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.”