As an older Black American living in today’s turbulent times, I see how some things have changed, yet others have not. It is quite a paradox to have seen this nation’s first black president and in subsequent years see so many of my brothers and sisters unduly harassed and murdered in the streets like wild animals.
I sit today trying to write this article on release. In addition, a few days ago, our class president sent us an email asking for our thoughts about the recent situation in this country. Lastly, I am also writing my autobiography. I have reached the age of 14 and have stalled at what to write next. These three “assignments” have caused me to reflect on the reactions that still rise in the pit of my stomach when things I experienced in the 70s still rear their ugly heads in the new millennium.
To bring it into perspective, I was a “poor” black girl (an external definition) from the inner city who was now preparing to enter one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. For the next 3 years I would be separated from my family and community and integrated into the fabric of a completely different world. There were friendships that were formed as “we did life together” in our sequestered corner of the world. Sadly, it was only a temporary patchwork quilt; after high school, the yarns of inclusion would be unraveled again by the divisions of social class, wealth (or lack thereof), and simple differences in life experiences and future expectations.
What I realize in the center of these 3 assignments is that all things that restrain you are not external. I have found that there is something I need to release. My time in high school, while it was one of the best times of my life also shined a glaring light on the inequities of wealth and social freedom and brought home the subtle, and not so subtle, slights of racism, some of which are still prevalent because we as a nation have decided to ignore and not confront the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
I noted in the open letter to my classmates that while people of color are being singled out, they are also, in a lot of instances, invisible. Example: when I first moved into the complex where I now reside, people who would be on the elevator with me as I traveled back and forth doing my laundry would remark “you’re working late tonight” (I suppose so since I’ve just arrived home from my 8 hour work day) or “you do such lovely work” as I attempted to not waste time by folding my clothes while traveling on the elevator. Although these were innocent remarks stemming from the “reality” of their lives, they still reduced the accomplishments of my life. Rather than allow these episodes to squelch my joy, I responded with light-hearted questions of my own.
These instances brought back some painful memories from high school which I relayed to my classmates. Even as prominently as we stood out in this sea of white people, we were still invisible. One day a young girl ran past me about noontime yelling with glee that we did not have Math class that day as she called me by my roommate’s name. I had class at 8:00 AM. The most perplexing question was how this person could sit in class with my roommate day after day and not know what she looked like.
So, as I posed in the open letter to my classmates, the oppressed and the oppressor must come to the table and begin the conversation by:
- ACKNOWLEDGING the problem and confronting it head-on, without rancor, guilt, or blame
- CONFRONTING our fears
- OPENING our minds and practicing forgiveness, thereby not allowing our ancestors’ deeds to define our past so that we can move forward – they are no longer here; forgiveness is where true freedom lies
- USE that white privilege to better the world
Lastly, I offered HOPE because, YES, I see a spiritual awakening in this country and a generation who is willing to ask the questions that should have been asked decades, maybe even centuries ago – what IS the 800-pound gorilla in the room, what does he want, and finally how do we get rid of him once and for all?
– Lareé Allston
Lareé Allston was born and raised in Boston and currently lives in Newton, MA. She graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover and did her undergraduate work at Duke University, graduating with a B.A. in English in 1978. After graduation, Lareé moved to Chicago in 1986 where she worked at a major bank for about 13 years. Surviving 3 mergers, she ended her career there working on the Y2K project. Once the project was completed, Lareé started her own company Proof Perfect Enterprises where she indulged in her writing and editing passions. She started the template for several books at the time. Soon after, Lareé returned to the corporate world working as a contractor for several corporations, the last being the NPI project at Blue Cross Blue Shield. She eventually returned to Boston and has worked as a contractor at several companies. Currently, Lareé works at an insurance company in Waltham processing new business applications. In her non-working hours, she is busy writing the first portion of her autobiography which she expects to publish in three installments. Lareé is simultaneously working on creating a web site for a friend’s business and another book which will be a reference manual for writers.