I am a mixed girl from a small town. I bleed like you, I feel like you. But because I'm not you, I'm 2.5X more likely to be killed. By the police at that. I am not and will never be just another statistic, but sadly, I live in a world where I can be murdered over nothing else than the crime of being black.
Racism is Everywhere
Some people may think that small towns are less racist than big cities. I'm here to tell you that that is false. Hi, small-town brown girl here. No matter where you live, no matter who you are, I need you to be mad, I need you to get loud, I need you to fight the fight, stand up, be loud, be heard.
I'm not telling you to get violent, always go to peace, at least try that first. And don't look down upon people who do need to be that way to be heard, as Dr. King said, "A riot is the voice of the unheard".
No one in this movement is rioting just to cause trouble when you've been suppressed, when your words only mean something when someone who doesn't look like you echos, when you are made silent, you make yourself heard.
Racism is Taught
Our society has a quiet way of sneaking in racist fundamentals, and it starts with children. There are so many children out there, of every ethnicity, who suffer the, what I call the nothing looks like me syndrome". This, in the simplest form is being a young child and noticing all my dolls are white, or none of the people in shows I watch look like me.
This can especially be a nightmare and, in some cases, traumatic for mixed kids. Because oftentimes these kids are never represented. If you're half this and half that, it's easy to feel like you're not really this and not really that and there isn't a place for you to fit in. You feel like nothing.
Helping Minority Kids Feel Normal & Accepted
The most important thing to remember is that almost anything you can do with one child, you can do with the other.
- Make sure the child feels loved
- Get them toys that look like them
- This goes for all genders. Dolls are an important part of growth.
- Watch shows and movies with this child with people of their and other ethnicities.
- Teach the child about their culture and their background. If you have a mixed child, make sure they know about both sides.
- This should continue throughout the child's life.
- Let them know that racism, sexism, homophobia, ect exist and that those people are wrong.
- Encourage the child to be unapologetically themselves.
Helping Majority Kids Learn Acceptance
If you have or take care of kids, teach them that there are people who don't look like them and that that's okay.
- Start with toys
- Make sure that the child has dolls of every ethnicity, not just dolls that look like the child. (You should still have one or a few that look like your kid to help promote self-confidence.)
- Make sure the child watches shows and movies where real-world situations happen at an age-appropriate level.
- Stay away from stereotypes
- If you don't teach your children these stereotypes, they won't put people in predetermined boxes.
- Talk about basic human rights/facts
- All people have feelings, our differences make us unique, it's okay to be unique, we all bleed when we scrape our knees, things of this nature.
Growing Up a Kid of Color
As I've said, I'm mixed, and growing up, even as a kid, I understood racism. At 3-years-old, I understood why, when my mother asked my big sister what she wanted to be for Halloween, she said "White". I didn't have the full story at the time, but I got that in an all-white-town, looking different was scary and I knew that not everybody liked us.
As a kindergartener, I didn't understand why, for the first semester kids from my class would come up to me in tears saying they wanted to be my friend but "someone told me I couldn't because you're black". And the only person I could talk to on the playground was my sister.
Things kind of quieted down at school after that, at least they did for a while, but you'd see on the news black people being wrongfully murdered and, sadly, that hasn't changed.
One time when my sister and I were spending a week with my aunt, we were in the car. I don't remember where we were going, but I remember seeing a cop car and my sister and I smashing ourselves as far down in the seats as we could so we wouldn't be seen. I still recognize that feeling in my heart when I see people who are supposed to keep me safe, but I don't know if they will.
Growing up, I knew that when they took the vow to "protect and serve", a lot of them didn't mean they'd do that for everybody.
There were small bumps here and there, but when I was 12, things in my small town got worse. I remember when the only "red vs blue" problem we talked about in 6th grade was Team Iron Man vs Team Cap. I picked blue. Captain America.
Little did I know, soon I'd make that choice again. Soon I'd know that my health, my thoughts, my rights, my life would only matter to one party of people.
During the 2016 Election Cycle, my sister and I were verbally harassed. Sometimes we'd go to our desk in the next classroom, and the person sitting there from the previous hour would have put swastikas on them.
In 7th grade, during PE, when we were playing softball, there was a kid cussing and saying some nasty things that were making my friend uncomfortable, so I told him to stop. But he didn't. He got worse, he then told me to "Go back to my country" and his friend threw his baseball glove at me. The seam of the glove hit the side of my thumb of my right hand and it instantly started swelling, that was my dominant hand and I couldn't write or type for the rest of the day. Which was difficult since I had 2nd hr. PE.
The kids got ISS (In-school suspension) for two days and were back to their normal drive.
This event happened around the time my sister and I were told: "You're from a small town, if you stay local and keep your head low, you're white enough to count".
"...Stay local and keep your head low, you're white enough to count."
I don't want to be white enough to count, I want to be seen as a person, to be given an opportunity to be liked or disliked based on my actions, not my appearance.
How Do You Love Yourself?
Going your whole life being told you are less than, or that you're different, and you're treated like you're worthless because of it, how are you supposed to be able to love yourself?
I still remember wishing I'd been paler, wishing I looked a bit more like my mom so I could be safe. I spent so many years wanting to change who I was, which manifested into so many more internal issues as I got older. Truth be told, I still don't completely love myself, but I am proud of who I am.
I know not to listen to those people, and I have people who will always stick with me. I have my parents, my best friend, and a few more special, wonderful people. I'm one of the lucky ones. Thinking back on all of the hate and the hurt, it's weird to think of myself as lucky. But I am. I'm still here, and other than a swollen thumb, I've never been physically hurt because of who I am.
That's more than can be said for so many people. People who were killed for nothing more than the crime of being black.
...but wait, being black is not a crime, at least that's what we're told, but so many people have been mowed down for everyday activities.
It seems like it's every day that unarmed black people are killed out of hate. And please, don't say not all cops because it shouldn't be any cops. It's also not confined to just cops. We can be killed and our murderers continuously walk free.
I could sit here and name the names of the lost, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'd like for you to do some research, find their names, hear their stories. Watch their deaths. See at these people as people. Not some statistic, not a story that you can look at, say "oh that's sad", and then go about the rest of your day unbothered.
When you see a number, know that that was a person. A person with hopes, a person with a family. That was someone's sibling, parent, cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle. That was a person who would be walking today, but instead, they had their life ripped from their body by people.
Black Lives Matter
We bleed the same, we dream the same, we love the same, we are the same. Our lives matter. Our Stories matter. Black Lives Matter ✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿