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The Language of Our Fathers

The first time I truly understood why I had married my husband, we had already celebrated more than 15 wedding anniversaries.

The moment of my realization wasn’t romantic nor was it private.

In fact, we were surrounded by others at a neighborhood Halloween party.

mlk 1The dads were standing in a small circle talking, and I just happened to be nearby when one of them pulled out his phone and read a joke to the other dads. I can’t recall the punchline, but it had something to do with President Obama being black. As the other dads laughed, my husband turned his back on them and started to walk away.

“What’s wrong?” one of the other dads asked. “Do you support Obama?”

“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I support him or not. That was a racist joke and laughing at it was racist behavior.”

After their initial silence, they mumbled excuses mixed with denials.

My husband walked away anyway.

That is the exact moment when I realized why I decided he was “the one” all those years ago.

Despite our extreme personality differences, he speaks my language.

It is a language that embraces differences and dismisses labels. It’s a language that appreciates the incredible beauty of being unique and despises the use of violence.

Most of all, it is a language that conveys the perils of remaining silent at even the smallest acts of bigotry.

I was thinking of this lansilence of our enemiesguage when I woke up Thursday morning to the news that nine people had been slaughtered at a historical African-American church in Charleston South Carolina because of the color of their skin.

I couldn’t help but wonder if their killer had told racist jokes and if people who claim they are not racist had laughed at them.

My gut told me they had.

Apathy can be as dangerous as a gun, and yet it is something many of us use on a regular basis to help us “get along” and “not make waves.

It is also something that can be broken with only a few words, like those my husband spoke at a Halloween party years ago

On Father’s Day, as most of us take time to thank our dads for all they’ve done, I want to thank my husband for teaching my children his language.

It is  a beautiful language because it is also full of hope. When all the voices who speak it join together, maybe, just maybe, they can begin to change the world.