Noctiflorous – Flowering by Night

Moonflowers, their large, soft white petals open only in response to the soft touch of moon glow. In the glaring heat of day they are closed up tight, locked away against the indignity of the harsh Texas sun.

There aren’t a lot of plants that flower at night – they’re a bit of an aberration. I suppose that’s why I love them. Feeling a bit like an aberration myself I like that nature herself appreciates a good weirdo too. 

Aberrations

So this year has felt like one humongous aberration am I right? It’s felt too real, too fake, too horrible, too depressing, too dark. People are dying. I mean, people are always dying but now they’re dying more – and horribly – alone in hospital rooms with only nurses able to hold their hands. And we all, all of us, have this terrible burden of knowledge that we could have done more, as a country, to both prevent and mitigate these losses.

People are being oppressed and marginalized and pushed down. People are always being oppressed and marginalized and pushed down but now white people like me are going….Oh.No. This has been happening right under my nose. The whole time. THE WHOLE TIME I’ve been alive systematic racism has been happening globally but more harshly here in the USA. And it makes me feel scared. I’m scared when I encounter it, and I’m scared when I say something, and I’m scared when I write about it.

Fighting With A Hand Outstretched

I want to fight it. I want to fight ignorance and injustice while staying true to my natural positivity and assumption that people are, at their heart, good. All people. All Americans. All Canadians. All global citizens. All humans. At their heart, decent people only trying to do what they think is best for them and their children.

And then I remember moonflowers. Those aberrations whose flourish and purpose is by moon glow. When all seems darkest, they turn their faces to the moon and open.

There is strength, and beauty to be found in these dark times. I can see it in the young white kid in Alabama, the only one in his neighborhood who stood at the end of his street and held a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign and was threatened, and ridiculed, mocked and dismissed. On video. I refuse to pay attention to the worst of humanity showing the worst of itself and instead focus on this bright light of a kid who is shining despite the censure. I see it in the methodical outlining of the disparity of American incarceration rates in Michelle Alexander’s book ‘The New Jim Crow’.

I see it in our former first lady Michelle Obama whose authentic and generous sharing of her thoughts and feelings about this president and our current times has moved me to action.

I see it in the ‘Moms of Portland’ who are standing up to misguided private militia sanctioned by the president. In pink bike helmets and a fierceness only a woman would recognize.

I see it in every young black and person of color who refuses to let current circumstances diminish their fire and grit.

We’re living in a time when we’re told truth is not truth, when we’re lied to and pushed around and our fears are being capitalized on by a sociopathic mad man.

And yet…there is hope.

And still, if you look around, there are moonflowers out there blooming like fireworks on the darkest night of the year. These are the everyday people doing everyday things like delivering mail, making supper for their families, working two jobs so their kids can have a chance at a better life. They’re nurses like my friends Kirsten and Tina, they’re teachers like me and my friends Sarah and Natalie.

They’re the kids who say no to the negativity and despair pumping out of Washington right now like a sewer line that’s never been flushed.

They’re the people you and I know, who are refusing to be brought low, and are banking on ‘going high’ like it’s the last train to redemption. Because it might be.

Black Lives Matter

Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

I’ll start with a quote I like from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Your goodness must have some edge to it. Else it is none.”

There are times to speak and times to stay still. I haven’t said much publicly, at least not here, about the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd in particular. Both because there are smarter, better, (black) voices we need to be listening to first. And still. And always. As a white person the only reason to take up the limelight here is to shine it on the people who are struggling and hurting right now.

I have also been waiting for my outrage and hurt to harden into resolve. I’ve been waiting for this hot mess inside my heart to sharpen into a will I can use to carve out practical, concrete steps to ensure this kind of thing never happens again on my watch.

All mothers, everywhere, you have been called. When George Floyd begged for his mama because he couldn’t breathe…my heart, your heart, broke. Every mother in the world needs to answer that call. It is time. We have stood by in neutrality because we’re raised polite. We’re raised to assume everyone has an opinion they are allowed to shout at the rooftops while we bend over backward to soften the edges and quiet down the controversy.

Well, that’s not our job anymore. Saving someone else’s baby – that’s our job now.

Our job is to make sure no more non-white boys and girls need to be scared they’re going to be the next one to be murdered in public. If that feels strong to you, it should. This is a problem that has gone on for hundreds of years. It isn’t okay. It’s never been okay, and it needs to stop. https://time.com/5851855/systemic-racism-america/

Here are the concrete ways we can stop this:

Move Money – We don’t need to call a police officer carrying a gun for a homeless man outside a Wendy’s, or a person who may or may not have known he was carrying a counterfeit $20 bill. We don’t need to pay police less – we need less police crack down on minor crimes. No one deserves to die for a broken headlight, vagrancy, or ‘attitude’. There are social programs who can deal with mental health, vagrancy, and other minor, non violent crimes. If we can find the money to fund them properly.

As an aside – I’ve seen a police car exactly once in my neighborhood in the 5 years I’ve lived here – and you know when that was? When we had a door-to-door (black) man selling books for his university. The police car pulled up to my driveway and he called from the car ‘You Okay Ma’am?’ Yes. Please carry on. And what were you saying about white privilege my friends? FYI it doesn’t mean you were born rich – it means you were born white.

Black neighborhoods are disproportionally over policed while their social and community programs are gutted in congress and fail for lack of support and funding.

Move Legislation – There are way smarter people than me talking about how we can make lasting changes to the laws in our land. From barring choke holds to reducing prison sentences for minor crimes to introducing rehabilitation programs to giving the Fair Housing and Equal Credit laws upgrades.

Not sure what I mean? Please see links below:

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2019/08/07/472617/systemic-inequality-displacement-exclusion-segregation/

https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=45004

Move your Butt – If you can’t get out and protest safely you can read a book:

How to Be an Antiracist By Ibram X. Kendi (https://www.ibramxkendi.com/how-to-be-an-antiracist)

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander) Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.

Lastly – we may not ever be able to convince the Karen’s of the world that black and people of color’s lives matter but we can confront our own inherent racism. Once you accept you are a part of a system of oppression that has hurt millions of people, only then you can start to make things better for everyone. This isn’t just a Black Lives Matter movement – this is a Human Rights Movement and until all of our children are safe, none of our children are safe.

Really lastly but certainly not least, we can speak up when we see racisim in others. Because avoiding a confrontation over race and racism? Yeah – we’re not doing that anymore.