When I think about childhood and youth, I think of silliness, laughter, fun, and appreciation for the simple. There is a time allotted for pretending and games. Through our experience in childhood we are preparing for our adult lives. Think about yours; the good, the happy, the uncomfortable and even some of the bad, that’s life right.
My children were raised and grew up in a way that was vastly different from my experience. Simply rearing and girl versus rearing a boy, there are many, many things that can be touched upon. However, there is a task at hand that must be addressed and it is “A View From Inside”.
My childhood was sheltered and safe. We lived on a quiet street in Kansas City, Kansas and my paternal grandmother, aunt, and uncle were two doors down across that same street. We had ten pairs of familial eyes upon us most everyday. We walked to school, in Kansas and later in California. There were boundaries set, my mother was a stay at home mom. She knew where we were at all times and we knew it was our job to make sure she did not have to do more than call out our names in order to find us.
We moved to California when I was 7 years old; sometime between my earliest recollections and that move a little “colored” girl was kidnapped, and it made the evening news. I remember the event because kidnapping did not happen a lot or you did not hear about it like you do now, I remember she was from Missouri(Kansas City has a Kansas and Missouri side) and a white man was the one who did it. I remember this because she had a little brother who witnessed the event, and he recounted the information to his parents and the police. This story did not have a happy ending, and I remember that I was introduced to a fear that I never had known before.
I grew up in the 1960’s race was NOT discussed in my home with us until we were much older. This was the case in spite of the fact that my father’s brother was the president of the ;local NAACP and was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I did not know this or how important and potentially dangerous that was until after the assassinations began. Remember race was not discussed with us children until we were older. We had our place and it was not in adult conversations. I knew the difference of course, but I didn’t know any white people at that time, unless you counted my grandmother. She by-the-way was not white but simply had the complexion of.
In spite of what is reported on the news, or what is characterized on television, in the movies, etc. black people hold their children near and dear to their hearts. Black parents are over-protective and over zealous at times, but that comes from a history that made them adapt for survival. YES I SAID PARENTS!
I think back of the rules of the day with my parents; being visible or within earshot, the corporal punishment( I can say/admit most if not all I was at fault), the lectures( I better discipline you now than the white man later). I am not unique, but that was some heavy shit to put on a child. However, this part is about childhood and childhood shapes us into who we are as adults.
My parents were not hateful, but they were protective of us. Whatever one may think of corporal punishment, lack of racial discussion( barring the one about punishment later in life coming from the ever present yet elusive “white man”) ; my parents managed to stay married happily till the day my father died, raise four children( none of who were ever incarcerated nor teen parents), buy a home, and live to see their grandchildren. A slice of Americana, glamorized, marketed, denied to many people of color and TOLD it is THEIR fault as to why they do not have it.
We hold our babies near and dear; our hearts ache because they do NOT get the opportunity to just be children, because we live with the very real threat that they may not survive childhood. That is EVERY parents nightmare, to outlive their child. When a 12 year old with a toy is shot dead because of a toy in 2014, when a 14 year old is tortured and killed for a “wolf whistle” and a smart comment 59 years ago and all the other stories you heard about in between. The fear is warranted, the threat is real. I tell myself my children grew up in a world different than mine, but is it really?
My children grew up in Palos Verdes, California and Alpharetta, Georgia; white suburban heaven and havens, aesthetically pleasing, economically privileged, but the underlying feeling from most of our neighbors was “What are YOU doing here, oh that’s right affirmative action”. Damn we couldn’t even feel safe with all of that.
We shook our heads in disbelief when we saw children barely more than toddlers riding bikes in the middle of the street with no sign of a parent/their parent anywhere in sight. As time went on realization of ,”What do they really have to worry about” came to us. Their children are afforded the ability to make mistakes that kill off our babies daily. Imagine that, a child who actual has an opportunity to be a child; not a being who has that magical time of exploration and beauty tainted and poisoned with real fear, eminent threats, and horror.
Black people ARE angry; we DO love our children and we hold them in the highest esteem. A prank, youthful exuberance, or a traffic violation should NOT hold a death sentence that can be carried out by anyone carrying a gun, night stick, or possessing the acceptable skin tone.