As a Black dad, I’ve already got to have talks with my children about police abusing their power before I even have the sex talk with them. I’ve had to tell my children to watch out for racists before watching out for strapping up. It comes with the territory. Black parents have to have a bevy of “talks” with their kids and don’t have the luxury to avoid discussing them. However, this year, we’ve seen (yet another) another crisis rear its ugly head in the form of COVID-19.
During the initial month or so of the pandemic’s grasp on America, I, like many, was in a state of disarray. My house wasn’t entirely ready for everyone to work and school from home. On top of that, my kids live in the county. They are, for a lack of a better term, sheltered from some of the truths of life. I did that on purpose, not because I want them to be “whitewashed” or blissfully unaware. I did it because I want to be the one to tell them about injustices, not their teachers or friends. But, they’re kids. Kids talk about real life more than we give them credit for.
So when my oldest came to me after a Zoom class to discuss COVID and the George Floyd protests, I welcomed the conversation with open ears and open arms. I told him it was okay to feel however he felt about both situations–as long as he was respectful towards people. No, I didn’t tell him he had to censor himself because I nor his mom really teach respectability politics. Say what you feel, but make sure that you’re not being an ass about it is the general gist of what I told him.
It’s in talking to my youngest where I’m struggling.
See, my youngest doesn’t have any of my cynicism towards the world. I think I somewhat “messed up” in being too “real” with my oldest, so he has a bit of snark and cynicism towards people and the world. He trusts people and is kind towards people, but he also has his “the world sucks” moments. It’s probably a combination of my teachings and just general tween feelings. But, I’ll be honest: I didn’t want him to be as sardonic towards things as I was at his age.
My youngest, he’s five. I didn’t do as much of that with him. So he’s still ready to accept everyone and everything as being inherently good–except when it affects him directly (such as COVID or his brother teasing him). But I find myself struggling to talk to him about racial injustices and this whole COVID thing because he’s less “tainted” by my own distrust of people. I let his mother talk to him about things, as I do, but we both avoid going too in depth with him about racial issues. His day care was diverse, his school is diverse, none of the non-Black children or parents he’s interacted with have been out and out racist or anti-Black. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m honestly jealous of him. I don’t go as in depth with him about the protests because I don’t want to possibly crush his thoughts on non-Black people–or people in general.
It’s a tricky line to walk, with him and his older brother. You want to protect them, but you also want them to know that the world can be a scary place. You want them to know that Black Lives Matter but also to treat people the way you want to be treated. You want them to speak their minds and peaces about their truths, but do so in a way that is constructive instead of destructive. Yes, we need to rebuild the world in an image that is more accepting of people who are non-white. But we need to do so in a way that doesn’t automatically dismiss anyone who isn’t Black. Like I said, it’s a tricky line to walk.
But if COVID-19 has taught me anything, it’s that we ultimately are in this together. We’re against racism together and we’re against everyone getting COVID together. And in being in things together, I as a parent have to make sure my kids are properly educated on the world in a way that is inclusive but also gives them strong self-pride (being proud of your Blackness isn’t “racist,” so eff what you heard if you heard otherwise).
In short, be kind to your children as they’re our future, keep them safe through social distancing and be sure they know that Black Lives Matter–even if you’re not in the actual BLM group.