I had a hard time sleeping last night. It was the voices.
No, I'm not losing it (yet). The voices I heard were real - they were the voices of people who shared openly and honestly last night at a community forum on race. Twenty-five or so folks of diverse racial backgrounds met in a small room at a public library to talk about race relations. I spoke a little but mostly I listened to the voices of African American neighbors in pain. Here's some of what I heard:
"Why did it take me so long to get a job? I have a degree and ten years of experience. I was told several times that I was the most qualified. So why did it take me so long to get a job?"
"Why do I have to see Confederate flags in people's windows when I walk to work? Do they understand what that symbol means? Why do my kids have to see that symbol of hate when they walk to school every day?"
"The N-word is flown like crazy here. Why is there so much anger in this area?"
"I was raised to respect authority. I'm proud to have served my country in the military. Why do I have to be afraid when a police car slows near me?"
"Why was my daughter treated so poorly by some of the white athletes at her high school? And why didn't the administration do anything about it when I complained?"
As a white person, I can never fully understand what it must feel like to live with questions like these every day of my life. As a white person, I have the privilege of pulling race out of my back pocket when I feel like dealing with it and keeping it safely tucked away there when I don't. As a white person, I don't have to live with the hurt. But I hear it. And I'm sorry.