I was Raised by Racists
I’m ashamed to share that I was raised by racists, but part of my healing has been sharing my story. My story stems from a place of hatred for others, which was taught and learned.
I have created a non-chronological timeline of my exposure to racism.
Summer break 2022
My ten-year-old daughter discovered Disney shows from my childhood, including Hannah Montana, Lizzie McGuire and The Proud Family.
Hearing her talk about the shows I enjoyed as a child brought us closer together, creating a new core memory.
One core memory I wish could be erase is when she asked, “Why weren’t you allowed to watch The Proud Family?” her face twisted with curiosity and emphasis on The Proud Family.
I openly confessed, I raised by racists.
As children, we were forbidden to watch any television show that featured a person of color. Shows like Sister, Sister; That’s So Raven and The Proud Family, are a few among many.
Our parents went so far as to block channels like B.E.T and the Spanish-speaking channels from the cable box.
It was not until I moved out of the house in 2006 that I learned about artists like Biggie and Tupac. My childhood was robbed of what likely made the 90’s the best decade for music.
It wasn’t until 2006 that I learned I acted on racist thoughts as a child, too.
My mother’s family is made up of white, European descendants (and 1.6% Cherokee). They’re “Christians” and proud racists. As if being racist is something they’ve earned through grit and dedication.
During my daughter’s first Christmas, an older cousin gifted my daughter a black baby doll as a “joke.” Family members mocking my seven-month old for clinging and snuggling her new doll after opening.
I remember feeling angry, but not wanting to give them any satisfaction of knowing how they made me feel. Now I’m ashamed for not speaking up then about the “ongoing joke” for many Christmases and birthdays that followed.
They continued to used my daughter to perpetuate their hatred for anyone other than white people, attempting to ignite the next generation of racists.
I’m embarrassed to admit it took more catastrophic and traumatic events before I would finally cut out these family members.
Before his death, my grandfather was a Pastor and would eventually become a Missionary.
His daughter, my aunt, became pregnant, outside of wedlock in her mid-twenties. Because of purity culture, Christians love to shame women for pregnancies' outside of wedlock.
This wasn’t the most shocking part. The big family secret is that my aunt became pregnant as a result of sex work.
Before my cousin’s birth, my aunt was prepared to give him up for adoption. It wasn’t until after the birth, she chose to call things off.
For years, I was led to believe that my aunt considered adoption for her son because she did not feel prepared for care for a newborn and pressure came from the church because she would be a single mother.
Not until I became an adult, did I learn that the adoption was set into motion in the event my cousin was biracial. When my aunt learned her son was white, they called off the adoption and she went on to be a single mother until she married a few years later.
During high school, I started to show interest in dating and held friendships with a diverse group of teenagers.
My uncle and grandfather discouraged me from dating black men. They said that if I were to ever have children with a black man, my children would resent me.
Their belief was that a bi-racial child would not fit in with the black kids and would not fit in with the white kids. If I had a bi-racial child, they would resent me for not sticking to my own race.
However, the term “biracial” was never used. I’ll never say the word that was used in it’s place.
While my family has an extreme hatred for black people, they also hate anyone that does not speak English.
Living in the Southwest United States, we have a large non-English speaking population. My family also has a nickname for non-English speaking people, which I will not repeat.
Eugenics is the scientifically, inaccurate, theory that humans can be improved through selective breeding of populations.
The most famous practitioner of eugenics is Adolf Hitler, which my family has been heard saying,
“Hitler had it right.”
My family, who claims to be “Christian” and pro-life, also support the practice of eugenics. They claim to be pro-life, but support termination of a pregnancy if the child will be born with any disability.
What makes things worse is that my Mother’s husband had a sister that was born with severe disability and required full-time care throughout her entire life until she died in her early 40s.
The contradictions are not lost on me.
Enough about my Mother’s side of the family. My mother’s husband’s family is equally racist, but not as blatant. I guess they’re just not proud racists, like my mother’s family.
An older female cousin started dating a black man, later having a baby and ultimately their relationship ended over time.
My aunt and uncle, my cousin’s parents, cut their daughter and grandson out of their lives because their daughter had a bi-racial baby.
They gave reasons like: we cut her out because he was abusing her and she kept going back. They also said they cut her out because she had a baby before marriage and before she was ready to have children.
However, when my cousin’s sister became pregnant with a white, abusive man’s baby, the treatment was not the same. They’ll deny it was ever about race or skin color, but they openly talk about the skin color of the bi-racial baby.
My cousin’s son is grown now and I have not seen him since he was a baby. I hope he has found happiness and the love he deserves because our family was not able to love him unconditionally.
Growing up in a white, racist family; attending church three times a week and attending private, Christian elementary school, I didn’t learn the term “racist” or “racism” until I moved to a public middle school.
Hearing the way my family would speak about People of Color, I knew it made me feel uncomfortable and I would tell myself “I will not be like that when I grow up.” I just didn’t know it was called racism.
For me, it wasn’t about race, it was about hatred. They always seemed to hate someone. They hate anyone that is not them.
They hate non-white, non-English speaking, LGBTQ+, non-Americans. So much hatred to make any child feel uncomfortable.
I swore to never be like them.
I failed myself. I was like them.
It was 2006, I was a freshman in college, when I sent a Facebook friend request to Stephanie Edwards. Stephanie Edwards was one of four black girls that attended our private, Christian elementary school.
Sitting here now, I ask myself- “Why is it that I can remember all four of their names, but can’t name four white students from elementary school?” Is that unconscious bias?
Days later, I received a private message from Stephanie Edwards. She never accepted my friend request and told me the reason being that I treated her differently in elementary school.
Stephanie told me that I was the only person that she remembers from her childhood as being so cruel and wondered what gave me the nerve to send a friend request all these years later.
She gave examples of times when I was cruel- I mocked the color of her skin, the oil she used in her hair and the clips she used to fasten her braids.
She called me a bully.
I remember feeling a lump in my throat while reading that message and the urge to reply “I’m not racist, I have a black roommate.”
God, I had so much more to learn about life in 2006.
Years later, in my healing honesty, I have accepted that I, too, was a racist child. I have no memory of saying those things or treating Stephanie with such cruelty, but I never questioned her. I believe her.
I was forced to sit with myself to examine- Am I racist?
There is never an excuse for bullying, but we know that hurt people, hurt people. As a child, not only was I being physically and emotionally abused by my mother’s husband, but I was also exposed to racism and hatred.
Stephanie Edwards must have been my easy target because I must have felt she was smaller than me, less than.
It makes me sick to think that a child suffered because of me and to think that Stephanie waited 15 years before she could release that pain back to me. It makes me shutter.
Stephanie Edwards, I accept responsibility for being racist as a child. I am so sorry for the pain I caused you as a child and for causing pain that sat with you until you were an adult.
Since the private message from Stephanie Edwards in 2006, I have earned my Bachelors in Secondary Education and a Masters in Social Work. This felt like part of my journey in recovering from unconscious, unintentional racism.
It was not until June 2021 that I thought I had fully recovered from racism.
June 2021 is when I learned about Juneteenth.
Not only was I educated through an American university, my bachelors is in Secondary Education with an emphasis in History; World history and U.S. History.
Of any American citizen, I should have known about Juneteenth, but this is by design.
While I can place blame our education system, I also must take responsibility for learning more about the black experience.
How do we, as white people, take responsibility to learn without perpetuating the burden on People of Color to be our educators?
I don’t have that answer, but my eyes are open, my mouth is shut and my ears are listening.
As a parent, I commit to keeping my daughter away from racist family members. I will support her relationships with people of all colors and backgrounds. I will encourage learning by listening, not by speaking.
I support learning about race, racism and how to recover from racism.
My hope is that my daughter never looks back on her childhood and thinks “my mom hated everyone that wasn’t us.” I hope my daughter treats everyone with kindness and I hope that a child never feels pain as a result of her words.
I will be a good example because just as hate was taught, love and empathy can also be learned.
Stephanie Edwards, attending Valley Cathedral Christian School in Phoenix, Arizona, from Kindergarten through 6th grade: I am sorry.