“Never let anyone tell you you’re wrong when you’re right, Mija,” my father said to me often when I was growing up. What he meant was that I needed to stand up for myself no matter who it was I was standing against. That I needed to speak out when necessary.
To him, this was more than just words.
My parents stood by me in the third grade when I was sent home for getting into a fight with a boy who escalated from bullying attempts to hitting.
They stood by me in the sixth grade when I was accused of being “disrespectful” to a teacher for calling him out for his language.
They stood by me in high school when I helped organized a two-day walkout to protest a teacher who failed 90% of the class in his final exam.
They stood by me as my career and education goals differed from what they understood or planned.
They stood by me as I became an adult and family members accused me of being too much, too loud, or too different.
My dad was very old school, traditional and often incorrect in his views about women’s roles and, yes, about race. As I became an adult I clashed with him on more than one occasion about what he believed and said. There were words, shouting and hurt feelings … and we didn’t always so much make up as just move on.
And yet, despite the fact that we often disagreed, I did know that he took delight in my strong character. He liked watching me push up against the world, against what others thought I could and couldn’t do and shattering their expectations. I think he liked knowing that he and my mom gave all of their children the tools to go out and do more than what they were able to do themselves.
As I speak out in support of #blacklivesmatter in conversations with friends and family, I know that my father wouldn’t have agreed with what I’m saying but he would have absolutely supported my right to say it.