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For The Sake Of My Sons, I'm Done Being Silent And Passive About Race

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For The Sake Of My Sons, I'm Done Being Silent And Passive About Race
Courtesy of Dianna Armstrong

Like a lot of people, I tend to stick to safe topics when I post on social media: pictures of my kids, wishing my friends and family a happy birthday, commenting on an occasional story or post if it’s something that I find interesting, informative, funny, or relatable. Basically what I try really hard not to do is post content or leave comments on controversial things that are going to make people feel uncomfortable or get upset.

My general nature and personality is to make people feel comfortable, not rock the boat, and make things easier for others — even sometimes at the expense of myself and my feelings. I don’t know if that comes from being a mom, a woman, or both, but if I’ve learned anything from the events of the past week and a half it’s this: It is time to be uncomfortable. In fact, it’s devastatingly apparent that it’s long overdue.

I’m still posting a picture of my boys; my beautiful, sweet, energetic, silly boys. They are my entire heart. Being their mom is the absolute greatest gift I have been given, and I have never felt a love as fierce as the love I have for them. I’ve felt it every day since each of them were born. I’m sure other parents can relate to that feeling. It’s because of that fierce love that I have for them that that kind of passive behavior and silence I’ve fallen back on in the past stops right now.

I live in white suburbia and I absolutely love my neighborhood. I’ve formed so many close relationships with so many of my neighbors, and the friendships that I have developed are more important to me than I can ever express. I am filled with so much gratitude for that. Living in a community where my kids can run and play and enjoy their childhood has always been extremely important to me. I believe that’s a dream that most parents have.

The difference between my dream and another parent’s dream is that there will come a day when I have to explain to my kids why they are being treated differently than their friends, or even each other.

I’ve lived it. My siblings have lived it. My parents have lived it. We’re still living it. I grew up in one of the least racially-diverse areas in the state, and I know how it feels to be looked down on, treated like an outsider, and called horrible names simply because you don’t look like everyone else around you. Even now, thinking back and remembering how I felt during that time, I wouldn’t change any of it because I believe that those experiences have made me stronger and have helped prepare me so I’m able to cope with those same situations when they present themselves in my adult life.

Courtesy of Dianna Armstrong

It’s become overwhelmingly obvious to me in recent days that there are people, even within family circles, who are unwilling, unable, or incapable of acknowledging that racism exists, or, at the very least, is the root cause of everything that has occurred in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding cities since the murder of George Floyd. It is absolutely unbelievable to me, the amount of noise — and, yes, I’m going to call it noise — that I have heard come out of the mouths, or fingertips, of people who are close to me.

I have many, many thoughts on this particular topic, but I’ll hit the high points.

One, racism is real and prevalent and affects everyone. If you say that it’s not or that it doesn’t, I’ll kindly ask that you take your white privilege and leave. I have nothing to say to you, and I feel sorry for you.

Two — if you’re still here — I truly believe that education, constructive communication, open-mindedness, reform, and progressive attitudes are absolutely essential to breaking society out of this cycle of death, destruction, and violence.

Three, it is not enough to just post on social media. If you are truly a proponent of equality and justice and change and all of the other things I’ve seen hashtagged, action is essential to effect change. You can do your part even in the smallest of ways: stand up and speak out against that racist comment you overheard; don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations; get comfortable with being uncomfortable; educate yourself on what privilege really means and how you can overcome it in a positive way.

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Finally, and I believe this is the most important point, talk to your children. They are watching you. They are listening to you. They will learn about these events in school someday, and when they ask you what you did while all of this was happening, what will your response be?

Look at my boys. They have the same mom, the same dad. They’ll live and grow up in the same house, with the same rules, the same values, the same love.

They are not the same.

I’ve even said myself that they don’t look like they’re brothers. I absolutely love that about them. My goal as their mom is to raise them in a way that they are able to celebrate and embrace their differences, not be ashamed of them. My goal as their mom is to show them that it’s okay to be different and there is beauty in that. My goal as their mom is to raise them to be good people who know how to stand up for what is right. They are my reason for speaking up and speaking out.

When they grow up and ask me what I did to effect change, I hope they’ll be proud of my response.

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