Of course Black lives matter, I say to my children. Every life matters… hold on, don’t jump to judgement… I show kindness and respect to EVERYONE I encounter – everyday! I have raised two kind, gracious, inclusive children as a result. And they do not discriminate based on race, religion, socioeconomics. I am immensely proud of their passion for justice, their thoughtfulness on political issues, their engagement in their workplace, with their friends, and yes – strangers. Sure, I taught them “stranger danger” when they were little, but I also modeled kindness and compassion to all when they were young – which I see them emulate today.
Funny story, my kids would often eye-roll when I would address a clerk, a teller, a bagger at the store – by calling them by their name (nametag). “Mom, you don’t even know that person,” they would say. “Well, I’m just spreading kindness, everyone’s favorite word is their own name,” I would say in return.
I displayed, I hope, that each person is an individual, everyone is due their dignity (until proven otherwise). We’re all different but the same. Our children follow our example, whether they’ll admit it at age 20 or not!
Fast forward to 2020, crazy times of Covid! We fear a virus, we fear isolation from the ones we love, and we don’t know the future of societal norms. Will we hug or hand shake again? Ever gather at large celebrations, concerts, sporting events, travel freely? And just as a glimmer of hope starts to emerge, the pandemic is perhaps lessening its grip, curves are descending, recoveries are ascending, vaccines are pending, and we are resuming some sort of “normalcy”… a heinous act by a White Police officer on a Black man, George Floyd, results in his horrific death, as he cries out for his mama.
And just like that …all hope is lost again, fear returns, fear that we have not progressed at all… fear there has been no change in our culture to treat all human beings with equality. Everyone reacts – some with peaceful protests, some in rage and violence, even property destruction, some demanding we don’t need police if this is the brutality and racial bias with which they conduct themselves with. Others demand we wipe out national monuments and delete historical references, Gone With The Wind – gone, Aunt Jemima syrup with your pancakes – no more.
I am not a feminist, I am not a racist – I don’t discriminate … I am a mother, who taught her children to be kind, to respect all color, creed, women, men – all equal – all individuals should be treated with equal respect… I also demonstrated that words are our best tools, not violence or rage, and certainly never hatred. So of course #BlackLivesMatter
But that is not enough right now…. and now my children are calling on me in my “white privilege” – to be better, to do better… Both my kids have said, “mom you have a powerful platform to shine light on this darkness.” That was nice to hear… So I acknowledge the reality that racism sadly still exists in our society. Even after electing a Black President, and Oprah has appeared in most living rooms, even though we listen to and love music from Black artists, the talent of Black actors, comedians, authors, we admire the skills and stamina of professional Black athletes and the list goes on … racism is still rampant in the U.S. – an abbreviation that should band Us together, yet in 2020 we are more divided than united than I recall in half a century.
I don’t see racial discrimination in my daily comings and goings in my little seaside town in Maine… but I know racism still exists… and its not okay. How do we do better? As mothers, how do we stop the cycle? Children are not born with racial bias, race discrimination is taught. That’s very Black and White… no gray there!
How do wipe away the fear that black mothers live with, fear for their children being judged without cause, being discriminated against, or worse – being harmed – purely due to the color of their skin? Sure, I feared when my kids hopped on their bikes and disappeared from my sight. But my concern was for them scraping a knee, not being mugged, attacked or shot because they’re Black.
Over 70 percent of Black kids are born outside of wedlock. 2.5 million Black men live with their children in the U.S., while 1.7 million do not, according to the CDC. In some communities, like southeast Washington, D.C, a staggering 84 percent of Black children live in homes without a father. As a parent, as a mother, my concerns for this pattern of single mother parenting… the resulting economic struggle and social hardships … and the cycle that repeats. Its not racism, its my pragmatism that I believe two adult minds, two incomes, co-parenting, team discipline, more attention to children and more love are all better than just one adult per household.
This generation, my 20-something kids in 2020, are finally truly appalled by systemic racism in our nation, where previous generations blamed their parents, or the culture, or ignored it all together. My stepfather was racist, I tried to “school” him but he wouldn’t listen, so I ignored him, and I tried to be better.
I don’t have the answers, I only pose the question, how can I do better, how can we do better? For our children, for Blacks in our community and in our country. We can’t rewrite history, now should we erase it – or we’re doomed to repeat it, and the cycle of oppression. We need education, we need to instill compassion and opportunity for all. But how? I will do my part by saying its not ok… starting today – I will not ignore or minimize it … I want to do better… race discrimination is taught. It needs to stop.
By current definition: Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another.
Superiority of one race over another? Being “divided” when we need to be united? Does that make sense to you? Not me… it needs to stop… I vow to do better. Black Lives Matter and we all matter in this mission to stop the hatred.
Thank you, Heather Burke, mother of two, kindness matters…