“I have been trying to read and learn more from perspectives other than my own. People like me need to listen more and talk less when it comes to racism.”
So wrote Cindy Hood-Siegal on Facebook a few days ago. She then attached a link to a post whose first line is: “A quick roundup of things to say to Saltine Americans clutching their pearls over rioting and looting.”
I loved it. I loved it immediately because Cindy Hood-Siegal most definitely wears pearls. Or at least chunky statement pieces bought in the whitest boutiques in the South.
I was introduced to her years ago when I met the clump of close friends my husband made while in residency. It was the beginning of a week-long group trip to Kaui, and I was being introduced as William’s new girlfriend.
For the first few days, my brain was a little hazy when it came to attaching names to the members of the group, in part because it had so many and in part because I, frankly, only had eyes for William.
But slowly, certain people started to stand out.
Cindy was one of them.
And I didn’t know what to make of her.
Though William told me that she’d worn a dog collar to punk rock concerts when she was in her 20s, she was now trim, tidy and her beach apparel seemed carefully, conservatively selected. She spoke her mind even when there was opposition and was upfront about the fact that she seemed to be quietly assessing me — and everything around her.
Our cordial friendship remained within the confines of the annual residency group trips. But each time I saw her, I wanted to know more about her. Ironically, I feel like I finally did when we became Facebook friends. There, she shared openly about how hard it was being a mother. About anxiety. Even about Disney World, which she unabashedly loves.
And now here she was addressing the protests and riots that have taken over the nation.
The article she posted, “How to respond to ‘riots never solve anything,’” was authored by Rafi D’Angelo and includes this incredible statement:
“How do you feel about your country when people who look like you have to work through a pandemic, are dying in larger numbers from the disease, have the police called on them over a dog leash, are told they’re trespassing on property they pay rent for, are brutalized by armies of cops, and are killed in broad daylight for the crime of jogging?
“How do you feel? How would you react? Regardless of how you would react, how can you tell someone else how they should?”
So I read the whole article (and you might consider it too). But then Cindy Hood-Siegal started getting flack for what she posted. That flack sounded like this:
“To apologize or rationalize why black people burn and loot is in the same vein as apologizing for a white policeman doing something wrong. Wrong is wrong, no matter how one tries to rationalize it.”
And that’s when Cindy Hood-Siegal — the same Cindy Hood-Siegal who has been assessing and thinking while the rest of us sip Mai Tais and get sunburned — said the wisest thing I think I’ll read about this current state of the nation.
She said this:
“Seeking to understand why something happens and constructive ways to discuss it is not the same as apologizing and rationalizing. And clearly, asking politely for equality is not working.
“But white people do not get to be the arbiters of what is an allowable protest for people of color. No matter what type of protest has been attempted, some white people want to shut it down. And that is what happened with Colin Kaepernick. His stated goal was to draw attention to this exact issue — the discriminatory treatment of black people by the police. He did it peacefully, and yet his goals were overtaken by people placing their own meanings on his actions.
“If you cannot take a step back and look at the reason for his actions, or for the current protestors’ actions, and can only criticize their methods, then you are never going to be able to understand their situation or bring change to bear.
“We all have work to do before we can hope to understand. Listening, and being willing to hear things that make us profoundly uncomfortable, and things that accuse us of complicity, are absolutely necessary.”
I feel like I can read that about a hundred times and still get goosebumps. And the best thing about it is she’s right.
That pearl-sporting, Saltine American woman is bang-on right.