I remember as a child feeling very uncomfortable with my dark skin and kinky short hair. I wished to be someone else. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I embraced my natural beauty and I made it my life’s mission to love myself unapologetically.
Now that I'm raising three beautiful brown curly cuties, I make it a point to be very active in helping them build their self-confidence and to cultivate their appreciation for their natural beauty. I truly believe and follow the motto, "Lead by example." I can't expect words to be the only tool with which I teach. I have to show them.
Here are 5 tips that I've used to help my children love, embrace and appreciate the skin they’re in.
Lead by example
The best way I've learned to teach my children anything is by being a positive role model. I try my best to be the best me I can be so they can be the best them they can be. This includes loving and taking care of myself.
Provide other positive role models
As an active member of the natural hair community, an educator and an author, I attend a lot of events. I bring my 9-year-old twins to 90 percent of the events I attend, which gives them the opportunity to watch, talk to and learn from other beautiful naturalistas. This has made a huge impact on their view of their natural hair. Instead of my twins viewing straight hair as holiday and special occasion hair, they view their afros as such. The bigger the afro, the better for them.
Books, books and more books
I have a plethora of books about natural hair. My 9-year-old twins have full access to my books, and boy oh boy do they use them. They use them when they are practicing braiding and twisting their dolls hair and they read the books about children celebrating their natural hair. Find some kid-friendly books here.
Refer to their hair and skin in positive ways
Remove any negative words about our hair and skin from your vocabulary. It can be very easy to accidentally have a slip of words, especially when you are frustrated. Many of us were raised hearing how 'nappy' and 'bad' our hair was and how our dark skin was not as pretty as light skin. Be very diligent in not allowing the past to resurface when dealing with your children. Use positive words to describe their natural attributes, and be genuine – they can sense the difference.
Let them watch an episode of Soul Train
Yup the Soul Train. They might not appreciate the fashion, but they will appreciate seeing beautiful people of all shades with their afros and afro puffs dance down the soul train line.
Visit my Natural Hair Care for Children on Facebook for great styling ideas, tutorials, DIY hair care recipes and more.
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Many presume that motherhood should naturally follow marriage (sometimes even precede it). Whatever society's thoughts are about when it happens, the prevailing public opinion is that a woman (with an ambitious career or as a happy housewife) should at some point give birth. You've probably been on the receiving end of the questions or you've heard your girlfriend or wife be endlessly interrogated: "When are you going to finally settle down? Now that you're married, when can we expect some little ones? What are you waiting on?" And then there's the unwanted advice: "If you drink more water, that'll help you get pregnant faster. You know, when me and Ray-Nathan were trying, he used to hold me upside down against the wall in a handstand. Put some blessed oil on your headboard!"
The expectations around motherhood can become intrusive and personal quickly.
Sure, we're empathetic when women have reproductive challenges on the pathway to motherhood. Science even boasts that there are some medical advancements that will eventually make motherhood possible for women at any age. But there's a certain judgement when a woman makes a conscious decision not to experience motherhood, even if she makes this choice with her partner. She becomes a traitor of humanity for trading her perceived womanly "duty" for something considered to be selfish. A woman choosing not to become a mother is often thought to be unacceptable, and the burden is wholly on her.
I read an article recently called "Mind Your Own Womb," and the entire premise was that you never know a mother's (or would-be-mother's) background and encouraged the reader not to pass judgement. I thought that the scenarios the article offered were spot on, but took note that it completely left out women who choose not to become mothers. Are women invisible if they choose to forego motherhood? Does it lessen their validity as human beings? Obviously not, but women are constantly being judged around their choices regarding their own bodies.
Being a black mother in America is daunting. If we look at statistics and behavior, a black mother is more likely to have to deal with her child having a negative (and sometimes fatal) interaction with police, the criminal justice system or some rogue vigilante. I remember waking up the morning after the Michael Brown verdict thinking, "Black mothers in America give birth to possible mourning with the creation of each child." And it's not just criminality that black children will face, it's respectability politics in school, preparing them for the idea that their very existence is criminal. This might not be the only reason a woman chooses to forego motherhood, but I'm sure it's certainly a consideration when planning for the future.
Affording children is becoming an almost insurmountable task. As the cost of living rises disproportionately to the median wage, it's difficult to take care of one's self, much less be financially responsible for a little person. Parents are finding it challenging to give their children the best or to even keep them properly engaged and safe during the summer months. I've often thought about how experiencing poverty in my childhood has allowed me to be more grateful for the things I have, to stretch a small amount of money over a long period of time when necessary and to shop frugally, if need be. I've also thought about the ways in which it negatively affected me, such as being reckless when receiving (what I perceived was) a large lump sum of money to compensate for previous scarcity or buying things I don't necessarily need because I want to feel as though I have something. I'm sure that if my mother had the choice, I wouldn't have experienced poverty at all.
Finally, there's the elephant in the room. There's no dark, looming reason. She just doesn't want kids, and doesn't foresee motherhood as a part of her life.
The question of whether a woman becomes a mother or not is totally up to her and her partner. Is motherhood one of the most challenging jobs in the world? Yes. Does it deserve recognition when done well? Yes. Do women who choose not to become mothers create things, achieve things, and overcome things that are also challenging and also deserve recognition. YES. The bottom line is that America might not be (and might have never been) a prime environment to bring a child into. If a woman decides that it's not for her, we should respect that and move on.
Have you felt pressured to have children? Sound off in the comments!
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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.
I can't wait to raise some free black children.
What do you think a free black child looks like? Share your thoughts below!
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I’m sure you don’t remember this, but every year in elementary school they would hold these mini-morning breakfast events for parents, like "Donuts for Dads” and “Muffins for Moms." For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a donut type of girl, but you were never really around. If I’m completely honest, I never really wanted to bring you. A morning full of awkward conversation and forced bonding wasn’t necessarily included in my voluntary agenda. Although it’s been well over a decade since those playground thoughts of you have crossed my mind, lately I’ve been thinking about you quite a bit. This isn't because Father's Day happens to be right around the corner or because I wonder how you’re doing — because I really don't. But it seems with every passing year and the more I get to know myself, the more I’ve come to terms with the fact that a lot of who I am, I owe to you. Other than wearing basketball shorts to bed (no matter the season) and my eternal love and respect for 90’s hip-hop, there are parts of me that I have you alone to thank for.
Your absence created even more room for ample love and kindness to grow. Being raised by my mother and her mother somehow showed me a greater value of family and what it truly means to selflessly love another person. As a little girl, it was extremely imperative for me to see two incredibly strong, independent women do it all. I never needed you to show me how to throw a baseball or mow the grass, because by the time I knew my multiplication tables, I had already learned that and more from people who worked overtime and still had dinner hot and ready on the table each night. The truth is, I completely forgot about the donuts once I got to bring two moms to breakfast with me.
Beneath the sweet blossoms of care and respect grew a bitter patch of darkness and distrust. It’s (not so) surprisingly hard to open up to others when someone whose only job is to love and support a child from the day they are born can’t even show up for said birth. I never planned on being the girl with quintessential daddy issues, haunted by the stereotype of the non-existent black father, yet at the near dawn of my 23rd year, it’s impossible for me not to be blinded by my uncanny ability to subconsciously create romantic criteria based on your parental failures. Sure, I’ve thankfully become a woman who has negative patience for emotional games and misogynistic tomfoolery, but years of idealizing sitcom relationships as my only realistic romantic reference point has led me to often lower my standards to “nice and occasionally shows up." It’s easy to say we don’t get hurt that way, but no one finds something healthy and worthwhile that way either.
Despite your award-winning disappearing act, I was lucky enough to have an entire village of role models fill your shoes. From uncles to neighbors to even my friend’s dads, I came to understand that a good man is one that genuinely goes out of his way to honor and cherish his family every single second of each and every day. Most importantly, I learned to embody the characteristics of a woman who can wholeheartedly stand on her own two feet. I know exactly what it looks like to constantly put others before yourself and to never back down from the demons just beyond the door. I have come to know that the truest love is that of a devoted and present parent.
Though absent and frequently forgotten, I am thankful for everything you have inadvertently gifted me. Leaving might have been the only thing you've ever done for me, but it was also the best decision you could have made. I am a graduate of one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I have friends and family who love me better than I believe I deserve. I have my whole life ahead of me to chase every dream that my young mind can conjure up. Some would say that I missed out on a normal fulfilling life due to my fatherless experience, but I think we both know that I’m not the one desperately trying to make up for lost time, fueled by fatal mistakes and regret.
I heard that you were asking about me; the answer to your question is: Everything is fine, and even when it’s not, it will be soon. It always has been.
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here. Use code blavityfam.
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At just a few months shy of 26, I'm jumping for all joy that I'm childless. Being a parent is a hard, never-ending job. It requires wearing more hats and taking on more roles than you imagine humanly possible. Being a parent these days can be like planting a tree in a barren field and watching over it day and night to make sure it grows strong and tall and becomes a contributing part of society. Or it can feel like someone giving you the best gift ever, then attaching an 18-year, 100% APR and a million dollar price tag to it. Because that's how much babies cost, right? Either way, parenting is weird.
What's even weirder is being friends with parents. Some of my friends either have babies or are expecting. They're tasked with things like planning play dates, hiring babysitters, nap time, tummy time, feeding time. They have to worry about travel accommodations, time zones, and what material a car seat is made from. Some of them are sleep deprived while others thrive on burning the candle at both ends. Some of them are scheduling pros and find ways to get out and be who they were before being a parent, while others can't even remember what time they last changed the baby. I've been taking notes and here are 11 things I've learned while being friends with millennials who have kids.
1. Spontaneity requires extra planning
There is no such thing as being spontaneous unless there has been some serious planning on one side. It might be a pleasant surprise for one parent, but trust me, the other one has been going nuts in the background finding a sitter and sourcing food for an infant who eats like a grown man.
2. Date nights are non-negotiable
Watching the way my friends' faces light up when they get a night off from mommy or daddy duties is the same look they get when they learn that the grandparents are coming to town for a week. In the parenting world, that is a big deal. You have to make time for just you two. Oh, sweet peace.
3. Parents hustle even harder
I don't know what kind of friends you surround yourself with, but my friends all turn up their hustle game exponentially after having a baby. I guess having a tiny human to take care of is the greatest motivator.
4. Your tiny apartment is now a tiny obstacle course
Kids love to play. The unbridled energy these tiny humans possess might drive you to drink. You have to watch them. They're fast.
5. Parents are weary of everyone
Some people are actually not going to be great around your kids. You have to be selective. You might lose a few friends, but in the end it's worth it. Whether it be attitudes or ailments, everyone who encounters a baby needs to be screened.
Now here are the things that I've learned about myself by having friends with kids:
1. I do not want to change a diaper
The very high probability of being showered in pee (or worse), is terrifying. Somehow, getting baby diarrhea on my fingers has become one of my most prominent nightmares.
2. I need to get my savings account off of life support
The cost of living is high enough, add on a baby to all that you are responsible for in the foreseeable future and that price skyrockets. I need to get my finances in order before a baby. That might seem obvious to some, but actually executing this is a lot harder than you might think.
3. Babies love me
I don't know if it's the way I cross my eyes or the obvious look of confusion they recognize on my face that really puts them at ease, but whatever it is, it works. Babies run to me with their chubby little hands and their monosyllabic vernacular, ready to wear me out playing peek-a-boo for two hours straight.
4. Baby vomit is the worse
Baby puke is merciless in its destruction of clothing. I feel like I would have the child with the most incredible projectile vomit skills. Oh, you thought you would get dressed before me and stay put together? Think again.
5. I can't be a deadbeat mom
Having such great influences around, I can't drop the ball. Watching my friends with their kids has really set the bar high. I need to bring my A-game to parenting. Also, there is no room for petty when you have kids.
6. It's a forever thing
I'm sure we all joke that our responsibilities to our children will have an expiration date of 18 years and then we are tapping out. The truth is, parenting continues even when your children become parents. Live up your current freedom because if you plan on—or don't plan on—having kids, they change everything.
Here's to still figuring out this adult gig.
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We live in a society where everyone is milestone-obsessed. People are always inquiring about what's next: When's the graduation date? What's your career plan?. When are you planning to buy a house? Get married? Or, of course, When are you planning on having kids? Then, when you finally do have kids, they ask when you'll have more! It's like a never-ending, torturous cycle.
What people fail to realize is that the discussion about family planning is a very sensitive topic and a pretty intrusive question to ask. As a force of habit, people might just blurt out the question routinely without fully thinking it through.
Here are a few reasons why you should reconsider asking that almost always unsolicited question:
1. They might not want children
Believe it or not, some people just want to remain childless. They have the right to choose, and no, it is not unusual. This could be for a plethora of reasons. Perhaps they travel a lot, have a demanding career, enjoy their freedom or...just don't want to bring children into the world we live in. No one should be made to feel guilty or "less than" because they want to skip the parenting gig. It's great for people to know what they want (or don't want) out of life. If they're talking about their latest projects or plans for the near future and don't mention childrearing, take the hint!
2. They might be having trouble conceiving
This is the first and foremost important reason why you should never make blanket statements or press your way into figuring out why a couple still has yet to conceive. It's not as easy as it seems— many couples try for years on end before finally conceiving, have experienced loss, or never have a breakthrough.
Chrissy Teigen's phraseology was so perfect in discussing this:
"So, anytime somebody asks me if I'm going to have kids, I'm, like, 'One day, you're going to ask that to the wrong girl who's really struggling, and it's going to be really hurtful to them.' And I hate that. So, I hate it. Stop asking me."
3. It's really none of your business
This sums it up in a nutshell. It's really not your call. Having children is a huge responsibility and personal commitment — very much like marriage or buying a house. Those are decisions no one should ever feel pressured into because, at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to live with their choices.
So the next time you find yourself having the urge to ask someone when they intend to conceive, please refrain.
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Being a wife as well as a mother to an 18-month-old is such a blessing. When you add entrepreneur to the list, things start to get even more exciting. I’m very much a true Virgo — analytical, observant, precise, and always striving for perfection. However, I’ve had to learn to adapt to my new roles in life and to go with the flow.
My multi-tasking skills went from being great to becoming my superpower. When my son was an infant, I learned how to cook dinner, wash clothes, and nurse him in a sling almost all at once. Can you say #parentwin? It might not sound like a big deal to some of you but all of my moms out there feel me.
I’m very proud to say I’ve done a great job of learning how to get work done all while watching a very active and witty toddler. I want to share what I’ve learned with other moms (and dads) who are in a similar position as me. I don’t claim to be an expert or to have it all figured out but I do know what works best for me and I hope that by sharing my story I can help someone else.
Here are 7 ways I stay balanced and grounded:
Make a list
I’ve learned to write everything down and to put all dates and events in my calendar. I’ve even created a family calendar that my husband and I have access to. If I write things down and set reminders, it’s less information that I have to remember or run the chance of forgetting (which seems to be very easy to do these days).
I also make a list of the most important three to five items that I want to accomplish each day. I try to do no more than five because it becomes overwhelming and I start to add things to the next day, which leads to overload and burnout.
Set a time for starting housework
Sometimes I try to juggle too much while working from home and it ends up being a large mistake. What I’ve found that works best for me is no housework or chores until after 5 p.m. This helps to set boundaries and I am able to focus only on my list items mentioned in number one. I’ve tried blending business work and housework and one or none gets done. By focusing on one at a time I am able to provide devout attention to each task.
Take a nap or rest when my son does
This is so vital for many reasons. When my son would go down for his nap, I would run around like crazy and try to get as much done as I could before he would wake up. It almost always ended up a mistake. I would be so tired from either staying up late or waking up early with him that I would have no energy left. When I was pregnant people would always say, “Make sure you nap when he naps.” I would think to myself, yeah, yeah, sure. When would I get things done if I did that? Well, I really didn’t want to admit it but they were right. It’s so important to give your body and mind some rest and to enjoy those extra cuddles with your little one. This leads me to my next point.
Take a break
One of my son’s favorite things to do is play outdoors. He’s actually helped me to develop a deeper appreciation for nature and being outdoors. When permitted, I try to take a 15-20 minute walk outside. It’s important for both of us. It helps to clear our minds, rejuvenate and I earn bonus points if he falls asleep.
Establish a healthy lifestyle
I can go on and on about the wonderful benefits of yoga and why we all need some type of regular physical activity but I want to touch on the importance of establishing a healthy lifestyle. My husband and I don’t believe in dieting but rather making small changes that we can live with and be happy about. That includes being mindful of what we eat, drink, and use on our bodies. We recently started switching our household toiletries to natural and/or organic products and switching from plastic to glass water bottles. These are subtle changes but will have a significant impact on our overall health. We also try to start our days by having breakfast, which is really important for me because when I was younger I would always skip breakfast. I’m still nursing my son, so I need to make sure I’m eating properly and staying well hydrated. It’s a challenge but we do it.
Focus only on what’s in front of me
I’ve learned that I can get so much more accomplished if I don't check my social media accounts, emails, text messages, and don’t take any calls while I’m working. It’s hard — very hard sometimes. But I am so much more productive and focused without all of those distractions. It only takes one time for me to “check” that comment or to see who liked my post but before I know it I’ve spent almost an hour mindlessly scrolling the 'gram. I have to tell myself, "don’t do it, you didn’t miss anything."
Here’s a tip: If you feel like you can’t stay away then schedule several five-minute social media breaks throughout your day. That way it’s on the schedule and not taking you away from what you should be focused on. Making sure you don’t go over the allotted five minutes is another struggle.
Enjoy some mommy-time
My husband and I call my personal time "mommy-time." It’s almost like my safe word. What is it? It's actual time out of the house to do whatever it is I need to rejuvenate and get back to 100 percent. For me, it doesn’t take much, usually I end up doing something that revolves around food. All I can tell you is to have an outlet. Some of my mommy-time activities can include but definitely are not limited to:
Trying out a new restaurant
A yoga class or taking a new fitness class
Catching a movie
Hitting a happy hour or visiting a friend
These are just a few things I’ve learned along the way, and please believe me when I say that I’m still learning and figuring things out. Sometimes I’m able to wake up earlier than everyone and finish my work, other days I’m burning the midnight oil. There are days when I feel like I dominate and other days when I’m trying to pick up the pieces of my day.
I’m learning that life is all about counterbalance and learning how to not sweat the small stuff.
Disclaimer: Every day I make sure I carve time out for meals, play and learning for my son and I. I’m all about my business but family comes first.
How do you stay balanced in life? Let us know in the comments...
Parenting is difficult. It's not uncommon to wonder if you're doing things right — are your kids learning enough or are they well-mannered? Do they know how important they are and will they be productive members of society? Are they being exposed to enough diversity? The questions and self-doubt are endless...and totally normal!
In thinking a lot about their early years, I couldn't help but to laugh at some of the things I have taught my children from a mom's perspective without even realizing it! Check them out below.
You don’t know everything.
You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.
3. What I say, goes.
4. The less you speak, the more you learn. Listen up kiddies!
Health is wealth (i.e., sleep, water, nutrition, exercise).
Children have a voice, too.
When your mom keeps calling you, don’t answer with, “What?” Instead, answer, “Yes mom?”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
We are keeping tabs on everything you do, and will always be worried sick.
Everything can be turned into a learning experience.
What #GrowingUpBlack truly means
14. Respect the property of others.
15. Have all your ducks in a row before pitching to mom.
16. Stand your ground. You tried it though...
17. Moms can be cool too, sometimes. But we’re still not one of your “little friends.”
18. Critical-thinking skills
19. The “village” will come for you when you’re cutting up.
20. Early life lessons
21. You are EVERYTHING.
22. Be true; be you.
23. You go to school to learn.
24. You can't always get your way.
25. Again, I'm your parent. Not your friend.
26. Time-outs for both parties are good for the soul.
27. Your parents have your back, always.
28. Nobody is perfect.
I hope this made you smile. And for all the moms (and dads) out there, I'm sure you're doing just fine. Give yourselves some...
How do you accurately teach your children about racism? Should Can you? Sorry if this hits a sore spot for some but it's the unfortunate reality in many all black American households. Whether we want to admit it or not, race bubbles under at the surface of education, government, politics, sports, entertainment and, as of late, any other subset of everyday life. The issue of skin color could no more easily be removed from Cam Newton’s “dabbing” in the end zone and the open letter response it spurred from a mom to the Charlotte Observer than it could be from the over 365 days that have passed without a formal charge being brought against officer Timothy Loehmann for the death of 12-year-old Tamar Rice.
Race is the bone and invisible spine that runs through the arm of each instance telling us that a different skin tone would have yielded a different outcome.
We are just too bombarded on a day-to-day basis to pretend to “plead the 5th” on its effects; you can’t deny it. You aren't allowed to. You can only acknowledge the varying degrees of its impact you’ve been witness to. If you're reading this and saying, “I don’t see race at all,” I'm talking specifically to you and I ask: how do you teach YOUR children about this? I would like to take this time to make a clear distinction: if you don’t teach your children ABOUT racism you allow someone to teach it TO them. I am sure a few people have a plan of active ignorance as the best policy to combat the ideology so ingrained into our society. If it isn’t a problem in their household, it doesn’t affect them.
But it does.
You are always teaching, whether you know it or not. Your children are always watching what you say or do and how you interact with other people. So while you might not believe you have implicitly told your son or daughter about different races, you have. Your children will pick up on the queues you give them as well as the ones that society bombards them with, so your goal as a parent is to create stronger queues to follow.
One of my biggest challenges as a black father is knowing just how ugly the world is and the ultimate power it takes to shield my children from it. There is a delicate balance of knowledge and guilt in knowing it could be more damaging by letting them not see the ugliness. I often wonder if Sasha and Malia’s father grapples with this issue knowing how strong his shield can be. As a single father of twin African-American girls, I have adopted the philosophy that “it takes a village.” I dont have a last name attached to the highest job in the land. I need the help of a collection of people in order to produce the environment I think my girls deserve to develop to their highest potential, I can’t do it alone.
[Warning: this is disturbing] Check out this video.
Now besides the woman’s vile and ignorant rant, there was an even more repulsive act transpiring in the background; the education of her children on how to interact with a person of color. Forever etched into their minds will be their mother calling this black man a n*****. She validated screaming profanities as a conducive way to display her dislike for — according to the video — starting his car. The lessons learned are how to convey anger when you are upset and how to do it when the object of that anger is a person of color. I can’t imagine this being the first time those children have seen their mother upset but by their quiet demeanor I would guess that even THEY knew it was embarrassing and “not quite right.”
You might be saying this is an extreme case, but I ask you – is it really? How many times have you been so mad and pissed off that you spewed hatred toward another human being simply because you felt they deserved it regardless of the fact it was in the presence of your children? And I understand that no one is perfect. Policing yourself 24/7 around your children comes with the territory of being a caregiver, plus they have to learn at some point how evil the world is, no?
Let's play devil’s advocate for a moment and say this was an isolated case, one that doesn’t happen regularly. If this is true where does racism exist in the day-to-day teachable form that our kids observe and absorb? The media? Are movies, television and popular music that often glorify a negative image of African Americans to blame for surviving negative stereotypes? Or are there more direct causes?
Rashid Polo made some pretty hilarious videos of him being followed around in different stores by employees. Coincidence? Maybe but, after the third video its very hard to deny a pattern. Some might see this as a young kid trying to sensationalize moments for internet fame, but I doubt there were too many black men who saw this video and did not give a nod of approval at its validity.
I am not sure what transracial means but apparently it's Rachel Dolezal’s explanation for pretending to be African American for several years as president of a chapter of the NAACP, despite growing up with two Caucasian parents in Montana. The dynamics and narrative to this story still baffle me quite frankly. Rachel Dolezal sent herself false death threats from white supremacists. I guess that validated her experience as an African-American woman? You can identify with the African American culture without being African American. Generations of authentic African American men and woman actually died in order for Ms. Dolezal to do just that. This makes a mockery of that very fact in my opinion. Even Rachel Dolezal knew that what she was perpetrating wasn’t right. You can watch her reaction for yourself when she is questioned about her ethnicity. The picture was worth 2000 words.
On the other end of the spectrum is McKinney, Texas, where a police officer was recorded waving his gun at black teenagers at a pool party. Apparently a Caucasian resident called law enforcement when too many teenagers showed up. There were both white and black young people there but, only one group that was targeted by Texas officers. Can you guess which group? No? Here is the video.
As the father of girls I can’t accurately describe what my reaction would have been if my daughter had been handled that way by a police officer. On one hand I would have been relieved my daughter and none of her friends were killed while on the other I would have been infuriated that she had been subjected to sub-human treatment. The interaction between police and the African-American community is a completely different topic that this essay could not begin to address even a small infraction of. I could have cited 20 other examples of blatant racist interactions between these two groups but it becomes exhausting. We could talk for days about Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Walter Scott or the many other black men who have lost their lives in the past few years.
Lastly, I saw a this video of a young boy expressing his frustrations with president Obama and the African Americans he has come in contact with thus far in his maybe 8 or 9 years on the planet. Someone is recording this video [probably an adult] whom you can hear in the background snickering. These views weren’t learned through osmosis but came from somewhere, most likely from home.
And I get it, for some they just don’t understand what the problem is because it isn’t one they have had to deal with all their lives. They don’t get all the “complaints” and “protests” every other week over things as simple as listening to an officer when he tells you to stop moving or appreciating the opportunity to play football for a division 1 football program like Missouri. They have the privilege of seeing something without having to understand it.
So…as a father I have to explain what and why transracial is. I have to train my daughter on what she should do and how she is to conduct herself in the presence of a police officer. I have to explain why they should keep receipts whenever purchasing something inside a department or convenience store. I have to coach on what to say if a classmate who thinks all black people smell like sh** is sitting in Algebra class. I have to figure out a rational way to explain why Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times in Chicago. So how do I do this?
Sorry for the anti-climactic gut punch but as an African-American father I have not found an accurate way to keep up with the different attacks to skin color my children may endure. As I patch up one hole another emerges that requires attention to fill but expertise to recognize. As if becoming a “woman,” dealing with the opposite sex and pimples weren’t enough. What is a single father to do? Nothing?
No. Not nothing. Not alone.
If you are reading this then welcome, you have just joined my collective village. As I said, creating that environment for reaching highest potential will take more super powers than I possess alone. I will give you the strategy that has been serving me thus far and the only one I can come up with to combat a systemic plague against people of color: I would like you to be yourself. Simple, right? Which means it probably isn’t. The only accurate way I have found to teach your children about certain difficulties in life is by example. Are all white people racist? No. Does every police officer you met see you equally? No. I have to teach this by how I INTERACT with people who are different than I am. How I INTERACT with police officers. What do I say about people of different races? What do I TEACH? If I have racist thoughts am I working on them? Am I pushing myself and my boundaries to include others who don’t look like me? Do I encourage my daughters to have MANY friends of different nationalities?
I do my daughters a disservice if I don’t tell them about police brutality, the marred history of the black experience in America, about keeping receipts and dealing with the burden of educating ignorant people they might come in contact with. I also do them a disservice if I only tell them to play or interact with people who look like them because it makes ME feel comfortable. Difficult as it may be, the highest form of care for yourself and parenting your child is by leading them toward the barriers of their comfort zone. Even that still might not be enough, but it's a start. The only complete way I have found to teach my children is to grow myself.
Samuel K. Rhind is a creative writer and single dad who believes the sum of the parts is more powerful than individual pieces. A graduate of Syracuse University he worked in the financial industry for several years doing technology before realizing it was too blood sucking. He decided to write as a release and found a genuine passion. He hopes to pen his first novel in the next year and is actively trying to finish a screenplay. He is on the editorial staff of THRONE.xyz and is also a loving father who puts his daughters at the center of everything he does and is. You can check out more of his thoughts here:...