People around the world are impacted in different ways by what happened on May 25th to George Floyd. As parents of two teenage boys, we didn’t know how to express and explain what happened yet again.
Systemic racism exists, often innately in our actions and thinking without anyone even realizing that it’s happening. I grew up in India, and have experienced that it exists in subtle expressions and obsessions like having fair skin is considered beautiful, makes someone stand out, and is attractive. While growing up in India, I was guilty of ignorantly supporting it until I was old enough to recognize that it was happening to my own mother. My late mother had a darker skin color and I began to protest whenever someone in our extended family offended my mother because of her skin color. My mother was the strongest pillar that nourished us unselfishly and her divine presence was the reason that my father rose from a very humble start to retiring as the chairman of a depart at a very prestigious university in India. My mother’s and father’s names are now permanently ingrained in the research room that university dedicated in memory of my late father and to which my mother was an architect throughout her life. I am what I am today because of her and my father’s sacrifices
As parents of two teenage boys, we didn’t know how to express and explain what happened yet again. My wife, I, and our two boys were silently absorbing all the news and experiences shared by our African-American colleagues and friends. We ended up re-watching documentaries and reading articles about similar past incidences. Worried, my wife went through instructions yet again with my elder son, who just received his driving license, about what to do if he ever gets pulled over. But, still unsure if that’s enough to keep her kids safe. What else should she and could do?
Amid all this, she was also in a peculiar silence and emotional turmoil that was quite different from the three of us. Having married to her for 20 years, I had a feeling that something was coming as it happened after every time I noticed her in that state. But, I have also learned to keep quiet until she is ready to speak.
On the day of George Floyd’s funeral, she told us that she was organizing a peaceful vigil in memory of George Floyd and that she has posted on her Facebook page about it. She said even if no one joins, four of us and one of her friends will hold candles and pray for George at the town center. We weren’t sure about the reaction and who would join.
However, it moved us when over 100 people from different ethnicity, race, color, religion, and cultural backgrounds turned up for the vigil. With people holding candles, it was silence for the first 20 – 30 minutes. But, then people started to sing, followed by emotional messages and appeal for change. It intuitively felt real that the change is coming.
Like many women across the world, including my late mother, my wife proved yet again that women everywhere are the silent reformers, leaders, and teachers. They see things with an action-driven perspective and purpose, often with silence, that’s usually not experienced before. After we returned home and kids feeling proud of their mom, she finally spoke and said this – “believe in the power of intention and never lose hope.” And I was thinking then, I can speak to her again and that my late mother is smiling with pride in her daughter-in-law.
Over 100 people gathering in less than 6 hours for a peaceful vigil for George Floyd – it’s the power of intention that only a woman who is also a mother can prove!!
The change is coming, we have no doubt and we hope that our two boys continue to believe in this!
Lighting one candle at a time, wherever we are, is all that’s needed for any change to become real. A subtle, maybe just a few seconds of introspection before every decision from us to answer ourselves whether our bias is miring what we feel about someone. Now try replacing that bias with the merit that person brings. Just a few seconds of pause to introspect, besides changing that person’s life, will change our lives too with fewer conflicts with our inner-self and with the guilt that may exist long after our decision. A few seconds of introspection will bring the change that our next generation deserves from us.