Oy! My mind has been in a million places this week. Apologies for the mistaken title and reference.
Hope and I were in a bit of a bubble for the last week and half or so. After I made the decision to say goodbye to The Furry One, I just kind of shut down. Truth be told I’m still kind of closed for business, but that’s for another post. We certainly were aware that Michael Brown was killed by a police officer. I was aware of the decline of Jefferson into a bit of chaos over the last week, but mentally and emotionally I was elsewhere. There was a lot of Disney Channel watching. There was a lot of Shark Week. There was little news watching, together anyway.
I would watch the news late at night. Read the news articles, watch videos, read blogs about Brown, his death, the frustrated, hurt and angry town besieged by tanks, snipers and a media circus. My heart hurt. My head hurt. I’d turn it off and return to my own grief. I’ve done this every day for 10 days.
Last night I told Hope we were going to watch Anderson 360 to.
Sigh. She whined. And then she started to watch. Then she started to wonder out loud and the questions came.
The questions she had. The commentary on race. How she described what she was hearing, thinking, seeing, believing. It’s disheartening. She deconstructed *everything.* I hardly know what to even say about it all.
The idea that somehow she has to be less threatening to others as a young black child…we talked about that. There was a lot of, “…and that’s why mom tells you to…” do something that is a tactic to be as non-threatening as possible. You have to earn the right to be completely authentic, delightfully and meaningfully confrontational and candid as a brown child. Not everyone will be comfortable with that you. These were difficult things I told her.
She hates the police. She sees them as the “system.” She’s always been very data-driven and evidence based, and Hope’s evidence says, most compellingly, that the system and all its players are not to be trusted. I wonder whether she will always have such distrust. I shudder at how she might react to being confronted by law enforcement. I cry when I think that she might be killed because of her lack of trust in those who are sworn to protect and serve.
Her anger, and mine, about an unarmed young man, just 5 years her senior, being shot in the street and left there for hours was palpable. I think she would march in the streets if she could. I would so be there with her.
I’ve been thinking about all the code-switching I’ve been trying to teach her. These lessons are second nature to me, but she questions me all the time about them. “But why do I have to….” “Because,” I reply, “You don’t want people thinking XX about you.” What I really mean is, you will find a lot of White people who think XX about you already, and you can’t give them any reason to keep believing that or worse: you need to make the White people around you feel comfortable.
Grammy has long told me this world is made for the comfort of a dominant few.
I don’t want to teach my kid to not like or trust any group of people. But I also have a responsibility to talk about and teach her ways to navigate in brown skin. I wish it wasn’t different, but it is. It’s a blessing to be privileged in so many ways, but to lack privilege in something so obvious as the color of our skin…
Sigh. It’s hard to discuss and explain to a 13 year old who’s only lived with me since January. I remember when she asked me months ago why was it ok to kill Black boys? It must be ok because it happens with alarming frequency followed by narratives that paint the kids as deserving of their plight and a killer walking away into the sunset. That’s what she sees. A lot of times that’s what I see.
I’ve been doing diversity work for more than a decade. I’m good at it too. But now, with my own kid, with her unique history…it’s a whole different ball game.
There’s so very much more I could stumble through on this topic in this space but I’m going to just have to leave this right here for the moment. There’s been another shooting in St. Louis.