The day after the 2016 election, I met with D Anderson, a young Black man I’ve worked with for a number of years. I hadn’t slept much the night before. Eating dinner at the Drake Diner counter that night, the election results rolled in, and my dreams of a woman president rolled out. The night sky was a stunner as well. However, unlike the election results, the stars gave me a sense that things might be all right.
But it was a breakfast meeting the next day that began the real shift for me. Over pastries and coffee at La Mie, a conversation with D gave me real hope. I said I thought how much worse the election outcome was for him and for other Black people, for immigrants, and for all the less privileged than it was for me. And so it is.
D works with the Backyard Boyz at CFUM, helping kids develop the resilience to face challenges like poverty and prejudice of all kinds. He, Emmett Phillips and the others are amazing role models for the young men they mentor. That morning after the election, D said he’ll continue to work for change in the local community, making a difference where he can.
His hope is rooted in connection to his community and working for change. Listening to his perspective opened my misery to accommodate his more hopeful view, and time has continued to move that view toward optimism. We can’t survive long without hope.
Even so, I’ve become convinced that the American experiment will not survive unless White Americans confront the question of race. For me, that’s nothing new. Growing up in southern California, race is something I’ve been very conscious of since I was a young girl.
Watching the Watts Riots on tv and living with my mother’s bigotry didn’t set me up very well to live in the world with people of color. I’ve worked on my attitudes, and I’ve never had the delusion that I was without prejudice. I think that’s the very first step to confronting Whiteness. But it’s definitely not the last.