Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brown Bear

Recently, I met with the kid's teacher. We were chatting away, things going well. She said, "Oh I have to tell you the funniest thing" and I smiled, waiting to hear the next amusing thing my kid had said. She relayed a story that had happened recently in class. She said they sometimes do little plays in reading groups. In the one this particular day, there were several animals. So the kids started volunteering for different characters. My kid says, "well, obviously I'll be the bear, because I have the brown skin", all matter-of-fact. One of the other boys says, "Aw, man!! I wish I had cool brown skin!".

His teacher thought this was hilarious. I laughed at the time, but something about it simply didn't sit well with me. It took me til now to figure it out. You see, that may be the only time my child hears something to that effect.

I tend to avoid recent events here on my blog. Not that I ignore current events, I just don't find writing about them to be therapeutic, per say. But the murder of Trayvon Martin, well, it is something I just cannot not talk about. Because I am terrified for my own sons.

The are adorable and small now, even when wearing their own hoodies. One day they will be handsome and tall. And they will be feared simply because they are big, male and black. And none of these are things over which they have any control. None of these are things over which I have any control. And I have no idea how to protect them.

I know many people want to believe that racism isn't alive and well. I know many people even in my own family who would say that racism went out with the 80's. As a social worker, I've known - secondhand - that racism is a prevalent issue. But it wasn't til I became a mother of black sons that I have come face to face with it.
  • Where are the brown-skinned dolls at my local Tar.get store?
  • Do you know how hard it is to find quality children's books with any kind of diversity?
  • Most teachers, politicians, store managers, and people with power have skin that looks like mine, not like my boys'.
  • And what about band-aids? I've yet to find any that match the color of my children's skin.
And I know what we've experienced to date, is nothing compared to what is to come. And, again, I have no idea what to do to protect them. Or even to prepare them.

I feel sad that my child will likely never again be envied for the color of his skin. Instead he will be judged, followed through stores, stopped for DWB (driving while black), and simply feared for being who he is.

Today's lesson: To Trayvon's mother, I say this. I am so sorry for your horrific loss. I grieve the loss of your baby boy. And, if you will have me, I stand with you. I ask all of you to consider for yourselves, the racism that exists in Our world, and in your own worlds. What can we do individually to make the lives of our children safer, happier, less filled with racism. I want my children to be able to walk down the street, with a bottle of pop and a bag of candy and not fear that they will be murdered. I want this for all our children.


Elizabeth said...

This is making me cry - but then, everything related to Trayvon does. And I so know what you mean about books. I notice this a lot.

Kristin said...

My heart is breaking for you and your boys right now as it does for Trayvon and his family. I think people want to believe that racism is a thing of the past so that they can feel good about themselves and their neighbors. But, the fact of the matter is that it is still very prevalent in our society today. Sadly I don't know how to change that but I will stand with you as well and fight for all of the children who have thsi future to face.

AS said...

Racism is pervasive and terrible. One of my most horrifying personal moments was realizing that I was glad Mira was a girl in part because had she been a boy, with brown skin and a Muslim name, he would have a lot of prejudice to deal with. But, while it's almost inevitable that your boys will face these issues, and they may have to learn to interact with, say, police in a different way than a white boy would be able to, racism doesn't have to define them. There are many reasons they can be proud to identify as black men, and there are many, many black men who they can be proud to identify with. Can you find those role models for them?

In Due Time said...

I've had to cringe a few times having a biracial niece when we had custody of her.

My heart breaks for Trayvons family. I can only pray justice will be served.

Emms said...

I have noticed how prevalant racism still is. It's horrible and tragic. I wish it weren't the case. All we can do is raise OUR kids well, bit that's not enough in this society and that's horrible. It saddens me is that I hadn't noticed the lack of diversity in bugs books. Sad that its not there and sad that I missed it. I'm going to look thru her books now and try to find some with the diversity!

peg said...

The Trayvon case has been breaking my heart. As a teacher I deal with a very culturally diverse group of kids. Last year a mother accused me of saying some very hurtful, racist, things. Thankfully, my administrator figured out that the mother was mad about her child's grade in my class, and the rest of the students (who are of the race that I supposedly offended) said that they would never imagine me saying something like that. Rascism does happen, and it certainly has not disappeared -as much as we would like it to. It is disgusting and needless. But you are aware of it and can do everything possible to instill a sense of pride and self-esteem in your beautiful boys. They have so many people to look up to in society now who have the same coloured skin...

That doesn't stop the horrors of the Trayvon case. It is a tragedy what happened to him, and how it's being handled.

We have a long way to go in this world until Dr. King's dreams come true. sad really.