It’s been over a week since Michael Brown was shot by the police. I haven’t been vocal on social media about the events, but my husband and I have talked about it everyday. In hushed tones and understood silences, we discussed it over our kids, hoping that they don’t understand all the nuances of our conversation. I’m not ready to explain the events to my eight and four year olds yet.
I pray I can shelter my children from racism a little bit longer, but I’m afraid that “little bit longer” is not very far away.
The families of Ferguson, Missouri are not so lucky. They cannot not shield their children because they are living the ugly truth about America: racism is alive and well in the United States. The parents of Ferguson cannot wait “a little bit longer” when an eight-year-old is hit by tear gas during a peaceful demonstration.
When I first learned about Michael Brown–the day after it occurred, those emotions ricocheted through my body like a pair of tennis shoes in a dryer, the thumps and thuds painful but necessary.
Shock because Ferguson, Missouri is the Midwest. Where my husband lived until he was 12 years old. Where he learned to speak “proper” English and not slang spoken by the black kids in his new home of Baton Rouge, LA. The South is where we’d experience the most racism. The South was the only home I knew until I graduated high school and moved to Syracuse, NY.
I’ve written before about how both of us chose not to live in the South, in Louisiana where we grew up and where our family still resides. While the natives of the DC metro area consider this area part of the South (Maryland and Virginia were slave states after all), it’s never felt like the South we grew up in. The international and transient nature of the DC metro area makes it feel more progressive than it really is.
During our quiet conversations about Ferguson, its people, President Obama, and race relations in the United States, we came to a realization that Ferguson could have easily been our small suburban town. We left Louisiana to seeming escape the conservative views and the open racism in the South, but we were only deluding ourselves.
We cannot run away from racism.
My family cannot run away from the blatant injustices that will occur because of their chocolate skin.
I confess to feeling safe because my kids’ biracial genes have given them lighter skin. I feel safer until Trayvon Martin was gunned down. Until Michael Brown is shot six times by a police officer even though he is unarmed. I feel safer until I remember how often my husband was pulled over during our three years in Syracuse. I feel safer until my husband reminded me of how a police officer followed his car for a mile before pulling him over for supposedly running a red light. In the very town we now live.
We’re not as safe from racism as I thought.
In some folks’ eyes, my son is black. He is African-American. He is a nigger. Even if he can check more than one box on the census.
It’s taken me longer than I’d like to write this post. I didn’t know what to say that has not already been said. Both on my blog I’m Not the Nanny and by others.
But I’m reminded by the biggest lesson I took from attending BlogHer ’14. I must tell my story and make my voice heard. Everyone has a voice. Together, I hope we are loud enough so that the people of Ferguson know that we are watching. We are here for them. We support them because they could easily be us. Ferguson could easily be My Hometown, USA.
This post originally appeared on I’m Not the Nanny. Photo by Light Brigading via Creative Commons.
Thien-Kim wishes she got paid to nanny her own children. She blogs at I’m Not the Nanny and is the head book nerd at From Left to Write, a virtual book club community for bloggers.