When I share things about my life occasionally I am struck by the reactions of others. Sometimes I find that people are surprised or maybe even a bit unsettled because there is very little about me or my life that fits into a neat package tied with a societally approved bow. Usually this has served me well but sometimes I wonder where I do fit or who would really be there for me and my family every now and again.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to my youth where my racial awareness grew naturally through life experiences. At some point after having children I realized my responsibility to my children and that the world was not like me. Most people did not see the world like I did because they hadn't experienced the world as I had.
Racism is ever present and that cold truth is lonely for white people who love black people. See black people know racism but white people have to wake up to it because of our inherent privilege. The world we have created of white supremacy makes the unlayering complicated for some. To even admit it brings great doubt about how they are potentially complicit.
But the white people who love black people know it too well and it is so hard to have white people we know actually ignore our callouts of racism in our society. It is a deafening silence that splinters my soul. The likes my facebook photos receive while my pleas for their lives to matter as black boys are ignored. I am labeled as difficult or angry or over the top even by family. But how can I not mention these incidents?
My heightened awareness about a particular dilemma has been recently troubling me. It started with a post about how black people are more likely to have police called by their white neighbors. I shared the article with a personal story about how our neighbors never really welcomed us to the neighborhood and that our back neighbors had been overtly hostile after we asked them to stop shooting their illegal foreworks into our yard while our children were playing. I realized people wanted to cry for us. My point was just that this happens not that we needed to be rescued or that we needed sympathy. It also shed light that this experience is unusual for most white people.
I inadvertently started to think about all the life experiences that I have had that most white people haven't. Starting with being the only white person in a room except for the help. At one of the first family gatherings I attended it was me and the home health aide for one of Rolston's elderly aunts. I remember feeling out of place in a way that felt different than coming into a new environment usually did. As that experience began to become the norm for me that fell away but in those early days I did feel different.
Because Rolston and I were allowed to see each other at church we always went to church and so I sang songs in church youth choir like "Young, Gifted and Black" and I still know all the words to "Lift Every Voice and Sing". I listened to sermons centered on the black experience. History was focused on black history in that church and not just in February.
I also learned how to braid Rolston's hair. And not just braid but how to care for his hair. I remember braiding his hair and never once did I wonder if that was unusual until a black woman heard me tell a story about me braiding it before a concert and she said to Rolston, I can't believe you let her touch your hair. This was part of my education as well. I would not automatically be accepted by black people either.
This brings me to where I am now. I have a few good friends who I can talk to about being white and sometimes feeling like I don't know where I fit. But they are black and have their own burdens to have to reassure me seems ridiculous but they bring me deep comfort when I truly need them.
White people always give me the I am so sorry these things happen to you. But honestly I don't want them to be sorry. I want them to do something because they can and because they are part of the power structure that created the poverty stricken areas where they are afraid to go or locking their doors as they drive through, not realizing most people in those places that the power structure abandoned with white flight, are just poor and living their lives like we do but with so much less.
Rolston did not come from one of those neighborhoods either. His family was upper middle class just like mine but they had to work twenty times harder to get there. He was raised to know he had to be better to get half as far. We will raise our boys this way. I am often greeted with, you should just raise them so they know right from wrong and that is enough. They won't get into trouble. But it isn't enough.
The deck is stacked. To be clear, I don't want your pity. I will never be sorry for the love I have in my life so you shouldn't be either. It is big all encompassing love that makes me want to fight for a better world but until that world is now I will continue to talk about my life and ask for more from white people.
So I may wonder where I fit as a white mother of black children and the white wife of a black man. I may never know who really truly supports me and my family. I do know that I will keep bringing up racism until it really wakes up white people and I will probably bring it up a bit more than every now and again.