This past weekend I went to home for Easter. I was greeted by an array of lively stories from my nine year old sister Robin. The most memorable and a bit disconcerting was about her trip go-kart racing for a friends birthday.
The story began like many “Martina are you listening?” And with a nod yes she began…
” We went to the go karting place and I kept hitting against the rail. Everybody kept having to stop for me so the man came over and told Aunty J (their chaperone) if I kept messing up I would have to get off. There were some white boys there doing the same thing and they were being really rough. They started bumping into to us on purpose. Then I got stuck again and the man came over told me he didn’t want to have to warn me again. Aunty J was like but those boys are doing the same thing and even worse why aren’t you warning them. Then the man said ‘because they know the track.’ He mumbled something else and Aunty J was getting upset because she thought the man was picking on us. The boys were watching and laughing and we went one the track for the last lap and they started being meaner than they already were. After we finished we were going to cut the cake but Kassie (the birthday girl) said she didn’t want to stay anymore. I was upset because the man was rude and I felt like he was being mean to us because we were black. I don’t want to go back there again, it’s a place for white people.”
I sat dumbfounded for a moment. Not because of what happened to them but her response to it. A nine year old living in a “post racial” society can deduce on her own that she was being discriminated against. Her story didn’t surprise me given the area we live, having deep rooted prejudice. What was and is difficult to understand is how do we as nation of people, trying to live equally, peacefully, and genuinely combat the still pervasive nature of racism and prejudice? How can we move on? Are we going to ever be free? How do we begin to the live the dream that so many fought and died for? It seems almost impossible when you consider the “justice system” and the many racially charged policies and systems of the government.
Post racial America….it feels almost like a fantasy….
This is one question I can’t answer. But I will share how I responded to Robin. You treat people with respect even when you feel you’ve been mistreated because if you respond like they do then you will just create a greater issue. That’s not what she wanted to hear and honestly that’s not what I wanted to tell her. But I realized that these ideas, these feelings of prejudice, they are all learned. We are taught to hate. We pass them on from generation to generation without even realizing it. This hateful prejudice has now been masked behind fake smiles, false promises, and double standards and so what seems like progression is simply a wolf in sheep clothing. Racism is alive and well it has just changed it’s appearance. But if I wanted my sister to learn how to treat people, regardless of their race, she has to hear and see the right thing from me. She’s going to repeat what sees and not what she is hears. My actions have to reflect my words and so in hope of achieving solidarity I did what any big sister trying to be a good example to their little sister would do, right?
My Directive: the saying is true…be the change that you want to see in the world and hopefully, one day, it will stick.