Just-Us

Something about Sunday nights…I keep hearing the Karen Carpenter and her “rainy days…always get me dowwwwn.”

This has been a week, and as ever, Sunday nights I become more reflective, introspective, and yes, melancholic. I initially planned a Part 2 of my earlier blog, but the word: JUSTICE got in the way…

Oscar Grant and the Mehserle verdict have dominated my thoughts and conversations these past couple of days. So many conflicting stories from the community. So many perspectives, questions, and motivations.  The ubiquitous cries of “JUSTICE” sounding like an akoben, yet I wonder…as I often do, what do we tell our children.

“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…”

What do we teach them?

Maybe something like this:

“hey baby, we need to have a talk. It’s time I let you know that by and large, you’re going to find yourself in the company of humans. VERY VERY strange beings they are.  Most of them probably mean well. They really do. So you’ll hear  them talk about freedom, justice, and equality for all. BUT, be cautioned, they don’t REALLY mean for ALL, they mean for some. What do I mean? Oh, let mama explain.   There are those who talk about ending racism and oppression, you remember we talked about that? Ok, good. Well, people will say that they want all people of different “colors” to be treated fair and equal. They stand up and fight for the rights of people who are victims of racism. Yes, yes, baby, that IS the right thing to do. Equality is VERY important. The tricky thing about equality and justice though, is that it has to be for EVERYBODY or it’s NOT really equality and justice.  That means that even people who AREN’T Black and Brown have to be treated fairly too.  It also means that boys and girls have to be treated equally as well.  Do you think one person’s life is more important than another? Me neither!

Right, right, yes, that’s part of why people are protesting on tv…yes, they’re angry about the verdict in the Mehserle trial.  People are sick and tired of the police brutality in Black communities… what’s that you say? Did people protest in the streets after Aiyanna Jones was murdered in her sleep in Detroit? I don’t know baby, I haven’t heard of anything happening.  What, what’s that you say? How come people don’t protest the police harrassing people everyday on the block? Hmm…I’m not sure love.  Yeah, mommy doesn’t know how come there were only a few people at the meeting to recruit Big Brothers and Big Sisters for  boys and girls… That’s a good question. Why aren’t some of those people on tv and the radio who are angry about the verdict angry about all the Black and Brown boys who go to jail  everyday? Or the fact that so many kids can’t read? I’m not sure…”

Justice or Just-Us?  In my convoluted mind, justice for SOME isn’t justice. It’s HARD for me to take someone who still subscribes to patriarchial notions and hierarchies SERIOUSLY when they talk about racial equality. It’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to have a serious conversation with someone about “saving and protecting our children” when they have a cache of  musical artists who’s theme is “sex, drugs, and alcohol” …

“…teach them WELL and let them lead the way…”

I HAVE to ask:  WHAT and HOW are we teaching our children?

10 thoughts on “Just-Us

  1. Salina,

    I am so glad you wrote this piece when you did, as I am planning a post for tomorrow that dovetails perfectly.

    I am especially impressed that you find the appropriate language to talk with your kids about racism. My kids are so innocent and naïve that I joke that “they are the ones that make people think we are post-race.” They are so sheltered in the way of their interests and expectations of others that I doubt they have any sense of race prejudice, something I had a firm grasp of by 9 (my eldest’s age).

    I don’t doubt that I am the one protecting their innocence, grateful that they are still “kids”. However, at this point we live in an almost exclusively white neighborhood (moving at the end of the month to a more diverse one) and my son attends a 50% white 50% black school, but their hasn’t been an “incident” to address racism with yet. Not one he is aware of anyway.

    Tanji

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    1. Thank you Tanji! I’m sorry about the late response…I’ve GOT to get in the habit of getting on a COMPUTER and not using my phone for the internet! I’ve tried to be as open and forthright with my son (and my students) as possible. I swear by it.

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  2. My son had his first brush with bigotry at 2 years old. It hurt me more obviously than it hurt him, but it happened. I can’t even begin to imagine what else he might experience simply because Mommy wants him to grow up in “diverse” areas. It would be so easy to stick to predominantly Black neighborhoods, have him attend predominantly Black schools… but that’s not what I want. I don’t want to shelter him. I want to equip him with valuable tools to navigate this society.

    As a Black male, he is society’s least valued person. I have to work very hard to make sure he is never fully aware or accepting of this while at the same time teaching him the truth of things…

    Great post!

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    1. Whoa, Benee. I just read the account of your son’s first encounter with bigotry. I feel like crying. And I also feel like screaming. WTF??? I mean, yes, yes, and yes, racism and bigotry still exist. But experiences like that are supposed to be rare; people are supposed to let their child shake the hand, but then implore them to wash that hand when they get back in the house. 😦

      How did you handle this? How did you explain to Garvey what was “wrong?” Even if you didn’t tell him it was about race, I imagine that he picked up that it had something to do with him. And if that’s the case, how does one remove the little seed of self-doubt that such an encounter can plant?

      Why are human beings like this to each other? 😦

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      1. He didnt seem to understand what happened. I just told him that the little boy couldn’t play with him because his daddy said no. There was little else I could do at that time.

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    2. Thanks Benee! We’re going through it now…for the first time in his life, he’s not at an alllllll Black school. But, he’s adjusting – we have a lot of conversation. (Much of the time he’s giving me the “here we go again look”, lol) And I imagine I get on his nerves, but he has no choice but to listen…and I KNOW that he hears me…

      2 years old? What happened?

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  3. Great post, Salina. I was especially appreciative of the way you highlighted the tension between (hypocrisy of?) marching up and down the street in protest of big court decisions, but failing to find a young person to mentor; of demanding racial justice, while reifying sexism and homophobia in our homes, churches, and communities. You capitalized “what” and “how,” but I was drawn to the word “we,” because we are all complicit in this.

    The question of talking to our children about racism is a great one. In our home, we talk about issues of race and class often, because that is central to the work and interests of both my husband and me. When I read to my daughter, I try to be explicit about things like skin color. And so, I hope she’ll pick up on some of it organically as she grows. But what about directly addressing race and racism? Do we wait to capitalize on instances of bigotry to start to introduce these concepts in age-appropriate manners? Or do we just tell ’em on the first day of school, the way we might tell them that nobody but mommy and daddy can touch their private parts? And what of the small racial slights that they experience every day, like comments about hair and skin, assumptions about their (in)abilities, or the failure to acknowledge race all together? It’s so complex. And worrying about all of this, as we all do, heightens our stress levels and undermines our health in ways that we don’t even realize.

    Human beings are strange, indeed.

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    1. thank you Orj! I feel guilty when I bring up the hypocrisy, but girrrl, I can’t HELP it. It pi$$$$es me OFF. smh.

      I would LOVE to stop talking so danged much about race and racism…but it’s IMPOSSIBLE. I tell folk all the time when they give me “the look” or the loud sigh as if I’m getting on their nerves, lol: You want me to stop talking about race? Stop aiding and abetting racism! lol

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  4. So much of what I learned about injustice I learned through books. We read, even with Ahmir and Amina being only 4 and 2, about injustice as a part of the human condition. I started with the Bible, as it has many stories of injustice. We read about Jesus, and how he was unjustly arrested and crucified. We read about slavery in America, about the Civil Rights Movement. I search for good children’s books about the atrocities of the world because I want them to be aware. Even though they don’t always pay attention, as we discussed before, I always have the news on, so they know the world is larger than just themselves.

    A good friend told me how she discusses injustice with her children without making them feel or believe that they are victims. First, by discussing oppression in many contexts, you can show that humans have been oppressing each other since the beginning of time. Not only in the American context, not only whites over blacks. And she impresses upon them what I think is the most fundamental lesson – many of the most tragic episodes of oppression could have been avoided if the people in the middle, the people who weren’t overtly prejudiced, the people who just went with the flow, had just chose a side, and chose the side of anti-oppression. In almost all of the historical cases of subjugation, there was a small minority who grabbed power, against another small minority without power. And then there was a large majority in the middle, who were too scared to stand up and say “this isn’t right.” How different things would have been – genocides in Rwanda, Sudan, the Holocaust, the mid-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow after Reconstruction – had those people just said NO! This isn’t right!

    So we need to teach our children not only that oppression and injustice exist, but what to do when they see it, not only happening to them, but to others. When they see another kid being bullied on the playground, do they just go with the flow, thinking it’s not their place to step in, or do they choose the side of justice and have courage to take a stand? Are we modeling that behavior for our children? When we see injustice occurring, even within our own racial group, or in our church, do we just sit back and say nothing, or are we courageous and do we stand up and say, No, this isn’t right?

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    1. Exactly! That’s another of my pet peeves (as you well know). Black folk thinking we’ve cornered the market on oppression… It’s funny, this past year, I have been spending wayyy too much of my time defending non-Black folk! lolol In fact, on one blog, some “conscious” folk starting questioning my intention accusing me of “really loving the oppressor” because you “always defend them”. It’s tough sometimes finding that space, I’m apparently not “Black enough” for the “down with Whitey” crowd and I’m TOO Black for everybody else… lolol

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