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Broken Together

Broken heartLike so many, recent events leave me sad, troubled, scared and totally confused. The thoughts racing through my mind have made it hard to sort my feelings and put them into words. But doing so will, I hope in some small way, help me through this. What I have written below might upset or even anger some people. It is not a political commentary; it is a human one. All I ask is that you read the entire entry.

I try to avoid generalizations about people and focus on individual interactions. I am sorry to say that wasn’t always the case, but with age and I hope a little wisdom, I’d like to believe I have become a better and more tolerant version of myself.

Every one of us has been on the receiving end of assumptions and generalizations. When I was making a decision about my college major in the early 1970’s, I received no encouragement to think outside the “typical” careers for women at that time. When I moved from New York City to Charlotte, I was surprised by the distorted perceptions of northerners I encountered by not only strangers, but co-workers. And for years, when I told people where I worked (a major financial institution) they always assumed I was a teller and asked me which branch I worked in. And you know so many others; beautiful women are bimbos, very tall people must be great at basketball, and it goes on and on. These are relatively minor.

Others are much more serious and hurtful, like believing someone who was sexually assaulted was somehow “asking for it.” But the crucial difference is those assumptions don’t cost us our lives.

I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be an African American man in our country. But as the daughter of a New York City police officer, I do know my father was more than his uniform. He was a son, brother, friend, husband, father and uncle. I remember being so afraid he would not come home from work, especially during the time when the police were referred to as pigs and it seemed like you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about officers shot in the line of duty.

Just as my father was more than his uniform, an African American man is more than the color of his skin. Do some police officers make horrible mistakes? Yes, they do. Do they sometimes go outside the boundaries? Yes, they do. Do some African American men commit offenses that merit incarceration? Yes, they do. But the actions of the few do not reflect the hearts of the many. And if we are to get through this peacefully, we need to make a conscious choice not to make generalizations and to make the most of every individual interaction.

When I was in high school I was on a city bus going to the orthodontist. I was wearing my Catholic school uniform and on that particular afternoon, was one of only a few white people on the bus. A group of African American teen-age girls decided to have some fun with me, although I didn’t think it funny. They closed in on me, stepping on my feet, pulling my hair, and punching me. They got the reaction they wanted when I started to cry, but they also didn’t stop me when I pushed through them to get off the bus. I know that story pales in comparison to what is happening right now, and in no way do I mean to minimize the gravity of the current situation, but I could have chosen to respond differently, to think differently, and I did not.

Until the day we die we are a work in progress; we are neither perfect nor complete. There is always more to learn, to experience, to improve upon. We elected an African American President, but we still have far to go to improve race relations. We could potentially elect the first female President, but we still need to address gender inequality. But at least these are steps in changing perceptions and assumptions, and the kinds of steps we need to continuously build upon.

Lately I find myself thinking more and more about the lyrics to a song by Casting Crowns, called ”Broken Together:”

It’s going to take much more than promises this time

Only God can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete

Could we just be broken together

If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine

Could healing still be spoken and save us

The only way we’ll last forever is broken together


So let’s be broken together.