Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Protest

The kid was maybe 4 when he attended his first protest/rally with me (Take Back the Night/TBTN, to shine light on sexual assaults). Since then he's been to another TBTN, MLK Day rally, and another protest/rally that I can't remember. (I am a social worker, it's kind of one of our things.) So, me taking him downtown last Tuesday night wasn't a completely new phenomenon, for either of us.  But, this protest, this was about the Ferguson/Darren Wilson decision. There's so much to say about that. But much of it's been said by people more knowledgeable and articulate than me. So, instead, I'll tell you about that evening and what it was like for us.

We hurriedly ate dinner and rushed to get downtown. I'd wanted hubby and E to come, too, but E hadn't had a nap (DISASTER!!) and hubby was, well, yeah. So, it was just me and the kid. I wasn't sure how to approach this with him, what to say, because it really was different than the protests and rallies we'd been to before. 

So I asked him if he knew was racism is. Now, we've absolutely discussed it before, but it's been from more of a historical perspective (i.e. Rosa Parks, MLK, etc...), and not really personal. I told him about Mike Brown and others. I told him about how some police and legal systems treat people with brown and black skin differently than they treat people with white and "peach" (as he says) skin.

I cried.

He said, "Momma, are you sad? Are you crying?"

I told him I was.

He said, "Momma, I've seen you angry lots of time, and I've heard you yell. I've even seen you sad sometimes. But I don't think I've ever seen you cry".

Now, I'm quite certain he has, but, yes, this was different. I told him that it was different because I'm scared. I'm scared for him and E as they start to get older. 

He said, "But, Momma, all I have to do is just make good choices and stay away from the police, right?". 

And my heart broke. Because as any person of color will tell you, that's not nearly enough. 

As my boys get bigger, as they reach an age and size that I know will no longer make them "cute", but will make them the targets of unreasonable fear and suspicion, I am absolutely terrified for them. And I can feel in my momma-heart that that time will be soon for my kid.

I feel helpless to guide them through this. How in the hell do I explain that people will treat them differently because of their skin? Because I've done all I can up til now to teach them that we love and respect people because of their differences and their uniqueness; those things are to be celebrated. They are not to be feared, not to be judged.

And I have to tell you, all the comments from well-meaning friends and family about how we don't have to worry about racism with OUR kids, because, you know, WE raised them (you know, as white people who teach our kids how to act right, blah, blah, blah) . Well, those comments infuriate me and I just call bullshit. 

Because this isn't about how black and brown children are raised; it's about how society views and devalues them. It's about how "driving while black" is a real thing. It's about how my brown-skinned children are infinitely more likely to be followed through a store than my brother's white-skinned children. It's about how my black child was identified as needing "special services" at school and his white classmate who got the same score on the almighty test didn't (because, you know, some parents feel the need to post that kind of shit on fb). It's about my brown-skinned children having to hear an ignorant SOB say things like "oh, is it nigger day at the pool?". It's about how brown-skinned boys who are headed to college get quickly labeled as thugs for stealing a box of cigarettes. Or shot dead in the street for having a toy gun. Or for walking down the street with candy bars in their pockets.

Racism is real. My children have experienced it already. And I feel ill-equipped to help them. To support them. And to protect them. And it fucking scares me to the point where at moments I am completely incapacitated. 

My boy chanted his heart out. In fact, his voice, which was often even louder than my own, was a bit hoarse the next day. Hands Up Don't Shoot; 2-4-6-8- Stop The Violence, Stop The Hate; Whose Streets? Our Streets!; and my personal favorite -  Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! This is What Democracy Looks Like! 

"Momma, is this what democracy looks like?" 

"Yes, kid. This is what democracy looks like. We are here. We are making our voices heard. We are standing up for what's right. And we have the right to do all those things even though some people don't like what we have to say." 

"Momma, I'm proud of us because some people are too scared to do this, aren't they? And it's not okay for people with skin like mine to be treated different than people with skin like yours, is it?"

"No, baby it's not. And I'm proud of us, too. Probably more than you realize."

"It was cool doing this, momma... Now, can I have some hot chocolate already? It's cold out here!"

Today's Lesson: One of these days, hot chocolate will no longer be a cure-all. I do not look forward to that day.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written! I hope your son will grow up in a world where more of these injustices are fixed.Boon

Peg said...

I can't imagine how you must feel but your post does a great job explaining. I hope your sweet boys grow into manhood into a different world. I also like how you included him in the protest. Very cool.

Emms R said...

I have no words. Beautiful, articulate, and unfortunately, scarily true. I cannot imagine that added very real fear for your children. We all have enough to worry about when it comes to doing our best to raise them right, hope they make right decisions, hope they turn out well.... but to add in the worry because of their SKIN color of all things... it's a sad sad thing. And in our day, shouldn't be here. But it is. Hugs to you. Hugs to your kids.

Motleymommy said...

oh mama! I cant even imagine. But what a good lesson you taught the kid....and us. Thank you for sharing this.
May God watch over us all as we raise little ones in this society!