I started writing part of this after George Floyd’s death and feeling very helpless with what was happening during this time…
…it took me a while to write this because I was drained from all the discussion around what was going on in the world…I guess I’m ready now…
By now you’ve seen the outpour of cries and frustrations amongst the Black/African American community with the recent deaths. Honestly, I’ve been trying to avoid it, but I know that’s not possible. It’s my community being attacked…gunned down.
However, I just can’t deal. I’m still hearing it. I’m still seeing it. I’m still reading about it. And I feel helpless.
I know as a Black mother, teacher…it is my obligation to educate the next generation so that there are less ignorant people in this world. So that we are able to live together without prejudices…
But my question has been the same: what can I do? What does this look like for me?
I remember a little girl in my PreK class…Hispanic…and I don’t remember how we got into a conversation about people of different skin types but we were discussing the color of our skin. She was one of those students that absolutely loved me–would cry if I didn’t show up to school and everything–and so to me that negated that she didn’t have a problem with Black people. But then she described a darker skin tone that she felt was “bad”. She was a fairer skinned tone but her mother, a more tanned brown complexion. It baffled me that she had this perception…but in actually more people do: Black/Brown = Bad.
I didn’t want her to feel like she had said something wrong. So I showed her different complexions and reassured her that black/brown doesn’t equate to someone being bad. We discussed the people around us that had darker complexions in comparison to her. And in the moment, she seemed to be ok with our conversation.
Is this all I can do? Is this the extent of my contribution?
Usually I pay no attention to the crazy things Ky says because they never really make sense–I mean 5 year olds really do say the darndest things. But recently, she said that she wished she was white…
*insert Marge groan*
Have I failed as a Black parent? Enough so that my own black child doesn’t appreciate her own skin??
I mean our tribe just so happens to be predominantly white but I do surround her around “us” and others as well. I try to surround her with things where she can see herself: books, toys, shows, people. I think as a mother, I’ve done a pretty decent job of letting Ky know there is nothing wrong with the way she looks, telling her that she is smart, beautiful, parts of her that I find beautiful or admire…So what is the source of this??
Being that we had been discussing Black History, I’ve been sharing a bit with Ky about prominent people in our history and how people with black/brown skin were treated. I thought at this age it would make a bit more sense to her.
So when I asked her why she felt that way, I was relieved at her answer. She said that she didn’t want to be treated differently. THAT I can deal with because it wasn’t necessarily self-esteem based. It had more to do with what I was informing her about and discrimination possibly still being a thing for her.
But again, how I can I help her handle this? What do I do here? Because I thought informing her was a way of educating her, protecting her…so that she wouldn’t be a victim of some disgusting hate crime or bullying acts. I didn’t want her to be afraid, so much so that she doesn’t feel comfortable in the skin she’s in.
So I told her not to worry. That there was nothing wrong with the way she looked. That people who didn’t like someone because of the color of their skin were people who had ugly hearts; and God wouldn’t want people to have ugly hearts towards other people.
But again…is this all I can do to help? Is this my contribution? Is this how I protect her? How I make a change in the world?