Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

Prepare the Child for the Road~ Kristi

on February 19, 2013

Prepare

This week two posts that were written in dialogue with one another will be published in honor and celebration of Black History month.

A momma’s instinct is to fret over her babies. This may motivate her to attempt to control the world around her. For example, a mother may worry that her child might get hit by a car, so she teaches her him or her to look both ways when crossing the street. A mother may worry that her child might get sick, so she teaches him or her to wash hands well. I worry about my child, too. I worry about preparing her for her future and I want to guard her precious innocence from the brutalities of life.

A while back I read: “Don’t prepare the road for the child. Prepare the child for the road.” I have been guilty of trying to prepare my daughter’s road because that’s my momma instinct– to protect her, keep her out of harm’s reach, and let her be happy and carefree. If I am preparing my daughter’s road, am I am preparing her for life’s challenges? No.

I am filled with apprehension about raising my biracial child. She is six and has become fully aware that mommy is white and daddy is black. She knows she straddles two cultures and is working through her six-year old observations of each. I knew this time would come and it will frame her racial identity. I have tried to mentally and emotionally prepare for the significance of this, but is a mother ever prepared for huge tears and the phrase “I am not black enough” to come from the booster seat in the backseat? No. In these moments, my momma instinct wants to kick in and make this road to racial identity easier for her.

I worry about how people will identify and label her. I am concerned about the implications of any label, racial or otherwise, forced upon my daughter.

Last year in kindergarten, my daughter learned about racism and the Civil Rights Movement. One night last February as she did her homework, she told me about how the “colored” people had to drink from a dirty, nasty, filthy drinking fountain while the whites were able to drink from a clean, white one. She looked at me with her beautiful, sparkling blue eyes and said, “Good thing I am white. I don’t want to drink from a dirty, nasty, filthy drinking fountain.”

I took a deep breath and corrected her, “Actually Baby, since you are half-black, you would have drunk from the ‘colored’ fountain.” Her mouth hung open in disbelief and the look in her eyes left an indelible mark on my soul. Innocence was lost; the power of a label had won. I saw the legacy of the deeply seeded racism in America in my daughter’s not-so-sparkling-anymore eyes.

I am grateful that my daughter can live in a time where “colored” water fountains are not her reality, but my heartbreaks for the countless children who have gone before her and it was theirs.

I worry how people full of ignorance and hate are going to treat her.

I teach the novel Night by Eli Wiesel each year. Every time I teach about the hatred and evil of the Holocaust, a tremor of terror passes throughout my body. Yes, my daughter eyes are blue, but her skin is caramel. Her hair is coarse and curly. She is not what Hitler wanted; she would have been exterminated. This awareness gives me a very minute, yet deeply personal connection to the experiences of the victims of the Holocaust. It wounds me every time.

I worry that my daughter will face racism and discrimination head on as her father and I have.

My daughter’s father’s worst experience with racism and discrimination: He was a senior in high school and was in the front yard conditioning for his upcoming CIF-championship football game in white shorts and tank top. He was running up his front yard hill when police cars descended upon him and guns were drawn. His father, a well respected member of the community, rushed out the front door to help and other police officers drew guns on him as well. What my daughter’s father and his dad didn’t know was there had been a robbery in the neighborhood and the suspect was a tall, black man dressed in all black. As my daughter’s father stood outside in handcuffs, the victim of the robbery drove by in an unmarked car. The victim confirmed he was not the perpetrator because he was wearing white. What if the victim misidentified him? How would that have affected his future? What power that victim had over my daughter’s father future!

My worst experience with racism and discrimination: My daughter was five-months old and I had just returned to work from maternity leave. I received a phone call from a father about his student’s grade. When I returned the phone call, I realized the father didn’t want to know why his son had a 34% in my class (although he did use that as the conversation opener); what he wanted to know was why he overheard his son and friend talking about how my “husband” was black. I didn’t know what to say. I stumbled through a quick end to the phone call and reported it to the counselor. A few weeks later, this same father wanted to sit in on his son’s class. This is never a problem as I welcome parents to come observe, but this situation made me apprehensive and I agreed to the parent observation if, and only if, a security guard or administrator sat in class with me. After the parent observed my classroom, administration viewed me differently. My teaching evaluations, which had been glowing and stellar for four years, took a turn for the worse. I could do nothing right and it lead to a mid-year transfer to another school and my contract not being renewed the next year. What power that racist man had over my destiny!

In a meaningful conversation with a biracial soul sister at work, she confirmed my fears. My daughter will struggle through these things. All biracial children do. As my daughter journeys down her road to racial identity, my job is to inspire a deep sense of self-confidence in her. Additionally, I have to teach her to let people think what they will. Their beliefs don’t dictate her worth. There it was again! “Don’t prepare the road for the child. Prepare the child for the road.”

I have a duty to fight racism and discrimination whenever I encounter it, and I do. No longer can I parent out of the fear that my daughter might encounter racism or discrimination because she will. All I can do is fortify her against attacks of ignorance and hate. My prayer is: Lord, if, or when, she encounters the venomous words of hate, may they contradict who she knows she is and may she be courageous enough to laugh them off. If, or when, she encounters people with poor characters, may she recognize their ignorance and rise above.


4 responses to “Prepare the Child for the Road~ Kristi

  1. Megan says:

    I have and will only look at people as people!!!! I think Jaylah is beautiful and one of many things that make her beautiful is the fact that she is biracial!!! On a side not I remember many times you coming to get Jaylah and after you would leave children were confused on why you were her mother…..it was a wonderful teaching moment for me 🙂 love you both!!!!!

    Like

    • Megan, you are such an intricate part of raising this little girl. Thank you for being willing to have these conversations with the little ones. The truth is so easy for them to accept. It’s adults who make it so complicated. Much love, soul sister. Kristi

      Like

  2. Jill says:

    And you, Megan, are another beautiful blessing to this world! XO Jill Coulter

    Like

  3. Shan says:

    ❤ Painful to think of the bumps Miss J's road will hold, but I believe you are giving her an excellent platform from which to launch, and to which she can return.

    Like

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