Sharing my past to inspire a racially just future

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last September, I introduced you to a personal project I have been working on for several years, a book entitled Daughters of the Dream. I am pleased that my book has been published and was released today on, and at other bookseller’s websites.

The death of Trayvon Martin may have been the catalyst. It seemed to elicit shock among many in the white community. In the black community, it elicited deep sadness – not shock.

When I wrote a post for this blog about how I had experienced this tragic event, large numbers of my white colleagues expressed surprise that I talked with my son about ‘shopping while black, driving while black, walking while black.’

“You still have to do that?” they asked.

I thought about how different our worlds were and that while I had to comprehend the white world to succeed, white people have not had to understand mine.

I started writing the book the same month that Trayvon was killed. The idea for it, however, had been percolating among a group of my childhood friends for several years. Originally, it was to be about our decades-long friendship, but it evolved once I began writing. Daughters of the Dream is a series of vignettes woven into a story recounting our lives. The story is told against a backdrop of segregation, integration, civil rights, and the long journey toward racial justice with what I hope is just the right sprinkling of history that you may not know.

Some black people believe it is the responsibility of white Americans to learn and understand the black experience. But learning how it feels to walk in someone else’s shoes is difficult. Even with sincere empathy and desire, without a guide to point out and explain the nuances, the level of understanding can be superficial.

In hindsight, I think that being one of those guides is part of my calling, my psychic price for occupying a place on Earth. I am not a historian or a sociologist, nor am I a researcher or a journalist. But I am black and have a specific perspective. Just as I hope WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table initiative has opened people’s eyes to the truths of structural racism and implicit bias, I also hope that Daughters of the Dream will give a glimpse into the experience of one black American and her friends.

This book is not about THE black American experience. I do not speak for an entire race. This is a recounting of the life’s experience of someone with whom, I think, many can relate. On paper, we—some white and black Americans—may share many demographic similarities. This fact might lead you to think we walk the same path. We do not. Daughters of the Dream will reveal just how different our lives have been and how different they continue to be. My America is not yours, at least not yet. I hope that Daughters of the Dream can bring us closer together as more Americans recognize the racial injustice in our country and work for the change that is needed.