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Posts Tagged ‘racism’

“Mom why are they all black?” My oldest daughter said with a confused and concerned tone. “Not brown like us but just all black, and no faces?”

The 1941 version of Dumbo in its day was an animation masterpiece. A feature length film with talking animals. Today we can see it for all its flaws. From questionable lyrics, to racist crows. Dumbo comes with a lot of baggage.

via Disney

My daughter’s question started a discussion about animation, technology and even our country’s racist history. It’s not new to her. It’s a topic we’ve talked about many many times. Whether during homeschool, during our tour through the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. or while reading various books. We talked about how there wasn’t much diversity in movies in the 1940s, and when people who looked like us were in movies they weren’t always depicted nicely.

I get some people who ask me how we as a “Disney family” either 1. Can watch these old movies with racist undertones or 2. How I discuss them with my kids.

The post I had planned to write today was a review of the new live action Dumbo. But screw it. Let’s get a little dirty. This is important and something I’d love to chat with you about.

Mother daughter Disney Bound. Dressed as Mama Jumbo and Timothy the Mouth and a baby girl as Dumbo.
Photo by HeyTeamKelly

Wait, Dumbo is racist?

So first off, if you wandered in here and are thinking “Dumbo is racist? What?!” And are feeling a little sheepish right now, don’t. It’s ok, you’re reading this and taking the time to learn and that’s what’s important. What we are willing to do now. Not forever being ridiculed for our ignorance of the past.

Also, honestly, growing up I was clueless too. Not that Dumbo was on our most-played list or anything. But I was either bored with it, confused by it, or more in awe of seeing babies come from storks than anything else as a kid.

Questionable Lyrics

As an adult I was more clued into the racist undertones but since this movie wasn’t on our regular rotation it was more thanks to articles. For instance I didn’t know what in the world the men were saying as they build the circus tent. Even today I went back and watched it before writing this and I still can barely make it out. I replayed it several times, kept getting distracted by cute baby Dumbo working alongside his mama, so I finally searched to find the disturbing lyrics.

via Disney

Unsure what I’m talking about? When the Casey Jr. train stops chugging along and the animals begin to file out of the “Song of the Roustabouts” has a scene with dark faceless, and featureless men. They look more like boxy robots than real people. And lyrics such as “Grab that rope, you hairy ape!” Lyrics which were wisely not included in the 2019 live action version directed by Tim Burton.

Racist Crows

Later in the movie there’s a flock of crows that find Dumbo and Timothy asleep in the tree.

Also, call me dim, but though I immediately caught the vocal version of blackface (assuming the crows were drawn and voiced by white actors), I did miss that the lead crow is named “Jim Crow” (I don’t believe it was ever said in the movie, I’ve re-watched the scene a few times and haven’t caught it. It’s not in the movie credits but it is listed on iMDb that’s his name.

Image of racist crows Dumbo film listening to Dumbo's sob story.
via Disney

Jim Crow laws were laws that enforced racial segregation in the South. They began after the Civil War and continued through the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. They were finally abolished with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law outlawed discrimination in any type of public accommodation (source).

So Dumbo was released in 1941. Before the Civil Rights Movement began, arguably at the height of the Jim Crow laws. And they decided to name the leader of a jive-dancing, slang-throwing, jazz-singing group of birds Jim Crow and he’s voiced by a white guy. See how this can be seen as problematic?

I personally never saw the birds to be of low intelligence or lazy, as some critics will point out. But they were clearly written in the movie to depict a stereotype of black people at the time, and the main bird’s name is Jim Crow.

If you don’t have the movie and can’t see what I’m talking about for yourself, you may not get a chance. The scene will be cut from the Disney+ version of the film.

racism crows Dumbo help him fly. Clip from the movie.
via Disney

As a child I didn’t see the birds as depicting black people, because the black people in my life didn’t look or act that way. As an adult, I can see where the scene went wrong. But as a viewer, I’m glad that Disney decided to remove it from the streaming services. Kids around the world don’t need to see that without context on how or why it was wrong. As a mother, I’m glad we still have the original version because it’s a really really good lesson.

How can you watch this?

I watched it with Lil’ J for the first time when she was three. We had a nightly routine of twisting her hair and watching a new Disney movie together in my bed. When Dumbo came up the queue she watched the mama elephant with her strange-looking baby. The one quote I remember from her while we watched that first time was during the pink elephants song, when Dumbo and Timothy accidentally get drunk of champagne and start hallucinating. That’s when she said “Mom, this is freaking me out.”

I tried so hard to contain my laughter. I’d never heard her say anything like that before. But it sparked a great conversation about alcohol.

Now, about five years later we re-watched this version after seeing the live-action movie to compare the two. And she noticed the faceless men building the circus tent, and that really bothered her.

I was finally noticing the crows that everyone has been upset about. But my kids didn’t. Big T was asleep by that time (it was a late movie night), and Lil’ J didn’t say anything about it, so I put a pin in that conversation for now.

Let me break down first 1. Why I allow my kids to watch these movies with racist undertones and 2. How we discuss them.

Why I let my kids watch Dumbo

The original Dumbo premiered in 1941. Back then the world was in the middle of WWII. The attack on Pearl Harbor happened at the end of that year. Black people were migrating north where they had the right to vote because in the South we still couldn’t. And even still, some states passed literacy laws to keep people from being eligible to vote. Schools were segregated. Towns were segregated. Interracial marriage was illegal. Things weren’t so nice for us. (source)

When you compare how things were for us then to now, we are sitting pretty. I had the opportunity to attend an integrated public school in Georgia. Go to a public college and private University. Earn scholarships. Work as a television reporter and anchor in 3 cities over a decade. And now I own my own business, working my own hours while raising my three kids and living in our dream house I put half down on. Yes, I have a husband and he helped but I’m just going to own this for a minute ok? I did that. A black woman. Praise the Lord I’m alive today and able to do that.

Mother daughter Disney Bound. Dressed as Mama Jumbo and a baby girl as Dumbo.

I am not going to forget what so many people before us had to do to get us to where we are now. I am also not going to ignore or erase the past or act like it didn’t happen. We can learn from this. Besides, the crows were the only characters that wound up being nice to Dumbo after hearing his story, and I think that is another lesson in and of itself.

Listen, if 2019 Dumbo was a duplicate of the past with all of the underage drinking and blackface I woulda snatched my kids and walked up out of that theater.

But we’ve had 78 years to learn, grow and evolve. And we can look back at mistakes and call them just that. A history lesson if you will. But I’m not throwing Dumbo, Peter Pan, Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp, Pocahontas and… I’m sure I’m forgetting others in my fireplace to burn. But I don’t personally get myself too wound up about it because I’m giving my children context. And we can learn a lot with that.

As Aramide A. Tinubu well in an essay on NBC Think, we can learn from our past.

Unpacking how, why and when these projects were made would provide context for newcomers and those who haven’t seen these films in decades. It would offer an opportunity for growth, conversation and healing. But, by sweeping these issues under the rug, Disney suggests they would rather shut the door on their past atrocities than take the time and space to learn, grow and evolve from them. Sometimes doing what’s best for the generations that follow us means we must get uncomfortable, and expose our past faults and failures to them for us all to evolve.

Aramide A. Tinubu

Now I’m not going to ridicule Disney for taking that part out of it’s streaming service. Without context for those who need it, it could do more harm that good. But let’s hope there’s room for that later on.

How we discuss racism in Dumbo and other Disney movies

This time my daughter’s question started a discussion about animation, technology and even racism.

Normally when we see a live action movie we watch the original first. But this time we went ahead and watch the 2019 version before the 1941 version. I figured one would help give the other more context and open up move discussion that way.

I always ask what they thought of the movie, favorite parts, least favorite parts. And we talk about how the two versions are the same and different. Lil’ J’s direct comment about the men building the tent sparked conversation for us. I ask her what she thought of them, why she thinks they don’t have faces, and why she thinks their skin looks like that. Then I try to do more asking than talking.

I ask if they know how long ago the movie was made (and give the answer if they don’t). Ask if they know what was going on in the world during that time, and how people acted towards one another. Ask if they think artists or writers working on movies may have thought differently or the same as everyone else. And we talk about now. I ask how things are now, what they notice is different. How they think artist now may draw the movie if they could re-do it.

Had she not brought that up I may have asked her what she thought about the crows. Since she didn’t think anything of it, and I wouldn’t expect her to, so I let it go this time. But I do want to There are so many layers to that that would require me to point out things like “white voiceover actor” “the bird’s name is actually Jim… Jim Crow”, “They were created to try to act like black people” all things that aren’t obvious to her right now. So I didn’t feel the need to discuss it this time, but I’m sure it’ll be a conversation we’ll have some day. And I’ll be ready.

Now I have an honest question for you. Did you ever see these scenes in the movie Dumbo as racist?

Mother daughter Disney Bound. Dressed as Mama Jumbo and Timothy the Mouth and a baby girl as Dumbo.

Ok so this got long. Instead of tacking the review of the live action remake to the bottom of this post I’m going to share that on Friday. Along with the glaring difference that stuck out about the two films, and if we think buying the new movie is worth it.

Isn’t it crazy how our first impressions of someone can be completely wrong? I’ve had people tell me I look more like a Keisha than a Jennifer (what?!). I’ve seen mouths drop when I state that I graduated from BYU and yes, we’re Mormon (though technically not called that anymore). We’ve all had our share of wrong first impressions.

interracial couple in an interracial marriage wrong first impression

Before my husband and I had our first date I had a picture in my mind of what he would look like. We’d spoken on the phone and I knew he grew up for awhile in North Carolina, was a big sports fan, his mom was from Atlanta (like me!) and he served a mission in the Caribbean. I assumed tall dark and handsome. I was not expecting a cute white dude from Utah. Now this is another story for another day. But what I will say is through the years I’ve continued to learn a lot about first impressions.

We met on that blind date of sorts, 15 years ago this week. I thought he was cute, but a bit quiet. A little funny. Based on that first impression, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. I didn’t know if he’d get me. But it only took a couple more dates for me to realize that this guy was made for me. From serenading me with 90s R&B, to introducing me to fry sauce and Cafe Rio.

wrong first impression of interracial families

Throughout our years together we’ve had a lot more first impression mixups. People not realizing we are together in line, people assuming I’m not my daughter’s mom, people assuming he’s not our son’s father, and other things here and there that honestly, (and thankfully) feel most like distant memories at this point. But one thing that’s bothering me more than I realized is an assumption people make when my husband puts on his work uniform.

“Do people ever call you racist?” I asked him one afternoon in passing.

“HA!” He shouted in response. “Are you joking?”

I’ll admit the question was kind of a joke. I knew angry people called him that sometimes but I don’t think I knew (and still don’t know) the extent.

“Every day,” he said. Like, multiple times a day. As in, when responding to a call, while monitoring a protest, or randomly yelled at a passerby driving down the street.

It doesn’t really bother him. He’s used to it. And it didn’t used to bother me. Mainly because I’d resorted to it coming with the territory. But recently an acronym appeared in a comment below one of my Instagram photos that sent my into a fury.

First off, let me say that this wasn’t from any of my lovely followers. The photo was of Lil’ J and I at her daddy’s graduation from the police academy about 7 years ago. I used it for a partnership about helping the homeless. Well the post was promoted across the platform and reached many many more people. Many strangers. Strangers that didn’t like 1. Our interracial marriage. And 2. The fact that he was a police officer.

I can’t even tell you the level of horrendous comments some people had the gaul to write. Most of them surrounding the fact that he would likely kill me, or how disgusting our relationship was. Some dared to say that “given the climate” our photo was insensitive. Excuse me? Are these the same types of people who would say that a black person trying not to sit in the back of the bus in the 50s was being insensitive given the climate? I’m sorry but our existence isn’t a political statement.

I digress…

I noticed four capital letters that seemed to be repeated over and over by numerous commenters (before I shut the comments off completely).

“ACAB.”

After awhile my curiosity was piqued so I googled it and learned it stands for “All cops are bastards.”

Well that’s not very nice.

My entire life I’ve been put off by stereotypes.

Assuming all women are ______.

All black people are _______.

People assuming I got the job because I’m black. Or that’s the reason I got into college, ignoring the hard work and straight As.

Then it brought me back to a section of a book I read that embodies what I was feeling.

A lot of us would get upset if my kids or I was called the N word. My husband would probably lose his mind. But do I get upset when I see someone call him a pig?

There’s a part in Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness where she sums up her beliefs and fully encompasses my conflicted feelings on the matter:

Here’s what I believe:

1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.

2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”

3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.

4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”

5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.

My life circumstances have forced me to have a more open mind but I still make mistakes. I’m still learning. Really, we all are. And real courage comes when we’re brave enough to admit that.

In reality you know nothing about a person at first glance. You could make assumptions. But you’re risking being very wrong.

white father with biracial children don't get the wrong first impression

15 years ago I had the wrong first impression of my husband. But I’m glad I said yes to a second date.

 

One of the books we read a few months ago as a part of our 365 books challenge was Grace for President. A book about a little girl who is distraught at the fact that there have been no female presidents and she decides to run for president of her elementary school class. We read it on election day last year, but it was the first time we’d picked it up since.

Black History Month books for kids

In the story the teacher opens up a poster displaying all of the presidents.

“ALL of the presidents?” My daughter asked me determined for a clarification. “Even Trump?” She emphasized his name with a hint of disgust.

My husband gave me a disapproving look.

“President Trump isn’t on the poster in this story because he wasn’t president yet when it was made,” I explained.

“Ok good,” she said.

“Why is that good?” I ask. “Why are you acting like you don’t like him?” I mean, I have my reasons but surely my then 6-year-old wasn’t as up to speed as I was.

“Because he wants to build a wall to keep people out,” she replied. “That’s not nice. Plus people could just fly over it in an airplane!”

Her answer was so simple, yet political issues can be so complex.

I haven’t hidden my feelings about our new president. During the election cycle I was careful not to have too much of the news on, never knowing if his words or tone would be appropriate for my children.

Leading up to the election my daughter and I read books about blacks and women finally gaining the right to vote. My daughter stood with me in the ballot box as we prepared to make history. It didn’t go as we imagined.

election day 2016 ivoted with daughter

My disappointment was no secret November 8th. And now here we are in the middle of what I feel will be a very telling time in history. The thing is, history never looks like history when you’re living it.

“Well, what are some things you’d do as president if you were elected?”

This got her wheels spinning and turned the discussion into an educational one.

Our history

As we read about different presidents like Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Roosevelt who helped pull the nation through the depression, established dozens of national parks, and gave us gems like “Comparison is the thief of joy,” it’s hard not to feel a little discouraged. Like we’ve gone backwards.

During President Obama’s presidency our country not only witnessed our first black president, which was historic, but our nation repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, established laws allowing those who love differently to get married, and helped bring us out of a recession. What will this era be known for? The president who tweets daily about news organizations he doesn’t like, throws fits and calls people he doesn’t agree with names? The president who doesn’t know who Frederick Douglass is?–Which by the way, after that press conference, without any context, I asked my then 6-year-old if she knew who Frederick Douglass was and this is her exact quote:

“Frederick Douglass was a slave for 20 years and he escaped and he became friends with Abraham Lincoln. A war was going on and there were teams of people who thought brown people should be slaves or should be free, and Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were on the team of people who thought slaves should be free.”

I was impressed but not surprised because history is one of her favorite subjects. In our homeschool curriculum we read it nearly every day. Then for fun we read more about history. My daughter has a wild imagination so she’s constantly asking for clarification on what’s fiction and non-fiction, historical fiction or myth. I don’t blame her for asking. Some of the things in our nation’s history can be hard to believe.

Confronting racist friends and learning to be the change.

On MLK Day my grandmother told us how she was a teenager when she plotted to go down to D.C. for the march and speech at the Lincoln Memorial. “But my dad wouldn’t let me,” she told us.

I’m frequently asking my relatives what it was like, where they were, and what they thought about issues and events we only read about in history books. What was it like during the Civil Rights Era? What did you think of everything going on? Where were you when things were going down?

In 50 years, my grandkids may ask me the same questions.

What was it like during Trump’s presidency? What did you think of everything going on? Where were you when things were going down? What did you DO?

We have an extreme advantage today my friends. Not everyone will agree with me, but I’m an optimist so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we have more allies, less hatred and hey… the internet! We have an advantage our grandparents didn’t have. What are we going to do with it?

Growing up I felt like I always had to tiptoe around racism. Part of it was my personality, not wanting to offend my classmates, or people at church (though obviously they weren’t as worried about offending me). Another part of it was fear. Saying the wrong thing to the right person could mean trouble.

Now, I’m not as worried about offending people, certainly not the ones who aren’t worried about my feelings. And I’m not worried about someone physically hurting me for boldly stating my opinions.

I don’t have the answers for what will cure the world of hatred, or at least bring our nation together in our lifetime. But I do have a theory on what could help. And with that, a suggestion for everyone.

Be the change

Never pass an opportunity to correct an act of racism. Don’t allow it in your presence, don’t condone it, don’t support it or be around people who do. And correct every single instance you hear it. Be a walking censor for racism. Yell BEEP, blow a horn, scratch a record, sound the alarm, nip that ish in the bud. And just to clarify, if you’re asking yourself if a conversation you’re hearing is racist, it probably is. So call. It. Out.

Confronting racist friends and learning to be the change.

I know it’s hard to know what’s ok, not ok, or socially acceptable now that we have a president who skews all sorts of offensive remarks about different groups of people. But whether you voted for him or not, we can be better than that.

Years ago, I was alone in the editing booth with a fellow reporter, who happened to be white. I was lamenting about being ripped off with something. I said I was gypped.

“That’s racist,” she told me.

“What?” I asked.

“It is a word stemming from gypsies, who are stereotyped as being thieves.”

I backpedaled, tiptoed, and danced around my use of the word because I was feeling some kind of way about this blond chick who I may or may not have thought was racist herself, schooling me on racism.

Ok. I eventually resolved. I didn’t know. But now I did. And I have never ever used that word since.

“Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou

She could have laughed at my story, or easily let my slip slide. But she chose to put me in my place. And honestly, I’m glad she did.

This particular woman was always extremely blunt. Not a strong suit of mine, nor a characteristic I have ever really grown to appreciate (though I do admire). But she didn’t pass this opportunity to correct an act of racism. My act.

Have you passed an opportunity? Who am I kidding, we all have. But let’s do better.

There are countless ways to do this. My personal least favorite is public shaming. That’s just not my style, and I don’t believe it’s the most productive. We all hope it’ll make the person retreat to their home, lick their wounds and come to their senses, but that may not be for a long time, maybe even a lifetime. Their wounded pride will close off doors, conversations and progression.

I felt embarrassed when the woman called me out even though it was just the two of us alone in a small room. Had that been in front of other colleagues I likely would have more feelings of animosity than admiration right now.  But hey, you know your crowd better than I do. And sometimes public arguments on a Facebook timeline result in others looking further into an issue. I guess what I’m saying is if you go this route just proceed with caution and be honest with yourself and brutally aware if it’s doing more damage than good.

That isn’t to say that you don’t call it out in front of other people, just be aware of the way you do it. If you’re at lunch with friends and you hear something you think is racist you don’t have to wait until later to pull that person aside and talk about it. The last thing you want is everyone at that table letting it go and walking away without doing a dang thing. A corrective statement could start like “Well actually…” “Did you know that…” or “I didn’t realize this at first but…”. Or keep something simple locked away like “Let’s not generalize.”

People don’t talk about negatively about blacks around me. But I’ll hear smack said about Hispanics. And if they’re talking about Hispanics around me, I imagine around their white friends everything is free game. Don’t let it be free game around you.

Look, NO ONE wants to be called a racist. And I’d say at least half of the country thinks the term is thrown around too casually and/or doesn’t understand that racism has many layers from subtle and overt to the blatant everyone sees as racism. I think that’s part of the reason we’re so scared to confront our friends about it. It’s why we let a joke or comment slide when we could instead insist on change.

Again, I’m an optimist. I have hope that even the most racist people could be reformed with the right conversations and intense therapy. But it’s never going to happen if we allow these things to be said in our presence. So be brave. Plant the seed of change.

Every time we let an act of racism go by, we’re passing up an opportunity to make a little impact on history. Leave the world a better place. Be the person you want your grandchildren to be proud of. So when they ask you what YOU were doing 50 years ago you can boldly state that you never ever allowed that. That you listened to minorities, then spoke up, and fought against racism every chance you had.

Pass it on.

 

 

 

 

I know a lot of people who say they like Donald Trump because “he says it like it is” he’s not afraid of not being “politically correct” or offending anyone. So I’m hoping the same people who feel that way won’t take offense to what I’m about to say. This is coming from a place of love and a yearning to help facilitate understanding and maybe start a dialogue.

To My Friends Who Voted for Trump

I normally find myself positioned right smack in the middle of a lot of divisive topics. Being a woman, a black woman… A black woman who happens to be Mormon (I’m like Obama, Hillary and Romney wrapped into one)–and members of my religion typically have extremely conservative social opinions. I lived in Utah for four years but before that, I was raised in the south (Georgia). There I was called a nigger umm… Several times. And now living in Texas (though thankfully Austin–It could be worse) I still hear the word flying around now and then in unexpected places. Oh, and on top of all that I’m married to a white cop. Needless to say, I’ve definitely had quite the mix of friends and lived in and experienced diverse communities.

This is what it's like to raise a multiracial family in a post- Trump era.

I’ve learned to listen, see, and try to understand different viewpoints. I can understand why my religious friends are so passionately anti-abortion. I can understand why my gay friends are hurt when others speak out against their marriage. Interracial marriages only became legal in all 50 states less than 50 years ago (and my church has disapproved in even more recent history). There are a lot of people still alive on this earth today who feel my marriage is wrong so yea–Solidarity.

All of that said. I know I still have a lot of work to do. I’m not perfect and I still have a lot of understanding to gain. But the one thing I will never ever understand.–The one thing I will never ever support is hate.

We all know racism is bad.

We, being you and I. If you are a regular visitor to my blog I know we at least agree on that. I also think it’s pretty bad to call someone a racist just because they don’t agree with you. That said, there are other things you can say or do to set off my racist red alert.

I’ve had several conversations with friends over the last couple of days that have the thesis of “I voted for Trump but I’m not a racist, a bigot or a homophobe.”

I can understand why people are on the defense because there are a lot of harsh words and ugly memes going around right now. Maybe you scroll through your newsfeed and see something about Trump voters being bigots and think “but that’s not me!” To that, I say calm down. Take a deep breath and don’t take it personally (unless someone is directly calling you out, but I’ll get to that in a moment).

As my husband blocks traffic so protestors can safely march in solidarity against Trump in the middle of the roadway, many yell and call him a racist cop. We laugh about that.

I know some of you are looking at me and saying: “No Jennifer, I mean I had someone I thought was a friend flat out call me a racist because I voted for Trump!”

Ok, well sometimes that happens too. But may I ask what conversations happened before it escalated to this point? Were you defending Trump and his remarks about minorities? Do you think what he said was wrong? Do you even care? When you were explaining the reasons why you voted for Trump did you fail to mention your distaste for his generalizing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers? Of course, you don’t owe your explanation to anyone, I’m just trying to help explain why your apathetic attitude may come across as acceptance, and why acceptance of this is not ok.

How do you feel about the racism that’s erupting after this election?

No, I’m not talking about the peaceful protests that are a protected by the constitution. No, I’m not even talking about the riots–Though I imagine you’re well aware of those. I’m talking about the middle school kids who are chanting “Build that wall” in the cafeteria around their Latino classmates who are in tears. I’m talking about racial slurs being written on black people’s cars. I’m talking about minorities being threatened by white people in the name of “yea we won!” I’m talking about the KKK planning a celebratory gathering. I’m talking about some of these terrible things that happened the day after Trump was elected president.

Did you not know about this? If not, that’s part of the problem. See, for minorities–For me, this really isn’t anything new. I am well aware that racism is alive and well today. We live it. If you haven’t noticed you probably aren’t paying attention. But when I read about these incidents and I don’t see my friends who say they voted for him saying that’s wrong, I wonder if they think that’s right. Why share sarcastic memes about violent protestors but nothing about the violent hate crimes?

Forgive me if I seem to be overreacting but these are serious emotional triggers for me. And it doesn’t seem logical, but now when I walk to the mailbox with my kids my pulse quickens when a lifted pickup truck passes by. These are serious issues facing people right now. Issues I think about just existing as a family. And I don’t even wear a hijab or run the risk of having family being deported. I imagine it must feel even worse for my Muslim and Mexican friends.

Unfortunately, electing someone despite their very outspokenly skewed views of Muslims, Mexicans, Latinos, Blacks, people with disabilities and let’s not forget women, can lead some people to believe that way of thinking is acceptable.

This is the reason I worry.

Not just about possibly of discriminatory policies that may be coming in the future, but because of the hateful actions from those very happy about the election results. Because racist people now think it’s ok to come out of hiding and say what they really think.

I know you don’t want to be associated with that crowd. I don’t want you to either. To agree with Trump politically is one thing, but when you don’t stand against the racist things that are coming from this, or the hurtful things he said himself, then I’m left wondering if you agree with them.

So if you say you are not racist, that you do not agree with the things Trump has said about minorities or Muslims. Say it! Take a stand. Stand up to racism. Don’t allow it, don’t condone it, speak against it. I know it’s scary, I know it’s probably outside of your comfort level and the type of things you normally talk about, but we can’t-do it alone. We need you to help bridge the divide.

To help stand up for what’s right.

For me… Just having someone acknowledge my feelings goes a long way. I have two friends who have recently reached out to me and said how they look at the world differently. How when they’re out and see people donning Confederate flags they wonder how that encounter might go if they were Black. Just that acknowledgment of “Hey, racism sucks, I’m sorry you have to deal with this,” goes a long way… for me at least. I guess I’m easy to please.

So may I suggest we use this awkward period after an election where we’re giving our friends and relatives the side eye to also learn a little more about each other?

Look around at your circle of friends. How diverse are they? Do you have friends who voted for the other guy (or gal)? Do you have friends who practice different religions? Friends of different races? Do you have gay friends? If all of your friends look and/or think like you do, it may be time to ask yourself why and consider how your homogenous circle could affect your views of the world.

I’m not going to call you a racist because you voted for Trump. But your actions now will speak much louder than your vote.

This is what it's like to raise a multiracial family in a post Trump era.

A few nights ago I confessed something to my husband that I hadn’t previously verbalized.

See, he stopped wearing his wedding ring several months ago for numerous reasons: The job, the gym, and fat fingers. It used to annoy me. You’d better watch out for badge bunnies! But it doesn’t bother me anymore. I realized I was dealing more with the insecurities I have when taking my ring off.

I don’t worry about men hitting on me (HA!) but people judging me. It all came out over a (very rare) discussion we were having about race.

“If I go to the grocery store and the kids are acting up and I’m not wearing my wedding ring, I’m going to get disapproving looks and people shaking their heads at ‘another baby mama with more kids than she can handle’,” I told him. “I don’t get the benefit of the doubt, or adoring looks like you get when you’re out with them.”

He didn’t argue.

This isn’t a realization as much as it is an awakening of sorts now that both of my kids are exiting toddler hood and approaching adolescence. I’m more hyper-aware of reactions they may receive.

When people look at my kids right now, they see two happy, adorable bright youngsters smiling back at them. That’s what I see (most of the time), but as I watch my biracial children grow older, my worries for them, and how people see them grow as well.

Biracial kids, biracial siblings, biracial brother and sister

I hope strangers look beyond any preconceived notions and see the smart, jovial, kind, thoughtful, amusing people they are.

But will they see my son’s fro and darker skin and subconsciously think he’s a troublemaker?

Will girls tell my daughter she is too dark to play with them? Or will other girls say she is full of herself because her skin color is lighter than theirs? Will my daughter be confident enough to pave her own way despite outward appearances?

Will my son be able to play with his friends’ toy guns without causing alarm? (We don’t and won’t have them at our home).

A long, LONG time from now, when my children are old enough to date, will their friends at church bat an eye at the prospect of dating someone outside of their race? Will some people still see our family as less-than?

Will people assume my kids claimed some sort of handout because of their minority status, or will they believe my kids when they say they earned their way into a competitive college?

Biracial kids, biracial siblings, biracial brother and sister

And then there’s the tiny voice in my head that tells me I’m worrying for nothing. Is this just my insecurities talking? Will any of this even be an issue in the next decade or two, or am I just concerned for no good reason? Is that tiny voice my optimism, or a likely reality? Maybe I shouldn’t allow these worries to marinate too long.

Maybe it’s time I lead by example, own my confidence and let go of my insecurities. Let go of what people may be thinking, and relish in the knowledge of knowing who I really am.–Even as I wait in the checkout line with two kids on my hip and my wedding ring back at home.

 

Growing up, if I didn’t want to witness or experience racism, I knew which groups to avoid.

You laugh, but it was pretty obvious. People weren’t afraid to be called racists, it seemed more like a badge they wore with pride. I kept my distance from the boys who wore confederate flags, and the girls who clung to them.

My parents didn’t give me a handbook on dealing with racism. I don’t even remember having conversations with them on the topic. But even for me, unarmed with wisdom from my parents, it was just something I’d figure out as a black kid in Georgia.

This, and my painfully optimistic personality made me incredibly naive. In the third grade at lunch one of my classmates gravely told me they overheard another peer call me “the N word.”

“What ‘N’ word?” I asked my white friend, without a clue what she was talking about.
“I don’t want to say it,” she whispered.
“No really, just tell me!” My curiosity was peaked, but she insisted on not uttering the word herself.
“Is it nut?” I asked her. She shook her head.

Eventually I gave up and shrugged it off. It must have been something made up or not that bad if it started with an “N.” The worst words I’d heard of didn’t begin that way.

I never figured out what word she was referring to. Not for years.

I segregated myself to groups based on interests, not culture or race. I liked broadcasting, video production, student council, and cheerleading. My passion, along with church were my sanctuaries.

I knew when people didn’t like me based on my skin color. Well, at least the most obvious. But then there were others who weren’t so obvious. I felt confused when people would tell me “You’re different than other black people” as if it were a compliment. I’m just myself, and what does that even mean? Were black people suppose to all act the same while other groups are free to act as they please, not forced to march to the beat of a stereotype? My eyes slowly began to open.

Somehow, I made it to adulthood for the most part, unscathed. But I’m no fool. I know I’m just one of the lucky ones. I’d be lying if I said my blissful naiveness had nothing to do with that.

But now there’s no hiding, unless you just want to stick your head in the sand. And even then, below the grindy dirt, it will still find you.

I wish I could go back to only knowing a racist when they were physically right in front of me. It sounds silly, but in many ways, I think it was easier then.

Back then the racism I experiences was blatant, and obvious. Now it’s a helpless mix of ignorance, immaturity, and misunderstanding, all thrown in our faces everywhere we turn–Because of the screen that’s in front of us.

Want to see what hateful things people are saying about black people? A quick Twitter search and you’ll find it. Want to see a group of bigots congregating in one place? Read some YouTube comments. Want to know which of your friends just don’t get it or have racist mindsets? Check your news feed after an address from President Obama. Or notice how people react after mass shootings versus mass black churches burning down.

Whether I want to or not, I’m automatically sizing up my friends (and many many acquaintances) based on reactions to news events. And it’s not fair. It’s not. It’s causing what I’m calling Negative Information Overload. And it’s hurting me more than them.

If my daughter’s teacher hates a certain group of people I’d want to know. But if the guy I once took physics with finally shows the world his true colors? I don’t need that in my life.

Growing up the racism I witnessed was personally spat in my direction, or at someone who was dear and close to me. Someone so close they’d share such a horrible experience when we were together. I’d uplift her, and we’d get to the bottom of it hand in hand.

We had a filter of how much negativity we’d experience at any given time based on real life.–Your circle of friends and the community you lived in.

Now, it feels as though the pain of the world is raining down my newsfeed. I want to lift burdens, make a difference, but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do that without breaking down from all the weight.

Are things getting better? It’s hard to tell. Before so much went unnoticed or swept under the rug. Now we have a giant magnifying glass on our side. … Or is it?

The poison is around every corner and inescapable.

Racism won’t be cured overnight, but it’s going to take a lot of work to eradicate the problem. Love is the answer. It’s simple. But it’s not easy.

If everyone tried to see one another as the brothers and sisters we are, try to see each other as God sees us… Man, the world would look so much better.

I don’t want my children to grow up blissfully naive like I did. I want them to be aware of reality. And to work with me bit by bit to make it brighter. But I don’t want the painful reality of many, to overshadow what’s good. And there is so much good. It’s a delicate balance, but I’m up for the challenge.

I was writing this post for my BabyCenter blog today but my dear friend Stacey-Ann beat me to the topic. I was actually kind of glad because I can lift the filter a bit more here. You know, be a little more blunt about this topic without the backlash from less-understanding readers (ya’ll get me, cause you read me more frequently). For instance, this wasn’t the headline I had in mind for my other blog.

Every once in a while someone will ask me and my husband what our parent’s thought, about us dating and getting married. “Did they care that you’re black/ he’s white?” It’s a question many interracial couples hear.

“No big deal,” I tell them. Really, it was 2004, and we’re all past that, right?

People say they don’t notice color or race, or anything of that sort. “I’m colorblind,” I always hear. As if it’s awful to notice we’re different. It’s ok to notice that we aren’t the same. We are different. The problem lies when you see simple differences like skin color, as a bad thing.

Cheerios recently debuted a commercial featuring an adorable biracial girl talking to her white mother and black father. I didn’t catch the commercial on TV, but I saw it online and thought it was charming. Did I notice the interracial couple? Sure. Seeing them portrayed in a mainstream advertisement makes me smile, because if advertisers are more comfortable showing interracial relationships, maybe that means society is getting used to it too. Yea, sure, that’s what I thought.

I’ve heard people say if you want to lose faith in humanity, read the comments on YouTube. People can hide behind the computer screen with a made up username linked to a fake email address and say whatever rude, degrading or racist remark they want to say. Unfortunately that was the case, even with this cute Cheerios commercial.

Commenters lashed out and called it “disgusting” and said that it made them “want to vomit.” That’s just the beginning. The comments got so bad that they had to be disabled on the video. Comments out, but Cheerios says the commercial stays.

Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, told Gawker, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”

Since the news has been buzzing about the controversy surrounding this very non-controversial commercial, many have come out in support of the brand. People are thanking Cheerios for showing diversity in their advertisement, and standing by their decision. And I’m standing by Cheerios and all of their delicious (honey nut) goodness.

And let me tell you something anonymous racist internet commenters. You make ME want to vomit. You suck. And I pray that I don’t know any of you in real life. Because if you act one way to my face but then are so much of a closet coward that you have to spend your evenings spitting disgusting bigoted remarks over the internet where no one can see you, we’d need to have a serious coming to Jesus.

So this time an advertisement gets some criticism for showcasing a mixed family. Truthfully, it doesn’t surprise me. But someone has to break the ice. I’d bet by the time my biracial son and daughter are older and dating, seeing families like ours, and kids like them, featured in commercials will hardly get a second glance. And no one will even think to ask what their parent’s thought about them dating someone of a different race.

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Does it surprise you that people responded negatively to a commercial featuring an interracial couple?

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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