Happy to share this letter from Bridget Deput, a writer, follower of Jesus, wife and loving mother who happens to LOVE being a BLACK AMERICAN. What better way to embrace the reality of Black Lives in American than hearing from a Black American sister (or brother)? Here is her letter. And, we hope it encourages anyone and everyone who cares about Black Lives.
Dear Black Brothers and Sisters,
I’ve had many conversations with others in the black community about the position in which we’ve found ourselves. After our fight for freedom during slavery times, after our fight to vote, after our fight to merely be seen and acknowledged as the human beings we are, I don’t think our forefathers or the activists who came before us expected us to be in this position—needing to continue the fight, here in America, in 2020. Or maybe they did…I don’t know.
I’m frustrated with the state of affairs today but not for the reasons of most. And my fight is not the fight of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yes, I’m black. Yes, I’m a woman. Some would consider those two strikes against me. But I see no strikes against me. So, it is not with our government or with police that I’m frustrated.
My frustration is that no one wants to hear from me because I haven’t experienced the “black plight” that others have. My background doesn’t fit into the accepted black narrative.
I grew up in an all-white environment. Besides my neighborhood (middle class black), everything else was white. School. Church. Friends. Teachers. All white. I did not even have any close black friends until I was an adult and moved to California. Because my sisters and I were raised in an uber strict Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, our parents never allowed us to play with the kids in our neighborhood because they weren’t Christians. The funny thing about this is, because of my background, black people say, “See, you can’t possibly know the true black experience. You didn’t grow up as we did.” I find that ironic, though, because I would think one would assume that I would have experienced the most racism, given my environment. But I never have.
I currently live in Schwenksville. Yep. It is as white as it sounds. Farms, cows, and rolling hills make up my environment. I’m pleasantly surprised when I see a random black person. All that said, I’ve experienced not one encounter of racism. Now, allow me to be clear: that is not to say I’ve never encountered racists. I’m saying, they’ve kept it to themselves. My father would always remind my sisters and me that we have no idea what white folks are saying around their dinner tables. But we don’t worry about that. (This excludes close friends. My childhood friends are genuine, and we have open and honest communications about race.) All we can expect is to be treated fairly and equally. And I always have been.
My sister experienced a childhood friend of hers make a stupid, racist comment. She called my sister “burnt toast.” It bothered her. But we chalk stuff like that off as childhood stupidity. Kids say dumb things. Today, my sister and that girl are very close friends. Her parents are wonderful people, and we are friends with them as well. I don’t even know if her parents ever knew that their daughter said that to my sister, but if they did, they’d be mortified. Not all racist things kids say are learned from their parents. Some of them are, yes. Some kids overhear their parents speaking negatively and/or derogatorily about people of color, so that’s what they learn—that’s how they learn to speak about and even address people of color. But that is not true of all kids and all families. Kids come up with ridiculous things all on their own because they’re ignorant.
My father taught us that outside our cozy, little bubble of sweet, Christian white folks is a whole different world. So even my father, whose friends were also mostly white, admitted that racism exists. He didn’t believe it to be a systemic problem, however. He’d achieved too much success to believe that. And let me tell you, the man was handed nothing. He didn’t have educated parents. He didn’t go to a superior grade school. He grew up dirt poor in a small town in Georgia, never went to college, went into the military instead, and worked his tail off to provide the life he wanted for his family. It helped that the man knew his way around a dollar and made great investments. But he didn’t encounter a system that kept him down. He was the eternal optimist. His mentality was that nothing could or would stand in his way.
I have the same mentality, so that’s why I believe as I do. I conduct my life based on my father’s teachings. “There’s racism—get over it. Keep your nose clean. Do better. Be smarter. Work harder.” He taught us that nothing and no one could keep us from what we want. And I firmly believe that. So, I find it frustrating, brother and sisters, when I’m told I’m not “black enough” because of my upbringing. Tell me. What is being black enough? Is it being angry and bitter all the time? Is it seeing the worst in white people? Is it always looking for hidden or not so hidden racism? Is that how you really want to live? I want better for you—for us. That lifestyle and mentality are sad and exhausting.
Also tell me, what would happen if we all had a paradigm shift? What would happen if we took control of and responsibility for our own paths in life? What’s the worse that could happen? What if we focused less on what we feel we’re not given and more on what we know we can accomplish?
Can I challenge you to shift your focus from the wrongdoing of a relative handful of ill-tempered, possibly racist police to the truly caring for and bettering of the black lives we bemoan after they’ve been gunned down? Because it seems to me that we’re a little late on the draw.
Could anyone have snatched George Floyd before the cops did? By that I mean, who was in his life as a black youth speaking truth and the proper way to be a man? Who could have pulled Jacob Black aside and taught him how to respect women…and himself? What are we doing for our children before they make the poor choices that send them to early graves?
At some point, we MUST take responsibility. When can we do that? I see no better time than now. To where is the path the black community has chosen, leading us? Ya’ll, we have even managed to rile up white folks to do our bidding. Whites have taken to the streets and they’re standing right beside us, watching and participating, as we burn down our own communities.
You may ask how many of our black brothers and sisters have to die. I counter, how many of our businesses, earned with our blood, our sweat, and our tears, have to be burned down before you think the white man will sit up straight and listen? At some point we need to stop playing right into their hands. You thought America was racist before? Keep rioting and as our black mothers would say, “acting a fool” on national television. I’m sure that will assuage their racist notions.
I believe that we are what we’ve been claiming we are—equal—smart—capable. I have seen too many of us circumvent life challenges and beat the odds. I have seen what we can do when we focus on our families and our friends’ families. I have seen what can be done when a black man holds himself accountable and works for the life he wants. I am living out the result of that, and I am passing that on to my children.
Look. Call it “the glass half full” mentality. Call it being an Uncle Tom. Tell me I’m burying my head in the sand. That’s ok. My mentality has served me well. I take individuals as they come and should I encounter anything that may seem like a systemic problem, I override it. Because I can. Because we can. Because…this IS America. We ARE free—if we choose to be.