Racism & Blind Spots: What Detroit Taught Us
Detroit Race Stats
Our 10 year old daughter Jadyn is from Uganda...
She has dark skin AND is drop dead gorgeous inside and out. We adopted her from Africa when she was just 8 months old. (See this story unfold in the film Moving On) We completed her adoption on her first birthday, and within a few weeks moved back to Colorado where we were living. Raising her alongside our son has been one of the great joys of our life, but it hasn't been a cakewalk.
As Jadyn entered into Kindergarten, she loved school! Being one of the most social people I've ever known, she lights up a room and gets lit up when she's around other kids. So you could imagine our dismay when she came home crying one day explaining how girls from school told her "girls with dark skin can't play with them" and that "kids with dark hair couldn't be in their club." You can imagine our response. We were heartbroken for Jadyn and furious at the remarks. These kinds of comments continued throughout the first few months of school until we decided to switch schools. Fast forward to her 4th grade year. We had recently moved to Northern California - Jadyn was on a waiting list for the school we really desired to have her in, but in the meantime we found a great school with an incredible reputation. Within the first 6 weeks Jadyn had 3 separate racially charged comments that once again had her coming home crying.
You see... we've lived in communities with very little diversity most of our lives - communities that are generally considered middle/upper class. Our kids have attended fantastic schools that anyone would be grateful to have their kids attend. And in these "great schools" we've experienced racism. Most of it by well-meaning people, but racism nonetheless. So this year, within weeks of these race-driven comments to Jadyn, we travelled to Detroit to film our series, The FIND. As we filmed we began to see Jadyn grow more and more comfortable with Detroit. Multiple times throughout production we'd ask her how she was liking Detroit and she'd tell us that she'd like to move here because of the diversity.
While in Detroit I remember stopping into a neighborhood local restaurant to grab lunch with the film crew. I walked in to check it out and make sure they could accommodate our crew of 10 people. As I walked in, I noticed everyone in the restaurant look over at me and immediately I realized I was the only white person in the room. In this moment, I knew in an instant how Jadyn has felt most of her life. I knew the blindspots I was previously unaware of. I understood that although no one in the restaurant was anything but kind to me... I felt different. I knew I stood out.
It's easy as a parent to want to protect your own child... to keep them safe, to stand against anything that comes against them. But what does it look like when it's someone else in your community or your country who is being made to feel "different" or on the outside? What does my response look like? Do I stand and watch it happen, or do I say something?