Many people have asked me why I decided to do The Being of a Nation, and while there are many answers to that question, the main one is that I wanted to get out from behind my computer and connect with other Americans. I want to see with my own eyes who Americans are, feel with my own heart what they are feeling, and hear with my own ears how they choose to answer the simple question, “How do you want to BE in the world?”
I have loved Anne Frank since I first learned about her in school. I think because I was in utter amazement that someone who faced such horrible atrocities from Nazis could still remain so hopeful and loving and kind. “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” I then studied and taught history, because I wholeheartedly believe that if we do not know and own our history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Both of these things are what surfaced for me as I watched from afar the atrocities that occurred in Charlottesville this weekend by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.
Yesterday my energy was low and my mind was not as present as I would have liked it to be because my heart was heavy watching what was taking place in America. This hatred has always been here. Our country was founded on the massacre of Native Americans and build on the back of slaves. Pick up a history book and you cannot deny this. The persecution of these people continues today.
Yet, if you study history there have also been those who have fought against the wrongs and risen up to change our country for the better. The Martin Luther Kings, the Harriet Tubmans, the Margaret Sangers, the every day people who stood up and said, “HELL NO.”
So far on my road trip across America, I have had many individuals share with me the struggles they have faced due to institutionalized racism, yet each of them has always chosen a positive outlook on how they want to BE in the world. In my opinion – they are living day Anne Franks. Even with the persecution they have encountered, they are choosing to see the world as a loving and good place.
The above picture is Timothy, who invited me into his barbershop in Las Vegas, and showed me love by sharing his BE story with a random white woman. He did not have to trust me, but he did. He stepped away from his work and gave me 30 minutes of his time. He told me about the struggles he has encountered in his life, but also put “LOVE” on the board without a hesitation. He is hopeful. He is loving. He is kind.
So, while we are finally seeing the racism that has always existed in this country rear it’s face and display all its hatred, I also am getting the chance to see the people who are actively choosing love – even though it would be very easy for them to do the opposite.
As President Obama quoted Nelson Mandela, another man who choose to see good after experiencing so much bad, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
While I refuse to ignore what happened in Charlottesville, I also refuse to believe that it will prevail. I stand with Anne and Timothy and Barack and Mandela. Love wins.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank