WASHINGTON — Rachel Garlinghouse does not know what it’s like to grow up black in America.
The mother has only experienced what she calls “white privilege.”
But she said she has received a rude awakening as she raises her three adopted African-American children, gaining new insight into the country’s racial divisions.
When her son turned 2, an acquaintance mentioned how big he was and then called him a “cute little thug.”
“That just broke my heart, because I thought he’s a baby, yet he’s already being perceived as this future criminal,” Garlinghouse told CNN in an interview Thursday.
She describes how the events of the past week have been difficult for her in a recent article she wrote for the parenting and lifestyle website Babble.
Daughters called the N-word
Racial issues have been in the forefront for Garlinghouse, especially since she lives near Ferguson, Missouri, where the 2014 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown that sparked nationwide protests and helped inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.
“About six months after Ferguson had happened, my girls were riding bikes in the driveway, I was standing there checking my email, and a young man drove past our house and yelled the N-word twice at my girls,” she said.
Her daughters were 4 and 6 at the time.
The young mom called her best friend, another mother by transracial adoption, and they contacted the police who eventually found the man.
“I think things are coming out of people’s mouths that they’re thinking now, there’s less filter,” Garlinghouse said.
Admitting she lacks the perspective of an African-American mom, Garlinghouse leans on others for help with her children.
“We have a mentor for our girls, and we’ll have one for our son when he is old enough so we can have conversations … about how to handle this. I even have conversations with the people who braid my girls’ hair, who cut my son’s hair about how I handle the situations,” she said.
“Because I did not grow up as a black person, I’m never going to be a black person, it’s helpful to talk to them, and they can guide me on what I need to say to my kids.”
In the Babble article, Garlinghouse explained how her children are foremost in her mind when she discusses Black Lives Matter and how the recent shootings have affected her.
“For me personally, I feel as though I’m emotionally suffocating. In fact, I made the decision to suspend any posts on my beloved blog and social media pages and purposefully not watch or read any news,” she wrote.
“Because with each passing video, op-ed article, and social media debate, I grew even more anxious, infuriated, and honestly, confused. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the same friends who had quickly remarked on Facebook ‘I stand with Paris’ suddenly had nothing to say about Philando Castile or Alton Sterling. Likewise, they didn’t make a peep last year about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, or Eric Garner.”
Educating white friends
The mother admitted she has struggled about how to be involved with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“How (do I) educate my friends in a way that doesn’t turn people off?” she said. “For me, it is writing these articles.”
She closed the recent Babble article with a simple plea: “My children’s lives matter. And when I or another parent shares this with you, your response should be simple: yes, absolutely yes.”