Coming Out of the Dark

Graphic by Kymberli Barney of TheSmartness.com

Graphic by Kymberli Barney of TheSmartness.com

It’s time.

It’s time for me to say the things here that I say in my home, in safe place, inside my walls.

It’s time to say we have a problem. And I want to be part of the solution.

Tonight, I’ve been glued to my tv, watching the news about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. I waited for the announcement that Wilson would NOT be indicted for shooting an unarmed man 10+ times, despite knowing in my heart that it wouldn’t happen.

It was never going to happen.

Since August, when 18 year old Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, MO., after committing a minor crime in broad daylight with no weapon, I’ve been listening. Actually, since Trayvon Martin was gunned down while walking unarmed, to tell the truth. I’ve been listening to moms of black boys and learning that my America is nothing like their America. And I’ve been afraid to talk about it.

I talk about it some, with them, or at home. In crowds that I KNOW feel the same. Safe places. I’ve known it wasn’t good enough, but I was afraid. Afraid of speaking out and saying the wrong thing. Afraid of being just another sound in the void. Afraid of it not mattering to those I want it to matter to most.

But tonight, as I was awaiting this verdict, sighing with impatience with how long it was taking, and then getting annoyed when, minutes before it was supposed to start, my son, my precious, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy, got out of bed to go to the bathroom way past his bedtime, I remembered that there are many, many mothers who don’t have the luxury of dealing with a bedtime potty break tonight. So I let go of my impatience and cherished that moment.

If you are happy, or feel somewhat vindicated by the announcement tonight, I’d like to remind you that no matter if you believe that Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, a mother goes to bed tonight without her son.

I’d like to remind you that many other mothers, who are a lot like me, but have one major difference than me (and many of you) are going to bed tonight knowing that sometime, either soon or later, they will have to sit their boys down and stop them from playing with whatever random toy they are making a mess with or whatever video game is beeping away, and tell them that America doesn’t trust them.

That America is afraid of them.

That they are more likely, WAY more likely, to be shot by a cop than their white friends.

That if they get pulled over for speeding, they have to act a very certain way to avoid arrest, at best.

That people will lock their doors when they walk past.

That people will call the cops if they ride their bike down the street.

That certain girls won’t be able to date them because it will “hurt their reputation.”

That no matter how good you are, how smart you are, how well-dressed you are, it will rarely make a difference for some people.

I don’t have to tell my sons these things. And if you are reading this, chances are, you won’t either.

Think about that for a minute.

Don’t immediately get defensive. THINK ABOUT THAT. Don’t think about that “thug” kid in high school, or the mug shot you saw on TV. Think about the little 10-year-old boy that has to understand the fear that he doesn’t want to instill. Think about the moms and dads going to bed tonight, fearful that their son could be next.

Sometimes these problems seem insurmountable. I don’t claim to have the first clue how to heal our country from these types of things. But it’s up to us, the white people of America, to work to heal this.

Yes, it is up to us. Because we hold the power. And the bias.

Yes, black people can have bias. Of course they can. And yes, a black man is in the Oval Office. Those things don’t matter. Not really.

Here’s what I’m trying to do to fix this. And it’s all I know to do.

I seek out diversity. I make up for the lost time I spent in an all-white neighborhood, an all-white church and a mainly white education. I cultivate my friendships with people of color and diversity HARD. I don’t just have “black friends.” I work at those relationships. Same with friends of different sexuality, religion, and yes, even political beliefs. I seek them out, I put in effort and I HEAR them. If you don’t know what I mean, I encourage you to pay attention to your friends of color on social media. Don’t have any? THAT IS A PROBLEM. This is 2014. We live in a flat world. We can access any corner of the globe at any second. If everyone around you looks like you, you are part of the problem. If you DO have friends of color, pause for a minute. Visit their Facebook pages, see what blogs they are sharing. Read them through THEIR eyes. Think about how things YOU post make them feel. CARE about that.

I also encourage you to seek out voices of color on your own. Read Essence at the hair salon instead of Cosmo. Seriously, have you ever done that? I did that recently, and I’ll be honest, it felt strange at first. “This magazine isn’t *for* me,” I thought. So what?? You think a black woman needs to hear about Cameron Diaz’s tricks to getting her hair to look like that? She gets it anyway. But I picked it up anyway, and GUESS WHAT? I learned a few things and enjoyed the read just the same.

Find some black bloggers or podcasts. They don’t even have to talk about “black things!” Or they can! Want a list? I’ll give you several. Here:

  1. http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/ (Pop culture, recaps, hilarity.)
  2. http://bitchesgottaeat.blogspot.com/ (worst language in the funniest way I’ve ever read.)
  3. http://thesmartness.com/ (Kick-ass writer, educator and graphic designer. She designed my new logo!!)
  4. http://snapjudgment.org/ (just great storytelling! About everyone!)
  5. http://www.kellywickham.com/ (If you really want an education.)

The first key to healing this nation is empathy. And with the accidental (or not) segregation that many of us live in, it can’t exist. We have to come together, as cheesy as that sounds. And as white people, we have to LISTEN. Our opinion isn’t needed, but our support is.

I also send my other blonde-haired son to a magnet school. The school is a great school with great programs and challenges that are ideal for him. It is also diverse. He attends school with kids that are of different races, social class, ethnicities and religion. That aspect means more to me than the academic ones. Because again, I am raising white, American males. I need them to see beyond themselves, because this country is set up FOR THEM. And if I don’t force them to see outside their own world, they will never have to.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, look around, white folks. Who is on your TV? Your radio? Your newspaper? Your office? Your grocery store? Other white folks. Now, imagine being black, especially here in Knoxville. Who looks like you? Sure, some people do. But how many black teachers are at your school? What color is your doctor? Your boss? Your coworkers? Chances are, they don’t look the same as you do. That makes their reality very different from ours. Because there’s no empathy if no one looks like you or has experienced what you have experienced.

Not everyone can make the school decision we did, and I don’t expect you to. But if everyone in your child’s school looks like them and lives like them, they aren’t learning about the whole world, and that is a disservice.

Because someday, my son could be a cop. And maybe he won’t shoot the black kid on the street. Maybe that’s how we make change.

  • A’Driane Nieves

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      You are so welcome.

  • Bonnie

    So amazing Christi, so spot on. It’s like you’re in my head. Thank you!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thanks, Bonnie.

  • Kymberli

    If only everyone thought and then acted on their thoughts the way that you do. <3 Thank you.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      It’s quite literally the least I could do. xoxox

  • Jasen Bradley

    Great Post

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thanks, Jasen.

  • Vanessa

    Great Post.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thanks, Vanessa.

  • scott watson

    This is very well put! Thanks!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thanks Scott!

  • Jennifer Jabson

    tears. thank you.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      I have constant tears. And no sleep.

  • Jen Russomanno

    Great post. Very well put and thought provoking. Thank you!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thanks, Jen!

  • Amy Brooks

    Thank you for writing this Christi!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      You are so welcome. I’ve needed to for a long time.

  • Megan

    So beside the point but I love love LOVE awesomelyluvvie. And your face. Keep being awesome.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Love YOUR face. And Luvvie. Which is ALWAYS on point.

  • April Sikes

    Thanks for this! As a mother of four white boys living in Kansas, this really strikes a chord with me. The boys go to probably the most diverse public schools in our town (not saying much…again, Kansas). We’ve lived in a lot of different places and they’ve been exposed to diverse groups of people…we’ve always tried to express the importance of celebrating our differences, be it skin color, who you love, religious beliefs, pokemon preferences, etc…but, this is something we need to stop discussing and start modeling. I’m not great at nurturing friendships in general (I can be very hermit-y), but everything you said has been on my mind a lot lately. Thanks for giving me a better idea about how to get started on making a change, and thanks for saying out loud what so many of us have been thinking.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      I know your boys will be fine because of everything you have exposed them to and how wonderful you and Ben are. They are in good hands.

  • April Sikes

    Also, I’d like you to know I can’t stop singing that song by Gloria Estefan.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Seriously, I apologize for that.

      • April Sikes

        I see the light, I see the liiight…

  • Jama Dean

    As a mother of three biracial children, two being boys, I can appreciate your honesty. No you don’t know how that feels to not be able to let your kids just walk the neighborhood and ride their bikes down the street because you fear they will run into the man you saw at Weigels the day before with a huge swastika tattooed on his calf. Or that your children can’t go to certain parks, playgrounds, etc unless you are the right there in the event someone with ignorance comes to the place they are. You will never know what it is like to feel guilty for allowing your child to go with family to the lake only to get a call they had been called “the N word” by a group of people and told he didn’t belong there and “we hang people like you”. So I applaud your willingness to look outside the world you live in and realize there IS racism and the fear mothers of black children have is VERY real and mothers of white children will thankfully never comprehend that. Kudos to you!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      I am so sorry that is your reality. I 100% believe it, too, which I think many don’t. Or they dismiss it as isolated incidents. I can’t fix the ignorance that exists, but I can acknowledge my privilege and use it to break the cycle. You are a brave and strong mama!!!

      • Jama Dean

        It has to start somewhere. Good for you!

  • http://www.chookooloonks.com/ Karen Walrond

    Love love love this. Thank you so much for taking the risk to write this. It’s beautiful.

    Thank you.

    K.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Karen, that means so much to me. Thank you for pushing me — all of us — last night to just WRITE. I’ve been holding on to this for so long, and it feels good to let it out.

  • Stacey Ferguson

    What a great post. Thank you for writing this and for making such an intentional effort to live outside of the invisible lines.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thank you, Stacey. It’s literally the least I can do.

  • Tiffani Keaton

    Luvvie brought me here…your words are what will bring me back!Thank you for sharing!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      That is the GREATEST compliment ever! I love Luvvie, so that means the world!! Thanks for stopping by, Tiffani!

  • Monica Justicefortrayvon Marti

    This was awesome!!! Simply…thank you!!!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      You are so welcome!!

  • Miko

    Thank you!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      You are so welcome!! 🙂

  • Suzanne

    Yes, yes, yes!! This, all of it. Thank you.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      You are so welcome!!!

  • justice

    You’ve just gained a follower! Keep it coming!!

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thank you so much!!

  • http://www.astarinmyownuniverse.com/ Star Traci

    Very well said. I have struggled with the same issues. We must raise our caucasian boys to do better. Thank you.
    Traci

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      It’s truly our job. I think we can do it!

  • http://lucrecer.com/ lucrecer

    Your words truly touched me and I thank you for speaking out. Thank you.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      I am so glad to hear this. My pleasure, truly.

  • Leona Scott Weaver

    Great post, Christi!!