If you visited the blog yesterday you know this has been an intense week. Frankly, I’ve downed a lot of Advil and done more than my fair share of stress eating, neither of which really fixed what ailed me. Beer didn’t help either. That’s what I get for trying to self-medicate.
Bee recently talked about what it’s like to live in redneckia and it made me laugh. Then it made me cringe. Then laugh again. Because sometimes the world is so freaking distressing, so overwhelmingly frustrating and infuriating, that my only coping mechanism is to find humor in the macabre. Which is certainly how I categorize the racist sh*t we’ve run into over the last three years or so.
Middle school being, well, middle school, there was fallout from my visit to the office on Wednesday. One kid got pulled from class, then some others (or so I hear), and by the end of the day half the sixth grade had a rough idea of who had kickstarted this joyride. Good times.
My first hint that something had gone awry was when T-man got in the car after school – he’d heard someone he knew was suspended and wanted to know how that kid got pulled into this mess. (Umm…beats me. Maybe you should ask Cam?) He looked a little upended but nothing too drastic so I wasn’t overly concerned.
By the end of the evening, though, T-man had reached critical status. Apparently there’d been uproar in a group chat where some kid (not the one we’d mentioned to the school) was super pissed because T-man had gotten him in trouble. Gotta love the rumor mill, right? At that point my kid lost it, asking why I always have to make a big deal out of things and tell the school.
We’ll just pause a moment for those of you who know me and are now rolling in the aisle. I cannot count the number of times I’ve told T-man and Bear to suck it up, that everyone has to put up with less than ideal situations in life. I even hit a point in elementary school when I worried I empathized too much with the teachers and wasn’t being enough of an advocate for my own kids. Yet here T-man was, angrily demanding to know why I was such a helicopter parent.
It seemed that, despite our very lengthy discussion the night before, T-man still didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Which meant we had a long night ahead of us.
We’ll skip the ways I’m not that overprotective parent who complains when her precious snowflake stubs a toe. How I save my firepower for the fights that matter, because if you’re in the office whining all the time then they just don’t pay attention when the important stuff comes along. Let’s just get to the Big Time Talk.
The night before we’d discussed the KKK – their beliefs, the intimidation and brutalities they’re responsible for, the fact that they’re still around today – but it didn’t seem to stick. Or maybe it was too surreal to grasp. I often feel that way myself, and I’m an adult. I shouldn’t be surprised that my 12-year-old is struggling.
I decided to take a different approach on Wednesday. If I wanted T-man to understand why I’d gone to the school, I needed him to understand exactly what that boy was singing. I’ll take klan song lyrics for 200, Alec.
Let’s see now, T-man…line one talks about a great old wizard man. That’s a title for a real person, it’s what they call the person in charge of the KKK. You see that again in the second line of the song, “born to lead the Klu Klux Klan.” He’s singing about leading a group dedicated to the superiority of the white race, a group that would be thrilled if you and all the other brown people went back where they came from. He’s singing about white power.
The next two lines are literal. Wearing “white and pointy hats” – let me show you a photo of a klan member. This is from 2016. These guys have long white robes hanging in their closet, and they wear these hats with a piece that covers their face. It looks like Halloween, right? But you know what they did in those outfits? They burned crosses on black families’ lawns. They beat black women and hung black men. They terrified children.
And the last line of that kid’s song? The one about beating ni**ers up with baseball bats? It sounds bad, sure, but what you need to understand, son, is that there are still people in this country who think that sounds like a good time on a Saturday night. The KKK has a long history, but they are not a lesson from the past. They are very real and very much alive, and if some kid is singing about beating blacks for the KKK then you can be damn sure I’m gonna mention it to your school.
It was a hard talk. Kind of like ripping the band-aid off a child’s innocence and showing him what kind of festering evil still lurks in their backyard. It was painful and awful and disgustingly necessary.
There was a part of me that was still in shock. Surely, surely, in 2017 I’m not talking to my son about KKK rally songs. And then there was the other voice. The one that knows I’m shocked because I’m white. That if I were black this would be unacceptable, yes, but not at all surprising.
And that might be the saddest thing of all.