An Open Letter to White Seniors — From a White Senior Gentleman
After 74 years on this good Earth, and after living among black people in America for over 50 years, I wish to unpack my soul a bit and share it with those who will “hear.” While I address this to older white people around the USA, I suppose it may also be of interest to whites beyond these borders; at least I hope so. I also realize that many older seniors may not read a lot of “on-line” stories and blog posts, so I would encourage younger readers to forward this — or print it out and give to those older family members, perhaps grandparents, and friends and others. I believe what I have to say is important.
As I write this we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are witnessing the consequences of the murder of Mr. George Floyd, as people of all colors and ethnicities surge in city streets across the Country. Demonstrations and marches are taking place in places where overt protests are not the norm, such as Lubbock, Texas.
So I have given you my age, that I am white, but in the lead sentence I hope to have gotten your attention with the “living among black people.” I married my college sweetheart, who was a beautiful African American girl, and this act of love gave me passage into a world that few white people ever experience. At the time we married, just a few short years after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Loving’s in their suit to strike down miscegenation laws so they could legally live as a married couple, the number of interracial marriages was still almost nil. Today of course mixed relationships are very common, and it is gratifying to me to see this. Their being much more common does not mean that such marriages or relationships are not exposed to continuing racism with its many sharp edges.
My wife passed away after we had enjoyed some 25 years together. We did not produce children, but spirit brought six god-children into my life, black children, at that time ranging from a few months to age 11. I was blessed to assist with their uprearing, and today they are all upstanding contributors to our society, one an attorney, one an indie film maker, and the others, artistic entrepreneurs in new music.
I have seen and gone through a lot with my children for over 25 nears now, but I must say I have never seen them so appalled, so frustrated, so sad, so hurt, and so angry as right now. All of them were for the most part raised and educated around white peers, in majority white schools and universities, but they also were raised by their mothers to be fully aware of and embrace their African ancestry.
They themselves understand how much greater our society could be if racism would just “go away.” But it won’t just magically diminish, and that leads to the impetus of my writing this, as we older white people can help make a big difference in our National climate of race relations. We are not off the hook just because we are perhaps retired or near; even if we are living in an assisted care home, if our minds are sound, we can speak our peace toward making change! Everyone tends to listen when an elder speaks up with wisdom and love in their hearts.
All my children wear their hair naturally and always have. Now, for those of my fellow whites, especially seniors, who do not even understand the term “natural” as applied to the hair of black people, natural means not having the hair be “straightened,” or “relaxed” by chemicals, but rather remaining curly or kinky, but worn in beautiful styles which could be “naturals,” “Afros,” or braided or twisted to form beautiful “ancestral” styles that Africans have worn for thousands of years; styles that non-African civilizations “borrowed” going back into the early civilizations of Eurasia. You also may not be aware that the whole topic of “natural hair” is one receiving much attention and discussion today, yet all that is really the metaphor for the greater issues related to being Black in America.
In this brief post there are three main points I want to convey, to encourage you older (and younger, if “the shoe fits”) white people to pause and think about: 1) The world as you see it through your “white eyes” is a world that your history (and mine) lied to you about; 2) That the term “systemic racism” is as real as the nose on your face; and, 3) You, as an older white person, probably have the greatest chance of making some real changes in our dystopian American life, more so than any other group of Americans living today!
Likely it may be a difficult pill for you to swallow any, much less all of the above three statements. I understand that, and this is why I want to speak to you, because I believe if I can help you “see the light,” with the power you possess as a privileged, older white person, you can actually affect changes that otherwise may not come to pass in time to save this Nation!
Over the next few days I will be writing more on this theme, and address the three postulates above in some detail. I will also provide you with references that help turn on that light, of which I speak. I do hope you will return to hear me out. Likely you do not know anyone like me, so I hope you will find my posts stimulating!