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Friday, April 6, 2018

Why does it always have to be about race?




Whenever I meet someone new or get a FB friend request from a white person I've met recently, I hesitate. I worry. Will they think I talk about race too much? Will they still want to be my friend when they learn that I have a Black child and I talk about it? I've lost friends before over this. 

But here's the problem: it is about race. Because right now, one of my three children has significantly different outcomes in front of him because of his race.

  • At school, he's less likely to do well on the "standardized" tests that allow him access to higher-levels of learning. He's also more likely to get into trouble in the classroom, resulting in loss of learning time plus damage to his self-worth.  He’s only 7, but we’ve already experienced this.
  • In healthcare, he's less likely to get the care he needs, particularly if he is in pain. When I saw those studies, I remembered the breakthrough pain he suffered during after of his surgeries. We've already experienced this.
  • In our justice system, should he survive an interaction with police, he's more likely to face jail time for the same crimes for which his siblings would be given probation. Jesus, let us never experience this.
  • When he goes to get a job, his beautiful Ethiopian name makes it less likely someone will hold onto his resume. We have both income gaps and wealth gaps in our country based on race.
  • When he wants to buy a house, he's more likely to be offered a higher rate mortgage for a house in a "lesser" part of town.

It's like I'm living the worst kind of social experiment. Am I supposed to not talk about it?  I don't worry at all that two of my children might be shot and killed by police once they start driving. But my baby? I don't know how much therapy I'm going to need in order to let him go off by himself in a car. 

We were driving recently with one of my close friends who just returned from living in Africa for several years. She can't get her registration sticker on her license plate without having to take off the frame and she just doesn't want to fool with it. My husband shared that he went an entire year without putting the sticker on because first he forgot and then he misplaced it until about a week before he needed to put a new one. And he was pulled over during that time. The officer didn't even mention it.

Want to know what I was thinking during that entire conversation? We better get our act together. There's no way in hell I'll let my Black child drive out of our driveway in a car that has ANYTHING remotely wrong with it. No expired tags, no broken taillight, no stickers missing. 

White friends, do you share these fears for your white children? I know I don't. Or maybe you're thinking, "This can't be true. There can't be worse outcomes for Black people in every area of life?" Take a moment to look at the data, read this article using data from “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective” by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter; the Equality of Opportunity Project.


So….yes, friends. It is always about race. And to be honest, it's really hard for me to understand why we all aren't talking about it every chance we get. 💔 

Monday, February 26, 2018

My boys need better than "Boys will be Boys."

Image result for boys will be boys kind humans
from www.redbubble.com/

I'm not a true "boy mom" because I have a daughter. But I have two boys. And as much as I empower my daughter and teach her how to use her voice and protect herself, I also know I need to teach my boys how to navigate the power our culture will hand to them over the women in their lives. In short, I know I need to teach my boys not to become rapists.

My oldest is only 11. He has no romantic interest in girls or boys whatsoever. I didn't realize I would be given the opportunity to teach him not to be a rapist so soon.

We were invited to go watch a movie with some friends. His younger sister's friends, actually. He and his buddy were the only older boys there. And after the movie, the boys hid behind a wall to try to scare some of the girls when they came out. Okay, whatever. I didn't think anything of it.

A few minutes later one of the girls was crying hard. I assumed the boys had scared her too much and went out to talk to them.

I was wrong.

It turns out, she had seen them hiding and they asked her not to tell her friends. In true girl-solidarity, she immediately turned to go tell the rest of the girls (go girl power!). But then the boys tried to block her from going back. My sweet child, the one I raise so carefully, used his bigger body to try to try to stop her, to control what she could and could not do. And he scared her.

Before you think I'm reading too much into it or I'm villainizing the boys... hold on. These are two good kids. They are sweet boys. But good kids make bad choices sometimes and that's when we have the chance to help them learn how to stay good kids.

If we put as much effort into teaching our boys how not to be come rapists as we do into telling our girls to be safe, I think we'd have some changes in society.

I took him home that night and we had a long, serious talk. He cried as he realized how scared he had made her feel. I told him "no means no" and "when she's not having fun, you stop." He has no idea that I'm thinking about possible future sexual partners (should he be straight). But he doesn't need to know that yet. We can start teaching our boys not to rape before they ever express any interest in sex.

What worried me most was the murmurs I heard in the room as the girl was crying. I heard "oh these boys" and "boys are like that sometimes." I imagine most of that comes from the knowledge that these boys really are good kids and that they really didn't mean to cause harm.

But here's the thing: my boys deserve better than "boys will be boys." I need our culture to not make excuses for them when they do stuff like this. Yes, he made a childhood mistake. But I need him to learn that boys are kind and gentle and empathetic. I need him to learn that boys DON'T use their strength or size to get what they want, especially not from girls.

So please do me and other "boy moms" a favor: hold our boys to a standard that's higher than our current rape culture. They need that as much as our girls do.