Its Plain. Black and White

How do you teach your children about racism? Should you? Sorry if this hits a sore spot for some but it is the unfortunate reality in many black American households. Whether we want to admit it or not race is a subject that bubbles at the surface of many different aspects of our society; education, government, politics and not so sublet pockets of everyday life. For many this isn’t anything new while for others it isn’t anything at all. If you are reading this and saying, “I don’t see race at all”, I am talking specifically to you. We are just too bombarded by it on a day to day basis to pretend to “plead the 5th” on its effects; you can’t deny it, only acknowledge the varying degrees of impact you’ve been witness to.

So the question remains: how do you teach your children about racism? I am sure a few people reading might respond with a plan of active ignorance as the best policy — its not there — to combat the ideology so ingrained into our society. If it isn’t a problem in their household, it doesn’t affect them.

It does.

You are ALWAYS teaching whether you know it or not. Your children are ALWAYS watching what you say or do and how you interact with other people. So while you may not believe you have implicitly told your son or daughter about different races, you have. Your children will pick up on the queues you give them as well as the ones that society bombards them with so your goal as a parent is to create stronger queues to follow.

[Warning: this is disturbing] Check out this video.

Now besides the woman’s vile and ignorant rant there was an even more repulsive act transpiring in the background; the education of her children on how to interact with a person of color. Forever etched into their minds will be their mother calling this black man a n*****. She validated screaming profanities as a conducive way to display her dislike for — according to the video — starting his car. The lessons learned are how to convey anger when you are upset and how to do it when the object of that anger is a person of color. I can’t imagine this being the first time those children have seen their mother upset but by their quiet demeanor I would guess that even THEY knew it was embarrassing and “not quite right”.

You may be saying this is an extreme case but I ask you – is it really? How many times have you been so mad and pissed off  you spewed hatred towards another human being simply because you felt they deserved it regardless of the fact it was in the presence of your children? And I understand that no one is perfect. Policing yourself 24/7 around your children comes with the territory of being a caregiver plus they have to learn at some point how evil the world is no?

Actually, no.

Lets play devil’s advocate for a moment and say this was an isolated extreme case, one that doesn’t happen regularly. If this is true where does racism exist in the day-to-day teachable form that our kids observe and absorb?  The media? Are movies, television and popular music that often glorify a negative image of African Americans to blame for surviving negative stereotypes? Or are there more direct causes?

Rashid Polo made some pretty hilarious videos of him being followed around in different stores by employees. Coincidence? Maybe but, after the third video its very hard to deny a pattern. Some might see this as a young kid trying to sensationalize moments for internet fame, but I doubt there were too many black men who saw this video and did not give a nod of approval at its validity.

I am not sure what transracial means but, apparently it is Rachel Dolezal’s explanation for pretending to be African American for several years as president of a chapter of the NAACP, despite growing up to two Caucasian parents in Montana. The dynamics and narrative to this story still baffle me quite frankly. Rachel Dolezal sent herself false death threats from white supremacists. I guess that validated her experience as an African American woman? You can IDENTIFY with the African American culture without BEING African American. Generations of authentic African American men and woman actually died in order for Ms. Dolezal to do just that. This makes a mockery of that very fact in my opinion. Even Rachel Dolezal knew that what she was perpetrating wasn’t right. You can watch her reaction for yourself when she is questioned about her ethnicity. The picture was worth 2000 words.

On the other end of the spectrum is McKinney Texas, where a police officer was recorded waving his gun at black teenagers at a pool party. Apparently a Caucasian resident called law enforcement when too many teenagers showed up. There were both white and black young people there but, only one group that was targeted by Texas officers. Can you guess which group? No? Here is the video. As the father of girls I can’t accurately describe what my reaction would have been if my daughter had been handled that way by a police officer. On one hand I would have been relieved my daughter and none of her friends were killed while on the other I would have been infuriated that she had been subjected to sub-human treatment. The interaction between police and the African American community is a completely different topic that this essay could not begin to address even a small infraction of. I could have cited twenty other examples of blatant racist interactions between these two groups but it becomes exhausting. We could talk for days about Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Mike Brown, Walter Scott or the dozen plus other black men who have lost their lives in the past twenty four months.

Lastly, I saw a this video of a young boy expressing his frustrations with president Obama and the African Americans he has come in contact with thus far in his maybe 8 or 9 years on the planet. Someone is recording this video [probably an adult] whom you can hear in the background snickering. These views weren’t learned through osmosis but came from somewhere, most likely from home.

So…as a father I have to explain what and why transracial is. I have to train my daughter on what she should do and how she is to conduct herself in the presence of a police officer. I have to explain to my daughter to keep receipts whenever she buys something inside a department or convenience store and let her know what to say if she has a classmate who thinks all black people smell like sh**. So how do I do this?

I can’t.

Sorry for the anti-climatic gut punch but as an African American father I have not found an accurate way to keep up with the different attacks to skin color my children may endure. As I patch up one hole another emerges that requires attention to fill but expertise to recognize. As if becoming a “woman”, dealing with the opposite sex and pimples weren’t enough. What is a single father to do? Nothing?

No. Not nothing.

I will give you the strategy that has been serving me thus far; be yourself. The only accurate way I have found to teach your children about certain difficulties in life is by example. Are all white people racist? No. Does every police officer you met see you equally? Probably not. I have to teach this by how I INTERACT with people who are different than I am. How I INTERACT with police officers. What do I say about people of different races? What do I TEACH? If I have racists thoughts am I working on them? Am I pushing myself and my boundaries to include others who don’t look like me? Do I encourage my daughters to have MANY friends of different nationalities?

I do my daughters a disservice if I don’t tell them about police brutality, about keeping their receipts when walking around department stores and how to deal with the burden of educating ignorant people they might come in contact with. I also do them a disservice if I only tell them to play or interact with people who look like them because it makes ME feel comfortable. Difficult as it maybe it is the highest form of care for yourself and parenting your child is by leading them towards the barriers of their comfort zone. Even that still might not be enough but, its a start.

The only complete way I have found to teach my children is to grow myself. Hope that helps.

-A Single Dad

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