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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Black lives matter too

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Columnist

While I feel woefully inadequate doing so, I am compelled to discuss the sad state of our country and the reaction to the death of George Floyd.

What is clear, above all else, is that people are incredibly tired of the systemic racial injustice that this nation has perpetuated for centuries. People of color are tired of fighting for their birthright. And people across race and nationality, agree. While simple on the surface, this is a complicated issue. I have invested some time in educating myself and have come away with a miniscule understanding.

I have spent some time reading articles from those who live in a world that judges them based solely on the color of their skin and I have been watching documentaries and movies on the subject of racial inequality and systemic racism. It has been eye-opening. I feel embarrassed by my ignorance and for being someone who simply shook my head and moved on about my life each time I heard or saw crimes being committed against minorities. Possibly out of an unconscious fear of what it would mean if change actually did ensue. (How ignorant is that?) It never occurred to me to look at the system as a whole or at my part in perpetuating the status quo.

Having grown up white in America, I cannot begin to understand the fear that plagues these communities of people every day. It breaks my heart to see a 5-year-old with her hands up, already understanding she is in danger, simply because her skin is dark. It saddens me to listen to a young boy singing anthems asking to simply be allowed to live.

One of the movements for justice is Black Lives Matter. I think a lot of people would understand this more readily if we added the word “too.” Black lives matter too. Yes, your life matters as does my life. But my life is not in jeopardy each time I leave my home simply because of my color or race. As much as “Save the Whales” does not mean “To Hell with the other fish,” no one is trying to take anything away from you, as you are not a target.

Perhaps, I have been living in a bubble for the majority of my years, but honestly, I have not given a lot of attention to racial injustice, until now. And now, I am trying to learn more and to understand.

One thing I know for sure is that I was not born racist. My .prejudice came gradually and subtly. It was simply part of my childhood. From slang and overheard conversations of my grandparents and uncles, to television shows like “All In The Family”, to songs I was taught to select teammates or who would go first in a game: eenie, meenie, miney, moe.. catch a tiger by the toe… (I have replaced the epiphet we used with one that is more acceptable). Over time I came to understand that even though our family was poor, we were still better than “those people” and that they were different with an propensity to commit crimes and I was inherently unsafe in their midst.

Growing up in the suburbs in upstate New York, my exposure to “people of color” was limited. My high school class of nearly 650, had (to the best of my recollection) three black students. One who I insulted the very first day of our sophomore year when she overheard me making an insensitive comment about her weight.

Our district had two middle schools that merged into one high school. I remember the excitement of being a sophomore and sitting with my circle of friends as we sized up the strangers with whom we would now be sharing classrooms and hallways. When I saw this girl, my comment was not about her race (I don’t think), but just as insensitively, her weight. It was snide and delivered for a laugh and my little group moved on with the day. I did not know she heard me say it.

I have imagined what it must have been like for her. I would guess she was also excited to be a sophomore, but much more apprehensive as the number of people who did not share her skin tone had doubled. She had probably been subjected to plenty of hurtful comments along the way. And then to have someone say something so mean and hurtful on the first day of school.

She finally told me why she had never liked me, when we shared a class in our senior year. Thankfully, I was able to apologize profusely, but even today, I cringe. She held onto that hurt for three years. I have been carrying it for over 40. Are there enough ways to say I am sorry?

As I became an adult and exposed myself to the world and people of many ethnicities and cultures, I worked to replace the stereotypes I was taught with the knowledge of my own experience. People are people. I worked to live by The Golden Rule –to treat people as I wish to be treated. Just that simply. I taught my children to do the same.

This is not an easy time. There are many people against making even the most basic changes to the systems currently in place. Until recently, I had only heard the term “white privilege,” but now I see it. I have enjoyed it. If I am being honest, I am a little afraid to lose it. However, I can no longer pretend it does not come at a cost that others are forced to pay.

Change is long overdue, and I believe with this generation, change is going to come. Let us be part of that change. Even in the second whitest county in California, black lives matter too.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.


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