I cried – and I’m not talkin’ a happy cry

Our visit to the Olympic Peninsula was perfect, except for the day I cried. And then I cried again, when telling Songbird about the event that made me cry. And I’m not talking about a happy cry – I’m talking a downright disappointed, terrified, horrified, heartbreaking cry.

Our happy little family of 3 turned to leave the beach at Fort Flagler and found a large, ugly, Chevy SUV had parked next to our little Ford Focus rental car. The truck was “parked” and occupied by 2 white 20-something men; men just sitting there looking out at the ocean, and perhaps at our family. As I was lacing up my shoes, I watched as Mr. Silly Pants walked a wide circle around the truck, Blueberry held tightly in him arms. Something was not right with the way my man was looking at the truck and gripping his son. As I walked around the big truck to get to our car, where Blueberry had been lovingly tucked into his car seat, I saw what was wrong about the scene: the truck was covered in racist decals. Every inch of display space was filled. Here are three examples: there was a huge confederate flag with the words “Fear This.” There was a neonazi symbol of a skull gripping a rose in its mouth. There was a saying something like, “If you can’t pony up, keep your p**** a** in the truck.” This was HATE ON DISPLAY.

I carefully walked over to my son in his car seat, kissed his sweet and perfect little head, climbed in the car, looked at Mr. Silly Pants, nodded for him to move (and move fast), and then started to cry. To witness hatred so vitriolic and so public was more than I could manage. This was my first close encounter with white supremacists since Blueberry was entrusted to our care and I was broken by the reality of hate.

But there was shame for me too. The shame came from a deep place. Shame for my white privilege. Shame for my economic status. Shame for allowing racist utterances in my presence from friends and family. Shame for the racist acts and thoughts of my past – and for the future of every insidious act or thought of racism that I don’t intercept quickly enough. But mostly, I felt the shame of this realization…….During my lifetime such hate on display would have horrified me. I would have seen the truck and been disgusted by the plethora of visible signs of hatred. I would have thought the men to be jerks, pricks, idiots, stupid, and dangerous. The day on Flagler Beach was different. I was terrified. I was terrified for my son; for his life, for his well being, for his safety, for his future. Suddenly, “grow-him-up-good and send-him-off ready” was obviously NOT going to be enough for my little brown boy. And I cried as these emotions all melted together in a heavy veil of terror and a deep deep sadness. What had been a reality I saw from a certain comfortable distance, now had become personal. And, thus, the shame. (It took THIS to get me here? Why the hell didn’t I get this before? What kind of anti-racist am I?).

I love my son. I love every little sweet lovable darling adorable part of his whole person. Black is beautiful. He’s all of that and more.

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13 responses to “I cried – and I’m not talkin’ a happy cry

  1. Oh! I am crying my eyes out reading your post.What else can I say? I'm right there with you. We live on a rural road, and there is a house down the road that has a sign out front that says something like "If you come on my property I will shoot your ass" with a rebel flag. The house also has a concrete statue of a black face family fishing in the yard. When I pass there now, I press the gas and get by there as fast as I can. Before, I just shook my head in disbelief. Now, I DO BELIEVE AND IT SCARES THE POO OUT OF ME.(insert there a more powerful word than "poo" but I don't want to swear on your blog!)Thanks for this post. It's powerful stuff.

  2. Crying with you! wow – you put my feelings to words – we have to change the world for our kids, it isn't enough to change ourselves it has to be the world.

  3. Oh Meghan, how horrid…the fear is tremendous, I feel it constantly…it's better that we, as APs of our beautiful black children, remember that it's always there…I'm sorry you had to experience it, and yet thankful that you did as a reminder to all that read your blog that there truly is evil in the world…Do you know the Gigi song "Utopia"? I've been attached to it since E came home when we played it nearly 100 times a day for several months (I posted a youtube of it today for Julie on FB)…I realized now reading your blog what gets me every time, listening to her sing "I believe we can survive in U-top-ia"…it's hope and yet understanding of the work we need to do to get to that Utopian place.Your intense emotions and your thoughts/communications as a result are helping us all do just that. Thank you.

  4. Meghan….blech, eeew, yuck, argh, yeah. It is so real, so unbelievable, so disgusting, and so visceral. I can't wrap my mind around that kind of life, what the heck is going on there (?), dangerous and stupid is right, terrifying!!!!!! Thanks for putting these words around your experience, you are such a gifted communicator. I am so sorry that you experienced this with blueberry, it is horrid, and it is real (as long as the ("horrid") people who believe this keep believing it…)It's ok to ugly cry over this, really wrong not to. hugs, and realizations that it takes so much more than feeling adverse to racism to be an anti-racist. Lessons to be learned. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What a horrible rupture in a beautiful environment. And I agree entirely that the *fear* of racism and hatred is something wholly missing from white-privileged parenting… the fear for your children's safety and wellbeing.But I want to pick up on the shame part: I don't think there is anything wrong with admitting that we feel something far more deeply, and are more outraged by injustice, because it has become more personal. I think that is asking not to be human. I think for almost all of us, our love for humanity ultimately has its roots in our love for–and love from–individual humans. While it's true that in the do-gooder world I meet some folks who seem to want to save humanity without actually liking any single member thereof, for the most part, for many people, love for individuals fortifies their love for others. It's peeling an onion… seeing something on a deeper level because of your new experience. I do share with you a puzzlement at what I did NOT see before I became a multi-racial family… or somehow, what I did not see as clearly as I do now. I think, how did I not know this? How did I not see it? –MLW

  6. M,Just SO sorry to hear this story. Terrifying, enraging, and so, so sad.

  7. I am so glad that in Vancouver Canada I have felt or known this hate. I don't know if it is because of how I was raised or who I have associated myself with but I have never heard of anything near to this. We as Canadians see this on t.v. and just don't understand. We have our problems like any other city or country but because we are so multi-cultural to begin with, our separations are so much more simple faceted. I hate to hear that this is still going on and as a family you would ever have to deal with this. Your children will be amazing and with your love they will never see others seeing them differently. That is the great thing about how you are raised, sometimes you just don't see stuff because no one ever taught you to see it.

  8. Anonymous, I hear you and I do appreciat the time you took to comment. One thing I would ask you, do you feel the privilege of being white? Most people "out here" who study racism would argue strongly with you that you enjoy all of the privileges of being part of the majority culture. And, I would agree with that arguement. What would be interesting and potent would be to hear from people of color in Canada about their experiences with race and racism – and to go from that point to really unravel the systemic/institutional privilege of being white.

  9. I'm sorry that this event was so upsetting to you. I think your first instinct that these guys were just jerks was more likely correct than the thought that they meant harm to your family. I agree that their display was absolutely inappropriate. However, many young people, especially young men, embrace images that they see as "tough" without fully recognizing their significance. That doesn't make it O.K. but, chances are that the two 20-something dopes in the car wanted to draw attention to themselves as tough guys not to be messed with rather than to attack or threaten individuals. I know many people from the south still see the confederate flag as a symbol of independence, not as being in support of slavery. I'm not sure what is racist about the "pony up" sticker. It just seems like they want others to think they are tough guys and ended up looking like idiots in the process.

  10. Anonymous, I respectfully disagree with you. My most potent response to your comment is that since my son is black, and since he has to live in his skin and navigate in a world where HIS color does not bring him any privilege, and in fact will be the source of oppression for him, behaviors like this are much much more than 'posing' and 'idiotic toughness.' It is entirely privileged to interpret this behavior as anything less than racial hatred. It was, for me, an illuminating and terrifying experience.

  11. I agree with the previous post. You have reacted with the same prejudice that you accuse those young guys of. They may just be young and stupid. You and your husband assumed the worst about them because they had what you interpreted as racist stickers on their car. They did not say or do anything to you or your family. Raising your son to see racism and hate at every turn is setting him up for an unhappy life playing the victim. The cause for every disappointment or hurt in his life will be misplaced. The irony is that at 2 years old, your poor child has already experienced more "privilege" that most white adults in this world. A vacation to the coast. A 14 foot Christmas tree. During your month of giving up all non-essential expenses, you couldn't do without "Doggie Day Care." Seriously?? I am a single mother of two and can't even afford a dog for my kids let alone daycare for the dog. It's just hypocritical in my opinion. I don't mean to sound harsh or make you feel defensive. I just think your thinking is flawed.

  12. So I got a post from another 'anonymous' that said the following: "I agree with the previous post. You have reacted with the same prejudice that you accuse those young guys of. They may just be young and stupid. You and your husband assumed the worst about them because they had what you interpreted as racist stickers on their car. They did not say or do anything to you or your family. Raising your son to see racism and hate at every turn is setting him up for an unhappy life playing the victim. The cause for every disappointment or hurt in his life will be misplaced. The irony is that at 2 years old, your poor child has already experienced more "privilege" that most white adults in this world. A vacation to the coast. A 14 foot Christmas tree. During your month of giving up all non-essential expenses, you couldn't do without "Doggie Day Care." Seriously?? I am a single mother of two and can't even afford a dog for my kids let alone daycare for the dog. It's just hypocritical in my opinion. I don't mean to sound harsh or make you feel defensive. I just think your thinking is flawed." In fairness to anonymous, I tried to publish it and it won't publish.My response in the next comment.

  13. Anonymous, I'm not buying the 'stupid jerk' defense of these two young men. I'm not giving them a pass. I'm just not. I think your critique of my privilege is deserved. I grew up with a single mom. We were poor. I'm not exagerrating. I know the privileges of my wealth. I know the choices I get to make every day because I'm wealthy. I reflect on this, as I can ( http://under-the-acacia-tree.blogspot.com/2010/01/30-days-of-livin-like-queen.html ). So, I can see how you perceive my stuff as hypocritcal. I think there is a HUGE tension in my life about being authentic (not hypocritical), serving my community, being a good mom and good person, mixed with a bit of noblesse oblige (which bugs the shit out of me – because…I get that I'm sometimes too freakin' highbrow). You can call me out on this stuff, but I won't take the first piece of your arrow as having true aim; those punks were racist, they were wearing outright symbols of white supremacy to intimidate and instill fear. It's worse than idiotic youth – MUCH!

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