Since the decision came down in Ferguson the news has been on fire…much like the city itself after rioters ransacked it and set it ablaze. Naturally everyone has an opinion though it all boils down to one thing: Other than a handful of actual witnesses, no one truly knows what happened that day. What we can, and must reside our faith in is that a grand jury reviewed all of the evidence and witness testimony and ultimately decided that Officer Wilson was not guilty. Like it or not, this is how our country operates.
Regardless of what happened that day, a whole new racial storm has erupted and is sending everyone in a tizzy. Again, everyone has an opinion and of course, I’m not segregated from those that do. But what I am most upset by are those of the parents trying to find ways to explain this to their children and more specifically, the parents who are taking the “white privilege” approach. For those that don’t already understand this term, it basically means that, as a white person, you should be aware that you are afforded an “easier life” than others simply because you are white.
This is where my brain gets boggled.
First of all, and I think any parent would agree, children don’t know racism until it’s taught to them. They don’t know they are any different than anyone else they see or play with. Hell, it takes them a couple years to even realize when they are looking at themselves in a mirror! So you think that shaming them for their color in some way is going to bring forth compassion for others OF color?! This is the same problem that parents of color bring forth by telling their children that they are different from white children. This is only breeding segregation and hatred and, ultimately, more racism. So my child is white. Does that mean I should “shame” her so she feels less valuable because she is technically (according to some schmuck, anyway) already “privileged”? Then she can grow up and not be an achiever of much but can at least take some sort of consolation knowing that she is “more privileged” than a black person? Bullshit. Simply put, that’s bullshit.
My child is no more or less privileged than any Black, Hispanic, Indian or Asian she will ever go to school or work with. She has exactly the same number of hours in each day as every great person in history did. She has the exact ability to make life decisions each and every day just like everyone else. There are an abundance of celebrities and leaders and great, powerful minds (many also of color by the way) who came from nothing, from suffering, from poverty and, yes, even from slavery. My daughter is no different.
My grandparents weren’t slave owners from the south. They came here from Europe in the aftermath of World War II where they knew hardship. Their families experienced concentration camps and torture and slavery and poverty. Real poverty. Collecting cigarette butts discarded by soldiers so papa could roll a secondhand cigarette from the left behind tobacco. Stealing shoes from the dead soldiers because they had none on their frozen feet. No government checks each month or insurance or food stamps to help get by. Poverty. Unending and uncaring, poverty. People were branded and shaved and tortured and experimented on like rats in a science lab. Killed and thrown in piles and discarded like garbage. And then they came here and became law-abiding citizens and still endured hardships and prejudices because they were different. Because they couldn’t talk the language well or couldn’t earn the same amount of money that other Americans did.
So yes, my “white” child is no different than any black child she will ever encounter whose families experienced oppression or difficulties in life. The black children in her school, regardless of their home life or history, will have the same potential for learning she does. (Though to be honest, they will probably have have even better scholarship opportunities than she will just solely based on their color…I mean, I doubt they will be handing out college scholarships to her simply because she’s “white”). But i’ll be damned if I let that define her or limit her somehow from being able to make something positive or successful for herself in life. I won’t “white shame” her into thinking she’s already over-privileged and doesn’t deserve every bit of the chance any other person would. The only thing that will accomplish is forcing her to think she is already higher-up than someone of color and create more ignorance and less drive for her to achieve great things in life. And at the same time i’ll be damned if I let her be branded into some group of slave-driving ancestors that she never belonged to simply because she’s “white”. Even if she had and in consideration for all the children out there who did, for the love of God, what would that have to do with HER?! With them? With here and now? With who SHE is? With who THEY are? Let it be a history lesson. Not a present day problem. White or black, we have got to stop making color a handicap.
She will be a woman too so as that “minority” does that mean I should tell her that she just won’t be able to do certain things in life because of her gender? What self-esteem could she have if she is brought up to feel ashamed of being white and a woman. Sure, she may encounter more hurdles as a woman but that won’t stop her from becoming whatever she wants to be if she’s willing to work hard for it. Black, white, yellow, purple; Male, female or freaking mermaid, you can do whatever you set your mind to. This is what parents need to tell their children. Black parents. White parents. Every parent.
Quit forcing our children to focus on their differences. We are ALL different. Can’t anyone see this is the problem? It’s time for parents to step up to the plate and stop forcing indifference and limitations on our children’s potential. They will encounter enough hurdles in life without us adding to them. If you want to prepare them for the world so they can be successful, start by giving them a fair chance, not a hindrance, not a complex, not a color. We choose what we pass down to our children from our pasts which are ALL riddled with difficulties. My grandparents taught us about their difficulties and used it to empower us and teach us that we can come from nothing and be and do whatever we want. That is what parents – black and white – need to be teaching their children. Not to be “victims” their whole life and let it hinder their abilities!!
The simple truth is that the people in Ferguson – black, white, yellow, whatever – are throwing a full-blown temper tantrum. If you’re searching for how to explain this situation to your child, tell them that. Because that is something they can understand. Teach them to behave and be respectful and to stand up for their beliefs appropriately without endangering others or neglecting to follow the laws. Because it’s not a color issue for children until you teach them that. It’s not a matter of privilege with children until you teach them that. Teach them principles; not privileges. We can all achieve greatness regardless of our environments, social status, upbringing, color or gender. If we teach our children from love, to love then all they will grow to know is love. If we teach our children hate and difference, we are only contributing to the problem. We are all one and, like it or not, we are on the same boat here. So if we don’t start paddling together we are just going to continue to get nowhere until we sink.
As parents we have just got to stop contributing to the problem.