When I was in second grade I loved one of my classmates, Sammy. He loved me too. One day he brought me the most beautiful brooch. it was a parrot. It was glorious. It had rhinestones and other glass gems. It was the fanciest thing I had ever had.
I still have it today. I pull it out every once in awhile and wonder where Sammy is today. I’ve tried looking for him on social media to no avail. I moved to a different town after my second grade year and never saw him again.
I’ve had the luxury, the privilege, of wondering what he is like today. What his family is like? I’ve wondered what he does for a career and who he loves. My privilege let me never wonder if Sammy was okay. Sammy’s skin color was darker than mine. I think I only noticed that when my mom, years later, pointed out to me I was the only “white girl” in my second grade class picture. But once she pointed it out I always knew, but my privilege disallowed me from ever trying to understand.
I now know it is possible that Sammy is not okay and that is my fault. It is my fault that I never offered prayers of protection his way. I never worried for him. It is my fault I didn’t do enough to end institutional racism which allowed me to grow up in an insulated, white suburb. It is my fault that I haven’t yelled, marched or worked harder to do my part.
I worked in the juvenile criminal justice system. I now live in one of the whitest parts of the country, yet I did nothing to sound the alarm at the disproportionate number of black children in the criminal justice system here. The system I was a part. This is my fault. I had the privilege to love Sammy all of these years without ever worrying about him. I’m sorry, Sammy. I’m sorry.