“No one likes to listen when a person of color says ‘racism exists.’ Why is that? Shouldn’t we be listening to the people who are living in the situation? If it doesn’t immediately effect you, then who are we to decide it doesn’t effect anyone else? And yes, I’m white. And it shouldn’t be me having to speak out with my experiences for everyone to listen, but maybe it will get some minds turning and open up to discussion with men and women of color.
I keep hearing the same sentiment over and over again about racism:
‘You only find hate if you seek it out, but if you only seek love you will only see love.’
I would like to tell you a few stories about my life starting in the early 1990’s through today.
Please note: These white girl experiences make up about .00000001% of what people of color experience everyday, but since I am stirring the pot, you get to hear my personal experiences.
When I was in the second grade I came back from lunch on Valentine’s Day to find a small, heart shaped box of chocolates on my desk. There was a note beside it that said, ‘From your Secret Admirer.’ I felt so special! I had absolutely no clue who left it but it made me smile so big. I soon learned it was from my biological mom’s boyfriend- he specifically came in while I was away at lunch and placed it on my desk. He was a black man but it meant nothing to me. I was SO excited one of her boyfriends finally acknowledged my existence. It wasn’t just a few days until I could hear teachers (all white) whispering about me and pointing to me as I walked in the hallway and in the cafeteria. They were saying things like, ‘How dare a black man send that poor, innocent little white girl chocolates!’ and, ‘Her mom dates black men(with disgust in their voices).’ It wasn’t long before it was all over town how a black man, ‘had the audacity to give a little white girl candy.’ I couldn’t understand what he did wrong. He surprised me with a gift which made me feel so incredibly special. I was either being shunned or felt sorry for, neither which should have happened. This leads to my next story.
Within a week it was all over town that a black man had sent me a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. That’s when my mother (adoptive) got a phone call explaining that I was ‘more than welcome’ to come play with my friends at their house, but my friends could not come to my house and play. Even though they wanted their children to know that being friends with black people ‘was ok,’ bringing one home was not. They stated, ‘We do not want our children at your house just in case your mom shows up with her boyfriend,’ and ‘We don’t want OUR children exposed to that.’ Their children were ‘not to think in anyway dating a black person was acceptable.’
My biological mom’s best friend was a black woman who lived in Amhurst (for those not from my hometown many people considered this the ‘projects’ of our small city). She would take me to her friend’s house and I would play outside with her daughter. We would sit on the sidewalk, drawing with chalk, playing cards, or with marbles. Every single time we would go over my mom would get a phone call telling her how my biological mom was taking me to inappropriate places, how ‘little white girls shouldn’t be in Amhurst,’ how I was being ‘exposed’ to black people. All I knew was I was having a play date with a little girl who I liked while her mom and my biological mom were also spending time together. The only thing everyone else saw was me being placed in danger because I was hanging around black people. Once again, poor little white girl being exposed to black people.
Fast forward a decade: As a senior in high school I was a cheerleader. Every Friday morning of game days the cheerleaders and football players had to eat breakfast together before school. One of the football players and I were last to pay our bill. By the time we were done, everyone else had left. I had a car, but he was supposed to catch a ride with someone. I told him he could ride with me. He refused, saying, ‘I will walk. People will talk about you if they see a black guy getting out of your car. I don’t want to mess up your reputation. You are a good girl.’ I told him if he walked he would be late, plus I would be a terrible person to let him walk 2+ miles to school, and be late, when I had a car and was going to the same place. He reluctantly got in the car with me, but as we neared the school he asked me to let him out at the corner so no one would see him get out of the car. I told him that was crazy and pulled into the parking lot. He thanked me as we were pulling in and the minute my car parked he jumped from my car and ran into school, leaving me behind. This was a guy who was one of the greatest young men I have ever known. We were in English class together and I remember sitting near him, laughing, singing with him, and always having a great time. Yet, this morning he ran from me.
Once inside school and in our normal environment he was back to being himself. Since then, I have begun to realize though he probably really did care about what people would say about me, he was probably more scared of what they would say about him or worse, what they may accuse him of. Or God forbid, what I might accuse him of doing. That breaks my heart to this day. Should I have insisted he ride with me? Looking back probably not- I didn’t realize his true fear of a short car ride with a white girl. But I was innocent to the world he faced daily and all I knew was he was my friend and I didn’t want him walking and being late. I now realize why he sat so nervously in my car, with true fear in his eyes. I didn’t understand why back then, but I know now.
Fast forward many more years: I am an adoptive and foster mom to Hispanic and black children. On many more occasions than I can count, my children have been standing next to me when someone looked at them, looked at me and exclaimed that my children were only born for a welfare check, because ‘Mexicans, immigrants and blacks just keep having kids to get a check.’ Can you imagine how it must have made my children feel or what they now think about themselves?
I do think if you look for hate you will find it and if you look for love you will find it. I can agree with that, but not in the way it is often times said. Hate is out there. Some people have the privilege to be able to not see it daily and to have to seek it out. Others do not get the option of having to seek it, as it comes looking for them. My children don’t have to seek it out. It finds them. I didn’t seek it out as a child. It came to me. If you open your eyes to the suffering and hate around you then you too will see what so many people are saying.
You aren’t seeking to find hate. You are seeking to find the truth so you can then seek to expand the love.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alisha Palmer, MSN, RN. You can follow her journey on her website and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more powerful stories about racism here:
‘Poor kid, having to pretend two ‘apes’ are family.’ They say we are mixing pure and dirty blood.’: Woman’s second marriage to black man makes her learn ‘people don’t understand the value of love over skin color’
‘Is he a drug baby?’ I heard the whispers. ‘You’re making a huge mistake.’: Southern woman adopts African American child in ‘little town known for racial divides,’ aims to break stigmas, ‘I want my children to be inclusive, kind’
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