous racists were all ignorant, unemployed, one-dimensional caricatures. The kind who had broken down Chevy trucks, drank Papst Blue Ribbon beer, lived in trailer parks and barely had a junior high school education. We thought we could spot them a mile away. We thought we knew them so well that there was no way they could sneak up on us because, hey, they had nothing to fuel them but their hate and we believed our power to love would always outweigh their hate. We have hoodwinked and bamboozled ourselves.
Racists, the real dangerous ones, are everywhere. They have infiltrated our government. A vast number of them are the ones who shape the laws and decide who gets the "lighter" sentences and who gets to serve for life. They also get to vote up or down on issues that will send clear messages to the poor and disenfranchised, to the black and brown, and to any others who are not white, wealthy, male, Christian, heterosexual, and able-bodied -- messages that say, "we will destroy you one unfair law, one unfair practice at a time." Some of them are doctors and nurses, making sure the poor and disenfranchised don't quite get the same attention as those who look and sound like them. A few of them have found their way into our schools, "educating" our children by leaving out those parts of history that show a more well-rounded version of what really happened in our nation and our world. And some of these racists benevolently tell one group of children that they are "hyper" and "loners" while telling another group they are "bad" and "thugs." And some of them actually have the unmitigated gall to stand in our pulpits on Sunday, preaching "God's word" to their flock, while knowing there sits among them the biggest Judas Iscariots of them all. And finally, quite a few of them have befriended us on social media, making us believe they "don't understand" all of this "race stuff" because they don't "see color" and they wish everyone would just "move on" and "let it go" because, anyway, "all lives matter."
Meanwhile, they cling to their racist flags and statues of killers and slave owners desperate for those iconic symbols of hate to stand in our government buildings so that they can very consciously send the message to all black and brown skinned people, "you do not matter." They make martyrs out of little known family members who fought in the Civil War in order to make the owning of brown and black people an institution that would have quite possibly continued for another 400 years had the south not lost that war.
Racists, the real dangerous ones, are everywhere and not necessarily where we all thought they were hiding because, really, they aren't hiding. They work with us. They live around us. They wave and smile and wink, making us believe they aren't a threat when really, they are the biggest threat of all because they are undercover racists. They wear business suits and sensible shoes. They vote. They drive nice cars. They eat at fancy restaurants and they own property. But as more and more changes begin to happen in society where they are seeing themselves lose their stronghold, they are weakening and outing themselves and not just in a subliminal manner. They are spewing their hate and showing their disdain of black and brown people by giving press conferences and status updates on social media. They are starting arguments at the water cooler and disrupting meetings in order to try and regain their power. I say we let them self-destruct. It's time they get the picture.
We will not surrender. We will not retreat. They will not win.
“I took one look at you, and I knew I didn’t want you.” Just typing the words are gut wrenching. Who says that to another person? Who says that to a person they raised as their child? Their only child? The first time those words were spoken to me were on my 46th birthday last year, but if I am to be honest, I knew all along that only one of the parents who raised me really wanted me. My daddy. My heart. My first love. But, it still stung to hear the sentiment spoken out loud.
I was having a good day. Forty-six was feeling good on me. I had recently published my first novel and I was busy going on a tour to promote it. The reviews were favorable, and you might say, I was soaring above the clouds last year. Then the call came. Something told me not to answer the phone. I knew my adopted mother. She had the unique knack of knowing exactly how to ruin an otherwise wonderful day with nothing but her words. But I decided to answer the phone anyway. Big mistake.
The call started off nice enough. “Happy Birthday. How are you? What are you doing today?” And then…the proverbial left shoe dropped. “Angela, did I ever tell you about the day M.C. and I picked you up from the adoption agency?” Well, yes, she had. But for all I knew, she was going to tell me something different, something that might make us closer, so I responded, “Yes ma’am, but you can tell me again.” I think I even smiled. But then she said the words, “I took one look at you, and I knew I didn’t want you.” “What did you say?” I asked in response. Surely, I didn’t hear what I thought I heard. But she repeated the words. As if she was telling me something to make my day a bit better. She even sounded happy as she uttered the words again. “Yes, I took one look at you, and I knew I didn’t want you, but your daddy did. So I went along with it. Eventually, you grew on me.”
I was floored. Emotionally pistol-whipped by her words. “I’ve got to go,” I said, choking back tears. Choking back my grown up tears, and the tears of the little girl that still lives inside of me, whose spirit is easily wounded. “Alright,” she said, still sounding chipper. Still sounding like she hadn’t just aided and abetted in my digression back into the little girl who never truly felt wanted. The little girl who cried herself to sleep because her daddy’s love wasn’t enough for her. She wanted her mommy’s love too, but it never came.
The second time those words were uttered by my adopted mother were less than a week ago. She lay in a hospital bed. I drove 12 ½ hours, alone, barely stopping to rest, to see what I could do to help her. To see if maybe she would allow me to be her daughter, even if it was for one last time. But, it did not take long for her to see my acts of kindness as acts of control. So with a venomousness that I can’t even fathom, she uttered the words again. “I never wanted you.”
I have tried to imagine the level of bitterness and hate that would make a human say such spiteful words to another human. Jealousy? Self-loathing? Evilness? I don’t know. But I do know this. Words bite. Words bite into the soul and can cause damage that is the equivalent of a slap to the face or a punch in the gut but the difference is, we carry the pain from words for a lifetime, often.
You would think that my being a writer would have already alerted me to that fact, and in a way, I guess I did know that. But hearing such mean words spoken. Seeing the lack of love in the eyes of someone whose love I always craved yet never fully received. Hurt. Still does. Probably always will. It particularly hurt because yet again, I put myself out there to be hurt once more by someone who clearly did not want or desire my presence. “You are not my family,” she said. For years, I knew this was how she felt, but to hear the words spoken—spoken out of the mouth of someone who is in her final years. Someone who should be preparing for her transition, filling her spirit with love for herself and all around her. It’s sad. Tragic, even.
But on that day, in that hospital room, I made the decision that I will not willingly participate in another person’s journey down the abyss. I choose to save me. I choose to stop running after the love from someone who is incapable of loving – or at least, incapable of loving me. I choose to stop hurting because she can’t love me the way I need and deserve to be loved. I choose to start living in joy and not someone else’s pain anymore. I choose me. And by choosing me, it means closing doors, but opening new ones, and sometimes, opening new doors is the best way to heal and become whole.