Her top is white and her pants are black. Her hair is black; her skin is white. Her skin is white; her children are black. She’s spent the last 20 years loving her husband, the father of her children, her best friend and a wonderful human. She’s spent the last 20 years loving a black man. She doesn’t fear for her life when she goes out in public, but lately she fears for her kids and her husband. She doesn’t worry about people making rash judgements about her, simply based on her skin color, but she has to worry about this for her kids.
She lives in two worlds; one of white privilege for herself and one with fear and sometimes hatred for her family’s dark skin.
“Are you ok Ma’am?”
The police officer had pulled them over as soon as they left the walk up bank ATM and pulled into traffic. He cited a broken taillight, but she knew. She’d just been seen at the bank with a black man, taking money out of the ATM. That couldn’t be right, so the police officer had pulled them over to check that she was OK. She told him she and her boyfriend were fine. He asked again if she was sure she didn’t need help. She assured him she was OK.
He let them go.
“Get back in your car! Ma’am GET BACK!”
She was terrified. She and her fiancé had just left their apartment separately to go to work. She waved goodbye and watched him as he pulled out behind her. Suddenly, police cars were pulling him over and he was on the ground. His face was pushed into the pavement. She stopped and turned her car around and when she got out, the officer screamed at her to get back in her car. She tried explaining that was her fiancé, but they didn’t hear her. They didn’t listen. He was taken into custody for “fitting the description of a burglar in the area.”
The description seemed to simply be, “Black man.”
“We want to keep them as white as possible!”
This she heard from a friend, when she was dropping her kids off at daycare. The teacher asked if she’d like to leave some sunscreen to be applied and her friend replied.
She was crushed. She handed over the sunscreen, wishing it could not only save them from a sunburn, but also from the bigotry the world held. It was the first time she’d experienced the pain of understanding, that they lived in a world where her kids’ skin color would often be the first thing people noticed. And that they would make judgements based on that alone.
Is today the day?
This is the question she starts the day with sometimes. Is today the day her son will decide to wear a baseball cap and be thought of as a “thug?” Will his pants slip down on his slight frame and he be considered “gangsta” with his baggy pants? Will he be walking home, raise his hand to wave goodbye to a friend and someone see him and worry he is raising a gun? Will today be the day her son is confronted with racism and experiences hatred directed at him, because his skin is dark and his hair short and curly? Mothers are here to protect, to shelter and keep their kids safe. He’s 13 now and she can’t shield him from the world as easily as she used to.
If her kids are out with her, people see them as light skinned, with a white mother. If they’re out with their father, they are seen as darker; black kids out with their black dad.
She wants to scream, for everyone to hear, “These are my babies! They are GOOD, beautiful children with big hearts, amazing personalities and true goodness to offer this world. Stop seeing only their skin. See THEM!” But people are not always ready to listen. So, she schools her children. Teaches them to be good people, to show empathy to others, to open their hearts to differences in people and to be kind. But sadly, part of this schooling has to be how to protect themselves against racism. How to comply with the police no matter what. How to be open and kind but maybe just a tad bit wary, understanding that people may make assumptions before they’ve even spoken to them.
She has to school her babies in hatred, while trying to drive home how important love and acceptance is. Love and acceptance that they might not always be privy to. Love and acceptance of others, in a way that might not always be extended to them.
The silence hurts the most.
Our world seems to be spinning in madness and anger right now. People taking one side or another, one color or another.
She lives both worlds; she wants the divide to disappear. But not the conversation and not the support. She wants people to continue to talk about these issues, to discuss the hatred, the killings and the madness. Not to perpetuate it but to exhaust it. To talk about it until understanding hits, until people see we all bleed red, we all cry clear. The silence from friends and family is what is hardest. This is her world right now, full of fear for her husband and children, fear for her fellow black friends and family. This will still be her world once all of the media attention has died down and we’ve moved on to the next news item. She will still be here, living the line between her two worlds.
Keep talking, keep supporting, keep educating. Hit the like button on social media. Send a text that lets her know you’re thinking about her. Watch the videos she posts that speak to her, if for no other reason than to maybe understand her a little better.
You may not understand, because this is not your world, not your story to tell or your fear to own. But, this can be your story to support. This can be your story to share, raise awareness of and push forward, until it finally becomes a terrible time in history, when people didn’t understand.
Until it is a story from the past.