My high school job was working at Children’s Palace. I would take the city bus to the closest stop and walk the rest of the way to the store. One morning, I came around the corner from the bus stop and was surprised to see a line of customers about 1/4-mile long. I remember thinking “who would get up this early and wait in a line outside of a toy store? It’s 10 degrees outside!”
I grew up in Cleveland.
When I finally managed to get in the door, I put on my red smock and learned I was assigned to the doll aisle… and we just got Cabbage Patch dolls. I’m not sure if you remember the fervor that came with those dolls but I, for one, will never forget it.
My job was to stock Cabbage Patch dolls at timed intervals. I say timed because customers were let in the store at certain times so we didn’t have a riot. I stacked about 20 dolls on a cart in the back room, wheeled them as close as I could get to the doll section and prayed I got out of the way before the moms ran me over.
I’ve never witnessed anything like those women pushing each other and me to get a doll. It was surreal for a teenager.
One day close to Christmas, I noticed we had gotten in black Cabbage Patch dolls. I was immediately intrigued because we didn’t typically stock very many black dolls and the ones we did have weren’t very cute. These dolls were adorable. I put them on the cart and did my usual gauntlet run to place them on the floor and a woman yelled at me, “Don’t you have any more white dolls? I can’t give my kids a n****r doll from Santa. It’s stupid to have these anywhere but downtown.”
I stood there, staring at this woman and her friends on their knees digging through dolls on the floor and her words just kept echoing in my head. I had never heard anyone say that word out loud, ever. It broke my heart.
As I look at today’s world through grown up eyes, I see we haven’t come very far in addressing racism. In fact, the United Nations recently recommended that a special envoy be created to investigate
the policing of people of color in this country as it horrifyingly parallels the history of lynching.
As white people, we must educate ourselves on our own underlying bias, our own underlying issues with race and begin to confront and address them in safe places so we eradicate the hurt they contain.
I need to start with me and you need to start with you. We can journey together however we both need to show up.
I hope you will consider joining us for our Lenten study on white privilege and sacred conversations on race. I pray First Community can be a model congregation for others in our ability to courageously confront racism and privilege and compassionately journey with one
another so we can begin to heal ourselves and our world.