Racism Is Real: As a White Mom of 2 Black Children, 3 White Children, Who All Have a White Dad, I Have Something to Say... by Kate Riffle Roper

Parenting Opinion
3 years ago

Racism Is Real: As a White Mom of 2 Black Children, 3 White Children, Who All Have a White Dad, I Have Something to Say...

Racism exists. It is real and tangible. And it is everywhere, all the time.

When I brought my boys home they were the cutest, sweetest babies ever. Wherever we went, people greeted us with charm and enthusiasm. Well, not all people and not everywhere. But, to me, they were the “wacko” exceptions. I thought to myself, “Get over it.”

Now my boys look like teenagers. Black teenagers. They are 13. Let me ask you these questions:

  • Do store personnel follow your children when they are picking out their Gatorade flavors? They didn’t follow my white kids.
  • Do coffee shop employees interrogate your children about the credit card they are using to pay while you are in the bathroom? They didn’t interrogate my white kids.
  • When your kids trick-or-treat dressed as a Ninja and a clown, do they get asked who they are with and where they live, door after door? My white kids didn’t get asked.
  • Do your kids get pulled out of the TSA line time and again for additional screening? My white kids didn’t.
  • Do your kids get treated one way when they are standing alone but get treated a completely different way when you walk up? I mean a completely different way. My white kids didn’t.
  • Do shoe sales people ask if your kids’ feet are clean before sizing them for shoes? No one asked me that with my white kids.
  • Do complete strangers ask to touch your child’s hair? Or ask about their penis size? Or ask if they are “from druggies”? No one did this with my white kids.
  • Do you tell your kids not to fight back because they will be seen as aggressive if they stand up for themselves?
  • Have you had to honestly discuss with your husband whether you should take your children to the police station to introduce them to the officers so they would know your children are legitimate members of your community?
  • Have you had to talk to your children about exactly what to say and not to say to an officer?
  • Have you had to tell your children that the objective of any encounter with police, or security in any form, is to stay alive? 

It never occurred to me to have these conversations with my white children. In fact, it never occurred to me for myself, either.

There is no question that my boys have been cloaked in my protection when they were small. What I did not realize until now is that the cloak I was offering them was identification with my whiteness. As they grow independent, they step out from my cloak and lose that protection. The world sees “them” differently. It is sweet when they are adopted little black boys so graciously taken in by this nice white family. But when they are real people? Well, it is not the same. And they still look like little boys. What happens to them when they look like the strong, proud black men I am raising?

The reason why the phrase "All Lives Matter" is offensive to black people is because it isn’t true. Right now, in America, my black children are treated differently than my white children. So when you say "all lives matter" as a response to the phrase "black lives matter," you are completely dismissing the near-daily experience of racism for those with pigment in their skin, curl in their hair and broadness of their nose.

I am posting this so you can see the reality I have witnessed and experienced, because, frankly, I didn’t believe it was true until I saw it up close, directed at two souls I love, over and over again. So, please, use this post as a pair of glasses to see the racism that surrounds you. Then we can actually make progress toward all lives being valued and cherished.

This article was originally published in 2019.

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Gwen Johnson
Oh, my. What a powerful, heart-felt post. Thank you for sharing this with us, Kate Riffle Roper . Just wow. Welcome!
Elisa Schmitz
"Racism exists. It is real and tangible. It is everywhere, all the time." I've never seen it more clearly explained than in this must-read post, Kate Riffle Roper . It is definitely "a pair of glasses to see the racism that surrounds you!" Thank you so much for sharing with us so we can help amplify your message, which is vital today more than ever. Welcome to 30Seconds. Can't wait to read more from you. Your perspective is incredibly valuable!
This is so powerful, I’m speechless. Well said. 🙏
Rick St. Peter
I am sorry and appalled that this is the world that we have made for you and your children. It is infuriating...
Elisa Schmitz
You are so right, Rick St. Peter . But when strong voices like Kate Riffle Roper 's speak their truth, we have a real shot at making change.
Dawn Taylor
What a burden to carry as a mother. It’s enough to worry about our children on any level, but to worry about the very real threats to your sons simply due to the color of their skin, is heartbreaking. Thank you for this- it brought a whole new light to such a big issue.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
Thank you for this powerful message. I love the smiles in your photos. You have a beautiful family!
Demika Caldwell
Thank you for writing this unfortunate truth. Wishing you and your family continued happiness and love!!
Terri Kendrick
You've had the unfortunate privilege of seeing the huge racial divide that still exists in this country up close and personal. Thanks for sharing your important insight with those of us who are just seeing the situation from the outside. As someone said before, it sheds a new light on it for all of us. I'm so sorry that your family has to go through this!

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