WHEN I look at my daughter, my smiling, bubbling, loving, giving, happy child who just turned one,
I do not see a racist; how could I?
She is my smiling, bubbling, loving, giving, happy, child
Of privilege. Which gives me relief, for her.
That she is in some way safe. Protected by a shield of racism that makes life so dangerous for everyone else.
Tear gas, tanks, and bullets.
How do I tell her this?
I know that because I birthed her into institutionalized racism, the hierarchies and the patriarchies, where the caged birds are shot when they sing, when they walk to their grandmother’s, into which my mother birthed me and her mother birthed her, that this country, my country ’tis of white theocracy, birthed at its progeny, that she is.
Because people of color are systematically denied their rights. And because she is white, I must accept this.
BUT HOW DO I TELL HER?
She is my smiling, bubbling, loving, giving, happy child
who is also a racist.
Yes, that is what institutionalized racism is–she profits from peril. She participates by holding back.
And surely she will, because it’s safe back there. Back here.
No one wants to ride in a car that’s loud all the time.
And she’ll get to choose quiet. It’s a comfort afforded to her for which she will never have to pay.
And yet I can not tell her. And this is racist in itself.
But she’s only one I think, how can she be held culpable for such atrocity? How could she be implicit without knowing that she is?
So I think about what I’ll tell her. I think about it all the time. Knowing full well that this is my privilege too.
To think on it.
It’s quiet where I get to think.
Where I read her this book. It’s called Out Of Sight.
It’s about animals.
There are no bombs or tanks where I’m thinking. There is no tear gas.
Where I’m reading. Where I tell her that marmots cannot whistle, and cows can’t climb back downstairs, that a fox tail is called a brush.
And with these words I paint her a world that gets louder and quieter at her will.
But I think, I think, I think I will teach her that she is privileged and with that privilege comes a responsibility to keep her heart open. To make sure that she is doing her best to not continue to play into the patterns and prisons that alienate others.
I think I will tell her that my best is not, has not, been good enough.
I will teach her that no one person is better than another. Regardless of their sex, race, religion, gender, who they choose to love– and I will teach her that love can conquer but it is not the answer for everything.
Sometimes the answer is the opposite of love.
Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is NO.
And sometimes that no is not hers for the speaking.
That sometimes she will need to be quiet when she doesn’t want to be. And to open the door when she doesn’t feel like turning the knob.
I will show her how to move beyond her comfort zones, to do the research before asking the question, to be informed before telling someone they need to spell it out for her, because that’s her privilege showing.
I will tell her that she cannot move a mountain if she stands in one place.
And that marching does no good either.
And while I’m busy telling her that dogs have 42 teeth and cats are the most popular animal in the world, I will teach her to speak up when she sees inequities, to flail violently with her words when she witnesses harm being done to others, and to stick her neck out even if it means it might get cut up.
I will tell her to be brave when someone says something she doesn’t understand, to resist the urge to find common ground. Because I will tell her there is NO SUCH THING as reverse racism.
I will tell her to sit on her mouth, screw her hands, during conversations that make her squirm, and to accept the fact that she will need to be better than her past while accepting that it is hers.
I will tell her that I have been weak in that regard and I will show her how I can do better.
But, no I will not tell my daughter, my smiling, bubbling, loving, giving, happy child who just turned one
that she is racist because she’s white.
Because I hope that in accepting that I am. I won’t have to.
I will read her Out Of Sight.
But I will never teach her out of mind.
Rest in peace Michael Brown.