The Wrong Thing To Say Is Nothing

My blog has been quiet on the race topic because my blog has just been mostly quiet lately. (Motherhood kicks my butt.) But privately I’m trying to do the work. I’m reading books, I’m watching the news, we’re intentionally exposing M to shows and toys and experiences of all colors & cultures. But I’ve been mostly quiet on here.

I live in a rural Midwest town. I can think of four black kids that went to school with me- two are siblings and only one was actually in my grade.

I live in a town where people are either okay with being racist or fire off the line, “I don’t see color.” Or they say they have black friends so they’re obviously not racist.

I grew up terrified of cities. I grew up inching away from strangers and closer to my mom when people looked different from me. I grew up hearing people use the n-word. I grew up with white dolls, white storybook characters, and white friends.

I didn’t understand white privilege until recently, but when I look back on my life I’m suddenly very very aware of the white bubble I was raised in. And I know that it’s not my fault that my town is white… but it’s now my resposibility to see color and to see inequality and to say something or do something or stop something.


When I was in 8th grade we took our class trip to Washington D.C. My best friend and I were rooming with another pair of best friends, but at the last minute the one girl had to drop out of the trip. The 4th spot in our hotel room was filled with the one black girl in our class.

That night, as we were laying down for bed, the white girl whose friend had ditched last minute started pushing two of the arm chairs together. My best friend and I looked at her with puzzled faces. When the black roommate popped into the restroom the girl told us that her dad was uncomfortable with her sharing a bed with a black girl, so he told her to find a different place to sleep in the room.

I remember it rubbed my best friend and I the wrong way, but I also remember not doing anything about it except maybe telling the white girl how dumb that was.


I hate that story. That happened in 2005. I’ve seen other blatant acts of racism in my town since them- some I’ve had the opportunity to speak out against, some not.

I’m reading White Fragility right now and, while I’m not done, I understand and appreciate being called out on the prejudices I have and the discrimination I inadvertently acted on.

There is no horn-tooting in this post. I am part of this country’s problem. I hate the confederate flag, I feel no malice toward people of color, I read books and watch films with diversity. But it’s not enough. And it’s never been enough.

So this is my public declaration to do better- and to maybe encourage you to do the same. I think a lot of people have stories like my D.C. one. And that doesn’t make my behavior ok, it just makes a lot of us at fault.

So to those facing adversity because of diversity, I’m so sorry and I will work hard to do better.

18 thoughts on “The Wrong Thing To Say Is Nothing

  1. When my brother was in high school he was the only non-white person in the entire school (he’s technically my half brother and his dad is black). People quoted Ali G around him until our cousin got mad one day and told them all exactly how racist they were being. I think there were two mixed race kids in my year group and one person of Indian descent in my sister’s. People still call the little shop near my dad’s house “the half way Paki’s” (because it’s halfway between two parts of town). The owners aren’t even from Pakistan! There are many reasons I never want to live in that town again – the way anyone who is different is treated is just one of them.

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    • That’s so infuriating. Good for your cousin getting angry and calling them out. I can’t wrap my head around treating people different because of their skin color or ethnicity, but I know we all have prejudices. And I want to do better about calling out people and systems that oppress others.

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  2. When I moved from PIttsburgh to a small town outside of St Louis in middle school, there was one black family with two girls in the whole town. (There were about 100 people in my class.) I became really good friends with the older daughter, and I remember several people saying that she “acted white” when they found out she was in my close group of friends. I remember thinking back then, what does that even mean??? And then I moved to Atlanta when I was in high school, and my school represented 91 nationalities with over 1,000 people in my graduating class. Such a culture shock in the best way possible.

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    • I wish M was going to be exposed to other races, religions, cultures, etc. like that but my town does NOT have that. So we’re going to have to be vigilant about diversifying her surrounds and experiences. When I was in middle school a Pakistani family moved in next door and the way my parents didn’t bat an eye and let me play with and befriend the middle daughter (RIGHT after 9/11) was the best thing they could’ve done for me, I think. She and I are still friends and I’m grateful for all the things I learned from her and her family!

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  3. You wrote out my thoughts so much better than I did… I feel the same way. I grew up believing that it was best to “not see color” which I am only now understanding is how we are kept from understanding so much and having so many important discussions. I want to do better and raise M to be better than me. I’m also currently reading White Fragility and I think it’s a good place for me to start. I am also really thinking about the type of place I want to end up raising M when Nick retires from the military and we can settle down. We aren’t set on anywhere and I certainly don’t want to raise her in a white bubble.

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    • Mmhm. The argument “I don’t see color” has always sounded safe… but it’s just ignores the plight of so many people. And it’s how generations have gotten away with making zero changes. It’s definitely something I’d like to do better. We will end up raising M in this small town but I really want her books, tv shows, movies, and trips to other states and countries to include diversity and color.

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  4. I think you are doing the best thing you can do, and that’s raising your daughter to be better than you. (And I think that’s all a parent can hope for right?) I know my parents had a lot to do with how I view race, and they really led by example. It’s really interesting, because I went to schools where I was the minority-but I think that’s just because of where I lived. I wish everyone could have the experience I did.

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    • Thank you. I agree that raising her to be better than her own parents is the best I can hope for. That’s a great way to put it! When I was in India for 4 weeks we were in the minority. I remember seeing 6 other white people total. It was a shock and something I’m glad I experienced, even if it was for a short time.

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  5. I love this post.

    We were all raised to say we didn’t see color – on purpose. So that we could be complicit in upholding these systems of oppression. But the internet got to a lot of us. And we share information. And talk about how we didn’t always do things right. About how we all have conscious and unconscious bias and here’s what we’re reading and here’s what we’re doing and we’re going to do better at this. This is a great post.

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    • Thank you, Steph. I feel like I have a lot of learning (and unlearning) to do. Here I’m surrounded by many people that don’t care to do the work, but it’s starting to sound like the voices of those oppressed and those who want to fight with and for the oppressed are growing louder and louder. It’s the smugness of “I don’t see color” that truly gets to me. Yes you do, you just see your color as superior and right.

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  6. Very well said. Every white person in the world has to focus on how they can change and be a better ally for people of color. No matter how we are raised, there are biases and prejudices just in the way the world works. We don’t always seem them. I think it’s great that everyone is trying to use what they can to learn and grow more. I know us bookworms are focusing on books a lot, which is great. I’ve always read about different experiences, and I truly believe it’s made me more empathetic and more self-aware, but I’m not perfect. I have to work at it too and that’s okay to admit, because we ARE working on it! I have hope that each new generation will get better and better, and that’s what you’re doing with M.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    • I agree! I think there are no excuses left. If you’re a new watcher, watch the news. If you’re a reader, pick up a book on race. If you binge Netflix, find a program about racial inequality. I hope our generation improves but I really hope we can raise the next one to do better.

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  7. It breaks my heart that that girl had to go through that – in the 21st Century no less. What a world we live in.

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    • I agree. I wish we’d have spoken up… but I think letting the white girl suffer on two chairs pushed together was the best punishment we could’ve inflicted. I can’t imagine having your parents be so blatantly racist- I would have lost SO much respect for my dad if he’d have said something like that. UGH.

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