In typical Monday fashion yesterday’s post was all about me, me, me. My kids. Our life. Their experience at last year’s middle school.
But today I’d like to talk about your kids.
I shared yesterday’s post on Facebook with this comment [slightly modified here]:
I’ve met everything from concern to shock when we told people why we were pulling the kids out of school. People have been genuinely distressed by what T-man and Bear experienced, and their hope that my kids love the new school is heartfelt.
But every single person (with two notable exceptions) has shared a common thread in their responses: shock. disbelief. a nearly universal “I can’t believe that’s still happening” comment. Along with either “I went there and it was fine, but that was a long time ago” or “I’m so sorry that happened, ___ (my kid) is doing fine there.”
There’s something you need to know. Every single one of those people is white. Their kids are white. Every.single.one. No black parent would be shocked to hear these things are still happening, they’re living it every day. White people live in a bubble that allows us to think MLK and the civil rights movement fixed our country — it did not. The current political climate is poking at that bubble, we’re starting to see the leaks, but only if we look.
We have to look.
See, here’s the thing – if you think your kid’s doing fine because they’re not personally getting called the N word at school, they’re not actually doing fine. Not really. Things worth talking about are sinking into their psyche.
When your white kid hears a peer call somebody the N word:
The more this happens, the more normalized this language becomes. It’s “just something kids say” and “the white kids even call other white kids that.”
Your kid’s faced with a choice: speak up and deal with the fallout among their peers, or let it slide because that’s just how things are. It’s a lose/lose for middle school.
Subliminal level: it isn’t hate speech, this is just something that happens to people of color.
When your white kid sees minimal adult response to students using the N word:
Handled without even notifying the administration? Not a big deal.
Addressed as “inappropriate” instead of hate speech? Not a big deal.
Infraction or ISS? Not a big deal.
Subliminal level: offenses against people of color are not a big deal, if they’re even recognized as offenses at all.
When your white kid sees black kids disproportionately disciplined or sent to the office:
Statistics show black boys are three times as likely to be suspended as white boys while black girls are six times as likely to be suspended as white girls.
Subliminal level: people of color can’t be trusted. People of color break the rules. People of color break the law.
When your white kid sees very few black kids in their gifted classes:
People get to know each other when they spend time together, and for kids that means school. How are black and white kids supposed to know one another as individuals without significant interactions?
The fact that minority children are less likely to be identified as gifted is another subject entirely.
Subliminal level: people who look like me belong in the room. White people are smarter than people of color.
So yes, you can look at our decision and say we made a choice to do what was best for our kids. Emotionally, physically, psychologically – T-man and Bear are in a healthier place.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking your white child is unaffected by their environment. They’re bombarded with explicit and subliminal messaging all day long. Start talking about the hard stuff so they can become allies for their classmates.