Keeping the Peace

June 3, 2020 · 2:02 pm

My Mennonite heritage is something I have always been proud of. I am proud of our history of non-violence and our reputation for service. But I believe that our emphasis on peace has often been superficial. We value forgiveness, humility, and self-sacrifice without always taking into account the cost of those virtues. I am still trying to unlearn the idea that I can create peace by absorbing violence. I have to unlearn the idea that turning the other cheek is the end of the story. Because that leaves no room for justice, and that is not good news to the oppressed.

Black and white photograph of holding hands, one light skinned, one dark skinned.
Keeping the Peace

I have always tried to use my writing and my presence on social media as a tool for dialogue. I believe absolutely and passionately that there can be no progress without grace and compassion. I believe that reasonable people can disagree. I believe we all have good and bad inside of us, and we should help each other be better whenever possible.

This week on social media, I have written and shared some things that were provocative. I have engaged in conversations from a place of anger instead of understanding. I am not sorry. I am hurt and I am angry. Internalizing those feelings might make me better understood, but it is not something I have the emotional bandwidth for, and I am not convinced it is the right thing to do. I know my responses may not be optimal for dialogue, but this is where I am.

If you have found me offensive, please know that I still care about you. I want to have conversations. I value your voice. Be patient with me right now while I share mine.

My son and I have been seeing a therapist together to talk about helpful ways to handle anger and anxiety. When he was asked this week what was on his mind – what he was most anxious about – I expected him to talk about our upcoming move, going to a new school, or something along those lines. Instead, he said he is worried about the protests. When the therapist asked him to explain, he said he was afraid that protesters might come to our street, and then the police might see him through the window and shoot him.

I did not know what to say. My white privilege has left me utterly unprepared for this conversation. Yes, we talk about racism. We talk about current events. I try to be fair when I talk about police, protests, riots. I don’t talk in absolutes about any group of people. My instinct was to tell him, “No. No one will shoot you. You’re safe.” But I was afraid that that might be a lie. I was afraid that then he wouldn’t be afraid if someday he should, and that it could cost him his life.

This is where I am coming from. I get that riots are destructive and dangerous. I do not support them, and I don’t know anyone who does. If you want to have a conversation about how to keep demonstrations peaceful, I am here for that. If you want to have a conversation on how to protect local businesses, I am here for that. But can we please also talk about the fact that people are protesting because we live in a world where my son has to wonder if he is safe from the police?

Resources

I want to give a huge shout out to my amazing mother and sister who, when they found out what I was dealing with, went to work researching resources for me to use. I’ll be spending some time educating myself so that I can better have honest, meaningful conversations with my children about what racism in America means for them. Below are some resources I’m looking into, but I welcome suggestions, and I’ll happily update this list.

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne CelanoMarietta Collinsand Ann Hazzard (Currently on backorder)

Having ‘The Talk’: Expert Guidance On Preparing Kids For Police Interactions by NPR

One Thought on “Keeping the Peace

  1. Esther, Thank you for your posts and clear position. We understand.

Leave a comment!

Post Navigation