Over two and a half years ago, before I was ready to get married I was asked the question, “Are you prepared for what you and your family will experience seeing as how you are marrying a black man?” I am a white girl raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, I got offended.
The man who asked me noticed my offense and simply said “I don’t mean to hurt you, I just wanted to make sure that you were aware that things will be different than I think you are expecting. Things will be harder.” I was assured that I am doing great and that things were going to be great.
Today, it’s been two and a half years now. My two children are now 5 (the son) and 2 (the daughter). I wish I could have understood what he exactly meant to say. I wish I could stop people would accuse my husband of kidnapping our oldest son because he’s white while simultaneously praising me for being a saint who graciously adopted a little black boy.
I could escape someone’s lips when speaking about our mixed little family and the heartache that follows. I wish I would have used that time to consider how I would explain to my boys why people weren’t always nice to us.
In the past few years, after many events, I thought about where I stand in my life. I’ve watched and read and talked about men and women of color being shot and disrespected by law enforcement and I’ve found myself on both sides of the fence. I’ve tucked my babies into bed and watched them sleep and with tears in my eyes I’ve thought, how do I protect you from the world? And I’ve also looked my baby in the eye and said “You better make smart decisions. Safe decisions.
No robbing a gas station. No walking down the street swinging a sword around. No rioting. You are to be respectful. You are to be a member of society that contributes to the world. You are to be proud of who you are and your heritage. If you are anything less than these things, you might not come home to me one day.”
I assume that problem with the world is that once you are White you will never be Black and understanding their fear based on their experiences will always be hard for you. It’s been about 8 years since I had a taillight out on my carMy taillight got out again last month. I decided not to fix it and save money. My husband was crazy paranoid.
He talked every day about the need for me to go and get it fixed. He would drive my car always on the lookout for police and if he saw one he would quickly take another road, pull over to the side and wait for them to pass. I wasn’t quiet about my annoyance at his situation often complaining about his need to feel that because he was black the police were always out to get him. He would always patiently respond with “Babe, we just don’t need that problem.”
My car’s taillight is now fixed, but when I saw the news of a man being shot in his car and the initial reason for the stop was a busted taillight I found myself feeling panicked. They could be us and my lack of respect for his fears would have taken this same turn for the worst? That night I thought about my family’s future and I realized that things were about to get worse, not only for my family but for everyone.
The planet is populated with people. It’s not full of police officers, doctors, and teachers, Asians, Hispanics, Males, and Females. People who luckily and unluckily have the same equal opportunity to decide how they live their lives. It’s full of people who get to make decisions whether they are good or bad. It’s full of people who are affected by those decisions whether they are good or bad.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the idea that the problem is US against THEM when the reality is that it’s good versus evil and always has been. Hate is taught and learned. People don’t come out of the womb hating their neighbor. Hate is a learned behavior, comes from the inside. It’s felt and it lingers. Hate pushes you to find revenge for what you feel is unjust and unfair. Equality is something that we can only hope for and in a perfect world, it would exist. The reality is that it doesn’t now and the sad truth is that it’s probably going to be a while if ever.
So what should we do now? 5 police officers are dead because of the bad decisions of other PEOPLE. When it will end? How many people would sleep tonight wishing their loved ones will come back home. What I can see is those policemen who were scared of my husband will be scary than ever. I see wives begging their husbands not to leave whether they are leaving the house with a badge or black skin.
I see parents teaching their children to be afraid of the police instead of teaching them to respect those that put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Or parents who pull their children closer when a black man sits too closely on the bus. Ultimately, the difference in the world doesn’t come from getting justice for mistreated and disrespected ones but comes from what I choose to teach within the walls of my own home.
It comes from abiding by the law and respect those around them. It comes from telling children that life isn’t always fair, it was never meant to be. It’s about seeing people without their skin color or what they do for a living. Not as who they choose to marry or what their religion is. It’s about seeing people as free humans who choose their life and make their own decisions and then finding peace within what you can control.
It’s about showing the world through how you live that they were wrong about what they thought they knew about you. It’s about teaching them that while racism is still alive and well, we are working to teach our kids to grow up expecting a better tomorrow regardless of circumstance.
All lives are important but in real Black lives haven’t always mattered. It is significant to put stress on finding solutions to the deepest fears as we watch our loved ones struggle to be treated equally. Violence will change nothing. Killing a father or a mother or a husband or a wife will never bring back what you may have lost. It will not take away your fears and it will not give peace to your soul.
It is not paving the way for any future that we hope to be brighter for us and our children. Hate breeds hate and our only hope left in this world lies within what we can control. Hope starts at home and it starts with you.