Mommies in Black and White

Two Moms. Two cultures. Lots of Laughs. Join Us!

Author: Jebeh Edmunds (Page 1 of 7)

The Loving Supreme Court Decision: Love and Marriage 50 Years Later

 

photo credit: Andersen Designer Portraits

 

Some of you might not know about Virginian trailblazers Richard and Mildred Loving. They were a mixed race married couple that battled the law barring interracial couples to legally wed. On June 12, 1967, The Supreme Court ruled in their favor. They were married during the height of the Civil Rights Era. They were two simple people who loved each other, but with odds stacked against them. I have always admired their courage to fight for marriage equality.

When I met my husband we had just graduated from college. We started as friends, but progressed to more. We received puzzled looks and pushback from ‘friends’ and some family members. We also received dreaded questions like, “How did you two meet?” Or, my favorite (insert eye roll), “Were there any black men at your college?”

Oddly, people would look at us and think there was added competition on both sides. At first I felt that I had to prove to outsiders looking at our relationship that I’m proud of my blackness eventhough I was in an interracial relationship. Through the need to constantly prove ourselves, confirm our identities and field troublesome and often hurtful questions, we grew to appreciate each other even more. And, we found ourselves with more courage to speak up to “haters.”

With the support of our family and true friends, we’ve continued on with life. We have a happy marriage of twelve years and two strong boys. As I reflect on our interracial marriage in this country, I see us not as trailblazers, but beneficiaries. Grateful to people like the Lovings, who paved the way for us… so that we could marry our best friend without fear.

Our family is just like every other. We want a strong foundation. We want to raise our family in peace and harmony. We wish not to field puzzling questions or push back. Although this is often the case.

At the end of the day we truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason. These are the people I put my trust and energy into. People that have strong opinions against interracial marriages are not worth my energy. And, no, we are not past this. I see and feel it every day.

I know we are not alone. There are thousands of interracial married couples who face the same challenges and obstacles. I found two articles that speak to this very topic including Loving Day, a celebration of that pivotal supreme court decision. Both are very powerful. I encourage you to keep reading and keep reflecting.

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/06/12/npr-interracial-marriages-face-pushback-50-years-after-loving

http://www.10news.com/news/national/loving-day-celebrations-mark-50th-anniversary-of-legal-interracial-marriage

Assume Nothing

Last month I was interviewed for a documentary depicting racial bias and stereotypes in my community. The interviewer asked me what advice I would give to citizens in my community regarding the subject. I shared two words…assume nothing.

I want citizens in our community and citizens of the world to resist their own biases and approach each other as human beings and not as stereotypes. Let me give you some scenarios:

  • When you see my children playing in our yard and they wave to you as you cross the street with your dog, don’t ask them if they live there in a condescending tone…Assume nothing.
  • When I was test-driving at a car dealership the dealer tried to find the hip hop radio stations. I do love my hip hop, but I bet he wouldn’t have found those stations for my white husband… Assume nothing.
  • When I was hired for my dream job someone asked, “how did you ‘swing’ that one?”…Assume nothing.
  • When recognized for accomplishments some people have hinted it wasn’t on merit but because “I was the token black person” in the company…Assume nothing.
  • When we bought our dream house someone questioned, “How’d you get a loan?”….Assume nothing.
  • When I changed my hairstyle some people assumed I was going through an identity crisis…Assume nothing.

I could go on. And on. So many interactions are burdened with racial biases and assumptions. When we all realize the importance of framing a question from a kind hearted, bias-free place our interactions will become less burdened. And, their value will increase exponentially as we break down tensions and barriers that too often characterize cross-cultural interactions.

Instead of asking, “Do you boys live here?” Ask, “Are you little guys new to the neighborhood?” Instead of assuming that because I’m black I like hip hop, ask, “What kind of radio station would you prefer?” Simple congratulations on work well done, a new home, or a promotion can go a long way. On the subject of hair and black women, just commend us for keeping our styles fresh, no identity-crisis intervention team needed.

If you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask. But ask from a place of compassion, free of assumptions. Ask because you care, because you genuinely want to understand. Ask in a way that squashes negative perceptions and allows civility to reign. And, if you have to assume. Assume the best. Always.

 

 

Standing in the immigration line to keep America great.

First time I got my chance to vote.

First time I got my chance to vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Jen, I also wanted to take the time to reflect these past few weeks. I thought a lot about my own immigration journey. Immigration isn’t for the weak, downtrodden, or weary. Immigration is a painful, guilt-ridden, and very expensive process.

I’m a proud first generation immigrant. The United States is all that I know because I arrived here at a very young age. I always sounded American. I had a lot of friends and grew up like the average American child. But, dance recitals, sleepovers, and girl scout meetings don’t guarantee your citizenship rights. Unlike other average American children, my life also included a lot of hoops, red tape, immigration attorneys (if we could afford one), and long lines outside and inside the immigration office. Let me paint a picture of my typical immigration employee permit renewal day.


Imagine it’s 5 am on a cold Minnesota winter day and you’ve been waiting in line for nearly an hour outside an office building. Fifty people are ahead of you and you’re patiently waiting for the doors to open at 8am. You hear babies outside in parked cars crying. You’re in line with young children, elderly, and people with disabilities. The immigration officer finally opens the door, and counts us individually while laughing at us under his breath. When the officer counts the last person in front of you, he slams the door in your face and yells at you through the glass that he’s “at capacity” for the day.

You beg and plead with the officer and tell him that you drove three hours from up north to get there. He scoffs and tells you to prove it. By the grace of God, you still have your electric bill with your Duluth address in your purse. He sees it and hesitantly lets you in. Relieved yet? Don’t be. You still have to wait seven more hours until your red number is called. You wait in the cramped basement with the other immigrants trying to “de-thaw.” For seven hours you sit and you watch CNN. You wait with no vending machines and no lunch counters. You wait…until your number is called.

You don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. You don’t have time to be angry. After all, you need to shell out $500 in order to be eligible to keep your college job at the mall for one more year. When your number is finally called that day, you get fingerprinted (I still can’t stand the smell of cornstarch) and the photographer who takes your picture for your permit asks, “What do you have to smile for? This isn’t your country” (lightbulb flashes). You get your receipt and drive back up north hungry and tired, but determined not to miss another day of school.


It wasn’t until my junior year in college that lawmakers, like the late Senator Paul Wellstone, changed the laws and got immigrants like myself out of the cold lines outside and gave us appointment notices. The harsh treatment we experienced was still there, but this time by appointment only. Some people make excuses and others say that our system is broken. I say that if this were to happen to Americans there would be an uproar.

Immigrants and refugees have been given a bad reputation. Yes, there are a few bad apples but there are more amazing people in that same line every day. We wait in that line because of fear of persecution from our homeland. We wait in that line with survivor’s guilt. We wait in that line for fear of losing our employment. We wait in that same line as taxpayers and sustainers of the American economy. We wait in that line because we’re trying to bring a loved one over here for safe-haven.

It took me 20 plus years of waiting in that line. It took countless phone calls to lawmakers both statewide and nationally. It took stomaching a flow of racist comments from friends, family friends, a few colleagues, some employers, and some members of Congress … but those comments have become a catalyst for my courage.

I’ll never forget the moment. It was a crisp fall Minnesota day and at thirty years old, I stood in a new line. The voting line. I had my 18-month-old son in his stroller and I remember sobbing tears of joy. People in line were surprised when I said that I had waited 28 years to finally gain my citizenship. I was so happy that I took pictures with my election judge, who also took a picture of me and my son. That voting line was the line I had been waiting for.

I still continue to have hope. If I didn’t have hope then what had I been doing in that cold immigration line for over 20 years? When you hear people in your community, or even a President elect say that immigrants and refugees are hurting the American economy, think about the millions of immigrants and refugees like me. Think about us standing in line and spending thousands of dollars while holding our breath for a chance at our own pursuit of freedom and prosperity – like so many before us.

 

A Thank You Letter Leads to a Powerful Gift From J.T Brown

JT Brown Jersey

This past February I posted a Thank You letter to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s right winger J.T Brown. Much to my surprise, my post went viral. Mr. Brown himself even reached out to our family. He sent a very heartfelt and inspiring letter to my sons. His words of courage and understanding in the sport of hockey will continue to guide my children.

J.T Brown also sent our sons autographed jerseys because, as he said, he is their fan as well. My boys were so excited that J.T Brown sent them a letter and jerseys. Our oldest exclaimed, “I can wear this my whole life time!” My husband couldn’t help but to point out the irony, “Leave it to my Liberian wife, who hates the cold and has zero experience in hockey to connect with a professional hockey player.”

Pure Joy #JTBROWN

Pure Joy #JTBROWN

In Liberia we say, “Sharing your blessings with others will come back to you and the generations after you.” J.T Brown, your generosity to our family will bless your family for generations to come. You’ve made this Liberian Hockey mom proud beyond measure!

God Bless,

Jebeh

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