I’m a middle-aged white woman, living in suburban Massachusetts. I have two children, and my husband is one-quarter Jamaican. On the surface, that doesn’t sound like much pigmentation, but I have observed over the years and generations that in families with multiple kids, one child tends to be considerably darker than the other. In my husband and his brother, it’s my hubby. In my kids, it’s my daughter.
So these have been a few interesting weeks for me. I always wondered with a smile, which of my children would be darker. I didn’t smile; however, when the nurse in the hospital shortly after my little girl’s birth looked at me sharply and said, “No, REALLY, who is the father?” When I indicated my husband, she said it simply wasn’t possible as my daughter had a birthmark “only” from children of African American descent.
The racism I encounter is slight and generally unobtrusive, but white supremacy’s undertones are intensifying around me. Sometimes people don’t believe that my kids are mixed races (and it’s a fascinating mix we are). One even went so far as to tell me that if I believed people should be able to tell their experiences around race, even the painful ones, my entire family must be both violent and Marxist.
I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I know that I will continue telling the story of our combined family heritage to anyone who will listen. I will teach my children not to whitewash (gloss over/cover-up) history. I know that poverty is an outcome of slavery, and I have worked with populations trapped in economic cycles very similar to slavery, yes, in the modern United States.
It’s no longer enough for me to pray for unity and peace. Instead, I will raise my ears to listen, my heart to value all people who are hurting, and reach out my hands in relationship with those who are different from me. Do I have white privilege? Absolutely. But maybe that will be useful in an audience that otherwise may disregard any voice they don’t recognize.
Photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash