Note: This is a post from my heart, full of honesty. It’s not all a bed of roses, but I hope it doesn’t hurt any feelings. If you take an issue with something I’ve written here, leave a comment and let’s talk about it. No mulling it over, getting angry, please. Thank you.
The black man is my brother.
No, seriously. He’s my brother. Sam will be fifteen this year and he’s getting taller, and broader, all the time. People would never guess we’re siblings. I am skinny with dirty blond hair and dark blue eyes. I have long fingers, a bridged nose and creamy skin. Sam is stocky and strong with deep brown eyes, black bristly hair and little tiny ears we always tease him about. But we are. We’re siblings.
I am very thankful that we both grew up where we did. A little while in Haiti and most of the years here in this college town where Koreans and Egyptians and Ugandans walk our streets and stand in line behind us at Starbucks. The homeschool co-op is an adoptive-family’s dream. Kids of every shade eating lunch together and pointing to their homeland on the map and not even thinking about judging one another.
And yet, as much as I’d like to be blissfully ignorant, I know that racism isn’t gone or even far away. I know that the judges sit in every seat at the DPS office and the doctor’s waiting room and barber shop. I know that, despite all of the beautiful, tremendous progress our nation has made toward racial equality, this is still not a black man’s world.
It sticks in my throat a bit to say that because, like you maybe, I’ve often said that we need to stop talking about racism so much because that’s what creates it. But it really depends on what we’re saying, doesn’t it? Guarding our mouths may help raise up a generation of accepting, loving people, but ignoring the issue doesn’t undo the issue. Ignoring the brown doesn’t wash it way.
And sometimes I think I try to do that. I like whiteness. Not the actual color. Heaven knows white people love brown skin and black hair-dos. But I love the white culture. It’s my culture. I like European literature and history and accents. I fight the genes and try to make Sam a writer when he’s a football player. Not that a black man cannot write or a white man cannot punt, but there’s something in Sam’s blood that makes him understand sports, excel in sports and love sports. He was born in the mountains. Grew up running their steep streets. He’s not a writer like Joey, and that’s okay.
Recent events in the news have brought up conversations about race and racial profiling. (I recommend this news piece, though the most appalling part to me, was with the woman, not the black man.) Many people claim to be “colorblind”. Why be blind when we can see and enjoy?
I’d rather there be no racism to see than teach a child to see no race. We celebrate our colors in this house, mostly by way of jokes and compliments. Sam likes to make black jokes about himself, not to be degrading, but to set his white friends at ease. Once he’s cracked a joke, they know that he’s not defensive about the color of his skin and they don’t need to be walking on eggshells for fear of offending him.
In many ways my “brown” siblings are tokens in their social circles. Other kids think they’re cool. Sam plays football. Jubilee has neat braids and runs like an African Olympian. Not sure if Willin has noticed he’s black yet, but that’s a topic for another day. However, this novelty will not go out with them. It will not go with them to their first job interview. It will not go with them on a blind date. It will not go with them to college or the bank or the polling boxes. These places we have to trust to God. We have to trust Him to send people who value humanity over society.
I’m not just having to come to terms with the fact that my little brother is becoming a man, but that he’s becoming a black man. As much as I’d like to say otherwise, that does make a difference.
Sam is a gentle giant. He’s sweet and quiet and sensitive. He loves little girls. He wants to be a dad to little girls someday. Little girls love him. He watches The Waltons. He cried when we read Little Britches. He gives good hugs. But they don’t know that. They don’t know him. And that’s the whole problem.
Alone, in a convenient store, he looks like a thug. Alone in an airport he looks like a runaway. Alone in a church? That’s normal, because this whole Christianity thing is mostly for white people, isn’t it?
If anyone ever treats my little brother the way I know innocent black men are treated in my own town, I will throw all racial stereotypes aside and this sweet, polite white girl will turn into a racist’s worst nightmare.
It’s time for racism to die. Everyone reading this blog agrees with that. But it’s also time to cure colorblindness and turn our eyes to the issue. Just because you’re not looking at something doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I’ve noticed that most racists don’t realize that they’re racist. They’d never hurt someone based on their race. They’d never use the n-word. They’d hire a person of another race. They’d be their friend.
But they blame them for the crime. And they hesitate to adopt them. And they don’t even think about marrying one.
That’s racism too. A child could tell you that.