This story of one white woman’s small act against racism earned a record number of likes on our Facebook page. What small act will your heart embark upon?
Sometimes, a small act can counter a racist gut punch. This is just such a story. I tell it not to get credit for being a “woke” white person, but to inspire and inform others about how good it feels when we make things right.
I just finished 3 months of grand jury duty in Montgomery County, Maryland, spending every Thursday at the Circuit Court in Rockville with about 20 fellow citizens. As grand jurors, our job was to advise prosecutors whether or not to indict (i.e., charge) people based on the evidence and law presented. The cases involved rape, child abuse, drugs, armed robbery, assault, murder, gangs, arson, embezzlement and other violence, including against unarmed black men.
I met Patrice, a fellow grand juror, and liked her from the start. She is kind, direct and very smart. She and another black juror further opened my eyes to implicit bias and the epidemic of police violence against unarmed black men. In the parking lot after a full day, I listened to Patrice tell me about her personal experiences of racism. One instance caught in the quick of my heart. She recently brought her 5-year-old daughter to work, and a white woman co-worker said, “YOUR DAUGHTER REMINDS ME OF MY DOG.” My mouth went agape. I said, “That’s horrible.” Another time, Patrice and her family were waiting in line in their car, and a white family rolled down their window to yell at them. Patrice asked with despairing angst, “How do I explain all this to my daughter?”
Later that night an idea shot into my head. Ideas just appear in our minds, and they can be captured like shooting stars and brought to life, if only we watch and listen. I gathered up my favorite, like-brand-new book, “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls,” and placed the ribbon bookmark on the page for black ballerina Misty Copeland because Patrice said her daughter loves to dance. There are over 20 black women featured in this story-and-art book celebrating all women. I also went to my local bookshop and gathered up more goodies – chocolate crabs since we live in Maryland, another book titled “One Love” by Bob Marley’s daughter, a black doll and Obama-family paper dolls. I put everything into a pink-patterned cloth bag hand-made by a friend a while back.
All week I remained excited. And on the final day of grand jury duty, I gave Patrice the bag and said, “Please tell your daughter she is beautiful and that the world needs her goodness!” It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it simply because the statement is so true, and because the insult now has a powerful counter. Take that, racism!
I don’t know if Patrice told her daughter that I was a white woman. That’s not my business. I trust she knows what’s best for her child. All I know is that I took a (small) chance and shared my intention and love. It’s not going to solve racism, but maybe it will undo a corner of it, applying balm to a tiny scratch upon the heart of a beautiful little black girl. Make no mistake. I am no white savior. Black people don’t need us to save them. They have enough to save us all, holding a magical piece of our better future. But the more we act, the closer we get to the one-love, rainbow world Bob Marley sang about.
P.S. Later that night, Patrice texted me a warm thank you with a photo of her beautiful daughter enjoying the gifts, pink bows atop her head and happy eyes peeking out from behind the sweet chocolate goody. Patrice texted, “Hi Michelle. My daughter loved the bag and everything in it. Thanks so much again!!”
P.P.S. Patrice reviewed this piece and gave her blessing for me to share our story.
By Michelle in Maryland, USA
Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
— Howard Zinn