“Am I Safe?”

My 8yr old (biracial) daughter asked me.

There are certain questions an eight year old should never have to ask. This is definitely one of them. I was trying to explain the desperate state our country is in right now, which naturally lead to a talk about racism. Explaining racism has always proven difficult because I have never understood it.

I’ve never understood how people can treat people disrespectfully (or with downright hatred) because of something so uncontrollable and insignificant as skin color? And the fact that a lot of people who perpetrate acts of violence consider themselves believers in God is outrageous! I’ve always wanted to ask them: who do you think created different colors? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and the ultimate creator — obviously S/He wants us all here loving each other!?

But I’ll get off that soap box for now. I was trying to point out the stupidity of racism when my caramel colored daughter asked, “Am I safe?”

It was as if part of my heart was sucked out through my throat.

Because the honest answer is, “Probably not”. We live in a predominantly white town. I still remember the confused stares I would get while toting a dark baby around the grocery store. (It’s ironic: I forget I’m in an interracial relationship until a stranger gives me a look.) It’s one of humanity’s saddest truths: hatred is handed down from generation to generation. And it only takes one ignorant person to cause damage. Thankfully, the same can also be said for love and healing.

So there I was, gulping back tears, trying to explain that it is likely my daughter will have to, possibly at many points in her life, deal with racism. I told her if it happens, it has everything to do with the other person and nothing to do with her. I explained that racism is taught by small minded people and she doesn’t have to listen to them.

Then I realized black moms (and dads — I’m not stereotyping, I’m just coming from a perspective I understand) have had to have this conversation with their kids for centuries?! I remember my (black) ex-husband telling me he was raised to “never give them a reason”. Especially police officers. How F’d up is that?! Now the country is up in arms (rightfully so) because apparently skin color is enough of a reason for some people in power to act like they’re above the law. Well, no one should be.

Please, take action. Right now. Today. Email local lawmakers. Ask them to demilitarize the police. Go to protests. People say they don’t do any good — but they do! How else can you account for the four officers in MN finally being brought to justice? Donate to charities that make a difference. I like the Equal Justice Initiative, but there are so many good ones out there. Covid put me out of work, so I may not be able to move their needle much, but every little bit helps. Most importantly: Vote! Not just for the president. I’m taking my own advice here. This month, I’m voting in my second local election.

The least we owe to all our beautiful sons and daughters is to try to create a world where they don’t have to worry about the color of their skin. There are enough problems out there without this petty one. The polar ice caps melting. Plastic choking our marine life. Oil spills. But these are for another article. Geez, we really need to fix the systemic problems of racism so we can fry bigger fish! Our kids are counting on us. Thanks for reading.

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Allison Johnson

Allison Johnson

Dancer, writer, mother, watcher of too many movies:)