Once upon a time, I lived in a bubble. It was a lovely, safe bubble… where race genuinely didn’t matter. Not because it didn’t exist, or because we were all colorblind, but because we lived in unity and accepted each other. Once upon a time, I lived in a beautiful bubble, where a loving white couple who wanted a family, but couldn’t have children of their own, could adopt an incredibly amazing black child and raise him as their own, without fear. No fear of racism, prejudice, social injustice, or discrimination of any kind. In this bubble, we could walk down the street with our son and never second guess the looks we get from passers-by… because it would never cross our minds that they were thinking anything other than what they should be thinking: “Wow, what a beautiful child. And what a sweet family, they are lucky to have each other.”
In this bubble, my son grows up worrying about things like Tonka trucks and Legos. Someday, he would probably even worry about grades, girls and college. He would grow up believing… no, knowing that he could do anything he wanted to with his life. He would know, because I would tell him, that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to.
This nearly perfect bubble existed because I let it exist. It existed because it never crossed my mind to question it. It never crossed my mind to look outside of it. I never needed to look outside of my bubble. I didn’t even realize I was in one. I believed I lived in the same world that everybody else lived in.
I’m white, and I’m raising a black child. And until Friday, I really believed I understood all that that entailed.
When I woke up Friday morning and heard the news coming out of Dallas, my first reaction was shock and horror, and then shame that I am not more informed. Because I lived in that beautiful bubble, I had never heard of Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. I also had no idea there was meaning behind Beyonce’s performance at the Superbowl. I thought it was great choreography and was totally shocked at the controversy that followed. That was when I first learned about #BlackLivesMatter. And I’ll be honest, it felt a little weird. I didn’t really understand it. Was I racist if I didn’t agree? Was I anti-cop if I did agree? Having to ask these questions at all was enough to make me feel uncomfortable. And it wasn’t until I heard about the shootings in Dallas, that I finally got the nerve to begin having conversations.
These conversations made me feel, not only like my perfect bubble had popped, but they made me suddenly feel as if I were living in a world separate from my black friends. Like out of nowhere, I learned things about them that had always been… I just never knew. Issues that never even crossed my mind have been quietly on their mind for years. We never talked about it. Not even once. It’s hard to describe how it felt, to be honest about my thoughts and know that my friend might leave the conversation thinking I’m completely naive and clueless about how the world works… It would have been easier to just smile and nod, and let her think I totally agree. But that wasn’t the truth. And it wasn’t so much that I disagreed… it was just that I didn’t understand. I still don’t think I fully understand, and maybe I never will. Maybe you can’t, if you haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes.
I do know this: I love my child with all of my heart and soul. He is black, and I am white. I am Mother, and he is Child. We are a family. And I cannot imagine a world where his beautiful brown skin could be a detriment to his well-being. And as I sit here writing, with tear-stained cheeks and contemplate the world he will grow up in, I realize that is in fact a reality he could someday face. It never crossed my mind, that maybe someday when he falls in love with a girl, her parents may not approve because he’s black. It never crossed my mind that someday, a woman could be sitting in her car at a stoplight, and lock her car door when he walks by. It certainly never crossed my mind that someday he could be in danger, because of hate or discrimination. He could someday be the victim of misinformation. Misinformation that the media continues to perpetuate, turning people against each other and spreading hate in massive amounts. This is not a reality I’m ready to accept. This is not the world I’ve come to know and love inside my bubble. There’s still time to make a change. There’s time to better our world for our children. For their children and grandchildren.
I realize now, that I wasn’t prepared to teach my son about growing up in this world as a black man. Not because I think the world is a terrible place… because I don’t. I think this world is a wonderful place, full of opportunity and joy. But because, our world is not perfect, and there is still racism lurking. Because it’s a problem I’ve never had to face, ever… and I don’t know how to prepare him for it. But I do know how to teach him to love others. I know how to teach acceptance, equality and unity. I know how to teach him good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. And I think that’s a great place to start.
Understanding an issue or current event from multiple perspectives is what ultimately fosters empathy, which fosters compassion… Stepping outside our comfort zone and trying to understand something from someone else’s point of view is hard, and rewarding.
I could use this post to talk about current events and pick a side or make a stand. I could tell you that Black Lives Matter. I could tell you that Blue Lives Matter. I could tell you that police officers put their lives on the line everyday, and that I couldn’t possibly presume to know how each one felt in those horrifying moments, so I feel altogether unprepared to judge. And honestly, I believe all those things are true. Which is why, for me… there is no side to choose. There is only love. The only side there is, is the one where I can raise my son without fear. The side where my child can grow up feeling proud to be black, and proud to have white parents. I will choose the side where he never feels like he is less-than someone else. I will choose the side where my son is equal in all things.
Because he is.