Sometimes the words just spill out, crammed with truth. They enter the world unselfconsciously. There’s no fanfare. They’re likely spoken quietly. But the power is unmistakeable. You know that the words are real, that they touch realities and emotions that are real. You can trust them. Even if the words are wrapped in pain, you don’t turn away in the hearing. You face what’s true. And then you act.
Your actions may be in the realm of social justice. They may focus on “being with” every person you meet. They may be centered in prayer. But you do act. And the world is lifted, caressed, allowed a shoulder for it to fall upon. We evolve … together.
A white man and an elderly Native man became pretty good friends, so the white guy decided to ask him: “What do you think about Indian mascots?” The Native elder responded:
“Here’s what you’ve got to understand. When you look at black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains. When you look at Jews, you see ghosts of all those bodies piled up in death camps. And those ghosts keep you trying to do the right thing. But when you look at us you don’t see the ghosts of the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts at the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the trail on the way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice. You don’t see any ghosts at all. Instead you see casinos and drunks and junk cars and shacks.
Well, we see those ghosts. And they make our hearts sad and they hurt our little children. And when we try to say something, you tell us, ‘Get over it. This is America. Look at the American dream.’ But as long as you’re calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream, because those things remind us that we are not real human beings to you. And when people aren’t humans, you can turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them down with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee. No, we’re not looking at the American dream. And why should we? We still haven’t woken up from the American nightmare.”