My grandmother stopped giving to her sorority when they first accepted a black girl. Back in 2008, I asked her what she thought when Obama was elected president, and the word she used was “terrifying.” When I asked her why, she didn’t have an answer.
I was raised in the South. I attended one of the most conservative undergraduate universities in the country.
As the violence in our country around race continues, I have not been able to stop thinking about racism in America and wondering why we haven’t come further.
And then this weekend, I read a piece by my friend Karen titled Say Something.
As I watched the viral video of the young black girl, pinned to the ground by a cop, my first thought was: What if that were my daughter? She was 15. The same age as our oldest daughter.
But I didn’t say anything, except to my own kids, which didn’t feel right, so I reached out to a black friend who also had teenage girls.
And then I read Say Something:
“One of the things that I think is important for us to realize is that unlike when most of us were children and media was in the hands of the few, we are now all media. We all have social media footprints, we all have forums where people can hear our thoughts. And if friends who are members of a minority watch those of you who are white go silent when issues like this come up, your credibility as an “ally” diminishes dramatically. And trust me when I tell you that it’s really disheartening to watch. So if you truly want to fight racism, then please, speak out against racism. Make it clear, in your own words—not just retweeting or resharing the words of Jon Stewart or someone else—tell folks how you feel. Take a stand, for heaven’s sake. (But then, after you’ve done that, do freely share articles and posts and links to organizations that fight racism. Amplify, amplify, amplify. Because frankly, those of us who are of colour need white voices to help amplify the cause.)”
I also have a friend in medical school in Denver. He shared the racial profiling that has been going on against him there. He’s been stopped by the cops a handful of times and is afraid to walk home from the library at night. We talk about bringing this message of healthy food to his community. We are strong together. He looks like an NBA player and has built himself into an extraordinary man. He is in his twenties, overcoming more hardship than most could fathom. What if he were my son? I can help with him food, but can’t I do more?
Could I do something?
After reading Say Something, I couldn’t sit silently any longer.
“What if I say something that is wrong, what if I unintentionally offend someone if I say something?”I thought.
But what if I say nothing?
We have inherited systems that are broken in our country. The food system is one example. Our education system needs help, too, our political system, our banking system. Just because we’ve inherited these broken systems, does not mean that we have to embrace them going forward. We can reject them and build better ones.
Just as we can reject racism not only in its brutality but also in its subtleties.
Our kids have always chosen friends with different skin colors. Our oldest led that way. When she first began describing them to me, when she was little, she would say, “She is smart. Her mom works in DC. She is funny, she is really nice.” Never once did she describe her friends by the color of their skin.
Our kids would not be here today if it weren’t for a friend that introduced me and my husband. They would not describe him as a black man, but as someone who is funny and brilliant and kind and hard working, which is exactly who he is.
Why do we see color, when we can describe someone by the size of their heart, the light in their eyes, the brilliance of their mind, the passion in their work? How they love. Even as I write this, I can’t believe that even today, in 2015, that I even have to say something.
But I felt that way when I began speaking out about our food system, if felt so obvious, a system that was so obviously broken.
There are so many systems that we have inherited that no longer serve us. It’s up to us to change them, to rethink them, to build something better, to choose love. To see the love between a mother and her daughter, to see the love between a boy and his grandfather, to choose to see love.
Love doesn’t have a skin color.
“Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.