Forever Young, But Growing Old

A travel and lifestyle blog for Baby Boomers

How do you talk to a 5 year old about racism?

Recently I ran across a blog post by the mother of three young sons, “A Mother’s White Privilege” by Manic Pixie Dream Mama. I was reminded that those of us in this country, who are white Caucasians, do not have to worry when our teenage sons walk out the door that they will be profiled by every other white Caucasian with whom they come in contact. It’s not something to be proud of.

Courtesy WFTV

Courtesy WFTV

I was also reminded of the time, when all three of my children were in elementary school. We went up to Sanford for the Martin Luther King Day parade. While standing on the curb, one of the kids commented that we were the only white people there. It was a good lesson in what it might feel like to be a minority. Of course, we had no fear during this peaceful gathering to show respect for Dr. King and his efforts for equality. Little did we know what would happen a couple of decades later in this same town.

os-michael-brown-rally-orlando-is-ferguson-20140816

Courtesy Orlando Sentinel

As I reflected on the news of the day out of Ferguson, I had a revelation which might sound ridiculous to others. We have three young grandsons, one of whom has a different dad than the other two. He is of “mixed race” (is that what they call it these days?) Through a roll of the dice, DNA put together this beautiful boy with curly hair and big round hazel-colored eyes. He picked up every gene from his African-American father, except for the pigment of his skin.

isaiah

When we are out and about with this 5 year old wonder child, there are no eyebrows raised, nor concerned stares, because his skin matches ours and his brothers. His mixed race is a non-issue with the rest of the family…we just don’t think about it. He has a loving extended family and sees his dad when he can make the trip here from his out-of-country deployments with the Air Force; and his grandparents visit as often as they can from Oklahoma. The fact that their skin is of a different color is irrelevant to us.

But, as a result of Ferguson, I now worry that, as he grows older, he might be perceived as a threat to those who hold bigotry in their hearts. He might actually experience the prejudice that racism spawns. This discrimination would affect the whole family, not just our grandson. I do not want to have that conversation with the other two boys and destroy the innocence of their childhood. In their young unbiased minds there is no reason that any one of them should be treated differently. Will they face a cruel moment when they see their brother facing hatred fed by bigotry?

I always thought this country would outgrow racism. Robert Kennedy once said that all prejudice can be stopped by parents. If we don’t pass along such hatred, it will just disappear. But that is naïve thinking. When we see a town, like Fruitland Park, having to fire two from its police force for KKK involvement, it’s as if time has stood still, or are we moving backwards?

In the words of Manic Pixie Dream Mama “For a mother, white privilege means your heart doesn’t hit your throat when your kids walk out the door. It means you don’t worry that the cops will shoot your sons. It carries another burden instead. White privilege means that if you don’t school your sons about it, if you don’t insist on its reality and call out oppression, your sons may become something terrifying. Your sons may become the shooters.”

We definitely need to have that conversation…

17 Comments

  1. Magnificent post, Susan. You made the personal universal, and the universal personal.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Dave, your comments mean a lot to me!

      Reply
  2. Did you take a picture when at the MLK parade? Because the only reason you were there was to show your liberal friends.

    And oh what a surprise, the baby daddy is not present very often. You know what they say.

    Once you go black. You’re a single mom

    Reply
    • Apu, at first my insult at your words took over and I spammed your comment. Then, after deliberation and discussion, I decided to let your words fly free, regardless of your inane intentions.

      Reply
  3. Great post Susan. The best way to address the screaming big picture headlines is from the grass roots and the different angle. I know many of our NSNC colleagues do so in their work and it’s clear you deliver the message here too…far from the hype and shouting.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Telly, for your kind words.

      Reply
  4. Great points, Susan.

    We have two bi-racial granddaughters, Caucasian mothers and Black fathers.Forecasts for their futures are mixed, but so far they seem to have had little problem. Truth is, one of them looks more Italian than “American,” and the other is only 11 and doesn’t get out much.

    As they’ve grown, the adults in their family have slipped in bits about race relations — living in Gettysburg, Pa. offers plentiful opportunities.

    Racism won’t just “go away.” A trait of humanity is fear of “Not-Us.” But maybe those of us who have learned that “they” bleed red (remember “To Sir with Love”) and love their children just “we” bleed and love can pass that along.

    Reply
    • John, thanks for the reply, from one who walks in my shoes!

      Reply
  5. Susan: What a fine, fine essay — heartfelt and worried and filled with love. Thanks for writing it. Thanks for sharing it!

    Reply
  6. Well written and to the point. Great job, Susan.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Sharon!

      Reply
  7. Great post and a heartfelt cry for humanity to be restored. It seems compassion is on ration and people have forgotten that we all have the capacity to feel pain just as we can choose to feel love — or at least, not hate.

    Your grandson looks delightful and I can only imagine the fear your feel for his future. Perhaps the, bi-racial children of the world will show us all the way, we can but hope.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Toni, see you in a few…heading to the Y!

      Reply
  8. What a powerful and poignant post, Susan. You nailed it!

    Reply
  9. God Bless you Susan. It takes a really blessed soul to see beyond color. You an example for my firm believe that not all whites are racist.Posts like yours will help alleviate the fears and worries of the black community knowing there are white people who sees black people and other people of colors as fellow human beings deserving equal and fair treatment.Once agian, God Bless you a million fold. You have healed a lot of hearts.

    Reply
  10. As long as your grandsons do not follow the path of, sadly, most American black males, they’ll be ok.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>