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Human Resources

Weekly Wisdom 7-13-2016

 

Black Lives Matter

As I write Weekly Wisdom this week, my head tells me to stay far away from Black Lives Matter, but my heart tells me that I have to hit the topic head on. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. We all have to do something.

 

I’ve done a lot of thinking about who I am in the last week. Had a long conversation with one of my daughter’s good friends in the Army, who happens to be an African-American and a Westpoint graduate. Searched the Internet for insight and opinion.  One of the TED videos I found made me cry the first time and continues to affect me emotionally each time I view it.  It’s only five minutes long so check it out at: www.ted.com/talks/clint_smith_how_to_raise_a_black_son_in_america?language=en

According to TED, Clint Smith is a “poet and educator whose work blends art and activism.”  The most poignant part of the talk is when Smith describes a night of play with friends in a parking lot hotel:

…I think of how one night, when I was around 12 years old, on an overnight field trip to another city, my friends and I bought Super Soakers and turned the hotel parking lot into our own water-filled battle zone. We hid behind cars, running through the darkness that lay between the streetlights, boundless laughter ubiquitous across the pavement. But within 10 minutes, my father came outside, grabbed me by my forearm and led me into our room with an unfamiliar grip. Before I could say anything, tell him how foolish he had made me look in front of my friends, he derided me for being so naive. Looked me in the eye, fear consuming his face, and said, "Son, I'm sorry, but you can't act the same as your white friends. You can't pretend to shoot guns. You can't run around in the dark. You can't hide behind anything other than your own teeth."

He goes on:

These are the sorts of messages I've been inundated with my entire life: Always keep your hands where they can see them, don't move too quickly, take off your hood when the sun goes down. My parents raised me and my siblings in an armor of advice, an ocean of alarm bells so someone wouldn't steal the breath from our lungs, so that they wouldn't make a memory of this skin. So that we could be kids, not casket or concrete.  And it's not because they thought it would make us better than anyone else it's simply because they wanted to keep us alive.

 

As the mother of three, I’ve never felt as though I had to protect my children in this way, never had to take the time, never had to live with this underlying fear. There was once when a swing almost knocked out our oldest and the brief cancer scare for our son. I have assumed all along that all parents dealt with the same physical fears for their children. I was wrong.

 

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.     Staci Sleigh-Layman

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