Racism aside, everything is going well

I’ve decided to let last week go. Anger is a terrible thing, especially when you volunteer in the class of the little kid who just hurt your child. You can’t trip him. You can’t give him dirty looks. All you can do is be an adult and sometimes being an adult sucks; however, time waits for no one, so an adult I must be.

It wasn’t that hard going in there today. I realize the teachers are doing the best that they can. My daughter was hurt, but she is moving right along and I am incredibly proud of her. The young boy with the not so kind words smiled at me today and although I got nauseous, I realized that he too probably learned something in all of this. He did write, well he typed, or maybe his parents typed a lovely letter of apology. We thought it best to keep it away from our daughter, but she saw it yesterday and she too thought it was complete bullshit. There was a line in the typed apology that was to the effect of, “after watching (insert black movie of struggle) I learned what I said was hurtful”. My daughter said, “mommy, why didn’t he know that was hurtful before watching the movie?”. I couldn’t answer that, but all we can hope is that he learned something and now we must let it go.

I read an article today about parents teaching their children to be “colorblind” and it said that when race or culture of others isn’t discussed then children form opinions based on what they see in video games, television, or surroundings. In essence, a family that doesn’t consider itself racist could have a child with racist views simply because the family chose to ignore race, deeming it a non-factor. I found the article quite interesting and more than likely true. We are at a stage in society where children are basically being raised by tablets and television, while parents bury their heads into cell phones. It’s quite possible we, as parents, have no idea what we are raising because we aren’t truly raising our children.

On another note, I got a call from a dear friend on Friday about his little one. Our children are in the same grade, but go to schools of opposite demographics. Last week, I thought I would give anything to be in his shoes, but as we got to talking, my opinion changed. He had just left the school’s morning assembly where the Principal made comments in reference to the day being the day Trayvon Martin was assassinated and references to the young men at the school having the same fate. It was a bit shocking to me because that would never happen at an assembly here and I got why my friend was upset. We both felt that it was an issue that should have been discussed at home by parents in the context that they saw fit. He went on to tell me of other occasions where this Principal made other comments that just weren’t appropriate and although they may have been in reference to issues that deal with African Americans, the issues were much too complex to be said at such a short assembly with no follow through.

After our conversation, it dawned on me that this parenting is hard. It doesn’t matter what zip code or demographic, it’s just plain hard. We try our best to shield them, but at some point we let them go out into the world and it is hard to accept that people will hurt them or even influence them negatively. No one tells you this when you’re buying the bassinet you’ll never use. Any who, all we can do is try our best and hope our children don’t talk too bad about us in therapy.

Love and light y’all.

Results of Heartbreak

Well…

I didn’t think I would make it through this week. I know it’s only Wednesday, but I feel like I’ve lived 7 days in three. I’ve dealt with so many varying emotions that everyday since Saturday I found myself crying. My baby girl was hurt was all that kept reoccurring in my mind. I couldn’t get over it. It made me anxious. It took my breath away and I literally wanted to pull her out of school and teach her from home. My husband and I discussed it. He pointed out that pulling her for the actions of another child would teach her that she was wrong. I pointed out that she spent more time at school than at home, so it was unfair to have her somewhere she did not feel comfortable. We agreed that teachers were not at fault. We agreed that no one knows how to handle these situations and we agreed that this was much more than bullying. We agreed on most things, but disagreed in how to resolve it as parents.

I realized something in the past few days that I learned in marriage, but not in parenting. We, my husband and I, are two completely different people with different backgrounds who view things absolutely different. I feel like tools and self-esteem needs to be established to handle such things as someone telling you they don’t like you because you’re black. I also believe these tools aren’t learned at the early age of 8. My husband feels that these things will happen in America and our daughter basically needs to learn early how to deal and react. We are not on the same page at all. I see his point of view and I believe he sees mine, but our backgrounds shape our ideas. He isn’t from this country. He is from a country where class is the major divider, not race. He is from a diverse family. He has never felt the sting of someone putting him down solely because of his race. I am an American. I was raised by a family who did not agree with integration. I cannot sugar coat that. My parents, grandparents, and anyone else I remember being around in the early years of my life believed that African Americans should love, support, and educate their own.  I was raised in a bubble, where I could not watch “Leave it to Beaver” or “In Living Color”. One show promoted the good white people too much, while the other presented negative depictions of black people, which was a no no in my household. I never felt the sting of racism as a child either, but I was taught that it would be inevitable if I chose to be around white people. So, you see, our backgrounds dictate how we feel we should deal with this situation and what I’ve come to realize is that in order for us to come out of this, we need to find balance. Marriage and parenting do not work without balance. If we can take positive from both of our experiences and formulate a plan that will benefit our daughter, then we are moving in the right direction.

I’ve also learned another important lesson in this and it involves people either not thinking before they speak or not recognizing that they have some prejudice. I won’t list the various things I’ve heard, but I summarize it to victim blaming, dismissing, and the belief that children just say hurtful things that may seem racists, but they are really just being naughty. Let me be frank, I know racism when I see or hear it. I know it because I was the kid who heard people speaking negatively about a certain race. I know these things don’t come from the sky. I remember quite clearly the venom that I would hear and then told not to repeat in the presence of “others”. Children do not get these ideas from nowhere and the sooner people begin to accept that the better.

Another thing, cut the bullshit with the whole “I teach my kids to be colorblind” or “I’m colorblind”. When I hear those statements, it makes me think that the person does not value my culture, my race, or the struggle that may come with who I am. I am not colorblind (actually, I am, it’s quite rare for a girl). I love hearing and knowing about other peoples backgrounds, race, and culture. To deny our differences does not make racism go away. It’s the most insane statement and it makes me question the person behind it.

So, now we work towards balance. My husband wants to impress upon my daughter that she needs to find her voice along with her realizing that there are good and bad in every race. I, on the other hand, am focusing on her learning that she is of value and that the things people say about others that look like her are not accurate. It has also become increasingly important that my children are not fed this idea that they represent the black race. Black people are not cattle. We are human just like everyone else. Black Lives Matter, Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Ice Cube, or Eva from 54th and Crenshaw do not speak for me or one another. If one more person tells me that black people can’t expect equal rights until the black community addresses black on black crime, I’m going to scream. My daughter, myself, and anyone else of the diaspora have different experiences and upbringings, we share skin color, not blame. In other words, it is my duty and my mission to teach my children that they are black, to be proud from which they came, but they are also human first and no one can take that away from them.

Love and light y’all

 

 

Heartbreak

My husband and I were naive. We thought we could move anywhere the Army sent us, find a home in a good school district, and go on about our business like most Americans. We thought our children would flourish regardless of race or racism. We thought that if anything, our children would not have to deal with bigotry because kids don’t think that way. It was the adults that we felt like we needed to worry about. We were so wrong.

When we first moved here there was an incident in my daughter’s Kindergarten class. She hadn’t even got settled quite yet. Her daddy was away in Afghanistan and she had just moved away from all of her friends. We told her to go into school with positive thoughts and to make friends, but someone told her she couldn’t play because she was black. Because she had an awesome teacher, the incident was handled in the best possible way. Towards the end of the school year, another incident regarding race, that I won’t even mention happened. We thought that the worst was over. Surely, this was just a fluke and as time went on and she found a good group of friends, these incidents would not happen again. Again, we were wrong.

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Yesterday, while getting ready for a day full of birthday parties, alone in our home because “the boys” were away, we discussed friendship. I told her that people have all sorts of reasons why they don’t want to be another persons friend and sometimes those reasons include things that a person can’t change. I was combing her hair in front of our bathroom mirror and I caught a glimpse of what I saw as sadness. She kind of looked into the mirror and said, “mommy, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you”. Of course I gave her the floor and she told me of an incident that happened in the 1st grade and in the current grade of 2nd. The first incident involved a “friend” who told her, “kids did not want to play with you because you are black and there are a lot of mean black kids at the school, so they think you’re mean too”. The next incident happened this year (it’s only February) with a boy who told her, “I don’t like you because you’re black”. I asked her how that made her feel and she said, “it just makes me want to act nice and try to do my best, so people won’t think brown people are bad”. At that moment, I began to cry. I had no words of encouragement. I could not muster up the strength to be “strong”. I realized what a heavy burden she has been carrying and I was hurt because someone hurt my baby. She began to cry too and we moved out of the mirror onto the floor and cried together. I’m sorry if someone may see that as wrong, but our children need to be able to be children and human. They need to see their parents vulnerable and they need to know that when they hurt, we hurt too. I fought hard to get her here. How dare someone attempt to damage my baby?

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After crying for a bit, I told her that she had learned a lesson that most brown people learn later in life. The lesson is that people will lump you into a group like cattle and judge you by the actions of people who share the same skin color as you. However, when others do bad things, they are judged as individuals. I asked her if she remembered when those bad things happened in Kindergarten and how we told her to remember that was one bad thing and not to judge everyone or think that someone else would be the same. Unfortunately, my daughter isn’t afforded that same respect in this society. My goodness, she’s only 8. Why on Earth should she feel obligated to carry the entire black race on her back in her behavior, work ethic, or personality. I’m so angry. I’m so hurt. What is wrong with people? Every year, she has had to deal with this crap and everything has become clear.

We wonder sometimes why she is so timid. We wonder why she has to have everything perfect. We wonder why she is so much more comfortable in certain settings over others and we have wondered why she leaves school sometimes so emotionally drained. She is carrying too much for her little body. I watched her at the parties yesterday and I saw her, like really saw her. What we thought was personality is uncertainty. It’s not that she’s timid or shy, she just doesn’t want to make a mistake. I saw how comfortable she was at one party over another. Listen, the parents, teachers, and children are awesome, but it is that small minority that take their insecurities out on others. I don’t mean to brag, but my daughter is awesome. She is beautiful. She is intelligent, not like just book smart, but really intelligent. She is insightful. She’s an old soul destined to make a change in this world. This, her skin color, is the last thing someone feels they have over her and dammit, that makes my blood boil. We are not a home that teaches self-pride and hate. We are a home that teaches pride in oneself and also love and acceptance of others. I have to teach my children that because if I didn’t my daughter would be worse off than she is now. She knows that her skin color isn’t a negative, but what am I to do if at every turn someone is trying to tell her different. She knows who she is because she is the one who made this eloquent statement one evening, she said, “I have the beginning of time running thru my veins”. Yes, my dear you do and don’t you EVER forget it.

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This last incident has changed my husband and I. We were naive. We thought that because we were good people and at one point in time we would have given our lives for this country, we were afforded some type of respect. We know racism exists, but for an 8 year old to deal with this for all of her school years is just wrong. My husband has made the decision that when we move, we have to consider diversity, preferably an environment where our children are not the only ones. I don’t believe everyone goes through these types of things, so please don’t take this as a slight because I know there are many of us who are living in areas where we are the minority, but when asked what would give her the strength to speak up, she said, “mommy, I just wish I wasn’t the only one. I’m all by myself”. I don’t know how that feels. I don’t know how that will affect her later in life, so whatever we can do to help her heal from these “incidents” we have to do it.

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You know, I had a talk with a friend not too long ago about a comment that was not nice made by a woman in regards to black men and how she didn’t like them. This was a black woman no less, and I told her that it was wrong and I couldn’t just be quiet because my son is black. When she talks about black men in that regard, she’s talking about my son. I was told, “but he isn’t here”. I implore upon everyone who reads this blog to stop people in their tracks when they say things that are downright wrong. Stop the uncomfortable giggles. People have been shamed for being politically correct, but what is wrong with being correct. I, myself, have been silent in the presence of black women when they make disparaging comments about white women and that isn’t right. We have to stand up for one another. We have to shame people or at least stop them in their tracks because even if it isn’t about you, it’s still offensive and wrong and maybe one day, my grandchildren won’t have to go thru these same things. We will overcome this as we have overcome so many other things. Love will win.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

I feel sorry for Sheryl Underwood

When my daughter turned 2 years old, my husband bought her a Baby Alive doll for her birthday. She loved the doll with all her heart. She took it everywhere. A few months after having this doll she had not lost interest in it until she saw a commercial for the doll. I just happened to be watching her watch television from my kitchen and I saw that she was paying very close attention to the commercial. After the commercial finished, she threw the doll down. I was so confused as to what could have happened because a commercial just came on for her doll, but when I went to grab the doll and hand it back to her, she refused to take it. I asked her what was wrong and she (in her 2 year old logic) said that her doll was fake. She looked at me and said, “it’s not the real one”. Of course, I sat there telling her that it was real, but she kept shaking her head saying, “NO!”. Finally, I thought about it and realized that her little brown doll was not featured on the commercial and therefore not a real Baby Alive. In that moment, I realized that the images on television, no matter how subtle, would in one way or the other effect the way my daughter looked at herself.

I doubt that my daughter’s reaction is an isolated incident. I believe little Brown/Black girls and boys struggle with not seeing themselves in positive lights on television. The television is a babysitter in some homes and although my daughter’s reaction was quite visible, there is a high probability that young girls are internalizing what they see. I don’t think this has totally to do with race. I think this is the case in a number of situations, but what I have read on social media about Sheryl Underwood today made me think about the incident with my daughter.

For the record, I have never been a fan of Sheryl Underwood. I don’t like that type of comedy. I also don’t like discussing people that I don’t know personally because people have off days and say things that they don’t mean, but I just couldn’t let it go and find myself typing this blog. Sheryl Underwood referred to Afro type (Black) hair as “nasty” and straight hair as beautiful. I looked at the clip from her show and got really upset because I’m not so much insulted as I am hurting for her. She is a grown woman who still struggles with loving ones self and that is truly sad. It is upsetting to me that she feels comfortable enough to voice her belief that kinky, curly or coiled hair as something that is bad to have and not something to be treasured. It makes me think about my daughter and if I had a negative perception of myself. Would I have been able to tell her that her doll was so special that she didn’t need a commercial? Would I have been able to tell her that her baby doll looked like her, just like she looked like me.

I can’t beat Sheryl Underwood up for her thoughts and feelings, but I do feel very sorry for her. I come from a line of women who never felt the need to straighten their hair. I never saw my mother with straight hair. I was never told my hair was bad. I was never told my hair was nasty. Someone had to tell this woman that what she was given was not good enough or someone wasn’t their to pick up her doll and tell her that it was just as good as what society portrays as beautiful.

Truthfully, this is not about hair because some of my best friends wear their hair straight and I know they do not hate themselves. My friends also do not have negative comments about hair being bad. The issue with Sheryl Underwood is that in 2013 she still has this mentality. It all reminds of a conversation with my father I had once. I asked him why he joined that Nation of Islam when he was a teenager and he told me because it was the first time he felt good about who he was. He honestly felt that he would have become a thief, alcoholic, dead beat dad, or died in Vietnam had it not been for the Nation. I asked him why because that seemed so far from his character and he told me because at that time, being Black was the worse thing you could be. He told me being called Black was like being called trash and that because of that his self esteem was low. He thought his life was destined for mediocrity or worse. Imagine a time when being Black automatically gave you second class citizenship or the feeling of not being worthy of what life had to offer.

I guess that is why I’m mad. There are people who paved a way against REAL oppression. People (both Black and White) lost their lives for her to be sitting on that stage. No one from a different race is on a daytime television talk show referring to Black hair as nasty and for the record, if they were, Reverend Al Sharpton would be first in line to protest after he cut his perm off. I’m so sick of the hypocrisy and the self hate. It is so ridiculous because Black people are doing it to themselves. Why on Earth bring back the mentality of a time when loving ones hair, skin, features were foreign? The only thing I can think of as it relates to the type of thinking of Sheryl Underwood is that she hasn’t been taught and for that, I feel very sad for her.

Racism aside…everything is going well

The incident that happened last week at the school has made a lasting impression on my daughter and I believe my household. I don’t know why, but I just did not expect it to happen so early and not here in California.  I’m originally from California and NEVER experienced any type of colorism or racism.  I spent about 10 years in the South and I believe I had experienced prejudice, but it was kind of blatant, like people ignoring you and not acknowledging your presence. Also, I had more positive experiences with White people than I have ever had in the South, so I have been sitting here thinking about what is the issue here.

First, let me say that the school my daughter goes to handled the situation quite well.  The day after my daughter was told she couldn’t play because she was Black by another little girl on the playground, a conference was held with the little racist child’s parents, she was made to write a letter saying she was sorry, and they also made her come up to me and apologize for hurting my daughter.  I thought that it was a great way to show my daughter that the little racist child was wrong; however, I thought it was overkill.  I jokingly call this little girl, “little racist child”, but she was only doing what she has either heard or seen.  I didn’t think she should apologize to me.  I thought her coward parents should have come to me and apologized, but that won’t happen because they are coward racist parents.  The funny thing is that my daughter and her are becoming fast friends and playing together, so I guess racism aside, everything appears to be going well. Go figure.

So…what is the issue here in this little California town?  Why do I feel so uncomfortable here as opposed to where I just moved from?  I believe the answer is that although California may seem progressive, it is not as diverse as people would believe it to be.  I just moved from the South, but my neighbors were White, Black, and Jewish. They were not the type of neighbors you just wave at from time to time.  My neighbors were people I actually spoke to from time to time and genuinely cared about.  I have noticed that this city is overwhelmingly segregated.  I finally found the Black people here and they live in apartments very close to the mall.  The Hispanics live there too.  In my neighborhood, which is all single family homes, there are very few Hispanics and Blacks, a conservative amount of Asians and Indians, and overwhelmingly White (about 67%). The issues here could be more about class and less about race, but segregation could be the root to the problem.

I must point out that I didn’t grow up a fan of Martin Luther King Jr.  I was raised by a Sunni Muslim father who had just left the Nation of Islam and he kept a great deal of his “Black supremacist” ways of thinking even though he was an Orthodox Muslim.  Yes, I grew up singing songs about the White man being the devil.  I also grew up spending weekends holding a sign that read “DON’T KILL YOUR BABIES” in front of an abortion clinic. Anyway, I knew very little about Martin Luther Kings Jr. because he was not celebrated in the private school I went to and at home we focused most on “revolutionaries”.  Looking back, my childhood was quite comical.  I had a Christian mother who was quite passive, but quick to throw a jab at how lowdown some Black people could be and a father who firmly believed that the social ills that plagued Black people were the dirty work of the White man.  I was confused to say the least, but it gave me  an incredible amount of insight on race and religion.  I’m going off topic, but  what I want to point out is that I am now a fan of Martin Luther King Jr. I always saw integration as something that tore down the Black community growing up, but as an adult I can understand the logic in segregation being wrong.

Obviously, no one is outright telling people that they can’t live in one area over the next, but because everyone is sectioned off in their own parts of this city, individuals are not seeing one another as human beings. When your neighbors look just like you, thinks like you, and prays like you, anything other than what you perceive as “normal” is wrong, especially when the images coming from the television portray another race as criminal, hyper-sexual,  an unintelligent.

I’ll give a personal example, when I was deploying to go to Iraq there was a girl in our unit that I became quite close with.  She was a nice person.  I hurt my leg while I was at the mobilization site and ended up on crutches.  This girl helped me to no end. One day, we are walking to the dining facility and she says, “I have something I need to tell you because I’m tired of lying to you”. Of course, I told her that she could share anything with me because we were “battle buddies”.  Well, she tells me that she is gay.  I had never met a gay person before in my life.  At that point in my life, I was very much against homosexuality and anyone who supported it.  It was ungodly to me because that is what I was taught.  When she told me that, it took my breath away and I felt incredibly conflicted because how could I view someone as a friend that I firmly believed was going to burn in hell.  Quite quickly I had to rethink all that I had believed because now I had a face, deeds, heart and soul attached to homosexuality.  My views no longer applied to “them”.  My views now had a name and a face of someone I knew would give their life for me if it came down to it when we crossed over to Iraq.  I finally found the humanity. We are still friends to this very day.

I know some people won’t agree with that, but the same thing happens with race.  It is quite easy to hate what you don’t know.  It is quite easy to stereotype what you believe to be true on television. Remember, I don’t exist in real life.  My family and its dynamic are not shown on television, so what can I expect from my ignorant neighbors?  I believe this is the point where I have to (even though I don’t want to) have amazing strength and put myself out there, like my friend did, and show the humanity of me and my family.  All Black mothers are not like those women on the Real Housewives of Atlanta or Basketball Wives.

I’m having a play date tomorrow with one of the mom’s and her daughter from my daughter’s class. We will see how it goes. Hopefully, it goes well and I’ll make an acquaintance or even a friend, but at the very least I am making an effort.