Raising My Daughter as a Realist, Not a Racist

Janelle Harris

man reading bookI love writing for The Stir. It’s a chance to engage y’all -- whether you agree with me or not -- on a range of issues as broad as I am opinionated, so that’s pretty darn broad.

Because I talk a lot about race, folks have accused me of being race-ist. That’s so not true, for more reasons than one. Take a peek at the featured bloggers over yonder. Go ‘head, scroll down. I’m the only black chick in that little Hollywood Square, and that’s cool. But that also means I have a completely different perspective on a whole lot of topics and situations.

Because inasmuch as we’re kindred spirits in motherhood, womanhood, and personhood, most of you, fellow Stir-ettes, don’t experience life the way I do. It's called white privilege. You didn't create it and I didn't either. That doesn’t make me a racist. It makes me a realist. And I would be remiss not to prepare my child for life on the darker side of society.

Last week, I fired off a post about how the in-your-face usage of the Confederate flag is a karate chop of disrespect to the body of black people living in this country, and many of you shared the sentiment that we need to let it go and move on.

I could go on for another 50 posts about how it’s so much easier to say that when you don’t have to routinely choke down a gazillion instances of racism in varying degrees. (Like er’ybody gotta cough up their long form birth certificate, right?) Flagrant and institutionalized discrimination lingers like a funky residue from the 400-plus-year span between the enslavement period, the Jim Crow era, and now. Racism ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s a battle we’ll be fighting until forever fizzles out. Or apparently until May 21, when Judgment Day cometh.

It irks and even shocks me how the majority will rally against unjust immigration policies, throw their support loud and proud behind the GLBT movement and the rights of that community -- all of whom are fully deserving to be treated equitably -- but black folks get a healthy dose of "suck it up and get on over it." I s'pose our issues are too longstanding to be hip, newsworthy, and worthy of outrage.

While I wage my one-woman battle to get y’all to feel where I’m coming from, I’m also preparing my daughter for life as a black woman. Don’t cry for us: It’s an honor to be born in the skin we’re in. I am of course raising Tween-a-licious Girl Child to revel in her heritage. When she was small, I put eye-level pics on the fridge of Oprah, Dr. Dorothy Height, Ida Wells-Barnett, and her. It helped her to identify herself with greatness and gave her a strong sense of who she is.

That consciousness also obligates her to ancestors who, not too long ago, were being hung, hosed down, and attacked by dogs so she can dream big and get educated. Her expectations and opportunities are greater than the ones passed down to me from my mama, a product of the Afro-sporting Black Power Era, and my grandparents, who witnessed a band of white men toss my uncle in front of an oncoming train. That wasn’t centuries ago. In fact, it was well within this lifetime.

Even though those kinds of tragedies aren’t nearly as frequent as they once were, the fact remains -- plain as my need for a pedicure -- that being a black man or woman in this country is still riddled with subtle and sometimes overt inconveniences, like being stalked in Bloomie’s because the sales associate’s inadvertent prejudice leads her to believe we’s all shoplifters or being called nappy-headed hoes on syndicated radio by hosts who have a penchant for off-color jokes.

There are things black kids need to learn, like how to handle situations with the police so they don’t end up another battered face on the 6 o'clock news, and things to expect, like how people will believe certain things about them just because they’re black.

I’m passing on my passion for justice, history, culture, and open dialogue about all of the above to my daughter. But I’m also teaching her to appreciate people for who they are despite their backgrounds, not make stupid assumptions based on color, gender, religious beliefs, or sexuality like the very ones that are slung on our doorstep. When you’re on the receiving end of that kind of malarkey, it should make you more attuned to not repeating it -- and teaching your kids to fight it.

How have you helped your children develop an appreciation for diversity and other races?


Image via Ateo Fiel/Flickr

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