I have never felt it. So I can’t explain it. I won’t pretend like I understand. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t speak up.
My kids won’t directly feel it — won’t see it — currently don’t see it. It doesn’t affect them. But it does. And if it is not affecting you, then I question your humanity.
You see, my kids are white as are their dad and I. But that didn’t mean any difference to us. People are people — the color of their skin has never been a factor in my family. It has never been a thing that swayed them from befriending or loving someone.
Because that is what they have seen us as parents do. That is all that they know. With the fear of jumping on the train of, “I am not racist, I have black friends/family,” I still feel the need to remind you that my brother in law is black, my nieces and nephews are mixed, one of my best friends is black, and, on top of that, my daughter’s best friend in this world is mixed.
Race has never been a factor. My kids have shared secrets, clothes, beds, baths, stories and love with black or mixed-race kids their entire lives. Sure, they have shared these things with white kids as well, but it was no different. They know no difference. And, honestly, neither did I.
However with the recent events, my eyes have been opened to the fact that I have lived in my box of a mix of both white privilege and white ignorance. Since I was never judged by the color of my skin and I didn’t judge anyone else by the color of theirs, I always thought that race didn’t matter. But, what I didn’t see — what I never felt — is that, it does.
Just the other day, a cop car turned up in our neighborhood. This is rare. As I walked out of my house to see what was going on, I noticed several other neighbors standing around wondering why this cop was here.
I asked around, no one knew. Just a random cop car, still running, near the end of my driveway. The windows were tinted pretty heavily, so we couldn’t see in. The officer never left the car, just moved it up a bit when the mail carrier came through. Without thinking twice, I told them to hold tight, I would figure it out.
So, I started walking towards the cop car to try and see if something was wrong — why he was there. I smiled and waved as I went up to make sure he knew I meant no harm, but I wasn’t worried at all that he would.
Yet in the last four or five steps I took toward the car, it was like a switch flipped inside my head. There I was totally calm and confident that I could just go up and ask this cop what he was doing in our neighborhood. Not a fear in the world.
That is white privilege.
And honestly, it was really the first time I stopped and thought about it. The fact that I didn’t think twice about doing this, yet others — who were created equally by the same God but with a different skin color — either would not attempt it or would potentially fear for their lives in doing so.
It hurts my heart that the world is like this, that my friends and family have experienced or will experience true acts of hate because of how they look. It hurts my heart that I have been so naive for so long. It is not enough to just have black friends and family and be personally accepting of all races. It is understanding the barrier that they are up against in this world and holding their hand while — together — we break it down.
Before now, the thought of teaching my kids that skin color matters seemed racist in itself. But I have learned that being able to recognize that difference — picking up on it in a crucial moment when an injustice happens — opens up the opportunity for us to speak up and start to close that gap.
For now, I explained to my kids that even though we are no different as people, their friends may be treated differently based on their race; that in this world that we currently live in, the color of someone’s skin does matter.
But I didn’t stop there. I am also teaching them that there is power behind our privilege and influence in our knowledge of the difference of treatment. It starts with us. And together we pray that one day, with our help, the color of one’s skin truly will not matter.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.