On July 9, 2016, Chelsie Dort sat down at her computer and began to type.
“It was a little over two and a half years ago, right before I was about to be married that I was asked the question, ‘Are you prepared for what you and your family will experience seeing as how you are marrying a black man?’” Dort wrote.
Her writing was prompted by racial tension and violence across the country. Earlier that week, black men had been killed in police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. That was followed by a shooting in Dallas, where a lone gunman killed five police officers.
And the issue continues to be at the forefront of the headlines. Less than a week ago, a female police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shot and killed an unarmed black man after his car was found abandoned in the roadway. On Tuesday, another African-American man was killed in North Carolina, sparking violent protests in Charlotte.
Dort is not one to typically blog about controversial topics. But she knew she was uniquely qualified to provide a voice of reason.
“I’ve been introduced to the black community in a very different way,” Dort said in an interview with the Deseret News. “And I was just watching my Facebook fill up with all of this hate toward both sides and it was so sad to me to feel like there was a side that needed to be taken.”
Dort first went on a date with her husband, Bedford Dort, an African American man from Orem, Utah, three years ago on the 24th of July. A divorced single mother, she decided to bring her 2-year-old son on a date for the first time.
“I had kind of been on this kick where I wasn’t going to introduce anyone to my son until I knew that it was important but then when that would come around I would become attached to someone and then they didn’t want to be an insta-parent, which is completely fair,” Chelsie Dort said. “He was so patient and my son didn’t ever go to anyone but he went to him. It was just impressive to me that he was willing to take that on and he didn’t have to.”
The couple has been married for over two and a half years and they are now the parents of another son. Dort started blogging because she was inspired by other blogs that helped her through a difficult time in life.
“I read a blog that was actually really helpful for me when I was going through my divorce,” Dort recalled. “And that’s when I just decided that even though you feel a little awkward, it’s not awkward and there are people out there that can benefit from your experience, not necessarily everyone or even the majority of people but even if there are three people out there that read it and it’s helpful.”
In her first blog post that went viral, she discussed her divorce and was surprised by the feedback she received, both positive and negative. The response caused her to steer clear of writing about personal matters. But when the shootings took place in July, Dort could no longer stay silent.
The Dort family has experienced firsthand the challenges and injustices that face racial minorities. She's written about some stark and painful experiences.
"I wish I would have understood that my husband would be pulled from his car and handcuffed, placed face down on the ground and arrested while I watched his helpless face, all because he had recently expired tags on his car," she wrote. "I wish I would have known that people would accuse my husband of kidnapping our oldest son because he’s white while simultaneously praising me for being a saint who graciously adopted a little black boy."
She explained how the attacks were affecting her family personally.
“I’ve definitely seen things from both sides so with the recent events there were actually people that started to become a little bit hesitant around my husband or people that weren’t really sure what to say because I think that everybody feels like the black community has a very specific stance and they’re all anti-police," she said.
Instead of taking a side, Dort attempted to find balance. She titled her blog post, “When suddenly no lives matter.”
“Ultimately, the difference that I want to see in the world doesn’t come from finding justice for those that have been mistreated and disrespected," she wrote. "It comes from what I choose to teach within the walls of my own home. It comes from raising law-abiding citizens that respect those around them. It comes from teaching your children that wrong decisions are coupled with consequences and that life isn’t always fair, it was never meant to be.
“It’s about seeing people as just that, people. Not as their skin color or what they do for a living. Not as who they choose to marry or what they choose to worship. It’s about seeing people as free humans who choose their life and make their own decisions and then finding peace within what you can control.”
Dort's words attracted national attention. The post was republished by the Huffington Post and she even appeared on CNN and Nightline.
What she wrote was a response to what Dort has experienced in an interracial marriage and as the mother of both a white child and a biracial child.
“The question has come up, ‘Are you going to teach your black son that he probably can’t get away with being as belligerent with authority as your white son or that he’s in more danger?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ My white son better not be belligerent at all either,” Dort said. “That’s not an option for us as a family because we’re going to raise our children to treat people with respect and the biggest thing is that people really are people.”
She knows the injustices associated with race, because she's watched her husband experience them. But she also appreciates her husband’s response and approach to these situations. Her husband has said, "when I get pulled over I put my hands on the steering wheel and I say, 'Officer, how are you? It looks like there’s a little bit of a misunderstanding ... ,” Dort said. “He feels like he’s being respectful because they’re scared, too. And that’s the concept that we want to teach our children. It’s just respect.”
The Dorts do not plan to teach their youngest son that his race influences the way he is treated. If, in the future, he is dealt an injustice, she plans to explain that this was one person making a poor decision rather than generalizing.
“That’s not the conversation we’re going to have because that’s when you raise children that are entitled because the second I put my child in a position where he feels he’s already starting way behind the start line, actions that may be taken against him that are fair are not going to be seen that way and that’s where people run into a problem,” Dort said.
“People should raise their children understanding that people are people and that police officer made a bad decision. That person made a bad decision. It’s not that the police are bad. And I would hope that people wouldn’t raise their children to be scared of my husband because he’s a wonderful person.”
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dort says she is grateful for the knowledge that we are all children of God.
“People are people,” she said. “They’re all children of our Heavenly Father and they’re all here trying to accomplish the same thing. I’m grateful that the injustices in the world and the ugly that’s in the world gets to be taken care of later and that’s not something that I have to worry about. Some people want to worry about that but that’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders to know that it’s not my job to judge them and it’s not my job to take care of the choices that they’ve made, those will be taken care of later so it’s just my job now to teach my children and my family how to love and feel."
Dort says that there have already been teaching moments with her oldest son, and she acknowledges there are more to come. Recently, one of these moments came when her oldest son asked why his little brother’s skin was black.
“We’re all spirits,” Dort told her son. “We all have this spirit inside of our body that makes us who we are but all of our bodies are different and it’s because we are different people. And how boring would it be if we all looked the same?”