Growing up in Providence and Barrington with two white moms, I never thought there was anything different; Skin color never mattered in my family. But when I walked out in this world of ours, skin color mattered. My family would get looks in stores, on the street and even at temple.
As a kid, I never knew how to respond to this. I would pretend my two white moms were my aunts. I’d deflect the topic of me being adopted because I didn’t know how to explain it.
To people of color, I was white; to white people, I was Black. I never fully fit in. I would try to become the person I was with at any given moment.
Now, as an adult in my 20s, I realize that I’ve experienced racism at moments in my life: being turned down for a job because they had enough Black employees; getting followed around in a store because of my skin color and the color of my friends; being stopped in an airport on my way to Poland and Israel for the March of the Living, when everyone else in my group sailed right through security; being worried about my brothers every night they go out.
I remember once driving home from a dinner with friends when a Barrington cop pulled me over – not because I was speeding, but because I had an air freshener hanging from my rearview mirror! He asked me where I was going this late. I stated that I was going home. He asked where home was. I looked at him and said down the street. I gave him my address and he followed me until I pulled into my driveway. Would a white person be pulled over under the same circumstances?
Another time, I pulled into a church parking lot at night to talk on my cellphone, because it’s not safe to use a phone while driving. A minute later, a cop pulled in beside me to ask what I was doing. When I told him, he stated that I had to leave because the church parking lot was “closed.” Seriously?
This is not how we are supposed to live. The world we live in now is dark and scary. I worry that when my brothers or I get pulled over, it will be the last breath we take.
George Floyd should be alive today. Breathing. We should all be able to go out and not be scared, no matter the color of our skin. I shouldn’t have to sit here, scared, knowing that my brothers would be the ones targeted in their group of friends because of their skin color.
We should be able to look at one another and not see color, but see a person. A human being who is equal.
We should be supporting Black businesses and Black Lives Matter right now – because all lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean only Black lives matter; it means Black lives matter too. Unfortunately, that’s not a given in our society. In fact, everything suggests that Black lives don’t matter as much in the U.S. as white lives.
Black men are twice as likely to die in police custody as white men. Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes, and Black infants are twice as likely to die as white women and infants.
Black students are much more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, even when their misbehavior is no worse than their white peers’. Black workers are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, at all educational levels. And your chance of getting called for a job interview drops 50% if you have a Black-sounding name.
The Black-white wealth gap in the U.S. is the same as it was in 1968, with the average white family having a net worth more than 10 times that of the average Black family. And in the age of coronavirus, Blacks are dramatically more likely to die of COVID-19 than whites.
“I can’t breathe” takes on a whole new meaning now. I wear my mask out in public, and before I complain about wearing a mask, I remember George Floyd. He truly could not breathe. So if I can wear my mask and can breathe, there is no need for me to complain.
In the words of Michelle Obama, “Right now, when we’re hearing so much disturbing and hateful rhetoric, it is so important to remember that diversity has been – and always will be – our greatest source of strength and pride here in the United States.”
LEXI KUTENPLON is a paralegal who lives in the West End of Providence.