Trayvon Martin, His Witness and What We Should Be Teaching Our Children About Racism

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Some may want to chalk this up to wild speculation;  however, everyday in America the sting of racism leaves many Black folks, particularly young Black men, playing out these questions and intrusive thoughts in their minds daily. The threat of racism is very real for us.  And researchers have found that Black and Brown people, who find themselves often on the receiving end of discrimination, are likely to develop race-based battle fatigue, which could exhibit itself in anxiety disorders and stress similar in kind to what soldiers face on the battlefield. Children are not immune neither, as research have also found a link between racism and depression or behavioral problems in Black and Latino children.

Slavery ended several hundred years ago. The days of Jim Crow segregation at lunch counters, water fountains, and restrooms are no longer a part of the American landscape. As a community we like to celebrate our struggles and accomplishments in how far we’ve come. And we teach the younger generation to do the same.  Yet for many parents of Black children, we think we do the kids a disservice if we discuss these racial paradigms and how it exists in society, as if we are setting them up for perpetual victimhood. Instead we focus on rearing them benign to knowledge of institutionalized racism. We don’t talk about how inequality in employment, housing, education and the justice system are very much visible even today and we rarely discuss with them about how those systems affect us in the present. We focus on what we could change to make our lives “easier.”

So we tell the children that they could be and do everything they want. That there race doesn’t have to be a deterrent to a good life. That racism is only an excuse, that all they have to do is work harder. We shake our heads and grimace in front of them about those Black people like Lil Wayne and single Black mothers, who are “bringing the community down.”  We teach them how not to sag their pants and we make sure not to give them funny names with too many syllables. And we make sure that they can speak Standard English better than most white folks. We even go as far as to move them away from Black communities, even if it means venturing into foreign terrines where they might be the only person of color for miles. We do this to give them a chance at a good education and more opportunities.

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