I struggle mightily with writing about race. I'm a relatively run-of-the-mill white lady, and mine has been a very white upbringing, without much, if any, diversity.
While attached to military life as a dependent, the kids are pulled together regardless of their race, especially in the Department of Defense American schools in foreign countries. To me, the pecking order was built more on something like a class struggle — had your parent enlisted, or was he or she an officer? But, of course, there were other pecking orders that I didn't see.
I had one Black friend when I was about 6 years old. Her name was Summer. There's a photo of us sitting on a low tree branch during a field trip together, grabbing each other for support and giggling. We moved later that year. I never had a close Black friend again.
Self-segregation invariably happened the older we got; in the cafeteria, we slowly started to sit with people who looked like us. I didn't see racism and the suffering it causes, because it didn't happen to me and I was isolated from it. The experiences that ran contrary to mine still continued around me.
James Baldwin's quote comes to mind: "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." Without truly seeing it, without genuine empathy and letting it affect us, change will be either slow or impossible, especially when the institutions of power lean in our favor.
And then I married a Mexican. Not a Mexican American but an accented immigrant I met online, who didn't have any aspirations to live in America, let alone be an American.
Racism was placed in front of me, focused on a person I loved. While dating, I watched him repeatedly get hassled by agents while we crossed the border. I never was. After one incident at a Border Patrol checkpoint outside our American town, we started a running joke. A checkpoint is a stopping point inside the U.S. border where you again explain or prove that you're American and tell them where you're going, if they feel like asking you that day. That time, the agent again started in on my husband, who was in the driver's seat. As he came over to speak to me, I simply lowered my sunglasses and raised my blue eyes to him. He stopped midwalk, turned, walked back and waved us through.
That's the very least of it, the least amount of the barbs I actually see. And in those situations, I bristle with the feeling that it's a bureaucratic wheel I won't be able to fight. It's much harder to be that person who needs to say something — or do something — against those in your own race when they include you in their Us and you want to protect those they see as Them.
When I took my husband to meet my German family, they kept looking at him quizzically and assuring me that he looked very Italian. When it came to being Mexican, it seemed that he wasn't what they expected. However, there was relentless joking during dinner, including this gem: How many donkeys was my family going to get for the marriage, anyway?
I still regret my inaction in that moment. The “joke” was spoken in German in front of my confused and still smiling husband. I awkwardly translated it. He looked down briefly but never stopped smiling.
When you must make that stand against those in your comfort zone — your family, your friends, your employer — it can be a fight for someone whose outcome you may not have a stake in. But to point out those frictions, the ones that call out your privilege and those of your group — those actions are part of the larger webbing of solidarity that will bind us all together as Americans.
I asked my husband why he felt so strongly about Black Lives Matter — how did it matter so much to him? He told me simply, "Their fight is my fight. It's all the same fight."
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma (sorry, Cassie), and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. Write to her at