This piece is part of a series here at MKE Moms Blog entitled C.A.R.E. We want to initiate conversations about racial equality (CARE) and to call people into the discussion around social justice in our Milwaukee community and beyond. By having these conversations, even if they are uncomfortable at times, we hope to challenge ourselves and our readers. We will support this dialogue with new perspectives, resources and ways to get involved. We are in this together and ultimately, we want to provide connections: Mom to Mom. And we believe in the power of stories to create these connections.
We are all feeling a little shaky about our city right now. And many of us are wondering what we can do to help Milwaukee heal. After reading Meagan’s call for us to listen, you know that our problems are deep and complicated. But you also know that the first step we can take is listening. Listening to the perspectives of Black voices in our community. Hearing people who are living these realities, not just people who are reporting on them from the next county over. Considering that there might be narratives we haven’t considered.
OK, but now what? I want to DO more.
Know what we need to do next?
TALK. About racism.
Whether you’re a mom in Sherman Park or raising your kids somewhere out in the suburbs, you are part of our city. But like I tell my kids, there are always two sides to a story. On the one hand, Milwaukee is a wonderful place; located on a beautiful lake, with a ton of culture, fantastic food, all the drink you could ever imagine and so many things to celebrate. On the other hand – and particularly if that hand has darker skin – Milwaukee is our country’s most segregated city in a state statistically known as the worst place to live for Black people. These two experiences are connected by the systems of racism that made them both possible.
But white people don’t talk about race. In real life or online. Because we don’t need to. We can go about our lives without giving it a thought.
Yet, the threads of racism are woven into our beliefs and our perceptions about the world around us. It is part of the fabric of our country and it runs deep through the city of Milwaukee and its surrounding areas. Nobody wants to acknowledge that we are racist. That’s really the hurdle isn’t it? Because talking about race means we have to admit our personal racism. We might even like to profess how racist we aren’t, but nobody ever wants to talk about how racist we are. Because it’s really, really hard.
But when we don’t talk about it, we are accepting racism as the inevitable norm. We are participating in racial inequality with our collective silence.
What if we did talk about it? What if we could start having those conversations with each other? What if we could work through the discomfort? What if we could help each other recognize our biases and find ways to do better? What if our conversations about race can start to spill over into our neighborhoods and schools and workplaces? What if, as we are working through our personal racism, we start to recognize the racism that is integrated in our society? Maybe our collective mom voices could start to make a difference.
So let’s have a conversation.
We need to start where we are – with our own views on race. Find someone you trust, invite them for coffee and just throw it out there. What do we honestly think about race and why? Where do these racial biases come from? How do our ideas about race influence our life in Milwaukee and the lives of other families here? Talk with your spouse after the kids are in bed. Read an article with a friend and discuss it while our kids are having a playdate.
Then, we need to talk with our kids. Because whether we realize it or not, our kids are navigating this same road. Let’s light their way in the right direction. Children do see color and that observation is normal and ok. We need to model how to talk about racial differences like skin color or hair with respect and grace. Make sure your kids have books with diverse characters. Make sure they are not always surrounded by people who look and sound just like they do. Raise them to value diversity, in all forms. Talk to our kids at age-appropriate levels about what is happening in Milwaukee and in other cities. Because like many other topics, (ahem, sex) if you don’t talk to your kids about it, someone else will fill in that gap. And who knows what that might sound like.
We need to talk with our family and friends when they express racism in any form. Both in real life and on social media. Call out racist jokes or comments. Develop a personal policy that racism is never funny and won’t be tolerated. Ever. Begin to recognize racist narratives and stereotypes. Learn to respectfully disagree and offer a different perspective. Some of these conversations won’t go well. But we need to have them anyway.
As moms, we are good at talking. So grab a glass of wine and start talking about race. Let’s be ok being uncomfortable. Let’s be ok that we might get some of it wrong. But let’s try. Because I want all moms to think Milwaukee is a wonderful place. And we need to use our collective voices to help make that happen.