My Brother Says

He says, “I don’t know why we have to continue to talk about this thing that happened 300 years ago. I don’t own any slaves.”

Can we just leave the past in the past? Can’t we just talk about something else?

This is what my white, male, heterosexual peer says without saying.

These are sentiments echoed by some of my other white peers.

I want to turn to him and say,

 

Brother,

[Because, he is my brother. Although our skin color may fool others into thinking that we are more dissimilar than alike, I know that our differences are the product of socialization, and that my eye shape does not make me some subset of white humanity. We are all kin in our shared humanity, and my mother taught me that you may not like your family, but you always love them.]

I know that you are Catholic. I know that Catholics, like other denominations of Christianity, must claim and confess their sins.

I also know that your sins and mine are more than just the things that you or I have done or will do. They stretch far back, so far back that they seem to disappear. Be careful that you are not fooled by this human short-sightedness.

Because, my sins and your sins encompass the hate, the theft, the murder, the violence our ancestors thrust on those less fortunate and more vulnerable. Because, the nice things I have are the present incarnation of the legacy of the history of the oppression of others. Because, you and I are here, in college, and we have taken the place of someone poorer, darker, less heterosexual, and/or markedly disabled.

 

See, this is what spirituality means to me: It means connecting to the humanity in myself so that I can see it in others. It is painful, I will be the first to admit, to see the scope of our problems—to feel so helpless and so full of guilt. But I know from experience that you have to keep going. Keep moving so as not to become mired in the indulgence of self-pity that holds awareness like a lover.

I know, from experience, that the blinding blizzard of guilt ceaselessly begs, “Just lie down. Just for a minute.” But it is when you succumb, even for a moment, that you take advantage of what others don’t have. See? We are lucky that quitting may even appear to us as an option. We are lucky on the breaking backs of our kin.

I also know, from experience, that if you keep going, if you keep pushing forward even when you feel you have nothing left to give, that Spring lies on the other side of the permafrost. That life lives no matter where you are in the never-ending journey for equality. We just need to be open to feel it.

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