How’s a Black Kid to Feel?
For myself, growing up in New Orleans, I didn’t know what overt racism was. For the record, I have had white teachers. Homegrown, but white nonetheless, and they served as my only frame of reference of white people. It wasn’t until I traveled 45 minutes North to Hammond, LA for college at Southeastern University that I experienced first hand what racism truly looked like. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was an enlightening experience, but things settled and I moved forward. Then, fast forward to eight years later to July 13, 2013 – it was the beginning of me becoming overwhelmed.
One month before the birth of my son, my black son, I sat, fixated on my television. Troubled. Anxiously anticipating the verdict of the Trayvon Martin’s accused murderer. I’d assumed things were different, so there was no reason his accuser wouldn’t be held responsible for murdering an innocent young boy right? “NOT GUILTY.”
The heartbreak, fear, anger, and confusion I felt in that very moment remains impossible to capture in words. I remember holding my pregnant belly and feeling pain and feeling empathy for his parents and all parents who would now be a little more afraid their black sons may not make it home to them each night. Unfortunately, stories of black lives cut short and/or being reduced to worthlessness are becoming all too common now.
I grow weary watching the news. I grow angry watching the injustices and anticipating the next breaking news alert, the next mother wrapped in grief during a press conference, the next high profile bigot brought onto a national network to debate controversial views for ratings, and worst of all, the mindless and insensitive rants and raves of #45 (whom I refuse to acknowledge as president) blasting across my television and my social media accounts.
I grow concerned for what our children perceive and understand to be normal.
- Do they even understand what is taking place in the world they exist in? (Most of my high school students are more concerned with which girls like them and Lil Uzi Vert.)
- Should we continue to shield them (keep them ignorant) to protect them?
- Should we enlighten and expose them to protect them?
Interestingly, I know my white educator colleagues feel pressure during these times to do no harm, but the irony is I feel it even more. How do I keep up the act of reminding my students they are beautiful, intelligent and worthwhile, when I am feeling worn down? I don’t have the answers, but for now and more than ever, I’m motivated to strengthen my faith so when tasked with having to provide an explanation, I can continue to spread love and help them believe that despite the current and unfortunate events taking place, they do matter.