People Out Loud: Living obviously – Taking a stand when wrongs need to be addressed

July 2021 Posted in Community, People

Imagine this. 97 degrees in Silverton, scorching, more humidity than you are accustomed to. You are playing with your little guy, age 13 months. Cute as a bug. Suddenly, it dawns on you that there is a cool reservoir barely two miles out of town, just waiting for you. Excited. You get there, ready to hit the water and cool down. 

Then you hear them. Several young boys, early teens, doing what they do. Loud, boisterous, having a good time. Like you. But then they start spewing out the “N” word. Loudly. Do you say something? Is this a “teaching moment” because you do, in fact, work with children every day, helping them to improve their speech as a Master of Speech Language Pathology. Your dream job. Do you turn away? Do you react and let them know they got to you? Maybe you ignore them. 

There are 25 adults within earshot. No one says a word, save for one woman on her phone remarking, “Oh, some boys are just goofing off.” Not one blessed word. 

Now imagine you are black, as is your beautiful baby boy. You hear the word over 60 times. 

Joel Autry, my good friend, a person of color member of the LGBTQ commuinty and Notre Dame grad, says, “People can be racist and biased, but without malice. It is what they were taught, what they heard.”

You are at a parade. In Silverton, parades mean candy for kids. Your relatives are visiting with two young children, eager to see if the rumors of unending candy are true. As the parade rolls by, out flies the candy. Your kids heed your warning of not straying out too far but to reach for the candy. A woman yells, “That candy isn’t for you. Get back.” You are of color, as are your relatives. Most of the nearly 2,000 attendees are white. 

And then there is this. A young girl asks you what kind of underwear you have. You laugh a bit, as you know that is an odd question, but she is a child and kids do say some funny things. You smile and reply, “Well, just regular underwear like everyone else.” The little girl, sincerely puzzled, asks “But where does your tail go?”

True stories. Here in Silverton. Same professional, educated, articulate single mom of a precious little boy. The cool little town making positive waves in travel magazines and TV clips. One Facebook poster asked why people were perpetuating secondhand information, and called Mayor Kyle Palmer on the carpet for being the purveyor of suspect news. The naysayer was given the chance to meet with the “victim” for a first-hand account. With silence, he passes on the opportunity. The mayor, an unpaid volunteer, had just posted a piece on how wrong this was to have happened. Hundreds of people gave him kudos, proud he was mayor. 

I do not believe Silverton is a racist town. I believe it has many wonderful people. But it also has racists, like every town in America. We took the mom and her handsome little son to dinner the evening after the reservoir incident. It was, as she said, “What I needed at the end of a really bad day.” She has many friends. She has made a home here. She wants to raise her son here. She plans on calling this place home for a long time – even after her home has been pelted with beer bottles in the middle of the night. 

Another friend says he wishes people would live obviously. Do what is right. Role model. Speak up. Call out bad behavior. My friend who had these injustices heaped upon her, said, “He is on to something. We cannot accept the label that Silverton is a racist town. We have to change it by the way we live our lives and move around. Acting obviously is a good way to put it. I will go out and live within my town because it is the only way to live.” 

I love the T-shirt that states, “I am raising kind human beings.” Let’s do that! Let’s talk. Let’s hear. Let us speak out and not look the other way. We can do better. We must do better.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.