I’m biracial. My father was black. My siblings are black. But I don’t look black. I don’t look fully “white” either. My skin is light but not pale. My hair is curly but no longer the afro it was when I was a child. My father gave me a name that uses the Arabic pronunciation, so I frequently get asked if I’m Arabic. Sometimes they will ask if I am Italian, Hispanic, Native American but never black. It makes me sad as I’m proud of my African American heritage but, at the same time, I acknowledge I don’t experience racism as my siblings do.
I married a white man and my children look white – except for my son’s kinky curls. My daughter dyes her hair blond. I realized the difference in treatment when my daughter was living on the streets as an addict. (She’s 5 years clean and sober now.) She had a run-in with the police over a domestic disturbance where she locked herself in a car. She refused to get out and at one point reached into the backseat. The police broke the window and dragged her out by her hair. When I heard this all I could think was, “thank God she is a little white girl. If she had been a 6 foot tall black man, this situation would have ended much differently.” I actually said to the officer, “Thank you for not killing my child.”
I may not experience racism to the same degree as my siblings but my heart aches just the same. I know there are no guarantees of safety. As my brother walks his neighborhood, is he safe? I have a relative in the prison system. Is he experiencing the same world as his white counterparts? Would he even be in jail if he was white?
The stories are there. The reality is there. We can not pretend that all is equal, all is ok. We need to act. I’m not saying I support the looting but I understand the anger. I understand the inequality. I understand the frustration. I can’t do much, but I can speak out. I can support actions that bring about a change.
Look beyond your own experience. Just because it doesn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Open your eyes to the disparity. While we live in our quaint white neighborhoods, communities of color are on the front lines. Their children are being judged for existing. They are not protected by the police. They fear the police – and rightly so. For those who don’t know racism, be grateful and remember others do. As long as that is true, we can’t rest. We must speak out.