“Is America not safe, Mom? Should we move somewhere else?”. These are the questions that my (almost 10) and 13 year old have asked me over the past week.
The truth is, I don't have an answer for all their questions. I don't even have answers for all MY questions.
I’ve known early on that shielding my children from society and current events would not be how I parent. There are some who choose the “keep kids innocent” route; I disagree with the notion that you can’t be upfront about how the world works and still proclaim innocence. You can have age appropriate conversations with them while ensuring they have an amazing childhood simultaneously. Besides, at their age, if they don’t hear it from me they’ll likely hear it from someone else.
With the current headlines in the USA (police brutality - both to and from police-, protests, racism and violence on repeat) we’ve had some hard conversations in our home. Naturally kids ask questions that as adults, even when prepared, still catch you off guard. My goal has been to focus on buoying their confidence, focusing on what we can control and helping to calm their fears. This is no easy feat when your own confidence is shattered, you personally feel like there’s nothing you can control and your own fears aren’t very calmed. I mean, the fact that my kids are able to wrap their heads around any of it, even at an age appropriate level, when I can barely log onto the internet without being instantly heartbroken astounds me. Somehow, I've managed to help navigate them through this and I need to be rewarded with Mother of the Year or at least a 30 minute uninterrupted nap as a consolation prize.
Actually- forget the award, I’ll take the nap. Please AND thank you.
I haven’t had all of the answers for them, but there are a few things I absolutely need them to understand. Several years ago, I had to work through some lingering personal issues before I could step into a better me via therapy. From that time, one of the biggest lessons that I took away was that you can’t control how a person feels. How you feel is JUST that- it’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just your truth. However, what we CAN control is how we react. I’m not perfect and I don’t always react in the best way possible; but I recognize when my reaction is inappropriate or dramatic that only I am to blame.
I always want my children to be able to react in a way that is helpful. So, that is what I’ve been focusing on- how you feel about it is fine, but what can you do about it that is going to incite change? In order to bring about change, you have to check yourself; you check yourself by being true to yourself and your feelings, while asking important questions.Realize that you don’t have to choose a side.
You are absolutely able to be proud of who you are, believe that black lives are important and be supportive of good police and value that their lives are important simultaneously. ALL of this can be possible in ONE person's mind. You are a black child in America and you KNOW incredible police officers. It is okay to be proud of both, and hold all police officers to the standard that the officers you know have set.
Do not listen to the lies that the world will tell you- that you can’t utter “Black Lives Matter” because it’s divisive or because it’s anti-police. No one gets to dictate what causes you believe in. No one would dare tell you which charity to donate to (because ALL charities are worthy!); likewise they can’t tell you which cause you want to speak out on behalf of.
Ask yourself “What is this going to solve?” before acting.
Over the last few days I’ve seen calls for protests, boycotts, moving money to different banks and leaving the country among other things. I’ve seen some nasty, hateful, racist and prejudiced comments from all backgrounds. I’ve seen people sharing false information as truth.
And with each plea, each comment I wonder “what is this going to solve?”. Zero percent of minds are changed through an online comment. I also haven't seen one law change from these protests. So what's the point? Are we SOLVING anything? Or are we all so busying talking that none of us can be heard.
I understand the idea behind protesting, it is an American right and while I don’t think it’s violent or stupid( as some are calling it); I’m not understanding what we’re solving by these protests. What’s the end game…to march again tomorrow? Are you meeting with community leaders at the end of this protest, or just out here yelling to be yelling?
This is called hustling backwards.
When you boycott Target…have you REALLY looked up how much Target is doing for your community? Will you go back to drinking Coke the day after you boycott Coke? When you move your money…will it cost you MORE to keep your money in that bank?
I’m all for making moves, supporting the cause, but at the same time it has to make sense and have a lasting effect- or it’s all for nothing.
You cannot live in fear.
If you are a black child in America, think about what you've been seeing on the news and social media, specifically over the past week. If you believe the rhetoric, you believe that statistically you're either going to die unjustly by a racist cop or by another black person, depending on who you are listening to.
Dear child, there are more good in black people and America as a whole, than what is currently making headlines. Do not feel ashamed of who you are. Do not feel like every cop is out to hurt you and will automatically be ready to shoot you based on your skin color. You are so much more than what the world is narrowly focused on. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is still true. You’ll never be able to look at a person and know their heart; and that same goes for you.
For example: If anyone saw me at the grocery store today they’d never in a million years believe that I’m a contributing member to society. It’s just like that sometimes.
Continue to be YOU.
YOU are a good person, you love all people. You expect the people in your community to do and be GOOD, as well. Don’t change your heart based on what you might see on the news, on social media or anywhere. Do not be consumed by the things you see on screens… be consumed by what’s around you. You are beautiful, smart and a part of an amazing community. Be a part of what’s good, each an every day. No one’s words, thoughts, stereotypes can change who YOU are.
Don’t forget what I’ve taught you. Don’t forget the Higher Power that you serve. You are beautiful and not to be feared. Focus on remaining true to YOU. Be the love that will help drive out the fear and the hate.