We're about to travel back to the states and for the first time we chose to intentionally talk to our young children about race. We felt as though it's important for them to understand why Daddy gets pulled into additional security screenings every single time he travels. And ultimately understand that people are treated differently based on their skin color.
You see, I grew up believing that I should never talk about skin color. That if I chose not to see any differences that I would not be racist and that I would just love everyone for who they are on the inside.
I learned that talking about skin color was wrong. I was shushed by any adult around me if I noticed anything and voiced it. I carried that belief and learned behavior with me into adulthood, believing that I should be color blind and therefore truly love everyone.
The thing is, our society is and always has been intentionally constructed to favor people with light skin, like me. My opportunities growing up in a very white neighborhood, attending a private school, going onto private university, choosing to study abroad and many other privileges I was granted were because I am white.
I learned and believed that everything I did was because I worked hard or because those helping me along the way worked hard. And while yes, hard work is important, the system was created to favor us from the beginning.
I wrongly believed that many people of other skin tones or other nationalities or other ethnic diversity simply weren't working hard enough. I heard things said like "If they would just get a job. If they would work harder their lives would be better." And rather than challenge either of these ridiculous statements or others and understand the root of the problem that so many people in the US and around the world are facing, I believed those statements, because it was easier to accept that my hard work is the reason I am where I am today.
But I understand that 's wrong. I didn't choose where I was born or what country I was born in or what skin color I would have. But neither did my husband. Nobody did.
Yet we still live in a world in which laws exist to keep the "white status quo" and the media continues to portray people of other colors as dangerous or different.
I see people I love saying things like "I'm not racist. I have a sister-in-law who is Black." And that's ridiculous to me. I cannot say that "I'm not racist because I married an Afro-Peruvian or Latino." I love my husband. But our society and my privileges growing up and still today are so much based on my skin color.
If we don't notice color, we ignore the disparity and the glaring prejudice that our so-called freedom was built on and continues to thrive.
I'm unlearning so many things. And I'm learning new things.
As a teacher, a mother, simply as a human being, I cannot continue listening to people say "all lives matter" without actually doing any of the work to understand this movement that "Black Lives Matter." And this moment in history, you will choose which side you stand on. You say you aren't racist, but you don't actually care enough to learn about it.
People continue to say "I don't see color." Well then apparently you don't see that your color has always been in your favor.
People say "I've worked hard for what I have." Yes, I'm sure you have. But you started out with an advantage by simply being white.
I'm learning. I'm learning that in so many ways, I have been racist. I have benefited from a system built for me from the beginning. Yes, as a woman I've had to fight my battles to gain some ground in a world run by white men. But my skin color helps me so much.
I'm not going to be silent. I'm not going to raise children who are unaware of social injustice around the world that so often comes back to the color of one's skin. My children are lucky. They have their American passports which means they can go anywhere essentially. They didn't choose that, just like I didn't choose it.
Yet we all have a choice today. In how we respond. In how we choose to speak up. In how we use our platforms.
As a history teacher, I'm embarrassed. I'm ashamed that there is so much I am learning today that I never taught my students.
As a parent, I want to do the right thing. I can't ignore the privilege that I've been given and turn the other way. History is happening and we can choose to be an active part of it.
As a human, it's my responsibility and my privilege to help those who are hurting. As someone who loves Jesus and holds faith close to me, I know that I have no choice but to show up, love and serve those who are hurting. That's what Jesus did with his short life on earth.
Religion may not be your thing. And that's fine. But we're all human. We all feel. We can't deny the historical atrocities that have been committed over the last decades, months, centuries, you name it. It's easy to look the other way and claim "We're not racist." But doing that changes nothing.
And if we truly want to see change in this world, if we truly want to love others and make a difference, it's time to show up. It's time to set aside the discomfort, get over ourselves and show up for history right now by learning our part in a system designed to favor those with light skin and try to disrupt it as best we can by speaking up, supporting Black businesses, and raising our voices against the way things currently stand.
So this may sound like a soapbox to you, but it's a mission for me. So take it or leave it, you make your choice.
Learning is hard. It hurts. But it's our responsibility to step up at such a time like this.