Damn, girl, do you ever stop harping on this race stuff? Just give it a freaking break and breathe.
So just in case anyone thinks I’m preaching at you.
I’m part of this system.
I’ve sent my kids to schools for years – for YEARS – without really digging into how their skin color affects their day-to-day experience. I’ve made excuses for micro aggressions and outright racism and smoothed things over for everyone involved. I’ve bent over backwards making sure nobody else feels uncomfortable around our family.
I haven’t done my due diligence on materials used in the classroom, the Eurocentric focus in history, or representation of people of color in months other than February because, frankly, I haven’t cared. History is history, right?
I failed to advocate for my kids simply because I am part of the default and our goal has always been for them to succeed within that system. I never thought to look at whether the system itself was broken. Not once.
I’m doing my best, and on a good day that’s not half bad. But I’m not innocent. Not by a long shot.
A few things I’ve learned so far.
** Representation matters. It was important that their picture books had people who look like them, but that longing to see themselves doesn’t end when they start kindergarten. They need to know they’re more than Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. They need to see the plurality of the black experience.
** HAIR. Geez, y’all, I could write books on the ways this matters and some white mamas would still be sitting around all “well, MY mama just plopped a bowl down on my brother’s head and cut his hair right in our kitchen, if it was good enough for HIM…” No. Just no. Do your research. Then ask a friend, an acquaintance, a kindly black grandmother you see in the grocery store – just get some advice. Humbly.
** You are not “woke” if you’re insisting a) there’s no such thing as color, b) MLK and affirmative action sorted things out, c) you’re set because of your black friend/spouse/child/neighbor, or d) those policemen and thugs in sheets are just “a couple of bad apples.” Do not claim to be an ally if you’re not actively working to dismantle the system.
** You might have a White Savior complex if you a) gush about how your mission trip is saving those poor souls while posting their photos all over your social media, b) rush in to “save” marginalized people of color (“well, of course those women don’t want to wear a hijab!”) instead of asking how to help, or c) coo about how your friends rescued their child of color by adopting him into the family.
** A lot of the things we white people have been taught to say – things meant to be supportive or loving or woke – are anything but. If someone’s distraught over another shooting then your, “I’m hurting, too, we’re all children of God” doesn’t help. It brushes aside their pain to center your own. It discounts realities unique to living in black and brown bodies and screams look at me, I know what injustice is!
** I think one of my biggest lessons is hearing that I need to sit down, shut up, and listen. There’s no shortage of white women expressing outrage. I’d do better to listen to others more expert than me.
We’re drawing near to closing out 2018. What have you learned about race this year? How has your life been affected by race issues, race relations, or white privilege in your communities?
I hope you come into the Small Bites space with an open mind and heart. For my part, I know now what I didn’t know in my twenties and thirties, but I don’t yet know what I don’t yet know. Many thanks to those who are willing to share their thoughts and perspectives in the comments.
You can find other entries by selecting small bites in the drop down menu under “series posts.”