When Your Child Asks You About Racism
I cannot recall a time when I faced the shame of being a different race...there was once an incident when a girl in my neighborhood excluded me from playing with her because I was not white. She even enlisted her little sister and another neighborhood kid to join her fun at my disposal of being the only minority...but that little disgraceful act on her part didn't affect me. Other racial escapades were that of people making simple childish jokes calling me Chinese and intimating an Asian accent for which I did not have. The only accent I truly had as a child was an English accent due to the fact that I learned to speak English while living in Brussels, Belgium, but that had digressed by the time I reached late elementary education.
I grew up in a white neighborhood and was raised by a white father, and only him. My step-father, James Cleary (Irish origin) gained custody of me and my two younger siblings after he and my mother divorced. The custody "battle" wasn't a struggle. I told the judge and lawyers I wanted to live with my DAD. Yes, the man who has been in my life since I was 5 years old. I was maybe 11 when the divorce was over.
During my adolescence and young adulthood, I made white friends but, I had closer black friends whom were from different types of homes, backgrounds, and demographics.
My father never really spoke of racism with me, maybe he did not know how to or did not think I would face it or thought that if I did face it, than I would know how to compose myself, I cannot be sure the reason of his absent tongue on this topic. Even now, at 31, I cannot strongly say I was ever the subject to ridicule or injustice due to my race....then again, I am an Asian woman and the race war in American seems to be predominately between White and Black, with the occasional Middle Eastern mixed in.
My children, Vanessa and Gabriel, are of mixed race...half Asian and half Black. Since the only Asian link in my family is well...ME...and my sister, my children only know of their white family (my side) and their black family (their father's side and some very close friends on my side.)
My daughter, who is now 11 years old and anticipating middle school in the fall, expressed to me that she does not feel fully accepted by her friends (mostly white) because she is different. Vanessa sometimes stumbles on expressing her feelings but, she did not say anything that alerted me to cause an uproar against the parents of her friends, no she is just beginning to identify that she is different from them and that she knows she is black and they are not. She knows her friends are not racist but, she also knows there is such a thing as racism.
I explained to my first born that she will make many friends over the years and she may face some people with harsh tones against her for no particular reason other than the fact she is different. I let her know not to give anyone courage over her because Being Black is Not a Weakness. I said to her, "They can hate you for your skin but, don't let them defeat your accomplishments."
Even though Vanessa knows of racism, she does not yet know the full extent on how it can harm her and the people around her. Her life as a "Black Girl" is still pubescent. I cannot always protect her from what she may see or experience in the world but, that will not stop me from informing her. I have asked a few of my black friends about how to address certain race issues with my daughter and one of them brought up something that I did not even think about..."She may face prejudice from her own race." WHAT?!
My children may come across people of their color not accept them because again, they are different. Vanessa and Gabriel may not be "black enough" for certain people...how do I explain THIS to my babies?
I do not know all the demographics of who reads my posts but, if you are a parent, no matter what race you are, the guidance starts with you. Don't let your child be afraid to express who they are. Don't subject your child to lesser means so they have to grow up being the "stereotype" of what may go against them. Don't let your child escape punishment of what is morally and justifiably wrong. We may want to protect our children but, let us not protect them so much that they are blinded by only our views or someone else's views of the world. Raise them to see in all dimensions of love, life, and liberty.