Amanda Mixon

The Journey West County

As a young girl, poor, white, and in the South, I referred to black kids and dolls as jiggaboos, pickaninnies, and even nigger babies. I didn’t know. I used to play with the neighbor girl at my Papaw’s, until I had to tell her, “I can’t be your friend because you’re black.” I didn’t know. I used to think being poor white-trash was basically the same. I didn’t know. I did know when my dad said, “Now I ain’t racist, but I don’t like you talking to that boy.” He was wrong. I did know it was fear in my buddy’s, “‘Manda, where we going?” because I had taken us a little too far into the county. I did know it was complete and utter ignorance when my mother offered her guest a soda, immediately and very sincerely apologizing that we didn’t have any grape or orange. I looked hard in that man’s eyes, said, “She just doesn’t know,” and attempted to educate my mother on the spot. My family’s racism is heartbreaking and simply disgusting. Sharing these stories comes with a strong sense of guilt and shame, and I weep as I confess them. For a long time, I’ve recognized that our ignorance was never an acceptable excuse; there is no acceptable excuse for such behavior. But now, I realize my ignorance could come with very severe consequences. You see, now I am the foster mother of two beautiful little boys, and yes, they are black. And for now, because they’re young, they are cute and sweet and all the people smile at them when we walk down the street. Soon though, they’ll pull their purses in a little closer and my boys will be watched closely with a suspicious glare, just because they’re there. Now I know. And now I do my best to undo my ignorance and prepare us for what inevitably lies ahead. Now I rely on the tips and tricks revealed to me in blogs and social media posts to teach me how to keep them safe. Now I teach them of their Creator who makes no mistakes and chose them as His beloved. Now we celebrate their curly hair and chocolatey-delicious brown skin. Now I will do my best to teach them to use their voices. Now I tell them their needs and wants matter, that they have a special place, not just in my heart, but in this world. And now I pray. I pray with everything I am that they hear God’s truth over the ignorance and hatred of this world.