I’m listening; you have my attention and I hear you. Because it sums it up perfectly, “I cannot understand, but I’ll stand with you.” I won’t sit here and pretend for one second that I know how it feels but thanks to those sharing their stories, I CAN gain insight and perspective.
I spend a lot of time imagining who my white children will grow to be, who they will marry, how many grandchildren they will bless us with, where they will go to college, what they will be when they grow up. Meanwhile one of my momma friends recently posted a picture of her adorable son, her adorable black son. In her post, she said that she was scared because someday her adorable son would grow into a black man, and that alone may be a threat to his life. She lives every day with fear in her heart, because of the color of her/his skin. While I’m dreaming of the future, other mommas are fearing it; while I’m thinking of who my children will grow up to be, other mommas are praying that I teach my children right so that someday my children don’t grow up to harm theirs. I promised that momma I’d do my very best to raise my children to have only love in their hearts, I promised to try to do better for all of our babies. I can’t imagine how she must feel.
A friend and a former colleague of mine who is well known in our small, predominately white community, and loved by all of our children (and everyone who knows her), spoke up recently to share that she, too, suffers from racial profiling on a regular basis. When I look at her, all I see is her beautiful smile, and her infectious laugh and her warm (and often much needed) bear hugs. I never stopped to think that life for her is anything other than happy – it hurts my heart that the color of her skin could cause others to see her and lock their car doors, or pull their children close. I can’t even imagine how she feels.
I read that a friend of mine was on a customer service call, with a clearly agitated customer and when the customer didn’t get his way – he called her a derogatory name. That happened this week. She couldn’t stand up for herself, or she would likely be fired – there are no laws or company rules in place protecting her from such vile actions. Meanwhile, he suffers no consequence and will likely do it again as he clearly lacks any and all morals and human decency. I can’t even imagine how that makes her feel. I saw a man from my hometown use that same disgusting derogatory term on a live Facebook feed, and then saw people from my hometown defend it; people I see in the grocery store. It was shared throughout town and I know that it probably hurt and angered a lot of fellow friends from my community. It made me sick to my stomach; I can’t imagine how that made my friends feel.
I watched as George Floyd died at the hands of evil, I cried when he called for his mom, I cried when he died. I shared the story with my young daughters, and cried again as the words came out of my mouth. They cried, too, asking many questions – I answered them honestly and in depth.
We watched “The Help” yesterday and while that wasn’t our first time to watch it, it sunk in to their little brains differently this time around. They asked many questions – I answered them honestly, they saw how people were treated in the 60s and realized that’s not much different from how people are treated today. We can do better than this.
Today, I snuggled on the couch while my 8-year-old read her copy of Martin Luther King‘s biography and I read “White Fragility.” As we read, we openly discussed our thoughts and feelings and we considered the impact, of both current and past events, on people of color. We can’t begin to understand how it feels, but we can try to empathize and we can vow to be better; we can love everyone for WHO they are, and we can value our differences.
I won’t teach my children to be color blind; we see all of the colors and embrace our differences. We have four kiddos, each with different hair and different eyes and even different skin tones. Just as I might notice someone’s beautiful blue eyes, I’ve also known my girls to comment on someone else’s beautiful brown skin. We have black and brown dolls, we read children’s books about different cultures, we travel to new places, we have black and brown family members and friends. Don’t teach your children to see in black and white, but do not teach them either that we are all equal because while we should be equal, holistically that is not true – we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of that starts at home. Be honest and open, speak up to racial injustices, break down stereotypes, honor diversity, learn about different cultures. Let us encourage our babies to be better, to grow together, to close that divide. We can do this, we can take a stand for what is right. You, my white friend, wake up every morning eager to start a new day; while my black friends and family wake up thankful at the opportunity to see a new day – I cannot imagine how that feels.