2019 is the year where my kid(s) looked at humanity differently. My husband and I have always made sure that our kids treat other people with kindness, respect, and decency. It has always been a thing I love to hear from their teachers, friends, parents, and others that my kids have great manners. We believe it’s of the utmost importance for our kids to be respectful at all times, make sure they are a leader and not a follower, and to be kind even when nobody’s looking.
Well, to our surprise, last month one of our kids came home from school, and I instantly knew something was wrong just by looking at her face. She came in and said, “Mom, how do you stay ok with someone who disrespects you?” As a self-proclaimed Mamma Bear, I was ready to pounce on whoever made my baby feel less than her awesome self! But I know that she is getting to that stage in life where she has to learn on her own.
She went on to tell me that as she was walking to her next class, she heard THE MOST hurtful racial slur come from one of her classmates. My daughter went on to explain that she was taken aback and stunned. She said all she could do at that moment was to find inner strength not to retaliate in pure rage. You see, she knows that words have an impact, and this word is the one that defined so many of our ancestors in a negative way, through the eyes of others who felt they were better than us.
She went to her next teacher and informed her of what happened, and they “dealt” with it at school. My issue is that my child who had a level of comfort and safety at her school became unsure and felt unfamiliar with her peers and school environment. After the incident, we noticed that our loving, carefree, not-too-serious child became angry, doubting herself, and feeling upset that someone would disrespect her because of her skin color, and the fact they are clueless to her real character as a vibrant, beautiful, young black woman.
I have asked myself so many times why this happened to my child. Was this other child being raised like this? How did his parents react to the news from the school? What is the real lesson in this situation? Can anything positive come from this? Will this be all of my children’s reality?
Amidst these questions, we continue to teach our kids that even in adversity, we have to show strength, calmness, and composure. We told our daughter that just because some people have a lack of respect for you does not mean you show a lack of respect for them. You can never change how someone views you, but you can show them the best version of yourself and hope for a respectful outcome. The lesson I told her I thought she needed to learn was forgiveness. This is a difficult lesson to teach someone who is hurt, disappointed, and fearful of the future. But I want my children to know that growing is in God’s plan and that road is not easy, but it is necessary.
My daughter went back to the young man the following week and told him she forgave him, without him apologizing to her. She said that she felt relief and a step in healing her emotions. I am so proud of my daughter for taking the steps to do what was necessary for her. She now feels closure and is okay.
But as a black mom, my feelings are unresolved. I have not found my closure. I continue to wonder how to navigate this unfair and unfamiliar path of teaching our kids to deal with negative words being said to them. How can our society continue to allow racial injustice to happen, more often than we want to admit, and not find a way to handle it? Are white parents having conversations about racism with their children? Do they know how to have that conversation?
Moms, we must make sure we talk to our children about these uncomfortable, but important topics. Racism affects us all, and we cannot afford to not have the conversation.
Remembering my grandmother’s words, “If you take the time to educate the future, then the past cannot hurt us anymore.”