Much of America has seen the story about the high school kids in North Texas who created an online “slave trade” to auction off the Black students in their school. I live in Dallas, about 50 miles from Aledo, Texas, the small suburban town where this appalling episode occurred.
If I’m honest, the primary reaction I had when I read about the incident on a national news outlet was shock that there were any Black families living in Aledo, Texas. I happened to have looked up this town a few years earlier and remembered reading that at the time, the town was 98% white. (It’s now 83% white.) I remember my jaw hit the floor. I live in Texas, a state where whites are expected to be in the minority by 2022. How was it possible there was a town this segregated?
The reason I did a quick Google search on this town was that a family one street over was moving there. At the time, I’d never heard of Aledo, Texas. I have an anecdote about this family, who left my diverse, progressive Dallas neighborhood for a mostly white community.
I knew a few things about this family, enough to form an opinion. I knew they reliably put out yard signs for far-right political candidates. I knew the mom told a gay parent at our school that she didn’t care if gays married, “as long as it didn’t happen at her church.” I knew the dad frequently shared Alex Jones (of InfoWars infamy) posts on social media. I knew the family’s kindergartener had told other kids at school that Hillary Clinton killed babies. I knew that when the mom was told her daughter said this, she thought it was funny.
My son was in the same elementary class as this family’s daughter. My son is kind and upbeat, smart as a whip … and half Black. Their daughter was a very cute blonde, blue-eyed child. We ran into this family often walking and riding bikes in the neighborhood and chatted casually. In my son’s kindergarten year, he would mention their daughter from time to time. I almost suspected he had a bit of a crush.
One day, I encountered the dad with his daughter at the neighborhood playground. We were exchanging niceties and talking about our kindergarten experience when I tossed out with a chuckle that I thought my son might have a crush on his daughter. And maybe I imagined it, but I’ve come to trust my gut instincts (one of the benefits of reaching middle age and embracing your “spidey sense”): I swear I detected a flicker of disapproval in his face. It occurred to me that perhaps my half-Black son crushing on his daughter would be displeasing to him. We moved on to another topic, and shortly after we went our separate ways.
Suffice it to say, I wasn’t shocked to hear this family was fleeing our urban neighborhood for a mostly white suburb. And I wasn’t surprised to read about an ugly racial incident in this community.
The fact that this story comes on the heels of ALLLLL the stories about police violence against Black Americans is a gut punch. My husband and I struggle to explain these incidents, occurring with unrelenting frequency, to our kids. Honestly, the last few years have left me feeling pretty hopeless about the state of race relations and the reality my sons face as they become young men. I’ve thought (and written) quite a lot about the sharp contrast between my white existence and the reality my half-Black kids inhabit.
But what can I hope for from a community like Aledo, Texas? After all, a woman who lives there was quoted in the national media saying she wasn’t surprised this happened, knowing her community. “THEN WHY DO YOU LIVE THERE?” I yelled at my phone when I read this.
I have a strong sense that many in the community are unapologetic about the incident. Many parents have probably downplayed it, chalking it up to kids being kids. I feel sure there’s been dinner table rhetoric about free speech, the dangers of liberal “wokeness,” and the politically correct thought police. Anyone who read the news during the Trump years has seen this script recited time and again.
I don’t believe a family like mine can say or do anything to change the hearts or minds of people like this. I’ve already shown myself to be compromised, by nature of my marrying outside my race and by my vocal embrace of liberal views.
So this is my ask of white families who were horrified by this story. Perhaps you know families like the ones described in Aledo. Perhaps you know kids who’ve grown up surrounded almost entirely by other proud, privileged white kids. If you find the slave trade incident abhorrent, SPEAK UP in front of these families. Maybe you’ll make an impression. Maybe you’re in a position to influence them.
The moral fiber of our country – and the well-being and safety of kids that look like mine – are very much at stake.