As I sift through my next set of memories, I am surprised that the ones that stand out the most involved TV and toys. We shopped at stores with a diverse clientele and occasionally ran into a black home school family, but most of the people I interacted with regularly other than my sister were white. Even though my mom worked hard to teach us a balanced view of history, most of my early education on race that I remember came from shows like Family Matters (sorry, Mom…).
While I spent my youngest years blissfully unaware of racial tension, this came to a crashing halt around age 5. That was the year they aired an episode of Family Matters called Fight the Good Fight written by Sara V. Finney and Vida Spears. It featured Laura leading a campaign to celebrate Black History Month at her school. When all seemed to be going well, she found a horrible note and the N-word spray painted on her locker. I know it made an impact, because I had to take a break after re-watching this scene and explain to our 6 year old why I was crying.
This word came up again not too much later on a more personal level. I was crazy about sports, specifically the Indiana Pacers. By default, this meant that the New York Knicks were my arch enemy. When I was at my grandparents’ house once day, we were watching a Knicks game when my grandfather used the N-word when referring to Patrick Ewing. I remember feeling sick and confused. I didn’t understand how someone I loved and looked up to could be filled with so much hate.
Another important year of my life was 1993 when American Girl release the Addy doll. I devoured all of her books and was elated when I got the doll as a birthday gift. Her story was brought home even more when my history club spent a year studying the underground railroad. When I was sharing how much I loved Addy with one of my friends, she said something like, “I wouldn’t want an Addy doll. I like to think of my American Girl dolls as my children, and I can’t imagine having kids who don’t look like me.” I don’t remember if I responded, but in that moment I felt confused and deflated. My little 9 year old brain couldn’t comprehend why my friend couldn’t wrap her mind around owning an Addy doll.
I was only beginning to see the realities of the world, but I didn’t like them. Around the same time, Reggie Miller had a local talk show on TV. During every show, he recognized people who were making a difference in their community with an award. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this with anyone, but at the time I daydreamed about winning that award for racial reconciliation. I didn’t know how to make a difference, and I still often don’t. I was not, am not, and never will be the answer. I just pray that the dream of that little girl would come true starting in the church so that the rest of the world will see Who is the answer.