by Regina Brink
I’m Mexican-American. Racial and ethnic antipathy weren’t new to me. Still, when I gave birth to my 4 biracial, African-American children, I realized I was unprepared for the level of violence against Black Americans, especially males. The outright hatred and especially the disregard and insensitivity of non-Black Americans to their fellow human beings astonished me.
My white stepmother made ignorant statements about my infant’s skin pigment. When my stepmother’s family had their first grandchild, a little girl who was from 2 white parents, all of a sudden, the children were treated very differently. My father threatened harsh punishment of my 2-year-old son over sharing toys. I threatened to leave our Christmas gathering and forgo them in the future.
My mother’s family was kinder to the children. However, my uncle had to put my own mother in her place because she was sharing prejudicial opinions about African-American hair. My attempts to explain and my daughter’s tears were ignored.
Often, when discussing academics, we are told we must protect children. However, my children’s most traumatic experiences happened in school. My six-year-old son was accused of stealing when he traded one of his toys with another boy who then wanted it back. The staff never questioned the young white child’s story, ignoring my son’s explanation, which turned out to be true. Another one of my sons was referred to a program to prevent gang affiliation by a substitute teacher who cited his appearance. He was an honor student, a conflict manager for his class, and excelled in sports and music. He had never been sent to detention. All three of my sons were stopped by the police when they were 10, 7 and 3 years old, questioned because of some older teenagers, despite the fact they were obviously not old enough to fit the description. It became clear to me that society did not care about protecting my children. I see no evidence this has changed.
I don’t have space to describe raising four teenagers, perceived to be Black, not biracial, and treated accordingly. Each of my children has had frightening encounters with the police and their fellow Americans, although none of them have committed crimes. They’re honor students graduating from college, maintaining values of kindness, inclusion, and integrity. They have all been called racial slurs and been stopped by police as young adults. Their trauma is overlooked.
My heart breaks when I realize the change I thought would happen, the hope and progress toward equity we have been working toward, has not and will not protect our Black and Brown children. None of them have been wrongly imprisoned like so many. None of them have been killed by the police or white supremacists. However, when they’re late to a gathering or their phones die, I am terrified I will be one of those mothers crying on TV, begging for justice, burying my child. We can do better, America, and we must.