Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Caring about Black people is disrespectful, apparently.

from: Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

There's a truth that I often talk about but my white friends don't usually understand: Amani (and by extension, our family) isn't always safe in all-white spaces. It's harmful for him to be the only Black person or one of a few People of Color.  So we avoid those spaces. I make an exception every summer for swim team. And I'm acutely aware all swim season of his Blackness in the sea of white.

Last night reminded me of how hard this is.

We kneel during the anthem. And we've done so for a few years now. It's an active way to continue the protest against police brutality of Black people in this country, regardless of what's in the news cycle. We kneel to show respect to veterans. And let me tell you: it hurts to kneel on concrete. I'm willing to bet that we are more mindful and intentional (and respectful) during the pledge than many of the folks who just stand there. Last night as I knelt during the anthem, my mind was on the concentration camps full of migrant children too. Kneeling, for me, is way more patriotic than standing. No one is free until all of us are free.

The kids choose to kneel sometimes too. We didn't let them until they could articulate to us exactly why they wanted to. I used to stay close because I was nervous... but nothing has ever happened so I guess I started to feel safer. I wasn't near Amani when the anthem was played before the swim meet yesterday. But I when I looked over, I saw him kneeling with me.

Please picture this: a little Black boy, 8  years old, respectfully kneeling on the concrete pool deck. Not goofing with buddies, not throwing a swim cap at a friend, not sneaking a cookie or a snack from the table during the anthem, not looking at a phone. All of those are things I see people (not just kids) do during the anthem at swim meets.

Kneeling on concrete in his bathing suit. Surrounded by white people.

And a white man told him he's being disrespectful.

I didn't hear it. Instead, what I saw was a friend of mine (another white man) walk over to Amani and kneel beside him. I will forever be grateful to him.  He heard it. And he, in that moment, put my kid's well-being (physical and emotional) ahead of his own beliefs.

I always feel a little on-edge at the pool but now it's back in full-force. We are back to wrestling if we can or should continue to do summer swim team.

White parents of white children... I know you don't wrestle with that stuff. If you have any Black children at your pool or on your swim team, know that this is the kind of thing they face. Parents of those little Black kids want their children to have the same happy, free, fun summer that your kids have.

When do we get to have that happen?