Monday, July 20, 2015

A Letter to My Kids About Racism

Dear Kids:

It's with a heavy heart that I even have to consider writing a letter like this to you.  I wish racism didn't exist.  I wish you were always going to be given fair chances and equal opportunities.  I wish that every person you meet in your life would acknowledge and celebrate your brown skin, eyes, and hair, your history and your future as a person of color.    

You are young, and you've already encountered so much ugly evil.   My son, you've been called a "thug," when you were freshly two years old.  My girls, a cowardly and pathetic man drove by our home and hurled the n-word at you twice.   You've had strangers try to "pet" your hair:  your intricate and beaded cornrows, your afros, your coils.  One woman looked at the two lovely girls, side by side, and pointed to one and said, "She's got the good hair."   It's been assumed that you are good at dancing because it's "in you."   Parents have proudly boasted to me how they raise their kids to be "colorblind," and I want to scream.  Because you are beautiful and wonderful just as you are, not "in spite of" your Blackness.

These occurrences strike fear in my mommy-heart.  Because I know that racism is just getting started. The culmination is happening; the storm is brewing.  As you grow up, becoming bigger, louder, more visible, you will more likely encounter racism. More microaggressions.  More stereotypes.  More systematic hurdles. 

And I have the really, really big job of preparing you for life as a person of color.  For the inevitable challenges that will come your way. 

The news reminds me every day of how BIG my job is and sometimes how incredibly inadequate I feel.  How unprepared and untrained I am.   I have enlisted help:  friends of color, your mentor, those in positions of power who are of color.  I need guidance and encouragement and advice.   I need assurance.  I need hope.  

I'm not, as you know, a pessimistic person.  I am a dreamer, a passionate advocate of justice, and an enthusiastic parent.  I believe that some people are going to treat you well.  I believe you will be given some of the many wonderful things you deserve, things you earn with your education and your talents.  

But I also know I won't always be able to protect you or advocate for you.  I have a few precious years to prepare you for days when you may see flags waving in the breeze, flags that represent hatred and a bloody history.   I have to prepare you for police encounters.   I have to prepare you for the word "no" that you will hear on the basis of your brown skin.  I have to teach you how you might respond to insults like "you are pretty for a Black girl" or being called "Oreo."  I have to prepare you for parents of peers or prospective boyfriends or girlfriends who will be fearful and ignorant upon meeting you.  I have to prepare you for those who will treat you like their token Black friend.  I have to prepare you for those who will assume things about you long before you ever speak a word. 

Every single time a brown face fills my computer or television screen, another innocent Black person who has died at the hands of injustice, of racism, of evil, I think of you.  Tears brim in my eyes as I think of these victims' mothers and fathers, siblings, and friends.   I want to protect you forever.  I don't want anyone to ever treat you as less-than.  

I can't fix the world.  But I can do a good job raising you.  I can instill in you values. I can teach you your history.  I can give you wisdom that will hopefully guide you as you navigate injustices.  

As I've been thinking about these things, a few Bible verses have resonated in my heart, and I want them to resonate with you, too:

Psalm 139:13-16:  For you formed my inward parts;

    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

1 Timothy 4:12
 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

John 16:33
have said these things to you, that in me you may havepeace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

I want you to have a full life.  A happy life.  A life where the sky is the limit.  I want you to be resilient, fulfilled, joyful, compassionate, empathetic, strong, fierce.  I want you to be confident.  

I pray that with God's guidance, with the village we have around us, and with our convictions, education, and commitment, we, your parents, will give you the very, very best.  

And we will always, always have your back.  We will always be on your team.  

I am your mom.  Your warrior.  Your #1 fan.  And I will never stop fighting for you, teaching you, or listening to you.

I love you.  

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