When I was ten years old I attended a summer camp at a new school. The very first day I became friends with a few girls; most of them were white and another was black. I was thrilled to make new friends on my first day and I remember going back the next day full of excitement.
I ran up to my group of friends and failed to notice the changed vibe. The leader of the group turned to me and said:
“We’ve decided that we can only have one black girl in our group.”
I stood there confused because I didn’t understand. I was half black and I lived with a white family. Surely she wasn’t talking about me? She went on…
“We chose her.”
She pointed to the other black girl who was looking down at the ground and then they all turned their backs to me and kept talking amongst themselves. I walked away slowly, shrugged my shoulders as though it didn’t bother me, and swallowed it down because at the time the only way to process that kind of pain was simply not to. I didn’t make other friends at that camp and frankly I struggled to make any friends at all from that point on.
The memory of that experience came up recently during a powerful session and I sobbed for that little girl whose heart was shattered. My daughter is the same age I was then and that fact broke me even more because I couldn’t imagine her going through something so awful simply because of the colour of her skin.
Last year I got into a debate with a beautiful black woman. She was upset that a black judge had comforted a white woman who had shot and killed a black man she thought had broken into her apartment. She was also upset that the victim’s brother had forgiven this white woman. I thought it was a beautiful moment of humanity because if we all forgave that way, what a world we would live in.
She disagreed. She then accused me of not being black enough because I was adopted into a white family. I couldn’t identify with other people of colour because I wasn’t actually one of them. I was then shamed, deleted, and blocked for not being black enough.
Not white enough to be white, not black enough to be black. That is often the plight of mixed people.
It took almost four months for me to be adopted back in 1983 and when my dad asked why I was still available since I was such a good baby, the foster mother simply replied it was because I was mixed. No one wanted a mixed baby back then. White? Yes. Black? Sure. But mixed? No.
Mixed individuals have such a unique perspective but their voices are often silenced. They couldn’t possibly understand because they’re not fully black and they’re not fully white. But that is exactly why they CAN understand. They have one parent who is white and one parent who is black. They have both cultures uniquely ingrained into their DNA but instead of being celebrated for that, they are often ridiculed, put down, and ignored.
Do I have the answer for racism? No. But I can assure you that it is alive and well on ALL sides. I believe it’s a heart and forgiveness issue. Dealing with the hurts we’ve experienced, the trauma we’ve endured, and releasing those who have caused us the most anguish will set us free from this trap of hatred.
Whenever I see someone treating another person in a horrific way, I wonder to myself what could have happened in this person’s life to make them treat another human being this way? What horrors has this person endured to think that this behaviour is acceptable?
Maybe it’s a naive way of looking at things but when you work with people in the capacity that I do, one thing becomes crystal clear. Everyone is hurting. Everyone has gone through terrible experiences that are buried deep down within them and when they aren’t dealt with, they grow like a cancer.
I refuse for that to be my legacy so I choose to do the hard work of ripping these experiences up from their roots, dusting them off, and dealing with them so that they no longer have power over me. I truly believe that if we all did this, the world would be a much safer place.