5. Defend your child—particularly when s/he is faced with racism.
I know this is hard for some people to believe, but children/ people of color continue to experience racism- even though we have a President who’s half Black. The most devastating experiences are when we’re confronted with others’ ignorance, and the person we seek for support doesn’t validate our feelings. I can recall multiple moments when I felt as though I was experiencing racism, and when I sought support from an adult, s/he would say I was being too sensitive, or even questioned if I was telling the truth. The first time I was called the n-word, I told a teacher, and she told me to get over it. A classmate told me that his mother said all Black people are ugly, and when I told my teacher, he complained, “You’re always crying,” and dismissed me. Yes, I’ve always been a crier, but I think these moments deserved attention. Such silencing of my feelings further isolated me from my school community, and made me feel as though my feelings were stupid. Now, as a teacher, I am very sensitive to moments of racial tension in my class, and take precautionary measures to try to prevent such occurrences. When they do come up, I handle them with care, and never ignore them.
While most teachers failed me when I needed them most, fortunately my mother didn’t. When I reported such instances to my mother, she always took them seriously. Her usual shy personality took a backseat when I told her about, or when she saw acts of prejudice. When able, she confronted those being prejudice or racist, and called them on their ignorance. In the case of the boy who told me his mother said all Black people are ugly, my mom sat in the parking lot, and waited for his mother after school. When the boy’s mother got to school, my mom got out the car, as I jumped into the backseat and ducked from not knowing what to expect. My mom didn’t get wild, or even that loud, she simply confronted her with what I told her, and shamed her for telling her son such lies. My mom handled herself with respect. She may or may have not changed this family’s view on race, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that she justified my feelings that such things shouldn’t be said to me, or about my community, and modeled how to confront racist statements.
This wasn’t the only time my mother stood up for me when people were treating me, or us, differently because I’m half Black. There was the lady following me and my brown friend at the drugstore because she thought we were stealing, my fifth grade teacher who was simply a mess of prejudice (I think my grandmother actually confronted her), the man in the passport line who questioned how we could be related, racist relatives, and many others. It may have been extra work to check all these people, it may have been, at times, awkward, but her refusal to allow people to speak to me or treat me wrong because I’m half Black validated my feelings , as well as showed me how I should and should not be treated.
As a parent of a child of color, you must be prepared to deal other people’s ignorance. Some of this ignorance may come from your own family or friends. I suggest not ignoring moments of racism, because ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, nor does it deal with how your child’s feelings. While it may not always be possible to confront everyone who treats you and your family wrongly, at the very least, you can talk to your child about their feelings, and remind them that such moments are wrong. My mother’s insistence to call people out on their behaviors and assumptions has validated my beliefs that people shouldn’t treat me differently because I’m half Black, as well as empowered me in speaking, and writing about racial justice.