At 8:30 this morning, my 10 year old daughter sat down on the couch next to me, where I was sipping my coffee, trying to figure out my schedule for the day and simultaneously keep my dog from stealing the two year old's yogurt while screaming at my son to PUT YOUR COAT ON! IT'S STILL WINTER! So I'm somewhat distracted when she whispers to me, "Mom... I was afraid to tell you... but on Tuesday, at the bus stop..." (Internally at this point I'd already started the dialogue of "come on, now, seriously? Was it that big a deal that you are tattling on your brother for something that happened two days ago?") "Someone wrote "Kill Niggers" on the bus stop wall."
I couldn't speak. I looked at her. My mouth dropped, my throat choked... Her eyes widened as she saw my shock.
"Mom... what does that word mean? My friend said it means black people... is that true?"
I started to cry. I hugged her. She stared at me. "No, that's not true. No.. wait... it is true... but not like that... wait... no, it does NOT mean YOU. That is NOT what it means." I stopped talking. I didn't know what to say anymore.
I know racism exists, but I didn't believe it. My husband assures me that racism is alive and well-- but that Howard County is a safe zone. I argued that most places were safe zones now. I said "even people who feel that way are smart enough not to ever say it or act on it". I said "our children won't ever have to deal with racism. Kids their age aren't like that anymore." I said "Racism isn't going to be relevant to our kids".
I didn't know what I was saying.
I still don't know what to say.
I had the kids get dressed quickly. I put my phone in my pocket- a camera (why would I want to document this?). I grabbed a thick black sharpie, my hands shaking as I tore through the kitchen junk drawer searching for one thick enough and dark enough. I found what I thought would block the words... the words on the wall. Can't block the words in her head now.
I threw the kids in the car and drove to the bus stop... sure this was going to be some over-dramatized-- this can't be real?-- situation. We're in Howard County. Known for its diversity. Known for its cultural awareness. No one is really RACIST anymore. Come on. And sure, I know that there aren't a lot of black families in my specific neighborhood. Maybe three? But there are Asian families and Hispanic families and Indian families.... and the next neighborhood over has lots of black families... so this has to be a mistake.
Kill Bitch Niggers Bang Bang
I Hate Nigs
and a few swastikas thrown in for good measure.
It wasn't a mistake.
I was wrong. I still have something left to say.
Parents-- shame on you. Shame on you for allowing this in your home. Shame on you for allowing your home to bring this into my home. One of you is teaching your kids this. One of you says this at home and your son (or daughter) is copying you at school. One of you thinks this is okay. One of you knows your kid is saying this, writing this, scribbling this on their notebooks, and you haven't done anything about it. One of you has a kid who thinks this is cool. It's not cool. Racism is not cool-- and you know it.
Or maybe you don't know-- so find out. Find out if this is your kid. I know parents can't be all knowing; but you can't be all UN knowing either.
One of you is mad at me for blaming you when "it's not the parents fault" and "you shouldn't blame the parents". Well, who do you want me to blame? How else does a kid learn this?
One of you is saying "How dare you write those words in a public blog post! How offensive!" Maybe you're right-- I hesitate to push the "Publish" button and make These words MY words--but they became mine the moment I had to explain them to my child; although they'll never be mine (a white woman) the way someone has now forced them to belong to my child.
Tuesday at 4:09 my 10 year old bi-racial daughter had no idea that the word NIGGER existed.
At 4:10 she knew the word, knew what it meant, and knew someone wanted to kill people like her ("Do they mean us?" she asked me).
This is not okay.
I called the police. I made an official report. I wish that solved the problem.
I'm going up to the bus stop to paint over it. I wish I could paint over that thought in my daughter's head just as easily.
I wish this had never happened. I wish I really had run out of things to say.
I wish YOU or your child had run out of things to say before you thought that, said that, wrote THAT.