There are some days that your kids come home from school and you can just sense that something is not right with their little hearts. They seem as if there’s something they want to tell you, but they just don’t know how to do it. As if it will hurt all over again to say the words to someone.
That happened at my house this week. Story walked in from school and although it takes a whole lot to take the pep out of her step, she just wasn’t herself. She made herself her new favorite snack, which consists of plantain chips plus almond butter. She’s so proud each time she makes this for herself, as if she’s just won Chopped Junior for this out-of-the-box creation.
She was eating her plantain/almond butter chips while I prepped my chicken breasts for the instant pot (which I have so many more thoughts on!) and she suddenly said, “Mom, actually something sad did happen at school today.” I looked up from the chicken I was seasoning and looked her in the eyes as if to show her that this was a safe kitchen and she could give me her sadness. I always want my kids to know that I’ll listen to them when they are sad, confused, or hurt.
She began telling me what had happened at school that day that had made her so sad. She was walking down the hall behind two boys when one of them said to the other one, “you like Story don’t you”. We all know this scenario in the halls of the elementary school. We remember this happening to us before. Immediately after the little boy said that his friend looked at him and said, “Ooooh no way, she’s black!”.
I could tell that this was so saddening to my daughter as she was recounting the way that it made her feel. I asked her all the parenting questions … How did this make you feel? What do you think he meant? How do you feel about this now? ….. In her nine-year-old innocence she couldn’t even begin to imagine why he would say that to her. What was the big deal with being black? She knows the stories of Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and many other little black girls we have read about over the years. Still, she was thinking that these type of things happened to those girls a long time ago, and not to her.
Around the end of her story her older brothers, Amos and Deacon, walked in and they too chimed in on this event. I was telling them that this was such a sad thing that this little boy said, and I shared the truths of how special and important all of us our to God. We talked about how He created everyone in His image, and then I had to share the hard stuff I knew I would have to say once again to them. I looked at each of my kids and told them that this would indeed happen again. Saying those words to them is always powerful for me because I never want them to be surprised by what the world throws at them, but it is also always so sorrowful for me that this is their reality, and not mine.
One of my kids said that they thought that these things only happened a lot time ago. Another kid suggested that this little boy probably had heard his parents say something about black people, because surely he wouldn’t think that on his own. Unfortunately these kinds of comments aren’t reserved for the 1950’s, they are still going strong in the 2010’s, and unfortunately I’m certain that this young boy has heard harsh words about black people in his home.
I’m most certainly sad about my daughter having these comments said to her, but I’m more sad for that little boy. Children have the best opportunity of all of us to grow up without prejudices. They are clean slate with no pre-conceived ideas or notions. I’m 38, love Jesus, mother black children, and still find myself fighting prejudices in my brain. These stigmas and vague thoughts of bias have been in my heart for years, and although I fight them and they don't rule my heart or life, I recognize when they pop up, and I commit to fight against them.
If you are a parent, you can do better than this. We can teach our kids the value of everyone in this world, no matter their skin color. If you are a Christ follower you need to know that thinking that you are better than anyone, or that anyone is less than because of their skin color is a sin. It is going against what God says, and therefore it's wrong. For too long people have let these thoughts and ideas go unchecked and therefore we have followers of Jesus Christ hoarding sins of racism in their hearts. We must fight all sin, and this is one that needs lots of fighting.
I also write this for all of you that say racism is gone in this country. I’m sorry to say, but it’s not. If you are white and stating that opinion, then I would encourage you to close your mouth and listen to our black friends, our Mexican friends, and every friend that doesn’t look like us. They are the only ones that get to declare when racism is gone from this country. So, until they say it's gone, we need to acknowledge that it's still here.
My daughter will survive this. She’s strong, confident, and has parents that are loving her through this. It won't be the last time that someone thinks less of her because of her skin color. The thought of that is indeed heart breaking, but I'm thankful that this earth is not our home and one day all of us – black, white, asian, mexican – will be together in heaven praising God for eternity.
That little boy though, he’s being taught hate, and for that I’m so sorry for him. The way that he sees the world is now tainted through the lens of racism. Instead of believing that all people are created equally, it has been said to him that black people are not the same as him, they are less than. This is the most heartbreaking of all.