We’ve been talking a lot about boo boos lately. It’s summertime and she is still learning how to play with wild abandon. As a four-year-old black girl, there is a fear in her that is not something I remember ever having.
I was her age when my family moved to a small town in eastern Oregon. My childhood home sat on a corner in a neighborhood filled with other white families with white children.
When I reconnected with a dear childhood friend, she reflected how our behavior as children was already solidifying the belief that we belonged anywhere we wanted to be and had the power to control our environment. If you weren’t one of us, you weren’t welcome with us. She was right.
I believe that by the time I was 10 years old, I had already been programmed for a lifetime of white nationalism. These lessons are the silent scars of my childhood. I don’t ever remember my parents being overtly racist, but neither did they teach me that the edges of possibility, power, freedom, wealth, and – as my 4 year old teaches me – fear gripped the throat of black, brown and indigenous people in vastly different ways than I experienced. In the absence of deeper truth being taught in childhood, I’m discovering the effects of whiteness in me as an adult.
Unpacking my childhood memories in examination of how white domination was already in effect is a painful and necessary experience. I’m searching for the entry points that my young self became infected with the feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors of whiteness.
As I find them, I become able to uproot them in myself and also disrupt the infection of other white children. This gives me a sliver of hope and we could use a little hope.