Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dear Sugar: Black History Month and Inferiority

Dear Sugar,

Happy Black History Month!   

This is a month that is very special for our family.  We spend a lot of time reading our favorite books, listening to music, examining art, watching YouTube videos, etc.---all featuring Black people.  We do this year round, but we put a special emphasis on these things during this month.

Lately, I've seen this quote circulating social media:  
Typically, this is something I'd pin under "Random Goodness."  But this quote doesn't sit well with me, and here's why:

Though it's true that where we mentally linger can be a choice, what we feel and our reactions to situations aren't always a choice.  When something happens, our immediate head and heart responses just are what they are.  

When I think about the significance of this month, I also think about the evil-ugly things that happen to people of color, including my children.  

I think about what's going on in Flint.  

I think about the all-White Oscar nominations.  

I think about Tamir Rice.  

I think about what these things mean for my children, what messages they send.  

I think about my neighboring communities of Ferguson and Columbia (where Mizzou is located).  

I think about the time a young man drove by my home and yelled the n-word twice at my daughters who were riding bikes in our driveway.

I think about the woman who called my two-year-old son a "cute little thug."  

The American spirit, the dream tell us we can be and do anything, and that the heights we reach are within our control.  We are our own ceilings.  But this is not true.  

Just like "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is not true.   

Feeling inferior can come upon someone immediately by a single, powerful, historically heavy word being yelled. Feeling inferior can come upon someone when they aren't greeted by a store cashier, but the next customer, a White woman, is greeted. 

When messages of less-than are hammered into a person for his or her entire life---by strangers, by the media, by films, by magazine advertisements, by textbooks, by toys (yes, even toys), by characters---inferiority is inevitable.   

Even as a mom who carefully monitors the media my children are exposed to, I cannot protect them forever.  There are a lot of people and things telling people of color that they are not of equal value to a person with less melanin.  

Feeling inferior is lurking.  It's inevitable.   It's scary.  

Black History Month matters because I can show my children examples of those who, despite great odds, were able to accomplish so much.  I can show them what it means to hold their heads high.  I can show them that challenges are opportunities.   I can teach them that God created them for a purpose and is on their side.  I can teach them that hurting people hurt people.  I can teach them to be the change.  

Above all, I can teach them that though there will be bouts of inferiority, sometimes so strong it feels like an emotional tidal wave, the choice is this:  to linger in that darkness or to reject the lies, the hatred, and the inequality.   To not entertain it. To call it out for exactly what it is.  To stand up to it. 

Sugars, this month, no matter the race of your babies, know that teaching Black history is critical.  Especially in today's racial climate.  

Thank you for being here, and I cannot wait to hear how you are celebrating this month.  Drop me a comment over on my Facebook page.


Here are my two children's books to help your daughter celebrate and KNOW her history!  Click on the pics for links.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachel! I found your blog via a Google search and am so glad I did. I'm an adoptee from Korea and my husband and I just completed the domestic, transracial adoption of our son. I so appreciate your posts, and particularly this one. I grew up in a primarily white community, and never "chose" to feel inferior but it definitely happened sometimes. Thank you for pointing out the need for greater nuance within that quote. :)


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