I spent the day today chaperoning a field trip for youth in transitional housing (the majority of which are children of color), as part of an organization I work for as a volunteer. Due to someone side-swiping the bus before the trip even began, we were forced to take the metro from downtown LA up to Universal Studios.
A black man at the end of the train started yelling at me, saying things like, “white racist undercover”. He started flexing, pacing back and forth. He kept yelling things directed at me as the one white chaperon in his field of vision.
Our end of the train grew quiet and the children grew scared. Thankfully, he got off at the next stop, where he continued to pace and mutter to himself, as the train pressed forward.
The little girl I was standing next to, who is also black, quietly asked, “Is he gone”? Yeah, he’s gone, I said. She whispered to me, like it was a confession, “Sometimes I’m racist”.
Why, I whisper back.
“I don’t know”, she said, “But I can hate white people, Mexican people, sometimes, I even hate other black people”.
Why, I asked.
“I don’t know”, she said. “Sometimes, I wish white people would die”.
All white people, I ask her. There’s never been one decent white person you ever liked, or, ever helped you in your life?
“No, I wouldn’t kill all white people, just the ones that are mean to me. It’s not all Mexicans, or all black people, just the ones who treat me mean”.
You’re not racist, I said, you just don’t like mean people.
It’s not about what’s on the outside, I said to her, it’s about what’s going on up here (I tap the side of my temple). It’s about actions and words. How people talk to each other and how they treat each other.
Hate transcends color, but so does love. It all starts up here (I tap her temple). Your emotions lead to thoughts, and your thoughts can lead to action. It’s the same for all people. It’s too easy to group by color, size, or shape, everyone’s story goes deeper than that.
You can’t control others but your can control yourself. Control your emotions. Control your thoughts. Control your actions. And seek help when you don’t think you can.
Only you are in charge of you, and it all starts up here (I tap her temple).