Last week, before the news was (as) flooded with the stuff we are seeing the past few days, I was on a walk with the kids, and a young man was walking a bit behind us, playing his music-which was fine except I was struck by a thought-what if Lexi hears, and what if she asks me “what’s that mean, (N word)?” Like she does with so many new words? What do you tell a 3 year old that’s honest, communicates the weight, but age appropriate?
If and when we have that conversation, I think I’ll tell her:
“That is an ugly word that you should never say because some people have used that word for a long long time to hurt other people and make them feel like they aren’t important just because they look different. If you say that word, it will hurt people very much and make them sad and angry. We don’t want to do that, we only love people with our words. “
And daily I’m asking myself how can I be the change, teach the change? Help break the cycle? I’m just beginning to really be intentional, but for a start- We have Lexi in a ballet school that is geared toward less wealthy families (like us!) , and this season intentionally placed her at the location in the very predominantly black area-on purpose. There are 14 students in her class, 3 are white. We are immersing her in a community (for at least this hour of the week) in which *she* is the other, the one who is different. And you know what, these littles don’t divide themselves. When Lexi and her little friend M met, they immediately threw their arms around each other and hugged. Multiple times every class they hug. Because love is natural and hate is learned. The seeds of unkindness (in humanity) exist but The one that grows is the one that you water and feed and cultivate.
Racism is so ingrained in our culture that we barely recognize our own prejudices. I’m sure I have some still, but I was raised to love. My mama had a friend who lived in a low income complex and I spent a chunk of my childhood running around, the only white kid enjoying frozen kool aid icees in a styrofoam cup. I loved Miss Doretha’s grits. My best friend when we lived on base was a girl named Shanelle and I learned it was a crime to take her hair aloose and sometimes it was too hot for her to come outside and play.
The result of that is a deep comfort and trust of black people that I took for granted until recently. I joked that when I sold Mary Kay I could only “warm chatter” black women, but it was true. Even with my comfort though, I find myself working hard to be respectful and careful with my words, because I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America. As anxious as I am for my babies’ health and safety, I don’t know the fear these mamas face for no other reason than the color of their babies’ skin.
I’m challenging myself to do more, love more, and be intentional.