I am at a loss for words. How and when do I explain any of this to my sons?
As the mother of black males, who will one day grow up to be viewed as aggressive by someone who doesn't share their same skin complexion, I have hugged them a bit tighter lately, begun telling them the rules to live by so that their actions don't get misinterpreted and they end up suspended from day care or kinder, and begun to worry how to explain the fuckedupness of this world to such young people. Of course, the baby is too young to understand (and too young to be mistaken for being aggressive), but the older kid is getting old enough to start learning these hard lessons of life.
I see the way they are treated when we are out together. Little old (white) ladies and young (white) moms with other kids in tow goo, gah, and gush all over the baby. No one hardly says a peep to the older one. And he's at that age where he's SO damn friendly to everyone he sees, yet doesn't understand why people don't speak back to him. How do I explain to him, "Sorry, sweetie, they don't speak because they already view you as aggressive, less innocent, and older than your white counterparts. They already think you're up to no good. They're already preparing to toss you out because they don't think you'll amount to anything." Sometimes I want to scream, "I'm college professor. My kids will graduate with multiple degrees and be productive citizens, so stop thinking otherwise!"
EVERY time I hear a new story of another male black being killed by cops, wanna be cop asshats who shoot kids because they "appear" to be in the wrong neighborhood, or attacked and pepper-sprayed by mall cops for the wrong damn assumptions (despite ALL witnesses pleading with the mall cop that he sprayed the wrong one), or killed by the parents (who happen to be cops) of the girl their dating, or by cops while you were sitting in your car outside of your bachelor party the night before your wedding, or by some ass who is offended by the volume of your music while you're sitting in a truck at a convenience store with your friends, or you fucking name it: Choked to death for selling loosies, shot to death (too many of those to link), left to bake in a sweltering prison cell, shot for the hell of it... burned, drowned, tortured, left swinging from a tree.
Times haven't changed, but I've still got to explain all of this, all of the weight of history of race in this country, all of the fucked up shit that has been done and is still being done to blacks, esp. black males in this country, so that somehow, by the Grace of the Almighty God, my boys don't end up in boxes below the earth with bullet holes in their corpses.
I'm damn angry. This is NOT shit I'm supposed to have to explain to a kid. Not just yet anyway. I've got to snatch away his sweet innocence just to make sure he begins to understand how to survive.
I remember beginning to learn about slavery around age 6 because of a play I participated in at church. I was a pica-ninny, and my line was "Momma, Momma, please don't let Massa take us away."
Short line, but I've never forgotten it. I distinctly remember my mother showing me pictures of slave ships and how the bodies were packed in the ships for transport. I remember sitting at her feet flipping through those black history books and seeing the whipped and scarred backs of slaves, Marcus Garvey riding in his open-top car, Dr. King behind the podium in D.C., Arthur Ashe in a tennis pose, Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and so many others. I remember learning all of those things over my life, but my lessons began with those brutal, horrible lessons of slavery.
I didn't fully understand what my lines in the play meant at that time, but I soon came to a fuller understanding. And as I've studied history (Black American history and history in general), my soul feels that we are not supposed to still be here in 2014, at this place where we haven't moved from at all. This place where whites, armed to the teeth kill black males indiscriminately and with no consequence. At this place, where in 2014, I have to begin to explain this stuff to my young children.
Time hasn't changed. Nothing has fucking changed.
And having a black president certainly hasn't changed anything. If anything, it has made it worse. People seem to be more openly racist that before Nov. 2008. Post racial. What a joke!
Each time I hear of a new horrifying rape case or hear of some horrible sexist situation, a small part of me say, "phew, glad I don't have daughters." But every 28 hours, another black male is killed by cops or cop posers, so what am I sighing for.
I understand more fully why people question why anyone would ever bring children into this evil, hateful world. I just want to hold my babies, pour magic over them so they never age, or better yet send them off to Neverland.
I understand why Peter didn't want to grow up.
I understand Sethe's actions--thought I'd NEVER commit them.
I understand why expats leave.
I understand anger, heartache, fear.
What I don't understand and am still searching for the words for is how to explain why another black male was killed by a cop, why Ferguson is in chaos, and why black males simply existing and breathing their same air is a threat to some.
What I don't understand is why white males can commit FAR worse atrocities than walking down the middle of the street and they "must be taken alive." But black males jaywalking are killed in the street, then left to lie there--as if on display, as if it were a warning to others watching.
Explaining all of this and all of history of race in this country to young kids... le sigh.
I'll start with the positives Garret A Morgan, Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Sarah E. Goode, George Alcorn, Lloyd Augustus Hall, Granville Woods, Madame CJ Walker... You know what, there are more names on this list than can be counted too.
We must all learn it all. We have to know the past in order to understand the present and the future.
The common phrase is "learn history, or be doomed to repeat it."
I'm remixing that: "learn history or it will come back with a vengeance and kick your ass."
Knowledge is always powerful. You fight and defeat enemies with knowledge. As I've said from day one, my boys will not become statistics. That's how I'm going to begin explaining. (And thank God the boys have a dad, granddad and many uncles around to help them understand.)