Of all the cruel jokes providence ever played on me, the most sadistic was sending me a child who is a morning person.
I don’t mean just an early riser – all five of my children fit that description. Four of them, however, have the good sense to shuffle around sleepily when they first wake up, communicating in grunts or better yet not at all, refusing to acknowledge anyone else’s existence until they’ve had some time to accept the start of a new day.
But my youngest? He’s smiling the second his head pops off the pillow. He skips up the stairs instead of trudging down the hall, sings happy tunes instead of sighing heavy sighs. He’s happy and chatty and thrilled to be awake. He is pretty much the worst thing one can be first thing in the morning – chipper.
Meanwhile I’m begrudgingly up, dressed in the garb of my generation (leggings and an oversized sweatshirt that says, “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee”), sipping a mug of cocoa, avoiding eye contact with everyone for at least the first hour of the day.
My wild hair resembles a flock of seagulls trying to impersonate the band Flock of Seagulls. I stumble to the shower, fumble with hair-taming product, plod along through my inefficient morning routine until inexplicably I eventually find myself alert and functional.
Morning people like my son may not get it, but for many of us, waking up is a process and not a terribly elegant one. There are false starts as we snooze the alarm or inadvertently fall back to sleep. There’s defensiveness when others who have been up for a while expect us to be further along on the Stages of Being Awake train. And there’s a fair amount of resentment about being awake at all when life was so much cozier under the warm quilt grandma made.
Right now there are millions of American who only recently woke up to the realities of continued racial inequality in this country, and it’s not pretty. It’s a lot to process. It’s unpleasant to process. There’s no amount of cocoa or coffee that will make this newly discovered reality any easier to swallow.
They just woke up but they’re not yet woke — more like semi-conscious and suspicious that this might actually be a lousy dream.
For those who have been awake for a while, it can be hard to be patient and even harder to be supportive as our friends are figuring out the very things that have long been shouted from the rooftops.
Their baby step efforts, like for the first time not responding to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” or finally understanding that athletes taking a knee during the national anthem had absolutely nothing to do with the national anthem, may feel like too little too late. And it’s true — many of our friends were completely blind and deaf to the realities that were waved and shouted in their presence for years.
It’s frustrating, but the last thing the cause needs right now is for these new allies to be bullied back to bed by white peers who want to rub in their faces how far behind they are.
They had it wrong before; now they’re going through the incredibly humbling process of learning, changing and growing. As they do, they have the ability to wake up others in their sphere of influence, others you or I could never reach.
So to my white peers who have been up for a while — give your drowsy neighbors a second to drink their coffee, then gently guide them to where we need them to be, to where your black and brown peers gently guided you over the years.
And to my recently awakened white peers — please be aware that you slept in despite numerous attempts to rouse you. Some of your white peers have been up for hours, and your siblings of color never had the luxury of sleep.
So sit up, rub your eyes then get to work. We need your fresh, well-rested selves to join the fight, because the day is half gone and there’s still so much work left to do.
Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.