Helluva Year, Part 2

Where were you when you heard “the shot heard ’round the world? “

#myblogis1 #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

Part 2: When I was an undergraduate taking Creative Writing classes for my minor, a professor described our finished drafts or final copies of books, stories, and poems as our “babies.” As I reflect this month on the year that was, from October 2019 to October 2020, I reflect on my newest creation: this blog.

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by police. Seeing the police shooting Floyd and hearing the gunshots was the beginning of the end of any remaining racism that I still had within me. This was a wake-up call. What could I do?

First, I continued to read the news daily and sought out updates on any and all things with racism, Floyd, and the protests in Minneapolis, MN, where the murder happened. Social media can be useful.

Protests for brown people erupted immediately as awareness of brown homicides by police increased, especially in recent years and this year: Breanna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Rayshard Brooks, and Floyd, to name a few.

In Minneapolis, protests, marches, and violence erupted. White and brown people nationally and locally united to learn on a deeper level that Black Lives Matter. Protests were even sometimes international!

A lot of white people wanted to call it All Lives Matter, but as I read from various sources, I became convinced that, no, it was time to emphasize that Black Lives Matter. I nor my white family or friends had EVER had to worry about being shot at by police. We would be arrested first and read our rights if we committed a crime. Not so possibly for my brown and black friends.

Black Lives Matter.

I learned about white privilege, and that I have benefited from it all my life.

It was time to deal with my Inner Racist, and I wasn’t sure how much I’d find of her.

Meanwhile, the virtual school year wound down, and the kids and I looked for things to do. We waded in the nearby Monocacy River. Learned how to ride bikes. I staged an-end-the-year Field Day in our backyard with a lot of input from our wonderful elementary school’s P.E. teachers.

I couldn’t believe that Covid-19 had turned our lives upside down and I was homeschooling my kids! Thank goodness I was getting furlough pay, and it was temporary.

But more protests increasingly turned to riots than not in major cities as summer continued, and the civil unrest was like nothing I’d ever read about or lived through in America. I wondered and worried a little about rioting and looting happening in northern Frederick where I live, but we are fortunate to live in a suburb.

I found a political movement group on Facebook called SURJ that I could follow and support virtually.

I learned and read more than ever before about new perspectives on racism as a white person. For instance, my white son will probably never have to not avert a police officer if he’s out at night by himself like a brown boy would simply because the color of his skin.

I learned that racist scenes like Radio Raheem’s killing in Do the Right Thing were and are based on real cases of police brutality.

Also, that police all over the country often possess something called No Knock Warrants, so they can violate brown people’s constitutional rights and barge into their homes. And often, these fatal incidents happen in poor neighborhoods where police often do not have strong relationships with the community.

Meanwhile, my kids and I began going on our first bike rides around the neighborhood together. Father’s Day came and we celebrated my husband.

I made a Black Lives Matter sign and hung it prominently in our picture window. Maybe you would consider making or buying your own?

The coming summer truly felt like it was going to be explosive one, with Covid-19 still rampant and protests with people possibly now infecting others. Speak your mind and risk your life or mask up and attempt to distance? I had never seen my country in such a state!

As someone who grew up in the ’80s, and had been taught a little about the Civil Rights era of the ’60s, images this year of white and brown people marching together looked like history come to life. It was very moving.

I was angry that my young children and I were only indoctrinated with nineteenth and twentieth century martyrs such as Rosa Parks, volunteering to refuse to give up her seat that day and Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s I Have a Dream speech. And of course, reflections on how Abraham Lincoln set slaves free. Free to be what? How was that transition supposed to happen exactly?

Let’s get beyond this speech when we teach our children about MLK, Jr., in school, America! There is so much more to be learned about peaceful activism and how to view our fellow Americans.

Or how about getting rid of the myth that Rosa Parks just randomly gave up her seat that day? As is now more commonly known, the Civil Rights movement planned for someone such as her to take an action such as that for months, and she volunteered.

Meanwhile, my husband and I waited for a new yard toy to arrive amidst all the delays that Amazon and the U.S. Post Office were experiencing. A tree swing! It finally came and joined the sandbox and swing set in our outside entertainment collection. I was desperate to fill the kids’ time daily. I chose for them to not play with any other children.

But I wrestled with questions such as why I was never taught about the 1955 murder of Emmett Till and his mother who insisted the viewing be open casket so people could that her son was severely beaten and had his eye gouged out?

Why were legal battles in which brown people were sentenced to death simply because of the color of their skin such as the Scottsboro Boys (1930s) AND not provided with legal representation not taught in middle or high school history classes?

So that I could learn about the same U.S. History I learned at least three times in elementary, middle and high school? The “Explorers” aka Exploiters; Colonialism and Thanksgiving (the beginning of the complete decimation of Native Americans and indigenous peoples at a so-called feast? It is theorized to instead have been a massacre of Native Americans); the Revolution; the lead up to the Civil War; World War I; and maybe World War II, but by then, it was usually Spring.

And what about movies such as To Kill A Mockingbird that demonstrated Atticus Finch’s noble cause against racism? Or famous dramas such as A Raisin in the Sun that showed the plight of brown people? I taught these American literature “classics” when I taught high school, but then what?

What does a literary character almost 100 years old such as Atticus have to teach us today? And when Lorraine Hansberry’s fictional Youngers get their home in a white neighborhood, then what? Are our suburbs still racially divided where we live, or have we as Americans really become more acculturated over assimilated?

This past June, the kids and I counted the final days of homeschooling. Covid-19 restrictions had lessened in Maryland and most states by late Spring. 25% then 50% capacities in stores and restaurants. I planned Liam’s preschool graduation, at last! (late birthday). And with the four of us, and his little graduation gown and hat, we celebrated.

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