As a mom, I find myself often having conversations with my other mom friends, reading status updates, or comments across social media that often differ in topic. I have noticed on the issue of race, the conversation always becomes quite tense. This could be for many reasons, one being that I am very passionate about my black identity and the world that my black children were born into. Another reason these conversations often become tense is because often it is hard for someone to understand what they cannot relate to, which is of no fault of their own. It is not easy to speak on things that you have no experience in. This however, is not an excuse not to listen and attempt to understand.
I chose to approach this topic today because I am currently raising two small black children, who may one day get pulled over for a broken tail light, may be in an unfamiliar neighborhood, may walk into an expensive store, may bbq at the park, may engage in a water gun fight with guns that don’t look like toys, might wear hoodies, might be a student on a college campus with low-minority population, might try to save a life, may just be doing their job, might open their apartment door late at night, might look at a new construction site, break down on the side of the road, or even pull up to a gas station with their music too loud. While this list sounds very minuscule in nature, these are the things as a mother of two black children I will have to worry about. It seems silly right?
Growing up, I was very fortunate to come up in a diverse neighborhood with a very diverse set of friends. My first dose of racism didn’t appear until I was a teenager, at least that I can remember. I remember going to pick up my sister from her middle school and being questioned if I really was related to her, because my sister is more fair skinned than I am. Although we had the same last name and look closely alike, the fact that I was more tan than her made them question who I was. The second time I noticed a difference was when I went to pick my boyfriend up from school. I stood in the hallway waiting for him to come out and his principal approached me and said, “you don’t have the right to be in here, I know every black student that attends this school and you are not one”. It was appalling to me that in a school with a population of over 1500 students, at least 6% black, someone could pick out a black girl in the hall and know I wasn’t a student there.
As a teen, moments like these, especially when you are not accustomed to them, stand out for you. I was getting a small dose of what I would learn would become reality in my perfect diverse world. I remember apartment shopping with a friend in Louisiana, and one of the leasing agents hesitating to show me the model because as she put it, “out credit requirements are a little high but we do have a sister property”. I had only been in her presence five-minutes when the assumption was made that I most likely had low credit. Needless to say, I was no longer interested in living there. I was 21, a high school honors graduate, in college, a management job, no criminal record, good salary, oh and I also had good credit. Did I mention I also grew up in the suburbs, raised by two successful military parents, one of which was a Masters graduate? Yet, I still managed to have corporate bosses say to me, “you are very well-spoken and intelligent to come from where you are from”, because you know all black people live/grow up in the hood on welfare and lack the intellectual capabilities to hold an educated conversation (sarcasm).
Here I was again having to ask myself, why does America hate people like me so much? Why do I intimidate you? Is the thought that we might not all be criminals, thugs, drug addicts, strippers, prostitutes, savage animals, or just plain dumb asses that hard to believe? Did Martin Luther King die for nothing? Why are we still in 2020 justifying black kids being arrested for selling water bottles while their non-black friends charge $0.50 for lemonade on the same street? Why do we have to make sure we “comply” but one of my non-black friends can yell and spit in a cops face and call it freedom to speak and assemble? Why does it require three armed police officers to arrest one unarmed black girl while her grandmother and one-year old son sit in a car and watch hoping not to have to plan her funeral the next week? Why, when we have guns, are we considered dangerous but when our non-black friends carry them they are carrying out their second amendment rights? Why do our children constantly receive labels such as aggressive, fast, or unruly? If my son or daughter gets too upset, they have a behavioral problem, may even be called violent, but his non-black friend has an issue with mental health? Why is it so shocking to see us in positions of wealth or with distinguished accolades? Do you believe that affirmative action is our only means of succeeding? Are we limited to just being rappers and athletes? Maybe we should do what Laura Ingram on FOX News says, “just shut up and dribble”? The amount of disrespect someone has to have, to question a veterans military service while they dine in a restaurant because they are black is repulsive!
If my son decides to grow his hair out in a way that expresses himself will he be removed from his high school graduation or maybe disqualified from his wrestling match? Shouldn’t this have ended before my generation even had kids? To my non-black friends I ask of you, do you have these same questions regarding your non-black kids? Do you worry about if your child will be gunned down in a park for playing cops and robbers with toy guns? Let it be known, I am not just asking questions. I am upset that at 30-years old, more than 50 years since segregation came to an end that I am having to ask these damn questions.
At the end of the day, we all bleed the exact same color. We all want some form of happiness and love in our lives. We all want to see our children grow old and outlive us. We all want to be able to take care of our families. We all want our existence to mean something to those around us. I’m tired of being paranoid when I walk in a room, being stereotyped, prejudged, and discounted. I’m tired of working twice as hard to receive recognition just for it to be assumed that a handout was given. I refuse to let my children feel the same. To say nothing is no better than doing nothing. It is time to call it for what it is and ask the question, why do my children scare you so much, that as their mother, my level of worry has to be 100 times that of yours when they leave my sight? Do you have a good answer? Or, should we just offer more excuses for the disproportionate amount of fuckery my children are predestined to experience just because they are black?
And before you say it, RACE shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately, my reality shows that it does everyday that I walk outside as the mother of my two black children. Aren’t they deserving of the same rights, freedoms, liberty, and justice for all?
Disclaimer: I am an advocate of all things that promote diversity and inclusion but when that beautiful picture excludes my children, enough is enough.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -MLK