black lives matter
Not too long ago, I received an email from a new client I hadn't yet met, who was scheduled to come in the following day. It said, "I am cancelling my appointment with you. The reason is ALL LIVES MATTER." (Caps his.)
About an hour later, I received a second email, this time from his partner. "I hope you do the right thing and refund the gift card I paid for, for my fiancé. When we did a drive by to see where you lived we were deeply offended by your advertising your political beliefs and couldn’t in good conscience use your services."
After the second email arrived, I walked outside my house and took a photo of the offensive sign. This is taken from the street, the view you'd have driving past my house.
Find a small sign half-hidden by a tree. It says, "Black Lives Matter." I used it at a BLM rally in late May and it's been sitting there on my fence ever since, splattered by rain and faded by the sun. Can you see it?
I was stunned. I was shocked. I was angry.
But anyone who is black or brown in this country will not be stunned or shocked. This is just a part of everyday life, being on the receiving end of small and/or terrible acts of ignorance, racism and discrimination.
As a white 41-year old woman, this was the first time I'd personally experienced systemic racism in America. It rattled me to the core. And the more rattled I became, the more I realized how utterly, ridiculously, absurdly privileged I am.
I have the freedom to drive my car, sleep in my bed and shop at the store, without fear of being pulled over, arrested or murdered because of the color of my skin. I am blissfully ignorant to the experience of someone judging me or fearing me when they see me walking down the street. I enjoy endless freedoms in where I want to live and how I want to exist and run my business as I please.
This tiny moment in my life opened my eyes to our moment in history, where we must all do more to change the systems and beliefs that keep one group of people oppressed.
I wish I could say I replied to their emails with a courageous, intelligent, thoughtful explanation on why saying "Black lives matter" actually does mean all lives matter; I wish I could tell you that this led to a heart-opening conversation where minds and lives were changed for the better, forever; I wish I could say that I stood up for the people of color everywhere who have been murdered, maimed, or massacred throughout this nation's abysmal history.
Instead, I heeded advice from friends who said trying to engage in conversation when faced with such ignorance rarely leads to anything constructive. I've seen this time and time again on "social media," where I spend far too much time these days reading the depressing rants of white people who feel threatened and scared.
Oh, how I wish I had sent them a copy of this pop quiz:
Instead, I just let them know their credit card had been refunded, and their massage appointment was cancelled.
But I will never, ever change my lifelong belief that the idea of "race" is just that: an idea.
Looking deeper at this, I have to go back in time. If you were a child in the 80's, you might remember a sweet little thing called the Scholastic Book Club where, at least at the school I attended in rural New Hampshire, awarded you with a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza for reading a certain amount of books per month.
When I was in the 5th grade, in our musty old school library on Book Club day, I got a copy of an autobiography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., entitled "I Have A Dream." I read that book cover to cover, over and over, endlessly, for months, until it became warn. Every time I'd finish, I'd start again. I remember crying every time I read about his death, and how people hated him and the people he was fighting for. I would ask my parents, "How could anyone hate someone for the color of their skin?!"
They had no answers. There are no answers. Racism leaves its mark on us, in so many different ways, whether we understand it or not.
But this moment isn't about me, far from it. It's about something much bigger than all of us.
Here are a list of groups I've supported since June 2020: Please support any and all.
This list looks pathetically small, I know. For a one-woman massage business in the middle of a pandemic, all I can say is: I'm working on it.
Let's see what this list looks like in a year. More importantly, let's see what we are able to accomplish together in a year.
From Central Oregon, with a warm heart, caring hands and deep respect:
Vanessa & Gracie