I am always on the verge of choosing which kind of person to be. I blink, and I choose again. I choose several times a day, every day. I wake up and I have to start choosing all over again. I am talking about how I engage with understanding race. Or all the things that I miss. I talk about it because my children live with it. I talk about it, because I want all children to understand what they understand about it.
My kids are black and mixed. I am not. I am as white as the page on which I type. I am the kind of person who used to take that for granted 100% of the time, but who only takes that for granted 95% of the time now. I’ll never know how enlightened, or how about a new term for racial awareness as a white person- endarkened- I have become. This is because I will never know the starting point. I will never know what it means to begin at fully aware, to begin as a person of color.
I have never experienced racism, and if you are white, no matter how much you might like to think you have, you haven’t either. I am writing this here, not to pat myself on the back, far from it. That will just get me a big pink mark and who needs that? I am writing this here, in the hopes of inviting more people into the fold, the conversation, the life long process.
I am writing this here to give more moms who are dealing with racism on behalf of their children of color an open invitation to say I’m a beginner. I often misstep. I often feel afraid to say the wrong thing. Give yourselves permission to do all the above again and again, until you find yourselves so familiar with your discomfort that you are determined to do something about it.
Last night I was out dancing with the boys. We were surrounded by friends at a pub where Sam’s Godmother, his Tia, was singing with her band. The place was filled with people, white people. We were surrounded by friends, and my boys had a zillion caregivers. At one point Sam stood on the stool in front of the mic and sang a song with her. It is song she wrote while taking him for a walk when he was six months old. He has heard it have a million times. It was the first time that he was willing to be in front of a crowd and belt it out. Well, it was closer to a whisper, but he had the crowd hanging on every note. What allowed him to accept the offer last night, and not the fifty or so times before? He was ready.
I found myself in a long overdue conversation with the author Annie O’Brien a friend of Tia’s who I have connected with over the years only marginally. Suddenly there we were on the same page talking race, adoptive parenting, children’s literature, whitewashing and more. Our adrenaline was pumping, we were animated, alive. When she said; “I start from all the places where I have got it wrong,” in reference to talking about race I felt a burst of light, no let’s work with the metaphor a bit more, a surge of dark go through me. How can I write about that- I thought, about how it is OK to get it wrong, as long as you have the intention to get it right by bringing it up.
Practice the hard conversations. Find the resources you need (here is a great starting point) and seek out like minded people to share rage, confusion, awareness and next steps with. Speak up when you know that joke was off color, share a meal in the cafeteria with a colleague you have not spent time with before and get to know them. Share the floor at a meeting, check out a book by an author of color you have never read. Climb up on the stool and grab the mic, even if you are only able to whisper and announce that you are becoming endarkened too.