photo by Sonal Madhok
I was driving around one day and noticed the car in front of me had a sticker on it that read, “Change? How’s that working out for you?”
I don’t know about you, but I think that statement is terrifying. Yes, they are “just words,” but there is truth in that among all the people that fight for change and care so deeply, there are still many who refuse it- who are more than comfortable with the way things are in the world and would prefer them to remain the same for their sake.
My mother is the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. She’s smart and funny and kind. All she ever does it go out of her way to make sure everyone is happy and feels cared for. She meets every person with so much love and gives away more than enough without any need for reciprocation. She deserves the world.
I’d assume that most of you, reading this, feel the same way about your mother or at least someone you love. But despite my mother being a human being like the rest of yours, her Puerto Rican complexion means something different to the world.
While there have been a lot of kind people along the way, there have also been a lot of people who are not so kind…
My mom has been parking on the opposite side of our street for the past year we’ve lived here. There has never been a problem, but a few weeks ago, she found a note on her car saying that that was illegal, and that they would call the police if she didn’t move. There were no signs or indicators noting that this was unlawful. In confusion, she called the local police department to check and see if it was okay for her to park there. She kept them on the phone and made them double-check. To which they replied, it was entirely legal for her to do so. She continued to park there.
The next night, at 10 pm, there was a knock on our door. It was the Chief of Police. He ordered her to move her car because it was illegal, and she was blocking the intersection. When she replied that she had called the previous day, he said it was a “new rule” and proceeded to place police orders specifically in the area she was parked.
My mom minds her own business, so I wonder a lot about why her “improperly placed” vehicle bothered our neighbor and why he sat in bed at 10 o’clock in the evening, dialing the police to have them come over here.
Aside from this, there have been many other instances on our block, and in my mother’s life, where this behavior has occurred and where she has felt uncomfortable, unsafe, and frustrated. For example, yesterday, my mother was walking our dog past a construction area nearby, where a police officer was posted up. As she passed, he proceeded to follow her as she walked until she got back home. Then, later that day, another police officer passed by, watching as she cleaned her car.
Regardless of if you think any of this behavior was racially motivated. Regardless of if you think it’s not a big deal. This is NOT okay. And frankly, it’s fucking scary.
What’s most painful about these situations is the fact that it’s so simple that nothing can really be said about it. “How can you prove that she really didn’t do something wrong?” “Are you sure they were following her?”
If you have ever loved someone or something, then you know the feeling that when they’re hurting, it hurts you. You just want to protect them, but you never have control over fate. Everyone has to go out in the world, but not everyone has a nice, white bubble to float around in- and that’s not discrediting the problems of others. I sometimes worry when I leave the house that something bad will happen, and I won’t get home in time. Or that the weird looks she gets when she goes for a walk will turn into something more grim. Although my mom doesn’t do things that would get her in some kind of trouble, I fear that she will be.
I didn’t always recognize how different my mother’s reality was from mine because I have white skin- how I benefit from the white supremacist society we live in. Hell, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Not only was it rare to see diversity in my friend group, in my school, or in my town, but I don’t even remember conversations about racism coming up unless it was a topic of the past. I didn’t want to believe that people could be subtly racist, especially to my own mother.
There is an unfair, disgusting, and horrifying abuse of power within our system. It was built long before our generation opened its eyes to this planet. Not only is it deeply embedded in the police force and the government, but also the people. Whether or not you want to believe it and as ugly and painful as it is, it’s in all of us. This is your battle. I know that these instances don’t happen in most people’s lives. And I know that because of this, it makes it really hard to think about, believe, and to stick with the change. You may have never seen it or realized it or even thought that maybe your own words or actions carry enough weight to really hurt someone else.
When I began to have this conversation with myself, it wasn’t easy. I was uncomfortable because I didn’t understand a lot of the feelings I had buried inside, some of which didn’t even belong to me, but were ingrained. I had to ask myself questions I never did before. So much comes at you at once, and you’re overwhelmed because, by nature, you want to fix it all at once. You can’t. There are things you and I won’t ever be able to comprehend. We can’t tackle everything. But it means something to be conscious and walk through life without rose-colored glasses.
Earlier this year, a chilling video surfaced the internet of a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck for nine minutes, until he was unresponsive. That man was George Floyd. And that police officer was Derek Chauvin. Seeing that video should’ve shook you hard into your humanity, your mortality and your community. George Floyd was not only a husband, but a father- a human being that deserved just as many rights as the next one, just as many opportunities and respect. And the fact that, even after being murdered by law enforcement on video, there was hesitation to arrest and convict his killer is infuriating. There were many, many others before him. And even more after. How many more lives until something changes?
It’s heartbreaking to think of the people who don’t care enough or who simply just don’t believe it, when this is a reality for so many others. There are people who go out of their way to put the lives of others in danger, who live to see fear in those people’s eyes because it makes them feel high and mighty.
This happens every day. This behavior is everywhere. It’s not new, and it’s not a secret.
Everything that once hid in the shadows is coming to the surface right now. These things are changing right before our eyes, and everything we thought was, really wasn’t. You can feel it when you step outside your door- something is different, off balance, shifting.
The world is bending and breaking and bleeding. It would be a lie to say you don’t see it. We will all carry the weight of hatred on our backs as long as it is still very much running rampant through our country and our world. It lives in the way we participate, our inclusion of certain people and exclusion of others, our gossipping, our choice to support larger corporations while the smaller ones suffer, our pollution, our plastic, our self-denial, our abuse, our lies- everything we give our energy to that is not for the betterment, but instead feeds the negativity and allows it to grow even bigger. I know it hurts to think of these things, but it will always come full circle. No one is off the hook.
We’re all so caught up in our own lives and busyness that somehow there’s “no time” to learn and change. Or maybe there’s no time because it doesn’t immediately affect you. But none of your busyness actually matters- all of this running around and freedom you hold is meaningless, unless we can all live together like that. As Nelson Mandela once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This not only goes for the people, but the animals, the land and ocean too. We have gone on too long without a sense of community, appreciation, and care.
What I’m asking of you is to just take a second of every day to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Plainly, don’t be an asshole. And I’m not saying you are one, but always check yourself. Keep checking yourself. Check your family members and loved ones. Check your friends and coworkers. Educate yourself.
Don’t be complacent with the system because you don’t have negative experiences. Stop saying you don’t give a shit about anything at all. That’s not cool. No, you don’t have to constantly repost things on your Instagram- I’d hope that’s not the only thing you’re doing anyway. Have these conversations with your family and friends and everyone in between.
Acknowledge what came before you and the truth in everything. Make some room for the truth of others. Begin to see the world and her inhabitants as an extension of yourself. And treat everyone with the same respect, kindness, and immense love that you also deserve.
Hold so much love inside you that it bursts out of the seams. Spread it everywhere you go. Use it to heal. See the light it reaps.
Take the time to learn how to change and to make the world a better place for ALL (and there are no borders or limits or exceptions to that). Your love for humanity is going to have to be much greater than your love solely for your inner circle and yourself to overthrow this. Let go of your ego and your selfishness. Give it up for the bigger picture.
Awakening on a grand and global scale was coming. It’s long overdue. Nothing will live in the dark anymore.
Ignite the fire of change. Let your heart unfold. Meet everyone with the means to clean out a deep wound- lend an open and gentle ear. Please don’t ever be afraid to use your voice. You have one for a reason and I promise it matters. The call to become more conscious asks you to become compassionate, do the work, and listen. Notice. Feel. Discuss. Release. Repeat.
Grieve and rebirth. We will no longer live in a way that is not conducive to everyone’s wellbeing. No more blood will be shed. No more tears when there doesn’t have to be. It will take time. Know you are not responsible for everything, but you are responsible for yourself. You hold the dice and are deciding at every moment which direction this is going to go. Let it be forward.