“Why aren’t there two brown girls together?” my ten-year-old asks me. We are sitting at our dining room table with her friend after a sleepover, making cards and badges and art using colorful scrapbook paper and American Girl stickers. I shake my head, my heart breaking for my brown daughter whose awareness of racism is growing alongside the nation’s rage and despair and – thank goodness, finally – the outcry against the killing of Black men.
Her American Girl stickers portray a few brown girls. And Black girls. Even raven-haired girls who might be interpreted in a certain light as non-white. But the majority of the girls – kicking soccer balls, playing cards, setting up tents, riding horses – are white, and those who aren’t white are pictured alone, or with a girl who is white.
My daughter is beginning to say these things out loud when she sees them. She is learning to recognize how much of our lives are reflected back to us through a white lens – and she doesn’t like it. Not one bit.
I look from her to her friend, who is coolly cutting her next shape, setting it down, reaching for a marker. We don’t talk long. My daughter expresses her disgust. I agree. She asks me to pass the glue.
But it’s not okay. It’s not okay that everything from our stickers to our books, our schools, our places of employment, our laws, our expectations of society, our security forces, our healthcare system is viewed and reviewed through a white lens. It’s just not.
Especially when that white lens leads eventually to fear, and hate … and killing.him.before.he.can.kill.you. AS IF HE POSES A THREAT.
But what do we DO? How do we as a family respond to this tiny – insignificant? – symptom of a culture that elevates the perspective of people who look like me, and dismisses (both subtly and overtly) everyone else?
Do we write to American Girl and ask them to add more girls, more ethnicities, more brown girls playing together in their sticker sets? What does this change?
I want big strokes, sweeping change. I want to believe in justice. I want to require it.
The morning after Illinois passed civil unions into law, the lesbian moms with kids at my daughter’s school all walked our kids to school together – two parents together – just … because. We didn’t plan it. It just happened. Two moms walking a kid to school is… unnecessary, is … strange, is … empowering, is … magical. Remembering makes me want to cry. We’ve come so far in such a short time. We have. On certain things.
Now there are protests. And there have been protests, for months, for years, people crying out, raging, standing strong, saying NO. And other people – like me – are finally listening.
It’s just that the problem is so big and so many of us feel so small.
And – let’s be honest – it’s also that speaking out, standing strong means we risk losing people we love from our lives.
There’s that. While at the same time …
People are laying themselves in the street in solidarity with Eric Garner.
People are risking arrest and holding signs and saying NO everywhere they go.
There is so much that must be done.
Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Person by person.
Each one, reach one, right?
So maybe writing to American Girl is something, even if it only serves to sharpen my daughter’s voice, or to open a conversation with you. How else do you dismantle injustice?
Shaking a fist.
Writing a letter.
Lighting a candle.
Holding a sign.
…Bit by bit.
No one can go to battle every day, every minute, all the time. Can they?
And yet – so many people do.
…Person by person.
Pulling young family members aside,
talking with them about systemic racism
and the news.
It’s all something:
Not being silent
It’s all something,
and there are
so many somethings
to be done.