Monday, January 19, 2015

It Was More Than a Dream and a Loving Heart

My Face Book page is full of quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. today.  Most of them have to do with choosing love over hate, and the famous dream. Beautiful, inspirational sentiments. They motivated a generation.  But in the end they were sentiments.

What created change was action. Marches and protests which hurt white people economically, threatened them politically, intimidated them psychologically, and aroused white sympathy (guilt) were the the mechanisms to change.  The speeches were motivators, and touched our hearts, but people sitting at home in front of their TVs didn't not change anything.  It was those who acted, as in the word activist.

The legacy of MLK deserves more than sentimental quotes shared on social media. It deserves continued action in his honor.  And our children need to see action modeled. Remember the saying, "Actions speak louder than words"?  What your children see you do to further civil rights will make much more of an impact than anything you say.  How but having them join you in that action as well?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Not Being Silent About Race

I was recently in Belize, taking a tour in a van with my family.  My young son was in the far back of the van looking out the windows and seemingly paying no attention to the tour guide's monologue from the front seat.
The man talked of the history of Belize and it's people.  He talked of the slave trade, the plantations and the legacy of slavery on the population of Belize today.

Our guide covered this topic and moved on to tell us about the education system, agriculture, and government in his country.  By the end of the tour, looking out at historic buildings, slums and farms, my son was fast asleep.

Later that evening, coming almost out of nowhere, he said, "If I lived a long time ago I would have been crucified.  I would have been whipped until my skin was bleeding.  I would have been sold to somebody away from my family.  Just because my skin is brown.  And you would have been crucified too, Mommy, because a white person wasn't allowed to have a brown son."

I gasped for breath.  I turned my face away so that he couldn't read my expression.  My thoughts were scrambled.  I wanted to face him and answer him in composure.  Sure of myself.  Reassuring to him.  I wanted to affirm him and comfort him and build his self esteem.  I wanted to filter the truth he was learning.   I wanted to change the past, and to control his future.

I am a white woman.  I am privileged.  I feel uncomfortable complaining or claiming that my family is victimized.  It seems unjust for me to claim that my family suffers injustice.  It does not seem that this should be my story to tell.  But here I am, grappling again with issues of race and of raising a bi-racial child in a white family.

I can't speak as an expert on being black in America.  I don't put forth any solutions to the problems of race in our culture.  But I am taking the word of a friend who told me that when white people are silent on the issue of race, it's as if they don't care.  White people must speak up.  Share their thoughts and feelings and outrage that friends, family members, and strangers are discriminated against because of their race.  Even if we get it wrong.  If if we don't fully understand.

As a white woman writing about my young child grappling with the issue of slavery, I may illuminate one tiny corner of darkness for a white reader.  I may raise one white reader's consciousness or demonstrate solidarity with one black reader.  It's better than being silent.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Could George Zimmerman Be My Son?

"Trayvon could be my son."  I've been reading a lot of that the past few days.

I can identify with that.  Although I am white, I have a bi-racial son.  I can feel the tightening of my heart that comes from danger too near. 

But that is not what I'm reflecting on today.  I'm wondering. Could George Zimmerman be my son?

What parenting, community, neighborhood, extended family, church and school made him who he is?
What society, what culture, creates and claims the George Zimmermans of the world?

More to the point, maybe, is what mother can say that George Zimmerman could not be her son?

This mother would be one who knows that she has instilled a love for all humanity in her son.  She would be confident that she has modeled more than just tolerance for other races, but truly an appreciation and admiration for other cultures. 

She would take her son to a church, mosque or temple, brightly colored by the faces of varying ethnic groups in the pews.  She would live in a neighborhood with Blacks and Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Jews.  This mother would send her son to a school in which diversity was real, and also studied.  Her son would be culturally literate. 

This mother would have friends of varying races and cultures into her home.  She would talk openly with  her son about the value and beauty of culture, and the underlying oneness of us all.  She would have a son who was comfortable asking questions about race.  It would not be a topic to politely avoid.

She would provide models for her son of empathy, compassion and peace.  Violence and aggression would be no part of his psyche.  Neither would fear and mistrust.  He would glorify neither weapons nor power. 

This is the mother, the only one I know, who could say with a clear conscience that George Zimmerman could not be her son. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm a guest blogger today on the subject of trans-racial adoption

I am a guest blogger over at Forever, For Always, No Matter What... today.  Hop on over there and check it out.  Jen is covering adoption related issues during the month of November.  She asked me to share my experience with trans-racial adoption

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where I Am From


I am from chocolate milk at the Michigan Union, sliding down the law school steps and the Mayflower.

I am from Christmas Eve parties, a big sandbox, Lakehurst Lane.

I am from the cosmos, zinnias, blacked-eyed susans.

I am from camping on Suttons Bay, reading,
From Sparks, Stillwagon, Howarth and Paschall, and Big Ten Football.

I am from the teasing and laughter,
From you can do anything and we don't do that.

I am from the Vicar and Easter incense, piano lessons and an opera.

I am from Fisher Body and Chorley, mince pie and Boston baked beans,
From the orphan of the violin teacher, robbing the Union payroll, Pocahontas, Prince Edward Island.

I am from snowstorms, Indian summers, thinking big and staying safe,
From a swimming pool on Candlewood, Little House on the Prairie and Marjorie Morningstar.

I am from the 7th congressional district and women who live forever.

Writing prompt from Mama's Losin It Writer's Workshop

Friday, July 1, 2011

He's not very dark, is he?

"He's not very dark, is he," an elderly relative asks me, each time we visit.  No, he's really not any darker than my husband, who is Italian.  "He could almost pass for white," an acquaintance says when she meets him for the first time.  "No one would know that he's half black," I've heard from numerous people.  My son Teddy is bi-racial, caucasian and black.  Everyone seems to feel the need to comment about this to me,  from store clerks to teachers to neighbors.

I wonder if it would be the same if I had adopted an Asian child.   I think it would not be.  I wonder if this is just an issue that Americans have with bi-racial children.  I can't say that the people who make these comments are racist, in every case.  But I wonder why Teddy's skin color seems an acceptable topic of conversation, for them to introduce.  I wonder why they seem so pleased that he is "not very dark," and how they can feel that it is an appropriate thing to express to me, and to Teddy.

Between our house and the local elementary school there are two flags hanging in yards as visible reminders of bigotry, hate and discrimination.  If Teddy rode the school bus he would see them out the window twice each day.  I was at a party in our small town, and the spouse of a very high-ranking person in the school system told the absolute most sickening racial joke I have ever heard.   I should add that I live in the northern midwest. 

I wonder if I would feel this way if I myself were black.  Because I am white and I have never felt this type of bigotry against myself, I might be more sensitive and protective of my child.  It seems impossible that I could allow my child to suffer from prejudice, ignorance and meanness at five years old.  Perhaps if I were black I would have learned that it's impossible to protect my child from this hurt.  I think that is the most tragic thing of all.