I’m a momma to two beautiful humans. My son is 13 and my daughter is 9.
When my son was about 2 years old we took him to the Clinton pool.
As I put him in the water I fully expected he’d have some trepidation, take it slow and be cautious. Turns out that’s what I was feeling, not him!
My son dove in like he’d been there before and it was up to me to pull him up. Everytime he dove into the water he was confident that I’d be there to pull him up.
I want to stop here to say: I’m not a very strong swimmer so there was real fear associated with putting my baby in the water
However, very early on, I decided two things:
- 1 – Not to project my fears on my children
- 2 – All questions answered truthfully
I had no idea what I was in for. . .
So we’re at the pool, my son is challenging my decision not to project my fears right out of the gate. When we get a chance to rest, I turn to my husband, who was on the swim team from 7th grade to 12th grade and say “maybe we should get him some arm floats or one of the life vests that will help him stay on top of the water.”
“No. If he learns to rely on the floats, he won’t develop his ability or confidence to do it on his own.”
Which is why neither of my children has ever had floaters, they’re strong swimmers and I’m flirting with high blood pressure.
Let’s fast forward a few years and my son is now 6, he’s gonna hate me sharing this story, but I must. . . I’m a momma
It’s November / December time and we’re sitting around the dinner table.
Christmas is coming so my son proudly bursts out “I know what I want for Christmas!”
My husband and I both say “great!” what do you want, let’s put it on your list to send to Nama, Poppa and Grandma & Papa.
“I want vagina!”
Some of you, right now, are wondering “what’s wrong with this lady?”
Trust there’s method to this madness. . . and remember that vow to answer all questions? Yeah
My husband quickly jumps up from the table, walks over to our refrigerator, opens the door so my children can’t see, and proceeds to choke himself with laughter.
I, on the other hand, stuck with this revelation must venture forth, straight faced.
“Well honey, that’s not really something you can get for Christmas.”
“It’s okay mommy, my friend says that’s not a bad word”
“no, it’s not a bad word, but you can’t have it for Christmas.”
Do not project fear
Answer all questions
When my kids were younger the questions were innocent. Benign. The fears I had were of being able to keep them alive, under my care.
As I said my son is 13. Next year he’s going to be a freshman in high school. In a few short years he’ll be driving and going out with his mostly white friends.
So I have to have “The Talk” with him.
Not the birds & the bees talk.
Not the stay away from drugs talk.
Not even the buckle down and start to consider what you want in life talk.
No, I have to talk to my son about how to stay alive and come home to me.
You see, we’re getting to the stage where I can’t be there to pluck him from the water.
We’re getting to the stage where he’s no longer cute, he’s a black kid.
We’re getting to the stage where, he’s a threat.
As a momma who’s vowed not to project her fears on her children, it’s hard to circumvent this talk.
At the end of the day, all I want is for my son to come home to me. So I need to tell him:
- Don’t do everything your friends do, because if there’s trouble, you’re the first one to get grabbed
- If you’re stopped or questioned by the police, stay calm, be respectful and no “unauthorized” movements
- The world will treat you differently because you are black, be aware
As a momma who’s vowed to answer all the questions. I sometimes feel a huge burden to have to answer the ones regarding race. It’s a far cry from wanting vagina for Christmas at 6.
Why can’t I do what my friends do? Why won’t they get in trouble?
- Because of the perceptions others will have of you, because of the color of your skin.
What if I’m stopped for no good reason, can I ask why?
- Yes, but always remain calm, even if you’re right, you’re not right
Why will the world treat me differently?
- Because the system of racism that we live in establishes certain norms.
How do we fight that?
- With collective awareness, education and love.
George Floyd is a victim of the system of racism that exists in this country.
While he was breathing his last, he cried out for his mama and all mommas were activated.
We were activated because we understood that when a child cries out for his momma, he’s in real pain.
We knew because we know how hard it is to send our hearts out into this world on a daily basis, praying they’ll come back to us safely. . . black moms have an added burden.
I watched the video in utter horror because in George Floyd’s face I saw my brother, my cousins, my friends and my son.
Mamas – what if we shared the burden?
What if we all talked to our kids about the part they can play in protecting each other, and especially their black friends.
What if white mothers everywhere also had “the talk” with their sons and daughters.
- “don’t do things that will put your black friend’s life in the line of fire.”
- “If you’re stopped while with a black friend, stay calm, don’t escalate the situation so you can both get home safely.”
- “be aware of the privilege you have that allow you to walk the streets freely, and which condemns your friend.”
Mommas, our babies become children, and our children adults.
When we instill information early that allows them to see and use their privilege to dismantle the system when they grow into working humans. We’re making a difference.
I’ve been encouraged by the awakening I’ve seen in the past few weeks.
Two and a half weeks ago, only George Floyd’s family, friends and acquaintances knew his name. Today, his face graces murals around the world.
We watched in horror as he died. We watched as an oppressive force choked out his life and a 17 year old girl begged and pleaded for his life while still having the presence of mind to film what she was watching.
We heard and registered when he cried out for his momma.
This evening, as we remember George Floyd, let’s also remember:
- Amaud Arbery
- Breyona Taylor
- Atatiana Jefferson
- Bothem Sean
- Stephon Clark
- Jordan Edwards
- Keith Scott
- Philando Castile
- Alton Sterling
- Sandra Bland
- Walter Scott
- Tamir Rice
- Mike Brown
- Trayvon Martin
And so many other black humans who’ve been killed by an oppressive racist system that doesn’t see the value in their black lives.
Let’s dismantle the system by teaching white children not only to “be nice” but to be curious.
Teach them to think critically and question everything.
Teach them to look from the other perspective and embrace difference.
Teach them to see color, not to fear it, but to inquire about it.
Teach them that talking about race isn’t political, but personal development.
As a black woman. A black mother. The firstborn child of Haitian immigrant parents. A wife to a white man and as a citizen of the United States my experience, the way I see and walk in this world will always be different from
A white woman, A white mother, a child of native born parents married to a same race spouse.
So please listen to my cry as I’ve listened to yours.
When I say I’m hurt, don’t take it personally, it’s not personal. Move away from feeling guilt, shame or whatever other feeling allow you take it personally and realize, it’s not personal.
I don’t want to project my fears
I want to answer all questions truthfully
As hard as that is in every situation, it’s the only solution.
Please, don’t project your fears.
Listen, and ask all questions truthfully, humbly.
There’s no longer a place for complacency. . . He cried out for his mama. . . all mamas everywhere were activated. . . It’s time to do your part.