Sunday, December 14, 2014

You're Right, Black Lives Do Matter...

A few days ago, I was in an online chat room arguing about “White Privilege” with a nincompoop. What he was saying was absurd-he changed his argument with each post, it was clear to me that he was basically a lemming who had given no real thought to what he actually believed, and that he was just parroting what media outlets had told him. 

Nincompoops generally irritate me for about five minutes, then I leave them in the dust and move on to the next relevant thing in my life.

But what has stuck with me for days from that discussion was the Black woman who posted (I am going to paraphrase because I can't find her original post to copy and paste, and I'm not sure if that's rude or unethical to do anyways without her permission) that “Being Black sucks and I am happy my daughter can pass for White. I hope her features and coloring don't change as she grows up [to look more “Black].”

Oh. My. God.

I just sat there and stared at the screen, absorbing her typed words. I can't get them out of my head, and I have gone back and forth over how I wanted to approach this issue, IF I even wanted to approach this issue, because it's such a loaded one, and I am continually told that I have no RIGHT to speak to these types of things, because I am White.

But since it's been cycling through my brain for three days now, and woke me up at 6:30 am on a Sunday, one of the only days of the week I can sleep as late as I want to, I'm going to go ahead and insist I do have the right to speak on this issue, and I hope that what I have to say about it can be taken with thoughtful consideration by persons of all colors who might stumble upon this entry.

Firstly, I have some questions.

Who taught this mother that the color of her skin was wrong? Was it a White person? Was it the media? Was it her own Black parents? Grandparents? Why is anyone teaching their kid that one color is “better” than another color? Why is anyone giving the message to their child that they should be ashamed of how they look? That their life will be hard, and disappointing, and dangerous, no matter how smart they are, or how hard they try? That they will never be good enough, or accepted, or appreciated, or respected, or valued, because they have a Black parent? Because that is the message this little girl is getting from her mother. And when one woman admits to such a thing, it makes me certain that there are more than just her who are perpetuating this horrible legacy.

It makes me certain that this type of thinking has been passed down through generations of families, and in fact, I have heard it from other Black parents...parents who teach their children that they must behave a certain way so as not to be arrested or abused by authorities for “walking while Black” or “driving while Black.” That little Black girls should straighten their hair so as to avoid their natural texture and curl. Pop stars who wear blonde wigs and blonde weaves, and get blue contacts. Black people who can “pass for White” and how this is a event that inspires jealousy amongst their darker skinned acquaintances.

Black parents, teachers, media darlings, and other role models who are teaching children, through their actions, their attitudes, their words, and their attentions that being Black is not ok...YOU are causing the problems with your kids! YOU are responsible for the little boys and girls who grow up and are lost, without an identity, unsure where they are supposed to fit in, how they are “supposed” to behave, who feel ashamed and angry that they are Black, victimized in a “White World" (as a point of fact, statisticians have shown approx. 70% of the world's population is not "White" and 30% is "White"...see here for the figures  ~~we do not live in a “White World” no matter how it may feel to people sometimes) and thus willing to turn to drugs, gangs, a life of crime, a lack of respect for authority, the disinterest in pursuing an education or any of the other social issues that statistics claim plague the Black community.

I say this because I know what happens when people are told they aren't good enough and won't amount to anything. They believe it. They believe it, and then they tell their kids the same horrible things, and their kids believe it, too. This defeatist cycle becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and lives are wasted.

ALL lives matter. ALL children have the potential to do great things. NO parent should be teaching their child to de-value themselves or others because of their skin color, or that their place in the world is lesser than any other.

This is not something that can be achieved by rallies, and protests. This is something that can only be achieved one family at a time. One parent at a time modeling self-worth, modeling what it means to belong to a community, modeling and teaching that you must first respect and value yourself before others will do so, because we teach people how to treat us.

These lessons are not skin-hue specific. This is the responsibility of every parent, every teacher, and while it should be the responsibility of every boob who pops up on our television screens, that will never happen, so yes, it makes the parent's job that much harder, but that's just the way it is.

White parents can spend all the energy in the world teaching their kids that they shouldn't judge a person's value or worth based on the color of their skin, but if Black kids are getting the message from their own parents that “Being White is better,” it's all for naught.

Your kids look to you to see how they should behave. Before they can talk, before you think they can even hear you or interpret your words, they are learning. They are learning how you feel about yourself, they are learning their own place in the world, they are learning their own value and self worth, and my God, you had better be teaching them that they are worth more than all the riches in the world and that they deserve a good life, and that their skin color is completely irrelevant to these facts.  


Instead of me just talking TO anyone reading this, I'd like to invite you to post a comment below if you've ever experienced someone from your own community making you feel ashamed of your own this issue something that occurs very rarely? Regularly? I am getting the impression that it's way more common than people realize or care to admit, but maybe that's not true. Please help by contributing to the discussion...when people can share their own experiences, we all understand an issue a little better. Thank you!

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