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Dear White Parents: Our Fate Rests With You

My 7-year-old was reading a book about Jackie Robinson last night. Robinson was born in 1919, and in 1947, he became the first African American to play for a Major League Baseball team. Take a second to think about the culture, especially race relations, during that time. As well as any children’s story can, the book details many experiences that Jackie Robinson endured in his life. 

Not long after my son started the book, he put it down, looked at me, and without hesitation says, “I don’t want to live when Jackie Robinson lived. They wouldn’t have let ME be with YOU!”

What a realization for a little boy — to learn that “long, long ago” there was something wrong with a mom who looks like me having a kid who looks like him. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that while laws have changed, a lot is still the same. 

We don’t avoid talking about race in our house. 

In fact, we run full force into those conversations. It is a topic that comes up frequently since my husband and I had our first baby nearly 10 years ago. 

And how can it not? We all look vastly different from one another. My husband is African American and has beautiful dark brown skin. I am Caucasian and fair. Our three children fall in between there but none of them has the same skin tone. 

We spend a lot of time talking about the good. Oh yes, we talk about the history and successes of the African American community and the influence that African Americans have had on our country and the world. But mostly we talk about how it doesn’t matter what your skin looks like – the way you treat people is what matters the most. 

At this point in our children’s lives, we haven’t brought ourselves to tell them that the world will be different for them, especially our two boys, simply because they have brown skin. We haven’t said they will have to be careful of their actions and words because they could be misinterpreted. We definitely haven’t said that their lives, even though they are just as precious and fragile as anyone else out there, are more at risk than their White friends. 

I wish we didn’t have to have these heartbreaking conversations with our kids, but we do. We must. For their safety. 

However, I have come to realize that I am not the change maker. I AM doing my part by teaching my children, but I and other parents of African American kids can’t do it alone.

I’m the first to admit that I’ve only recently been awoken to racial stereotyping and injustice. I met my husband in late 2002. Prior to that, I grew up in a middle- and upper-class community. I can honestly say that privilege and liberal parents can make one blissfully unaware of any racial problems. I now realize that wasn’t because it wasn’t happening; I was just too ignorant to know what was going on.

My history is important here because I am always shocked when my husband and kids and I have an experience that stems from prejudices. There is a (long) moment where I don’t understand what is going on and try to justify the occurrence as some sort of mistake or mix-up. 

White friends, consider this. When was the last time a restaurant refused to serve you? It isn’t as in-your-face as you might think like you see in the movies. These days, the restaurant lets you walk in the door. They might even give you a table but they definitely don’t take your order. You watch servers take care of party after party with disbelief before your husband finally says that you need to go. Has that ever happened to you? How did it make you feel? 

We had that experience less than a year ago… in 2019.

This is a fairly mundane example. No one was physically harmed. We simply left the restaurant and found another one. But not every person of color (POC) gets off with simply choosing a different restaurant and that is what’s terrifying. 

Unfortunately, I can think of countless recent examples where things ended tragically. If you watch or read the news, so can you. 

Growing up, I never imagined that I would have to ask my husband to put his sweatshirt hood down when he wants to run a quick errand after leaving the gym because I fear for his life. 

White parents of white kids, here is where you come in.

I can talk to my kids until I am blue in the face about race relations, equality, and how to treat others. But it is not enough. I need you to do it, too. Talk to your kids about culture, tell them about our history as a country but most importantly, teach them to speak up when they see something is wrong. Teach them to rock the boat and have uncomfortable conversations. Then make sure that you are a strong role model by practicing what you preach. 

We need to move from a culture of passive acceptance to one that challenges outdated and dangerous beliefs. White parents, it begins with us. You have the power to be the biggest influence in your children’s lives. I’m not expecting you to change the entire world, but you can shape your children’s world in a positive way and that would be a start.

Looking for other ways to help create change? Look here and here.

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6 Responses to Dear White Parents: Our Fate Rests With You

  1. Avatar
    Abby May 28, 2020 at 11:25 am #

    Thank you for writing this, Christy. I, too, find myself trying to justify the situation as a mistake or misinterpretation. Being a white mom, I have a hard time believing that someone would dislike my family and be rude to them just because they have dark skin. But it does happen!!! We talk about race often in our home too. Praying for the day when all people can see the rainbow of skin colors and rejoice in God’s creativity and celebrate our uniquiness.

  2. Avatar
    Bonni Cohen May 28, 2020 at 12:47 pm #

    So important, Christy. Interracial relationships take a tremendous amount of commitment even in these more “enlightened” times. As someone who was briefly in one in the 60s, it was pretty rebellious.

  3. Avatar
    Patty Duncan May 29, 2020 at 10:41 am #

    Thank you. I am blessed to be the mother to a brown skinned son and four white skinned children. I love them with my whole heart and my heart breaks for them to live in this world. I try to prepare them and model tolerance, acceptance, and love. But I can’t do it alone. Thank you for sharing the struggle so honestly.

  4. Avatar
    Tennis for Uganda May 30, 2020 at 4:30 pm #

    Well said parents I think the root cause of all this havoc is we the seniors or parents not playing our roles as models to these fragile souls letting them know that skin is just a color but we are all human
    Everything begins with us as adults in any category or industry be a teacher professor or coach we have to work to uniting the human race from early stage whatever example we give influences these children let’s disassociate ourselves from any acts that promote racism revenge or voilence because it doesn’t help but makes worse have better ways of dialogue
    Small change makes a big difference all these advocacy have been there we just need to build on them
    Let’s take a stand and step together wherever you are be it white or black collectively cooperatively do some activities together
    We can make abeaitful better safe place for tmrw

  5. Avatar
    Jolene May 30, 2020 at 4:41 pm #

    Was the incident that occurred in 2019 – in the United States or at an overseas post? What type of restaurant was it? What kind of food was being served? Was the restaurant packed with people? Was it a shift change when you arrived? Can you provide more evidence that it occurred? What brought you to the conclusion and your husband to decide to walk out?

    • Avatar
      Shawn May 31, 2020 at 6:15 am #

      @Jolene, I understand why you’d want “proof” or try to rationalize why such an occurrence would happen. You want to believe that racism doesn’t exist, because you never experienced it. Did you see how Dr. Curtis implies that she wouldn’t know it existed if she hadn’t experienced it herself. I imagine she could now give you a list, this just so happened to be the most recent. I don’t want to judge you, but maybe you question the integrity of this mother because YOU don’t have a ‘lightning rod’ (black children and husband) that attracts random acts of racism. I don’t think she needs to satisfy you with a blow by blow account; with respect to this prob being a family-friendly blog, it’s nice to keep it light. I think you should question society on why things as little as above are accepted and NOT challenged…because articles like these come out everyday; that isn’t a coincidence.

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