A few days ago, my fifteen year old daughter was called one of the ugliest and most hateful words I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing about.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t anything new. I’ve been called that word as well, but there is something different about it when it’s your child. There’s something that breaks inside when you watch your offspring deal with blatant racism in a direct manner, instead of seeing it on the news or reading about it on the Internet.
I’m from Baltimore. I had my children there, their early childhood was there, and my fifteen year old was there when the protests were going on. She was there while I called everyone I knew and posted on Facebook, tracking the National Guard so her route home from school wouldn’t take her through their path.
That iconic CVS burning that every news network latched onto? It was right up the street from my parent’s home, and my daughter told me that she could smell the smoke that night.
She knows that racism still exists, and that it is an ugly and hateful thing.
In no way did we think that moving from Baltimore to Texas meant that we were moving away from the corruption, racism, or crooked politics that plague my hometown. But being here in Texas now, we’d hoped that maybe it wouldn’t be such a smack to the face.
It’s different when someone walks up to you and shoves it in your face in person.
When you, the only person of color in a group of friends (as my daughter was), are singled out by some kid who was taught to hate. And called a racial slur while your friends tell you that it’s not worth it and keep you from getting into an altercation.
It broke my heart to watch her walk in; her face frowning and downcast as she explained to her older sister and me what happened.
It’s horrible that she was forced to be the bigger person, yes because it was the right thing to do, but also because we currently live in Texas. The south, where the color of her skin and the fact that she is at least an inch or two taller than my current 5’6” would most likely dictate the reaction of law enforcement.
That is complete and utter bullshit.
But it is the world that we live in.
While I don’t agree with it, my instinct to preserve my child’s life means that I encourage her to take the high road, even though I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had “stomped a mudhole in his ass” as a friend of mine so eloquently put it.
A day later as I drove into work, I cried as I sat in traffic thinking about this horrid world that I brought these beautiful children into, where things like this still happen.
Parents, I encourage you to teach your children to take the high road.
Teach them that hatred isn’t the way to live their lives, and how to deal with hatred when they are confronted with it.
Show them what it means to be strong and beautiful, to be better than that hatred.
And if they encounter it and it breaks your heart the way that it broke mine, keep your tears contained until you can give them their own time and space to fall as you mourn that little bit of innocence that was stolen from them.
We’re too old for this, too mature. Or at least, we should be.
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