To My White Children about Their Black Friends

When I was a kid, a black girl in the neighborhood accused me of being a racist.

I threatened to tattle if she didn’t give my toy back. So, she yelled, “You don’t like me because I’m black!” (I wrote about it here.)

My issue wasn’t that the two of us got into a playground squabble over a digital pet. No, that type of thing happens all the time between kids.

What bothered me was the way this girl was COACHED into the belief that arguments between friends might have something to do with our different colors:

“…there’s not a doubt in my mind that she was told by an influential adult in her life that people would hate her ‘because she’s black,’ and she took it to heart.

I have no way to know whether that same influential person also explained that people wouldn’t like her if she tried to steal their toys.  I also can’t say whether she was taught responsibility and respect for others at some point after this story took place…

But I DO know this young, black girl was given the Race Card before she even hit puberty–and, like any intelligent child would, she tried to use it the first chance she got…

I believe the adult who gave her the ‘because you’re black’ talk ought to be ashamed. It’s entirely possible that my friend and I could have gone our whole lives playing and fighting and making up, without skin ever being mentioned…except someone in that little girl’s life told her to watch out for racism.

So racism became an issue for her.”

I won’t repost my entire essay here. But I encourage you to read it.

I still believe very firmly that well-meaning but misguided parents are causing more race issues than they are solving. I believe it is wrong for well-meaning but misguided parents to tell black children how “different” they are.

And I’m very disappointed to see that a post went viral this week, encouraging white parents to have “the Talk” with their kids about the “differences” between blacks and whites, too…

The author wrote “To the White Parents“:

“I need you to be talking to your child about racism…

I know that in a white family it is easy to use words like ‘colorblind’ and feel like we’re enlightened and progressive. But if you teach your kids to be colorblind, they may not understand the uniquely dangerous situations my child can find himself in. If you tell your kids racism happened a long time ago and now it’s over and use my family as an example of how whites and blacks and browns can all get along together, you are not doing me any favors. Just because you haven’t seen obvious examples of racism in your own life doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

This is disappointing, because just because a black person gets made fun of, or has their hair touched, or even gets shot and killed, it doesn’t mean it was “because of racism,” either.

It’s disappointing because our children shouldn’t have to get over their natural colorblindness, just because their parents see color EVERYWHERE.

It’s disappointing because I have, in fact, “seen obvious examples of racism in my own life”–but, unfortunately, it was the kind caused by “the Talk” that was supposed to prevent it.

I believe wholeheartedly that racism continues to dominate our headlines because parents and teachers are holding onto it with both hands and encouraging the next generation to grab on as well.

I know it’s done out of fear and a desire to protect.  I know they have the best intentions.

But, because parents are having “the Talk” about racism with their kids, I have to discuss it with mine as well…and it won’t sound like the mothers of black sons may want.  

Instead, I’ll need to have a Talk with my kids about why so many parents are having a “Talk” with their kids.

This is what mine will sound like:

“Things may be changing between you and your black friends. And this makes me very sad. But black boys and girls are often told by their parents/teachers/television that they will eventually be treated badly by people with your skin color.

So, the kids you love playing with now may start to look at you with suspicion and frustration later.

It’s not their parents’ fault. They simply believe that all black children have a different experience growing up in American than what white children have. And they believe they’re protecting your black friends when they tell the ‘things-are-different-for-you’ story. Parents of black children honestly don’t realize they’re making things worse when they interrupt your beautiful, colorblind relationship by insisting that colorblindness is bad.

They believe they’re doing the right thing when they teach your black friends to ‘celebrate’ something as tiny and insignificant as skin pigmentation.  
So, though I don’t want to have this conversation, I feel you deserve to know why things could be more complicated as you continue doing life with your different-colored friends.

United humans are a dangerous force, so there are those who would put wedges between as many of us as possible. One way they succeed is by maintaining the story that black people have always (and will always) be treated ‘differently’ from white ones. Our enemy wants us to believe that skin-color prevents people from truly, completely understanding each other. And, if you really want to continue a relationship with your black friends, the only way is to agree that their appearance makes things very different for them in ways you’ll never fully grasp.
Please be patient with them. Be more patient and loving than I have been myself. Hold on to the things you’ve always enjoyed doing with your black friends, and don’t let your anger with the Enemy turn into hatred for the many people (like their parents) who have fallen for his lies. I pray that you will be armed with the truth, but also the Wisdom for how to use it while interacting with your peers.

Don’t apologize for injustices that don’t actually exist–because that’s the same as lying. But don’t just throw up your hands and walk away if/when your friends become obsessed with color, either.

Because seeing those friendships fall apart isn’t what ANY of your parents really want….even if the things we’ve done with the best intentions have actually made that harder.”

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11 thoughts on “To My White Children about Their Black Friends

    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Correct.

      I’m giving my children the race card-card, so they will hopefully not be blindsided when their black friends are coached by THEIR parents, and the relationship is in danger of suffering…

      Hopefully, the next generation will be able to overcome the racism that “white mothers with black children” seem to enjoy perpetuating…

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  1. Katerina

    So are you saying racism isn’t real, and that black parents shouldn’t talk to their kids about racism? I’m not understanding exactly what point you’re trying to make. A child says a childish thing, and that means black parents turn their kids racist? Are you saying white parents don’t talk to their kids about race? I can confirm that many(most?) definitely do.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I’m saying that black parents shouldn’t tell their kids they are disadvantaged by their skin color, yes.

      There is absolutely no evidence that people struggle more often or more severely because of their skin color.

      The way children are raised is OVERWHELMINGLY a better predictor of how successful they are, regardless of their appearance.

      Black children from stable homes tend to thrive.

      White children from unstable homes tend to struggle.

      Yet, still, mothers with black children keep insisting that everyone tell the white kids about how hard it is to be black.

      Not how hard it is to be raised by a single mom.

      Not how hard it is to have very little money or clothes or food.

      Instead, this white, middle-class woman believes her son will struggle extra hard because he’s dark. And she wants me to tell my kids the same story.

      Well, I can’t tell my kids that black kids (of all backgrounds) need extra understanding and support, because it isn’t true. Instead I’ll say, basically, “Your friend’s mother wants me to tell you THIS. So, I’m telling you that she believes the world is more unfair for him than it is for you. And she believes that it has something to do with the fact that he’s black and you’re white. You may not agree, as I don’t agree. But that’s what she believes. So, please keep being friends, even when parents and teachers and the TV are trying to make the two of you focus on skin color instead of character.”

      Hope that helps. 🙂

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      1. Katerina

        First off, I think you’re unfairly putting a lot of words into the mouths of black women. They are capable of worrying about multiple issues at once. Second there is a lot of evidence of racisms continued impact on the daily lives of minorities. Here are a fairly recent studies: Black faces are perceived as less trustworthy https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110425153551.htm Black people are less likely to receive proper medical care https://news.virginia.edu/content/study-links-disparities-pain-management-racial-bias Black people are less likely to receive aid from bystanders in medical emergencies http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0XH23K

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  2. Katerina

    I apologize for the messy layout of my posts. I’m typing from my phone. No disrespect intended, but I feel like you must not have any especially close relationships with any black people, or you live in an extraordinarily progressive part of the country if you’ve really never seen racism aimed at blacks. Even then, I think it’s quite presumptuous to basically imply that black people are lying if they say they’ve experienced racism, or anyone for that matter. What happens when the child does experience racism? Tell them it’s all in their head?

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Those are great questions–and I always appreciate when someone thinks through an issue thoroughly. So, thanks! 🙂

      I don’t mean to imply that black people are lying about their feelings. I believe they have been TAUGHT to feel more sensitive about things, even when those things aren’t technically racist–like when a white child touches their hair or asks why they’re covered in paint, or something equally harmless that kids might do when noticing physical differences.

      I’ve worked with children for years, and at some point, ALL of them will fight or hurt each other somehow. So, whenever one of my students gets treated unfairly–whether they are black, white, girls, boys, rich, or poor–I always treat them the same.

      I say, “That other child was wrong! He/She should say sorry.” (And, usually, it takes five minutes before they switch roles and the OTHER is crying… Kids are ridiculous.) 🙂

      At any rate, I teach ALL of my children to treat others the way they want to be treated.

      But what I DON’T teach them is: “You boys will never know how hard it is to be a girl…” Or “You black students have special problems the white ones can’t understand.”

      That doesn’t help anyone.

      It only reinforces the idea that our physical differences are these BIG DEALS.

      The cool thing is, we don’t have to teach the kids any special rules for getting along. They already know how to play (and fight and play and fight and play) TOGETHER…

      The adults just have to stop ruining it by planting seeds of suspicion and fear. We need to stop suggesting that you can look at a person and put them into a category of either “victim” or “privileged.” (And that goes for BOTH black AND white parents who give their kids that message.) I honestly believe kids of all color will do just fine if we stop with all the prejudice-forming “talks.”

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  3. Katerina

    Non of the links I put in my other post showed up. Are we allowed to post links? Because if we are, I have plenty of evidence for racism still impacting the lives of minorities today. Is it so severe that they’ll struggle through life because of it? Not in most cases. But it’s still there, and I think ignoring it is dishonest at best, and at worst suggests that the people bent on ignoring it want to see it continue.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I tried “allowing” your post, but the links still didn’t show up. So I’m not sure how to include them. I’m sorry! :/

      But I still don’t believe doctors and nurses are giving black people worse medical care. Or that rating someone with a “less trustworthy face” is necessarily important. (Women are usually seen as more friendly than men. Does it matter? Not really.) Most of the time, we all take the same set of statistics and then INTERPRET them according to the different stories our teachers and parents told us. So, at the end of the day, they’re not super helpful.

      Anyway, the more we allow our black and white children to grow up together, the less they will be suspicious of each other… It’s certainly not helping the problem for black and white parents alike to tell their kids “colorblindness” is BAD.

      Treating everyone like a human rather than a color is never bad.

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