Monday, August 1, 2016

It Is Personal

August 1, 2016, Kirkwood MO
by Tayé Foster Bradshaw

When it is about life, it is personal.

Everything is about how one lives.

Those fears that drive the maniac fringe to hate someone because of the color of their skin, the gender of their birth or the orientation of their sex, the place where the universe set down their life or the faith with which they guide their soul, it is all personal, it is all about life, and some believe that only a few lives really matter.

Over the course of the summer, my family and I have done a bit of travel.

We were in Alabama, bringing home my youngest son from his last year of college when my daughter's phone started buzzing with text messages about a mass shooting in Orlando.

That event became the beginning of our summer.

The next few weeks and month was filled with rhetoric about the black and brown bodies sacrificed. The white fear and fragility that made it about them in a little St. Louis suburb, and the continued definining of what it means to matter.

We were on another trip during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and were happy we did not watch the vitriol from a sea of white faces, many of them women. There was enough informaiton online to turn back the clock to a previous generation where this same anger spewing fear filled television screens as young black people just wanted to live.

The children had long conversations about Baton Rouge and Minneapolis and the young men killed by police. It was another chat when a lone military snipper killed police officers in Dallas and the conversation shifted from the militarized racist officers who have knowingly and intentionally violated the civil rights of black citizens to the hyper blue of those who equated a profession with a person's life.

Summer 2016 felt like it was going to be very  contentious as neighbors in parts of the country were letting their hate be known. In my own suburb, we saw the stickers and the confederate flags, all too brazenly displayed of what they think of a good 35% of the country.

It is the first day of August where the thoughts of many of us are planning back-to-school activities for the next two weeks, deciding on scheduled, packing for college road trips, and all around return to a bit of managed normalcy that fall brings. It is also a reminder that we are in for a tumultous fall.

The Democratic National Convention was last week, we were on another family trip for part of it and returned to the nomination of the nation's first woman candidate to lead a major party. That is huge.

It was huge in 1972 when a black woman poked the glass that cracked the possibility and in 2016, it is huge that a white women has pushed through that glass, shattering the question on if a woman can lead. This was at a convention that had black woman after black woman leading and directing meetings, calling it to order, giving the opening convocation, and taking the helm of the party. It was huge.

And before the ink could dry on the news, the fragile egos of men were on full display across the country.

When I sat down with my daughter, a decided fan of a wild eyebrowed independent candidate, shrte explained her GenZ frustration as well as her reluctant exuberance in the possible. She is only fourteen, there is time for it to not be a "first" when she gets older.

There was a moment in the middle of this personal that I stopped to wonder what it would be like if one did not have to qualify their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or heritage as being the "first" before just sitting down to do that thing that only you were created to do.  What would it be like to be free?

This summer break starts to end with a step to the summer olympics with black women leading in swimming and gymnastics, with renewed fervor of what this democracy is supposed to be for all who step on these shores, it is all personal, so what would it be like?

Do we choose love over hate?

Courage over fear?

Engagement over rhetoric?

What will it be in this quest to live fully in this life that matters?