Dad of Black Daughter Takes on His Own Racial Bias & Challenges Us to #DoBetter

News anchor Frank Somerville with daughter Callie

In an ideal world, debates about race, prejudice, and discrimination would not exist. But sadly, we do not live in an ideal world, or a post-racial society for that matter. And though we, as a country, have made significant strides in this arena, we still have ways to go. If the saying about how the first step to recovery is having the courage to admit there's a problem is true, I applaud KTVU news anchor Frank Somerville for his viral Facebook post about his own racial bias as a white man raising a black daughter.

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White. Black. Race. Bias.

There's a very good chance these "trigger words" have already put some of you on the defense. It's important, however, to note that Frank's Facebook post wasn't meant to point fingers at anyone but himself.

Somerville's Facebook post recounts a recent experience where he assumed a black man, who looked kind of "street," might harm a white woman at a bus stop. And while the husband and father of two thought watching and waiting to see if this mysterious man would make his move was chivalrous, as it turns out, it only exposed Frank's racial bias.

And, needless to say, Frank felt more than horrible when his whole perspective flipped before his eyes. 

As Frank says:

All of a sudden my whole view of the guy changed. I realized he was a dad just walking down the street with his son. I realized that he was 'okay' and wasn't going to do anything.

I was so angry with myself.

The man did absolutely nothing wrong. And yet I initially saw him as a possible threat. And let's be honest. The main reason was because of his skin color ....

And on top of that I just had a talk with my daughter about how people might treat her differently from her 'white' sister based solely on her skin color.

And now here I am doing the EXACT same thing.

I was/am really disappointed in myself.

Reading Frank's post makes me think about my husband, and whether or not others would also perceive him as a threat. Add my two sons into the mix -- along with the one-too-many headlines of black men being killed because they were an assumed physical threat -- and you have one of my worst nightmares.

More from CafeMom: I'm Scared to Be Raising a Black Son in a World That's Not Changing Fast Enough

Even though there's nothing "street" about my guy (he's an engineer who just loves his polos and khakis), that hasn't stopped people from reacting to a "danger" that just wasn't there. I'll never forget an incident he told me about where a couple of (white) women, whom he held the door for, asked my husband if he was going to rape them.

Yeah ...

The truth is Frank is not alone. All of us have dealt (or are currently dealing) with feelings of prejudice and even racial bias -- and the fact that Frank Somerville has a black daughter proves no one is immune, or perfect for that matter.

If we're being honest, how many of us are willing to admit they crossed the street, switched seats, or performed another action just to keep distance from a person they thought was dangerous solely off their looks?

Yes, there are certainly times when we should trust our guts, but that doesn't mean we can't look inside our hearts to make sure our actions aren't fueled by any sort of bias.

If we truly want more for the next generation, we need to do better.

More from CafeMom: Talking to Kids About Race: 9 Tips for Moms

I don't know Frank on any personal level, but am willing to bet he's still angry with himself about this incident. And as frustrating as this dad's story might be, I'm thankful he had the courage to share his experience, which will hopefully encourage more dialogue and introspection.

I am nowhere near perfect and am willing to admit I've had my own bout with bias. I've also been on the receiving end and know how painful and scary it can be.

As a mother to two tots, I want to make sure my kids don't have to fight the same battles as I do. I want them to see the uniqueness of others -- who do and don't look like them -- and not hold preconceived notions about people because of their skin, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.

Thank you, Frank, for your honesty and challenging us to be the change we wish to see for our children.


  

Image via Frank Somerville KTVU/Facebook

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