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Sunflowers and Power Tools 09/21/2021

I had a jack-slapping moment this weekend after the conclusion of our successful garage sale. The reality of being non-White struck me (yet again) – and for some reason an unlikely image of a lone sunflower in a poppy field appeared in my mind.

A gentle young Black man bought most of our power tools at our garage sale. He later Venmo messaged me to see if I could also sell him an extension cord. First of all, I was glad he messaged me – because being born in the 1900’s somehow blocks me from achieving competent technology. And secondly, after moving some shelves around in my garage, I found a piece of the tire jack he had purchased – but didn’t know I could have contacted him through “the” Venmo. Serendipitous.

Not at all.

Because he was available to come get the items when we were not going to be home, I told him I would leave them on our porch. When he arrived, he messaged me and said he couldn’t remember which house was ours, so he asked me for my house number. I was visiting with a friend, so I hurriedly typed my response and put my phone down for a while, not realizing I fat fingered the last digit. UGH. I didn’t see his subsequent messages until after he gave up and went home.

When we finally reconnected in person, he laughed and said he left quickly because there were children outside playing and thought it wouldn’t look good for him to be driving up and down the street too many times. I laughed it off with him and we said goodbye. However, after thinking about it later that day, it occurred to me: IT WASN’T FUNNY AT ALL.

He is a young Black man. I live in predominantly White suburbia.

We are friends with our neighbors – the husband is an uber-friendly Black man from Jamaica. Recently, he, his wife and children were waiting in their car for the school bus to arrive. A couple walking by his car noticed him. After walking a few steps past the car, they stopped – turned around – walked back to the car – circled it – took note of the license plate – stood back – and STARED DOWN our neighbors. When the school bus arrived, they dropped eye contact and wouldn’t walk past the car, waiting for them to drive away. Our friends were so shocked that they didn’t react. Looking back, the wife wishes she had rolled down the window to ask the walkers if they needed anything.

All humans are beautiful, yet not everyone celebrates the beauty of our differences. While poppy fields are beautiful, I much prefer a mixture in which a variety of flowers peacefully prosper and their colors come together for a visual dance.

Our neighbors’ story is not unlike adoptees (such as myself) who have to navigate race within our own families. While I want to scream and rip my hair out when incidents like these occur, I have to stop and remember we have a CHOICE: we can either learn to embrace our differences, OR we can hide, bend, and attempt to not stick out.

I hope that one day a Black man can drive down my street with his head held high and without trepidation. I hope that one day transracial families will be as “normal” as a field of wild flowers. I hope that you hope, too.



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