A Letter to My Daughter: We can be better than what you see

This piece translates better in a live spoken word performance. I was invited to read this at a literary event by my creative writing professor. I am not a poet and I’ve never written or performed spoken word before (and it shows), but I am a writer that firmly believes that it is when we step out of our comfort zones that we are truly alive. This piece was inspired by a real conversation my daughter and I had about racism in America.

Dear Baby Girl,

You said that what you see happening in our country makes you sad.
You are 12 years old now, my love.
You know that Santa Clause isn’t real, and now I have to tell you the truth about America.
One nation under God indivisible with liberty and just for all, isn’t real either.

You cried when you saw the last moment of an unarmed black man’s life,
who you now refer to as the “Jogging Black Man.” His name was Ahmaud Arbery.
You saw him shot dead in the middle of a neighborhood street
defenseless against two white men with shotguns, lifeless at their feet.
“Why?” you asked.
You learned that black children get “the talk” on how to survive
in their skin, in this country – a talk that will never apply to you.
You said that there should be no difference in how black kids and white kids live in the world.
You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw a white man grocery shopping during the pandemic
hiding under a white pointy hood over his head.
“What is the KKK?” you asked.
You learned that it is an organized white supremacist hate group
loathing anyone black and brown, all Muslims and Jews,
aiming to suppress their rights based on ignorant views.
You said it shouldn’t exist, and that everyone else should think so, too.
You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw a Nazi swastika plastered on the front of a white man’s mask.
“What is a swastika?” you asked.
You learned that it represented the fascism of Hitler in Germany in World War II,
which systematically murdered 12 million people, half of them Jews.
You noticed, horrified,
that people seem to be too afraid to speak out; too full of self-doubt.
You compared it to being bullied in school, where the bullies know
that the people they target will take the blows.
You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw a white man driving an oversized truck down Main Street America
with a giant Confederate flag in the breeze of the wrong millenia.
“What does that flag mean?” you asked.
You learned that in the Civil War, the South fought to keep slavery
as an economic resource they were dependent upon,
and that the North fought to end it, human dignity for everyone.
You were surprised that the country fought against itself.
You observed that it wasn’t a united nation then, and that we

Haven’t. Really. Changed.

You compared the beliefs and the lack of knowledge
to a chain reaction handed down each generation.
You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw mostly white protesters against the government’s quarantine
strapped with automatic rifles, wrapped in red white and blue superiority.
“What is American pride?” you asked.
You learned that these people felt they were standing up for their Constitutional freedom,
but you noticed they were ignoring their social responsibility, public cost at a premium.
“That’s not pride,” you said. “That’s selfish. I don’t want to wave an American flag,” you added.
“It almost seems like all the good things it stands for are becoming invalid.”

“Even the white men that shot the Jogging Black Man,” you reflected.
“They were afraid for no reason. What if it was suddenly the other way around?” you asked.
“What if the hate wasn’t against white people? Then we would all know how it feels.”
You are right my love. Is that what it’s going to take?

You answered, “My generation has gotten all the hype about finally bringing about change. But what about all the people that are hyping us up?” you asked.
“Can you help us? Or are you just going to sit back and watch?

5 thoughts on “A Letter to My Daughter: We can be better than what you see

  1. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it to play but I read it and took it to heart.
    It is right on the mark and your daughter asked very important questions.
    It is wonderfully written and extremely sad to read.
    I hope your daughter can help fix the problem so it doesn’t just carry on like a bad virus with no one at the helm to stop it.
    Well done Shannon!!!! ❤️

    Like

    1. I’m sorry you couldn’t get it to play! It’s a YouTube video, so maybe this link might work better? In any case, thanks so much for the kind words. I hope you are right, that my daughter’s generation, along with our help, will be more successful in changing the tide.

      Like

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