I am white. Three of my children are black. I am also a mother of five white children. With 12 years of parenting under my belt, motherhood was nothing new to me when we adopted. What was new to me however was society’s response to my black children vs. my white children.
Adoption changed my worldview. Before my husband and I adopted I thought the world was different. I thought racism was a thing of the past or at the very least isolated. It. Is. Not.
“Racism is not getting worse.
Racism is getting filmed.”
– Will Smith
Racism did not go away after the civil rights movement. It is still here and it is rampant. If you are reading this blog and you are black you do not need to read any further because nothing I share will surprise you or be new information to you. But know that if you are black I welcome your input and comments. I am listening and maybe for the first time in our nation’s history the world is listening.
If you are white . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . keep reading.
I have been hesitant to share some of these experiences publicly because I was afraid of offending someone but for the sake of my children and every other person of color, I can no longer stay silent. I will share our experiences in the hope that your eyes will be open like mine to racism or at the very least discrimination, racial profiling and white privilege in the United States.
Before I became a mother of black children I never . . . . . . . .
told my sons to take their hoods off because people might assume they are up to no good.
had a store associate follow my son as he picked out a Christmas present for his sibling.
had a youth football coach tell my husband he should sign our then 8 year old son up for football because the coach could tell “he would be good” after watching our son walk across a church parking lot.
encountered the word n****r spray painted across the pavement of an intersection three miles from our home and wondered if our family was being targeted.
was denied speech therapy by a school because my child’s speech issues were deemed “cultural”.
had complete strangers in a grocery store try to touch my daughter’s hair because they have “always wondered what it felt like”.
had my two sons repeatedly mixed up and called the wrong name by school staff and students alike in their predominantly white school because their skin color is the only thing being used to identify them.
cringed when a friend compared my son to his son with the words “a white version of your son”.
had a teacher at Meet Your Teacher Night grab and start stroking my daughter’s braids 15 seconds after meeting her.
had to explain to my children how some people might not like you because of the color of your skin.
had my son tell me a kid at school called him s**t face because “your skin is the color of s**t”.
watched a car slow down to gawk at my child getting the mail like he (the driver) was on a safari.
had an art teacher tell my son his painting was “inappropriate” because he painted the skin color darker than the photo of the person he was trying to copy.
had a stranger sit by my then 7 year old son at a basketball game and tell him he looks like he would be good at basketball.
watched a parent yell at my child (horse playing with her child at sports practice), “Hey! Get your hands off him!”
had a staff member of a school tell my child he should rap at the school talent show even though he clearly can’t rap.
had to tell my son what he should/shouldn’t do during a traffic stop to NOT DIE.
was afraid to post a photo of my son holding a replica of a gun made out of LEGOs.
considered taking my sons to the police station to introduce them and make sure the officers know they are good kids and they live in our community.
recognized my white privilege.
The ironic thing about this list is that even though I am writing “I never”, none of these things happened to me. They happened to my elementary age children . . . . . . . . . . because they are black.
Other than school, my children are rarely away from me. It terrifies me to think about what could happen when they are no longer under the protection of my white umbrella. I did not recognize my own white privilege until these things happened. The reason these things have never happened to me or my biological children is because we have white skin. White privilege does not mean my life has not been difficult. White privilege means those difficulties have not been caused by the color of my skin.
Change Only Happens From The Inside Out
If you are white you might be wondering what can I do? I think the first thing you can do is a careful and deep self examination. Ask yourself these questions. Are you more upset about the vandalism of buildings or the murder of an unarmed, restrained black man? How would you feel if your daughter/granddaughter dated a black man? What is your first reaction when you encounter a person of color in your neighborhood or town? Are you suspicious or afraid of them or do you smile and say hello or at the very least nod your head? Do you have any people of color in your life that are friends? I am not talking about a follower on social media or a black coworker. Have you ever invited a person of color into your home? What about your entertainment selections? Do you read books by authors of color? Watch movies with people of color as main characters that are NOT portrayed as the antagonist? Buy from businesses owned by people of color? Listen to podcasts or music by people of color? If you have young children or grandchildren in your home how diverse are their books or toys?
My husband and I have wrestled with these questions and more over the last 5 years and sometimes the answer is not pretty and even downright ugly. I have learned a lot about myself and have been ashamed at times to discover my own prejudices. But I am researching, listening, learning and trying to do better. Our toys and books now reflect and represent different races. We have made an effort to watch more TV shows and movies with main characters that are black. I discovered BAND-AIDS come in different shades/skin tones. We made a decision as a family to forgo attending our local church once a month and drive 50 minutes from our home to attend a church with black preachers and black church members. I specifically requested a black doctor that I knew of when our daughter needed to have her tonsils removed. I researched and found a black therapist for our son. We talk with all of our kids about race and racism and what they can do about it. Our entire family has benefited from these things.
I have so much more I want to say about this topic but I will conclude with a story from my childhood. One of my earliest memories of my parent’s house as a child, is of a painting of my paternal grandfather that hung in our basement family room. It was given as a gift to my dad’s family after my grandpa (a police sergeant) was killed in the line of duty on December 3, 1966; a few days shy of my dad’s 14th birthday. I often heard my dad, grandma and five aunts talk about my grandfather’s life and subsequent death growing up. It wasn’t until a visit home from college that I discovered their was part of the story I never knew. I cannot remember the exact details but I came across a recently written article about my grandpa that someone had given to my dad. I cannot be sure but it might have been about the man that shot him and how he was up for parole. As I read the article I learned for the first time that my grandpa had been killed by a black man. Never once had my grandma, dad or his sisters mentioned this fact during the previous 19 years of my life. In fact, in those 19 years (and subsequent 10+ years following) my dad (and mom) welcomed over 100 foster children of all colors into their home. He supported those foster children, myself, my sisters and brother through a career as a sheriffs deputy in the same county my grandfather served.
I think the reason my dad never mentioned his dad’s killer was a black man is simple.
My dad knows that not all black men are dangerous.
And I know that not all police officers are racist.
My sister is Mitzi Lancaster – D Cubed – Dylan’s Mom – and she shared this with me. I met you at the banquet in November and was in awe of your sweet adorable family. Thank you for sharing. We adopted our little man when he was 2 days old – he is almost 10 and this world is terrifying me. I have learned so much about my poor thinking since he has come into our lives. All of the things you mentioned are real and it’s so true that they never affected my white children. I want to start following your blog. Thank you for sharing
I’m so sorry your children have gone through this! I was definitely one of the people who thought racism didn’t exist anymore.
Thoughtful and well-written. Made me examine myself.
Thanks for sharing this well written blog, Rachael. I have just finished reading “Just Mercy” and this was a nice addition to what I learned/relearned and need to keep learning.
Thank you so much for this Rachel! Such true words, hard words. I appreciate your willingness to help us learn and love.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I have very recently been reminded of this, but it absolutely bears repeating!
Thank you sooo much! You’ve put it into words so beautifully. We have a son we also adopted through foster care, and ..strangers touching his hair🙄 … Oh that he Hated! One time he finally got fed up, and asked me to shave his head. Then people wanted to touch his bald head. So problem was not solved.😂🙄