Racism: A Child’s Call to Action

Dear Baby Girl,

You said that what you see happening in our country makes you sad. You are 12 years old now, my love. You know that Santa Claus isn’t real, and now I have to tell you the truth about America. One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all, isn’t real either.

You cried when you saw the last moment of an unarmed black man’s life, who you now refer to as the “jogging black man.” His name was Ahmaud Arbery. You saw him shot dead in the middle of a neighborhood street after trying to defend himself against two white men with shotguns.

“Why?” you asked. You learned that black children get “the talk” by their parents on how to survive in their skin in this country – a talk that will never apply to you. You said that there should be no difference in how black kids and white kids live in the world.

You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw a white man grocery shopping during the pandemic wearing a white pointy hood over his head.

“What is the KKK?” you asked. You learned that it is an organized white supremacist hate group whose aim is to suppress the rights of black people, Muslims, Jews, and anyone born outside of the United States. You said you thought that it shouldn’t exist, and that other people should think so, too.

You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw a white man wearing a face mask with a Nazi swastika plastered on the front of it.

“What is a swastika?” you asked. You learned that it represented the fascist party of Hitler in Germany in World War II, which was responsible for the systematic genocide of 12 million people, half of them Jews. You noticed, horrified, that people seem to be too afraid to speak out; too afraid to be overpowered. You compared it to being bullied in school, where bullies know that the people they target can’t stand up for themselves.

You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw a white man behind the wheel of an oversized pick-up truck that had a giant Confederate flag blowing in the breeze down Main Street America.

“What does that flag mean?” you asked. You learned that in the Civil War, the South fought to keep slavery as an economic resource they were dependent upon, and that the North fought to end it. You were surprised that the country fought against itself. You observed that it wasn’t a united nation then, and that we haven’t really changed. You compared the mindsets, the beliefs and the lack of knowledge to a chain reaction, handed down each generation.

You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

You saw protesters against the government’s quarantine response to the pandemic. You noticed they were mostly white, waving American flags, holding signs and automatic rifles, demanding their freedom.

“What is American pride?” you asked. You learned that these people felt they were standing up for their Constitutional rights, but you noticed that they were disregarding their social responsibility for public safety. “That’s not pride,” you said. “That’s selfish, fearful, a melting pot of negativity. I don’t want to wave an American flag,” you added. “It almost seems like all the good things it represents are being overridden and lost by negative things.”

You are right, my love. We can be better than what you see.

“Even the people that shot the jogging black man,” you reflected, “they were afraid for no reason. What if it was suddenly the other way around?” you asked. “What if the hate was against white people? Then we would all know how it feels.”

You are right, my love. Is that what it’s going to take?

You answered, “My generation has gotten all the hype about being able to speak out for things to change. But what about all the people that are hyping us up?” you asked.

“Can you help us? Or are you just going to sit back and watch?”

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