I'm sure when you saw this title you were triggered, maybe angry, you may even have decided that you're going to unsubscribe from my mailing list. All of those thoughts are relevant and realistic. Imagine my shock and pain when my sister called me in a panic, stating that a man had said these words to her and her children in traffic. As if that wasn't bad enough, he pulled a gun out, reached over his passenger and pointed it at my sister. My 14 year old niece froze in shock in the front seat, my 6 year old nephew in the back went into defense mode. Luckily he didn't pull the trigger or I wouldn't have the mental clarity to write this post.
The world we are living in is scary. There's coronavirus, there's school shootings, there's murder hornets, but Black people in America and across the globe also face racism at an alarming rate. We are killed by the police at disproportional rates, we are being lynched as if this is the 1800s all over again, we are faced with the highest maternal mortality rates, grocery stores in our neighborhoods have the least amount of fresh produce (while we have the highest number of fast food restaurants), we are disenfranchised on election days with broken machines, I could go on for days. While all of these things are extremely prevalent in America, a little research will show you that it happens in other first-world and third-world countries across the globe too. Just because you aren't seeing it on TV anymore doesn't mean the battle is over.
As scary as this is for us as adults, I am extremely concerned about our children. Black children suicide rates are increasing. We are in a state of a mental health crisis with kids turning to drugs and violent activities to cope with their daily stressors. The parents of these children are dealing with mental health issues of their own. Birthing a Black child into this world is the scariest and bravest thing any mother could do. All across the board things are moving backwards, while many of us are working hard to progress. I'm no expert on how to prepare your child for racism and hate crimes and it truly breaks my heart to feel that this piece is even necessary, but it is. I'm going to share a few questions I've heard from the youth in my life, as well as my input on how to respond to them. The biggest goal is to not increase the fear in their heart, nor to teach them to respond with prejudice of their own. I also want to make something clear, though this statement is highly controversial, Black people cannot be racist. I know, I know you've heard a million things about Black people being racist too and counter-racism, spoiler alert: it's a false narrative.
Here's the definition of racism:
Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
Being that Blacks are a minority race, we don't have the power or resources to cause damage to another race, as has been done to us. Racism effects us in every aspect of our lives; politics, economics, legal institutions and systems engage in and perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race. These structures reinforce racial inequalities in wealth and income, education, health care, civil rights, and other areas. This message is for people who love to say, "slavery was 400 years ago, get over it." Trust me, we would love to. But, we cannot "get over it" until we receive equality. I want my sons to grow up in a world where they don't have to fear police, I want to feel safe allowing them to play outside without worrying about someone threatening their safety due to their skin color.
If you are reading this and you are an ally there are two things that I want you to take away from this, it isn't enough to "not be racist." You unfortunately benefit off of a racist system daily, you instead need to be consciously Anti-racist. Yes, I'm asking you to shake the table on Thanksgiving when your aunt is making those racism comments. The second thing I want to drive home is that Black people supporting our own businesses, building our own communities and supporting one another is NOT racism, don't allow people to feed you that BS anymore. My entire life I have watched commercials filled with white kids, playing with white dolls, white families promoting insurance or food products. My grandma used to have to search high and low to find me brown Barbies and baby dolls. We've been taught that white means pure and black means bad or dirty. That really confuses Black children as they attempt to just live and love themselves.
Every other race has a little Chinatown, or a little Italy to create economic empowerment, we want the same. Ninety-nine years ago we had a place, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also known as Black Wall Street. The city was destroyed and burned to the ground by local KKK members and residents who were given weapons by local government officials. This is the only city in the entire country that has ever been bombed by their own citizens. If you are unaware of this massacre I suggest that you do some research on Sarah Page and the Tulsa Race Riot. If you are truly an ally, do your part and support Black Businesses (we support white ones everyday). Teach your kids about being anti-racist. Defend Black people when they are being treated unfairly by police or other authority. Use your privilege for good.
Talking to Your Kids and Teaching Love
Here's a few questions and comments that I have received from my son and nephew, as well as some information on how I responded. Please feel free to add or retract however necessary for your children. I just wanted to give you a bit of assistance on how to deal with these sticky questions without making things worse.
1) What does "Black lives don't matter" mean?
Well, first let's start with what Black Lives Matter means. Currently there is a global movement pushing for Black people to be treated fairly. This phrase has been coming up for years, typically when someone is unjustly murdered by the police, such as Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, George Floyd or Rayshard Brooks. This phrase is chanted during protests and marches, it is a request for equality for Black people. Though people of all colors are killed by police, we are three times as likely for it to happen to us. We are also frequently unarmed during these incidents of violence. Across the globe people of all colors are demanding for Black people to be treated fairly and equally. When someone says, "Black lives don't matter," they are saying that Black people are not equal and may even be implying that Black people deserve to die just because of the color of their skin.
2) "This whole time I've always thought me and my white friends were equal."
You and your white friends are equal. I'm happy that you know that. Your friends have great parents who have taught them that you are equal to them too. Unfortunately, some people don't have great parents like that and they have taught their kids very hateful ways. Those kids have grown up and become racist adults. Those are the people that we are trying to teach equality to, that's what this whole movement is about.
3) Why do police kill Black people and get away with it?
I hate to say it, but our judicial system isn't very just, particularly regarding Black people. There are laws that protect police officers, even when they are wrong. An example of one of them is "qualified immunity" which is a federal doctrine that grants immunity to government officials from a lawsuit, when the official is performing discretionary functions. Another thing that hurts Black people from getting justice is the lack of accountability in the police and local judicial system. The same system that investigates the shooting is generally the same jurisdiction that the officers work for. Basically they all know each other and sometimes are even friends, which means they will do everything they can to make sure their friend doesn't get in trouble.
4) Are cops going to shoot me when I grow up?
It breaks my heart that you even want or feel the need to ask me that. All we can do is try to keep you away from police interactions and if you ever have an interaction with a cop, be smart. Answer their questions, don't make fast movements, don't be aggressive. But, I would be a liar if I told you that these things alone will save you. Mike Brown was shot with his hands up and while following police demands. Philando Castile had been following and complying with all demands, had informed the cop he had a legal gun and was shot while reaching for his ID. Do all that you can to follow the law and stay away from the cops, try to never give them a reason to even talk to you. That's my best advice to keep you safe.
5) Why won't they just arrest the cops, so that people can stop protesting?
I hate to say it, but based on the behavior of local law enforcement and judicial systems, it seems like they just don't care. Those who are protesting need to be very clear about their demands and those in charge have to care in order for things to work correctly. Some protests are a little sloppy (for good reason, people are emotional and attempting to put them together quickly) and they aren't being vocal about what they want, which is for officers to be arrested! Being fired isn't enough and many aren't even fired. Instead of them just arresting the officers, which would end many of the protested, they instead are out there arresting the protestors, which is just making things worse. I wish I had a better answer for you on this.
As I've stated previously in this post, I don't have all the answers. But, I do have passion to make this world a better place and it starts with us. What we do, how we live and what we teach our kids will set the tone of how our world evolves. I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I am open to continue the conversation. Feel free to comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share this with someone who needs to hear it, keep the conversation going and most importantly protect your babies.