As I sit here and prepare to write this post I am faced with feelings of apprehension. These feelings are not because I feel guilty about this subject or because I feel that it shouldn’t be discussed but because I feel that there are many, many people who either aren’t comfortable discussing it in the first place or are unable to discuss it without getting angry and emotional. This topic is race or rather racism. I’ve mentioned it briefly in the past few months and although I’d prefer not to go any “deeper” these thoughts have been circling my mind and I feel the need to express them.
As a child I lived in a suburban neighborhood with my family. We were far from wealthy and I’d dare even call us “poor” in comparison to our neighbors but we had exactly what we needed and that was loving parents, access to an excellent education, a roof over our head, and plenty of healthy food to eat. As a child I had no idea how lucky we were but now as an adult I feel so blessed to have been raised by my parents and to have experienced everything I have no matter how difficult it might have seemed to me at the time. There is no way I would be the woman I am today without them and there is also no one I’d rather be.
Although my brothers and I have a relationship with both of our parents it is my mother who has made the biggest impact on my beliefs and my ability to feel comfortable in my own skin no matter my surroundings. My mother is a woman who believes all people are created equally and that our differences make us unique and fascinating and that they are not in anyway scary or meant to be shameful. As children she did not teach us these things with her words or through lecture but instead she taught us through her kind and compassionate mannerisms. She embraced people of all ages, religions, races, and cultures and managed to build life-long, meaningful friendships with many of them. I do not feel that my mother sought out the differences or similarities in others but rather I feel that she left herself open to discover who they were without any preconceived notions getting in her way. What I believe made my mom different from many of the people I would later meet is that she was raised Quaker and believes some very basic things and that is that we should treat others as we wish to be treated, that peace is more powerful than war, and that we should keep things as simple and uncomplicated as we can. My mother is far from perfect but I believe she is a genuine and does her best to put her beliefs into practice.
There are many things that I have witnessed that have impacted how I feel about racism today. I will first say that while I wish it weren’t true, racism is indeed very much alive. I also believe that it impacts each and everyone of us no matter how much we deny it or avoid it. After describing my mother it is safe to say that my first experience with racism was not with her. The first time I realized that people were both hateful and different is when a young, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy told my younger brother on the bus ride home I was a stuck-up, n****r lover. I wish I could finish this story by saying that my brother knocked him out but the truth is that I have no idea how it made my brother feel and he was not raised to fight with his fists. This incident as well as a few others during my elementary and middle school years made me develop my own hateful feelings towards white folks and they would stay with me for quite a few years. It wasn’t until I was a teenager living on my own and working that I would realize racism wasn’t a “white thing” and that people from each and every race were capable of hating others based solely on their race, history, and upbringing and not necessarily because of their own personal experiences.
Over the years I’ve been accepted, dismissed, given “the pass”, ignored, and embraced by many, many different kinds of people. I have witnessed many conversations that were based on lies and someone else’s history and those that were based on personal, real life experience. I have witnessed selfless acts of love by men and women of every color and I have witnessed senseless acts of hate. I know better than to believe that racism is going anywhere fast and I know that what we are taught as children has a significant impact on us as we enter adulthood but what I think many people refuse to address is that we aren’t in control of anyone but ourselves and we aren’t responsible for anyone but ourselves. This country’s history is full of hateful, racist, unforgivable acts of violence and discrimination but we cannot go back in history and change them or take them away. What we can do is acknowledge those that have gotten us to where we are today and more importantly we can honor them by doing our best to live peacefully amongst our neighbors and dismiss those that continue to spread hate towards others. I love this quote by Nelson Mandela, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” To live our entire lives hating those who have done us wrong will only ensure that we keep them alive and well knowing that they do not deserve to have that honor. Hate needs to be fed and acknowledged in order to survive.
As my daughters get older I know they will get it from both ends but I intend to push them along regardless. If they ever intend on giving up because someone else made them feel inadequate based on their ignorant beliefs or their own inadequacies I will be right there waiting and ready to push them back. I have one complaint about my president and that is that I believe he has appeared weak in an effort to please those who are obsessed with his skin color and family history. Unlike many Americans today, I do like my president but I’d never want my daughters to give less than what they had to offer because they were being “cautious” in an effort to please others. I believe that he has failed to be as strong as I had once hoped he’d be because he is scared to offend some bigot somewhere capable of turning his agenda into a “black and white” thing. I’m sad that even the President of the United States is tip toeing around but it is evidence of where this country currently stands and of where it will continue to stand if we do not learn to start living and dismiss those who are in our way.