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Monday, January 16, 2012

Racism in America from a Completely Different Point of View

Today is a day set aside to celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy and it really has me thinking this year. Baby #2 is going to be African American or biracial so I've been stewing over things I don't have to think about as much with W. I mean, of course we'd teach both of our kids about Dr King and his dream that one day, people would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. But I'm wondering how it will make them feel, and if those feelings will be different for each child. Will #2 worry about being judged by the color of their skin? And if so, will I, as a mother be able empathize properly with them?
I know when I think of the Jim Crowe laws and segregation and how recently they were present, I feel sick and ashamed that one human collective could treat another so terribly.
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 But how will it make #2 feel? Will I ever be able to truly empathize with them? Identify with their feeling? And how do I protect them from racism that still exists today (seriously people, it's 2012)? If  I can't shield them from it, I have to prepare them for it and give them the tools to rise about it with grace. Will I, as a white person be able to adequately do this? Sometimes I fear that I take too much for granted or block out too much hate with my rose colored glasses.
Can I teach #2 to simply ignore racism? I don't think so. Sometimes it's prevalence knocks me off my feet. Just the other day, we were outside talking with an older man from the neighborhood and he was telling us a story about a family that happened to be biracial and he called the children "lil' creamies." We both gasped and rolled our eyes at him, but he just went right on with the story like it was nothing.  The truth is, there is no protecting #2 from most situations because it's completely omnipresent.

I mean seriously... how insulting is this?!?
All we can do as parents is help our babies to learn that  it's the content of your character that matters, and not the color of your skin. And if they run into someone who sees color as a reason to think less of you or make fun of you, they're... well, they're big dummies and should be stamped as evolutionary throw-backs (ok, so maybe that's just adding to the problem a little). I think I better take a hard look at the path I plan to take as the parent in a multi racial family.

It's not my job to change the minds of people who see color first and judge based on stupid stereotypes. It is my job to make sure my children understand that some people think this way, and that it's not right. Do I teach them to ignore it, raise their chins and rise above? Or is that too passive? Is it ok for my children to just turn their cheek to someone saying racist things? I think it is. As long as they know that it is always safe to bring those hurtful things to me so we can discuss what they mean and why someone might say them.

What do you think? I need a little sage advice on this topic. I tend to obsess about things out of my control.
If anyone is reading this... throw your two cents my way.

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