#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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Day 4: Countdown of my favorite love songs (love/hate)

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Photo by Diego Medrano

Welcome to day four of my ten-day series of Valentine’s Day inspired blog posts. Yesterday, I wrote about my favorite songs for the brokenhearted. Today’s featured songs are about love/hate. You know? When you love and hate them and can’t seem to figure out why? Or when you hate them but still love them?

I don’t think I’ve ever truly hated someone. I’ve said it and regretted it. What kid hasn’t uttered those words to a parent or sibling? I am a firm believer that you must have loved someone first to hate them. I don’t think the opposite of love is indifference; I think it’s hate. HATE: loathe, detest, despise, abhor, execrate.

My favorite three love/hate songs are listed below. Continue reading

September 11, 2001

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I can’t believe it’s been 15 years when the tragedy still feels like yesterday sometimes. September 11 has become the “Where were you?” story for a lot of people in my generation the way the assassination of JFK or the explosion of The Challenger became for other generations.

I was in my junior year in college and among the last group of people to know what had happened that morning. I didn’t watch any TV or listen to the radio that morning as I got up and went to class. That wasn’t unusual for me. Classes were held like normal and a few people mentioned to the professors that classes should be cancelled due to the events of the morning, but no one actually said what happened. I didn’t have a clue nor did I ask anyone. I just assumed it was something trivial.

Later in the afternoon, I ran into a friend close to my apartment who asked me how I was feeling about what happened. When I said I didn’t know what she was talking about, she said, “Girl, you need to go turn on the TV.” When I asked what station and she said it didn’t matter. We went into my apartment together where I was horrified by the footage I saw and the estimated deaths by that point in the afternoon. I believe it was around 1 p.m.

I was finished with my classes for the day, so I sat and picked at my lunch while watching the footage with my friend and later my roommate who came in. I quickly ran to to a computer lab to send an email to a friend who was overseas and then had to get ready for work at JC Penney by 4 p.m. That night at work was different from any other night. All of us young college students who worked there stood at the front registers and talked all night. The two or three customers who came in were not exactly welcomed by us. All of us would rather have had the store closed for the night and couldn’t believe that anyone would be shopping on a night like that. In hindsight, I am no longer judgmental about those people who shopped. Some people need a distraction, such as shopping, from such terrible things.

I didn’t write in my journal on the day of or the day after the events because I was engrossed in the footage and discussions about the terrorist attacks. I found what I wrote on September 13, 2001. I redacted some names and edited a couple of offensive words. See below for the ramblings of my selfish 20-year-old self about the events of 9/11.

Excerpt from Journal entry from September 13, 2001

Okay, so two days ago these f###ing terrorists hijacked some planes and crashed them. The World Trade Center in New York is gone. The Pentagon was partially destroyed. It’s crazy. Everyone freaked out, almost ran the stations out of gas in anticipation of war. I’m scared, and thankful (name redacted) wasn’t on a plane that day. I wrote to (pronoun), ending it with: Please, (name redacted) write me back, I’m scared*.

I feel so bad for all the people who lost someone in the crashes. There’s nothing I can do. I have a great blood type to donate, O+, but there’s a 110-pound requirement. I’ve been a steady 98 pounds for six months now.

I talked to (name redacted) on MSN tonight. I sent (pronoun) my newest short story draft. (name redacted) said “Too Much” was really sad. I guess it is. I was reading it aloud to myself tonight (proofreading), feeling pretty lousy. Then it’s like someone spoke to me because “Higher” played on MTV**. It has been more than a year and a half since I’ve seen that video. Out of all the videos to show at that moment. I burst into tears and whispered “Thank you” to the man upstairs. Sometimes my faith is tested a bit. It’s little things like hearing that song that give me more hope. It may sound stupid, but I’ve got to have hope.

This is awful. I can’t stand it much longer. I need to stop writing because I am so disappointed with all this s##t. –Brandi

* (Name redacted) wrote me back to confirm (pronoun) safety

**At the time of the evening when I wrote the journal entry, MTV was the only station not playing 9/11 footage. I couldn’t watch anymore because I felt like I had seen enough. The whole thing was depressing. The song “Higher” by Creed had significance to me at the time. I felt like the world needed more love and a lot less hate after the events of 9/11.

-Brandi Easterling Collins