San Marcos Campus Finalist
I was born into a world with no cell phones and no social media. When you wanted to know what was going on in your locale, country or even the world, you read the newspaper or watched the evening news on TV. In many ways, it was a much simpler time. We had block parties, wrote letters that were sent in the mail, and played outside. Sometimes we skipped lunch and then came in before the streetlights turned on for dinner. When we called our friends or family, we left a message if they were not home. There were those darker aspects of that time though.
In some ways, my childhood was more sheltered than most. I was the only child of two career Marines. We lived in small communities, on base. I interacted primarily with other military brats. I was lucky that we did not move frequently but often my friendships were short lived because others moved. When I was young, I had plenty of peers, little kids of all races.
I never noticed I was different until second grade when a strange girl named Debbie, who was from a small town in West Virginia, told me she had never seen a Black person before. Her father told her to stay away from us because our color would rub off on her. She liked how I looked and would rub her hands on my arms to absorb my coloring. She asked me if God baked me too long when he was making me, her mother’s theory, and I remember wondering if that was what happened to brown people. Against all odds, we became great friends, but only at school. My mother straightened me out by explaining our ancestry. At the time she made sure to teach me that we could not blame those who live today for what those in the past did. “God loves all people whether black, white, yellow or purple with green polka dots.”
Prior to this, I was blissfully unaware. I knew I was darker and had curly hair, but it never really occurred to me that people saw me differently and that some people were afraid of what they did not understand. My parents, being brought up with varying degrees of racism, never wanted that for me. My mother bought me Barbie Dolls of every color they could find. I was racially colorblind long before meeting Debbie.
When I entered middle school, that all changed. The Marine Corps base where I grew up was huge but there were few children in my age range. Thus, we had no access to a middle school there. We were bused to a nearby town every day to attend school. It was there that I realized the extent of hatred based solely on the color of ones’ skin. There were three of us, “The Negros”, within the entire school. The community there was known for a large Klan population who would run anyone they didn’t see as fit, out of town. After we got bullied and beat up on multiple occasions, we learned to fight back, but more importantly, we learned to stick together. That time was dreadful, to say the least.
We moved when I entered high school. There, I learned about the varying degrees of racism and color. See, I was too white for the black kids and much too black for the whites. I could blend with Latinos but could not speak the language, so I did not fit there either. Through it all, I learned to appreciate the differences in people and in my own beauty. I was determined to remain racially color blind. I only cared about what was in a person’s heart. Eventually, I won them over. Anyone that I wanted to be friends with learned that I was fun, non-judgmental, and compassionate. I cared about them and never judged them. I tried to help them see that race was a socially constructed concept and that the concept could change.
I carried this belief into my love life. My first husband was black and my second white. I raised my racially mixed children to overlook color. For the most part, this took. They teach me new outlooks nearly as often as I teach them. My family has become very passionate about the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Black lives do matter. In my eyes, all lives, no matter race or religion, matter. That is what God’s love and civil rights teach us and that is what I will continue to teach my children, even as adults. So, I will help them with their letter writing campaign and go with my daughter to city council meetings and peaceful protests. We will have long and in-depth conversations about what is going on in the world. I will stand by them and guide them to remember that we all matter.
Yet, I am not completely oblivious of the world in which we live. I taught my children to present themselves in a respectful manner when dealing with authority. They know how to argue with tact. When they get pulled over by the cops, they place their hands on the dashboard and do not make sudden movements. They understand the dangers of behaving erratically or aggressively with anyone.
They do not speak Ebonics but do have sailors’ mouths. My youngest son’s favorite music is rock, and he looks like an intimidating thug until you get to know him and find out he is a big teddy bear. My daughter has tattoos and piercings. My eldest son is a preppy, sarcastic, a genius loner. We are all individuals. If you look at my very smart and compassionate kids, you could make assumptions about who they are but I would challenge you to get to know them because they are so much more than they appear to be. This is the case with most people. We can be what we want to be, wear what we want to wear and say what we want to say. We have rights and should be safe when we utilize our brain instead of our emotions.
I truly believe that if you have children, it is so important to raise them to look past the surface. For many adults, it is too late to change them. Their morals, beliefs and opinions are so firmly rooted that they do not want to change. Children are so pliable though. Their minds absorb so much information from their environment. Raise them to think and research beyond what they hear, and the coming generations will find that the world is a much better place.