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Erin Spatz column: Listening

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Erin Spatz

Well, here we are. Did y’all think there would be anything else added to 2020? I was for sure hoping we had reached our limit on hard things, but nope! I’m on the verge of just writing this year off and not even counting it. I refuse to turn a year older because I just can’t with this year.

Y’all I am just going to be truthful. I have wrestled with this column for what feels like every minute of the last week. I have never been afraid of a topic. I am willing to talk about and write just about anything. I have lots to say on everything. I will talk about all of them. I’ve covered childbirth, postpartum depression. The troubles of toddlers, teenagers and parenthood. I jumped whole-heartedly into the topic of quarantine life and all its woes.

I’ve never talked about it racism. I’ve never talked about it because it’s never come up in my life. If I’m struggling with how to talk about racism in a meaningful and helpful way, I know that others must be too. I’m muddling my way through, trying to find the words. But just because it’s a hard topic doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

I’ve never talked about it because I’ve never experienced it. I cannot speak to feelings I’ve never had. I’ve never, ever had to consider the color of my skin. Never. I’ve never considered my kids skin color either, with the exception of which kids need sunscreen.

It’s not that I don’t have feelings or thoughts on racism because I do, but what right do I have to share them? None. I have no right. But I just keep thinking about George Floyd’s mom. As a mom I’ve had to have hard conversations with my sons. My versions of hard conversations though are vastly different that what hers must’ve been. Mine were about not forgetting to brush your teeth; the importance of deodorant and that kindness gets you farther than an attitude. She likely had these conversations as well but she had to have conversations I will never have.

His mom had to have conversations, hard conversations that I cannot even imagine. She worried for her son in ways that I will never worry about my sons. Instead of teaching her son to look for a police officer when he needed help, she likely had to teach him how to carefully speak to an officer. My sons can confidently walk around with their hoods up and hands in their pockets. My sons can play with water guns and no one thinks twice. This is not true for all sons. I worry each time my kids are not with me, but the level of worry that his mom had to carry with her each day is unimaginable.

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I feel incredibly conflicted. I feel the need to clarify my words. To make sure you all understand how much I support police officers while supporting people of color. But, I remind myself that I can hold two feelings at once. I support one thing, while grieving and grappling with another. I struggle deeply with not having an answer. I often have the answer. I cannot wrap up my words neatly in a package tied with a bow. Because I’ve got nothing, nothing that will help in the least.

What I do know for sure is that no mom should have to worry in that way. No parent should have to practice speaking to a police officer, other than to remind them to use manners. But I don’t know how to fix it. I know it’s a problem. It’s one I’ve never encountered, and I won’t ever. It’s a worry that I will never feel. But, I know its real.

We are at the beginning of something, the beginning of anti-racism. Finally. Beginnings are always bumpy, but we have to start somewhere. I won’t get a lot of this right; no one is going to get this right. There are likely things in this column that I said or miscommunicated, but I am trying. I pray that we are all trying to do better.

All I know to do for sure is to say to those who have suffered racism is I am sorry. I am listening. I am learning. I am for you.

Erin Spatz lives in Pawleys Island and is the author of the book, “Who Left Me In Charge.”

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