When author Rachel Macy Stafford shared a photo of her white daughter sitting side-by-side with her black friend at a football game earlier this week, the Facebook post was met with an overwhelming response. But it wasn’t the image itself that elicited a reaction; it was the powerful message held in her caption that has touched hearts everywhere — particularly in light of the recent events in Charlottesville.
Stafford, who is the writer behind The Hands-Free Revolution, begins with a brief, but moving story:
“I’ll never forget what my daughter said after her best friend was subjected to a racist comment on the school bus one afternoon,” Stafford wrote. “‘I asked her if she was okay,’ my child said tearfully. ‘She didn’t say anything, so I just scooted closer.’ Reluctantly, she admitted, ‘I didn’t know what to do, Mama, so I just hurt with her.'”
The post has resonated deeply with the author’s followers since it was first posted on August 13, for encouraging her readers with a few thought-provoking questions:
“What if we collectively remember, ‘I’ll hurt with you,’ is something we can all do when we don’t know what to do?
What if we collectively look into the eyes of our brothers and sisters to acknowledge their story and their pain rather than closing our eyes or looking away? What if we collectively acknowledged our privileges and blessings would be even greater if shared by our sisters and brothers? What if we collectively agree it is not ‘your back’ or ‘my back,’ but ‘our back’ if we are to create a unified and peaceful world for future generations?”
The lesson in those words is truly sobering.
Stafford tells Babble that the girls have been friends for three years, ever since her family moved into the neighborhood. When the girls first met, Stafford says they “smiled at each other and instantly connected.” They’ve been besties ever since, and have attended countless events and activities together, including basketball camp.
“Over the past several years, I’ve noticed how they look out for each other,” she shares. “Whether one gets hurt on the playground … whether one is getting new glasses and needs an honest opinion … whether one needs encouragement at basketball tryouts … whether one is frightened by a dog … they respond compassionately to each other’s needs. When one cannot have a treat due to gluten allergies or braces, the other goes without too. And when they have disagreements, they look into each other’s eyes, listen to each other’s words, and work through it.”
As a mom in a multiracial family, I know that many people — including many of my friends and family members — feel stuck right now. They know racism is wrong, but they don’t know how to combat something so big, so out-of-control, and so distressing. Therefore, many opt to stay silent and on the sidelines.
But silence is not the answer — not now, or ever. Scooting closer, as Rachel shared, is.
Every person needs others to have their back, offering support, encouragement, empathy, solidarity, and most of all, love. There are opportunities for us to take the right actions nearly every single day. Instead of backing away when a racist statement or incident makes us uncomfortable, what if we questioned it? What if we listened more and talked less to those being terrorized? What if we offered open hands instead of crossed arms? What if we hurt with each other, as Rachel’s daughter did with her friend, even if it means vulnerability, time, and self-reflection?
The truth is, the country is in a desperate place right now. Humanity is in a desperate place right now.
“Unity, peace, progress, understanding, and love are all on the line,” Rachel continues, “and it’s hard to know if they’re going to make the cut.”
But even in a time of restlessness, fear, and uncertainty, we do have the ability to do something. That “something” varies by situation, but the goal should always be scooting closer. Because as Rachel reminds us, her daughter and friend discovered that “they are stronger together than they are alone.”
And if two young girls can do it, so can we.