In SolidarityJune 10, 2020
In the past week:
- A young girl of color was bullied with racist, illegal hate speech in one of the towns I represent;
- In our overwhelmingly white district, a brilliant, law-abiding, young man of color told me he can’t speak out against excessive police force because he fears for his own safety;
- My Black and brown colleagues at the Capitol are exhausted from explaining to white people what racism looks and feels like; and
- In our towns and across our country, white people like me, who sincerely want to see an end to systemic racism, are trying to learn what it means to be an effective ally.
As an American who has lived through the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, the Civil Rights era, Kent State, the Vietnam War and all the wars that followed, 9-11 and numerous economic meltdowns, I have never in my life been so heartbroken and worried for my fellow citizens.
As a lifelong civil rights defender – starting at 16 when I marched with the United Farmworkers Union – I am frustrated beyond words that, decades later, abhorrent civil rights abuses continue to take place daily, including here in Connecticut.
As a mother of four white men, I am well aware that I’ve never feared for their lives because of the color of their skin.
As a former teacher, my heart breaks for the young people graduating into this fraught, frail, enflamed and uncertain world.
But as a legislator – as a person who has the profound privilege to vote on issues that will make our world better – I will continue to vote for legislation that increases police accountability and transparency, ensures equity for all people, and protects our essential workers as we rebuild our economy.
I do this in the full and certain knowledge that not only does the safety of certain communities not detract from the safety of other communities; rather, it adds immeasurably to the quality, safety, and economic viability of all our lives.
Finally, I want to use this space to lift up a black voice. This 1921 poem by Claude McKay, an early poet of the Harlem Renaissance, seems especially apt as it captures the dichotomy of the American Black experience. Fellow white folks: our fellow Americans are hurting deeply, and with justification. Please read not only this poem, but all the news headlines to come, with an open mind and an honest heart.
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.