Many of you may not know much about me besides I am a mom of twins and have a wife. But one quick peek at my profile and you'll see that I am a South Carolinian. Yes...the state where sweet tea originated, "bless your heart" is our version of cussing you out, and you can wear a sweatshirt, shorts, and flip flops all at the same time. But when I say South Carolina today, the things that come to mind are probably the mass shooting at a church, the two black men recently gunned down by police, the manhunt for a man who duct taped a pitbull's mouth shut or the confederate flag. So many feels right now. I can't even begin to express the sadness I feel for our state.
I live in the capital city. I live probably about 20 min away from the shooter. I take my children to the mall where he was arrested not once, but twice for trespassing and asking "suspicious questions". The second time he was found on the roof of the mall. The hospital I work in was on lockdown during the manhunt for him. My family as well as my wife's family live in Charleston. We go there a couple of times a month, sometimes more to visit. We've gone past that beautiful church hundreds of times. I have already encountered people who knew someone that died in this shooting and it is heartbreaking to hear their stories. You see these stories on the news and you just never think that this will be your home they are talking about. The only emotion I am certain of right now is fear. I am scared for my children to grow up in a world like this.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that in 2015 the news would consist of legalizing gay marriage one week and a racially motivated mass murder the next. I moved here with my biracial parents in the late 80's and it was an eye opener then that racism was still rampant. School field trips consisted of old cotton gin museums and slave markets. Color was always an issue growing up. The schools I went to were not blended very well and I remember being one of 4 biracial children in my middle school. My mom was in the paper because she got the option "other" added to the school census. I was teased for my hair, constantly asked "what are you" and often forced to pick groups of friends in black or white. This went on until high school. I thought that what I had experienced was typical coming of age angst but I see now that it was not. However, I felt like the older I got, the less of an issue it was. I was able to embrace both sides and be appreciated by others for my differences.
I felt safe. Looking back now though, I think that I had become deadened to the racial things I heard and the way I was treated. I had foolishly taken racism off the list of things to worry about for my family. I figured having two moms would be on top. This past week has stirred up so much emotion about racial identity for me. ( Don't even get me started on Racheal whats-her face).
Seeing the interviews of the shooter's "friends" reminded me that there are indeed still an immeasurable amount of people that truly value people less based on the color of their skin. These are not characters in an old stereotypical movie about the south. These are people that live and breathe less than a 20 minute drive from where we lay our heads down at night. Even just getting on FB has caused me to see people I would've considered friends in a different light. Just so much ignorance. How do I protect my boys from shit like this?! How do I tell them that there are still people that hate people for no good reason other than the color of their skin? And how do I keep them from ever having to deal with them? I don't want my children to become desensitized like me and accept when people ask " what are you?". I see now why people have a hard time letting their children go out into the world. The world that we as parents should have made better for children, but instead have made worse.
All I know is that I can start by saying what my parents did. We will tell them that they are important and that no one has the right to tell them they are less than. That despite what others may say or think, their differences make this world an amazing place. I will encourage them to embrace people that are different from them and learn from them. We will walk by that church again and tell them about the nine beautiful people that welcomed in a stranger with kindness despite the fact he wasn't like them. We will tell them the dangers of complacency and to never stop hoping for a better world to live in because we don't ever want their children to grow up in the same one we did.