Still Dreaming

It’s Martin Luther King Day today and right now my older boys are at our city’s large performing arts center getting ready to play for a crowd of nearly 1500 people.  In the crowd, their dad will be sitting, watching and proudly waiting to hear them play.

Their white dad.

We’ve come a long, long way since Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech a little over 50 years ago.  On this day, I celebrate the fact that as recently as 30 years ago, FPD and I wouldn’t have been allowed to have the family we do.  My husband wouldn’t have been allowed to watch proudly and call those boys on stage his sons.

For that, I am very thankful.

As a mom of those four black boys, and also three black daughters, I’m here to tell you though, we need to keep on dreaming.  I dream of a day when I don’t have to talk to my boys about the black male code.  I dream of the day that I don’t have to tell them how to act in order to appear “non-threatening” to white people on the street.  I dream of the day that I don’t have to worry that they’ll be shot by a police officer while seeking  help.

I dream of the day that the incarceration rate for people of their color won’t be twelve times higher than the incarceration rate for people of my color.  I dream of the day when, given the same school to attend, the chance of them going to college will be just as high as my chance of going to college.

I was talking to a good friend of the family yesterday, an African-American role model for our boys, and a proud member of the local African-American community.  When discussing these issues, I said, slightly angrily, because, as a mother, the frustration at the injustice often pours out of me, “I know I’m not a member of the African-American community, but…”  He stopped me right there and said “You’re pretty much a member.”  I’m not, but I appreciate him for acknowledging my stake in the problems the African-American community faces.  I have a stake in this because of seven of the people who live in my home, seven people who are more important to me than nearly everyone in the world.  You have a stake too.

We all have a stake.  

If you’re inspired today, then today’s the day to realize that it’s not over.  You need to keep on dreaming, and we all need to keep on fighting, because while strides have been made, it’s still not equal.  We’re getting there, thanks in large part to the fight Dr. King led, but we’re not there yet.

I’m going to be bold here and say something that I have only said in the confines of my own home, in a place where racial discussions happen openly and honestly with my children, because it prepares them to face what they will encounter in the world around them.  I have told them that they will be told that racism doesn’t exist anymore, that the world is colorblind.  They will be told by people who don’t understand, who haven’t seen what they have, that the world doesn’t care about their skin color anymore.  That’s a lie.

It does.

And I don’t want anyone, ever, to tell my children any different.  The world does care.  The world is not colorblind, and to tell them that is to dismiss everything they will go through in the future.  To tell them that is to take away their ability to stand up to the injustices they will face.  To tell them that will make it seem as if the problem lies within them.  To tell them that is a way to hide the ignorance that lies in this world.  It will take away their power.

Denial and dismissiveness are the new white hood.

We hide behind it.  People call out other people for “playing the race card” when racial injustices are discussed.  I have done it myself.  In the beginning, when I was a new mom of two of the most beautiful, tiny brown boys in the world, I laughed it off when people said ignorant things.  I ignored it.  I played it off as simple lack of exposure.  Sometimes, it was.  Eventually, I learned to stand up to it.  Sometimes, education was the key and people understood when I told them that their words hurt.  Sometimes though, people argued, told me that their words didn’t, and wouldn’t, hurt my boys, because it was all a joke.  Those jokes do hurt, and they’re not funny.  My kids don’t blame everything on racism and I don’t either, but when I call out ignorance, I want to be listened to.  I want them to be listened to.  I don’t want to be dismissed as alarmist.  Because, occasionally, it is alarming.

It is real.  And, it’s not over.  

Overwhelmingly, I am thankful for being given the opportunity to see the imperfection in this world, because I guarantee you, I never would have if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to parent these nine amazing people.  I am thankful for Dr. King, and all that he fought for to allow that to happen.

As a mom, I’m asking everyone who is reading this to see the imperfection as well.  It’s okay to talk about it.  It shouldn’t intimidate you, but I understand if it does.  If you’re white like me, these discussions are daunting,  I get that, I truly do.  Reading is a great way to start educating yourself, to give yourself a jumping off point.

This book is an excellent place to start.

Please remember, it’s okay if you encounter the ‘angry’ black man.  After all, Dr. King was one of them.  


who is a mess of hope, gratitude, and maybe just a little anger today too.  

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