My Personal Experiences with Racisim
Setting the Stage
To set the stage, let me introduce myself. I am the white half of an interracial couple. This was not just a fling or a one night stand. The love of my life and I were together for over twenty years. During this time we had four wonderful children who are all grown and out in the world.
Needless to say my first real taste of racism was when I went home to tell my parents. The first words out of my mother's mouth as "I don't believe in abortion... but in this situation it really is the only option." Looking my parents in the eye, I told them, it was not an option, I was legally an adult and abortion was NOT an option.
When all was said and done, my mother, who was the most vocal, admitted that she would rather have me marry a no good, wife beating, drug addicted white man then a bright, caring, and college educated black man. Besides what would her friends at work think and how would she explain it to the neighbors? I was then told that I could not come home again because I would be a bad example for my younger brother and sister.
So I didn't.
Because of the decisions my parents made that day, they did not meet my oldest daughter for 15 years, for 15 years!
The Kindess of Stangers
I took the bus back to school with no idea of what I would do once the semester was over. My mother was looking into a home for unwed mothers. A place to keep me out of sight until this nasty mess was over with. Even then God was watching over me,
The kindest, most loving people that I didn't even know opened their homes and hearts to me. The family of the other half of this interracial couple took me in with out batting an eye. They have been my family ever since.
When they were small
My Flower Garden
Over the next 15 years, I was blessed with the most wonderful children a mother could ask for. My oldest daughter was 10 before my oldest son arrived, He was followed very quickly by my youngest daughter. My youngest son was a completely unexpected blessing three years later. It was uncommon at the time for a 37 year old woman to be pregnant.
The Worst Kind of Racism
The type of racism I experienced was not the burning crosses in my front yard or Molotov cocktails thrown through my living room window. It was more insidious than that. I call it under the radar racism. It was the subtle change in a person's face, a question that they would have never asked a white woman with white kids. The harrasement and false assumptions made about my children by those in positions of authority have not stopped and it is now 2010. This is the type of racism that white people never see because they never experience it. It is hard to understand something when it doesn't happen the people around you.
My Dear Fiend Joyce
My friend Joyce and I were talking one day a few years ago. We had known each other and worked together for over 20 years. Talking about the state of the country and the world, she mentioned how much better people of all races where getting along. I had to acknowledge that in many ways things were much better they had been. I mentioned however that racism was not dead, it had just become more invisible. She was puzzled and asked what did I mean.
So I Explained
That both of my oldest children had been stopped for DWB. This is a term used for simply Driving While Black. She was flabbergasted.
My Daughter's Story
My oldest daughter graduated 17th in her class and played both varisty basketball and soccer in high school. After graduation she attended the University of Southern California on a full scholarship. She was now working n LA for a sports agent managing professional basketball players.
Leaving her employer's home in Santa Monica after an evening of getting acquainted with some of her new clients, my daughter headed home. It wasn't long before she saw the flashing lights and heard the siren of a police car that appeared behind her.
"Do you know why you were stopped? asked the officer.
"No I don't, was I speeding?
No but your license plate light is burned out.
That's impossible. My car was in for routine maintenance just a couple of days ago and my mechanic checked all the light.
My daughter's radar went up.
Do you mind telling me where your going this time of night?
Are you sure the license plate light is out? I need to check it so I can tell my mechanic.
There's no need for you to get out of the car, miss. Is this your car?
Of course, it is my car!
I need to see some ID and vehicle registration.
What's going on? My license plate light isn't really burned out. My dad is a police officer in Michigan and I know that without probable cause you have no reason to pull me over.
I still need to know where you live and where you were coming from and what where you doing there.
I need to see your badge number.
exchange between the officer and my daughter became quite heated after
that. Needless to say the police officer's only reason for stopping my
daughter is because she is African-American.
This is Elijah's Story
Elijah was waiting at the bus stop where he had caught the bus since kindergarten. It was right across the street from his father's home. The high schools in Kalamazoo start at 7:30am to the buses start picking up around 6am. As it was fall, it was still dark out.
Being an officer on the midnight shift and living in the city limits, he was allowed to take his breaks at the house. A call came over his radio discribing a tall, young black man in a hoody standing on the corner of Wheaton and Davis streets. Radioing in, Elijah's dad said not to send out a squad car. As the location was right across the street from his home. He would deal with it.
That's My Son
As he went to investigate this tall, black male with a hoody, a light bulb went off. Someone had called the police on his son. The tall back man in the hoody was Elijah. Further inquiry revealed that it was the neighbor on the corner that had called it in. Mind you Elijah had stood on that same corner every morning to catch the bus. If his dad had not taken the call, a squad car would have been sent and Elijah might have been arrested.
An Angry Young Man
Incidents like this are what made my oldest son and angry black man. At 26 years of age, he is just beginning to realize that this kind of anger only hurts himself. The people that he is angry at don't know and don't care if he is angry.
My Youngest Girl
Even Rachael is a graduate of the University of Michigan, even though she developed a program call Semester in Detroit that was picked up the the University and put into practice, she to has faced her share of discrimination. She had to fight to get into the academically talented programs run by the Kalamazoo Public Schools. She had to work twice as hard as her classmates to achieve the same goals. No one ever called her the "N". No one ever came right out and said that her color made a difference in the way they thought of her but it did.
Even My Youngest Son
has stories. He has been questioned while in a strip mall parking lot fixing a flat tire. When at the mall, he and his friends are followed by the mall security people and ditto when he enters a store.
Blowing Things out of Proportion?
Unless you have experienced this subtle racism, you really have no idea how prevelant it is. Going into teachers conferences, when I introduced myself, there was a visible change in expression. Nothing dramatic but the smile disappeared and the face became mask-like. The words that came out were the right ones but the face and the body language did not lie. I was not the person that was expected.
When ever my family and I were out and about, we always attracted attention. Here was this white woman walking around with this black man and his kids. When standing in line for fast food and it was obvious that we were all together, I would just laugh and say, "I look like I was adopted don't I?" When I caught someone giving me the evil eye, I would stare right back at them until they got so uncomfortable that they finally had to look away.
Something I Still Don't Understand
Why is race still such an issue. In fact, why is cultural, religious and where you were born still an issue in this day and age? I love the fact that the United States is so diverse. By coming in contact with people from different places, with different views of the world, different foods, I have learned so much.
From Other People,
I have learned that underneath none of us are that different. We are more alike then different. All of us want the same things. We want to be able to feed our children, put a roof over their heads and keep them and ourselves healthy so they can grow up and we can watch them do it. To me that is what life is all about.
Keeping the Pot Stirred
is keeping the pot stirred, Satan's way of keeping us apart? Is it away from seeing God's hand in all of us? If we are continually fighting among ourselves, we can not see how much alike we really are and that the differences do not really matter. I guess that until Jesus Christ himself puts and end to the turmoil, our hatred of each other will keep Satan and his minions busy.