What discovery did you make in 2011? What kind of impact did it have on how you view the world today? And how will you resound?
About six months ago, I discovered a unique daily news site called Colorlines.com. It’s a great site created by a team of multiracial writers and investigative journalists who report on everything from politics, economics and immigration issues to pop culture and sentiment. After a quick exploration of the website, I subscribed to the listserve and truly, I am always presented with intriguing, important and often alarming information every single time they send out a link to the latest.
Much of the discussion on the website responds to a particularly enraging incident or situation involving race and ethnicity, and the long-standing injustice and hurt that has been experienced by people of color in this country. I identify as a white person, and as a white Latina, and as such cannot really comprehend what it’s like to have intimately known such injustice, and be able to tell the tale. But I do my best to listen, and to learn.
Early on in the second year following my sister’s death, I wrote the following words:
It is late summer and I am icy with rage. I have never been so hurt, so angry, and so depressed as I have been over the past fourteen months. Oh yes, if anyone’s reading this, they’re probably thinking, how boring, you again. Your problems, your issues. But it’s true. If anyone else close to one’s sister or brother loses them in the way that I did, he or she has got to feel the same. If I could confront them – the men who killed Liz – what would I do? What would I say? I understand what an accident is and what it is not. I understand that they didn’t mean to run her over. But how can that be an acceptable excuse?
Unfortunately, in our society, it is an acceptable excuse. And so we are left with nothing in terms of justice. No apologies, no reprimand, and no punishment to fit the crime. Nada. If I met the man who opened the door of the truck that made her fall, I would hit him, rage against him, pummel him with all my strength – curse him and wish him NOTHING but to reflect on what he did, in a moment, wrongly parked on the corner of a busy city street, for the rest of his life. He is the cause of death. I don’t hate him, though. It isn’t worth it. Still, how to release the rage… I can’t figure it out. I just want her back. She would know exactly how I feel. The loss of someone who understood me is immense.
I guess survivors are often left with nothing. And they have to start over.
The reason this particular journal entry came to mind after reading some of the stuff on Colorlines.com is that there is a struggle that comes from the pressure to “let go” and “move on”. And as much as I consider myself an ally of people of color, I, too, have occasionally thought, well, just “move on”. Institutionalized racism is a thing of the past. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed in 1865.
And then I had this happen to me: I lost my sister, in an accident.
Let me be clear. In no way am I making a direct, or even distant, comparison between what millions of Americans and their ancestors experienced (and still experience) due to slavery and discrimination, and what I’ve gone through since my sister died as a result of someone’s carelessness. But prior to losing her, I’d led a ridiculously comfortable life. And since losing her, I’ve suffered. People have told me to get “over it” and to “move on”.
So now that I’ve been in that dark, angry and resentful place, I get that you just can’t get over it.
Returning to Colorlines.com. This year I’ve discovered there is so much I don’t know, haven’t known, and may never know. My truths are my own, and other people’s truths are their own. These truths come together in a spectacular and complex venue and quality and state that we refer to as Humanity.
This year, I’ve discovered that I’m very glad to be a part of Humanity, with its known and unknown components, and its dreary caves and brilliant mountaintops. And I welcome all who wish to join me for the journey.