Some years ago, I visited Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington. A beautiful early spring day brought many people, many families out to visit the site. It was lovely to see so many young families of diverse ethnic heritages. I found myself totally distracted by the number of Black families touring the facilities. How, I wondered, do the parents describe what these buildings represented? What words could they use? How could they possibly explain without anger rising in them? I felt anger in me and a sense of helplessness that I still feel today.
There is no lack of educational materials today on Black History Month. The internet is full of resources for educating children and adults. All these resources can be helpful, but something more fundamental is needed for any real change in attitude to occur. A quote I saw yesterday resonated with me: “What blocks me from learning is knowing.” In other words, if I am so sure I know everything I need to know about an issue, I will never learn anything new.
As a White American, I do not do well with "not knowing." All too often we believe that if we speak louder, try harder, we can figure out what action is required to solve a problem. How foolish! And yet isn't this how we are accustomed to thinking? It’s our usual M.O., but where has "my way" gotten us in confronting the racism that is all around us?
We all need to accept that we do not know. We need to stop all the noisy chatter, be quiet, and let ourselves feel the emptiness of not knowing the answers. If we could just stay in that silence, a few moments, and then increase these moments to longer periods of time. Slowly, we could become more accepting of our unknowing and become willing to listen and absorb what is being shared. Can we ask ourselves, “Can I humble myself to truly listen? Or am I just waiting for a chance to respond or refute what I am being told?”
Where is truth found if not in God?
Like Solomon, let us pray for Wisdom, that gift of God's Presence to lead us in learning the way to Peace. We may not see the end of racism in our lifetime, but we can water the seeds of healing and accept that this may be what is expected of us at this time.
– Sister Bridget Kiniry, OP
A resident of Dominican Convent, Sister Bridget is a coordinator of the Days for Girls program there.