As the Carillon tolled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds we, a group of about 60 mostly white people wearing our masks, stood or kneeled as four lanes of busy traffic rushed by, many honking or raising fists in support.
All the while I stood there, I was watching a family across the street. This young black family was sitting on their front steps. There was a mother, a father, a baby, a young boy maybe 4, and an older boy about 11.
I wondered about theses people—these neighbors I had never met. I wondered if they felt protected by the police, or threatened by them. I wondered about the older boy in the red shirt resting on his yellow bicycle. Will he be able to live out his dreams? Can he ride his bicycle freely through the streets of the city as I had done when I was his age in this same city?
The street where we stood, Sumner Avenue, was named for Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts during the Civil War. Wikipedia describes him as a leader in the abolitionist cause, “A radical Republican.” At one point in his career after an impassioned speech against slavery. he was attacked viciously, nearly fatally by another senator on the floor of the Senate
Over 150 years later he is remembered here by this street and the school on it. Yet the racism at the heart of slavery that he fought against, and nearly died fighting, is still here.
So there I was in my white skin silently protesting this evil of racism across from a black family I did not know, realizing all too clearly that there is more than 4 lanes of traffic that separates us.