What's Goin' On? Meditations at Sundown
For the past several weeks, the subject of race has been ringing like sleigh bells in my head. From dusk 'til dawn, at work and at school, while brushing my teeth at night watching Anderson Cooper, or having Dirty Martinis at the Prop House with my boys, I have been consumed by these overwhelming thoughts of just how big the race issue is in my world. And it troubles me.
As much as I would like to believe that it really doesn't matter, there are tiny drops of truth that sprinkle from somewhere deep within the clouds that let me know that in reality, it does.
The older White couple on the airplane, whispering about me behind the newspaper because they think I can't hear them. The commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The victims of Hurricane Katrina. The formation of the Black Gay Men's Caucus. The African-American HIV/AIDS Response Act. The uneasiness around the office surrounding our Black History Month discussion (which addressed the intersection of race and HIV). The November/December issue of Positively Aware. Michael Jackson. Ray Nagin's statement about retuning New Orleans to a "Chocolate City". Hillary Clinton's remarks about the U.S. House of Representatives being run like a "plantation" (and you know what I mean). Kanye West's statement about President Bush not caring about Black people.
No matter what I do or where I go, everything and everyone in my life right now, in some way or another, appears to be a reflection of these disturbing thoughts. Thoughts that, for some strange reason, are beginning to keep me awake at night.
I've done everything that I can think of to set my mind at ease, but all of my efforts appear to be in vain. I've tried to escape through music, but, not surprisingly, my love for hip-hop is of no comfort. I had a Blockbuster night with somebody I was diggin', but the only movie in the video store that he hadn't seen was Crash. I picked up the latest book from one of my favorite authors and, of all the things in the world to write about, interracial relationships, believe it or not, just so happened to be one of its underlying themes.
At first I thought it was just me. That is, until I was having a conversation last week with a rather intelligent friend of mine who just so happens to be White. He and I talk about any and everything, and somehow we got on the subject of dating. He also just so happens to have a thing for men of color, and he brought up a rather interesting theory about race relations in this country that I don't think many people give a whole lot of credence to.
"Let's face it, Keith," he said with a look on his face that took my breath for a moment. "We were raised not to trust each other. I was raised not to trust you and you were raised not to trust me. And everything that's going on in our society today is a reflection of that school of thought. That's just the way it is."
And as bad as I wanted to argue with him and as deep within as I searched for a reply, my thought processes could not respond quick enough to secure the words for a rebuttal. I sat staring in his eyes for what seemed like forever and all I could manage to say was, "That's deep."
It wasn't that I didn't agree with him, God knows that there was plenty of validity in what he had just said. But to accept his statement as a concept that could be applicable to the population of this country at large sent an unnerving feeling through me that I was just not ready to address. Because if trust is really the primary issue at hand, then everything that we have established so far in terms of racial harmony is at risk of being ripped apart.
All good relationships are established on a solid foundation that is grounded in trust. If we don't have trust, then what do we have? How will we ever achieve social justice for all in this country and abroad if at the core of who we are, we don't have trust for people who are not of the same race or nationality as we are? How can we ever eradicate HIV from our communities if, when it comes down to it, there is little or no trust between the people who hold the potential to make it happen?
As I prepare to leave the office tonight, I am looking forward to a good night's sleep. It's not that anything in particular has changed around me ('cause things tend to change at turtle speed when it comes to issues as big as this one). But it's more about the change that is occurring within me. Tonight, I'm acknowledging that I have lots of issues with trust and I am making a pledge with myself to work through them daily.
I expect that I will shed a couple more tears while on this journey. I even anticipate a couple more sleepless nights. But, more than any of that, I am looking forward to the ripple effect that my drop in the bucket will create.
Tonight, however, I'm going to try something that I haven't done since I was a little boy. I'm going to fall asleep trusting that the universe is on my side. When I open my eyes in the morning, I'm going to rise and confront the day as if everything is exactly as it should be. And, as I continue to work on myself, I'm going to believe that the change that comes to me will inspire change in others as well. Quite honestly, if I am to expect any type of significant change regarding this epidemic to occur in my lifetime, I really don't have any other choice.
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