I was raised in a small southern town. Before you make assumptions, let me assure you it wasn’t like what you think. My parents were educated people who ensured that I was exposed to different cultures, races and beliefs. My parents were very open for the time and probably on the forefront of thinking for the community. But, I didn’t realize that as a child. I just knew it as my life — a life that included friends of different colors and cultures.
Before I married my wife, we discussed what we wanted our future to look like (probably like most couples, I would guess). One of the things we both agreed on (and that probably drew me to my wife) is her openness and love for all people. We didn’t isolate ourselves to just friends who looked like us and we didn’t want to raise our kids that way. And, we haven’t.
Now that we have three kids (two boys and a girl), our lives are a mess of running to and from different events and extra curricular activities. It’s great to see our kids involved, but one of the best things is that it has allowed me to become close to a group of dads. We share that same interest of after-work exhaustion while hanging out and waiting for our kids to finish the event du jour. We laugh and talk and it makes these required events bearable. It’s a diverse group of five of us and we’ve even gotten together for beers a few times.
Since the Ferguson happenings, I’ve noticed a shift. Maybe it’s my perception, but maybe it’s not. We seem to be more measured in what we say to each other and this makes me sad. And, it made me realize that I might be tiptoeing around, not sure what to say for fear of insulting my new friends. So, I wanted to write something to dads of color … what one white dad has to say during this time.
I’m not a man of color, but I care what’s going on. I care about people, in general, so naturally I would care about this, too.
I’m terrified. I’m terrified that our kids are not safe. I’m terrified that our kids might grow up in a society where they are scared to be who they are or that they are still being judged for something like the color of their skin or the clothes they wear. I’m scared that current happenings are creating an even bigger chasm in our society that we may not be able to recover from.
I see the things that you are posting on Facebook and I’m afraid that I’m going to say the wrong thing to you. I’m afraid that you will take what I say the wrong way (or that it will come out the wrong way). And, I don’t want to lose our friendship. I want to be able to talk about all of this with you.
Recently, I commented on a Facebook post about Ferguson in (what I thought and meant) was a positive supportive way, only to be met with some harsh comments about being white. I’m white, but I care about what’s going on, too. There’s no ulterior motive. I care about people and our society. I don’t want being white to exclude me from caring.
I feel guilty for being white right now. I do. I feel sorry that a race that I’m part of is creating pain for others.
I want to stand with you and support you. Will you let me?
Mr. D is a guest writer who works in corporate America. He now lives in a Northern state, but still values his small town Southern roots.