Racism – An Everybody Issue
Before my son was born, while I was pregnant with him, someone asked me what I wished for. I said, “I wish that before my son is born, we could live in a place where racism no longer existed.” (Note: This was before I realized that I had more immediate concerns – i.e. that his father was a psychopathic serial killer)
None the less, I wanted my children to be born into a world where they would not be judged but he color of their skin. Recently, I have been encouraged by the amount of interracial couples I see on a regular basis, and the popularity of the cheerios commercial featuring that cute little biracial actress. While I was born in 1980, well after the Civil Rights Movement, our country was still the type of place where I became painfully aware of racism at a very early age. I have lived long enough, however, to see things change a lot. People no longer stare at my family when we are out in public, because seeing interracial families has become normal.
So much progress has been made since my parents were children, that I had been able to live 33 years without being terrified in a situation due to the color of my skin. This fact, however, changed this past week. The following encounter made me realize that for as much progress that we have made, many of us still find ourselves wondering when race will no longer make you the target of violence.
The day of my eye opening experience began relatively unremarkable, like many other weekend days. I am training for a half marathon in a couple of weeks so I dragged myself out of bed, bundled up Stela, and hit the trail for a run. While I had planned to run at least 4 miles, Stela had other plans. After about 2.5 miles, the diva came out and Stela started to scream at the top of her lungs. After stopping for a mid run breastfeeding session (Note: I don’t recommend this. It was awkward. I should have packed a bottle.), Stela decided that she wanted to hold my hand to go back to sleep. I spent the last .5 miles running while holding her hand.
By the time I finished my run, I was exhausted, sweaty, and a bit cranky (given that I had planned to run further). As I was walking back to my car, on a very narrow sidewalk, my eye caught a strange looking man walking in my direction. Normally, I would have crossed the street, but construction forced me to continue on the narrow sidewalk. The man, who was carrying several bags and walking aggressively, ran up to me and screamed, “There are too many Niggers around here! You all are cock sucking Niggers!” He was no further than a few inches from my face when he said this. While many people might think to yell back at him, my first reaction was to put the entire force of my bodyweight behind the stroller and book it up the hill and back to my car. I was terrified because this man didn’t appear mentally stable, and I was sure that if I hadn’t gotten out of there he would have turned the verbal assault into a physical one.
As I sat in my car, after this encounter, I held Stela trying to calm her down (she had been crying hysterically). I realized that I was also trying to calm myself down. Why had this encounter scared me so much? In the past nearly three years since my son was born, two black teenagers have been murdered – one for “looking” like a criminal (Trayvon Martin) while carrying a back of skittles and and some iced tea – the other (Jordan Davis) killed because his music was too loud. Possibly more disturbing than the fact that these two innocent teens were murdered is the fact that our court system was unable to see that justice was served. Trayvon’s killer was set free, and the jury in Jordan’s case just couldn’t seem to find his killer guilty of murder.
It’s nearly impossible to have escaped media about both of the cases I have explained above. While I am multiracial, I am here to tell you that the moment I came face to face with a crazy racist man while innocently pushing my little girl in her stroller – I felt very black. I became extremely conscious of the color of my skin, and knowing the environment of my country right now, I was terrified.
Next time I go for a run, I will be carrying mace. I don’t tell this story just to tell an interesting story. I tell this story to prompt conversation. I encourage everyone, regardless of your skin color, to think about how you can be a part of the change. What needs to happen in our country so that racism is no longer acceptable. What needs to happen so that a company like cheerios can make a commercial featuring an interracial family and NOT be subjected to negative racist comments? What needs to happen to end these violent racially motivated murders? What needs to happen to hold these murdering racists accountable?
We are all a part of this society – we all share this burden. This is not a black issue, not a white issue, but an all of us issue.
I went to visit a friend in her home for the first time: beautiful, peaceful tree-lined street, but as soon as I parked, a man came running at me from neighbor’s house screaming the C-word, shouting it in my face and raising his fists at me, screaming abuse. Apparently it was my gender that offended him; he had an expression of pure hatred on his face, and we were strangers. It’s awful to suddenly be confronted with hatred beamed directly at you, for absolutely no reason, and to be in very real physical danger. I ran away, very shaken by the experience.
I’m old enough to remember seeing civil rights protests on TV, and watching the police turn fire hoses on protesting Americans, and sadly, to remember very clearly my father shouting abuse at the protesters on the screen. My mother took me aside and said, “Racism is stupid because it wastes people. Take folks one at a time, so you don’t miss out on a friendship. If you’re going to dislike anybody, have a good reason, not something superficial.”
Life is hard enough, without making it harder for each other, especially over something we’re born with. Scientists say that the actual differences in our DNA that make up the physical characteristics that differ between ethnic groups are so tiny as to be inconsequential. All this fuss over something so small, and yet we can so often forget the greater scope which is our humanity. How nuts is that?
I’m glad you posted your story, and opened this conversation. I believe we can do better.
I have seen comments about the cherrios commercial and couldn’t figure out what was offensive as I had seen it on TV & thought it was so heart warming. Color me clueless. Being white & havong grand & gret grand biracial babies in my family as well as an adopted cousin who is Black I only see the color of others hearts & no their skin. I live in arural area where there are very few Black people & few interracial couples. What can I do to help the world realize that while our skin tones are different the color of our hearts should be love& acceptance of one another.
I have to wonder why the swiffer commercial of the white man with the hand & lower arm amputated with a Black wife & two mixed race children isn’t being attacked. The Cherrios Dad lying on the couch is probably what sent opl into orbit. I’m sure white ppl were offended that a Black Dad should have a nice home & the luxury of comfort.
I am white so have never encountered racism until I was out with my friend and her 2 biracial boys. My friend is also white, her twatface ex is black. While my friend went into a shop I stayed outside with her boys. The looks and snide remarks I got was horrifying, and I fully admit that if the boys weren’t with me, my friend would have had to bail me out of jail. My friend told me she was used to it, that people had spat on her, called her foul names. I honestly didn’t realise racism was as bad as it is. Of course when we took all of our children out, I found the stares comical. I have 2 daughters, that are white, and only a year older than her boys, so we had our 2 youngest in a twin buggy with our 2 oldest holding hands together. The stares we got made our day. You could tell they were trying to figure out how we could have bi-racial and white kids together. Then some random woman walked over and said to my friend that her son looked darker. Without batting an eyelid my friend said, “that’s probably because his dad’s black” lol. I’m ashamed that we live in a society where something as unimportant as skin colour is more important to some, than the character of people. It’s crazy.
I will not lie, I was raised in a family of racists…..My grandfather and father used the N word like it was nothing. Somehow I have stepped over their example and refuse to not look further than the color of someone’s skin. This year around Martin Luther King Jr day the 6 year old African American foster child that is currently placed with us was asking about Martin Luther King and why we celebrated a special day just for him. While I do not claim to be a history person, at all, I was extremely embarrassed to tell her that I would look up some information and get back to her on that. Yes I know that he fought for equality, and that he is one of the main reasons that we have come so far in the fight against racism, but aside from those basic facts I didn’t know what to tell her. After I did a little digging so I knew I was giving her correct information, I had a really hard time finding the right way to explain racism to a 6 year old, especially since she is African American and we are white. To try and explain how unfair things used to be, and explain how they had to go to different schools, eat in different restaurants, use different bathrooms, etc was really hard to do. It almost made me embarrassed to be white and to know that how things used to be were so unfair. And it didn’t seem to bother her a bit….she told me it was not fair and said she was glad things were better now, but then moved onto other more child appropriate activities.
When she first moved in with us I struggled with how to care for her and asked some of my African American co-workers for some help in getting her hair under control, about skin care, and other such questions. At first my husband was appalled that I asked such bold questions, but I told him I don’t know if I don’t ask. I do not believe that any race should be treated differently than another, but the fact of the matter is because of the skin and hair types there are some definite differences that I had to get used to. I didn’t ask the questions to be rude or call them out to be different, but had to know the answers in order to ensure she would not suffer due to my lack of knowledge. For her to wash her hair only 1 time a week is normal, and she finds it absolutely silly that I wash my hair every day, but it was an adjustment for me to NOT wash her hair everyday as for me that is normal.
I am thrilled that she came to live with us and we have gotten to experience these differences. It has definitely been a learning experience, but one that I will value forever. It has helped me solidify in my own mind that racism shouldn’t be a problem that anyone has to deal with, and makes me glad that I didn’t follow in my families foot steps regarding their beliefs (to be fair they are from the south….not that that makes it right, but it is definitely the culture there even still today)
BJ I think you and the foster child and both getting something out of that situation. since racism is a human issue, there is nothing wrong about you teaching her. And MLK is not just black history – his story is American history. My mother is white and she taught about racism. She’s my mom and not exempt from the issue just bc sshe is white.
I should also state that while my family was racist, I never witnessed any of them to attack someone as you were. They choose not to associate with people of “color” and did use the N word more than they should, but mostly only at home, not to someone’s face.
I understand about racism because I’ve been called a ‘cracker’ by black people before, even though I’m a light skinned blue eyed Mexican American.
I never have paid attention to see if we get the “look” when we are out with our little lady….. I will begin to watch just for the sheer enjoyment of it 🙂
While we are not her parents, and most likely never will be as she will return to her family, I still would fight anyone head on that attacked her. To me for the time being especially she is MY child and if someone dared to attack I would have to get a little fiesty! Regardless of peoples personal beliefs (however right or wrong) there is no reason that a child should ever be punished for the parents actions. If someone doesn’t agree with mixed race marriage/children that is their right, but the child should not be called names or cursed at due to the actions of the parents that choose their partner. I manage a staff of 20 and know that there are some of my employees that on a personal level do not like me….and that’s OK. I simply tell them to keep it to themselves it is no one else’s business. That has nothing to do with race, but it should be a rule everyone lives by. Don’t like me…. so what, keep it to yourself 🙂
The term “African American” is bothersome to me. Not only do most people of color have ancestors who are other than African, but also have been in this country longer than mine. I have never been designated as anything other than an American (even though my people are Irish and German and matriculated around the early 1900’s). These terms are meant to separate all of us. The N word is obviously offensive, but this other term is acceptable and so much more dangerous. Mental health is ignored in this country. This man has been a problem on that trail for awhile. He probably needs help. But I’m not sure who I would alert. I do know that I wouldn’t contact the police, though. They would just get it wrong and charge you for bothering them.