The Racial Struggle is Real. Although I grew up in a small town in Alabama, I never experienced blatant racism until I married my Caucasian husband in 1995 and moved to North Carolina. We received a lot of unbelieving stares and gasps in Alabama, but nothing prepared us for North Carolina’s racial climate.
Don and I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina in July of 1998 by way of Ft. Hood, Texas. Within a couple of weeks, we had our first experience with racial hatred. Back then, the Doniere family consisted of my husband Don, me, our son Del who was age 5 at the time, and our daughter Amber, who was age 3 at the time. More about that fiasco in a minute.
I grew up in a black neighborhood, and I had a few white friends at school. My husband grew up near a North Carolina military base in a very diverse neighborhood.
He had a lot of black friends because he was a graffiti artist, loved rhythm and blues, and embraced rap music. In high school he was a deejay for a rap group.
They performed at parties, and even went to New York to audition for a record deal. Don has untold stories of driving while black and white privilege while hanging out with his friends in the 1980’s.
Living in a diverse military town, Don dated women of various ethnicities. When we started dating, his parents probably thought I was just another pretty face. Although they were concerned when we talked about marriage, I never thought they were prejudiced.
Their only concern was how cruel the world was for bi-racial children. And, I cannot deny that there is some truth to that. Unfortunately, the world is a tough, cruel place for minorities, especially Black people.
Don’s older sisters also welcomed me into the family, which was a nice bonus. My parents did not have an issue with me dating a White guy either. They were probably shocked because dating Don was the first time I dated outside of my race. It happened very organically, and my entire family welcomed him with open arms. They treat him better than they treat me, if you want to know the truth. But I digress.
In the beginning we got long stares from both Whites and Blacks, like we were green Martians, and had just landed from Mars! We still get stares today. And, Don has a few white friends that he has had since graduating high school he has cut ties with because they could not admit or understand that racism exists, police brutality is real, and using the word “Nigger” is not cool.
Back to our first racist fiasco in North Carolina. One weekday afternoon after running errands, we were on our way home but Amber had to use the restroom. Don went to the nearest grocery store, and Amber and I went in. I asked the older greeter woman to point me in the direction of the bathroom, and she did it with a smile. About ten minutes later, Amber and I returned to complete madness. Don and the greeter woman were going IN! I asked Don what was wrong, and he said this to me as I held little Amber’s hand and little Del stood beside him:
“I was right behind you when you walked in the store and asked her where the restroom was. As soon as y’all walked away, she saw me, got my attention and asked: ‘why do those niggers always come in here to use our restrooms?’ I told her, that you were my wife, and that little girl was my daughter.”
We spoke to the manager, and he assured us that he would handle it. So we finally went home. A few days later, a strange woman called my house and woke me from a much needed nap. She had a husky voice, and informed me that if I kept making trouble she would get her sons to destroy my family. It was pretty obvious how she found my phone number and home address. This was the worst racial experience we have ever had. To make matters worse, the following week we received a $50 gift card in the mail from the grocery store. I refused to use it and suggested that we go to the store to return it, but the hubby was not feeling it.
Fast forward to 2009. I have never heard Don say or even spell the word “Nigger”. When we talked about race relations and police brutality he refers to it as the “N” word. When Del and Amber were teenagers and listened to rap music, he even forbade them to repeat rap lyrics with the “N” word in it aloud. I raised my children to appreciate being black, and the cultural slang that came with it. Like any mother, I wanted my kids to be compassionate, confident, and tough.
One way I gave my children confidence and motivation to embrace their culture was by introducing them to JET magazine when they were in elementary school. Back then, JET was home delivered via mail every week. I read each issue, and shared interesting accomplishments of African Americans with my kids. I especially enjoyed the conversations we had about nationwide police brutality, and unjust imprisonments of black men and women for crimes they did not commit.
I used the empowering information found within Jet magazine to teach my children about the complexities of being Black.
Soon enough, they began reading JET on their own, and sharing their favorite stories with each other and with me. Although Amber was my bi-racial baby, I made sure that she was very familiar and comfortable with her African American heritage.
Don and I have always been honest with our kids about our personal experiences with prejudice. For example, when Del and Amber were in elementary and middle school, we would go out to dinner as a family. Sometimes we would wait to be seated for 10, 15 or 20 minutes while White families walked in after us, and got seated almost immediately. Or, we waited to have our order taken for so long that we would just go home. We explained to the kids why we were angry, and why we left so they would not be confused, or felt we were behaving badly.
In 2003, my little brown baby Jay came on the scene and forever changed the Doniere household. Although Jay was the baby of the family, I instilled in her a love for her culture, and her blackness very early on. Whenever I taught Del and Amber about racial prejudice, classic old school music, and injustice spurred on by racial hatred, I taught Jay age appropriate information as well. Ironically, some of Jay’s best friends in preschool and elementary school were white. I have chauffeured everyone to the movies, park, and skating rink without giving it a second thought.
I want Jay to be well-rounded and realistic when it comes to race relations. And, I want her to be aware of the color of her skin, and love the skin she’s in, but also be willing to learn about other cultures when the opportunity presents itself.
Fast forward to 2016. Del and Amber are now 23 and 21 years old respectively, and they live away from home, whereas Jay is 12 years old. I still take the initiative to reach out to them to talk about racial issues like discrimination at work, school, and police brutality against Blacks, especially Black males. Don and I talk about race-related news stories almost daily because they are happening so often. It can be overwhelming and depressing. We also make it a point to talk to Del about what to do, and what not to do if he is approached, or pulled over by a police officer because of the volatile racial climate in this country. And, we still get hateful stares from black and white people when we go out as a couple, family, or if Don takes Jay out alone. I am used to it, and frankly, I do not have the time or energy to care anymore. I am over it.
Although my parents were pro black, they were far from being prejudiced. They taught me to treat others of all ethnicities as I wanted to be treated. I decided a long time ago to accept whomever my children brought home as friends, despite the color of their skin, because although we are all different, we share a basic commonality: we are human. And, it still hurts me to see someone judged by something as trivial as their skin color, especially kids. I am thrilled that my children and I do not have any permanent scars from the blunt racism we have experienced so far.
Have you been affected by subtle or blatant racism? Please share your story in the comments section.
Karen is a writer and speaker with a passion to inspire moms and women to take better care of their mental and emotional health by writing inspirational and action-oriented articles. She is the chief curator of The KD Collection, where she shares her heart in every article.
Karen is the author of the NEW Baby Bear children’s book series, and the Creator of The Forgiveness Project: a positive and healing conversation where women feel safe to share their journey while connecting with other women, and seeking resolution to their forgiveness issues.
Karen’s inspirational articles have been featured on websites such as She Owns It and She Is Fierce, and she spoke on a panel at Blogalicious 2015.
Karen enjoys volunteering at her local domestic violence shelter, where she assists clients with polishing their resume and honing their job interview skills. Her favorite titles are wife, and mom to three amazing young adults.