Mother of two black and three white kids' post on racism is a must read
'What I did not realise until now is that the cloak I was offering my kids was identification with my whiteness,' writes Kate Riffle Roper.
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As a white mother of two black children and three white children, who all have a white father, I have something to say. Racism exists. It is real and tangible. And it is everywhere, all the time.
When I brought my boys home they were the cutest, sweetest babies ever. Wherever we went, people greeted us with charm and enthusiasm. Well, not all people and not everywhere. But, to me, they were the "wacko" exceptions. I thought to myself, "Get over it".
Now my boys are teenagers. Black teenagers. They are 13.
Let me ask you these questions.
Do store personnel follow your children when they are picking out their Gatorade flavors? They don't follow my white kids.A Black Lives Matter protest. Photo: Wikipedia
Do coffee shop employees interrogate your children about the credit card they are using to pay while you are in the bathroom? They don't interrogate my white kids. When your kids go for trick-or-treat, dressed as a Ninja and a clown, do they get asked who they are with and where they live, door-after-door? My white kids don't get asked.
Do your kids get pulled out of the TSA line time and again for additional screening? My white kids don't.
Do your kids get treated one way when they are standing alone but get treated a completely different way when you walk up? I mean a completely different way. My white kids don't.
Do shoe sales people ask if your kids' feet are clean before sizing them for shoes? No one ask my white kids that. Do complete strangers ask to touch your child's hair? Or ask if they are "from druggies"? No one does this with my white kids.
Do you have to tell your kids not to fight back because they will be seen as aggressive if they stand up for themselves?
Have you had to discuss with your husband whether you should take your children to the police station to introduce them to the officers so they would know your children are legitimate members of your community?
Have you had to talk to your children about EXACTLY what to say and what not to say to an officer?
Have you had to tell your children that the objective of any encounter with the police, or security in any form, is to stay alive? It never occurred to me to have these conversations with my white children. In fact, it never occurred to me for myself either.
There is no question that my boys have been cloaked in my protection when they were small. What I did not realise until now is that the cloak I was offering them was an identification with my whiteness. As they grow independent, they step out from my cloak and lose that protection. The world sees "them" differently.
It is sweet when they are adopted, little black boys so graciously taken in by this nice white family. But when they are real people? Well, it is not the same. And they still look like little boys. What happens to them when they look like the strong, proud black men I am raising?
The reason why the phrase "All Lives Matter" is offensive to black people is because it isn't true. Right now, in America, my black children are treated differently than my white children.
So when you say "All Lives Matter" as a response to the phrase "Black Lives Matter" you are completely dismissing the near daily experience of racism for those with pigment in their skin, curl in their hair and broadness of their nose.
I am posting this so you can see the reality I have witnessed and experienced, because, frankly, I didn't believe it was true until I saw it up close, directed at two souls I love, over and over again.
So, please, use this post as a pair of glasses to see the racism that surrounds you. Then we can actually make progress towards all lives being valued and cherished.
(This post first appeared on Kate Riffle Roper's Facebook page.)