How would you answer your children when they look at you with a pain in their eyes and ask you, “Why do White people hate Black people?” The question gives me pause. I know that this is the moment that I can no longer hide them from the world. No matter how hard I’ve tried to block it out, the ugliness has seeped in and touched my innocent children. From this moment on they will see themselves as different, as less than and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I floundered on how to respond, do I give them the same trite answer my Mother gave to me because she probably couldn’t answer the questions herself? When I asked her that same question thirty years ago, she said, “Not everyone is like that, you can’t lump them into one group.”
We are lumped into one group. When we protest, we’re called animals. I am not an animal. I don’t behave like an animal. I am an educated person. I have goals and aspirations. I have dreams for my children that do not include them getting shot at a routine traffic stop because they are Black males.
I’m tired of carrying the weight of the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the media against my race. I have three children, they all have the same father. I am not sitting at home collecting welfare and refusing not to work. I believe in hard work, education, and I teach my children the same. I am not loud or obnoxious, neither are my children. I am not the exception to the rule, the stereotype is.
Yet, here we are. Another Black man shot down in the street for nothing more than his Blackness, and the people will protest. We’ll be called animals for being angry that it’s happened yet again. This is not anything new; this is not a recent occurrence. We just have phones now and Facebook to broadcast it to the world. The world has not changed much since 1968, and I fear it never will.
I’m reluctant to answer my children when they ask me questions about race. I need to tread carefully and mask my feelings on the subject. It is my responsibility to teach them how to navigate in a White world and survive. I know the world will change them. It will take away their innocence at a young age. They will be forced to grow up earlier than their peers if they want to succeed in a world where the game is rigged against them.
Still, it begs the question, why?
In some ways, I am still that seven-year-old child, asking my Mother why my brother can’t play outside with his friends in that neighborhood. I still don’t understand why the color of someone’s skin makes them better or worse. I don’t think I ever will, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain it to my children in any way that they will ever understand. Instead, I do what all Black mothers do. I teach them how to behave, how to live in a world where they will be hated, not because they’ve done something wrong but because they were born Black.