The mysterious free black child
May 20, 2016 at 12:30 am
There I was a few weeks ago, scrolling through my timeline. I scrolled past cute little animal videos and political propaganda. Past the enviously perfect Buzzfeed Tasty videos, all the while stopping every few scrolls to drool and cringe over the fashions at this year’s Met Gala. After tilting my head and squinting my eyes a few times at some of the outfits and wondering how the celebrity and designer decided that it completely represented this year’s Fashion in The Age of Technology theme, I stumbled upon a photo of the Smith siblings.
I loved everything about Willow and Jaden’s garments and the energy they were vibrating into the universe while the photo was being taken. I smiled and went on my merry way. Cat video, food tutorial, Claire Danes’ Met Gala dress, someone loses a phone on a roller coaster, another girl being bullied on the Internet by trolls (this has to stop by the way). Then I saw it, the same picture of the Smith siblings, only this time it had been turned into a meme.
“Sometimes I think we hate Jaden and Willow Smith because they are free black children and we don’t know what free black children look like.”
Maybe those of use who are inspired by Jaden and Willow have been saying this forever, but I’ve never heard it like this. Free black children. Immediately I reflected on my own childhood. The distant, murky pictures of my childhood danced before my eyes before slipping back into obscurity. So I thought of black children I know today, but I still didn’t know what a free black child looked like. Are they full of joy? Are their eyes alight with adventure, promise and hope? Do they run full speed in grassy backyards with scraped knees, that faint copper smell wafting off of them?
For some reason, my mind conjures images of children taking care of their parents. I see the burdens of society patiently waiting in the background to rest upon their shoulders as soon as their minds begin to open. Maybe I’m suffering from a case of projectile insecurities. I want to know a free black child but I also want to protect them by teaching them. I want to teach them too soon to be cautious. To observe. To know differences in when to be silent and when to make sure you are heard. Too soon to stifle their innocence.
In a span of what must have been three minutes, I began to reevaluate my perception of the tiny brown humans I see every day. I have always been of the ‘children are the future’ mentality, so I always assumed that we needed to buckle down and really show the next generations why learning and knowledge will be some of the most important tools they carry on their journey through life. Now, I just want children to be children. I want them carefree in youth. I want them to ask questions about life while digging for imagined buried treasure beneath the perfectly manicured lawn. I want them to express themselves in the moment without reprimand or fear of the societal norms burdening us in adulthood.