Last night my husband and I watched this episode of “Black∙ish“. It was a bold move and I felt like it was executed very well. I will get to why this episode inspired this post a little later. I highly suggest you watch it. It’s on Hulu and I’m assuming you can watch it online.
In the 9-10 months that we fostered children we had 5 African American children, and 4 Caucasian children. The two we had the longest (5 1/2 months) were African American. It is an experience that I believe humbled me in a way that only that experience could have. I could write a book about the differences in being a predominately white family and raising two African American children. I never realized how “white” my family was, until we had them. It was the second or third time going to a family function when the boy (who we called “Little Man”) asked, “Will there be any brown people there?” It wasn’t until then that I realized how him living in our home would affect not only us, but him.
One year ago today “Little Man” called me “Mom” for the first time. It showed up on my Timehop today, which felt so weird and fitting as the episode from last night still lingered in my brain. This is what I posted.
Just reading that this morning had me in tears. I’ll never forget that night. He had been with us almost 3 months and in that moment, as happy as I was to hear that word, I was so devastated… I was not this child’s mother, and she was alive and well and working very hard to get her children back. He was with us another 3 months after this, and we miss him and his sister every day, but there is a part of me that is thankful he is with his family. That is another post for another day but when you parent the broken child, and you see the devastation that comes from removing a child from his family, there is a peace in knowing that although their opportunities and lives may be very different where they are, that they are where God intended them to be.
Now, back to the episode from last night. I had a lump in my throat the entire time I watched it. I was watching this family (who you forget are actors in this episode) and I could see a pain in their eyes that I knew I would never understand. I remember parenting Little Man and his sister around the time something similar was happening in the media. I remember thinking I was responsible for these children and that I realized my fears for them were different than the fears I had for other children in my life. I remember when he walked to the bus one day after I had seen something in the news that I physically felt ill thinking that something could happen to him and it may have nothing to do with what he was doing, but simply what he looked like. The fact is, as “progressed” as the world is now versus 100+ years ago we still have a long way to go. Watch this episode and I hope you feel that way too. There is a part when they start talking about Obama becoming President and I cried as they explained how they felt.
I am ashamed of some of the things I have seen. Not only in the media, but even in my Facebook News Feed. I have had to delete multiple people from school, work, and even a family member, because of their blatant racism. I have seen them post things discouraging the #blacklivesmatter movement, and saying that all lives matter, and while that is true, I honestly don’t think this is a stand that white people can take. I’m sorry, but it’s just not. I only had a small taste of what it felt like to parent African American children and as much as I would love to sit here and tell you that it didn’t matter, it did. The differences were sometimes glaringly obvious. The looks I received when I had the children alone, were very different that the looks we got when my husband and I were both with them.
I actually had an older gentleman make a very racist, and presumptuous statement in front of the children when I had them alone at a restaurant. A statement that was only made because he assumed I was the biological mother of these two children and the man who fathered them was not with us. Yes, in 2015, in the United States, this man said something so hateful that I won’t even give it any more power by repeating it. It’s something I never even told my husband or family about because it just simply didn’t deserve the extra recognition.
I have struggled with this for so long. Where to stand on this subject because after all, I am white. As someone who truly believes that every single person on this planet deserves the same opportunities and treatment regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and more, we, as humans just simply aren’t there yet. I just don’t know how to express that. I don’t know how to tell my African American friends that I understand, because I just simply can’t. I have put off saying anything for so long because I am afraid that I just can’t do it justice. In reality, it’s not about me, the way that many of my African American friends and the general public feels is because of the people in the world who are not kind, and are not tolerant. As someone who is it makes me want to stand on a pedestal and shout “I get it, and I care, and I’m not racist”. But that alone means, it’s not about me. #blacklivesmatter did not start because of people like me who believe that everyone is equal.
In a world that is offended by everything, it is hard to be yourself. It is hard to remain positive and hopeful. It is hard to believe that the world is good when you can’t turn on the news without seeing crime, death, animal and child abuse. It is hard to not become bitter and cynical and believe that everything is a conspiracy. I lose sleep when I think of all the pain in this world. I think of the children I had in my home, and the things that some of them endured.
It breaks my heart to know that I can’t fix it.
All I can do is try to live a good life. Try to be kind and put positive things into this world. Try to not give power to mean and hateful people. Try to be an ally for family and friends that need me. Try to reach out to those that I see hurting and offer some kind words or listening ear.
I guess, to sum it all up. I hope that you take a moment, step back from yourself, and your struggles, and be there for someone else. Try to do good, to put good things into the world. Maybe one day, there will be enough of that and we can say we truly live in a world of equality. But right now, from where I’m standing, we still have a long way to go.