Black Lives Matter.

I was born in Belgium. As a schoolgirl in the sixties I read in my history book that Belgium brought civilization to the Congo, and the Congolese loved us. My Church collected money for African children, and I always put a few francs in the box. It felt good.

In the late seventies I was a college student, talking with friends near a movie theater. The door opened and two black kids were thrown out. The younger, maybe 5 years old, was crying and holding on to his brother, who kept yelling that they had tickets. The ticket seller got out of his booth and hit the older kid while calling him macaque, n@#$%^ and telling him to go back to Africa. The kid kept charging the door, and being pushed back violently. I caught him as he fell and offered to buy new tickets. He hit me with his fists and pushed me away. I was shaken, confused. The kids walked away crying. I did too. Only later did I realize the kid did not want kindness. He wanted justice. He wanted to be treated as a human being.

In 1999 I had kids and was living near DC. Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant, was killed by New York Police, who shot 41 bullets in his direction. I can still hear his mother cry “Amadou, Amadou!”

In the 2000s I was volunteering in mostly black DC schools, teaching Shakespeare. Robert stood out. The 5th grader had an amazing feel for and intuitive understanding of language. I suggested he would do well in a language/arts magnet. His teacher responded that Robert would be peddling drugs in the street like his brothers before him. I was enraged. If those in charge of children feel so beaten, so hopeless, how do kids stand a chance? Robert’s family left DC a week later. I don’t know what happened to a boy who showed such promise.

I will never fully know what it is like to be black, in America or elsewhere. I catch glimpses. I wonder about the cumulative effect on black kids of going on field trips to listen to white educators and see black security personnel. Things are changing – not fast enough.

When I was just about the only white person in a black school, the assumption was that I taught something. Had I been a black woman in a white school, would students assume I was the cleaning crew? As long as the question seems relevant, we have work to do. That’s why, long after having read about the Belgian oppression and looting of the Congo, I continue my education. I hope the next generations will have a faster, better understanding of the implications of racism, and that they will repudiate the ugliness we tolerated for far too long.

Published as a letter to the editor of the Rockwall Herald Banner, June 12 edition. Marie-Anne wrote this, not to indulge in memories, but to try to clarify to herself and others why, at the ripe old age of 62, she is registering voters at Black Lives Matter protests.

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