Guilty… of White Privilege

Right before the pandemic began to shut down the world, my husband and I traveled to the UK and France.  Before we left, we were warned that people in France can have a racist mentality and to be prepared.  We genuinely had an incredible time in both countries, except for one experience.

We were traveling from Paris to Bordeaux to see some of our best friends living in France.  Our trip was coming to an end soon and I wanted to find a café in a small town to have a cup of coffee.  I plugged in “coffee shops near me” and off we went.  As we pulled into this town, it was eerie how empty it was.  We did not see one person and it frankly looked like an abandoned town.  We drove past the café I found on google, saw people were sitting down and decided to try it out.

I was in full “white girl” adventure mode and was carefree of this seemingly odd situation.  Lindell was uneasy from the beginning but went along with the persistence of my vision to find this café and have a cup of coffee.

Once we entered the café everyone got quiet.  Everyone was white.  Everyone was staring.  Still in my carefree mindset I tried to talk to the waitress, she made it clear she spoke zero English.  She then proceeded to say something to the customers in the café (I assumed asking if anyone spoke English) no one answered.  I started looking at the menu (which was all in English).  Still thinking they would serve us, I looked up and the owner was screaming at Lindell.  He started making gestures with his hands and signaling us to leave.  The waitress made it clear they were refusing service and essentially pushed us out.

As we were walking back to the car, I made a few comments of how rude they were in attempt to ease the tension.  Lindell was silent.  Again, my “white girl” mindset said, “it wasn’t that serious,” as if that was supposed to minimize the situation of being kicked out of a restaurant and being completely humiliated.

I have been with Lindell when he experienced racism in America.  I’ve been in the back seat of the car when he got pulled over for doing nothing wrong and had a ticket thrown in his face.  I’ve seen him be talked to poorly when asking the same question a white man asked right before and received a completely different response and tone.  I’ve questioned why he doesn’t wear sweatpants when flying and his response is, “to avoid standing out more in an airport.”  But this… this was different. 

In my mind, they kicked us both out, but in reality… the hand gestures and screaming were directed at him.

I’ve always tried to be empathetic and learn as much as I can about the experience of a black person.  Nothing bothers me more than hearing stories of racism, but in that moment, it hit me… no matter how much I educate myself, I’ll never truly understand what Lindell felt in that moment or any other person of color has felt.  I can be the most “woke” person in the room and still not have the slightest idea what they experience. 

In the processing moments after, I felt so much anger and my heart was broken.  I felt guilt that I can live my life so oblivious of what other people encounter because of white privilege.  I felt guilt that I was born into this bubble of protection because of my skin.   

For my white friends and a reminder to myself… saying you’re not racist is not the same thing as fighting racism.  Having a “black friend” does not make you anti-racist.  Staying silent or “keeping peace” during racial injustices is choosing racism.  Being infatuated with black culture is not the same thing as accepting black people. 

 I cannot watch another innocent black person lose their life and keep scrolling… not for my family, not for the sake of human justice.  When it all seems so overwhelming and that change is impossible,  I’m begging you… make the calls, sign the petitions, have the hard conversations, truly listen to what their experiences are, but please, just do something… innocent black lives are depending on it. 

Legacy


 As the world grieves a legend, an incredible father, a husband, a daughter with so much life to live, I can’t help but think about the legacy Kobe Bryant left.  A legacy that changed the game of basketball, created a beautiful life for his family and influenced thousands of people on and off the court.  We’re a country divided on so many things on so many levels, but in this horrific event, we’re united on the fact that we all felt this.

 As difficult as this tragedy is, it’s been amazing to read different people’s stories of his inspiration and love of the game.  How his pure talent on the court made people passionate about basketball.  I love reading as different NBA players reminisce about receiving a pair of shoes from Kobe himself which ultimately changed the trajectory of their lives, inspiring them to pursue the NBA with the confidence that this dream was attainable.  Kobe did these small acts with a love that changed a person’s whole world.  We all know that Kobe was not without fault, as all of us are, but his impact… that was extraordinary. 

Thinking about the Bryant family and the other victims of the helicopter crash brought conviction to my own life.  If I died today, what would those around me say? What would they think of me?  Would the people I love know how deeply I loved them?  Would my life have had meaning?  Did I live out my calling and my passions?  The term legacy has a few different meanings, most of them having to do with handing things down from one person to the next.  It matters what those “things” are.  It matters if you took the time to make your imprint on this earth.  What “things” are you passing down?

We’re all called to do something, be someone of importance and leave a legacy.  Although most of us will never have the opportunity to influence the amount of people that Kobe did, we can take the small opportunities we do have to make a difference.  We can do small acts with love.  We can pursue our passions with a little more urgency.  We can truly value our time and eliminate what doesn’t matter.  We can leave a legacy that we’re proud of. 

 A good friend once told me, “sometimes we allow the assumption in our lives to speak for us.  “Well, this person should already know I love them.  I don’t always have to say it.”  B.S. Flowers seem to be the frequent choice of appreciation for the deceased during a funeral, when those same flowers would much better serve their purpose while that person could still smell them.” Give those flowers. 

To the Bryant family, the Altobelli family, the Mauser family, the Zobayan family and the Chester family, may your loved onesrest in peace and may you find comfort and love in your heartbreak and pain. We are all here for you.

Dear Eliza

Recently, I read a news article about Robert Kraft’s charges upgrading from a misdemeanor to a felony due to purchasing “prostitutes” on multiple days versus one day.  The story itself made me sick, but what broke my heart were the comments following.  The amount of people who were defending his actions and were upset that he’s being held accountable blows my mind.  It’s hard not to assume that because he’s an NFL franchise owner (not just any NFL team, the Patriots) means he deserves to be pardoned.  That these “prostitutes” he purchased didn’t matter.  It was irrelevant that these women were victims and enslaved for his purchasing pleasure.  There were jokes asking on how to find this “spa” or where they could be found locally.  Not one comment acknowledged that these women must have been going through hell.  Their lives did not matter and were grouped together as though they were not even human. 

Each of these women have names, they have souls and dreams that were stolen from them.  They are not there by choice nor are they getting paid.  They are not only women from foreign countries, they are women taken off the streets of our neighborhoods. 

Rape culture mindset is everywhere, and it needs to end.  We made progress with the MeToo movement, but we need to keep it going.  We cannot let it become a moment in history, but a movement that changes an entire culture for women (and men). 

When I think about my own daughter, it terrifies me to think about what she may endure.  There are things I would have to tell her in hopes of protecting her.  Things that might make me sound crazy, but things that we as women go through every day.  Things I think about every time I’m alone.  Things I wish I was more aware of in my youth.

If I had to send her out into the world today, our conversation would go something like this… 

Dear Eliza,

There are some things that I must tell you as your mother and as a woman.  This world can be a beautiful place with beautiful people.  I pray that you only encounter these types of people and experiences, but if you don’t, there are some things that you must know. 

When you go out at night, please make sure you are not alone.  You always need to be aware of your surroundings and cannot be distracted by a phone.  When you walk to your car at night, keep your car keys between your fingers so if you are attacked, you have a defense.  If you get into an Uber, pull out a piece of your hair with your DNA attached so there is evidence of you being in this car.  If you go to a bar, go with friends and leave with the same friends.  Don’t ever leave your drink unattended.  You cannot get into a car with a man you do not know and please do not fall for false promises. 

Your virginity is not a prize to be won and your heart cannot be given away into different pieces. The greatest gift you can give someone does not include your flesh. You are whole all by yourself.  Please know that your value goes beyond any man’s opinion of you and if you mess up, you are worth so much more than even your worst mistake. 

You, beautiful girl, have an enormous purpose in this life.  You are not here by mistake.  You were longed for and prayed for.  There is not one person or experience that can tarnish your beauty or worth.  You are perfect exactly as God created you.    

I wish this world could be different for you.  I wish you did not have to protect yourself and be on guard every second of this life, but until real change happens, until rape culture ends, you cannot let your guard down.

We must keep fighting, sharing our experiences, standing our ground and supporting each other.  We owe it to our sisters, our friends, our children and our grandchildren. 

No matter what happens, know that I will ALWAYS believe you and will never stop fighting for you. 

-Mom

Weird Skin

My son Trey loves to look through pictures on my phone. On Labor Day weekend we were lucky enough to spend a few days at the beach. We had a great time and made a ton of memories. I love being able to share a place I loved as a kid with my kids. While swimming in the ocean, some older kids made repeated comments on Trey’s skin being different or to use their words, “weird.”  Weird because his skin didn’t match the 99% Caucasian population that was sitting on the beach and that meant they felt entitled to point it out repeatedly at a volume they knew he could hear.  These words stuck to Trey.  He continued to bring it up, verbalizing how it really hurt him. We talked it through, and I honestly thought he had forgotten about it.  After that weekend he was out shopping with my sister and was around kids around the same age as the ones in the ocean.  They were causing a disruptive scene in the store and my sister noticed that Trey was getting anxious. A few days later he brought it up, explaining he was scared these kids would notice his “weird skin” and turn their attention onto him. Fast forward to today, Trey is looking through photos and stops at one from our beach weekend. I made a comment of how much I loved this one, his response, “I just keep thinking about how my skin looks weird.”  

For about a year, my husband and I have gone back and forth about when he should have “the talk” with Trey about the “n” word.  I’ve talked with Trey about racism, human rights activists, slavery, and what it means to be bi-racial. When we talk about it, it somehow always seems to be a thing of the past, like we don’t currently have a president who promotes white supremacy or where the KKK has marches and feels validated to make themselves known.  Where innocent black kids (not much older than him) are killed by police for looking suspicious and our county is SPLIT about whether it was murder.  Where a black man is killed in his own home sitting on his couch and the punishment is a 10-year sentence.  I struggle because it feels like I would be taking away his innocence.  That the reality is that people in this world will judge you, hate you, or even kill you, based on your skin “looking weird.”  That his skin and a white person’s skin are not of same value. I struggle because if he was called this name, he would know the connotations of what’s in someone’s heart.  That the level of hatred someone has towards his skin is merely based off that… his skin.  I struggle because how do I teach my 8-year-old how to handle this situation?  How do I teach him to go high when the world seems to be going low when it comes to race?

As a white person, I cannot even begin to understand the fear, the pressure, the constant battle that black people or any other race goes through, especially when it comes to raising kids in America.  Where they don’t have the luxury of waiting to take away their kids’ innocence on racism. Where teaching them about police is not a “black and white” conversation and that maybe they are not always here to “protect and serve,” at least not to those of color.

We need to do better. We need to educate on why “Black Lives Matter” is only for Black Lives and why that’s more than okay.  We need to teach empathy on racial issues of the past and present.  We need to hold people accountable when we see hatred and demand more of our neighbors, our community, our country.  We cannot be complacent.  We need a world where people believe change is possible and necessary. Where injustice and oppression are never accepted as the norm. 

It starts with a conversation, an open mind, digging deep to let down your defense and acknowledging racism exists.  As parents, we have a powerful role in leading by example both with words and actions.  Your kids see you and they hear you. 

 All it takes is one moment, a few words to make a lasting impression on someone… to create fear, anxiety, to make them question their self-worth.   Please, teach your kids to make it a positive one.  

“Change in the world begins with change in your neighborhood. And change in your neighborhood begins with change in you – a change from indifference to responsibility – a change from purpose-less survival to purpose-full living.” – Abhijit Naskar

Time Heals

No amount of experiences you hear about, read about, talk about can prepare you for what to expect when you go through a miscarriage.  As women, we keep it quiet.  We swallow the pain, the loss and move forward because we’re resilient, because people depend on us, because we have one million responsibilities.  We don’t have time to feel it… to truly feel it. 

The first time it really hit me that I was going to miscarry, it felt like an out of body experience; a bad dream that I was going to wake up from and realize that everything was okay, that all the pregnancy symptoms I was feeling were real.  I stared at the ultrasound screen praying I’d see a heartbeat.  I can still hear the doctor say, “I’m sorry but you are going to miscarry” followed up by, “please see the receptionist to schedule your D & E.” I couldn’t even breathe let alone get myself together enough to schedule a D & E.  For doctors, miscarriages are routine, but for me… my heart was shattered. 

I went home and did what every sane person should do… google. I googled all the articles, the blogs, anything I could find that provided hope.  The doctor was wrong.  I’ll give it a few weeks and I’ll demand an ultrasound and a heartbeat will appear.  I was convinced my story will have a miracle, I needed this miracle to work after the year my family had.

When my body started the process of miscarrying, it was unlike anything for which I could prepare.  It was easily one of the most painful things I’ve experienced and I had been in labor before.  I was willing to put my body through this in hopes of a miracle that didn’t happen, at least not yet. 

This was not my last miscarriage, not even close.  Each one brought its own hope followed by its own devastation.  Each one left me numb and depressed.  Each one tore apart my body; but nevertheless, I kept moving forward.  People don’t know what to say, you don’t know how to feel.  Once enough time has passed, everyone else moves on, except you.  You think about what could have been, what would have been, the due dates, the birthdays.  It’s been a year, two years, three years, when should I let it go?  When’s the appropriate time to move on?  After my 5th miscarriage I felt like a broken record.  It became routine to me, what to expect, what to do…I just stopped talking about it. 

What I wish I did, what I wish I knew, from my broken heart to another broken heart… time does bring healing. Your loss is not in vain.  It has a purpose, though you may never know the exact reason.  It may be to come along side someone who is grieving, to appreciate the miracle of life or to be reminded how amazing your circle is.  You don’t forget.  The pain doesn’t disappear, but eventually it becomes easier.  Dates become numbers again and not milestones.  You learn to feel again. Talk about your pain, let yourself feel the loss, take as much time as YOU need to process and grieve.  You don’t always have to be strong; you can let yourself be vulnerable.  Know that you are not alone and you couldn’t prevent it.  Find your community, lean on them.  If you don’t have anyone, find me.