Tonight, I was committed to beginning to write about my publishing journey. I could post about how after I started my book in 2014 after my son was born, and after I started querying in 2016, and after SIGNIFICANT revisions in 2017, I resumed last year, and finally found a publisher that wanted to put my story in print. I'm still excited about telling that story.
But there's something else I want to write about. Maybe it's too political and I'll alienate readers and blah, blah, all that nonsense they tell debut authors. You know what? If you're at all interested in reading my books, I'm going to go ahead and give you a disclaimer: my books get political. My background is politics, my education is in politics, and my life is forever political. Especially given our current political environment.
Today, there were a few things that converged on me and my family. Thankfully, these things haven't found us personally, but the fact that there are so many political events that affect my family even on the periphery when they shouldn't exist at all, means it's probably time to talk about them before they start burning crosses on my front lawn.
First, a bit about me and my family. I'm not shy about posting pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so you'll probably see lots of images of me and my gorgeous family. If you haven't seen anything about us, here's the background: I am white. My lineage is Scotch, Irish, English. My ancestors all come from the great, cloudy North. My husband of 9 years is black. His family, near as we have mapped, comes from the Caribbean and West Indies. I sunburn, he doesn't. He prefers tropical temperatures in our home, I insist on air conditioning so I can sleep under a comforter. We have two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. Our families are incredibly diverse. One of my sisters married a Haitian man, and their two children are mixed; my other sister married a man of Swedish or Norwegian ancestry, and they have the blondest children you've ever seen. My husband's brother is half Italian, and he married a Jamaican woman. Suffice to say, our family is mixed with nationalities, races, languages, and all sorts of backgrounds.
So when I came across two stories today, I felt my heart break a bit. (A lot.)
The first was shared by a cousin of mine. She shared a video of a woman from Marysville, Michigan,,Jean Cramer, who is one of five candidates vying for three open seats on their city's council. It seems in a candidate's forum, she urged voters to keep their city a "white community as much as possible." She clarified that she didn't want foreign born people to come into their community and destroy what they had built. Later, Ms. Cramer spoke in an interview about how she'd be fine with a black couple moving into her community, but she drew the line at mixed race couples.
The second story was from Chris Hayes' opening monologue. He spoke quite candidly about the legacy of white supremacy in our nation, about the enduring legacy of white supremacy and the culture of hate that has festered and, recently, thrived in American culture. And in the past several weeks, there have been several young white men who have been arrested with personal arsenals ready to reenact the massacre of El Paso, with the express intent of killing black and brown people.
I will not mince words, anyone who seeks to kill or hurt people for their perceived or actual racial or political identity is committing an act of terrorism.
And yet they, as Chris Hayes notes, are acting within the context of a protected legacy of American history. White supremacists, white nationalists, white identitarians or whatever you want to call them, have been acting to preserve the integrity of their racial identity since 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to this continent.
The legacy of the Ku Klux Klan, of slavery, of Jim Crow Laws, and segregation are not far removed. Just a generation ago, people accepted that differences in skin color mean differences in culture meant differences in humanity. They grew up and taught these ideas to their children, and both those parents and children and grandchildren are living and teaching and working to continue these vile ideas. They are running for city council in Michigan, and they are running sheriff's departments in my home state of Georgia. They're locking young brown and black men up for marijuana possession and declaring them thugs while turning the other way when young white men smoke up, because they are taught that the color of a person's skin determines character, ethics, and morality.
This mindset, this white nationalism or white supremacy, is a cancer on our society, and I don't know what I can do to fight it more. Because my normal avenues of political agitation and awareness are not going to work here. As I see the news reports of young men between the ages of 17 and 30 stockpiling weapons to go shoot black and brown "invaders," as I read news stories of white men cutting black teenagers' throats because their music threatened them, as I see seemingly innocuous posts on Facebook that make excuses for racism and preservation of a white America, I find it hard not to despair. People who think like this are being radicalized online, they're finding groups of like-minded people through Reddit, 4chan, and, yes, Facebook, to justify their fears and insecurities about modern life and displace them onto people who look different from themselves.
And I'm terrified of what that means for my beautiful, young, innocent and hopeful family. I'm starting to have conversations about race and prejudice with my five year old, as he encounters the world outside of our idyllic interior lives. He listens to everything, and he asks questions of more than I'm comfortable answering at this point. While I make a point of never lying to him, I find it hard to answer truthfully about what happens in our news and why anyone would think it's okay to discriminate against a family that looks like his.
I am not entirely sure where I'm going at this point. Maybe I'm hoping for guidance on how to discuss these things with my children, because I sure as hell can't shelter them from these ugly truths forever. Maybe I'm looking for reassurances that things aren't as bleak as they seem. Maybe I'm just hoping I'm not the only one who has to explain to her children that there are some people who are going to hate them just because of who their parents are, or what they color of their skin is, or how they came into this world. Because the idea of explaining that reality to my boundlessly hopeful and intelligent and kind children is more than a little heartbreaking.
And it seems easier to change this awful reality.