In reflecting on the events of the past few days, I can’t help think of the life I’ve lived over the last 25 years. Although I am 48 years old, my life was changed forever with the birth of my son. My son was born to Marine Corps parents. I am white, and his dad is black. I was so young. I didn’t think so, but at 23 years old I was so naive to the world and the views of the people in it. It was a difficult one for my parents to accept. My parents where born in the 1920’s. They lived through the era of segregation, and violence that arouse out of simply the color of your skin. I honestly never recall being raised in a household that discussed racism, but I grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts in which the time of my childhood was still a very white community. Don’t misunderstand me, there was a very large Portuguese community, Jewish community, and Canadian French community, but skin color was quite the same back then as I remember. Skin color. Skin color I say.
I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps due to my pregnancy and the request of my sons father. Shortly before the birth of my son, I moved to Riverside, California with his father. The apartment complex that we moved into was very large. There were hundreds of residents who lived there. From the outside looking in it appeared beautiful. So we made arrangements to move from 29 Palms and call this home. Home in the civilian world, now that his father was out of the Marine Corps as well.
It wasn’t long before I was called names like “nigger lover”. It wasn’t long before the family that lived below me would pull their little ones off the side walk if I was outside with my beautiful newborn son in my arms, or walking by with my husband. At first I didn’t understand what was happening. It didn’t take long for me to see the images that represented and signified the Klu Klux Klan. I had heard of these race groups, but I had never been around them. At least I thought not, but the hatred was constant. I was afraid to go outside with my beautiful baby boy. I was all alone. My family was here in Massachusetts and I did not want to alarm them with the fear that I was starting to feel, just because of the color of our skin. And then, the Rodney King beating took place in Orange County, not too far away.
I remember attending a Christian Church as a family. When I entered, it was myself and one other woman who was white. She was much older than me. For the most part, they were very welcoming to me, but I had another look at racism from the perspective as the minority. It was uncomfortable at first. Especially after the weeks of the tension that I felt from the family below me that belonged to the KKK. I learned at this church that the black community even shared a racism within itself, as lighter skin was more acceptable than darker skin, and my son’s father was very darker skinned. I was amazed at what I was learning. I had really believed that we were just all people, trying to find the American Dream and trying to give love and be loved. Shortly after, his father and I divorced. A world of innocent stripped away by fear.
My son changed the views of my parents. My son changed the mind, opinions and feelings of so many around him with his personality and smile that can light up a room. His charm and charisma is beautiful. When my parents finally got to meet him, he was three months old. They adored him and he become my father’s best friend. My dad taught him so much about life, but the values and lessons my son taught my dad could never have been learned from a text book.
I write this with tears rolling down my cheeks. How could this county be so divided. In some aspects we have came so far, yet in other aspects we seem to be going backwards. If we treated each other the way we would like to be treated I think peace could find it’s way back to us. I would just like to end this with the excerpt from a book that one of my nursing students gave to me in 2009:
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS:
BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD ~ Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY ~ Nothers others do is because of you. What others do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinion and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ~ Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With one agreement, you can simply transform your life.
ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST ~ Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.
My son now serves his country in the United States Army. My father has not been around for some time to see his accomplishments. I only hope that with the violence that is growing in this world, that my son makes it to 48 years old, and the color of his skin, and that of his family, does not cause him harm as he continues to protect this beautiful country we live in.