I got an education from my friend, yesterday. It was one more wake-up call to the fact that I am white and he is black and we see the world differently.
Being white means missing connections
We rarely talk about politics. Usually we talk about high jump, sprint form, and lawn care.
Yesterday, he made a comment about "45", referring to the US president. We talked a little about the investigations and the lies. When the conversation turned to the missing children separated from their parents when crossing the border, my friend then asked if I knew about "gator bait babies". It was a phrase with which I was unfamiliar. He saw a connection with the present mistreatment of children and a dreadful past.
Gator bait babies demonstrate the spirit of evil and death which so easily infiltrates our world. The moral and cognitive dissonance is astounding. During the period of slavery, children were chained or tied near shorelines of marshes and rivers. So effective was this form of abuse in attracting alligators, the practices even survived after the end of slavery. These children would be used as bait to attract alligators, whose hides were valuable for producing leather goods. The callous abuse of children was even popularized by "humorous" postcards during the age of slavery and after.
The terrorizing of small children has cultural precedence
I wonder, how deep is our antipathy toward the non-white, non-European, and non-affluent? I want to learn everything I can from my friend's comment, I do want to recognize that my mind would never have gone down that path. I want to think, "our government could not treat children so badly". But my friend, from a different perspective, and being raised in a different cultural history, found the mistreatment of children as part of a larger historical theme, as not actually surprising at all.
We can speak of white privilege, identity politics, "playing the race card" and similar politically charged terms. When we do so, we speak past each other. We don't hear what each person and community is saying and where their ideas come from. But to be a part of a community, a culture with a long history of children being abused, denied dignity, violently mistreated for centuries, the news looks different. And we who are not a part of those communities need to listen and learn from them.