Last week I shared on my Instagram stories some heartbreak I had experienced in regard to my youngest son getting “the talk” from his father.
Now for many of you, you may be thinking the birds and the bees. If you’re black, you know what talk I mean.
“The talk” came on the heels of a fun day at the movies and running errands. My seven year old son had gotten squirlly and silly in the grocery store. (apparently a bag of skittles will do that!) He wasn’t “bad” he wasn’t disobeying, just being a silly little boy on a sugar high. I had to repeatedly remind him to calm down.
When we got home my husband called him to our room. My son asked “am I in trouble?” My husband replied “no, but I want to tell you something that will be important for you to know in your life.”
My son sat down.
“You know how black people and white people used to be separated because people were racist and thought black people weren’t as good as other people?” Yes. “Well unfortunately some people still feel that way. And when you’re out in public and being silly with your sisters, they might not see you as being silly. They might think- he is naughty because he is black.” My son just stared intently. “It’s not fair and it’s not true. But as a brown person you have to always be a little more on top of it than everyone else, because some people still have stereotypes and will view you negatively because of the way you look.” Oh, do you mean like how when Martin Luther King was alive? “Yes, kind of, but now most people don’t say mean and racist things but they may think it in some way. So it’s our job to prove them wrong. Your good behavior can change the way some people think about black people.” Ok Dad. I’ll do that. I’ll remember that. Can I go play?
I just stood there and had to watch. This was not my turn to interject. Or to soften it down like I really, really wanted to. As a white woman, I will never fully get it. I have experienced so many crazy scenarios since being married to my husband. Things that as a young naive white girl I was in shock over. From extremes like being denied housing and bizarre unkind behavior, to simple things like my husband being denied a return at target. With the receipt! He was humiliated. I marched back there myself and voila, the item was returned. I had to wonder if they thought he had stolen the items? Just didn’t want to help him? I didn’t get it. Yes my husband was a young black man, and he was also a police officer, with exceptional character and a perfect credit score. Things you would never know if you were just looking at him and making assumptions.
These things are not unusual. Most people of color could rattle off a list of offenses a mile long they’ve experienced in their lives. I’ve long desired to be apart of the solution when it comes to these issues, particularly race.
I’ve spent extensive time thinking about how I can help bridge the gap and improve race relations. I’ve been hindered by self doubt, “I’m just a mom”. “I’m a Middle Aged white lady”. However as of late, those little seeds of doubt have turned into seeds of hope. Maybe that’s just the plot twist needed. It’s time for women to step up.
White women specifically.
Moms definitely. Who else has more influence on the next generation than mothers? I would argue- no one.
Black and brown kids can’t be the only ones getting “the talk”. We all have to be in on uncomfortable conversations. Discrimination , injustice, sexism, it affects us all. Let’s be honest about our experiences and the conversations had behind closed doors. It will be uncomfortable. And with discomfort, comes change.
Many of us live in an echo chamber. Where we are surrounded with the SAME all of the time- people just like us, echoing our exact same opinions and experiences. But that won’t change anything. You can broaden your worldview by intentionally surrounding yourself in community that is not your own. You will see differently. When you hear first hand accounts from real people, when you hear their journey, when you hear their heart. It all changes. It becomes real. It did for me.
I would like to encourage all my mamas (and daddies) to go out of your way to stretch yourself. To hear the story from another perspective. Meet some people from another race or culture. Get immersed in it. Go ahead, go to the black church this week. Intentionally get to know the Asian family down the street. And if you really live in a whitewashed area, go follow someone different than you on social media. And please, talk to your kids about it. Read them books from other cultures. Teach them empathy. Ask them questions that make them think. Read them stories and have them put themselves in other people’s shoes. Kids are amazing and pliable and bigger thinkers than we often give them credit for. The mommas and the kiddos. We will be the ones to right the wrongs.
Let’s raise the generation that changes it all.