Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Imagine planning a family vacation for months. You’ve selected the location, you’ve decided on activities, you’ve budgeted and saved toward it for months. The day finally arrives and excitement wafts through the house as you play music, cook breakfast and pack up to hit the road. You’re driving along the streets, cruising along the highway with the windows down and the harmonious sounds of your family singing along with the music on the radio. Suddenly, this sound is punctured by the sound of sirens. You’re pulled over. An officer emerges from the vehicle behind yours and asks to see your license and registration, no pleasantries; just a condescending tone and a look of disdain. You exhale and politely ask why, to which you are met with a raised voice repeating the command. You oblige showing your license and registration to the police officer who takes it and looks at it speculatively. The officer surveys the car for an uncomfortable amount of time, eyeing your children in the back seat. Finally, the officer returns your documents but when you ask why you were pulled over, you are met with a stern response to go on your way.
Now process this situation in your head. While reading, did you imagine this happening to you? Did you imagine it happening to someone else? Did a particular skin color pop into your head when you thought of it? If when you thought of this scenario, did it seem too unbelievable an occurrence to happen to you, but more likely to happen to someone else based on their skin color, this scenario illustrates the power of racism. This example is only a drop in the ocean as it relates to how racism can impact even the most intimate family moments of your life; a simple vacation. Imagine those who in one way or another deal with this in multiple forms on a daily basis; at the grocery store, on the road, at work, in your own home, at the gym, anywhere where you have to do anything and interact with other people. Imagine being inconvenienced in every aspect of their lives simply for being who they are, for something that not only isn’t their “fault,” but that is a heritage they should be proud of. Put yourself in that situation, being made to feel less than a person, insignificant, unequal, underprivileged, like a second class citizen, especially when you do everything right. When you pay your bills, are a good parent, volunteer, go to church, donate money to charities, work hard to provide for yourself and your family, go to school to get a better education, etc and someone just up and hates you or treats you poorly because of the color of your skin. Take note, no specific race or color has been mentioned and that was intentional, because everyone is affected by racism; those who perpetrate it, those who are affected, those who retaliate in response to it and those who witness it. Everyone. Feigning ignorance doesn’t make it go away, pretending like it doesn’t exist doesn’t magically eradicate the problem and not talking about it definitely doesn’t mean the issue won’t arise. Racism has been around since the birth of this nation called America and still exists very prominently today; it cannot just be swept under the rug. It has existed and remained prominent due to the integrated and generationally established belief that inequality among human beings exists, which is simply not the case. The same energy used to carry on the legacy of racism is the same energy which can be used to put an end to it. It all starts with our decision to open our hearts and change our minds.