Cara Meredith’s journey from Keizer led her into the arms of the man she loves and then into confrontation with her own “colorblind” view of the world.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot wrong. Sometimes I think my book is what not to do when it comes to engaging with conversations of race,” said Meredith.
In February, the 1997 McNary High School graduate, writer and motivational speaker, celebrated the release of The Color of Life: A Journey Toward Love and Racial Justice. The book is a meditation on faith, her role as a mother to two interracial boys and wife to a man whose legacy includes a prominence in the Civil Rights movement.
Meredith (nee MacDonald) met her now husband, James Henry Meredith, through an online dating site, but the notion that her whiteness and his blackness would be a barrier never crossed her mind.
“I had dated other men of color but, when James and I got serious, we had to start thinking about what it would mean when I brought him home to Keizer and when I went back to Jackson, (Miss.,) with him,” Meredith said.
Love connected the couple and intentional engagement with how race and colorblindness affected their lives allowed it to grow, but then sons, Canon and Theo, arrived and thrust them into deeper conversations.
Canon was about to start school in Seattle when Meredith began investigating the history of the city and the school itself. She learned about Seattle’s history of redlining, the systematic way in which residents, often racial minorities, were denied access to services afforded to wealthier areas in many cities throughout the United States.
“When I did recon on the school, I found out 93 percent of in-school suspensions were given to only 7 percent of the student body. That 7 percent was black and mixed race students,” Meredith said. “My concern is real for my boys – and for every kid that looks like them – that they would not be set up to succeed because the systems in place are not in their favor.”
The family has since moved back to Oakland, Calif., in hope of accessing more progressive public schools.
When Meredith was writing the book, the influence of her father-in-law, James Howard Meredith loomed large. The elder Meredith was a major catalyst of the civil rights movement. He became the first black man to attend the University of Mississippi through a deliciously subversive scheme detailed in the book that landed his case at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, and ended with him being granted admission.
“He is a man of few words, but it’s powerful and purposeful when he speaks. He has believed in me, and the story of my life, from the beginning and that meant so much. Writing this book was a way of coming to an understanding of his legacy and then leaning into it, personally and for my kids,” Meredith said.
Her father-in-law’s legacy is one she lives within now, but the journey contained within the book required her to come to other, equally powerful, realizations.
“We have to come to the point of realizing that the work of justice is for ourselves as much as for other people. When our eyes are open we can’t help but notice who isn’t at the table,” she said.
What she’s hoping is that readers, especially white readers, see the book as an invitation into the wider and deeper conversations about race.
“I want them to enter into the conversation wherever they are and starting tuning in their ears to that which they have not heard,” Meredith said.