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.