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A Heavy Heart

By Shawn Hosford

Tags: prejudice, Shawn Hosford, Washington,

South Africa

This week, I had hoped to write about giving to charity instead of corporations for the Holidays, but the topic below took personal and national precedence. I will look forward to discussing donations in place of consumption next week.

My heart is heavy. A little more than a week ago, at the Thanksgiving table, my family got into quite a heated conversation about prejudice—specifically, the recently meditated concentration of black deaths in the United States at the hands of white police officers. Since the conversation, I can’t help but reflect on the level of fear, ignorance, and consciously calculated hatred in our country and around this world. I find it increasingly difficult to extend an understanding, necessary to open dialogue, with those who fail to acknowledge the historic and systematic roots of irrationally excessive uses of force.

It wasn’t until my husband and I took a trip to Durban, South Africa two years ago to visit our daughter that I witnessed first-hand how a white American male feels when plucked out of the privilege of his majority status. We were visiting Carly during the Christmas holidays when she surprised us with a day tour of local Durban hotspots. One of the afternoon highlights happened to be a chairlift ride over the Durban beachfront, where a week-long party for tens of thousands of black South Africans, many who spend the remainder of their year inland, was taking place. On the beachfront, our whiteness was impossible to ignore. While everyone was friendly and open to us being there, we were also open game for stares as a pale-skinned spectacle. I noticed my husband looking tense and stressed, and I was immediately curious about the reason for his edginess. As we rode the chair lift above the crowd down on the beach, he remarked that this was the first time in his life that he could remember being the minority, and how exposed, unsafe, and unsure it made him feel. While being a recognized minority and a persecuted minority are completely different experiences, what Carly’s Christmas gift did give us that year was a useful dose of self-reflection and interrogation into a greater contextualization of our creature comforts.

In most of the conversation I have had recently surrounding prejudiced police killings —Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice — I find myself at a loss for words in the face of hastily and arrogant “understanding” from people of privilege and racial majority. I don’t understand the pain of losing a child. I don’t understand the pain attached to a family history of slavery and oppression. And I don’t understand the insecurity of being different, marked, and targeted for it every time I leave my home. What I do understand is that I am incredibly fortunate, and with that fortune it is my responsibility to learn, to empathize, and to struggle for the safety and justice of us all.

How can we help each other to move out of places of hatred and fear?


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