Growing up, I had black friends. It wasn't a big deal. Why should it be? But, I did go through a brief phase in middle school when I started to believe that black people were "mean." This was due to the fact that I went through a few weeks where I was picked on and they happened to all be black. I found myself adopting the prejudicial belief that "they" were all like that. Black people, well, black kids, were mean. It didn't take me long to realize what I was doing and abandon that way of thinking, especially since no one in my life thought that way. So I can see how it happens, particularly if you are being raised in an environment that supports that way of thinking, but it's wrong. Really, really wrong.
Obviously, I'm far away from the middle schooler who held a racial grudge for a handful of months. I now identify more with black people than white people in a lot of ways. And, when I go to a group event and there is a black woman, I will try to gravitate towards her. I say try because the reality is I'm still fairly shy and group events scare the heck out of me. ;)
So, what's my point? I guess, basically, my point is that racism stinks. We've come so far and we have so far to go, still. I enjoyed my time in the land of white privilege, but now I live with more of an understanding of what it's like to be black in our world. The other day, I sent William in to pay for my gas. As I stood outside by the van, I could see him in line. I realized that he had his hood up on his hoodie. When he came out, I suggested that he take off the hood when going into stores. I told him that it was different if he was wandering Walmart with me but when he was going to pay for something, he should take it down. He agreed cause he's an agreeable kid. In a way, I was perpetuating a cycle, but. more importantly, I was protecting my child. What's more important than that?
But, it made me sad. It makes me sad that it's even a thing. That black kids in hoodies make us think of Trayvon Martin. It's sad. It's scary that I have to think about this stuff now. Thankfully, William's small stature will make him look less threatening to the Zimmermans of the world. But, I do worry about Kaleb. He's a big kid, he's loud, and, although he's got a good heart, he's not always super polite. So, I worry. And, that's sad.
Anyway, I'm getting off-track. I don't even know what I'm trying to say, exactly. Except this. I'm sad. Brian and I have recently become estranged from a family member (on his side) due to racial issues. That is both bizarre to me and sad. Really, really sad.
Basically, a facebook meme was posted by a family member. It said "Merry Christmas from The Obamas!" And the picture was of two adult apes and a baby ape. The baby ape had Barack Obama's face pasted on it. I've seen a lot of anti-Obama memes, but that was the worst, in my opinion. Because it had nothing to do with politics, it was pure racism. Is the color of his skin the reason that he is a bad President (in his opinion)? No, of course not.
Obviously, as parents of black children, we were offended and hurt. Particularly, since it was from a family member. In separate comments, Brian and I each politely asked him to remove it. I explained that we were focusing on the racism of the meme, not the political opinion. He reacted with hostility and invitations to unfriend him. I was accused of bringing everything back to race and politics (this was the first time that I had commented on any of his posts) and being the one to bring my kids into it, not him. When I explained that it was not about politics and that my kids were relevant to this, I was unfriended.
I am floored. In part, I regret engaging in the dialogue, because it may have blown over if I had kept my mouth shut. But, on the other hand, I was defending my children's honor. Because when you attack someone based on their race, you are attacking their race and all others of that race. You just are. As Brian said, our kids will have enough to deal with, without having to encounter racism in their family, so maybe it's better for them that, for now, ties have been cut off with that person.
I don't know. I just can't wrap my mind around the idea that an adult could be so hateful towards another human being. And, it's not about the President, my kids, or the token black police officer or sidekick in a lot of the recent CW shows. It's about the fact that who they are is about the content of their character not the color of their skin. (Yeah, I'm stealing from MLK Jr.) If you think that the President sucks, fine. But, it's not because he is black. If you think my kids are wonderful ;), yay, but it's not because "they are some of the good ones," And if you think Joe from The Flash is hot, like I do, it's not because he is black...well, it is a little bit because of his appearance, haha, but the point is, he's not a good actor because he's black, it's just because he's super talented. ;)
So, racism stinks. It's not ok. It will never be ok. It's not ok that there were angry hashtags because one of the leads in the new Star Wars movie is black. It's not ok that someone made the Obama/ape meme in the first place. It's not ok. But, thankfully, as the days go by, things get better and better. And, those who post rude memes, angry hashtags, or just think horrible thoughts in their head are becoming the minority.
But, we're not out of the racial woods yet. As Brian put it, last night..."White people have freedom. Black people view freedom as something that they are still fighting for."
Now, I don't know if it that is a Brian original, he is pretty clever, after all, or if he was quoting someone. But, I like it. And, it's pretty accurate. I can't think of a better reason to fight than my children. So, as a mother to black children, I will keep fighting. I will fight against racism and I will fight for my children. It's great that the government protects them and other races/groups of people. But, they also deserve respect from their friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. (They especially deserve it from family.)
We raise our kids to show respect to those around them, they deserve the same.