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Life with Racism & Kids

My sons are 12 & 5. They’re black. Male. Adorable. Sweet. Sarcastic. Silly. Oh sure, my oldest is biracial, but he can’t pass for anything but light skinned black male. And he chooses to ID as black. Some of that is probably about his biological father’s abandonment & his subsequent attachment to his black stepfather. He’s a great kid, who loves life, video games, his family, drawing & girls. He also loves math, science, & reading. Oh, and he’s a huge fan of roughhousing with his cousins, his brother, & his dad. I cannot imagine my life without him in it.

My youngest son has communication issues. We’re still trying to figure out why, but suffice to say he’s very selective about who he speaks to & what he’ll say. Drives us nuts some days because he’s a chatterbox at home, but often silent at school. He doesn’t ID as much of anything at this point beyond his name & status as the boss of all he surveys. He’s such a big little person. All curiosity & busyness & giggles. Loves his older brother, playing earn money playing games, & cartoons. He’s a physical little soul, all about the wrestling & the snuggling. He’s our little maniacal superstar.

Now, you know a little bit about my kids. Let’s talk about what it means to be 12 & 5 and children of color. Remember I mentioned that my youngest has communication issues? He’s in special ed for part of the day. Sometimes when he’s really upset he can’t articulate why he’s upset. Fortunately his teachers are excellent & they know just how to handle those moments. But if they didn’t? He might wind up in handcuffs. Now let’s talk about my 12 year old. He’s a smart ass with a penchant for doodling when he’s bored in class. His teachers have been known to make him help clean the desks when his markers stray from the page. Fortunately he’s never been arrested for it. 

Mind you, these are relatively benign outcomes for children of color who have contact with the justice system. Other outcomes can include false accusations, an increased risk of being charged as an adult, or being shot to death in your own home. Think about that for a minute. Adults of color aren’t safe in America & neither are their children. People keep claiming we’re post racial, or that racism isn’t that big of a deal, or whatever else makes them feel better. But when you have to worry about racism affecting your income, housing, education, healthcare, and the safety of your children? Then it’s much more than an inconvenience or a joke. This is my life. This is my sons’ lives. This is the lives of millions of families. It’s not funny, or easy, or something that can be overcome by pretending it doesn’t exist.

3 thoughts on “Life with Racism & Kids”

  1. Farah says:

    A friend’s kid had to leave the US because he was threatened with imprisonment for going to see his girlfriend after the town curfew.

    US “justice” looks more like a national prison camp to those of us outside it.

  2. Emily says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been struggling lately with some of the schools I work in as a case manager for a community organization. The young people on my caseload are primarily young African American men who have been labeled EBD by the educational system. Why? For being loud. For challenging some white dude’s opinion. For being the kid in the class to stand up and say something isn’t right. They’re shuffled off to a separate classroom where they “won’t disrupt the students who want to learn”. The separation and labels add multiple layers for them to work through and are something that discourages many of them from wanting to continue their education any longer than they’re legally required to.

  3. dianne mcneill says:

    Racism runs so deep for so many. Otherwise, we’d see so much more solidarity among MOTHERS to combat the problems your sons will face.

    I don’t have anything to add to your post other than to PROMISE you that I will never stand idly by while ANYONE regardless of authority hurts someone else’s babies – not with words, not with fists, not at all.

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