Parenting Ain’t Easy: Raising a Black Child in America
Ain’t no love like a mother’s love. Then, there is a Black mother’s love. A love that has to prepare a child for a war before they are privy to its existence. It’s a challenge to find the right balance between preparedness and being over zealous because like any parent, you just want the moon, stars, and entire sky for your baby. However, you have to work hard against those that would eagerly impose limitations on them.
I always work diligently to build my son up against a world that constantly seeks to tear him down and establish his life as less valuable than the life of a dog. I believe it is my responsibility to breathe life into my son constantly. My wheels are always spinning as I frame everything through race and I worry about things that other mothers don’t even think about.
I began reading to my son while he was still in the womb and have never stopped. Anything I could teach my child, I did and still do. The philosophy my parents taught me about ‘a Black person having to work twice as hard to go half as far as their white counterpart’ is my reasoning for this. When people comment that maybe I push much too hard for a toddler, I acknowledge their commentary but it doesn’t change my approach. After all, my son simply cannot afford not to be outstanding in all that he does. Of course he can be a ‘child’ but he will always be a Black child and as a result, subject to an entirely different set of standards.
My eyes grow wide if my son talks back in public because understanding rules and adhering to boundaries will be paramount to his safety. I think about these things even at 3 years old because Black children are often more likely to be perceived older than their age. As a parent, I learned that the stereotypes begin early. I’ve discussed this on the blog before and I’m always ready to go to bat for my child. It’s unfortunate that as a parent of a Black child you have to let a teacher, of all people, know that words are powerful and to be cognizant of how she corrects my child and mindful of how she describes my child.
When my son was 2 years old, he went to school with ‘MC hammer pants’ on with dinosaurs on them. A teacher at his school said ‘oh he is so cute, he looks like a little thug’. The anger, hurt and disappointment that ran through me at a moment like this, was palpable. I guess for a few brief moments, early on in his life, I felt my son would be absolved of race. Silly! I know, but I just thought he would be spared of having to deal with these racially charged moments. I thought that as a parent, I wouldn’t have to deal with the same crap with him that I deal with as grown Black woman on my own.
In the white supremacist climate that has always been America, I never want my son to be labeled or unfairly and excessively punished, so I do everything I can to make sure he knows how important it is for him to be well-behaved, well-mannered, and disciplined. It nearly broke my heart the other day when I had to take his toys away as punishment for thwarting my authority but he has to get it.
The truly heartbreaking piece to this whole parenting gig is the piece where Black parents do everything ‘correctly’, raise an outstanding member of society, and for reasons beyond their control, their child becomes another victim of a racism.
What are your thoughts or parenting experiences? Please do share with me!