Mommies in Black and White

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Tag: racism

Assume Nothing

Last month I was interviewed for a documentary depicting racial bias and stereotypes in my community. The interviewer asked me what advice I would give to citizens in my community regarding the subject. I shared two words…assume nothing.

I want citizens in our community and citizens of the world to resist their own biases and approach each other as human beings and not as stereotypes. Let me give you some scenarios:

  • When you see my children playing in our yard and they wave to you as you cross the street with your dog, don’t ask them if they live there in a condescending tone…Assume nothing.
  • When I was test-driving at a car dealership the dealer tried to find the hip hop radio stations. I do love my hip hop, but I bet he wouldn’t have found those stations for my white husband… Assume nothing.
  • When I was hired for my dream job someone asked, “how did you ‘swing’ that one?”…Assume nothing.
  • When recognized for accomplishments some people have hinted it wasn’t on merit but because “I was the token black person” in the company…Assume nothing.
  • When we bought our dream house someone questioned, “How’d you get a loan?”….Assume nothing.
  • When I changed my hairstyle some people assumed I was going through an identity crisis…Assume nothing.

I could go on. And on. So many interactions are burdened with racial biases and assumptions. When we all realize the importance of framing a question from a kind hearted, bias-free place our interactions will become less burdened. And, their value will increase exponentially as we break down tensions and barriers that too often characterize cross-cultural interactions.

Instead of asking, “Do you boys live here?” Ask, “Are you little guys new to the neighborhood?” Instead of assuming that because I’m black I like hip hop, ask, “What kind of radio station would you prefer?” Simple congratulations on work well done, a new home, or a promotion can go a long way. On the subject of hair and black women, just commend us for keeping our styles fresh, no identity-crisis intervention team needed.

If you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask. But ask from a place of compassion, free of assumptions. Ask because you care, because you genuinely want to understand. Ask in a way that squashes negative perceptions and allows civility to reign. And, if you have to assume. Assume the best. Always.

 

 

That awkward moment when you are the punchline at a comedy club

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good joke. My family members tease me and say that “Jebeh has no shame.” I’m a beautiful, black, confident woman. But, some things are entertaining and others are just offensive.

Last summer, my friend and I went for a much-deserved ladies night. We ended up at a local comedy club we’d both frequented before. We knew the unwritten rule: do not sit in the front row or  you’ll be part of the comedian’s set. We chose to sit at the table furthest back.

It didn’t save us. Some random guy dressed in a grey hoodie, who was inebriated (so I thought) sat at our table (uninvited) and said to us, “Oh man I can’t do this, I feel like sh**.” That random guy then headed to the stage. Surprise! The drunk hoodie guy was the headlining comic. I looked at my friend and we agreed, it wasn’t going to end well.

He was not funny. He grasped at straws and got only nervous laughter in response. Then, Mr. Hoodie-Comedian went on a racist rant: “I wonder what it would be like to be a slave master?” “You could get anything you wanted and wouldn’t have to pay them.” The crowd went wild. Just like that, he was the next King of Comedy.

Just like that, he was the next King of Comedy.

My friend and I felt like we were at a Klan rally. Mr. Hoodie-Comedian then pointed at me across the audience and said, “There’s one black lady in here and she’s in love with me. She would be my slave any day.” The crowd roared with laughter. After his set, he gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry.” I pushed him off and left in disgust.

I was so angry at the white man who decided to offend me for a few laughs. More disheartening was the crowd’s response. I know comedy is not for the faint of heart, but that kind of comedy was not worth our time or anyone’s time for that matter.

At moments like that I try to reflect on my life and the people in it. I remind myself of what I have accomplished, of the family I have built and the friends that have my back. If I compare those things to where that comedian was in his life, the anger just melts away. My laugh is the one that is heard. Next ladies night, we’ll hit up a movie instead.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Race

If you’re reading this then you are already engaged. You care and are curious. You likely “want to do this right.” But, most of us don’t have a clue where or how to start talking to our kids about race and racism.

Do we start the conversation? Wait for them to make a comment or ask a question? Lean into that teaching moment at the grocery store? How do we know if we’re doing it right or inadvertently reinforcing negative stereotypes and unhealthy assumptions?

Yes, we can do it wrong. But we shouldn’t be fearful of trying. Engaging is a step toward breaking down the taboo of speaking about race and racism in our communities and recognizing its numerous manifestations. Engaging is a powerful statement that you won’t ignore it or let is reside in a place that “doesn’t effect you.” Engaging means you are willing to listen, learn, and grow along with your kids.

A few weeks ago I started digging through my teaching resources and searching for additional tools to share in this post. Ironically, that same day the link below popped up in my inbox. So, instead of recreating a list, I’m sharing Musing Mamma’s post. She has great insights and links to some key resources to get those race and racism conversations flowing with your kiddos in a healthy and productive way.

Engage away!

Talking To Kids About Race: Resources for Parents

 

Donuts and derogatory comments

Mothers dread dragging their kids to the grocery store. This particular trip was an ‘oops’ moment on my part. I forgot to get the main dish to cook up for supper that night. I rushed from work, picked up my kids from childcare and ran to our nearby grocery store. My negotiation with my darling boys was my regular directive. “Stay quiet, hands-off, and you get a doughnut.”

The boys were smiling. This is a major treat in the Edmunds household. Yes, I bribe my kids when I’m in a hurry (no judging).  In my determined state, I bobbed and weaved through the aisles with two slow paced kids in tow. I grabbed the last rotisserie chicken at the deli and was off to the bakery aisle. Both boys were keeping up with their mama ready to pick their favorite and most coveted treat.

Then, it happened…. an elderly white woman came up to me with a not so pleasant smile on her face and asks me the most dreaded question of all… “Can we still call you colored?”  I could feel time standing still and my beautifully blended sons stared up at me with the most confused looks on their faces.

They’ve never heard of the term ‘colored’ before except for contexts such as describing the color of their favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The moment presented itself. I knew this woman had something to learn. So, I put on my  first grade teacher smile and gave her the rebuttal of her lifetime.

I said with the upmost pride, “No, You may call me Mrs. Edmunds and my sons are named Maxwell and Mateo.” I also used my pseudo-Liberian accent (which my husband gets when I’m frustrated with him) and concluded, “ Where I come from, we define ourselves by our names and not by race or derogatory comments.” Her face was shocked. While I walked away prideful with my sons, doughnuts, and cold chicken I felt great. How would you react if a total stranger called you or your child colored in a public setting? #imnotcolored

 

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