I’ve missed you guys the last few weeks. We took a little break around the Thanksgiving holiday and then I haven’t been back. The truth is, I had something hard to say and I’ve been avoiding it.
I was all set to post the next recipe from the Food for Thought series a couple of weeks ago along with a story about how I “flexed my fork” on my own using the things I’ve learned from Micca during the break and a new FF recipe for overnight oatmeal. I had put the oatmeal in the crockpot the night before and so we had been able to have a hot breakfast that Wednesday morning. I had some thick cut butcher bacon that I made to go with it. Mom called mid morning to tell me to add quinoa to all her food, not just her oatmeal, because her energy level was fantastic and she knew it was from the breakfast. Also, since she and my dad were both busy, why don’t I close the store for 30 minutes and go pick up Em from school. This was shaping up to be a great post and a great day!
I don’t get to pick my baby up from school that often. I get to take her every morning, but, at this time, my work schedule doesn’t allow for me to pick her up, too. I enjoy picking her up though. I like to have her tell me about what her day was like while it’s still fresh. I like being there at the very beginning if there was a problem during the school day that needs to be dealt with. I love how happy she is to see me when I pick her up.
Since I haven’t been able to pick her up frequently, whenever I get the chance she normally sees me and runs to me with wide open arms and nearly tackles me to the ground. I love it. Sometimes, I even catch her and lift her up and smother her with some kisses. This day, though, something was different.
I honestly thought she didn’t see me. Maybe she didn’t recognize my coat. I had to walk all the way over to the edge of the black top and then, still not even a smile. Something was wrong. I collect her, put my arm around her shoulder and get her to the car. There I ask, “What’s wrong? What happened?”
She’s clearly had a bad day. Some (more) drama with a little group of frenemies that she has and then a pause... “Jeffrey* said he’s afraid of Black people.” Now she’s crying.
Oh God. It’s too soon. I can’t deal with this. Racism is supposed to be an abstract concept that she knows exists because of the TV and school lessons, but she’s not supposed to feel it yet. She’s especially not supposed to know how it feels when someone you consider a friend shows that type of ignorance.
Before we go any farther, there are some things you need to know.
Jeffrey has a condition called PANDAS. Reading about it is enlightening and makes me question the amount of damage we could all be living with from the strep bacteria. The long and short of it is, Jeffrey may not be entirely responsible for his action of blurting out such a statement in the middle of class. However, he couldn’t have blurted it out if he didn’t have that feeling.
Despite Jeffrey’s mother coming in at the beginning of the school year to explain his condition to the children, or perhaps even because of this, some of the children have not always been particularly kind to him. Many of them think he’s weird and while they wouldn’t tease him, they don’t want to be his friend. Not my baby though. She befriended Jeffrey and stands up for him whenever she can, even though she’s been teased because of it. Everyone deserves a friend like the one my kid is trying to be.
I had just met Jeffrey a couple of weeks before at the book fair. I’m clearly Black and I was introduced as Em’s mom.
Back to the incident.
This transpired over 2 days. Day 1: He blurts this out, gets sent to the office and has to have some conversations with the principal and the (Black) vice principal. Day 2: The teacher asks the students if they want to discuss it in “circle”. They are all welcome to share. The teacher thinks that he was perhaps bullied by some Black children and maybe that’s the reason he said that, even though it’s still not right. Em passes because the more they talk, the more betrayed she feels.
Now, here I am, trying to unpack her feelings and the appropriate response.
“Did he forget I was Black, Mommy?” “Is he scared of me, too?” My heart is breaking. It’s just too soon.
Or is it?
I held off on writing/publishing this for some time. I wasn’t sure it was the right topic. Was I overreacting? I mean, this kid probably wasn’t trying to be racist, right? There’s not a lot of racism among middle to upper middle class children, right? It’s 2018, only kids in tiny, poor, backwoods southern towns are being taught racism at home, right?
Well, two days ago a friend pulled her child from a school in a town with a median household income nearly $10k higher than the national average. So, it’s on the more affluent side of things. It’s considered a really good school, people move to get their children in the district. So why did she pull him? Months of incidents of bullying and low level racial jabs finally ended in a boy calling him a n*gger to his face.
Yeah, I need to write this.
Look, I don’t know if little Jeffrey had a bad experience being bullied by a Black boy, but I do know (after asking my child) that he was bullied by some White children as well and he hasn’t developed a sudden fear of them.
I don’t know if he’s being taught an unconscious bias at home, but I do know my daughter was crushed.
Now, you might be thinking, Erin, you haven't given us a solution. How did you fix this for Em? How do we fix it for our kids?
I don't know. How can you fix your child's broken heart? I haven't fixed it for Em. The system is irretrievably broken and the only thing you can really do individually is to keep from making it worse. Please don't make it worse. If you're brown, prepare your babies and give them so much love that it hurts, but doesn't shake their self worth. If you're not brown...
Please, for the love of neighbor, don’t ignore this. Maybe you should have a chat with your children to see what they think about people of different backgrounds. Make sure there isn’t something in their thinking that you weren’t expecting or didn’t realize you were teaching by your actions. Or just make sure they aren’t going to say something at school that isn’t going to send another child home crying and shaken. If you are actively the reason your child is a budding little racist, I doubt you’re still reading or ever started, but on the off chance you are. CUT IT OUT! Isn’t life hard enough without randomly hating people you don’t know? Isn’t that exhausting? I’m sure it must be. I find it draining to keep up a sustained distaste for people who have actually wronged me. Save your child the headache and teach them that we all bleed the same color. Also, please don’t tell yourself this isn’t happening. It’s definitely happening, in your backyard. As penance for my absence, I have a few recipes and some travel tips that I’ll be posting over the next few days as well.
-E *Name has been changed.