While this is not about my or white people’s feelings, this is about white people’s violence. As white people in this country, it’s on us to dismantle white supremacy. Both the problem and the solution lie with us.
Today I bought my white daughter a black doll.
As I watched the news unfold about the latest episode of white supremacist violence in this country, this time at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, I felt a lot of things. Some of them were sadness, some of them were anger, some of them were helplessness, but none of them were surprise. And none of those feelings matter right now, because I am a white person. The anger, grief, and sadness of the black community is what should be centered at this moment.
While this is not about my or white people’s feelings, this is about white people’s violence. As white people in this country, it’s on us to dismantle white supremacy. Both the problem and the solution lie with us. This involves talking to other white people in our communities, having hard and uncomfortable conversations, and examining and confronting our own privilege. If we are not doing these things — working every single day to take down the system that allows this kind of racist violence to occur — then we are not only complicit in the violence, but we are part of the violence.
And much of the work of talking to other white people has to happen in our homes. As a white mother raising a white child, I recognize that it is my responsibility to teach her how to be anti-racist, how to spread love, and how to challenge racism every single day. I fully recognize that my activism must begin at home. And while I know that it’s important to talk with her about these things, as it stands now, she’s too young to have those conversations (she’s only one).
Right now, she learns by observing. Even though she’s young, I’ve tried to think about the ways in which I can ensure she is not surrounded by only people that look like her. I grew up in a very white bubble and it has taken years to dismantle the effects of that; I’m still working on it. We have a bookshelf stuffed with children’s books full of characters of color. She has play dates with friends who are not only white children. She hangs out with me and my friends, many of whom are people of color. She sees her mother loving and respecting people who have dark skin. Her pediatrician is a woman of color, because I don’t want her to ever doubt that women and people of color can be experts, trusted, and looked up to.
As I sat nursing her to sleep last night, ruminating on the horrors of the world we live in and wondering what I could do, I felt helpless. I looked in her crib and noticed that every doll she slept with was white. She may be too young to talk with, but she’s not too young to learn, and she’s not too young to love. I will not fool myself into thinking that this act will dismantle the violent system of white terror that plagues the black community on a daily basis, but I will not shy away from my own responsibility in upholding the system. And so today, buying her a black doll was a small act, but one that gave me something concrete to do.