I made a decision to not use this blog to comment on social injustices, blatant ignorance, or racist and violent actions that play out in national and international media. Those stories feel so BIG. They make me feel hopeless, powerless and they push a button deep inside that says our problems, our issues as a society are so large that I cannot affect them. I cannot make change. I cannot FIX it. And all I want to do is fix it.
So, I’ve avoided the BIG issues. The scary stories. The headlines. By talking and sharing about the little things, the day to day, the minutiae of an interaction, I feel like I have some power, some control. I feel like we make progress toward breaking down barriers, eliminating stereotypes and seeing each other as human-beings.
I CAN make change in those daily interactions.
Our hope is that each of our readers feel empowered in the same way.
But, this story, this week is just too big to ignore. As our state, our communities and our country mourn, make sense of and grapple with the fear that continues to control actions, Jeb and I wanted to try to make clear how our same, but different lives feel.
Jebeh and I were born in the same year. We grew up 10 minutes from each other in very similar communities. We met at college and found out we shared childhood friends. In college we had the same major and overlapping social circles. We married Andy(s) and had kids at the same time – our firstborns 12 days apart, our second children only minutes apart. We now live a mile from each other in very similar homes and neighborhoods. We have similar socio-economic status. We are in the same social circles. We are both educators, communicators and are engaged in our community. But our realities are different…
Jeb: I fear driving down my street. I’m hyper conscious of my blinker, stopping completely and following all the traffic laws.
Jen: I don’t think twice about throwing my kids in the car, buckling as I pull down the street and rolling through the stop sign if no one is coming.
Jeb: I get followed when I walk into a high end clothing store. They don’t ask if I need help.
Jen: I get approached when I walk into a high end clothing store. They ask if I need help finding anything.
Jeb: I’m asked if I’m the nanny.
Jen: I’m asked if I’m a stay at home mom.
Jeb: I’m scared for my sons. I’m scared that others will judge them for the color of their skin. I’m scared that they will be targeted because they are brown.
Jen: I’m scared for my kids. I’m scared that they might get hurt playing or make poor choices and suffer the natural consequences.
Jeb: I teach my kids to respect authority. I tell them to always do exactly as a police officer or other law enforcement person tells them. This is SO important.
Jen: I teach my kids to respect authority. I tell them if they ever need help or are in trouble they can run to a police officer or other fire and rescue personnel.
Jeb: People stare at me.
Jen: People smile at me.
Jeb: My blackness is challenged when people see that I’m married to a white man.
Jen: My marriage is accepted at face value because we “match.”
Jeb: When I’m by myself with my children, people question whether I live with my ‘baby daddy.’
Jen: When I’m by myself with my children, people smile and tell me I’m doing a good job.
Jeb: I fear that someone I love might be the next hashtag…
Jen: I fear that my kids will learn about hashtags and social media when they are too young to understand the dangers.
We are the same. But we are different. I do not live as Jebeh does. I do not fear as Jebeh does. I do not carry the weight of my skin color as Jebeh does. I live free. I live white.