LYNCHBURG, Va. – On a hot summer day, three mothers had a candid conversation about race.
“Suddenly it looks [like] there was some kind of awakening. They were becoming some kind of woke,” said Amy Corbett, a mother of two adopted children, in reaction to the protests seen across the country.
Far from the outrage seen in cities from coast to coast, their own reality is disheartening too, dealing with the everyday challenges of raising Black children in Central Virginia.
“I logged on to Amazon.com and the words Black Lives Matter were on my screen and I just started crying because to me, I honestly felt like it was easy for everybody to just start saying this all of the sudden. That those words were like ‘Yeah, this is a cause I’m going to get behind now,” said Corbett. “But those words have caused so much in our lives as a family. I could have never uttered those words in my previous circles.”
Amy Corbett, Nicole Rule and Brittany Smith live in Lynchburg and know each other.
10 News reporter Magdala Louissaint sat down at Miller Park with the three moms to talk about what it’s been like to parent in the current racial climate.
“We aren’t Black. We don’t have the experience to hand him of being Black and the way that we have looked at it, Mark and I have put ourselves in the positions of being learners,” Corbett said. “So, we have children’s books about the shades of us. So, we would talk about different cultures and different ethnicities.”
The Corbetts are unique.
Amy and Mark have an adopted white daughter, Caroline, who is living with alopecia, and an adopted Black son, Jameson, who’s half Haitian and half African American.
“We experience everything from ‘Oh, they’re the white saviors and have taken pity on this boy or they must be fostering him. Or to the same on the other side, look at them they’ve taken in this poor sweet Black boy. There’s a lot of misperceptions about being a multi-ethnic family.”
“How do you change that misperception, if someone is vocal about it, what do you say to help change that?” asked Magdala.
“It’s funny because most people are not vocal about it and I would almost prefer that people would have the conversations. I think conversations should happen more,” Corbett replied.
More conversations the mothers said should start at home.
Brittany has been a widow for three years and is raising two children, 10-year-old Amerie, and 9-year-old Kylon Jr. Early on, she found herself having a conversation with her daughter that caught her off guard.
“She tells me, ‘Mom, I don’t want to be brown anymore. I want to be white like Katelyn.’ It was devastating to hear. I never thought I would encounter this conversation, first of all, at the age of 3. Of course, defensively I think, ‘What happened? What did Katelyn say to you?‘” Smith said. “I tried hard to make her see that brown was beautiful. She said brown is nasty. Cause brown is associated with dirt on the ground.”
“I was able to have an awesome conversation with that mom about (having) these discussions about diversity held in her own household. So, if it could happen to anybody it was a good opportunity for us because we were able to implement things in the classroom. I realized I needed to be a voice to my daughter that her black is beautiful,” Smith said.
Rule is married to a white man and has four biracial children: Tristan, Camden, Ella and Audrey.
The first time her kids noticed their differences was when Camden realized he looked more white than his siblings.
“We responded with yes. We’re each different colors, but we are all beautiful,” Rule said.
With all the protests and calls for racial equality and change, Nicole’s husband, Dani, the principal at P. L. Dunbar Middle School for Innovation in Lynchburg, wrote an emotional open letter titled “To My Heartbeats.”
“Camden, the paint used by God puts a large responsibility on you to understand how your actions could affect your brothers and sisters. You need to know that you may need to know that you may have to run in the heat of the day because it’s more dangerous for your brother and sisters,” said Dani in the video.
“Still thinking about it makes me emotional because it’s someone else coming from the outside. It was both emotional to me that he had to say that to our children, but it registered in my heart so much because it was like, ‘Wow you get it, you get it.’ But then for some people to say why would you even say that to your kids?’ To me, this might be harsh, but to me, it’s negligent if you don’t,” said Nicole Rule, after watching it.
“My kids can feel the climate, you know, people coming around and talking. They’re hearing these discussions and I remember my son ask me what is happening. What’s happening?” Smith said. “I had to sit them both down and say this is what’s happening someone died, someone that didn’t deserve to die, again. There were some bad people that hurt him. They were police officers that hurt him. It doesn’t mean all police officers are bad. My son wants to be a police officer.”
“Jameson said to me recently that he feels like his brown skin makes him more in danger than the rest of us in our family. I don’t want my kid to have to think that,” Corbett added.
It’s a thought Corbett prays will go away because of conversations like this. The mothers have advice for parents who are open to creating a diverse atmosphere for their children.
“I’m trying to put myself in my white friends’ shoes as their eyes are starting to become open then I want to remember back to I was there and what did it feel like for me. I want to be a bridge-builder, a bridge-builder,” Corbett said.
“Representation matters. Get literature in your homes,” Rule said. “See colors but say it’s all beautiful because it’s all to be respected.”
“All children allow them to see brown skin shades of brown.” Smith said. “I think beyond work relationships maybe with people. Beyond maybe meeting near the playground get to know somebody black on a different level.”
A level that opens people’s minds and brings the country together.
Watch the full conversation below: