In the year 2000 I was a teenager in high school. If you would have told me that in the year 2020 racism would be alive and thriving I would have said, “no way.” Why? Because it’s not alive now, right? Wrong.
What I didn’t realize is that my white privilege kept me from seeing life the same way my black peers saw it. We didn’t talk about it but if we did would I have understood? At 17 years old the sad truth is no, I wouldn’t have understood at all.
All my life my privilege has let me view the world through very distorted rosy glasses. I have never had to fear going on a walk in my neighborhood or fear being labeled while walking through the mall with my friends. As an adult I have never had to fear for my life while exercising or simply writing a check at a grocery store. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I have been smiled at and praised in those very situations.
My sister-in-law is a woman of color. She owns a local business here in Birmingham, Alabama and is loved by many but has encountered racism many times since moving here. She and my brother were having dinner one night and they were so burdened by a white mans hatred of their mixed race marriage that they asked for their food to be boxed and they left. That was in 2017. I am ashamed to say that I thought this was a rare occurrence. She has since enlightened me and tells me when she encounters racism to help keep me accountable. We have also had some very real talks about the fact that if they were to have children their innocent little ones would most definitely encounter racism growing up here in Alabama. A racism that my two boys will never see unless I point it out to them.
With all the worries mothers have, worrying that my boys could be judged or harmed because of the color of their skin is not one of them. It is my job to educate them on anti-racism NOW. I will raise them to see and talk about the injustices their black friends are facing. I will raise them to stand up for their friends no matter their race, religion, sexuality, or country of origin. I will raise them to step in when they see an unjust act and use their whiteness to help their fellow black friends. I will lead by example.
31 children’s books that talk about anti-racism: https://www.embracerace.org/resources/26-childrens-books-to-support-conversations-on-race-racism-resistance
“We have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.
This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”President Barack Obama
It is not enough to be offended by cultural slang or to be a silent ally anymore. Now is the time to scream from the rooftops that our black peers deserve to live without fear. We have even more work to do here in the Deep South. We must band together to protect our friends of color. We MUST be very loud and use our whiteness to stand up for their basic human rights.
My dear POC friends, I’m sorry it has taken me so long to see your struggles. I am here now with my eyes wide open. I see you. I hear you. I stand with you.
Say it with me now. Black lives matter.