This post contains potentially offensive language.
Initially, I did not feel compelled to share about this right now. It’s not that it never entered my mind, because I can’t recall a day in my life that this issue didn’t hit home for me in some way. I just don’t always talk about what I am experiencing publicly.
And then, another mother, Darcel of The Mahogany Way and Mahogany Motherhood, questioned why so many people – specifically white parents – are not wanting to talk about the outcome of the Trayvon Martin murder case. I listened, felt into why I was not talking about it and decided this may be one of the best places I can share my experience.
When I was around three years old, growing up white in a predominantly white town, my mom wanted me to be able to practice nurturing and took me to the local five and dime store to pick out my first baby doll. As we looked at the dolls I noticed there was a white doll and a brown doll. I asked why.
My mom, a woman who feels strongly that people are people, that we have more in common than different and who has never uttered any form of racial slur in the years I have known her nor would she allow anyone else to do so in her presence, told me that the doll manufacturers probably made the different color dolls because they thought that little brown girls might like a doll who looks like them and vice versa with little white girls. I pondered this for a few moments and then chose the brown doll.
A few years later, when I moved to a new school around age seven, I told my mom about this new friend I made. His name was Jackie. She didn’t know that his skin was much darken than mine until she met him in person, because I didn’t identify him in that way. When I pointed him out at school I said something like, “Him, over there in the blue shirt.” My mom felt a bit proud that I hadn’t learned to identify people solely on their skin color as of yet.
Or did I?
As I grew into a young woman, men of different ethnic backgrounds intrigued me. I was fascinated by the Black struggle, the Hispanic struggle, the Native American struggle – the overall struggle of assimilation into a culture of domination. So much so, that I studied it some in college, dated many men outside of my race and eventually married a man (my first husband) who was not only Black, but also 26 years my senior and totally blind.
We fell in love pretty much instantly upon meeting, committed to marriage within weeks, set a date for a few months out and ventured into starting a family. We also stuck out like a sore thumb.
One of the most common comments Robert received when we were together was, “Is she a volunteer?” Partly because he was blind, partly because he was so much older and it showed with his silver hair, partly because he was Black.
Bless his heart, even my own father – who also never uttered a racial slur in any of the years I have known him – asked me during those years what my fascination with Black men was all about. All I could surmise was that I could identify with the struggle. I felt it in my insides, almost like I was Black myself.
I know, that’s a ridiculous statement to make.
Unless one starts to distill down this human experience and look deeply into all of the entanglement we have with one another. The ancestry, the looks, the words, the media, the whatever that culminates into who we are and what we think. We try to make sense of it all and there are certainly perspectives we can hold that provide us a sense of safety and freedom, and yet here we are in a world where Black people still feel like they are being lynched – and in some cases they are – and white people sit in a diverse variety of camps trying to either make peace with the past or perpetuate its madness.
Let’s talk about madness for a few, if you’re open.
This is heart wrenching and I almost don’t want to write it, but for the sake of change, I will. After I brought my first baby home from the hospital to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. To say the mix of love and protection I felt for her was intense, is a grave understatement. And then the anxiety started.
It was probably a mix of postpartum anxiety and depression. I’m not entirely sure since I didn’t go get diagnosed. The symptoms would fit, though. A combination of teeth clenching, fits of crying, feeling overcome with deep love for my child along with confusing thoughts. Maddening. Like this one.
I would be caring for my lovely, oh so beautiful, graceful, with skin that I love to call golden baby and what word would pop into my mind?
The word I had thrown people out of my vehicle into the middle of nowhere for saying, the word I had once called a boyfriend in college after he assaulted me only to feel like I was the sorry one for dating complete abusers while not knowing how to properly end a relationship when it was time for it to end, the word I vowed to never call anyone ever again after that experience no matter what, the word I kicked people out of my house for saying (even if the person saying it was Black – oh, the nerve I had), the word that quickly ended a relationship I had with a close-minded white man, never looking back.
This word, this really – oh so denigrative and charged – word. Coming from my mind as I looked upon this blessing I was entrusted with.
I fought it tooth and nail.
What?! No, this lovely being is no such word. She is of Heaven. She is the love of the world manifested in the human form.
Do you have any idea what hell it was to have this word surface in my mind while looking upon my sweet daughter? This being from my flesh and heart, yet different from me enough that the factions of my mind tried to apply a label only heartless people utter. I wondered what type of mother has such a word come to her mind about her biracial daughter? No, you don’t know what this is like unless you have had the same exact experience and response. I didn’t think the thought. It literally came out of nowhere, like some sick program slyly installed by a life hacker. What the
I pushed it away, hard.
I saw this thought, this word, much like a mosquito buzzing in my ear trying to inject me with its venom as it sucks my blood. It was not my thought – I didn’t want to think it – yet it was appearing in my consciousness. Come to think of it, this may have been one of my first realizations that the thoughts in my head are not who I am as a person. Still, it was absolutely maddening.
I wanted no part of this word – or what it stands for – to whites or Blacks.
I reasoned with myself that it was maybe something she was carrying energetically and I was picking up on it, or that somehow in my consciousness I had internalized this word for Black people and so now my mind was letting me see the truth so I could undo it and not pass it on to my children.
Except my children are not just mine.
They are the children of the world. Just like Trayvon Martin.
Just like your children. Just like the child that still lives inside of me – and you. The child who really wants a safe world, free from stereo types, discrimination and murder in the name of skin color – or anything else.
Which is why, I think, people are so mad.
The basis for oppression is within us – all of us. We can’t escape it just by saying it is outside of ourselves or that it doesn’t exist. We have to meet it head on – within and in our experiences and circumstances.
If we don’t meet it head on, we are contributing to the problem.
For some of us, this may truly mean silence while we tend to what we feel.
I will warn you, though, as I think Darcel is eluding to, we have to pull our long necks out of the sand before we can actually address what we feel. If we are trying to sift through centuries and centuries of oppression that is literally interwoven into our every cell, we cannot do it when we are pushing it away.
We have to feel it and we have to listen – to ourselves and others.
For some of us this will look like anger, a lot of anger, and it may come out with accusations. We need to hear the accusations.
We also need to hear the responses because there are some of us, like me, who realize there are problems and the only way to address them is to meet them in the moment, inside of ourselves, and then take action from there.
I feel very, very sad that Trayvon Martin’s life ended as it did.
I feel the ripple of the pain of his death throughout the Black community, and those of the human community who deeply want race relations to be a non-issue, for people to simply be regarded as the unique and valuable beings they are regardless of differences. I feel the anger at the seeming injustice of legitimized murder, murder that leads to a son not coming home from the store. I feel the fear that it could be my child, or yours or Darcel’s. Not because my child is biracial, but because he is my child and I love him. Although I realize that the fear for Black children is very specific and very real.
I don’t want any
child person to be subject to the hate of this world.
I want them to know love, and worth and joy.
So, I sit here and I rest for a few moments.
I feel through the pain, the anger, the sadness as I reach the stillness inside.
The stillness that allows me to choose anew, to meet fear with presence and love, to continue speaking the truth, to guide my children to the best of my ability and to stay steadfast in my determination to root out all aspects of force and domination from my being to consciously choose my contribution to the cleaning up of this mess of madness in our world.
As always, one moment at a time…
Are you are struggling as a parent? If so, you are not alone and I’d like to share something invaluable with you: hope. If you would like support to calm the craziness of parenting I invite you to join the Sane Parenting Challenge.