Racism and hate affect us all

I read this post this morning by Arwyn over at Raising My Boychick, and while I know most of y’all don’t click the links, I implore you to read her piece. It’s worth the click. It dawned on me after reading her post that we are all victims when racism and hate win out. In the near month since Trayvon Martin was killed and the outrage has grown, the focus has been on the plight of young black men who are clearly targeted. Yet the sad truth is we all lose when these types of hateful and cowardice acts occur.

The thing is, many white folks will offer their condolences and sympathy when these acts occur and many will even admit they are glad they won’t know ever know the possible pain of losing a son to hate, but the reality is that is a rather simplistic way of looking at things.  As Arwyn rightly points out in her piece while her son may never be the target, he sure could grow up to pull the trigger and if that happens it’s not one Mama who loses a son but two.

It’s no secret now that in Black families we raise our kids with frank discussions about race and difference from an early age. We know too well that we don’t have the luxury or privilege of ignoring it and waiting until we deem that our kids are ready. Yet the sad fact is that while many white families think they have the luxury of ignoring race and difference, the reality is you don’t either.

If you wait until your kid is 6 or 7 or even older to talk race and difference, it’s too late. By the time you decide to have the talk, your child has already figured out the many ways in which whiteness is prized and darkness is not and the seeds are planted that could possibly harvest a rotten harvest decades later.

I think very few people in 2012 intentionally set out to raise racist kids but in almost 4 years of working primarily with low income white youth, trust me when you don’t talk race and difference, they learn hate from the greater world. My center in the past year has experienced a browning due to an influx of Sudanese and Iraqi refugees settling in our area. A few weeks ago, several of our Iraqi kids were speaking in Arabic when a lovely girl who happens to be white told them “You are in America, knock it out and speak English” We were all stunned and knowing this child’s family, I doubt she learned that at home, but in the greater world. I encounter similar incidents when young white kids attempt to speak to me in some half assed Ebonics they heard on television…mind you I don’t speak that way at work and I doubt their parents do. My point being that if we don’t establish a good foundation for our kids, someone else will do it and may not be nice.

To paraphrase Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother at a rally “Trayvon is not just her son, but all our son’s, this is a not a white or black thing” It really isn’t and until we start getting serious about realizing that, the cycle of hate that creates a George Zimmerman will continue. As I tweeted earlier today, I can’t imagine George’s mother is too happy knowing that daily the odds are increasing that her son will be locked up. In the end two sons lose because of hate. It’s no longer enough to strive to be a good person and not actively hate, you need to do more and your kids need to see it early on.

 

 

The gift of gratitude in a world spinning out of control

These are not nice times that we are living in; it seems almost daily our senses and souls are confronted with a never-ending stream of misery. Some say that things are not really bad, it’s just that technology and media cycles have increased our capacity to hear about the misery that is projected onto our fellow beings 24/7. I agree there is some truth in that but the constant stream of negatives seeps into our souls and has us living for the future and what we are hoping for or looking back in the past for what we had. I can’t speak for anyone else but for me such living is not life. It keeps me in a state where I ignore my present and considering that yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t promised all I have is this moment. This moment to grasp with arms wide and my heart ready to receive and enjoy.

Last night as I tweeted with others about the Trayvon Martin case and was reminded of just how fucked up our culture is when it comes to men of color, I felt myself tensing up and getting angry. Of course this is a situation where that anger is justified, after all a young man’s life was cut short all because a man felt he was entitled to play the role of judge and dole out punishment for perceived crimes (walking while Black). As the outcry and demand for justice for Trayvon continues, we are also hearing the shared stories of all parents raising black and brown boys and the state of anxiety that we live in constantly. Oh, it may not be a debilitating anxiety but for anyone that has ever raised or loved a man of color, there is a certain sense that tomorrow may never be.  Just last night I was reminded of that as I read a news report out of my hometown, over this past weekend 10 people lost their lives including a 6 year old girl and 40 were wounded. For 10 people tomorrow did not come.

In the past year, I have been striving to be present and lessen my anxiety and while I can’t change the world single-handedly I can change how I perceive it by the very act of being present in each moment and receiving the good with the bad. Last night as I did my evening meditation and gratitude, I was struck by for all the shitty things that happen, for most of us there is something good even in the darkest moments.

Since the beginning of the year, I have completed a daily gratitude journal, at night before I go to bed, I write down 5 things that I am grateful for. I admit when I started this process I had a hard time with this concept, often repeating the same things, family, roof over my head, etc…you get the picture. Recently though I have seen a shift in my daily gratitude, sometimes giving thanks for things it’s so easy to take for granted yet add to our quality of life. After all, hot water to shower with is a given but wake up one cold morning in need of a shower and find out there is no hot water.

I share this today because so many of us our grappling with life and big issues and frankly it is easy to not see the good in a world gone mad. Yet a practice of daily gratitude is one way to keep us grounded to our truth and see a hint of sun when the overcast clouds seems like they will never go away. So with the arrival of spring and new beginnings, I encourage you to take on 10 minutes of gratitude before you head to sleep. It will change your life!

Trayvon 2012…stop the assault on brown and black boys

I have said it before but I am going to say it again, while raising kids in general is hard, it’s a job that is a lot harder when you are raising boys of color in the US. When raising a young man of color, it’s almost as if you are doing so with that double consciousness that W.E.B DuBois spoke of so many years ago. For me that meant raising my now 20 year old with a parental mindset but sadly with the knowledge that one day he would not be seen as just a kid but that he will be seen as a potential suspect. I am sure for some of you that very concept may seem strange but to anyone raising a young man of color, you are probably nodding your head.

Four years ago, when my son 16 one early evening he took a walk down to the local convenience snack shop to grab a bite to eat, nothing extraordinaire about that fact. Hell, teenagers often go out to grab a bite to eat! Well my son grabbed a steak and cheese sandwich and an iced tea and proceeded to walk back home as he had done many times before. However not even a block away from the store a cop stopped him, demanding to see what was in hands and then proceeded to tell him he looked like a suspect they were looking for who had been burglarizing cars. Before he knew it, he was in the back of the cop car and being driven home by the cops who wanted to talk to his parents. Never mind that my son wasn’t at my house fulltime, my son by then knew to say very little, he stated his name and the fact he was 16. Well the local cop pulled up in our driveway but not before implying that he was dubious that my son really lived where he said he did.

As fate would have it, I was out at a meeting so the Spousal Unit opened the door and quickly proceeded to ask the cop what the hell was he doing and also explaining he did not appreciate him harassing our son. In the end the cop apologized but not before the hubster expressed that he was dubious of the cop which resulted in the cop telling the hubster that he was friends with people of all races.

By the time I got home and the story was shared with me, I was ready to go to the police station to tear a new asshole in the captain and everyone else. My son asked me to let it go, but as a mother that situation disturbed me. What if this wasn’t a smaller town and the cop was trigger happy? I would have come home to a dead 16 year old son. Of course as the years have gone on, my son has had many more run ins with police both in New England and the Midwest. Never any charges but always the you look suspicious charge. Once driving back to his Dad’s from college he was stopped two times on the same drive. Sad to say if you think what my son faces is an isolated incident you couldn’t be more mistaken.

Fast forward to Trayvon Martin, a teenager in Florida visiting his Dad who decided to go to the convenience store and sadly never made it home. It seems after picking up some Skittles for a sibling and an iced tea, Trayvon crossed paths with the neighborhood watch leader that felt a teenage boy armed with skittles and an iced tea was so dangerous he had to pull out his 9mm gun and George Zimmerman the watch leader shot him dead. Zimmerman claims that he and Trayvon got into a scuffle and that he feared for his safety so much so that he had to shoot a child.

Let me say that having been the mother of a teenage boy that while on the surface they may look big, the fact is one good look at their faces generally reveals the child they really are and why in 2012 couldn’t Zimmerman pick up the phone and call 911?

Trayvon’s story is starting to get out but let me ask where’s the outrage? What happened to Trayvon is not that unique other than the fact normally it’s the police that harm young men of color, in this case we have an overzealous community member who decided to take the law into his own hands. Frankly when I heard what happened to Trayvon my blood ran cold because I could easily see Trayvon as my own boy. Just a boy going out and doing what kids do.

Last week the world was on fire about Joseph Kony with the whole Kony2012 campaign and while what happened to the children in Uganda is an outrage and Kony needs to be caught what about the kids in our own country? Every day brown and black boys in this country are under assault, from cops that would gladly lock our boys up to teachers who deny their humanity and slap an ill-fitting label on them.

I say we need Trayvon2012, stop the brutality against brown and black boys in this country and stop it now. Look in the mirror and face our own internal biases that allow us to look at the brown and black boys close to us as monsters and realize that it is systematic racism that allows this to happen.

So let me add Trayvon2012 to Kony2012 to bring awareness to the plight of boys of color in this country.

PS: The suspect the cops were looking when they stopped my son turned out to be a good 6 inches shorter and several shades lighter.