Generally speaking, I pride myself on the fact that I purpose to raise “well-balanced” children. Exposing them to art, science, music, language and cultures from around the world has been especially high on my priority list. I find myself daydreaming about my children’s post-high school adventures and all the places they’ll see, the people they’ll meet, and all the wonderful foods they’ll taste.
Most of the time, I believe that raising my kids to be honest, compassionate, responsible, curious, and kind will be enough to keep them safe.
Then reality hits.
I sit down and have to explain to my children, yet again, why and how there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people marching with torches to declare their hate towards people like us. That the tension in the air will likely not dissipate anytime soon, and that the stories and wars in history books may be on the horizon again. Ridiculous.
And you may be asking, how do my children respond? The reality is, my children didn’t have a response to speak of. We spoke about the details, but because it’s something so “normal” and expected it wasn’t something that evoked fear or any other response.
After the events in Charlottesville, the folks that seem to be the most shocked and surprised are the people who have, so far, been in denial of the ever-present existence of racism. I told my two oldest kids about the violence, showed them pictures, and they responded with, “They’re still doing that…smh.”
That, in and of itself, is a powerful reaction. They have seen and interacted with overt and covert hate so much that they are desensitized and not surprised.
This situation brings a huge opportunity for progressive white people who have long thought that things were much, much better to sit down with other white people to understand that things may look different, but the racism has remained. And sadly, that’s a reality people of color and their children know all too well.
The thing is, this conversation didn’t start last week for us.
This conversation started in the mind of my determined 12-year-old-self, who was taunted and jeered by her white classmates in private school. That conversation was formed on dates with white men who “could relate” to my blackness because they grew up poor, even though I did not. That conversation became lecture in the moments I was complimented on my intellect and “good English” as if I were a unicorn.
From the conception of my children until the day I die, it will be an act of survival to inform my children of the hate and prejudice they will face being born in this country.
It is a burden mothers and fathers in my community have had to bear for innumerable generations. Fearing your child– your sweet, rambunctious baby– may turn up dead or imprisoned because he is not seen as human – that is a reality. This is crap. This is oppression of the most sinister kind.
And yet we thrive.
It is an act of revolution to raise my children with the freedom to be themselves.
So, I do. I do not live in fear. I will not teach my children fear. I will continue to grow them in love and awareness. No matter who you are and what you look like, I encourage you to do the same.
Jacquelyn Clemmons is a holistic healer, artist, doula, and mother of 3. She is dedicated to writing, creating, and working in her local community to bring about awareness and change. Connect with her at www.delaluzwellness.com.