Home > Family, Learning, Los Angeles, Parenting, Personal, Reflections > “Our baby is going to experience racism someday”

“Our baby is going to experience racism someday”

This post uses the n-word, spelled out so as to not soften the impact of hearing the whole word exactly as has my husband.

There weren’t many white kids in my first grade class in a California military school.

How could any first grade boy resist this frock?

My first crush (if I may use so strong a word for the affections of a first grader) was on a black boy who was so sweet, he immediately forgave me demonstrating the mad karate skills I’d just learned from The Karate Kid . . . even though I’d demonstrated on his groin.

His sweetness went only so far. He lost my favor before the school year was done. A year is, after all, an eternity to a first grader.

My second crush was on another boy, who—like the first—I didn’t think of as “black” at the time. Just cute.

Returning to my Oregon hometown for second grade was a little jarring. To my young eyes, almost everyone’s skin was colored minor variations of the same tone.

When I was old enough to start questioning things, like whether I was really a Republican like my parents, I remember catching sight of a banner flying throughout downtown Eugene and laughing.

The banner proclaimed we ought: “CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!”

“What, as long as it’s somewhere else?!” I remember thinking with equal mirth and incredulity.

I studied Anthropology in college. Most of my mirth remained, but strands of more analytical thought started creeping in. I found it impossible to wrap my mind around how vastly human experience could vary, and nearly impossible the further my studies progressed to speak in absolutes about “the” human experience.

Still, my engagement was largely intellectual. It remained that way until a couple of weeks after I told my boyfriend, Ba.D., I was pregnant.

Ba.D., you see, is black.

In one of our early conversations, he told me, “You know our baby is going to experience racism someday.”

Wait, what? In Los Angeles? In 2009? No way.

“I’ve been called a ‘nigger.’ Lots of times.”


I started reading articles and finding myself incensed at examples of racism very much alive and present. Even in L.A., today.

I’d rant about these things to Ba.D. only to find myself flummoxed by his calm. It took me a little while and lots of patient explanation on his part to understand this was borne of decades of personal experience. What was new and pressing to me was something he’d already lived for 3.5 decades.

Weathering it together

A couple of months into my pregnancy, I flew home to tell my mom I was pregnant. When I showed her a picture of me and Ba.D. from the scariest weekend of my pregnancy, one in which I’d been told I’d just have to wait and see if my baby would live, she said, “So it’s gonna be biracial.”

I wrote about that conversation and what I took away from it in my blog “Race and my mother’s footsteps.”

Although I blogged a response to a racial profiling incident on 9/11/11, I haven’t been aware of any racism evidenced in my vicinity since I had that conversation with my mom. But every hateful word I’ve read has caused me great sorrow as I’ve wondered, “How on earth could someone hate my child without even knowing him? Without knowing how his laugh sounds, his touching concern when anyone around him hurts themselves, how much comfort he brought my mom in her dying days? How can that even be possible?”

It’s not the kid in this picture that’s scary.

When I read about Trayvon Martin, I wept to imagine losing my son over the color of his skin.

I quietly raged at people who waved off the suggestion race played a role in his death, and rejoiced earlier today at this comment #10 responding to such an assertion.

I rejoiced the comment, but not the reason for the blog that began the conversation. Some fans of the The Hunger Games books left the movie outraged by their belated discovery that a beloved character was black, a “discovery” made surprising by the fact it’s clearly stated in the book.

As always, after letting it simmer for a few hours, I eased my raging heart by transferring some of my outrage to print:

A few years ago, Joss Whedon (creator of the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, to start) was asked why he keeps writing strong women characters.

His response? “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Along the same vein, I’ve heard questions like, “Why are we still talking about race?” My take? Because the question is still being asked. The fact an asker hasn’t experienced, witnessed or understood they’re witnessing racism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or is wildly diminished. The question alone implies a disheartening depth of misunderstanding about internal experience versus external reality.

Today’s real world is still very full of very real inequities. We can’t change that by saying “But look how far we’ve come!” and leaving it at that.

Ba.D.’s response was, as always, perfect to calm and focus me:

Love ya and hold onto that rage. Don’t let it rule you, but let it guide you. Temper it with the knowledge that most people are at least trying. Steel that with the truth that you will have to fight.

Unlike first grade, the fights I face won’t be on the schoolyard. They won’t likely involve punches, kicks (groinal or otherwise) or thrown stones.

They’ll involve words.

If I’m able to mirror Ba.D.’s patience, those words won’t sound like fighting words. They’ll sound instead like considered assessments, and the more I practice shaping them, glimmers of hope.

I do have hope. I have seen horrible things done by the hands of man, but I have also seen great kindnesses, even by those whom I’ve witnessed behaving monstrously.

So I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep struggling to use words instead of inarticulate cries of outrage.

Words are, to me, our bridges to other hearts. When used wisely, to cross over to someone else’s heart or to grant them passage to our own, their power to transform is immense. Not fast, usually.

But mighty.

© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.

  1. March 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Words are indeed mighty, Deb, and yours are like a strong warrior.

    I have a step-MIL who doesn’t love (or probably even like) my son because he has two moms. When BoyGenius was about three months old, she refused to even look at him when she was dragged to a visit at my SIL’s. Grandpa’s only other blood grandchild is biracial — step-Grandma doesn’t really like him, either. We all realize she’s an idiot.

    hugs to all of you.

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:23 am

      It’s so amazing to me that step-Grandma is the one who’s really missing out, but that she doesn’t understand how much she’s missing. I wish I could pick up some of the slack with my own hugs! (If you win those tickets, I’ll get my chance. *cross fingers*)

  2. Kelly
    March 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Interesting I just saw a post about “Labels” Black,Gay,Muslim….I was absolutely enraged by the ignorant responses on the post I had to say something! Which in all reality I was quite shocked at all the hateful racist statements people made 😦 I call this an Ah Hah moment…By the way~Ever been to Sweet Home Oregon? 🙂

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:31 am

      Several times I’ve read something that really resonated with me, only to start looking at the comments and wonder how we got from an amazing post to the animosity in those comments. Anonymity has its benefits, but “making people be accountable for their words” isn’t one of them. I often wonder what the conversations would sound like if had in person. Would they be the same?

      I haven’t been to Sweet Home, but I’ve been through it! That your (sweet) home? 🙂 Your question actually made me wonder why I tagged this post “Los Angeles,” but not “Oregon.”

      • Kelly
        March 31, 2012 at 8:08 am

        Your reason for tagging the post “Los Angeles” is because I moving to California. I am actually in Washington State,and spent many summers with grandma & grandpa in Sweet Home.I believe I had read in one of your posts something about Eugene Oregon…One of those inner most “Knowings” as I call them, is probably why you tagged it as such 😉

  3. March 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    A very well thought out post! I am half Korean and half caucasian and growing up with a white family amongst white people who didn’t know what to do with me. I wasn’t Asian enough to fit with them and not white enough to be white. I didn’t meet any other mixed race kids til 3rd grade but they at least matched their parents so it “made sense” but I did not. People with love in their hearts will not hate a child without knowing him, I thought that is such a heartfelt question. And I’m taking the Buffy quote to heart that people keep doing things because people keep asking them why they do. Great post!

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:37 am

      Sarah, I thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. I wondered along with you as I read, both about your own experiences and those of generations to come. Over on my Facebook page, actually, someone mentioned a friend trying to find a book talking about different family members looking different . . . and being unable to find one. That’s rolling through my brain, too. Examples, even in books, were such a comfort to me (on different fronts) growing up.

      People with love in their hearts will not hate a child without knowing him
      I’m so heartened how many of these people there are out there. This is a beautiful thing, no matter what other sadnesses exist.

      That Joss Whedon quote had me cheering the moment I read it, but I loved it more the more I reflected upon it. So much truth and depth to that single sentence! It also makes me wonder what folks are still doing in response to the questions I’m unwittingly asking.

  4. March 28, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Dear Deborah,

    Hawaii is hailed as a melting pot of immense and mind bending proportions…and it is. Hawaiian, Haole, Chinese, Black, Japanese, Polynesian Islanders, Fillipino, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican, Indian, European’s of all varieties and just about any other race creed and color you can imagine. The party line is that there is little racsim in Hawaii, but the truth is far different. There is plenty of racism in Hawaii. Why? Because there are plenty of races here. But there is also plenty of wonderful examples of all these races mixing and bubbling along fine together, making babies aplenty and doing their part to totally flummox any idiot determined to classify their offspring through the use of labels.

    What many racists don’t get is that we are all part of the ‘human’ race. Good and bad, left, right, up, down, flawed and angelic, we’re all we have so the sooner we learn to see each other from the inside out, the better.

    We’ll never get rid of racism because it is a human characteristic. Aggression, provincialism, suspiscion, obstinance, and even the desire of people to be accepted by larger ‘cultural’ groups within even larger groups. Witness the growing trend of people to classify themselves and others by using the term “Something-American”. We’re humans with problems, challenges and an infinite capacity for good and, regrettably, evil.

    Keep setting the good example. Keep loving every person unconditionally. And above all, keep writing. It makes the bridge stronger and wider so more people can cross.

    One planet. One people.



    • March 29, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Dear Doug,

      As always, your words have filled me with places I’ve never been, people I’ve never seen, and a keen sense of wonder.

      But there is also plenty of wonderful examples of all these races mixing and bubbling along fine together, making babies aplenty and doing their part to totally flummox any idiot determined to classify their offspring through the use of labels.
      This made me beam! Part of Ba.D.’s “keep cool” letter expressed something I loved but definitely couldn’t quote here. You’ve expressed the same sentiment in a way that just makes my heart sing.

      I agree that we’ll never get rid of racism, nor many other traits of humankind that diminish another to increase one’s own status. And also that that’s no reason not to keep spreading the love and building those bridges stronger and stronger.

      One planet. One people.

      Thank you for brightening my morning with your always beautiful words.


      Deb 🙂

  5. March 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Great post! Racism will be something we all battle with … forever I’m afraid…

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:45 am

      I expect you’re right, but hope that folks will keep hope alight and keep up the good fight nevertheless. 🙂

  6. Teresa Long-Blevins
    March 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    I am an older white woman from the deep south. I no longer live there, but last time I went home for a visit, the KKK was openly driving down the road, stuffing flyers into everyone’s mailbox with an invitation to their latest picnic/indoctrination service. I was and still am horrified. I thought we had come so far past this. My Mom said she got them all the time. Racism is alive and well in the USA. I will try-to my dying day-to wipe it out. I have taught my children what it feels like to be mistreated because of your race, ancestry, creed, sex, etc. I have been discriminated against because I was a woman and a single parent. It isn’t right, no matter who it is that is inflicting it OR on the receiving end.

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:50 am

      Ba.D.’s family is from the south, so some of the stories I’ve heard have chilled me. Those stories are mostly a few decades old, which means I sometimes wonder, “Is it still the same?” It’s unsettling to read this very specific, clear example and know that, while the landscape might have changed in some ways, certain features of it remain clear.

      Before I started dating Ba.D., I had the sense that it had quietly diminished. After many long talks with Ba.D., I started seeing that my internal perception was skewed (albeit understandably!) toward my own personal experiences, which don’t mirror those of everyone, everywhere. It’s been uncomfortable to try reorienting my perspective, but I’ve also seen many examples where this reorientation has helped me see other issues and situations through other peoples’ eyes. I wish the skill just came pre-packaged, you know?

      It isn’t right, no matter who it is that is inflicting it OR on the receiving end.

  7. March 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    As a mother of biracial children, I worry, as you do, for the world they will inherit if we don’t all get our shit together, start showing our humane side, and treating each other with dignity and respect. I just wrote a post that tackled the same topic and it pains me that many choose to bury their heads in the sand… When will we learn that we are all God’s children?
    The Hunger Games issue pained me because these are young people continuing the ancient hatreds that should have been abandoned by now… 21st Century and we still grapple with bigotry and ignorance. 😦

    • March 31, 2012 at 7:08 am

      Sometimes I find (applicable) quotes that make me cheer and go, “Yes! We’re finally getting it.” Then I see that they’re from 2,000 years ago and find myself disheartened.

      I’m glad for every example I can find of progress, but hope there comes a day we don’t have to measure in individual examples, and where the voice in support of ascribing people overarching characteristics for minor ones is a minor, dissenting one. As you said, we are all God’s children. The sooner we embrace and act upon this, the happier all will be.

  8. March 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    So true. I’ve come to understand racial struggles a bit more in the past two years in L.A.

    We spent the past weekend in Orange County (visiting the school), and we absolutely loved it. So much that we’d be okay staying there after law school. This has a lot to do with job connections and all that jazz. In any case, the discussion came up that if we’re still in the O.C. when we have kids, they may be bullied because they’ll be biracial, and because of their mommies. We agreed that we hope it may be different by then, since times are changing. But I feel like we’ve been hearing that for a very long time, right?

    Still, only time will tell…

    • March 31, 2012 at 7:11 am

      But I feel like we’ve been hearing that for a very long time, right?
      Exactly so! The good news about this change is that, though it’s not as tidal as I’d love it to be, it means more open hearts. Perhaps our children–or great grandchildren–won’t have to rejoice incremental positive change, but today it still does me a world of good.

      I’m hopeful for you, and I love wondering where the years are going to take you–out of the O.C. or more firmly rooted in it! I hope you’ll be blogging for a long time to come so I’ll get to see that journey continue. 🙂

  9. March 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Hugely powerful post Deb. Keep writing and keep talking. Eventually, words will win the war. x

  10. ang
    March 29, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Every medical paper, or job application, I or my son has filled out, these past 18+ years where there is a blank for Race… We write Human.

    I have had people argue with me, I have had people even demand that I put *the correct* answer in the box. I say *That is the correct answer*

    I’ve also had people chuckle, and others swear to adopt the same stance.

    We are all human, we all live, bleed, and die as humans. It’s the small minded that want to take that away from us.

    • March 29, 2012 at 6:08 am

      I love this! ♥

    • March 31, 2012 at 7:17 am

      The one place where I’m truly comfortable marking it is in the doctor’s office. Certain diseases are more prevalent among certain communities, so that the data might occasionally be useful for ruling conditions out and in.

      Otherwise, how is it relevant? How is it useful? “Human” is right, and I second what Loneliness said below–love this!

  11. March 29, 2012 at 3:47 am

    Very well written:)

  12. kelbetts04
    March 29, 2012 at 4:01 am

    My children are biracial also. Hubby is African American and I am white. My children have experienced racism. Its sad that at 9 and 1/2 and 8 they didn’t even know they were experiencing it. Its also sad that it wasn’t from a little white boy or girl. It was from a little black girl and little black boy. Racism isn’t just a white/black thing. African American have long since discriminated against each other for the color of their skin, My MIL has told me many times of her sister being called yellow and other names. They may not see it as racism but it is. I have taught both my children to be proud of who they are. They don’t see color as an issue and its hard to explain to your child why this little girl is calling her white because she is light skinned. My daughter responded “I’m not white I am biracial because I am African american and white.” I had to explain that not everyone is teaching their children tolerance and love but ignorance and hate. She had the little girl make fun of her hair and then come to school the next day with her hair imitating my daughters. My husband and I get looks when we are in public and after 12 years together I tend to over look them and the comments. Its sad to say the comments and looks are coming from African Americans. I know the problem exists on both sides when us specifically its from the African Americans more than their Caucasion counterparts. Not saying we haven’t experienced it from both sides because we have. I can only continue to teach my children the right way to do things. I do point out things to my children and I do make comments when explaining to things to my children. I talk honestly with my children I explain that you can’t help that some kids parents are teaching them hate and disregard for other people. And Yes I do say it loud enough so the said parents can hear me. Ive had other parents who witnessed what happened right along with me agree with me with the parent of that child standing right beside us.

    • April 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      I talk honestly with my children I explain that you can’t help that some kids parents are teaching them hate and disregard for other people.
      This is beautiful. I’m hopeful when I read about this kind of honest, open discussion. It’s the discussion itself that opens worlds.

      On another topic, you raise a point that I thought about incorporating into the blog itself but which got a little too far off topic.

      The definition of “racism” found in the dictionary differs a little from one you might find in academic or more involved articles, and is the one I subscribe to. The difference is in the idea of systemic discrimination; people of minority groups experience such systemic discrimination because of our political history. Where a minority group exhibits bigotry toward another, it’s not “racism” (according to this view, which I share) because it’s at an individual rather than societal, historically entrenched level.

      It’s still deplorable, but it begs questions of–why? What happened in the past to cause wariness, or rage, or antagonism? Those are questions that can’t be answered easily, because they reflect the very real truth that the bigotry often reflects real, recurrent discrimination that’s shaped how folks respond in the future.

      This is getting a little abstract for blog purposes, but I think each of these situations needs to be assessed at more than a superficial level. No individual incident stands separate in time and space. It’s a reflection of what preceded it, and what preceded it–on all sides–is a lot of really sad and tragic stuff, which continues into this day.

      I believe having discussions like this opens peoples’ eyes to assessing how it all fits together, and behaving kindly even when one’s instinct is not so kind. Discussions, as it happens, like the ones you mention having with your kids!

  13. March 29, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Beautiful post. ♥

  14. March 29, 2012 at 4:29 am

    I love the picture of Ba.D all snuggled up against you. You guys have been through some tough stuff together. Hold tight. It is still ugly out there.

    And he’s not only black. He’s part-Jewish, too.

    Yeah. Let people wrap their brains around that for a while.

    Get ready to hear about his “Jew-fro.”

    It won’t be easy, but something tells me that –together — you all will make it through the storms.

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:19 am

      Even though that picture is from a hard weekend, it’s my favorite of us. When I see it, I remember every time I tried climbing out of bed only to find Ba.D. suddenly awake and asking, “Are you going to the bathroom? No? Then get your butt back in bed and tell me what you need!”

      It won’t be easy, but something tells me that –together — you all will make it through the storms.
      I hope so. More and more every day, I believe so.

      Thank you. (>^^)>

  15. March 29, 2012 at 5:18 am

    I, too, have that same reaction (“Gah”) when I’m trucking along thinking I live somewhere where people are open-minded and fairly liberal, only to be hit with scenes of discrimination from, sometimes, the least expected places. It can be so disheartening, but reading this post reminds me that there is still hope, and our words can help us get to a better place, if ever so slowly 🙂 I LOVE that Joss Whedon quote!

    • April 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      It still baffles me that there are people who don’t know Joss Whedon! Gems like that mean he will ever be not only my creative superhero but an inspiration in many other ways. 🙂

      Also, “yes!” to the rest of what you said. All of it. ♥

  16. March 29, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Racism exists. It manifests itself every time I use my native Spanish and folks comment “You don’t look it.” (whatever it is). I hear the unwitting statements when looking as I do, folks are not guarded about what they utter. Racism lies in my bicultural worlds (ha…wp alerts me that bicultural is misspelled!), so I’ve learned to live suspended, and work everyday to leave a meaningful connection. I guess I am “Something American”, a naturalized citizen with a Mexican birth certificate. Keep writing. Keep connecting. Another great post.

    • April 3, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      “You don’t look it.” Gah. It’s statements like that that recall an ex telling me how he disliked “scripted” speech–things people say, en masse, without considering for even a split-second first. But obviously there’s so much more to this statement than that, all of it a bit disheartening. Still, the fact we are all here having this conversation makes me feel hopeful for all the people who will be impacted by the many discussions we’ll each have in pursuit of understanding.

      Speaking of connecting, I’m so glad we connected more than a year ago now.

  17. Running from Hell with El
    March 29, 2012 at 5:27 am

    The picture of you and your good man made my heart swell. This is a beautiful and an important piece of writing but at the moment, my outrage is keeping me from appreciating the beauty as much as I would like to . . . but I can’t set it down, no I cannot. Much love to you and to your family. And a big, sisterly sigh.

    • April 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      I was talking with Mack earlier and we touched on a subject where I wanted desperately to articulate myself, but all I could come up with was Hulk-like feelings. That’s all to say, I understand exactly what you mean!

      As for that picture, even thinking of it fills my heart with so much love. Much like your comment.

  18. March 29, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Beautiful Deb. I know you will face everything head On with grace and dignity. Your little family is going to weather all this. Somehow. I will fight for you and this issue however I can. It hurts to even think about. Xo

    • April 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Thank you, Katy. The hardness out there is so much more easily endured in the hands and hearts of friends who ensure it’s never endured alone. I’m actually teary-eyed as I write this, because now I can feel your support viscerally. It’s a beautiful thing. Much, much love.

  19. Candi
    March 29, 2012 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for your beautifully written piece. I didn’t know until reading this that “I’m not quite there yet”. I still used descriptive words. This had made me wonder “why”? I fought hard in the 60’s for “black rights” (which epiphany forced us to change to “human rights”) but I still use the word. Time to change. Those descriptors no matter how “innocently spoken” help keep the wedge in place.

  20. March 29, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Hard to believe but true. Racism is still alive and well in America. Witness the outrage of moviegoers who were upset by finding out (didn’t they read the book–probably not) that a beloved character in the movie is black. With more and more biracial children in our society one might think that racism would decline but that doesn’t appear to be the case. These children are still looked at as black and treated as black with all the racism that come with it. We are not more tolerant. Why not? I have no explanation. I had hoped 40 years ago that my child would grow up in a racial-blind society. It hasn’t happened and it is still going on in my grandchildren’s school. Maybe we need another 40 years for racism to go away. I only pray it is so.

    • April 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Did you read Jezebel’s take on the Rue outrage? This sentence in particular resonated with me:
      I mean, Jesus, the impulse to default to white is so strong that the above child prodigies defaulted to white even when explicitly told not to.

      I, too, hope that 40 years will see a different generation of kids disbelieving such an article needed to be written in the first place. It’s interesting to imagine my 73-year-old self revisiting the question.

      What will she be seeing, and saying?

  21. March 29, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I think that the ratio of those that racially hate are dwindling as more enlightened people are born. Beliefs sway to light.

    I am Hispanic and caucasian and my husband Irish with sparkling blue eyes and black hair (well a little grayer now). My son is light skinned with those blue eyes and black hair taking after my husband. During school, he would often bring me around to prove that he was Hispanic. “Mi mama” he would say. The kids would be mystified.

    He wants everyone to know that he is who he is, a Hispanic Irish kid who is proud of both.

    He’s a special one.

    • April 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      I love the image you’ve painted of your son at school with his mama. It makes me excited to imagine all of the positive moments also yet in store.

      “Beliefs sway to light.” I love these words, and I believe them. It’s slow, but . . . slow progress is progress nevertheless.

  22. March 29, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Clearly a home run of a post. You’ve struck a chord. I grew up in a racist family in Chicago in the 60’s. The shame of that is still with me today. Somehow I escaped their beliefs. I remember as a very young girl thinking silently to myself “something is wrong with this” but I had no voice to say it out loud.

    And I’m with El… the picture of you and Ba.D. is a heart warmer. Hugs to you and your family today…

    • April 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Your comment reminds me of a surprising exchange I had during law school. Someone I admire deeply (and who had an enormous positive impact on my life) sat me outside a family dinner and said, “I want you to understand something. I’m not like the rest of my family. They’re going to say things that will make you cringe. I hope you’ll know that they’re not me, and not hate them for their ignorance.” I was so shocked by that, and so certain that the meal we were about to walk into wouldn’t be that bad. It was, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for how much of the people I love isn’t just inherited but the product of their choosing their own course. Regardless of where you came from, you’ve created a path for yourself that’s a beautiful inspiration to many. I’m so grateful for that, and you.

  23. March 29, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Racism does still exist, but I think that as people get to know people of other races that it will diminish. When I told my family that I was serious about someone who happened to be half black and half Mexican, they initially freaked (understatement of the year there). It took about a year for them to get used to the idea. Now that they’ve spent some time with him, they actually like him and approve of my choice.

    • April 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      I’m heartened by your story. I always assume that change will principally occur with new generations, but that’s not always right. With the right circumstances, a year and a half of seeing what is instead of what’s expected can make a world of difference. There’s beauty in that.

  24. March 29, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Thank you so much for this post. It is something I HATE – Racism. I tagged this post in my post today: http://takens-tidbits.blogspot.com/2012/03/content-of-character.html Please let me know if you’d rather I remove the link. I agree with Candi above. I hate the rhetoric that is still used and cringed as I used it my post. White girl, black kid, HATE those terms. Let’s keep fighting this until we are all the same with different characters, rather than different colors.

    • April 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing this post! I’m grateful for your thoughts. I do feel differently about the words “white” and “black” than you and Candi; to me, the words themselves hold no power when used as neutral descriptors, whereas consciously choosing not to use them imbues them with the wrong kind of power. I touch on this further in a more recent blog: https://deborah-bryan.com/2012/04/04/skin-color-the-power-of-words/

  25. MomWTF
    March 29, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I grew up in a city, one would think as a caucasian girl I wouldn’t experience racism against me. The worst was when a knife was pulled on me. The girl who pulled it had told the principle that it was because I “didn’t belong in a black school.”

    • April 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      Ah, I believe virtually anything is possible in this world! I also think that it’s unsurprising that members of stigmatized groups in society might pass along the blame to those not individually guilty. As I type this, I’m thinking of an episode of my favorite show (Scrubs) where the narrator talks about how rage will find a new target if it can’t be expressed at the proper one. This is absolutely not to justify heinous acts such as you experienced, but to frame them in a larger context.

  26. March 29, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Of course we all notice ethnicity – it’s part of who we are. But It’s hard to believe that people are still judged based on the color of their skin in this day and age. Just yesterday somebody I know made a casual, ethnic cliche of a remark, and it caught me unawares. I didn’t know how to react, frankly, so I just said gently “I’m just not comfortable with those kind of jokes – boy, I can’t believe the stuff we used to say!” And the sad thing is, we did.

    • April 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      I love everything about this comment, Peg. The latter part reminds me of finding a book of Polish jokes when I was little. I thought the jokes were funny (even though I didn’t know what a “Pole” was), but my mom was horrified. That’s not to say she didn’t have a few biases of her own, or that I didn’t love poking at them in my button-pressing moods, but that moment stands out in memory. I’m glad that you spoke up as you did. It’s a great example to me for if such a thing occurs in my vicinity. I find I respond much, much better when prepared for something as a probability instead of just thinking about it as abstract possibility.

  27. Melissa
    March 29, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Growing up my dad taught me everybody is equal. Then a few minutes later make racial comments. I never understood why he behind my step grandfathers back hated him. But to his face was his buddy. Or why moms family was so bad and actually forced my mom to disown her family simply because my grandmother fell in love with a Mexican woman. I never understood why he threatened to disown me if I married a man that was not white. He actually beat me simply because a friend I brought home to hang out and play with was black. I never figured out how racist my dad was because he told me every time everyone is equal.
    Now my husband is 31 years older then me, my dad hates him. He calls him when talking to me that old man, reminding me my husband is going. To die before me,he tells me my husband is going to cheat
    because I am just a baby to him. His side of the family hates me simply because I love an older man. Because I’m not “normal ” and have no loyalty to there name. They say my love for older men is because of the sex abuse I faced when I was a kid.
    now my husband actually would be considered ideally to my dad. My husband is a former kkk member. However he aael left after figuring out everyone is honestly equal.

    • Melissa
      March 29, 2012 at 8:12 am

      He brushes everything my dad says off, except when my dad makes me cry, because my husband says my dad has a poison in him and it makes him talk out of his ass.
      My husband has explained my dad doesn’t know. How to look past skin or sexual preference simply because my dad like my husband at one time was brainwashed.
      Funny a former kkk member has more tolerance then a man who always told me ” everyone is equal “.
      I’m glad that’s the lesson that stuck and not my dads hatred for everyone not white or socially correct in my dads world.

    • April 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      Growing up my dad taught me everybody is equal. Then a few minutes later make racial comments.
      I’ve witnessed some of this myself, and have always found it bemusing. Do people not realize the dissonance in their words and actions, I wonder, or is it something else?

      It’s hard to read all of the hate you’ve been subject to for the things you’ve described above. Reading about it makes me wish I could step in and have a talk with your dad, and his family, but what’s within my power is saying–kudos to you for doing what you know is right, and good, regardless of anyone else’s efforts to manipulate and harass! It’s a difficult thing to stand strong in the face of such adversity, but a powerful thing, too.

      I love reading about people (like your husband) who have believed one set of things for their early lives, only to see things differently later in life. It gives me hope.

  28. March 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for writing this, Deb. Your words convey exactly what so many of us feel. Like Peg, said, our differences are who we are, by why are they still being used to degrade us? What is it about human behavior that wants to pigeonhole everyone? For power, control? I’ll just never understand it. Why is it so hard to see we are all here going through the same things, the same hardships-why are kids singled out on the playground for being a different color or gender or for wearing glasses? My son gets bullied for that. My best friend growing up was picked on because she has cerebral palsy. I will just never understand why the cruelty is so easy for some people. What are we afraid of? (sorry for my tangent!)

    • April 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      I, too, believe the drive for power and control are at the heart of it, and will similarly never understand how these motivations could possibly outweigh others like the drive toward equity, compassion and understanding. As you so beautifully say, we endure so many of the same hardship and suffer so many losses in our lives. Why create more hardships to add to others’ loads? I share your questions, and your frustration at having to ask them in the first place. (Not a tangent at all, by the way!)

  29. March 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Deb, I have read many posts regarding this latest incident, and I have kept my thoughts locked in my head. Inside, I am aching – literally. I am unable to funnel my thoughts into a clear and focused response.
    I read your post and felt a sense of calm come over me, because I felt you wrote calmly. I could be wrong. Still, I ache and shake, tiring of the back and forth.
    Racism is a word that is thrown out and used by many, but I wonder if those that use it know the meaning – based on Merriam Webster. “Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
    I don’t deny racism exists in some – I do not believe is still predominant in today’s society. I just don’t. What happened to Trayvon is awful. Awful. I do hope George Zimmerman is charged with a crime and brought to a jury of his peers. However, I think this awful incident was a case of two young, testosterone filled guys reacting to each other instead of listening. I do not think George Zimmerman should be made to represent the Hispanic population or the white population – just as Trayvon should not be made to represent the black population.
    In my opinion, this was a case of horrific cockiness and stupidity – but not racism.
    I politely disagree with Ba.D’s response that one has to ‘Steel with the truth that you will have to fight.” The word ‘fight’ needs to be taken out of the equation. We need to take a less defensive approach and a more receptive approach.
    Lil’D may be judged during his life based on attire, grades, disposition, etc, because judgement is part of our human condition. But, I hold on to my Pollyanna belief that racism is not what is fueling the violence. Violence is fueling the violence, and with violence comes fear, and with fear comes ignorance.

    • March 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

      I respectfully disagree with you and am sorry you don’t see the world as it truly is. I suppose life would be better through those rose-colored glasses of yours, but the despicable truth is that racism is still a major problem in our society. It is everywhere, and one cannot deny it. Peace.

      • March 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

        If I could just put on my mediator hat for a second here… Racism is real and very much alive today. And I agree that we would do well to take a stance of receptiveness over combativeness, but I don’t think that’s what Ba.D. was getting at. We shouldn’t be on the attack for people who might potentially wrong us in some way, but need to be prepared when the fight is brought to us.

        It’s a blessing, in a way, that some of us (myself included) do not see the level of racism that’s still taking place in our country. On one hand, we’re perhaps sheltered from some of that ugliness, but on the other, we don’t expect to see it, which kind of means more hope. My two cents.

    • April 14, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      I want to thank you both for (a) feeling comfortable sharing your opinion and (b) actually sharing it. I’m grateful, although (as you know!) my opinion differs. While I don’t believe any crime involve a black male victim is racially motivated, I do believe the three recent instances of George Zimmerman calling 911 to report black men existing in his neighborhood makes it difficult to say race played no role in this tragedy.

      I just saw From the Bungalow’s comment and wanted to say that’s absolutely what Ba.D. had in mind when he spoke of “fighting.” He was actually trying to calm me down in speaking those words, and remind me I ought not perceive everything as a fight but instead respond appropriately to instances where people bring the fight to us. He’s much the calmer of us. Without his influence, the post would likely have been a lot of incoherent swearing.

      OK, so that’s an exaggeration, but Ba.D. is my reminder it’s better to fight gentle than with fists and cruel words. I’m grateful for that, although still occasionally perplexed by how mellow he can be even when someone’s being cruel to him.

      Again, I am thankful for your thoughts, and look forward to living in a world where race is as useless a designator to everyone as it is to you. Truly, the thought is a heartening one.

  30. March 29, 2012 at 9:00 am

    This is the best and most important blog I’ve ever read. Let’s all Twitter, Face, do whatever to keep it up front and in those ignorant peoples face.

  31. March 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Deb, this post hits home for me, as my Lucas is biracial. Until I dated his father, I was tragically unaware of the problem of racism still present in today’s society. When he would tell me about things that were said and done to him because he was black, I would cringe and question how truthful he was being. I swear I thought he was exaggerating for effect.
    Until the first time I witnessed it firsthand. It’s a long story, so I won’t waste space with it here. I’ll just say that it changed my perspective. I had no idea I was such a sheltered white girl.
    Now that I have a son who is biracial, I fear for him. Bullying and racism and all the horrors of humanity are out there waiting to break him, and I can’t even stand that thought.
    But as long as there are people like us who only see people and not color, our babies are going to be okay out there.
    Beautifully written, as usual, friend. ❤

  32. March 29, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Another great post, Deb. Thoughtful and hopeful despite the underlying sadness. And strong. Ba.D.’s words are words to live by.

    I’ve only given a little bit of thought to how my step-son will be treated and viewed by others, especially when he has white step-brothers and is being raised by white parents. He’s the only “tan” kid in our household of five. He’s also the only “tan” kid when he visits his father’s family once a year. Will he ever feel like he belongs?

    We’ve received a few looks out in public, but I chalk it up to curiosity. Which parent did he come from if they’re both white? Is he adopted? Etc. I’m not overly concerned because we live in a pretty mixed, progressive area (for Michigan), and they go to an International Baccalaureate school (Primary Years Programme) where they befriend kids of several different nationalities. But I know it’s out there.

  33. March 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I want to recommend this book to you (Crossing the Color Line): http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Color-Line-Maureen-Reddy/dp/0813523745/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1333041518&sr=8-12
    I read it in college and found it very enlightening. Later, I gave it away to my cousin when she and her husband adopted the first of their two black children.
    The white female author reflects on her thoughts and lessons in raising her children with her black husband. What I remember most is the moment she realized that as a white woman she was not qualified to teach her black son about growing up and becoming a black man. She only knew about being a woman and about being white, and it occurred to her that most of her accumulated knowledge and experience just wouldn’t apply to his life.

    • April 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      What I remember most is the moment she realized that as a white woman she was not qualified to teach her black son about growing up and becoming a black man. She only knew about being a woman and about being white, and it occurred to her that most of her accumulated knowledge and experience just wouldn’t apply to his life.

      Although Li’l D is only 2.5 now, this is something I’ve thought about a lot. I’m grateful to you for pointing me to this book, which I’ve added to my TBR list. Thank you!

  34. Rachael
    March 29, 2012 at 11:08 am

    brought tears to my eyes, amazing article. keep writing not just for yourself but so you can say the things the rest of us are feeling but can’t articulate this beautifully!

  35. March 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Beautiful. Well said. Brave as always.

  36. March 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Wow, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to realize your child would likely face racism. That’s got to be tough. But you are right, words are the bridges to healing–the bridges to other hearts–the bridges to breaking down potential racism. Powerful post, Deb!

  37. March 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Being raised in the south, the sentiments of those around me were my paradigm. It wasn’t until I left Louisiana (Army wife relocation) and became part of a diverse community for the first time that my eyes were opened.

    We came back a few years later and were shocked by what we saw and heard, because we were seeing and hearing it for the first time without our southern filters. And from that moment on, justifying behaviors and rationalizing opinions because of generational ignorance were no longer acceptable.

    I can’t speak for other places, but the paradigm is shifting here, in certain areas faster than others.

    There is hope for Lil’D to live in a world where people love and respect one another not ‘in spite of’ their race, but without regard for it.

  38. readingandchickens
    March 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I love that picture of you two snuggled together.
    As someone brown, raising biracial kids, getting mistaken as someone Muslim (and hey, that’s alright by me), we are SO NOT a postracial America, no matter the skin color of our president. There are still too many people afraid of a little extra melatonin. Sometimes I laugh at it because could the universe think of something more ridiculous to make life hellish for some of us? Maybe in the next century, we’ll be accosted because of toenail thickness, or teeth whiteness, or eyebrow width.

  39. March 30, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Could I love this post, or the pictures associated with it anymore than I already do? I think not. I was very fortunate to grow up in a home where I was taught that skin color didn’t matter. My own children have grown up with the same values. I grew up in rural WV, in a town with no diversity. The only black person I knew growing up was my mother’s friend, Christine, who lived 6 hours away from us and would spend a week of her vacation time each year at our home. She was gregarious, warm, and always full of hugs. I’ll never forget the strength her hugs passed on to me at my mother’s funeral.
    I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin story and just this morning I read the news story about the negative tweets associated with Rue’s skin color. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve seen the beautiful actress that plays her. I don’t know what it’s like to personally experience racial discrimination, but just hearing of it makes me enormously furious. It makes me feel hatred toward the racists, which I know is just as negative.
    You summed things up beautifully when you said, “How on earth could someone hate my child without even knowing him? Without knowing how his laugh sounds, his touching concern when anyone around him hurts themselves, how much comfort he brought my mom in her dying days? How can that even be possible?” I will always wonder why people neglect to see the beauty and value in everyone. Continue fighting with your beautiful words, Deb, and if those words don’t seem to be working, a well placed kick in the junk might be in order! 😉

  40. March 30, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I am crying my face off .. I try so hard not to want to yell at people who are ‘small minded’, but I live in Tennessee & we have a long ways to go .. It saddens me .. Each of us just has to do our part to make sure our kids are taught ‘color is only skin deep’! Quality of Character is to the soul .

  41. Jennifer Farmer
    March 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Unless we find a way to change the thought process in the minds of bigots and racists we can’t end bigotry and racism. We have to be examples. We have to stand up for right. We have to speak up and not allow words and phrases to go unchallenged. My sister is biracial. I never refer to her as my 1/2 sister. She is my sister and people often do a double take and have questions when they look at the two of us. She IS my sister. I find it funny and sad and horrifying that I am treated differently by my black co-workers after they meet Angela. I am somehow viewed as possibly not a bigot/racist because of my sister. That most caucasians are automatically assumed to be bigots/racists is sad but unfortunately, too true. Yes, we are different. I don’t look past the differences. I celebrate the differences.

  42. March 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    My sister got the same sort of reaction from our mother when she announced she was marrying her husband, whose father is black. Our mother’s mother was, it shames me some to say (though in this way I have no relation to her) a racist. My mother was, as she puts it, only concerned about how the world would receive my sister’s babies if their skin was dark. My sister was pretty angered by my mom’s reaction, and I get why. Okay, it’s a concern, yes. But fear of what other people will think or say is no reason to suddenly feel less proud of a union formed out of a deep love and respect. My sister’s kids are pretty awesome, and the world is lucky to have them. Your little D is lucky to have you, and he’s going to be pretty awesome too! xo

  43. April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I am, as always, stunned to silence by your heart, your words. I have never been in any doubt that racism is alive and well in our nation. I am first a Southerner, raised outside of the South by the choice of a father who knew the thinking and ways of the South needed to die but could not kill them entirely because he could not raise us in a bubble.

    I have been married to my husband for 13 years this year. We are a human race couple who happen to be different colors on the outside. This difference in our colors give some people a bit of discomfort, especially here in Texas. Tough. We choose!

    Will your son experience racism? Yes, ignorance seems to be escalating in our nation at an alarming rate. I am profoundly sorry for that. I have been nearly silenced by the Trayvon Martin story because it parallels my own in so many ways and yet I think the outcome might have been different had just one single thing been reversed, which has broken my spirit and heart. It took me two weeks put finger to keyboard to write that story.

  44. Duffy
    April 1, 2012 at 11:24 am

    My son is blonde with blue eyes and biracial. I have no idea what this is going to mean for his racial identity or how others will judge him. I just hope I have the right words when it happens. I’ve been lucky enough to not have gotten any of the blatantly rude adoptions questions or statements yet. Fingers crossed for that too.

  45. April 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

    What a great post! I have two beautiful biracial children and I worry all the time about them encountering ignorant people who are going to judge them because of the colour of their skin. Recently though, I’ve decided that we can’t control others opinions of us, so I just have to encourage my kids to be grounded in who they are, walk into the world with their heads held high and big smiles on their faces. True friends will come their way and for all those other haters…it’s their loss because my kiddies rock! 🙂

  46. April 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I am wondering if you were at all inspired by this:
    I read you both recently and you both struck a chord with me. Having grown up in the south I have seen the scary racism talked about in the news first hand. Living in Southern California I can sometimes forget it exists. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we all need to never forget. Beautiful piece.

  47. April 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Great post. You write in a very moving way. Racism is something that continues to shock me. It seems so outdated and inappropriate for people to have the mentality that skin colour makes a difference, but they do, and it never ceases to bewilder me. I live in a very white rural community, so people of other ethnic backgrounds stand out, but I view them as a wonderful gift to the community – an opportunity to get over our cultural hangups and an opportunity to show that racism no longer needs to exist. d

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