When I was younger, maybe 10 or 11, I was walking in a parking lot outside of a grocery store with my mom when an older gentleman walked up to us and told my mom that what she was doing was shameful. I remember him looking at me when he said it.
Lest you remain confused as to what he meant, he clarified that what he was referring to as a horrible act of shame that he felt compelled to mention to a random stranger in grocery store parking lot was, in fact, me. First, I was confused, and then I felt embarrassed and ashamed.
My mom hurried me inside, we caught up to my sisters and my aunt (who also has two kids of mixed race) and my mom pulled me aside. She looked me in the eye and asked if I heard what the man said. I said yes. She explained that he was not a bad man. She said that he said those hateful things because he did not know any better, that he was raised to believe those things were true, but that I needed to know that they weren’t. I was raised to believe that even though people say or do bad things, that does not make them bad people. There are a series of decisions and actions that affect how someone turns out as an adult. My parents made sure that I know that and that’s how I know that race relations, like all things political in this country, are not nearly as black and white as they seem. This event was something that affected me. It was a lot to think about as a kid and it wasn’t the first or the last time I found out that I was different.
Check back tomorrow for another post…