Do I have your attention? The title of this blog post sounds pretty charged, right? At first read, it’s definitely not PC in these volatile times of protests and demonstrations to fight for justice and make sure black voices are heard, and more importantly that their lives matter. Amid all this chaos and noise of the current climate, the pain and sadness I feel and see, this quote, the title of this post, came to my mind. “My Friend’s Not Black.”
About a couple years ago, I started the conversation with my boys about their cultural heritage. They were only about 4 and 5 at the time, but I felt it was time to gauge their understanding of race and ethnicity, and I wanted them to know about their heritage. Honestly they didn’t know much, and for them to comprehend being half Black (Daddy) and half Filipino (Mommy), was a new concept. However, because I told them that’s what they were, they accepted it.
As I tried to find examples and ways to communicate the “race” concept to them, I made reference to one of their good friends. He’s the same age as my older son, and they attended the same school and played on the same little league baseball team together. This friend is African-American, and I know that because I am a grown up and well, I just know.
Well, in my explanation – which I thought would help them identify a bit better with what it means to be mixed (i.e. half of one ethnic group and half of another), they rejected it! I believe I said something to the effect of your friend “Ryan” is Filipino and your friend “Jay” is Black or African-American, so you are a mixture of both those races, because Mommy is Filipino and Daddy is Black. Now, while they accepted that “Ryan” was Filipino, they refused to see that “Jay” was Black.
This is where the blog post title comes in. I distinctly recall my son saying “Jay” is not Black. And I replied, yes he is honey, he’s African-American. So, in all his innocent intelligence my son replied to me, “How do you know? He didn’t say he is.” Then, as I tried to reason and explain my POV, he again said, “My Friend’s Not Black.” It was a mind-blowing moment for me, proof that children view the world without assumptions or judgement, and only learn and know what we (parents) tell them. On top of that, he wasn’t telling me his friend’s not Black because “black” is a bad thing, he said it because he was coming at me more like, “Mom how do you know!?”
It seemed so obvious to me (as a grown up), but, I was so thankful and in awe of my child who rejected what I was saying, and didn’t want to assume or judge his friend’s race, based on what I was telling him. Again, what seemed obvious to me, was not a fact for him, simply because his friend did not tell him that.
I love telling this story, and I think right now is as good a time as ever to tell it. “Jay” is still a dear friend to both of my boys, and if you take away anything from this story, I hope to drive home the notion that children only know what we tell them, what we teach them and what they see from us. Children are not born to be racist, rather they are conditioned to have prejudice and make assumptions about others, it is a learned concept. If they are taught that differences make others “inferior” and unworthy, that’s the attitude they will carry, and potentially pass on.
Acceptance and understanding begins at home. Can you imagine if we all did our part to educate ourselves and our children, on topics like race, ethnicity and culture? I’m more than willing to bet the future will be better because of it. Differences are what makes us unique, but we all belong and deserve to be here together. Black Live Matter.