The world is not their oyster.
November 8, 2016:
Racism won. Sexism won. Xenophobia won. Ignorance won. Misogyny won. Trump won.
November 8, 2016.
The day I knew the world was not my brown kids’ oyster. My brown daughter was screwed. My brown son was screwed. America gave them the finger.
They’d heard it all.
“Grab them by the pussy.” “Build the wall.” “Arabs.” “Muslims.” “Nasty woman.”
They’d seen it all.
The disgraceful way he spoke to her on the debate stage. Black people getting dragged out of his rallies. Swastikas.
They are 6 and 8. How, in good faith, can I tell them, “You can be anything. You can do anything.”
The world isn’t their oyster.
A week after the election, their father—my ethnically Indian husband, born and raised in America—was chased down a street and called an “Arab.” It wasn’t a compliment.
My daughter asked, “Will Daddy be killed for being black?”
I said no. I thought maybe. I also thought, so could I, so could you.
So could you.
Did I mention they are 6 and 8?
I told their teachers, both white. They cried. But they did nothing to assuage her fear.
I joined a few parents at their school (urban! public!) in writing a letter to the school administration, asking them to acknowledge that cultural inclusion was a pedagogical priority. Barely anyone signed on. Dear Un-woke White Liberals, Fuck You.
The world is not their oyster.
So, what do you do, as a mother? As a brown woman who has experienced racism and sexism your whole life and the treachery that lies at the intersection?
Do I tell them “You can do anything!” when it’s a lie?
Do I tell them people will demean you, possibly assault you, for being a brown woman or a brown man? That truth is soul-crushing.
Neither option is terribly enticing. I haven’t come to a solid conclusion but here is what I’m doing in the interim.
- Swallowing my pride (and heart and judgment) and taking them to that same freaking school every day.
- Spending time and energy meeting people of color so my kids can be surrounded by people and kids who look like them.
- Which means spending less time with white people.
- Giving money to women running for office.
- Giving money to men of color running for office.
- Even if it’s just $5.
- Pouring my heart and soul into my company In This Together Media. We create diverse children’s books, which is more important now than ever before.
- Giving zero fucks what anyone thinks as to what I say and the manner in which I say it.
- The louder I’ve gotten, the more white folks walk way. The more people of color gravitate.
- That’s a good thing.
- Continue to consume media, rather than dig my head in the sand.
- And engage my kids in what’s happening in the world rather “protect” them from the reality.
- As it turns out, not engaging is a luxury for wealthy white people. Poor white people and people of color don’t get to pretend like the world isn’t racist, classist and sexist.
- Keep my eyes and ears open to EVERYTHING. The world is not their oyster, but I’m still their mother and it’s my number #1 job to protect, inspire and nurture them.
So I’m all ears. If anyone has a good idea as to parenting brown and black kids in this horrific – and it is HORRIFIC – culture, please email me.
Saira Rao is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of In This Together Media, as well as the author of Chambermaid (Grove Press) and The Madlands (forthcoming).