#BlackLivesMatter

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My heart has been heavy for a while now. And my mind is still trying to come to terms with the fact that there is still systematic racism in America in 2020. It’s 20-freaking-20, not 1920, and it was just as wrong then as it is now. I just can’t fathom why anyone would think to judge someone based on the color of their skin.

As a white, southern woman, I’ve grown up around racism. I went to an (almost) all-white high school. Our school district would occasionally have a student of Hispanic or Asian heritage, but I don’t recall any students who had black or African-American heritage during my time there. I graduated in 1999 in a class of 51 people. Since those many years ago, I know the school has become more diverse, and for that I am grateful.

My own children attend the Dardanelle school district in Arkansas where I see students of all different colors. I want that level of diversity in my children’s lives. I want them to understand that people are people regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or skin color.

I remember the first conversation about race that I had with my son when he was about 5 years old. He asked me why his friend and friend’s sister had brown skin that wasn’t like their (white) mother’s skin. I explained to him that children inherit characteristics from their parents and that when you have one parent with dark skin and another parent with light skin, that the children could look like either parent but are often a mix of the two. I offered hair color and eye color as examples of how he had blondish hair like me but brown eyes like his father and that my skin was paler than his dad’s skin and that Drew’s was somewhere in between. Drew’s reaction was, “Oh. Okay,” and that was the end of it.

When he got older and started learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., in school, he came home and told me all about how black people used to be discriminated against because of the color of their skin. I told him that, unfortunately, some people still did that and asked him what he thought about it. From the mouth of a 6-year-old white boy: “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Who cares what color someone’s skin is?” Exactly. No one should care because judging someone based on skin color is wrong.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be proud of their families and their cultures. You can take pride in your physical family characteristics without hating people with physical characteristics different from your own. That’s what my husband and I are teaching our children. My daughter loves her blond hair and the blue eyes she inherited from her grandmothers, but that doesn’t mean she hates me because my eyes are green. It should be the same with skin and hair texture and so many other things.

#BlackLivesMatter. Again, it’s 20-freaking-20. Why are black people being murdered by racist police officers? Why are racist police officers even on the force in the first place? It makes no sense to me. Too many senseless deaths have occurred lately, and the protesting out there is trying to bring attention to it. #BlackLivesMatter does not mean that other lives don’t matter. It’s bringing attention to what needs to be addressed right now.

This is America. It’s supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Someone being afraid to go out at night because of the color of their skin is not freedom. And killing someone or fearing them because of the color of their skin is not bravery; it’s bigotry and racism, and it has to stop. Bigotry and racism are not inherited traits; they’re learned. Our children are not born to hate; we (as a society) teach them to hate. IT HAS TO STOP.

So, white people like me can speak up against racism. #BlackLivesMatter. Replying back with “We all matter” or “All lives matter” means that you’re missing the point of the whole movement. Bringing attention to a discriminated group does not discount all other groups! Maybe you grew up in a racist household, but you can change that for your own children and grandchildren. Talk to them about racism and why it’s wrong. And while you’re at it, talk to them about other forms of bigotry.

Don’t teach your children to hate people for being gay. Or Lesbian. Or Bisexual. Or Asexual. Or Transgender. Or Christian. Or Muslim. Or Jewish. Or Atheist. Or Agnostic. Or Female. Or Male. Or Black. Or White. Or Asian. Or Native American. Or Hispanic. Or _________(fill-in-the-blank).

Teach your children that their silence is implied agreement. They can speak up when they encounter a bigot or a racist statement or joke and say “That’s not okay.”

I support those who are participating in peaceful protesting. I don’t condone violence or looting, but I will not judge all protesters based on the behavior of a few. Looters and rioters come in all colors. Bigots come in all colors. There are way more law-abiding people than there are criminals. Way more good cops than bad. Way more good people than bad. Let’s not judge all people based on the actions of some. Let’s all work together to make our world better.  To make ourselves better.

-Brandi Easterling Collins
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