I have a pretty swell life. I am college educated. I have a house, an SUV and an iPhone. I am married to the love of my life. I have a goofy, tender-hearted, rock & roll loving kid who makes me warmer than a southern summer day. I go to spin classes and have leisurely lunches with my friends. I tote my MacBook to funky coffee shops and write stories. I have money in the bank and I am never worried about paying my mortgage, let alone making sure that my daughter has dinner. I go on vacations and take smiling pictures that I post on social media.
That is my experience – today! My happy, charmed life experience.
If I chose to only share my present experience, most of you wouldn’t know that I was born some straight up white trash; that my parents were high school dropouts and raging drug addicts; that we were on welfare and often without electricity or water. If I had never started writing, the vast majority of you wouldn’t know that my parents went to prison and that I’ve lived in houses where rats the size of poodles also resided.
And, from my beaming pictures with jaunty captions you wouldn’t know that there have been times in my life when I have been so filled with black rage that I feared that it would consume me like a fast moving fire. During those times, when it all felt unfair, I lashed out at loved ones and strangers alike.
When I smile in those pictures you can’t see that I am missing a tooth because in college it became abscessed and I couldn’t afford a complete root canal – even at the dental school.
But, just because you wouldn’t know it, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen and that it didn’t shape who I am, good and bad, to this day.
When speaking to my friend, Yasmine Jeffers, about the protesting and rioting in Charlotte after the Keith Lamont Scott shooting she said something extremely profound that I carry with me every day.
Yasmine tells her young sons, “Just because it hasn’t happened to us, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened.”
- Just because you’ve never been followed through a store because of the color of your skin, doesn’t mean that it it hasn’t happened to my brilliant, beautiful friend Yasmine.
- Just because you’ve never been objectified or made to feel less than, doesn’t mean that there are some men who really do think it is okay to grab you by the p***y.
- Just because you’ve never made less money for the same job, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
- Just because your hard work and determination has always been rewarded, doesn’t mean that everyone’s has.
- Just because your little boy has never wanted to wear a princess dress, doesn’t mean that that nice mom in carpool’s little boy doesn’t desperately want to wear his beautiful Elsa dress to school.
- Just because you support alternative energy and a healthier planet, doesn’t mean you can’t have immense pride in the men who crawled into a dark hole and carried out the black rocks that moved this country forward.
- Just because your daughter wasn’t offered Princess Camp instead of Scientist Camp, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened.
- Just because you’ve had access to birth control or enough money for an abortion, doesn’t mean that the 17 year old pregnant barista did.
- Just because you feel like your voice is heard, doesn’t mean that a lot of people don’t feel as if they’ve been put on mute.
- Just because you’ve never been sexually assaulted and then had to talk about how many drinks you had or how short your skirt was, doesn’t mean that a college freshmen isn’t starting to think that maybe it was her fault.
- Just because you call something an alternative fact, doesn’t mean it’s not a lie.
- Just because I support your right to be pro-life, doesn’t mean that you get to tell me what to do with my body.
- Just because you’ve never been thrown through a plate glass window, doesn’t mean that my mom wasn’t.
- Just because you’ve never worked endlessly at a cheap shoe store to provide for the three grandchildren you adopted and still couldn’t make ends meet, doesn’t mean that my grandmother didn’t.
- Just because you’ve never been told that you should be ashamed for loving the person that you do, doesn’t mean that my funny, smart friend, Bridget, wasn’t told this by a family member.
- Just because your mom never threatened to pawn your little brother’s bike if you didn’t send her money for the electricity bill (although you knew it was really to buy dilaudid), doesn’t mean mine didn’t.
- Just because I accept that he is the 45th President of the United States, doesn’t mean that I have to get over it and support his narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic views and lies.
- Just because you feel that you control your body, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t skipping her annual pap or a mammogram to pay for her kid’s field trip or basketball shoes.
- Just because your parents always encouraged you to do well in school and told that you could be anything that you wanted to be, doesn’t mean that deep in a WV holler or high in a Hell’s Kitchen tenement or even in a Beverly Hills’ mansion parents aren’t just shrugging their shoulders or shaking their heads when their kid flunks out.
- Just because you’re free to worship where you would like, doesn’t mean that a mosque or a synagogue isn’t being vandalized or threatened right now.
- Just because you think protestors who destroy a window should be shot dead, doesn’t mean that this country wasn’t started by people dumping someone else’s property into the ocean.
- Just because you have the right to vote, doesn’t mean that your great-grandmothers weren’t beaten and jailed to give you that beautiful privilege.
- Just because your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy snacks, doesn’t mean that a teenager left in charge of her siblings while their mom works her third job of the day isn’t trying to make dinner with eggs and peanut butter.
- Just because you don’t see your privilege, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be checked.
- Just because you don’t see the point in a march where the participants wear silly hats and carry signs that you deem offensive, doesn’t mean that it isn’t their constitutionally-given right to do so.
- Just because you’ve never been so ashamed and embarrassed for simply existing, doesn’t mean that I haven’t.
- Just because we disagree, doesn’t mean that we’re not all in this together.
And, just because we are hurt and confused, dumbfounded and
bewildered doesn’t mean that we don’t still have a responsibility to be kind.