Tightrope

Today, I had every foster/adoptive parent’s nightmare – getting a visit from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, because I had been accused of child abuse. Someone called the child abuse hotline to say that there was a child in my home in handcuffs and shackles. What they didn’t explain to the child abuse hotline was that child was being escorted by two police officers to one of three waiting police cruisers. She was being escorted to a local psychiatric facility, because she was out of control. I’m not sure how the caller missed the two police officers on either side of my daughter, or the cruisers with their flashing lights, but he or she certainly didn’t provide that very valuable context to OKDHS. So, when the ladies arrived, I explained what had happened – that I’d just arrived home with my daughter. They are required by law to fully investigate complaints (for which I’m very thankful), so they proceeded with their questions. I explained my kids’ history, gave vital statistics, and showed them that my kids all had beds and that there was food in the refrigerator and pantry. Then, they interviewed my kids, which they’re required to do. I had already invited all three kids into the front room to laughingly explain what had happened, in hopes that it would transparently lighten the mood for them.  Because what was truly terrifying me about the visit was not what would happen to me, but what it would do to my children on a day when they’d already been seriously traumatized. My kids were removed from their biological parent’s home a day or two after Christmas about seven years ago. They were eventually split up into different homes, spent time in shelters, and sometimes with abusive foster children and with abusive foster parents. So, the very last thing my kids needed was the threat of being removed from me and my home. The very last thing.

The ladies were incredibly compassionate and gentle in their questions. They reassured the kids they could see the kids were well cared for, and the interviews were something they just had to do. So, all three of the kids answered very basic questions about whether they were attending school, if they had enough food, and other mundane things that I’ve honestly forgotten. I offered them coffee, apologized for my messy house, and then they were gone.

We’ve obviously had a tough day today. I’ve written several times about my middle daughter’s issues, and today’s were no different. Violent fit; police called; handcuffs and shackles; waiting for the third cruiser with the cage to arrive so she doesn’t kick out the glass in the cruiser; as soon as I’m out of her sight she calms down; arrive at hospital. What was especially frustrating about today was that there were no beds in our entire county for my daughter. I had already called the three hospitals who provide psychiatric care for juveniles, and none of them had beds. I called COPES and learned that they’re not mobile on the weekends. Eventually, I was told what psychiatric hospital was doing the “rotation,” this weekend, which means they are responsible for figuring out what to do with my daughter, whether they have a bed available or not, and we went there. While there, my daughter calmed, and she and I had a come-to-Jesus meeting, where I explained she can’t ignore her coping skills and throw fits once a week, or she’s going back to the psychiatric facility. She’s twelve and African-American. I’m terrified that if I don’t help her manage her anger now, one day she’ll have a violent rage at school or on the job, and someone who doesn’t understand what’s happening will shoot her dead. I’m hoping that our talk today is enough to help her make good choices, because I wasn’t sending her to another county an hour and forty-five minutes away, which likely would have been my only option. I didn’t complete papers to have her evaluated, because once I did, she would have been in the system, and I wouldn’t have had any control over where she went. It may have been a very poor decision, or a very good one – my parenting life is a constant tightrope. Our life is a circus without a safety net.

The tightrope that I and every other foster/adoptive parent walk is maddening, and one of the reasons I write this blog. I have friends who have been told by psychiatrists that their adoptive children cannot come home from inpatient psychiatric care, because they will be a threat to the other children in the home. But if adoptive parents relinquish rights to their adoptive kids, even in dire circumstances like those I just described, they will owe a substantial amount of child support to the State of Oklahoma until the child turns 18. What kind of option is that for a family? Last year when my oldest daughter was living in our garage (yes, our garage), I was threatened by an intake worker at a psychiatric hospital with a call to OKDHS. That was while I was trying to get help for my daughter who had just created a blaze at our house that required a couple of fire trucks to extinguish. Parents of “normal” children are likely cringing as they read this but when your kid is communicating online with strange men about all the sex acts she’s going to perform on them, and she won’t give up the stolen cell phone she’s using to stay online, then guess what – the garage is a nice alternative to being kidnapped into sexual slavery. It’s warm, dry and safe. It’s just not terribly comfortable, and it’s a pretty serious clue that your mom is going to stubbornly keep you safe from yourself and your incredibly self-defeating behavior. And, it worked ultimately. These are the kinds of creative parenting techniques that parents like me have to come up with every day, and if your world is not quite as gray or complex as mine, then that might look like abuse. Unfortunately, once someone like me has made the decision to adopt, there are very few resources, and lots of living between a rock and a hard place. Our state has a massive effort currently to recruit more foster parents for the 11,000 that are currently in care, but there are no additional resources for those parents. You’re just on your own. And, I’m ridiculously stubborn and resourceful. Consider all the foster/adoptive parents who are not.

After the kind ladies from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services left, the kids and I went to one of our favorite little breakfast places, because we were all worn out and starving. My kids ordered for themselves, then me. Then the very sweet waitress stopped writing, looked right at me, and said, “You have the most polite kids. I could wait on them all day long.” I thanked her and let her know, without sharing details, that we’d had a really tough day and that her words meant more than she knew. And then, the world’s most badass children and I proceeded to make our very own very good day.

To Look After Orphans

Several years ago I began hearing this over and over again – “I can’t believe you don’t know Michelle Kelley!” I heard it so many times, I finally said, “Would someone please introduce me to this Michelle Kelley person?” So, we met via Facebook, and we’ve been soul sisters ever since. At the time we both lived in Oklahoma City. (I’m in Tulsa, now.) We were both foster/adoptive moms. (She adopted two biological siblings, I have three.) We were both unmarried when we adopted. (She is still. I am again.) We’re both determined, professional women who are well-respected in the business community. We’re both outspoken when necessary. However, when it comes to politics and religion (the biggies!) we’re opposites sides of the same foster/adoptive parent coin. While I am a Buddhist-leaning Unitarian, Michelle is a Christian (as is most of the population of our home state of Oklahoma, by the way). And, while I’m a Democrat, Michelle is a Republican. In spite of this, we agree on an amazing array of ideas and goals, and when we disagree we do so respectfully. This arrangement makes as un excellent tag team on legislative issues regarding foster/adoption, and we’ve actually visited our state Capitol together for this reason.

This morning I awoke to a powerful Facebook post from Michelle that I’ve reposted here. If it resonates with you, and if you think Michelle is as fabulous as I believe her to be, please let her know in the comments below. It takes a village to do what she and I (and lots of other parents from lots of other political/religious/ethnic/sexual orientations do.) We need your support.

To those who call themselves Christian in my FB feed: I rarely get very preachy in my FB posts, but I can’t seem to help this. Tons of you have been sending me the short film “Removed,” because you are touched by the contents of the foster child’s perspective. The film, although an accurate reflection, does not hold a candle to holding your child while she describes being tied to a toilet or punched in the stomach. What I am most concerned about though, is not the film, but the lack of understanding by my sisters and brothers in Christ, of our responsibility, our calling to those who cannot help themselves.

In the last four years, our family has been met with disdain, my kids told to their face that they were not going to have a good life because they weren’t going to have a Dad. I was told that I was doing my children a disservice, because I couldn’t provide a father, nor could I be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been called a narcissist, because I refused to allow unhealthy emotional behaviors shatter the peace that we have created in our family. All in the name of Christ.

Thankfully, Jesus reveals himself to me and my kids. We are incredibly grateful for the scores and scores of Christians and non-Christians who support us. Every foster child needs scores and scores of people to play different roles to help them be who God intended them to be – not just foster parents, but therapists, counselors, teachers, daycare workers, doctors, lobbyists, social workers, legislators VOTERS, etc. There is NO excuse not to be involved in some way. If you’re waiting to be called, then check your bible. James 1:27 reads “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I’m not a theologian, but it seems pretty straightforward to me.

My point is, as a whole, we are getting it wrong. If you are confused on what should outrage you and get your back up about your spiritual beliefs, this “A Handy Guide to Christian Outrage” article is a good start.

Sermon over.

Dear Moms of Adopted Children | Kathy Lynn Harris

This is almost a year old, but I’m just now seeing it, and I had to share. It is perfect. It describes me and so many of my friends so well that it brought me to tears.

 

Dear Moms of Adopted Children | Kathy Lynn HarrisKathy Lynn Harris.

New Facebook page

So many of you have kindly followed this blog and reached out to me on Facebook, that I created a new Facebook page just for those who are interested in becoming foster/adoptive parents or are interested in advocating for foster/adoption and mental health care.  I’ll share shorter and more frequent posts there about our daily lives and about advocacy efforts. Please click here to go to the new Facebook page and tell me what you’d like me to post about. Thank you!

ReMoved

UPDATE: The makers of this lovely film are making Removed Part Two and need your help in getting it funded. Please view, donate & share!

I woke up this morning to this lovely short film in my inbox. A sweet friend, who has devoted her professional life to therapeutic foster care issues, sent it along with the words, “Shelley: for those days you wonder ‘why’.”

I’m unsure of how the makers of this film so completely understand the path of a foster child, but I suspect at least one of them has shared the path of this little girl. This film is especially poignant for me, because my children came to me one at a time, which will resonate once you’ve seen the film. Please view and share. My heart is full of tears and love for these artists.

Merry, Merry!

This time last year, my now 11-year-old was in the midst of a meltdown that would land her a few days later in the Reactive Attachment Disorder unit at our local psychiatric hospital, where she would stay until August. So, this year, thanks to remarkable therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, family, friends and people we don’t even know who have supported us through caring posts, we have made it to Christmas Eve with barely a hitch. I’m so proud of my kids. They’ve worked so hard to be emotionally healthy this year. They’ve joined in our December family morning mantra without complaining, “I am worthy. I am loved. Christmas is what I make it,” and have shown remarkable empathy and patience for each other. Though they will manage the heartache that comes with Christmas for the entirety of their lives, they are not letting it define them. My 11-year-old is currently sashaying around the house to the festive sounds of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and soon she’ll join me in the kitchen for even more holiday baking.

This year, in honor of all the hard work everyone had done to be emotionally healthy, we decided to do something a little different with our Christmas card. The kids and I decided they should pose like sad, little rich children out of a Wes Anderson film just to show our friends and family how seriously we take ourselves. The card was such a bit hit, I thought we’d share the photos here. Thanks to everyone who reads this blog and helps to keep me sane throughout the year. Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) to you and yours!

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Nine Fun Facts About My Adoption

A friend asked me to participate in the latest Facebook thing which is “tell us (some number) fun facts about your pregnancy/adoption.” I tossed off a few things thinking nothing of it, and had a huge response. So, I’m posting them here as well. It occurs to me they give a bit of context about how this all came to be. And, we’re snowed in, so there’s not much else to do.

  1. Before I became a foster parent, I explored having kids biologically. Shopping for sperm online weirded me out, and it takes quite a bit to weird me out. A friend who had worked for my state’s Department of Human Services suggested fostering before I adopted. God bless her, because I wouldn’t have thought of it otherwise.
  2. My adopted kids were my first foster kiddos. It’s pretty unusual for a new foster parent to be able to adopt her very first foster placement. About 70% of foster kids in Oklahoma (my state) are returned to their biological parents.
  3. My girls arrived on the same day in February 2008, and my middle child had so many meltdowns that first day that she was re-classified as a therapeutic foster child and sent to a therapeutic foster home less than 24 hours after arriving at my home.
  4. My son arrived in June 2008. I got a call asking me if I’d like the girls’ brother, because his foster home was being closed down due to confirmed abuse. When I couldn’t leave work immediately to pick him up (I was doing a strategy session for 30 people!), they dropped him at my daycare. The poor baby was three years old and was wearing the only clothes he owned, had no familiar toys, and two shoes that were both left-footed and different sizes. My oldest daughter was at the daycare, but had no idea he was coming. She walked up and re-introduced herself, and he eventually realized she was his sister. That scene in The Blindside where the main character meets his brother in a restaurant? Yeah, that stuff actually happens.
  5. I had to get special permission to become a Therapeutic Foster Parent, because I worked outside the home, and Therapeutic Foster Children need more care than your run of the mill foster children, so you’re really supposed to be at home with them when they’re not at school. I completed additional training so that my middle child could come back to my home. We finally got her back July 4, 2009. She’s my little firecracker!
  6. My son’s biological dad’s rights were terminated by the time my son arrived at my home, but the kids’ biological mom and the girls’ biological dad went to court to defend their parental rights and requested a jury trial. While we were waiting to pick the jury, the mom’s attorney asked me to speak with the kids’ mom, which I thought was just absurd, because she really hated me and blamed me for her not having her kids. I spent the most focused 1 1/2 hours of my life calmly speaking with her across a conference table with the sheriff’s deputy and her attorney sitting beside her, and afterwards she relinquished her rights in front of the judge. She was worried that the kids would hate her if she relinquished. Among other things I reassured her that I didn’t encourage them to hate her. I explained that we talked about her not being prepared to be a healthy parent and making some really poor choices, but that hating her would not help the kids. That was the only time in my life I have felt God speak through me. (And, no you won’t see me reference God often. When I do, I mean it.) The girls’ dad asked me if he could give the kids to me, after he’d chatted with me on the first day, seen photos, and knew they were happy. I have tremendous respect for the girls’ dad, because he could have easily given up rights since he was in prison, but he fought for their welfare the hardest.
  7. My son is named after his biological father (who promptly abandoned him), and he’s not the only kid the biological father named after himself. Thankfully, his first name fits him better than any other name I could come up with, and he’s definitely made it his own.
  8. I postponed my wedding and move to a different city, because the adoption took six months longer than the drop dead date that my state’s Department of Human Services gave me. When it finally happened in September 2010, I immediately started job searching, re-planning my wedding, and looking for a house in our new city. I got a job and relocated that following March, and I got married in April. In between, I found out i was pregnant for the first time (at 41!) and miscarried at 10 weeks, a week before my wedding. My middle child was institutionalized for the first time that July. It’s been a big few years.
  9. A ridiculous number of people got us to the point we are now. My friend, Jilian, bailed me out when my middle kiddo got kicked out of daycare. She hooked us up at the Boys & Girls Club, which were really the only ones who would take my daughter after she was kicked out for behavior. If not for them, I wouldn’t have been able to keep the kids and keep my job.  Lots of other foster/adoptive parents who I met through support groups and who now support me via a Facebook group we’ve created answered lots of questions and kept me from losing my mind. My co-workers gave me a foster parent shower. I have a couple of dear foster/adoptive parent friends who take my “no one in the world but you will understand this” calls. My mom and sister took care of me and my three kids when I had to have emergency surgery. My friend, Laura, is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Therapeutic Foster Care Association and a consultant nationally, so she’s a huge resource. And, my friend Lori Cain, met us in a snow storm so we could buy the house we live in now, even though she’d never even met me at that point. It takes a village, people. Please feel free to post your own foster/adoption experiences here!

Connected

Yesterday, the kids, the dogs and I (no husband, or bonus boy – that’s another story) drove to my sister’s house, where we had a ridiculously traditional Thanksgiving celebration with my mom, siblings, aunt, cousins, and everyone’s respective spouses. There was turkey, dog-walking, cards and football. It was a gorgeous Oklahoma day.

CardsGrowing up I didn’t realize how special my family was. I loved my family and looked forward to seeing them, but I didn’t realize how much support and unconditional love I received from them until I got older and was able to compare my family to other families. To be clear, my family has issues like every other family, but ultimately they collectively offer a tremendous amount of love and acceptance. That love and acceptance has been a pivotal part of me becoming who I am, which has become especially clear to me after becoming a parent.

While we were eating pumpkin pie and drinking coffee, my soon-t0-be 89-year-old grandmother confessed that when I “took on” the kids, she was worried. She said it was something she never would have done. (She just lived through the Depression and World War II, raised three kids in 900 square feet, worked an office job when most women didn’t work outside the home, etc. – it’s all relative). She said my grandpa wasn’t worried at all, though. She said he knew I’d be good at it. Considering my grandpa grew up at the Baptist Home for Children during the Depression, he knew a bit about being without parents, so learning of his confidence in me to be able to raise my kiddos meant a lot. What has meant the most, though, was that my entire family, regardless of what they might have thought privately, embraced my children immediately, even before I adopted them, and gave them the same support and unconditional love that they had given me from the beginning. They gave hugs, attention, smiles, fabulous food, advice about difficult times at school, more attention and more hugs.

Over the last several years I’ve read a lot about attachment, trauma and shame, and I’ve listed a lot of those books in the Resources on this blog. In the last year while both of my girls were living in psychiatric hospitals and we were participating in intensive family therapy, I experienced my girls’ epiphanies about acceptance, and witnessed them both turning a corner to begin loving and healing themselves. What’s amazing to me about all of this is that the key to that love of self begins with the connection and attachment we have to family. It’s like a little magic key that some of us receive at birth and that some of us have to work ridiculously hard to believe we’re worthy of and finally begin to accept. I recently viewed Brené Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” and it was like all my own experience and knowledge combined with everything I’ve learned from my husband in our marriage and via his research (he’s a fan of “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” as is Dr. Brown), my dabbling in Buddhism over the last 20 years, as well as what I’ve learned from my study of my kids’ issues in the last 5 years was tied up in a not-at-all-neat bow. It’s the ultimate chicken and egg scenario – in order to feel worthy and feel the accompanying sense of love and belonging, one must believe one is worthy of love and belonging. It’s really that simple. Getting there is not. I learned with my girls that I could tell them all day long for five years that I loved them, that I was their mother, and that I would not leave them, but it never took. When I saw the shift happen is when each one of them individually came to the place via intensive family therapy where they could say out loud something to me of which they were deeply ashamed – it was always something an adult had done to them, never anything they were actually responsible for – and witness me not running away, holding them while they sobbed, telling them that what had happened was awful and something they didn’t deserve, empathizing, and witnessing me coming back next week for the next session. Their sense of shame was so strong that they knew, no matter what I told them, that if I knew the “real” them, I’d abandon them and never look back. They had to have courage to say out loud these things they were deeply ashamed of, be rewarded with connection, love and acceptance, and continue having the courage to begin accepting themselves, to abandon perfection, and to be vulnerable, which is the gateway to joy, love and fulfillment. I’m so proud of my children. They and my husband are the strongest people I know.

Though my grandfather was sure I’d be wonderful at raising my kids, I walked into my relationship with them knowing that they’d likely go back to their biological parents, as 70% of foster children in Oklahoma do. I had learned after years of work on my own abandonment issues that tackling my fear of loving these kids and watching them leave was the best thing I could do for myself and for them. When the opportunity to adopt them came about, I let go of all kinds of “perfection” I had in my head about what my family would look like, what kind of life I’d be able to give them monetarily, that kids should have a father, etc. I was completely unsure of what my path would actually look like, but I was excited for the possibilities, and I think that’s what my grandfather picked up on. Though my grandmother said she would never have embarked on a path like mine, without realizing it she and my grandfather along with my mother are the most basic parts of a family who is compassionate, loving and welcoming and which was the platform for me overcoming my own shame (we all have it), becoming vulnerable, and opening wholeheartedly to the possibilities and love that life brings, and I grow more thankful by the day for that gift.

As the days grow shorter, I am reminded of how difficult the next month will be. My children were removed from their biological family’s home the day after Christmas and put into a shelter. That’s a very tough anniversary. A a reminder, lots of people have a tough time with the holidays, so please be mindful of that. Last year my middle child had a breakdown on December 23rd that didn’t really end until she was taken to inpatient psychiatric care in early January by one of our local police officers.  At the same time, I know that when I asked my kids what they were thankful for yesterday, each one individually said “family,” and that was not some “I know this is what my mom wants to hear” answer. Our extended family is a miracle for my children, and I use that word in its literal sense. As we move toward a new year, I hope that each of you can find your own vulnerability, embrace it, become open to the love that surrounds you and the miracle that is the connection between us all.

Super Woman

I get a lot of “Shelley, I just don’t know how you do it.” Here’s my secret – I don’t. I fail miserably in lots of ways. Don’t get me wrong, I do my job well, I function as a mom, and I don’t drop too many balls overall. I don’t drink excessively, explore dangerous drugs or even eat too poorly. What I do is run out of gas. Yep, over the last year, I have run out of gas at least six times. Once I did it while lecturing to my oldest child about taking responsibility for herself.  I also get speeding tickets – three in the last 4 months. Here’s what’s good about that, though, and why I’m writing about it – people are awesome.

I’ve said many, many times that it takes a village to raise my kids. Today, it took Reggie, a total stranger, who decided to bring me gas after I stalled in the left turn lane at a very busy intersection during rush hour. This is Reggie.

ImageReggie saw me in the median, directing traffic away from the left turn lane (I really didn’t want to see anyone run into my car or each other), and asked if I needed help. I told him help was on the way and thanked him. What I didn’t know was that he told himself that if when he drove back by if I was still there directing traffic, he was going to get some gas and bring it to me, which he did. This is Reggie’s car.

ImageReggie works for Pop-A-Lock. He was doing a job for them when he saw me. When he delivered my gas it was as a good samaritan. He didn’t charge me. He called me ma’am. He stepped into traffic to put the gas in the car. He was just a ridiculously nice guy doing something good. He doesn’t own the company. He didn’t know I have 1,000 Facebook friends and a decently successful blog. If you care to, you might let Pop-A-Lock know that it was cool what Reggie did.

And, can I mention Reggie is black? Considering my last blog post, I think that’s an important thing to mention. Unlike the mature white woman in a Mercedes who wouldn’t look at me while I was trying to tell her that my car was blocking the lane and that she’d have to move (because I was so clearly dressed for car jacking, in my black crepe suit and heels in 103 degree Oklahoma heat) Reggie was awesome. As were the 20 other black men who stopped to ask if I was OK, and did I need help. Honestly, with the current state of affairs, I don’t know that I’d be as nice if I were them, and I think it’s important to acknowledge them.

I’d also like to give a shout out to all the other men and women who pulled over to ask if I needed help. And, to the awesome guy who stuck his arm out his window, handed me a cold bottle of water and said “I know you’re hot, honey.” And, to the people who gave me the thumbs up and a wave when they realized why I was standing in the road waving them away.

So, I’ve solved my speeding problem by using cruise control in town on my way to work. I’m not sure how to solve my running out of gas problem. The obvious answer is to watch my gas tank, but I think my problem is a bit bigger than that. My stress is clearly manifesting itself in my lack of attention to my gas tank. And, when it gets right down to it, I appreciate the opportunity to gain some perspective about the nature of people. I love Oklahomans. People are awesome.

The Talk

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I was really trying to avoid commenting about the Zimmerman trial, but it’s just not going to happen. My Facebook feed is schizophrenic again, because I have a very diverse group of friends, and the comments are all over the place.  The “Nugent says this vindicates citizen patrols” just put me over the edge. And, the saint-like portrayals of this young man are almost as bad. So here goes.

None of us know what happened between Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin. For my own sanity, I have to put faith in our justice system. As flawed as it may be, it’s one of the best in the world. The verdict is what it is, and I was proud of President Obama when he said as much.

Having said that, a young man is dead, and another young man’s life is ruined. The whole situation is tragic. I’m thinking there might have been a bit too much “fight or flight” going on, which I know from my own life often has dire consequences. Here’s another thing I know from my own life – whether there was racial profiling involved in this situation or not, it happens. It happens in 2013. Please stop acting like it doesn’t.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain to my beautiful 8-year-old son that he will likely be treated differently during his lifetime, because of the color of his skin. The way I’ve raised him, he has no clue that he’s any different from me, and I will have to break his heart with the news that he is. At some point, he will be treated like a suspect, he will be guilty of “driving while black,” he will be confronted about something he hasn’t done, and it will be because he’s black. I hope that’s as bad as it gets. I will never, ever again buy him a hoodie.

I listened to a great NPR story this morning on “the talk” that black families have to have with their kids, to help them understand what I’ve described above. There’s not much I’m scared of in this world, but being a white mother and having that talk with my black kids scares the hell out of me. I barely know what I’m talking about, and I’m a member of the oppressive class for God’s sake.

When my 14-year-old gets followed around at the mall, but her white friends don’t, how do I explain that? When the school administrator dismisses my daughter’s concerns, but listens to the white bully, how do I explain that? And, when my 8-year-old looks over my shoulder at Facebook and grins and says, “Is that me on Facebook?” How do I say, “no that’s a dead black boy who looks a lot like you?”

And, finally, how do I sleep at night, when I know that just like a lot of you reading this, when a young black man pulls up next to me, with his music playing a little too loud, without conscious thought I stiffen and move to lock my doors. I racially profile, and I am the mother of three beautiful, black children. I was not raised that way, I don’t think that way, yet my fight or flight kicks in because of stereotypes that have been burned on my brain. I am more ashamed than I can say.

I’m convinced that if racial healing is going to happen, it will be because white people confront their assumptions and beliefs – really confront them – and proactively and deliberately begin the healing process. Tomorrow I’m attending a vigil for racial healing that our local YWCA is hosting. I’m also part of a Witnessing Whiteness class hosted by our local YWCA that is based on the book by Shelly Tochluk.  I challenge you to challenge yourself and your ideas about race by reading the book. If you have other suggestions for racial healing, please offer them in the comments for others. But whatever you do, please stop telling yourself you’re not a racist. Stop telling yourself you’re a progressive, educated person, because odds are you’re not as progressive as you think.

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