I moved to AZ from MT when Olivia was 3 years old. We’d been in our new home maybe a week when Olivia asked a black woman “what color are you?”. I felt so embarrassed; truly mortified and apologetic, wishing my outgoing, chatty daughter would just keep her mouth shut! But I’m thankful everyday for that encounter because it opened the door for powerful and necessary conversations with my little girl, and gave me the ability to educate from a real-life experience instead of just books and tv (we came from a tiny town with minimal diversity). I’m also very thankful that the woman she questioned took the time to kneel down and kindly talk with Olivia about skin color, hold her hand, and show her love.
I’ve said many times over the years that I’m so happy to be raising my kids in a large, diverse city, and that remains true. But it’s also true that me and my family aren’t faced with the daily injustices of racism. I’m aware of inequality and always feel compassion for the suffering of others, my heart hurts and I’m often shocked at our lack of cultural progress, I’m discouraged by the way humans treat other humans, and I believe we have unfair systems in place that perpetuate inequality. I briefly dated a black man and experienced first-hand the judgments that go with a mixed-race relationship, and witnessed his purposeful caution whenever we were in public to ensure the comfort of others and prevent unnecessary attention or concern. It was a foreign experience for me, and I quickly learned ugly truths about culture, society, and humanity. As a woman I’ve often felt unsafe, recognize that I’m an easy target for abuse because I’m small and female, and I’m always extremely aware of my surroundings (alone and with my children), but I’ve never had to consider the way I was created as offensive to others, or that my race is the sole reason for being poorly treated, unfairly judged, and falsely accused. I’ve never had to fear for my life because of my skin color.
With this knowledge, I’ve continued living my life without considering that this injustice is also my fight. Sometimes we don’t know what questions to ask, and sometimes we get so caught-up in our own journey and struggles in life that we become tunnel visioned. It’s also easy to think that being a good person and knowing you aren’t racist is enough. I’ve lived with peace-of-mind knowing that I’m not adding to the problem, a heavy heart whenever tragedy strikes, and I proactively educate my children on equality, love for everyone, compassion, and not making judgments or forming opinions about people based on appearance, race, or religion. But the truth is, I have a grandmother who is racist, and I’ve chosen to “keep the peace” within that relationship instead of standing up for what I know is right, and all the recent events have opened my eyes and heart to the damaging, negative, and powerful effects of silence and tolerance.
I’m one to internalize, pray, study, watch, listen, and have deep conversations over public protesting, and I’m often uncomfortable with controversy and politics. Writing this is outside of my comfort zone, and that’s a major reason why I chose to explore my thoughts and share them. While I don’t want to say something wrong and I definitely don’t want to offend anyone, I feel compelled to be part of the solution instead of just sitting on the sideline. What that looks like for me right now is a deep-dive into racism (reading, watching and listening), and educating myself on the best ways to educate my children. Until now I hadn’t taken the time to thoughtfully consider the privilege I experience because my skin is white, and I can clearly see how ignorance and silence are a massive part of this systemic problem.
I believe that if everyone was more compassionate and educated, mankind would naturally be more loving, and the world would be a more humane. What we need is more anti-racists, because when we’re against something we talk about it, we believe in it, and we’re passionate about our reasons for opposition. A non-racists can sit quietly and not feel that the issues are personal. When we don’t identify with something (we’re “non”), we can live in a neutral, potentially indifferent position. Since the issue here is racism, we’re talking about an entire population of people under attack, living a more difficult life simply because of the color of their skin, and this calls for change! It’s time for more human kindness, complete and total equality, and broken systems turned upside down. There’s simply no room for neutral when our neighbors are suffering! If everyone felt passion for this injustice, change would automatically come because there wouldn’t be another option.
I support law enforcement and believe our first responders are under extreme scrutiny right now because of the failings of a small percentage of police officers. No government, business, process or system is perfect, and people are imperfect; we fail, get defeated and hurt, stand up and try again, recover, rebuild, support and love one another, heal, and win. True change, from personal to cultural, is often motivated by a hardship. When I consider the human experience, it’s truly amazing what we can accomplish, overcome, and recover from when we choose to get up after falling down. I absolutely don’t support abuse-of-power or the killing of innocent people, and I also believe every individual has a choice when they’re face-to-face with authority (no matter your skin color). I support freedom of speech, but I don’t support violence as a response to violence. I pray that this stand for Black American’s opens doors for true, lasting freedom and equality, that it not only highlights areas in our local communities and governments where we can improve, but that we see proactive action taken to improve the lives of all American’s, and above all, I hope this reformation creates more genuine love, kindness, and acceptance throughout all of humanity!