By L. Ardor
Ferguson. Eric Garner. #BlackLivesMatter. In these past few months our senses have been consumed more than ever with race, and the system that flourishes in its presence—since Michael Brown was murdered on August 9, 2014 by Officer Darren Wilson. As the delayed, misguided swift hand of justice handed down the decision that Wilson will not be indicted for Brown’s murder, followed by the Grand Jury decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case, people have been strong armed into re-accessing their opinions on racial issues, and their place in North America.
As a Black mother to a little Black girl, this has become my worry, and pursuant to many, if not all my decisions. What about my little girl? Where is my place as a Black mother in all of this turmoil? How am I going to adequately educate her on being a little Black girl, who will grow into a Black woman in North America?
This week, I had a brief interaction with a non-Black mother, on a social media site that stunned me, “My kids don’t see colour, they see people,” she proudly exclaimed under a video of a 4-year-old Black girl crying because her [White] friend said she wouldn’t play with her, because she doesn’t like black people. As a mother, my heart broke in response to her tears; as a Black woman I was angered at the commenter’s response, and ignorant exercise of her privilege.
Erasure: The removal of all traces of something; Obliteration. When non-Black people say that they do not teach their children to see colour, as well intentioned as it may be, it is an unapologetic manifestation of their privilege—think of it as the White parental version of “Na na na na boo boo”. It is a daily reminder that Black people are not safe.
That sounds a bit extreme doesn’t it? Yet our collective safety as Black people is challenged everyday in a way that White people will never understand. It is the refusal to understand such struggles, masking itself in a tone of superior racial acceptance, which affords the privilege of erasure mentality. The power majority, for this reference “non-Black parents”, can afford to meander through the flowery fields of life with their children, without ever having to acknowledge the differences around them because they directly benefit from the erasure of those differences.
Simply by refusing to acknowledge my skin colour, you consequently erase my identity, and that in itself is a form of racism. How so? Systemic racism benefits exponentially from a mass of confused Black people unaware of who they are, who they look like, and where they are from. If I do not know who I am, my only alternative is to strive to look like that to which I am constantly exposed—you. It is teaching a generation proudly growing in diversity that our differences are not what make us unique, rather our sameness. “We are all the same,” “We all bleed the same colour,” “It is not our differences that matter, but what makes us the same.” Myth buster, spoiler alert, we are not all the same.
Yet according to this mother, “Skin colour is a minor difference. She can obviously see a colour difference.” Pause. Is not the proverb, “Prevention is better than cure,” applicable in this situation? Why wait until a child is crying from heartbreak to address such issues of life and death? But, “…She can obviously see a colour difference,” so what’s my problem, right?
By refusing to see our blackness, it allows for our violent history of colonization, slavery and continuing massacre to go unnoticed, untaught, and deemed unimportant. It is why the teaching of Black history is only reserved for a month, and why it only teaches of the poor, beaten slaves, and not the powerful, world-shaping Queens and Kings. By teaching those (Black and White) that will one day make decisions to govern this country, that racial makeup is a non-issue, who do we then become? If I am not Black, if I am not the perceived minority, the only other thing for me to be is nothing. If I cannot be me, who else am I expected to be but nothing? Invisible. Nothing.
I am not nothing. My daughter is not nothing, our blackness is not invisible, and so I vow to teach my daughter the intricate journeys, paths, and potholes of her blackness. When she admires herself in the mirror, I will instil within her a love for her black skin, kinky curly hair, and eyes that know what her lived experiences have yet to reveal. I will teach my daughter that she lives surrounded by a system that does not understand how powerful she is, and so it will try to crush her. I will teach her that friendship is futile with other children/people that do not recognize, accept, and give space to her for who she is, because they will not understand why she walks with the confidence that knowing ones cultural heartbeat affords.
Do not be mistaken, I will not teach her to hate. Loving her blackness is not equal to racial hate, it is confrontation of a system that encourages little Black girls, and boys to grow up with self-esteem steeped in inferiority. I will teach her to love, and in loving she must love herself first; in loving she must see everyone for who they are, accept, and reach them where they are. Likewise, educating your children on your Whiteness and the privilege and safety it affords, is not an act of racism, it is an act of awareness, it is an act of confrontation to that which you understand to be wrong, dangerous and oppressive.
Teaching our children that racial differences exist, and is a direct cause and effect to who we are as human beings is vital to the survival of knowledge, and true acceptance, because you cannot accept what you do not first acknowledge. You cannot fight to fix what is broken if you refuse to gather all the missing, shattered parts.
When does it end? When does this fight end? We can only hope for tomorrow; until tomorrow comes however, it does not end.
L. Ardor is a writer who believes that everything in life stems from love. Her mission is to spread her philosophy to all brave enough to embrace. You can find Ms. Ardor on twitter: @LaLaArdor.