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Things I'm Still Learning About Race

When I was in junior high our show choir was very good. As soon as I saw them perform for us when I was a 5th grader I knew that was a group I wanted to join when I got in 7th grade. We took lots of trips around the Midwest and one time we went to a place in Iowa where we stayed with members of their show choir and different families took us in for the night. After touring their elementary schools and visiting musical contests, we capped it off with a roller skating evening with our show choir and their show choir. We had gotten to know them really well over a few days and some of us continued to keep in touch later on as pen pals, but there was a defining moment while we visited a small town roller rink. One of my friends sat in the corner and cried because another kid at the rink called her a 'nigger' and told her to go back to where she came from. We immediately banded together and my smart mouth and indignant nature called the kid out on it. He asked me why a white girl was defending a black girl and that's when I learned that sometimes people didn't know what I was. Better, some people don't know who I was. But I remember thinking that if people looked at me that way it didn't matter. Standing up for my friends didn't require a second thought and shaming racism was going to be a part of the who that I was. Hesitation was never going to be a part of my character.

I maintain that, even after all the posts on race that I've written, we're still not having the right conversations about race issues in this country. As an American I can only speak to what I know but there are shame-filled pasts in every country where slavery existed and subjection to power plays a large part of history. On my blog over at Babble I have kept that conversation going and as I reflect on that at this moment I know a few things about my own issues with race:

1. I'm not afraid to talk about it. It's a precarious situation to find yourself faced with racism and it's bothersome that one of the first responses to it is to make someone prove that racism existed in a situation.

2. I've seen race talked about in small groups where it's safe, but if we keep having these separate conversations about it without the inclusion of the marginalized then we're not getting anywhere. No matter how many times we talk about it.

3. The topic last week about Trayvon Martin seemed to center on the smear campaign against a dead child and his mother's copywriting his name and phrases that are associated with him. The constant pointing and pontificating about his character is just about as low as I've seen this country and our society get. Making the victim out to be a criminal gives license to people who stereotype and profile black children and see them as less than worthy of our compassion. It was as if people who hadn't yet took a stance used that as a final "See! That's why I'm not supporting this family!" excuse. His family's desire not to have anyone profit off of the death of their son is precisely what I would do in their situation.

4. Every one of the conversations that I've heard about or listened to with parents who have black children, black boys especially, centers around The Talk they have with them to prepare them for the racial profiling that will happen to them in their lifetime. Ask a mother or father of a black boy and they'll tell you that they've either had The Talk or they are wondering how, in their parenting and love and care for their child, that they are preparing to have it and you'll hear a heartbreaking story. Melissa Harris-Perry has a wonderfully succinct guide for talking about it. I think everyone should see this video.

5. I'm not the poster child for talking about race. I'm not the fringe mommyblogger whose sole job it is to tackle this subject. It disturbed me how long it took for others to write about this landmark issue in our country. What I learned about myself in all this is that I try and fail to take it on as a series of posts and it becomes so overwhelming that I can't maintain it. It becomes too much and people want to continue the conversation but I am unable and unwilling to take it all on myself.

With all that said, my good friend Scott convinced me to step in front of the video camera. We chatted for quite a bit about race and he is convinced that this was a good idea but I am not so sure yet I moved out of my comfort zone anyway so we'll see how this goes.

Mocha Momma Has Something to Say | Treyvon


« a birthday manifesto | what I know now | Main | Trayvon On The Playground »

Reader Comments (8)

Awesome Video. You are right, as long as people are able to compartmentalize these issues because it doesn't seemingly affect them, then there is no way for us to move forward. As long as people sit in silence at a bad racist joke or a derogatory remark, we are destined to be stuck where we are. We have to stand together. We have to stand up for each other. Our skin color isn't what makes us different--it's our willingness to allow it to make others different. This isn't meant to say that race doesn't matter--because it is part of who are person is--but it shouldn't be what defines them. It shouldn't be what gives other the right to treat someone badly. It shouldn't give someone the right to ignore justice.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn @ thedalaimama

I am proud to say that I was the director of that fine group that you were in. I remember that day as one of the saddest experiences of my teaching career. It had a profound influence on me and gave me the resolve to NEVER allow my children to think that way and NEVER to allow anyone to hate on ANY minority. Thanks for sharing that story and for your blog!

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Haley-Borodine

wow I had never heard anything about people attacking Trayvon's family for copywriting his name.... all I had heard or read to this point was support for the family.... that really makes me sad. The video brought home some very good points, I just wish I knew the right things to say.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermelaniek

Thank you for making this, for putting your voice out, for taking the time.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

I was unable to view your video. The entire thing zipped by in 35 seconds with no sound. I tried several times to view it but gave up. Is it on Youtube?

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBella

I hope that you dont mind but I shared on my Facebook page. More people need to talk about the hard issues because we can't grow if we dont address them.

April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

[...] (Mocha Momma shares so beautifully her own experiences from childhood and includes a video at the end that moved me to tears). [...]

[...] (Mocha Momma shares so beautifully her own experiences from childhood and includes a video at the end that moved me to tears). [...]

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