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Despite the rhetoric, we are not all created equal.

Despite how far our country has come, racism is a problem that our children will inevitably encounter and contend with.

Despite the discomfort and intense emotions this topic often evokes, we cannot ignore it away – for ourselves, or the kids we love.

The following are excerpts from the article A Brown Mother’s letter to her Sons and a White Mother’s letter to her Son. It is moving, thought-provoking, and if nothing else can open our hearts and minds to different perspectives on race and how to address racial inequalities with children. Although these letters were written in response to the Trayvon Martin verdict, they do not actually address this tragedy – instead, they focus on the day-to-day realities that people of different skin colors face. They reflect the sincere efforts of two different mothers – two friends – trying to inform and prepare their children for a grown-up world that is not always fair and just. They are sobering and well-written letters, and I hope you take the time to read them in full.

***

My dear beautiful brown sons,

First, foremost, and always, I want you to know that you are so deeply loved. I consider it one of my highest honors to raise you…

Since I know you will not be immune from racial incidents, I want you, with the help of your loving community, to prepare yourself.

I need you to start mobilizing now for the ills that await you.

I want you to help you, to the best of my ability, to assemble a First Aid Kit for Racial Wounds. Some injuries will be scrapes and require a different treatment and healing process than the more life and soul-threatening injuries.

Make decisions about any and all these incidents before they happen because my sons, they will happen. While there are still a variety of other situations we will have to work through, let’s start with these:

  • You’re called a racial slur(s)
  • Racist jokes said in your company
  • A police officer profiles you, pulls you over, degrades you
  • You are followed in a store or on the street
  • You are told that your admittance or job employment is because you took a white person’s spot
  • Parents don’t want you dating their daughter or son

Choose your responses wisely.

Turn your pain into activism.

Remember, if you chose to respond with violence, be prepared for violence. You will always be the one to take the blame.

I know and you must know, that you can die from being brown/black in America. So, be ever so careful…”

***

“My Dear Beautiful White Son,

It’s really hard for us white folks to talk about race. We don’t really have to talk about it.  We can ignore it.   Because genetics made your skin white, because you inherited a legacy or perhaps you could say you won a lottery that makes white skin, your skin, “normal” in our culture, because you get to feel normal all the time you can spend the rest of your life never talking about or thinking about what it means to be white unless you want to…

  • We all feel badly about unfairness.  But feeling bad isn’t enough.  *Do something* to make the world better.  Speak up against racist jokes, point when white folks show bias, even when it’s unconscious, even when we mean well, even when we think we aren’t racist

  • Always remember how lucky you are.  It sounds funny but try to notice all the times you don’t have to think about being white. Ask yourself how would my experiences have been different if I were black/brown?

  • Never tell a person of color that their experiences of racism aren’t real or have nothing to do with race.
  • Don’t be afraid to mess up, talking about race is scary and you will make mistakes.  When you do, don’t try to justify your mistake, just say I’m sorry and try not to do it again.

  • You will see lots of stereotypes portrayed in the media, you will see lots of “dangerous black men” and “smart Asian kids”.  Like weeds these will pop up in your brain even when you don’t want them to, we all have to constantly weed these stereotypes out of our brains, it’s a chore that never ends.

I love you and know you to be kind and strong.  I’m always here to talk with you about any and all of these issues, and I know you’re going to be a great man who cares deeply about making the world a better place…”

To read these letters in full, click here.

This is a challenging subject. I welcome your reflections.

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4 Responses to “We Can’t Pretend That Skin Color Isn’t an Issue”

  1. I completely agree that skin color is an issue! This is a great blog. I hope that people begin to open their eyes and see that parents have to teach children how to not only take pride in their race, but to also be respectful of others’ culture as well!

    • Mo says:

      Mercedes, I completely agree. Even more than words, actions are our greatest teachers. Beyond having conversations with children about these issues, we must model what pride and respect for ourselves & others actually looks like! What we do will always teach more than what we say. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  2. Duncan Sings-Alone says:

    This is a lovely, thought provoking blog. Thanks for doing it.

    Duncan Sings-Alone

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