It likely comes as no surprise to you that I love to read. I am a carnivore of words and dialect and nouns and verbs joining together to make up a story. Since becoming a mother, reading has turned from a common event and daily occurrence, to a guilty pleasure-pages and chapters snuck into my day between dishes and sprinklers and bath times. I savor them like the chocolate I have hidden on the top shelf, stealing away bits and pieces as I hide from the children for just a few minutes, not wanting to share.
This summer the greatly anticipated second novel Go Tell the Watchman by Harper Lee was released. I vaguely remember reading and enjoying To Kill a Mockingbird in freshman English and thought that it would be great to jump on the bandwagon of excitement over this new book and read it as well. But before doing so, I wanted to brush up on Scout and Jem and good ‘ole Atticus so I pulled my faded purple copy of the shelf and set in to re-read the tale on those sticky summer days.
I wasn’t long into the story before I remembered how funny and endearing Scout could be. I laughed at her swearing spell and the fights she got into with the local boys. She was funny and quirky and a wonderful narrator to the tale. But it wasn’t long before the underlying points of the story surfaced. Taking place in the old south in the mid 1900 the questions of race and fair treatment quickly became the prime topic.
Over the last couple years, this most recent especially, the topic of race has come front and center in our nation again. There have been riots and hashtags and friend turning on friend in anxious and righteous battles of equality and safety and how we raise our children. It has been a hard on so many different levels. On the front lines, children and police officers have died. Death has played her card and has seemed to prematurely take the breath of many. War has raged in our streets and homes and on social media-where everyone screams in capitals and hashtags and guns and bombs how lives matter as the world sits back and takes count of how many more lives are gone with each passing minute.
The pages of our newspapers don’t seem all that different than the courtroom that Atticus commanded in the depths of Harper Lee’s imagination. In so many cases it seems that the verdict has already been counted, before the jury even leaves the courtroom. As a white woman who lives in a state with limited (read little to no) racial diversity, my perspective on the issue is clouded.
I don’t know what it’s like to raise a son and fear for his life because of the color of his skin, or fear repercussions for the color of mine. Though I know those who do. In the same respect I haven’t lived in a city war-torn by race, listening to the sounds of random fire and helicopters over head as I pray for peace around my home. Though I know those who do.
We are shaped by our surroundings and the circumstances around us. I am shaped by the color of my skin and the culture that I was raised in. Though I do know what it’s like to be a minority. When I was in Africa, my white skin and blue eyes stood out like an anomaly. I was stared at. I was called names and children who had never seen a white person before looked at me and cried. It was a humbling experience and one that I brought with me when I returned home.
Since then I have often thought about race and the differences between culture and the color of our skin. I have seen racism from both sides of black and white and those in between. I have never understood the inconsistencies in the battle of race wars-that one thing is outlawed while another stays legal. I see righteous indignation and name calling among those who are supposed to be doing good work, and I wonder how it is that love is winning in this world.
I look around and I wonder how much has really changed since Scout and Jem sat in that courtroom and watched their father fight for the life of an innocent man. I would like to say that things are vastly different. I would hope to say that this is a different world. But I wonder if it really is.
I can only speak from this life here in the northern mountains, and I wonder, what is your perspective?