Imagine a beautiful day. One inviting to get out and enjoy the warm sun of a fast disappearing summer.
Maybe jump in the water. Or simply lay down on a beach, eyes closed, hearing the music of the waves and the cry of the seagulls as they fly above.
Also around us, the sound of children laughing. Many brown children there. Perhaps Latino, perhaps Indian.
They make sand castles, starting with pieces of driftwood that have come to rest on the shore. They adorn their castles with broken shells, pieces of dry seaweed, corpses of little marine creatures, a crab leg, a feather, a piece of glass made round and soft by the pounding of the sea.
A couple of Asian fishermen try their luck a few yards away. Close by, a young mixed-race couple holds hands, She looks Asian American, he looks European American. It is a rather odious distinction that is the norm in this country. Our skin-deep country.
The parents keep a careful eye on their children. “Don’t go in the water, Ashish!” “Roberto! Don’t throw sand at your sister!”
The children obey and control their innocent mischief. The parents relax and return to enjoying the day, sharing a simple picnic, a well-turned story, perhaps a concern, a concern that might disappear under the spell of the beauty all around. If not disappear, made lighter by the sunny day.
Then, a young white kid, about 19, is running towards where the people are gathered. He looks agitated and carries a large backpack.
Suddenly, the atmosphere changes and everyone seem to go on alert.
An alert made necessary by cruel recent events.
Why is that young man running towards the beach goers? What is he carrying? “Roberto! Ashish! Esperanza! Come here!” The families, looking worried, gather around the older relatives.
The young kid with the backpack stops a couple of feet away from the group, breathing hard. He pauses for a second and then asks: “Excuse me. I left a jacket around here? Has anyone seen it?”
There is a brief pause. Then, one of the mothers speaks: “Yes! I found it! I was going to give it to the ranger at the entrance.”
She then picks a jacket that was carefully folded on the sand and gives it to the young man. He lets out a big sigh of relief, takes the piece of clothing from the woman and smiles, as he puts it inside the backpack. “Thanks! My mom would’ve killed me if I lost it! She just got it for me!” Then, he leaves.
Calm returns to the beach. All around, people give each other some “knowing” smiles, rolling their eyes, as if recognizing, without words, a discomfort that everyone had shared, feeling a little silly for it. They had just racially-profiled that nice young man! A shame indeed!
It had been a moment of trust broken. A feeling of fear that everyone wishes that it would not exist.
Inside, all know that they will again react in the same way. Until there is evidence that the illness called racism is erased in this country.
We are still reeling from what took place Just a few days ago, when thousands of people enjoyed the sun, the music and the garlic-flavored fares in a large, family-friendly fair in Gilroy, California. Or when they filled the stores in a mall in El Paso, Texas, looking for good deals on “back-to-school sales.” Or other people, in Dayton, Ohio, as they relaxed, late at night, enjoying drinks and music in the summer night.
In all three cases, three young white men attacked those gatherings, at least two of them with the clear intention to kill brown people. “I was targeting Mexicans’, said the one in El Paso. So, he drove for hours, from one corner of Texas to the other, armed with his very indecently legal AK-47, a weapon designed to “kill, kill, kill!,”—as they teach in the Army. And he did kill Mexicans. Many innocent Mexicans. From both sides of the border.
Oh, how much better this world would be if they handed us a pencil—or a book—and told us “Write, write, write!” Or “Read, read, read!”
Fat chance! For those in charge of creating the chaos that passes for order, books and pencils are more dangerous than assault weapons.
Books and pencils help to create an informed and world-conscious population. That discovery might lead to working class solidarity, or to the recognition, acceptance and loving of “the other” in us. That might cause the end of those in charge of the hatred that divides the people.
So, the masters tell us: “Down with education and up with militarization of the minds! Down with solidarity and up with separation!”
A sickness called racism is alive and well in this nation. A dangerously uninformed (or unengaged) population suffers from that malady.
We need to cure that sickness. We need to eradicate it from our souls. No vaccine will do the job. It is a personal struggle, one that must take place. For ALL to survive.
Black leaders, such as the recently deceased Nobel Prize Winner writer Toni Morrison have warned us about racism. In “Song of Solomon,” she wrote: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
If we do accept the task ahead, a task to find what unites us, instead of what separates us, we might eventually be able to close our eyes on a sunny beach and enjoy the sun, the children laughter, each other, without the fear of an impending attack by some person who never learned to love himself.
Only then, love will not be interrupted.
Story by: Carlos Barón