I really wish my mother had talked to me about race…
All she ever said was when I was older is “Scotland isn’t as racist as the United States” <~
The thing is though, which I feel parents fail to realize, is that children will learn things one way or another. Either they learn from you as a parent, what is promoted through the education system, from the media, or from peers. There will always be someone or something stepping up to teach our children when we don’t.
I learned racisim from my babysitter’s son.
My babysitter’s son was a few years older. I’m pretty sure he’s where I learned to be rough and tumble. He was a brute of a boy, not quite a bully, but still picked on me a lot. One day at his older sister’s game, he and I were playing and two black kids around his age came up and started pushing me around. I ran away with him to the other end. He looked over and told me to go back and call them niggers. My memory of Scotland is fuzzy, so I dont’ know if that’s a term even used there, but I had NO idea what that word was. I asked what it meant and he refused to tell me. He pushed me towards them and told me I’d see.
So, spitfire that I am.. I did go over and shouted it to them at the top of my lungs. “NIGGER!”
Those two kids, both older and with skin shades darker, raised their eyes. I remember the look of anger on their faces. And as if I had whipped them, they turned around and ran off. They left me and my babysitter’s son alone for the rest of the day.
Me, little ol Faithie.. felt like I was a wizard. I put those kids in their place using ONE WORD. Seriously, how freaking cool is that to a child?!
Well not as cool as I soon learned.. For instance that word had no power on any of the white kids I grew up around. I grew up in a predominantly white area. My school was overflowing with military children and locals who were largely ex military. In my elementary school days, I had one African American person in my classes. ONE
Her name was Eboni and she was a really good friend of mine at first. I remember playing with her on the playground and trying to see who could swing the highest. One day when we were lined up waiting to go into the classroom, she told me that I smelled nice. That made me so happy because I had showered the night before and used Herbal Essences shampoo all over my body, because duh hair is everywhere.
I don’t even know why, but eventually we had a falling out at the playground. It’s funny how I can have so much memory of her comments, but not of the bad moments. I was angry, so I used my super power word… And just like before, she ran off. In tears.
Word got to our Principal and we had a sit down. It was the Principal that told me the meaning behind the word. Why Niggar had so much power to only a certain few. I dunno if you consider it ironic, but my friend didn’t know what the word meant either. She just knew it was a bad word that white people say to black kids. Neither of us had NO idea what we were doing, why were reacting as we did, or why we were so angry to begin with.
Kids…ever mimiciing the world around them without truly understanding..
Eboni and I never got back to being friends. In fact, she ended up ruthlessly making my middle school days so unbearable that I transfered to a different high school to get a fresh start. Still though, when I see a woman that might be Eboni all grow up, I feel so guilty and ashamed because all I remember of her is the good moments we had and how I ruined our friendship.
I will talk to my children about race. Not in the drippy “Multiculturalism way” that the schools are so fond of telling the kids. True, their kids are a lot more integrated than mine was. I will never tell them that race is not an issue until it’s legitly not. Everyone is not happily integrated and life for other races is as easy as our own.
I will tell them that the world has a sneaky way of lulling people into complinace and ignorance and the people in our society do not deserve to be misled so.
I want them to hear people’s raw stories like my good friend who at 15 was sent to jail for 9 years because his friends robbed a store and and assaulted the owner.. and he was guilty just by being outside when it all went down. I want them to know of a teenage boy just on the other side of the river who was kicked out of school, because he had a verbal argument with another student and he was viewed as too aggressive. Not even one physical altercation on his record. Or how a pregnant teen was forced out of school because she didn’t represent the image the school was trying to uphold. Or how wearing a hat in the school across the river gets you SUSPENDED. How black male teens are 3x more likely to get supended than whites for the same violations, and how black female teens are 6x more likely to get suspended for the same violations. In our own state. Our own region. I want them to be moved by a teen’s rap about how isolated he feels in a world of white and how he wants friends but everyone assumes he likes Skittles and Arizonas.
This white woman will talk about race…To her white son and daughter. And with hope they too will talk about race and how to make this nation truly supportive of all it’s citizens.