I am a black woman that grew up in a white household.
My family showered me with overwhelming love, and I had a beautiful childhood that allowed me to spread love to every person that I meet in my adult life.
The person who deserves the most credit is Nana, my 78-year-old grandmother, who was recently displaced after Hurricane Harvey. Once we found out that her house was damaged beyond repair, we decided that she would live with us permanently.
She is my responsibility and I am honored to have her with me!
We have had several “mini race” conversations, but for the most part- our chats avoid controversy. Her stance has always been that she “does not see color”, and that was always enough for me….until now.
Last night, she scoffed at the t.v. and yelled for me to come help her change the channel. “What’s wrong?”, I asked. “I am tired of hearing about these black athletes kneeling for our country’s flag!” My head jerked back in shock and I asked what she meant, just in case I was hearing her incorrectly. “Here we go again – we just want to watch football!”
Growing up, I let a lot of things slide to keep the peace. Hell, I didn’t even correct Paw Paw for saying the N word in our home until I was 18 years old. He and others in our family felt so comfortable saying it around me, because in their minds “I wasn’t black”, but he had to be held accountable. After an uncomfortable, explosive argument with him- my grandfather never used the N word ( at least not in my presence) again!
It was time for me to hold my grandmother accountable, or at least educate her. In my heart, I know that she is not racist, but I am fully aware of her upbringing in Alabama and then Texas. She has always been surrounded by individuals who were disgusted by black people. Which is so strange, because then her son brought me home… 😊 That’s a separate topic for another day!
To ease into the conversation, I sat on the bed and asked her if her family owned slaves. Her response was “we didn’t have enough money for that.” The part that stung me about the response was that she didn’t mention that owning slaves was awful, she pointed out that her family couldn’t afford such things..as if I was talking about taking a vacation or a BMW. This small opening allowed me to understand that racism is not always direct!
Not the best start, but let me jump right into the subject- “Why do you think black athletes are kneeling? Not because of President Trump calling them S.O.B.s- I’m talking about the original silent protest of not standing and then kneeling during the national anthem?” By her face and my tone asking the question, I could tell that she recognized the tension and that this may or may not be a trick question. “I think they are kneeling because they do not have respect for the flag or the country. If they think race is an issue, it can be talked about outside of football.”
BINGO! I knew I had her then…that was the perfect setup..
I asked for her to propose a few places that could be used to discuss the police brutality, continued oppression and other injustices across our nation. None of ideas were big enough platforms to allow a country to recognize the subtle cruel treatment, the covert racism, or the blatant continuation of wrongful murders of black people.
It was easy for me to explain- America loves football! To grab the attention, to start the conversation, and to really get people disturbed enough to talk about these uncomfortable topics- we had to interrupt the regularly scheduled American program…
I allowed her to defend the flag, the people who have fought for this country, and for the national anthem itself, but she could not defend the fact that in 2017, black people are still considered and in many instances treated as less than human, disgusting, ignorant and like animals by many people. We both agree that there are SO MANY wonderful souls in this country, but we had to speak up on the not so wonderful..
I had to remind her that although the NFL players “do not have bad lives” and living well, they are actually kneeling and bringing awareness to the mistreatment of others! Imagine that- selfless advocates.
I told her that the new racism is simply pretending that racism does not exist.
Her wheels were turning and I decided to wrap up the conversation with this:
“Kneeling for the national anthem is a way for individuals with a popular platform to interrupt our regular scheduled program. It is to make those that just want to zone out and tune into their favorite sport actually listen to the conversation at hand. In 2017, there are still ways that people of color are being oppressed. With Black Americans making up less than 15% of the population, we need white people to help make a change.
I have visited 20 countries and if I had to choose tomorrow where I would live, it would be America. I think that we are comprehensively great. I am forever grateful to those service men and women who have fought for this great country, but the issue on race is mutually exclusive. It has nothing to do with my gratitude, but everything to do with my desperation to make this place better before Cruz has to face it all. If that means that football players kneeling is an icebreaker for me to talk to white family members and friends about real issues- I will take it!”
Her response was this- “I am with you. When you get on that internet to tell them what I said, make sure you say this- I love my country and all armed forces, but we have to do something about how we treat blacks.”
That was heavy enough and real enough for us to hug and head to the couch to watch Netflix and chill…until next time.. We are working on it here!