The racists next door

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in my neck of the woods. I live, and am raising my kids, in a part of the country I never had a strong desire to live. A place that was never on my list. I was gonna live in Chicago or LA or New York (friends would always tell me “you’re way more New York than you are LA”. I take that as a compliment.)  If one of those cities didn’t work out, I’d end up in a smaller, trendy, major metro like Seattle.

I spent a very, very short period of time in Seattle.  And then life brought me back to my roots in the Midwest.

And then I landed here.  The southside of Ohio. Not LA. Not New York. Not even Seattle. Now I’m in my mid-forties (EEK) and the circumstances of life have me in southern Ohio. Yeh, this wasn’t part of the master plan. But life happened and now I’ve got a husband, 2 kids, 4 dogs, great friends and a great house in suburbia (we are even thinking of adding the picket fence this summer – lie). We have the luxury of living in a blue ribbon school district. While there are complaints that the school district is much too big, it’s worked for us.

But then these past couple of weeks happened and it all started in the town next door.  Not our town, cause God forbid, but next door was still plenty close.

It came to light via the local news, and then national news, that a youth rec basketball team was playing with, ummm inappropriate/unacceptable/completely mind-blowingly offensive names (I can’t find the right words) on their jerseys.

Let’s start with the team name…Wet Dream Team. Printed on the front. Okay. Completely unacceptable. Deeply offensive? Maybe to some.  But here’s the problem, the names on the back of a few of the jerseys.

kings bball

The pictures speak for themselves. KNEE GROW. COON.

The questions seemed never ending…how did this happen? How were 4 games played before someone said something?  Where’s the parents? Who’s the coach? How was this allowed?

I don’t know if there are acceptable answers to the questions above.  A school board member from that “district next door” resigned.  His son was a member of the team. He was quoted saying “we need to do better” and his “Christian heart was broken”. Ohhh, you poor thing!

My response to all of the above was, and is, such a mixture – anger, frustration, confusion, hate, personal need to run for the hills. Get away “from this place”.  But is it a teachable moment? Of course it is, but it is/was still far enough away to be “not quite where we live”. I was justifying something unjustifiable. And I know that’s the wrong reaction. But what is the right reaction? The right course of action? What can I do in my suburban bubble to affect meaningful change?

Then a few short days later, a story in our district came to light. This was as close to home as it could get, without it being my own kid. This was my son’s school. This was his grade. This is a friend.

lynching

And I don’t know what to do. Sure, I’m discussing it openly with my kid. I’m asking for his opinion. I’m open about mine. The students are pissed this teacher still has her job. There’s talk of the students starting a petition if she isn’t fired. I support my son and his want to get involved. Good for him! Good for his friends! Speak up! Fight what’s wrong. Know what’s wrong.

But it’s bigger than that to me. It raises additional questions in my head where the voices  have been loudly asking questions, particularly this past year since the election.  I feel stuck. And I’m no good when I’m stuck.

Living in southern Ohio, I’m in a minority. I’m pro-gay rights. I’m pro-women’s rights. I’m lots of things the Republicans around me aren’t. But that’s necessarily not a bad thing. I’m a fan of opposing opinions. I’m up for a good debate.

But I’m not a fan of alternative facts. I’m not a fan of judgement based on race, class, religious belief or sexuality. Many around me don’t agree with those ideas. Some of those that disagree, I call friends. They are the majority around me, and we have enough in common to call each other friends.

I have, of course, found my good friends that share similar views. Those that share texts late night, during the day or first thing in the morning with a loud “WTF”?! We need these people. I need these people. You have to find your tribe to survive. To help you stay sane among all this madness. But I, and my small tribe around these parts, feel a bit defeated. Saddened.

After these 2 incidents, and the comments then made by the locals on social media my head is spinning. I feel stuck. How do I “fight” these views? How do I not get so angry from the ignorance? Am I doing my kids wrong raising them here? Is there somewhere better?

I get the argument against the “grass is always greener” idea. I spent years searching for my green grass and learned a lot of lessons. But lately, I wonder…what can I do to make this better? How do I live here with many of those around me that silently, until recently, feel the way they do?  How do I affect real change?

There are racists next door. And I’m not sure what to do!

 

2 thoughts on “The racists next door

  1. Julie … you spoke every word in my head. My Tribe helps my heart know that there IS more good than not. However, finding the path to a civic outlet that can help put my aching heart to work is harder said than done. At first, I thought it was local sports (provide healthy, athletic outlets for our youth and in some way comfort and protection for the young people who might not have stable adult role models at home. Then I thought local politics, yet now my local politicians (even the ones I supported) bring the national political specter into their rhetoric and my stomach churns. No. No. No. We have education initiatives and an opioid epidemic to fight before red or blue matters. Our COMMUNITY matters before all else. Can’t we agree on that.

    Then something happens like what has happened in your community and it’s a bloody mess. A mess I tell you. A mess.

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