As I wrote here, I’ve gotten some concern and push back from friends about how much I shared with my daughter about the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. They say I’m scaring her.
Tonight we marched through the streets with anarchists, beat drums, and listened to speakers from local rappers and poets to pastors and Nation of Islam members. A cold front blew in and it drizzled on us for over two hours. She was transfixed.
That fear you sense? It’s not hers. It’s yours. She’s just pissed. Maybe that’s what you’re afraid of…
And here are my daughter’s feelings about it in her own words.
How I felt last night: angry, bold, joyful, grateful, sad, proud.
I felt good being with the people I need to be with. I also think that one of the pieces of poetry really touched my heart and at that moment I knew I was not alone. I knew that there was people to be right at my side making me to be a part of my community and make sure that in this world that I’m in they are here to protect me. I’m trying to express how I feel and that is the most important part of me.
A post script from Mom: Since I posted the first part of this last night I’ve gotten a number of emails from white parents of children of color asking for advice about how to have these conversations with their children without scaring them. I knew how I wanted to answer the question but asked my daughter about her experience of last night to test my hypothesis. She proved my point perfectly above.
In a nutshell, it is flat out irresponsible and cruel to avoid preparing children of color for our racist world. It is equally critical to their safety and success as making sure they learn to read and cross the street. BUT if you only tell them about the hard stuff without surrounding them with a community that is working to make things better you’re only doing half the job and yeah, you’re going to scare the crap out of them. Sharing the hard stuff in an age-appropriate way and then empowering them with opportunities to effect change surrounded by people they know, love, and respect who share their experience of racism and take those experiences and turn them into protest, song, poetry, and dance that is the most powerful message a child of color can get.
So no, it’s not okay to avoid the conversations. It’s not okay to live in an all white environment and take field trips to places where your child will see people who look like her/himself. Your child doesn’t need a zoo. They need a community!!