With the unfortunate killing of a two month old baby in Houston, by his mother, who initially claimed he was kidnapped by a black man, I started thinking if it was still necessary to teach our children, especially, our boys, about the perils of being black. What makes matters worse is this woman only recently came to this country. Yet, she already knew that if you want to get away with a crime, blame a black man and the authorities will aptly believe you.
Although my children currently attend multicultural schools, when they started off in elementary school, their classmates were predominately white. From day one, I would tell my children that they would have to put in 110%, if they wanted to be successful, whereas their melanin-challenged classmates could easily skate by with 100% or less. And since kids are always hollering about something not being fair, I told them upfront that it wasn’t and that’s just the way it is and they simply had to deal with it. Back then, they thought I was being racist, when they got in trouble, say for fighting or talking in class, and I asked if the other kid was white and if they were did they receive the same punishment. You see, even though, my children were consistently putting in their 110% and were mainstays on the honor roll, they were constantly getting discipline notices for very minor infractions. I remember one time, when my son was in third grade, he got in trouble for calling his classmate’s identical twin brother a clone. I have to admit, I was rather impressed that he was even familiar with the term clone, let alone able to use it in such a clever manner. But because the little boy, who was called a clone, wasn’t familiar with the term and thus got offended, my son got a discipline notice added to his permanent file.
Now that my son is in middle school there’s seem to be another dynamic at play. He’s slightly taller than average, as a result some of his teachers have claimed to feel threatened when he verbally defends himself against false accusations or assumptions. He once wondered aloud why a certain teacher always blamed him or the other black boy in class for everything (and yes I use the term black, because actress Charlize Theron is African-American, but I’ll save that for another post). I responded, “You know”. And he said, “Yeah, you’re right”.
It frustrates him though. After all no one likes to be blamed for something they didn’t do. My advice to him is to turn his anger into energy and use it to his advantage. I explain to him that unfortunately there are people, who are going to want to see him fail just because of the color of his skin. However, the best way to get back at them is to succeed. Happily, he was able to pass this particular teacher’s class with an “A”. Success is the best revenge.
As he gets older and starts venturing out into the world without me, I worry more and more about him. One day I saw him running down the street, playing with what I assumed was a friendly game of cops and robbers. All I knew was my son was running down the street holding what looked like a gun in his hand. And all I needed was some overzealous cop to see my man-sized child chasing a much smaller white child with what might be perceived as a deadly weapon in his hand. Needless to say, I immediately put a stop to their play and told my son to give the toy gun back to his playmate. You see I would never buy my son a toy gun, especially not one in a realistic color like black or silver. After sending the other little boy on his way, I once again recounted to my son why I think it is a very bad idea for someone his age (13), size (5’ 8”) and color (black) to be running through the neighborhood yelling and brandishing what looks like a deadly weapon. I told him that I would prefer for him not to play with toy guns at all, but if he’s going to do it he should have the yellow, orange, or green one and let his little buddy play with the realistic looking one. He incredulously asked me, “What difference does it make?” And I responded, “You know”. To which he said, “Oh yeah, that”.
Unfortunately, there are many more lessons to be taught. Hopefully, though, he will have fewer to learn than his father and grandfather.
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