When I was a little girl my mom and her siblings would all bring their families together for holidays. We’re talking Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day, 4th of July…you name it. There were 6 siblings including my mom and, we would gather at someone’s house, have a potluck that looked like a grocery store exploded, and eat and laugh and enjoy being together. My grandfather, the patriarch of the family, had 5 strong independent girls, but each of them placated him in his presence and allowed him to be “in charge”. One holiday when I was 7, we had finished eating a smorgasbord of food and I ran to the table solely dedicated to desserts. While my eyes widened, and I debated what treat to get, I settled on a piece of chocolate cake. I loved chocolate cake, and I was going to get to be the first person to have a piece. I carefully cut a piece being sure that there were clean lines never appearing a 7-year-old served herself and slid it on to my plate. As I grabbed a fork, I heard my aunt standing behind me saying, “What have you done? That was grandpas cake and he’s going to be so mad.”
I didn’t know. I was shocked, embarrassed and horrified that I had done something wrong. I always tried to play by the rules, to keep my head down and to make people happy, but this time, I just didn’t know.
Sitting here today I am shocked, embarrassed and horrified at the things I have learned. I am horrified that my daughters still must be warned to not allow men to use their bodies as currency, shocked that my grandmother’s healthcare is contingent on a system that requires certain benevolence, and embarrassed at the way that we treat minorities. But there was a time, I just didn’t know.
We are each so ingrained by our lives and our needs that sometimes we all become numb and passive on the things that do not affect us. As I gracefully accept being middle age, I can’t help but wonder at what point our arrogant ignorance just becomes flagrant passiveness. At what point when we see women being harassed and objectified, and at what point are we watching black men and women in this country be targeted do we get to turn around and pretend it’s not happening. Because it is happening.
It’s not a piece of chocolate cake at stake, it’s the hearts, the minds, and the soul of who we are at stake. We can no longer claim that we “just didn’t know.” I can’t help but feel the presence of Jesus standing behind me asking “What have you done?” I fall humbly and say, “I didn’t know.”
But today, it’s time to know.