“Mom, she was so hurt and embarrassed that she didn’t even show up to school the next day!”
I sat across from my daughter, in the middle of her bed, and listened quietly as huge tears ran down her cheeks and her chest heaved with grief. We were discussing the implications of this election and why it matters in her twelve-year-old-world. It came as no surprise to me that my daughter fully understood racism and that she’s been actively fighting it. She’s an incredibly sensitive, no-nonsense kind of girl. A white, middle class American girl, who is enthusiastically interested in Korean culture. I’ll never forget the day I met this friend of hers, she had been talking about this girl since the first day of school. I knew so much about her; she was funny, had beautiful hair, was an incredible dancer, and had many of the same interests as my daughter; which were different from the other girls in the class. When I showed up to the class Christmas party, my daughter couldn’t wait to introduce me to her, and it was then that I found out my daughter’s best friend was black. Everything that my daughter said about this girl was true, she is an incredible kid and I just stood there, smiling at these two girls, as they giggled and ate toxic amounts of sugar together.
I’ve never had to tell my daughter to love people who are different than she is, but when #blacklivesmatter started circulating, I realized that I needed to have a different kind of talk with her in regards to racism. I had to explain to her that while she had no problems loving her friend, there would come a day that she would need to support and defend this friend because of the color of her skin. For the first time, I had to explain irrational hate to my daughter. She was incredibly angry and fearful for her friend. I explained to her, that as angry and afraid as she felt, she would never fully be able to comprehend the anger and fear that her friend would have to face by her mere existence. I told her that when that day came she would need to love her friend, listen to her friend’s pain, and then stand with her and defend her at all costs, unapologetically.
Sadly, that day came just this week. My daughter’s friend was late for school and a boy stopped her in the hall and asked if she was late because she “came here on a boat”. My daughter walked with her hurt friend to the principal’s office and together, immediately had this boy expelled from school. While justice has been served, pain remains.
I’m not here to make my white kid out to be a hero of any kind, that would be perpetuating privilege. The white girl is not the hero; she’s just been educated on the importance of loving and standing with the brave black girl who gets up every day and walks into a world where she’s faced with people who want to rip her heart apart because of the color of her skin. She will continue to do this while white people explain away her pain by refusing to admit that this problem still exists. My point here is to say that we must have these conversations with our children. We must teach the next generation to love others and to be willing to fight against hate speech. We need to refuse giving ear to the idea that all this racism talk is due to “media propaganda”. This little girl did not watch CNN and then decide that her dark skin is something that white people feel free to mock, she walked into a school and heard it directly from the lips of a white child. We must tell these stories, not to perpetuate hate, as many would like us to believe; but because it is the truth and only the truth can set us free.
Black lives matter. Lord help.
*photo credit: Kelly – Durham, NC (just miles from her home)