Day 4: I walk in two worlds
Today is Day 4 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to think about issues of race in your own family and community. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
In my public world, I walk around as a middle-class, white woman in America. Because of my skin color, I have the privilege of walking into stores and not being questioned about my intentions. I can go into upscale hotels and people assume I am a guest, not a worker. Like most people, there is more to my story than just the color of my skin.
In my personal world, I am married to a man of Afro-Caribbean descent and have two daughters who are bi-racial. We have been married for 11 years and our two daughters are seven and two. I am raising two young ladies who will not have the same privileges as me in America, solely based on the amount of melanin in their skin pigmentation. I have to teach them how to survive in this world as black women, without, myself, being a black woman. Luckily, I have had some wonderful friends, family, teachers, role models, and guides. I have come face-to-face with my own “white-privilege” and I have come out on the other side knowing that it is time to change the collective narrative about race.
We can change the American story of race from one of separate-ness and other-ness to one of inclusion and inter-connectedness. Inclusion and inter-connectedness do not mean, “I don’t see color,” (which by many, has been coded language to say – “we’re all okay as long as we all fit into the norms of the power culture.”) The 20th Century paradigm of race – one of separateness and other-ness – will not work for the upcoming generations in the 21stCentury. The 20th Century paradigm certainly doesn’t work for “hybrid-families” (aka bi-racial families) like mine. After all, there is no “other-ness,” when the blood of the “other” runs in your veins. The 21st Century story of race must be one of strength, survival, inclusion and inter-connectedness.
Inclusion and inter-connectedness means that when my family goes to church they hear stories and sing songs that represent both of our cultural heritages. It means that my daughters see people that look like their mother AND their father in the pulpit. It means our faith community makes room and resources available in the liturgical calendar for celebrations outside of the norms of the European-American calendar.
Inclusion and inter-connectedness means that when my older daughter learns about how, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” I tell her the whole story:Some Europeans did awful and reprehensible things to the people who lived in the Caribbean (her ancestors). Columbus is not a hero. However the story is more complicated than that. If it weren’t for European explorers AND the strength of her Carib Indian ancestors, she would not be here today. I am clear with her that, yes, her ancestors were victimized by the Europeans, and they SURVIVED. The story she tells herself about race will be one of strength and survival.
Bearing witness to the atrocities of colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and current racism is a necessary part of the healing process. Changing the story of race in America, to me, means that we don’t stop the process at bearing witness. It means we also bear witness to the resistance movements that each of these atrocities sprouted. It means we change the story to include the voices of ALL my daughter’s ancestors – the Caribbean ancestors and the Irish ancestors. It means that we recognize that racism is a disease that afflicts and affects both the offender and the offended. As historian Howard Zinn once wrote, “What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”
In order to “send this spinning the top of a world in a different direction,” we must listen, ask questions, and accept when we are wrong. When we are inspired to forgive and to be forgiven then we can truly connect and be inclusive. Zinn goes on to say, “The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” I challenge you to live into your principles and live as you think human beings should live.
Let’s “begin again in love” and re-write this story together.
Director of Religious Exploration for Children and Youth at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church
Life Coach, AWAKE! Ministries in Annapolis, MD