You know that feeling when words just really hit you in the gut? Not in the bad I’m-gonna-knock-the-wind-out-of-you-and-steal-your-lunch-money type of way, but rather the I’m-gonna-slap-you-upside-with-truth-you’ve-felt-but-haven’t-been-able-to-articulate type of way.
Well, the first time I heard this poem from Sara Kay (one of my heros, by the way), I felt like I had been punched in the gut. So I listened to it again. And again. And again. And in some ways, I’ve never stopped listening.
“I know … you’ve taken to wearing around your father’s hand me down anger, but I wish you wouldn’t/It’s a few sizes too big and everyone can see it doesn’t fit you, makes you look silly, hangs loose in all the wrong places, even if it does match your skin color.”
I come from a family far more beautiful than I deserve. And even though I think my parents are quite possibly the greatest parents in the world (they never bought me a husky puppy, but I’m learning to let that go), I was still raised with prejudices. I was still raised with anger. Not anger directed at me (except for that one time I tied my brother to a tree), but anger toward history, politics, race and broken bones and hearts that were never fully mended. I carry with me their hand me downs and my grandparents’ hand me downs and my whole family tree’s hand me downs. Is it too bold of me to say everyone does – at least to a degree?
“But back then, back then there was only sand/until someone drew a line/someone built a wall/someone threw a stone.”
Neutrality in the journalism world isn’t put on a pedestal quite like it used to be. Now, we’re taught in journalism classes we shouldn’t strive for numbness when we report on an issue that hits close to home. Rather, we should understand where our biases or fault lines (a.k.a. hand me downs) come from, so we can recognize them and see past them. We can move past them, even. And I think that was what Sara Kay was ultimately trying to convey in this poem. In order to move past our angers and prejudices, we have to first recognize where they came from. And then we have to make the conscious choice to refuse to pass them down to our siblings, future children and even to our writing.