Black Lives Matter in My White Life

I had a black grandfather
not by blood,
but in all the ways that mattered.
From my infancy to his death bed
his gentle soul left a heartprint on mine.

I learned about unity
seeing my black grandfather, born 1900,
and my white grandfather, born 1910, 
- both having seen their share
of the worst of this world -
tend our vegetable garden
then sit together on the porch
and watch the garden grow.

But this sweet treasure of my childhood
doesn't mean I understand the Black Experience.

I taught several years in a black school.
Some of my students put me through the wringer
my first year,
but not all, not most.
But some. And it became a special connection
we laughed at together a year or two
down the line.
For some,
but not all, not most.

I could not encapsulate 
their world, here.
But their humor and humanity
strength and pride
sass and sweetness
left their mark on my world.

I likely learned more than I taught, but it 
doesn't mean I understand the Black Experience.

Some of my closest friends
have been black women.
A lot of laughter
and keeping things real
came in equal measure
in the hours spent talking
           in the classroom after hours
           walking laps, pushing strollers in the mall.

We shared the highest celebrations
life brought to our doorsteps,
held each other close 
during the devastation of loss.
Our times together shaped 
who I became as an adult.

Though we journeyed so far together
I still do not understand the Black Experience.

Because I am white.
White, white.
Blond haired, blue eyed white.
I am slow to speak.
I watch and listen.
I'm taking it in.
I don't know my part.
But I'm listening.
I'm learning.
I will bath my actions in kindness
and my words in love.
I will teach my children
to do the same.

Like my grandfathers,
I'll tend this garden 
     out of control before us,
pull out the weeds
fertilize the land
and plant good fruit.

And hopefully one day soon
we too
can sit together
and watch this garden grow.


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