In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, racism has been targeted as the culprit behind slow relief efforts by the U.S. government. But how far off from the truth is that opinion? Is racism alive and well in American or has the U.S. come a long way? In this piece, a mother explains a situation where her family experienced racism in their everday lives, changing her outlook on exactly how far we’ve come as a nation. Read on to hear her story:
I have always been an open-minded person, never seeing color or judging another based on their race, creed, religion or sexual preference. I guess I have been living in a dream straight out of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, as I truly believed that we as a nation have grown so much and learned to accept one another.
I am a proud mother of three beautiful healthly boys; two of whom are of African American heritage partially. I myself am an Italian American woman. When I became pregnant with my middle son, Cullen, many family and friends disproved, as I was having a baby by a “black man” and that the child would always be treated differently as a bi-racial human being.
I was urged to have an abortion from so many people that were close to me, but I could not even think of destroying this life inside of me. I told everyone that the world had become more tolerant of bi-racial children and that they were wrong that my growing fetus would be treated no differently then anyone else.
I have so much guilt for thinking out of my rose-colored glasses of love and acceptance. The world has not changed; people are just more low key about their intolerance. My son did not ask to be born and no matter what he is a human being. He is here now and I love him to deat,h so as a result, I will fight tooth and nail to defend his honor when it comes to racism.
My world was sent into a whirlwind on August 20, 2005 when I brought my 7 year-old Cullen Deshawn to my employer’s (Amica Insurance) “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” a time when parents could bring their children to their job and the child could see first hand what it is that Mommy or Daddy did every day.
One of my co-workers greeted my son that morning by saying, “Let me get down on his level. Yo nigger, what’s up.” I was shocked, hurt, angry and hoped that this comment flew by him because as a 7 year old, he is often in his own world. He did hear her, as it was impossible for him not to — she was a few inches away from us and she directed this right towards him and I.
I am a professional and have been molded by my employer to not make waves — do not act inappropriate and allow management to do their job. I wanted to confront this employee, but I did not trust myself because I was so angry. I also did not want to make matters worse for my son if the employee and I got into a verbal argument over this, so I decided to play cool, be the professional and deal with management shortly.
When I got home that night, I was so angry analyzing this sentence. What is “his level?” What makes her think she can refer to my son as “nigger?” Does she think we use this word at home? She must think I address him as “nigger” around the house, but why would she think that?
I sat down with Cullen that night and I had to have a heart breaking mother/son talk. I answered some of his questions like “Why did she call me a nigger, nigger means an ignorant person and I am not that?” I had to look my baby in his eyes and tell him that this would not be the last time that he would be called “nigger” in his life. And that he would be called “nigger” many more times. I also had to tell him that I could protect him from so many other factors in life, but I could not effectively protect him from this one word.
Lying in bed that night, I cried and thought to myself, “How far have we really come as a nation?” I was so naive to think the world was so different and accepting. I dusted my shoulder’s off the next morning and began my pursuit of justice through the chain of command at Amica. My driving force was that this was the first time in Cullen’s life that he was called a “nigger” and I was going to tackle the issue head on, so when he was older and someone called him a “nigger,” he could think of this first instance and how his mother defended his honor.
Boy was I a fool, HR (Human Resources) did not want an outspoken mother and advocate bringing up this issue. To them it was a disruption to their corporate environment. My goal was to get an apology from the employee and Amica. And to date, I have neither. I do however have two disciplinary actions against me: one for asking questions relating to their investigation into this statement (which Amica states were neither proved nor disproved) and one for a petition my boyfriend posted online (Petitionspot.com/petitions/Cullen) that asks for the average human being to show support to Cullen, a right any parent has.
I have worked for this company for 4 years and I have never been formally disciplined, but I guess this issue was too political or unimportant in their eyes.
I am glad I had this opportunity to see that racism is alive and well in America. It is not just one group that is targeted, hate is alive and well. And if you are different, then you will be targeted. I can now effectively prepare my son for the cold world outside, instead of sheltering him in a land of love and acceptance.
My son is Martin Luther King Jr’s dream. He is the “best of both worlds” and I will teach him to be strong and proud no matter what the world is like on the outside!