Dear Jonathan, Lera, and Aviah:
Like you, I sometimes struggle to understand the world we live in. Why does it work in the way it does? Why do some feel safe when sleeping in their own homes but others do not? Why do some feel safe to wear whatever they pick out of their closet on any given day? Black people do not feel safe in America. Our multi-racial family — half African American, half Sri Lankan — is living in a time when the world is showing solidarity for the injustices black people have endured for centuries. We are mourning the tragic murder of George Floyd while still healing from the wounds we bandaged during the civil rights movement. Today’s movement is different, but let me tell you what it is not about.
It is not about going out to protest solely the murder of George Floyd. It is not about creating the most catchy sign to be photographed by the media. It is not about valuing your life, as a black child, over another’s. It is not about hating the cops or diminishing the sacrifices they make for us and for their own families. This movement is not about us and them. It is not about the race of the four officers charged or how long it took for them to be charged with murder. It is not even about the history of police brutality against black people in this country.
This movement is about acknowledging the injustices endured by black people. It is about laying bare and speaking the truths of what has happened to black people throughout the history of our country. It is about remembering that your great grandparents drank from “black only” water fountains and went to school only with peers who looked like them, other black students. The movement is about helping people recognize and come to terms with their access to and use of their privilege. The movement is about acknowledging that racism exists and can be defeated if we all work together.
I hope that this very movement allows you to live out the dreams I have for you. Aviah and Lera, I look forward to celebrating your entrance into kindergarten this year- even as I worry that the redistricting of our neighborhood school will make you the only black child in your class. You both have the most beautiful head of curls, strong South Asian features, and love your fish and chicken curries so; I want you to love yourselves even when others criticize your beauty or the smell of the curry you brought to lunch at school. It is your job to help them understand you, though while you can lead them to understand more, you cannot hold their hand the entire way. Jonathan, when I send you for a quick run to the store, just to pick up that one item we need for our first bbq of the season, I want to know you’ll come back home to me. I fear that you might be followed or stopped or killed, ketchup in hand, your body lay cold on the same pavement you usually ride your bike on with your friends.
When we look back on this particular time in history, I want to see that this was the fight we needed that gave you equal access to healthcare and doctors who gave you the same time and care they gave your white friends. I want to see that it was the bravery of thousands who stood for something — stood for us — and spoke up when we needed them the most. That they followed their words with actions towards change so that all of our kids — black, white, brown and every shade in between — will be free to live and be who they are, just like you.