“Hate shows up on the playground.
Three years ago, my family moved to this small town in Indiana. When we moved here, we knew no one. My fiance was working with a local company who rented to us, a quaint apartment to get started in.
We had moved here from another city, New Albany was the name. I grew up in that city and my bi-racial children and I lived there for several years. My eldest daughter experienced racial discrimination and bullying at her very first school. I couldn’t even let my child get used to Kindergarten before introducing her to race hate. In fact, this prompted the move. As a mother, I didn’t have the patience to sit and wait for parents to get control of their children. The school system was completely non-nonchalant about the treatment my daughter was receiving.
We came to this new city and I enrolled my daughter into their school system. Immediately, we saw a huge difference! Our entire time living in this city we have been welcomed warmly, neighbors wave and speak to us easily. My daughter’s school experience blossomed and her grades were definitely showing the difference in atmosphere.
My fiancee died just a few short months after living here. Everything we had built collapsed all around us. I’ve found my children and I struggling so hard just to make ends meet. Everywhere I turned for help, I was rejected because, by their own words, ‘You help yourself too much to get our help.’ So, for almost a year, my children and I were forced to limit our time to figuring out ways. We didn’t have a support system, we didn’t have family or friends that could be there in our time of need.
I figured out how to become a freelancer as a means to at least keep the rent paid and food in the house. Slowly, we started seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and we were able, just this summer, to get ourselves back out into the world to explore and enjoy life. Our second outing to enjoy this small city we live in was to a trip to the only park this city has.
It’s such a quaint little park. There are two parking lots for this park. One faces the North side, the other faces the South side. This allows traffic from the main road easy access, and allows people traveling through the neighborhoods the same easy access. It is at least a 50-foot walk from either parking lots to reach the actual playground area.
On this day, the parking lots were full of different people sitting in their cars. It was a beautiful day. Most of the people I witnessed in the parking lots were couples, a few teenagers listening to music, and I spotted a few men that looked like they were enjoying their dinner break while working outside somewhere.
On the actual playground were my children and one other child. I’m white and my children are biracial and we’ve never had an issue with anyone here in this city. So, I didn’t think anything of it when the other child, who happened to be white, approached my girls and asked if they wanted to play in the rock pile. My children love making new friends and didn’t hesitate to take the invite.
I sat on a bench that was about 15 feet away from the actual play area. I was able to monitor the children and also be close on hand if anyone got hurt. I could hear how well the girls were playing with one another and it was a great time for them all. About 20 minutes went by and I witness a middle-aged white woman, dressed in denim shorts and a blue tank top and flip flops come walking up toward the children. I watched, just to make sure she wasn’t there to do harm, of course. I witnessed her pull her daughter away from the rock pile the girls were making together and she walked her to the end of the playground, spoke to her for a second, then left the child at the playground, went back up to the parking lot, and got back in her car.
A few moments later, the girl was back over playing with my girls. I didn’t think much of it until her mother came back down to the playground the 3rd time in a row! By this time, her mother was definitely exhibiting frustration. I could hear what she said to her child. She clearly said, ‘I don’t want you playing with those (N-word was said) kids!’As her mother left the playground this last time, I watched the little girls behavior. She walked completely around to where she was playing and stood behind the giant slide and was peering through the bars towards the direction of her mother’s car. This poor child was waiting for her mother to not be paying attention so she could go back to playing with my children. I watched this going on with this poor child for about 4 minutes before she finally came back over to play. I was LIVID! My children HEARD those statements! I wanted to react but I didn’t want to damage my children or her’s by being caught up in the moment.
Her mother was like clockwork. The children hadn’t been playing for even a few moments, but her mother stepped out of her car again. This time, I decided enough was enough and I got up from my bench and walked up to greet the mother. I walked directly into her line of sight and said, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ She continued staring through me to see her child and said, ‘Hi, hold on. I gotta get my kid to stop playing with those kids over there.’ I asked her, ‘What you mean, those black girls over there?’ She looked at me like she knew she made a mistake in her word selection. ‘Oh no, we just don’t know them, I’d feel better if she didn’t play.’
I felt the rage seeping up, but I kept my calm and still managed some sarcasm. ‘No,no, no. You don’t know anyone at a park, that’s not what you meant. How do you expect to raise your child to stay away from minorities. They’re kinda everywhere now.” She gave me a look like I had said something completely terrifying and again let me know it was more her fear of strangers.
I didn’t want to cause a scene and I wanted to make sure we both kept our volumes low so the children didn’t catch wind of the inappropriateness of the whole situation. I said to her, ‘I’m just wanting you to know, those black girls you’re so afraid of, those are MY children. They are loving and compassionate. Your child is also exhibiting love and compassion and is really enjoying her time playing. What I don’t understand is why you would want to disrupt her being such a compassionate human being just so you can come down here and teach her how to be a racist like you? Clearly your daughter doesn’t possess that racist gene like you, so why are you interfering with her being a good, compassionate human being?’
The mother looked over my shoulder, saw our three children sitting around together laughing and playing. She looked at me and said, ‘I’m sorry, I just didn’t know them. I don’t like my kid to play with people we don’t know.’ I told her immediately, ‘If you’re that concerned, why are you all the way out here in your car?’ She looked toward the South end lot. I followed her eyes and what do you think I saw? Yes, I saw a black couple sitting on the hood of their car, cuddled up, and enjoying the weather and scenery together. So, this woman thought MY children belonged to that sweet and innocent young couple, who were equally as far away as she was to her own child. That couple had no children with them and at no time did that couple come anywhere near the playground.
I tried to laugh a little bit to ease my own tensions in the situation. Then, I said to her, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself coming to a park and interfering with innocent children on the playground. I’m not having it.’
She tried to deny that it was a racial concern of hers until I said verbatim what I heard her tell her child. Her face immediately turned beet red and she could only say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I watched her open her car door, lean inside, grab her purse. She made her way back to the playground area and sat herself on the bench directly next to where I was sitting. She allowed the children to play together for almost an hour before she told her child it was time to go.
As it was our time to start heading home, I gathered my children and we started walking to the car. I asked my children if they had fun. They both screamed, ‘Yeah!’ But as soon as we got into the car my eldest daughter said, ‘Mommy, thank you for talking to our new friend’s mom for us. We really liked her and she goes to my school but has a different teacher. We are going to be friends, but she said we can’t tell her mom.’ My heart broke right there.
Not just because my children are now aware of what HATE looks like, but because of that poor child that is being taught to be such a vile human being when all she wants to do is be loving! How is that not child abuse?
We still have a lot of work to do with tolerance and acceptance of others. For some reason, we are still allowing people to immerse themselves in their ignorance and it is spreading like a virus. My idea of kindness is not to judge someone based on their race, their sexual identity, their religion, or their handicap. We are ALL connected beings. It is of my belief that we are here to learn to love one another unconditionally, to help one another to find our true path in life. I don’t know why certain humans feel so entitled to be so disruptive and abusive to others simply because of their differences, but it has no place in our society. I am so thankful for my family being so compassionate and loving of all people. I just wish more people could find the absolute joy and love of God through loving everyone.
Plus side to this story…I bumped into that woman the next day at the grocery store and she waved at us. I may not have changed her views but at the very least she learned to show respect in public and keep her hate to herself. She also didn’t stop her daughter from running up and hugging my children as we passed each other in the produce section. Maybe there is hope after all.
What I hope others get from my story is this:
If you see racial discrimination happening, intervene. We cannot rely on the minorities target to end this, it’s up to US ALL. Complacency to hate is just as bad as being the one giving out the hate. I wish we as human beings would learn to love one another despite differences.
It’s so easy for children to love and accept one another until we adults interfere and teach them otherwise. I wish nothing but love, happiness, and peace for all.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nikki Van Winkle. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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