Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I used to joke that the two most useless words in my vocabulary were "be careful." Yet I say them all the time... to my headless, athletic, fearless, nimble, precocious children.

To my black children.

Be careful.

It's not a joke anymore.

It seems that lately every grand jury announcement, every news cycle, every hashtag explosion brings tidings of death and punishment.

News of the wages of being black in America.


The wages of resisting arrest is death.
The wages of buying a toy gun is death.
The wages of playing with a toy gun is death.
The wages of jay walking is death.
The wages of walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood is death. For a black man. For a black child.

And the punishment for a uniformed man killing another man or child is... none.

I've sat with the news of the grand jury non-indictment for the murder of Michael Brown for a few days now. I've been trying to let that sink into me... and it was hard, but I did manage to push it aside a little bit, because we don't live anywhere near Ferguson.

And then today. Another police officer, another murdered black man. Another grand jury that cannot find a single charge despite there being a recording of the death. I can't push that aside, because I live here.

And so does my son.  Not by his choice, most certainly.  If a series of tragic events hadn't unfolded in a small town in Ethiopia he would still be playing under her blue sky  Safe from bullets, if not from the diseases of poverty. Safe from racism, if not from hunger.

I used to think that my precious children were safer here. Safe with a fridge full of food, safe with a good doctor and great schools and the awesome opportunities afforded to them. Ha! That illusion has been shattered forever.

It was nearly invisible to me before we became an inter-racial family, but the day we adopted our two African children is the day that my white privilege shattered into a thousand jagged pieces.

I can feel every one right now.

There's that saying that your children are your heart walking around outside of you. My heart is inside of two beautiful Black children, walking around innocently outside of me in this terrifying world. And there is precious little my white privilege can do to protect them. The wings of that shelter grow ever tattered and thin the older they get. Our son is young still, but strong and large. He, like many 8 year old boys, has the heart of a fighter and the temper of a stinging bee. In a few years he will be 12, just like Tamar Rice, who was killed for playing with a toy gun. In a playground. By a cop. Will his killer walk free too? Or will we finally realize that All Life Matters? That Black Lives Matter? That our fears and our racism and our prejudices and our hatred are terrible, murderous illusions.

I may look white. I may have ancestors who threw up on the Mayflower. But the heart inside me is black. And right now it's bruised and broken.

But it's still beating. Because around me now and throughout our history thousands, millions of black hearts have been bruised and broken and yet still pounded. Wept. Marched. Chanted. Sang.


My prayer tonight is that more hearts will be broken open. The hearts of those who defend murderers, who accuse the innocent, who suspect their neighbors, who tell lies, who blindly hate or fear. Broken open and filled up with the love of children. Every one, every where, is some one's child. Some one's heart, walking around.

And my second prayer, is be careful.  Dear God, be careful with my heart.

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