To read part 1 click here
I, Ronald, take you Cassandra, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.
On September 16th I'll say those words in front of God, family and my closest friends. I'll feel a rush of energy shoot through my body as I kiss my bride, I'll feel joy and love as I look upon those who came to support us. It will be a wonderful day, the best day of my life. It will be the beginning of a long and fruitful marriage. And I will worry about the seed of our union everyday.
To unpack the previous sentence, I have to take you back to the summer of 2012. One day during that summer, I decided to stop over and have a talk with my grandfather, much like I had done dozens of times. We sat together in his living room, separated by a coffee table, and 60 years of life experience. Typically we would talk about a number of things: work, sports, church, his upbringing, but on this day he had something else in store.
There was something worrying him about my new relationship. Not the fact I was dating someone of a different race, or the fact we had totally different upbringings, he felt angst for the possible fruit of that relationship - our future children. I'll never forget my reply once he voiced his point of view, "Grandpa I understand what you're saying but it's not like that anymore." Essentially I shrugged him off, dismissed him as if his claim was baseless.
Call me naïve but my thought process at the time was built upon these facts. It was 2012 not 1960, a black man who more or less my future children will resemble was on his way to a second term as President of the United States. If that wasn't evidence of change I don't know what is. On top of that I was a grown man, and yeah, grandpa had 60 years on me but I had my share of experiences in the world that convinced me - it's not that bad, especially for a kid. But as I got older and became more aware of the world around me, I came to understand what grandpa already knew.
In the book: Everybody Lies author and data expert Seth Stephens Davidowitz analyzed data from the internet to show the difference between how American's portray themselves in public and conduct themselves private. To peek into the private lives of millions of Americans, he obtained data from the one place on the internet where everyone is actually honest - Google searches.
Utilizing Google Trends, he was able to see how frequently any words or phrases had been searched in any location at any time. In Everybody Lies, he explains how his research began with election night 2008. The night that signaled to me, and the world that things were changing. On November 4th, 2008 a young Barack Obama was elected president, winning the popular vote rather handily. That being the case, you would think most Google searches performed in America on this historic night would be to learn more about the political upstart. Not so much. Davidowitz writes, "on Obama's first election night, roughly 1 in every 100 Google searches that included the word Obama also included KKK or nigger(s)." You might say to yourself - okay big deal, if 1% of the population thinks this way we're in good shape! He continues, "In some states, there were more searches for nigger president than first black president."
If you read that and feel - ok well, that was just a night where millions of Americans were upset about the candidate they voted for losing the election, those people were just blowing off some steam, there's a 100% chance you're wrong. More from Davidowitz, "In the United States, the word nigger or its plural niggers - was included in roughly the same number of searches as the words migraine(s), economist and Lakers." Hold on let that marinate..... Lakers! The word nigger is searched for just as often as the most popular basketball team in the world. Seth still wasn't done as he continues, "20% of searches with the word nigger also included the word jokes, other common searches included stupid niggers and I hate niggers." And these aren't just people in the south performing millions of these searches. Davidowitz names these regions as having the highest concentration of racist searches: upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, Michigan, rural Illinois, West Virginia, southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
When I read these statistics, I felt anger, confusion and confirmation. I say confirmation because if you're young and black you've experienced degrees of what Davidowitz described. However despite your experiences to see it quantified this way is jarring nonetheless.
After reading these statistics and processing my emotions, my next thought took me back to 2012. I could hear my grandfathers words in my ear and I knew this is what he meant all along. Many of the same people Googling racist jokes to tell behind the backs of black co-workers and companions have children.
That child's young inquiring mind could lead them to ask why their new friend at school doesn't look like the other kids in the class? And at that point the same racist individual that perused the internet for nigger jokes gets to shape the paradigm of that young child's mind.
On the flip side a young black child could come home asking their parents that same question. Depending on the experiences and upbringing of those parents they could release a toxic explanation as well, telling my child people that look like his mother and her family are no good.
Too dark for some, too light for others. This was grandpa's concern, and with my impending marriage his words are closer than ever to reality.
What do you do when you have to help someone get through something you've never been through yourself? How can you repair a problem when you don't have the right tools? When I was a kid, if something happened that I didn't understand I could just come home and ask my father. He had been me, he had been exposed to the same type of teasing that came my way, which is more than I can say for my future children. I've never been mixed a day in my life.
At the end of the day, despite the statistics, despite racism and challenges, we have to focus on what we can control. And for me in this case that will be my future child. It will be my job to instill a sense of awareness and pride. To teach them the importance of equality and respect. That's what I can do with what I have influence over. And for the things I cant control, I'll have to lean on the One who controls all.
When people are at the end of their rope they often fall back on the cliché - all we can do is pray. That phrase portrays prayer as a last hope, a last gasp, the Hail Mary in the - I need to get up out of this situation playbook. That is a gross misrepresentation of the power of prayer. I believe prayer is our best hope and our best option for life's situations. When my wife and I have children I'll depend on it daily, and I'll always remember - "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace which exceeds anything we can understand." Peace beyond understanding, on all things, including race relations in America.