As a white woman who grew up in the south, rural Florida, Confederate flags, rifles and proud rednecks were customary in the large trucks cruising down most streets.
My stepfather worked at a local pawn shop and carried his gun strapped to his side every day, prepared to fight back if anyone were to rob the little pawn shop where he worked. Back in the 90s, growing up in a small town, parties, attending car races, and muddin’ were normal weekend activities.
That background could apply to any typical southern family. Racism was also in our family, that piece may or may not be typical. In my optimism and perhaps blind faith, I pray it’s not. I don’t know what happened in other homes but in mine the echoes of the N word, explicit rules forbidding me from dating outside my race, and other implicit rules that aren’t worth mentioning were a constant reminder that race was an issue.
I think the day I lost respect for my parents was in middle school. I had a BFF who was black but I never hung out with her outside of school. I never even asked. It’s a shame to hear the people who are supposed to be teaching you right from wrong say awful things about people of color and you KNOW it’s wrong and hateful, racist and ignorant. I couldn’t put the things they said in the same mind space as my friend. I completely rejected it and by doing so rejected them. I lost respect for my parents and didn’t trust the life lessons they had for me after that. I regret not being strong enough to tell them then how I felt.
So at about age 11, I knew the world was not what I had been told and made up my mind to meet people where they are. Am I perfect? No! There are those old parts that still hear the ugly echos of my childhood, but I have spent my life seeking out people for who they are. I love people and believe in their beautiful spirits and humanity. Hate cannot exist where there is love, and so I seek to bring love and joy into the lives of others.
So what does my story have to do with the Black Lives Matter Movement – besides the obvious, as a white lady, I need to do better? Well, I met a wonderful amazing man and had 2 beautiful babies. He is a black man who experiences the awfulness of systemic racism daily. I spend my days thinking, how can I create an environment for my husband, so that when he comes home he can leave the filth of the world outside and be treated the way he should be, with decency and respect and love.
I think about my children whose skin may be lighter like mine but who are black. They cant just be people who are judged by the content of their character, but always in this world, they will be judged by how they look. Will life be a tad easier because they may pass as white? Would they get pulled over less? Would they face less discrimination in school or the workplace? Or will they struggle to understand who they are? Never black enough… never white enough? As parents we have started early to help our son understand and embrace both parts of his heritage. We have a lot to learn and teach, but it’s the most evil s#$% of this world to tell a 5 year old…oh…btw you are beautiful and perfect and made in God’s image but not everyone sees you that way so be careful, don’t trust people, be wary of this ugly world.
Why is America so divisive? Why is it okay to be so judgy? Why did it become okay for white people get to decide who has value in this world? Last I checked the Big Man upstairs is in charge of that.
We lived in Pensacola, FL for a bit and decided to come back to DC. Pensacola was just not for a family like ours. When searching for places to live I chose PG County which is predominantly black, on purpose. It was hard for my hubby in Pensacola. I wanted him and the kids to live in a more diverse area. I wanted them to be in a community that looked more like them. I try to check in on things like that. As much as I can control it, I want them to be comfortable. And if they are good, I am good! And I love everybody…mostly, minus mean people.
I know I will never truly get it, it being the experience, the pain, the frustration and stress, but my heart aches for my husband, my kids’ future, my friends, my coworkers. I know all these beautiful black people who experience such garbage treatment and it makes me sick. We white people HAVE to do better. Tell the people who are being racist they are racist. Stop awful people from harming people of color. Refuse to accept people in your life that are racist.
One of the hardest things I had to do is stop talking to a family member because of their views on my marriage. It hurt, it still hurts but I cannot allow ANYONE to disregard, and disrespect the love of my life simply because of the color of their skin.
This is a time for hard conversations and reflection and learning. This is a time to lift our black sisters and brothers up. Because we have failed them for 400 years. We cannot espouse to be the greatest nation in the world …to encourage the pursuit of happiness for all Americans and continue to kneel on the necks of black and brown people for our own selfish growth. You are not truly successful if it comes at the harm, hurt and expense of others.
I invite dialogue and would love to hear others’ experiences.
That story brings me to tears to feel and hear the compassion and having the courage of your conviction to do the right thing. America will never be the United States of America until we can have these hard conversations regarding race (systemic racism) and justice in this country.
We’ve come a long way but we have a long way to go. Reading stories like this give me a tremendous amount of hope, but I’m naive enough to think this country will become united in my lifetime.
Thank you for sharing. I’m also hopeful. One conversation and one day at a time.