Lynn’s story written by Chris Bavender.
Lynn is a pseudonym and is 29 years old.
My story isn’t one of overt racism, but more about racial relationships and what I’ve learned being the minority in my own little neighborhood. I am white and live in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Muncie called Industry.
I have learned one thing living here – children are a great means to “safely” voice racial issues. My husband, Patrick, and I have seen this come up time and time again. When we first moved here and began to meet our neighbors, Joan was 9-months-old. She was a shy baby and really only liked for Patrick or I to hold her.
When our African American friends held her she would cry and reach for me – the same thing she did when close family members tried to hold her. The response was always the same – “She is afraid of black people.” Or, “She doesn’t like black people.”
People typically laugh when they say this or even tell me they are just joking. I would have accepted it as a joke, however, if it had happened once or twice. But it’s happened over and over and over again.
When Joan was a little older, around 2 ½, it happened again. We were at a park and ran into some teenagers we are friends with through our church who were there with their little cousins. Joan continues to be a shy child and when the little girls asked if she wanted to play, she said “No.” So this teenager who has been friends with us for a few years said, “She doesn’t like black people.” But, as always, followed up with, “I’m just kidding.”
It just makes me wonder that if it isn’t anything more than just jabbing and joking, what is it? A baby can’t respond back so maybe it’s just the ability for people to speak aloud doubts and fears without worry of repercussions. Or maybe a way to voice something offensive to someone who can’t be offended.
But, just like any comment someone makes about your child, you feel it reflects back on you. It’s like hearing an adult say, “Wow, that kid is really bratty.” You know what it implies – you don’t discipline well, or aren’t home enough, or just in general are not a very good parent.
So hearing this comment about my child not liking someone because of the color of their skin makes me wonder if it’s actually a question of our acceptance of black people. A question of whether we have taught our daughter, through our own actions, to be comfortable and loving toward people of all races, or only those who look like us?
I hope I’m teaching my children – Joan, who is now 4, and Lynnae – that all people are made in the image of God and should be treated as such. I hope to teach them the difference between races and culture are something to be appreciated and not feared or looked down upon. I want them to see with their own eyes that racism still exists today, so they can be part of the solution.
Living in my neighborhood has also opened my eyes to other things, including what I consider police brutality.
I still remember last summer when a house just a few down from us was raided. If you haven’t ever seen a raid, here’s what happens: the police in all their SWAT gear, including masks covering their faces and huge automatic weapons drawn, fly up, jump out of their vehicle and throw a flash bomb.
Patrick was home when this happened and he dropped to the floor, hands over his head and called 911 – that’s how powerful a flash bomb is!
We’re good friends with the family who lives next door to the house that was raided and they were outside when it happened. Although they had nothing to do with it, they were treated like criminals. When the police threw the flash bomb their 4-year-old took off running. When his mother and brother tried to go after him, they were screamed at by police to “shut up” and told not to move – and had the automatic weapons pointed at them.
When describing what happened, the older brother said, “They had their red dot on me. I think they actually would have killed me.”
His sisters, who are in elementary school, were yelled at to lay on the ground with their hands behind their heads. The teenage daughter was told the same thing but she said she must not have moved fast enough because he shoved her onto the sidewalk with his knee in her back.
She was forced to lay there next to the men who were being arrested.
What made it even worse – none of the officers followed the 4-year-old. So he crossed several streets by himself and was eventually brought home by a couple who didn’t even know him.
This family was so shaken up. When the mother reported all of this to the police department, she was told “protocol” was followed.
I’m sorry but if a drug bust was happening in a rich, white neighborhood, I guarantee this is NOT how they would’ve treated innocent neighbors.
There was another time that same summer I was outside with my kids and a different neighbor’s kids were over playing on the swing set. All of a sudden police cars flew up and men with guns drawn ran up to the neighbor’s house. They put the father on the floor with guns to his head. One of the sons who was in our back yard took off running yelling at them to leave his father alone.
I picked them up and carried them into my house. The older boy was kicking and screaming. The younger boy was crying and asking what they were doing to his dad. Maybe five minutes later, the police were gone.
Their mother came over and said there’d been a report the father had a gun. He didn’t so the police left. Those poor kids were traumatized for no reason. They saw their father in this position for no reason. There was no apology or talking to the kids to ease their fear.
I think the biggest lesson this has taught me is that racism is still alive and well today. People still experience life differently, are still treated differently based on the color of their skin.
There are the black schools and the white schools. The black churches and the white churches. Black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods.
I think racism and segregation were implemented very purposefully and it will take purposeful actions to end these things. Purposefully moving into a neighborhood where you are a minority. Purposefully enrolling your children in a school where not everyone looks the same as them. Educating yourself on the issues such as present day systemic racism and mass incarceration, etc.
I have to say I could never go back to living in an all-white neighborhood because now I know what I was missing out on. I am part of a very diverse church family and have cross-cultural friendships. Just coming to love and be loved across race lines has impacted my life greatly.
This story originally appeared in Facing Racism in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by R.A.C.E. Muncie in Muncie, Indiana.