a Few Words
Published in

a Few Words

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

An ally described her nephew’s run-in with police.

Fortunately, her nephew was white.

A hundred faces, mostly white, filled the Zoom screen for the morning meditation of the Society of Friends. We sat in silence until a parishioner felt divinely called to share a message: a passage from literature, an observation from the garden, a quote from scripture.

A female voice broke the hush. “My sister’s son has epilepsy.”

I thought the voice was familiar, so when she paused. I peeked. Yes, she had spoken many times before. She was kind, thoughtful, well-read. I had fantasized about becoming friends with her. She looked to be older than me, wispy white hair. Let’s see. Her nephew must be … what … fifties, maybe…

“He has the kind of seizures where he’s walking around, but unconscious. Last week, he was outside when it happened. Someone thought he was drunk and called the police.”

Though her voice was steady, her words measured, she looked inconsolable, as though in the telling of her story, she was reliving a personal tragedy. Her focus was unwavering. Whatever she had faced, was still facing, she did not turn away.

I wanted to know the end of this story but also didn’t. I felt she was dragging me toward a disaster.

“Fortunately, my nephew is white, because when the police came, he was unable to stop walking away.”

I gasped, overcome with gratitude — I felt seen. I fell in love with her. She understood the disaster I faced every time I left my house. I was grateful for her unflinching clarity about the penultimate white privilege. I was hopeful, because she’d just told 100 white people The Truth. And I was slammed by the words she’d left unsaid.

Grief, outrage, validation, gratitude. I was paralyzed.

She said, “Please pray for all the people hurt by misunderstanding and racism.”

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