An open letter to the white supremacist

Dear White Supremacist:

You are not faceless or voiceless or nameless–but on this last account, you are most certainly wrongly named. Chief among reasons, I am compelled to write you to suggest a better category under which to file yourself.

***
When I was in my early 20s, I worked with young people at a community center.  Timmy was one of the youths who came to the center every day. It’s immaterial to discuss Timmy’s family, his race, his hopes, the grades he earned in school. What you need to know is that Timmy was an average size for a boy in the ninth grade who had not yet hit his growth spurt. He had noodle arms and walked with a forward tilt to his feet. He was not, at first glance, a fearsome presence. But when he played basketball, he told himself that he was the best. He wouldn’t let anyone get inside his head. Timmy could not dunk. He was not the most legendary of ball-handlers. He wasn’t in danger of being drafted out of seventh grade to the NBA. But he played as though he were. He would stick one, resolute, pointer finger in the air when he made a basket. He was Number One and could not have been convinced otherwise.

Timmy, delusional or not, inspired me. He threw his whole body into a game and played with all of his soul, and told the haters where to go.

***

The difference between Timmy and you, a so-called white supremacist, is that your delusion is in vain. Where Timmy threw up a pointer finger, you carry a tiki torch aflame. Timmy’s torch was more powerful because it sprang forth from a confidence that he was, indeed, supreme at being Timmy on a basketball court. Whereas your torch, carried under darkness of night when it is hard to ascertain your supposed supremacy, is merely the implement of a coward.

I know so little about you, and yet I know what I need to know in order to decide how wrongly you’ve been categorized, White Supremacist. I don’t know if you care for an ailing parent, if you’ve served in the armed forces, if you are a vegetarian. Given your affiliation, though, I know that you are hellbent on the eradication of any whose skin’s melanin exceeds your own.

Given that you are human, I know you didn’t enter into the world this way.

Instead, I know you entered into this beautiful, fractured world with all the wholeness and wellness your birth afforded you. You arrived uncloaked and tethered only to a life source. You came not yet having learned the words of hatred and violence; you were not hard-wired to delight in scourge and plunder.

You could show me the topographic map of your life from your innocence to your decision to adorn the proverbial or actual hood of cowardice. There, I might ascertain the peaks and valleys that delivered you to this plateau where you identify as a White Supremacist. But your geography is still disoriented, inscrutable. For your cause, your aim is not, in my view, White Supremacy.

It is rather Bald-Faced Inferiority.

Whereas Timmy with his noodle arms and tilted gait suppressed no one while asserting his own superiority, he became a supreme noodle-armed being dribbling a basketball.

But your animus as a so-called White Supremacists is born of your own inferiority complex. For if you, as a crusader, were truly convinced of you own supremacy, you would recognize your privilege is already guaranteed by the star under which you were born. You are effectively cloaked (no hood required) by the countless privileges afforded your white-skinnedness. You need not be threatened by the perceived encroachment of other populations, of seemingly unmerited opportunities of said populations, of the removal of the so-called emblems of your supremacy. Supreme beings are secure in their supremacy. Supremacy is found within, not in contrast to others. Supremely satisfied within themselves such that they enjoy the good that comes to others who are not just like they. Supremely secure in their position such that they enjoy helping others who are not just alike.

I myself have reached no such supreme nirvana. I am no Timmy on the basketball court. I waver, I doubt, I am a chaotic place. What I am certain about, what I believe to be the supremacy I’m striving for, is recognizing the Imago Dei in all of humanity: the stamp of divinity in each person created by God. In this way, my finger is pointed up in the manner of Timmy. Pointed toward the Truly Supreme who breathed life into each one of us, born whole, innocent, tethered only to a life source.

Sincerely,
Kendra

 

 

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In which I talk about the book

I have not talked much about the book, the book that I wrote, that an agent represents, for which a book deal has been drafted but not signed.

Nearly a year has passed since I have seen the draft of the book deal. Since that time, I’ve been waiting to sign something. I’m dying to John Hancock the heck out of a book deal. But after all these months of uncertainty, I don’t know if the book will ever be published because I don’t know the terms of the negotiations between publisher and agent.  I worked hard for a long time on the book and I hawked it at every conference and waited for a long time for Very Important Publishing People to notice my book sitting alone at the cafeteria and to invite it over to their table.

When I got the book offer, I finally felt like I had found my table in the cafeteria and that there would be outstanding conversations and mediocre Jell-o on trays for all times.

Then, the VIPPs at my table went over to other tables to have other conversations about the book. I wasn’t involved in those conversations which seemed to volley back and forth over weeks that turned into months.

I surrendered my expectations and there was freedom in that.

But then I sort of stopped caring about the book deal and the Jell-o. People stopped dropping by my table in the proverbial cafeteria to ask about the book. I stopped asking about the book. I picked up my backpack and went back to class.

In recent days, I started to feel very convicted about my surrender which had turned into apathy. Langston Hughes was all up in my head with notions of a dream deferred. Would my plump li’l grape of a manuscript start drying out like a raisin in the sun? Why read all this Brene Brown if I’m not going to Dare Greatly or Rise Strong but instead reject vulnerability in favor of taking a nap on this book project, indefinitely.

So much of the joy in writing had been processing of my experiences in marrying cross-culturally. I was filled with hope that the accounts would somehow help other couples walking a similar path. I fought for my marriage and I am still fighting the temptation that is ever-present in marriage to kick back into cruise control. Why was I not fighting for this book?

While writing this post, my agent e-mailed me to let me know that the publisher will be going over the legal beagle notes and other things about which I have no authority or expertise. I shall be too busy slurping Jell-O and dreaming of one day signing a book deal, like for reals, y’all.

***

A little talisman from one of my favorite authors Amber C. Haines whose inscription on her book Wild in the Hollow is much cherished and encourages my heart whenever I happen upon it.

Amber HainesAmber Haines

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Drinking Icees, Slurping up forgiveness.

I check my Swatch watch when I wake up. It’s darling but it always needs to be wound so the time can’t be right. I putz about the bathroom and find my other watch. Oh mercy.

The kids are both still in their pajamas. They’ve probably watched 286 cartoons between the two of them today.

“Guys, Mommy slept in. It’s already noon. I’m so sorry.”
“WHAT?!”
“We missed my swim lesson?!”
“I know. I’m so sorry.”
“WE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!”
“No, baby, we just wasted the morning. Mommy forgot to set her alarm.”
“Mommmmmaaa, I wanted to go to my swim lesson!”
“I know. How about I make it up to you and we can go to Lake Winnie today.”

***

The kids are moving in slow motion and all I want to do is reverse the clock, sit down and eat a bowl of granola and drink coffee and not feel frantic. Swimsuits elude us. Applying sunscreen is work.

“What’s going on, Little Man? Can I help you?”
“Mom, I just feel grumpy.”
I’m proud that he has accessed a feeling instead of casting blame.
I sound like a self-esteem manual from 1989.
“Mom, I’m grumpy because I’m sad I didn’t get to go to swim lessons.”
“I know, Son. I hope you can forgive me. I messed up.”
“I forgive you.”

***

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giant side

We are walking back to the car. We have laughed, we have floated on the lazy river inner tubes several times. We have eaten funnel cake. We have had a good day.
“Mom, I’m still really upset I didn’t get to go to my swim lesson today.”
I don’t remind him that he got to shoot down a colossal waterslide, drink a giant Icee, and ride all the rollercoasters he could handle for the last six hours.
I don’t tell him that a whole afternoon at Lake Winnie beats any doggie-paddle lesson any day.
Instead I tell him the thing about forgiveness that is so hard to do.
“If you forgive someone, you can’t keep bringing it up. You know just like how God says when He forgives us, He casts our sins into the sea and doesn’t remember them anymore?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s what we have to do.”

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***

The next day he is unlocking the front door and turns to me as he opens it. “I forgive you for sleeping through my swim lessons, Mom.”

***

The day after that, he hugs me unbidden and says, “I still forgive you for sleeping through my swim lessons, Mom.”

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