I was reading the blog piece Sandra Bullock, black women have been fearing for our sons for centuries! by the Kinfolk Kollective. I was once again moved by LaSha’s passionate expression of what “other people” go through everyday. Honestly I encourage anyone reading this to read her piece first.
The following is my reply.
LaSha I wish I could look you in the eyes and honestly tell you that you’re wrong, that you’re too cynical and the world and our country is a much better place; but the truth is… I can’t. You articulated your collective existence better than anyone I’ve heard or read to date.
I was born the year Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase “black power”, two years before I would have been legally allowed to marry my ex-husband, three years to the day before the Stonewall Inn raid and subsequent riot. And while I am a white female, my mother growing up mostly in Texas, made sure that I was versed in the reality of our nation and it’s citizens.
This is something I have made a point of instilling to my daughter (also white), the kid who was the only white kid at daycare that would come home crying because she couldn’t have pink lotion and pretty beads in her hair.
Her first introduction that hit home was when Nickelodeon started running PSAs about tolerance and racial differences, because she’d never seen other humans as anything other than human before that moment. She was six. She didn’t grasp the depth of it until after I remarried and she was referring to her Afro-Cuban stepfather as Daddy, since he was the only one she’d ever known.
For a while, he worked at a large retail store and every time we’d shop there, the old white guy at the door would stop us to inspect our receipt while my husband made booming comments about the racist at the door and his behavior.
Finally, my daughter and I shopped at that store by ourselves, that same guy was working the door and this time he waved us through with a smile before returning to his usual scowl to stop the black customers behind us. It was at that moment my heart completely broke as she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “Oh my god, Daddy was right.”
LaSha I also would like to commend you for highlighting and articulating the difference between having issues with the situation and having a personal connection to them. That is a huge distinction and one that is rarely pointed out.
I became pregnant during the course of my marriage and after the initial shock of finding out that I was pregnant on my daughter’s 16th birthday wore off, panic of all that you’ve described immediately set in. The realization of the world that my second child would live in compared to their older sister was very overwhelming and I fixated on the fact that someday someone would refer to my child with the N-word, was for lack of a better word – horrific.
Just having loyalty to black friends (and the human race) made me want to bludgeon people and tear out their throats for using that word, now this would be directed at my child. When I heard a fellow employee use the word, in earshot of customers, I demanded that she be terminated. Instead I was informed that the white district manager had decided that I “wasn’t entitled or allowed to be offended by that word – because you’re white”.
It’s my opinion that the world should be taught to be offended by that word because of the history and hate it represents. To be told that I’m not entitled to be offended because of my skin color (much less without knowing my personal attachments), to me was reprehensible. I quit my job after 9 years with that company.
Sadly my pregnancy did not have a happy ending. A few months later, still grieving, my old neighbor called me after my overnight shift asking for an emergency favor. Her father had passed and the only pants that she could wear to the funeral needed to be hemmed because they were 4 inches too long. I offered a half-assed job, nothing more, not feeling particularly motivated since she only called when she needed something but willing to do so because of why it was necessary.
As I was working on the stitching, she sat next to my husband who was laying on the couch watching tv (he had just finished an overnight shift as well) and my daughter sitting next to me and assisting. The former neighbor was blathering on about her family gossip while I struggled to focus on the stitching as my eyes were rolling up into my head. She gets to the story about her white niece calling her black stepfather (also one of the few decent people in the family) by that word. I immediately had to clench to contain myself. I commented that the niece had a lot of nerve when she’s the N-word of the group, only for her to reply – “no, she’s not black”. ?!?!?
We’re done, get out.
The realization that my biggest fear had come to life even though my baby didn’t was too much for me to handle. To know that my child would never get to know me or his father or his sister or even have a name.. but was given one that day based on the increased melanin he would have in his skin… was far too much for me to bear when I was still grieving my loss. That’s not to say it sits any better now 8 years later, it still twists my guts in a knot, but you’re right, now it’s personal and will be to the end of my days.
So while I’ve been a staunch support of the civil rights movement as well as a part of it, not only being female but LGBTQ as well, the fight and the contemptible actions hurt even more and cut much deeper than they used to. Sadly I don’t think we’ll ever see all the changes that need to take place until everyone is affected by it personally.