In the news, radio, and TV, I have tried my best to remain hopeful, encouraged, and
unbothered. It has been hard! But yet, I persevere.
Last week, I was driving home from work on a beautiful day. The sun was shining; it
was approximately 70 degrees outside, and I was feeling great. It was so pretty outside that I had the windows down, and I was enjoying the beautiful quiet ride home, using this opportunity to reflect on the day’s events. I was feeling grateful.
I live in Carmel, a small suburb of Indianapolis that has a European feel. You literally
can’t drive two miles without having to engage in a roundabout. Carmel is filled with
these roundabouts, circular intersections where you drive counterclockwise around a
center island or area.
As I was driving in the downtown area of Carmel, the traffic was somewhat at a
standstill due to the roundabout. While sitting still, I noticed two Caucasian children, a
boy and a girl, standing at the corner waving at each driver as he or she approached
the roundabout. They looked to be around 9 to 12.
Sitting in my car observing this experience, it made me smile. You have two cute
happy children, standing outside offering a kind gesture to individuals. Without fail,
one car approached, then the next car, and the children would smile and wave.
When I approached, I got a different response. A rude and offensive response. The
little boy, who appeared to have been 9 to 10 years of age, looked directly at me and
raised both hands in the air, flipped me the bird, and then stuck out his tongue. The
older sister then followed her brother’s actions and repeated the same gestures.
I was stunned and honestly speechless!
I began to look around to see if I was actually witnessing this. I even tried to see if
they were objectifying this sentiment at anyone else other than me. The answer was
NO! I will never forget the vile look of disrespect the younger boy had in his eyes as
he looked me straight in my face. I pulled over to the side of the road and parked. I just had to understand if this was the way in which others were greeted. I sat there as six other cars approached, and they were each greeted with a smile and a wave. So, what was different? They were white, and I was black.
This bothered me at my core!!!
But why? Why are you letting this affect you? Why does it hurt? These are just
children, and you are bigger than this. I got sad, really sad. As I reflected, I
understood why this bothered and hurt. It was different. It was different, because they
were kids, innocents. We tell ourselves racism rests in the older generation, and that
our children are our future. This reality of the future horrified me.
I felt bad for those children. This was a learned behavior. They were not born this
way. I work in diversity and inclusion. These are the actions that I should be able to
ignore, chalk off as nothing, but I couldn’t.
This was different, because this reflected our future! I felt sorry for those children,
because someone had failed them. Someone had not taught them to show respect and dignity for all people. I felt sad, because one day these children will be in business or corporate America. They will have learned how to mask these overt actions to subtle everyday microinequities that seek to exclude, disrespect and devalue people who look like me. These actions will be articulated as “unconscious” when in fact they are very “conscious” and aware of their intentions.
It was a signal that we have a long way to go. Our greatest opportunity is to impact
and infuse more love and inclusive behaviors in our children. They will be the catalyst
for a new society and a better world where all people can experience respect and
inclusion! Let’s pray they are.