The War of the Roses

One day, a long time ago, my kids came home from school and asked me what the Underground Railroad was. They'd read some book in class and it just didn't make any sense to them. It just doesn't make any sense to me, either, I told them.

That was one of those moments when I had to choose between protecting my children and preparing them. I looked at those babies who never factored skin color into any equation, who I'd purposely taken out of the all white, all money school and enrolled in the 70% free and reduced lunch, 30/30/30 racially split school with the three classrooms dedicated to students with extreme needs so that they'd always know that life, she is the most beautiful rainbow, and I knew I had to make a decision. I had to let them think that the world holds hands and sing Kumbaya or I had to let them know what's real.

I chose the latter.

I sat them down and started with slavery. I moved on to emancipation. I continued to civil rights, to Dr King and Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. They wept, and I joined them. They asked, "Why, momma?" and I told them I didn't really know. I told them that some people in the world will go to any lengths to be more than, better than, others. I told them that there is a whole lot of evil in the world screaming in our ears, and it's our job to drown that out with song.

I explained to them that sometimes, weeds will grow so thick and strong in a garden that everyone can just start to accept them, even admire them. People can look at an over-run, weed infested garden and think it looks lovely and right, because that's how weeds work. They bloom flowers that look pretty and grow in patches that look appropriate and they fool the people who aren't paying attention. The truth is that they are killing everything around them, choking the ground, ruining the garden. They're hard to get rid of because the take root so deep, so fast, and spread everywhere when you're not paying attention. But sometimes, someone comes along who is paying attention. Maybe that person will plant a rose bush. That rose bush will start small, and it will struggle, but that person will tend to it and push the weeds away from it and make sure it has just enough light and air and soil, and that rose bush will slowly grow. Maybe someone else will see that rose bush, and they'll come plant another one. Maybe another person will, too. In a city of people moving together, thinking collectively, jointly blinded by what is just there and what is just easy, maybe you'll get three people who can see things for what they are, and those three people can make a rose bush grow tall and strong amid the weeds. And then one day, while everyone else was busy accepting the way things are, that rose bush has grown taller and stronger and more beautiful that anything around it, and then everyone will notice.

That doesn't mean they're going to come pull the rest of the weeds with you, but at least you've gotten their attention. At least they can see the weeds for what they are. At least you've shown them what their world could be, should be, if they just opened their eyes and ears and hearts and started digging.