I gained a whole third family- grandparents, aunts and uncles- when my little brother was born. It was 1994, about four years since my parents split and I was six years old. My dad had made a new life with my stepmom in North Dakota and from the moment we met, they all claimed me.
Up until this point, my world was small. It was my mother’s newly found refuge in church. The house my grandparents proudly owned in the east end of Bridgeport. And the dilapidated public school that taught me apathy that I’m still trying to shake. Until the moment I stepped off the plane in Fargo, North Dakota my experience of whiteness had been few and aggressively unpleasant.
But these people came along with their unconditional love and their wide, all-encompassing smiles and changed my whole world. Their whiteness never came up in conversation. My blackness was never a highlighted fact. We just were. And that’s how I came to spend all my childhood summers- with my race in a state of suspended animation.
Fast forward to the present and my own naivete has me reeling.
Am I the only one who thought the white people she knew would never support Trump? Was I that stupid? Don’t answer that. I know it was, but I never took a close look at the way my white family sees race until now. I just assumed they were all as compassionate as my stepmom is because she came from them.
What does it say about me that some of the people I love most in this world hold up a man who thinks so little of my existence? Am I a hypocrite for taking the continued blows to my lived experience while preaching #blacklivesmatter to the masses? My blackness is an irrevocable part of me. I can’t separate from it and I don’t want to. But I won’t lie to you and say it doesn’t hurt whenever one of my white family members openly denies the realities of racism. I am beyond tears; moved to a point beyond sadness.
My grandpa died of COVID-19. He passed in April, almost a year to the day my grandma died and it hurts especially hard because death is so prevalent these days. I have to go to the burial next month and I have to face these people. I have to mourn with them and love them and keep absorbing the blows because it’s not about me.
But I am an adult, now. Standing fully in my blackness means I have to let go of those who consistently invalidate me. So I plan on using that time to make peace and say a quiet goodbye to this side of my family. I’ll carry all the good lessons they gave me but I’ll no longer carry them with me.