I recently wrote a post titled Why I Teach My Children That Color DOES Matter. When I wrote that post, I had no idea how much attention it would get. I wrote from my heart, feelings I have as a mother of three beautiful little brown skinned girls. As traffic to the post grew, both on the blog and on social media, it began to open up an important dialog between my African American and Non-African American readers alike. What happened next was amazing! People asked questions. People gave opinions. And everyone did it in a manner that was so respectful and genuinely interested that it truly warmed my heart.
Something even more special happened. As a writer, my hope is always to reach someone with my writing. Not in the essence that it reaches their computer, tablet, or mobile device… but REALLY reach them in a way that impacts their lives. That’s why it truly touched my soul, when I read the following letter:
What an honor! Not only did this reader read and enjoy my message, she has reached out to me with the invitation to share something about MY culture with her children. Something they may not ever learn in school, or be exposed to anywhere else. Something that may or may not stay in their mind the rest of their life!
And then… I froze.
I had to think of something epic to respond to this reader with. Something her boys would remember forever! What if I never get this opportunity again? I don’t want to blow it.
So, instead of writing a response (which very quickly became far too lengthy for a comment response) I decided to instead write her this open letter, in an event that someone somewhere may also have the same question and happen to come across this tiny little piece of the web.
This is what I wrote:
Dear Caucasian Friend,
It means so much to me that you read my post, and also that you are so intentional about teaching your boys about other cultures. It is mothers like you who raise beautiful smart, intelligent, and compassionate people this world so desperately needs. When you came across my tiny little piece of the internet and wrote the comment you did… you likely had no clue how great your impact on my heart would be. Your questioned generally touched me to the core.
You see, you could have rested easily at night knowing that you yourself are tolerant of other cultures. You could have been proud that your boys are open minded, and learn about other cultures in school. But you went further than all of that. You went outside of the box. You took the opportunity to reach out to someone (that person just happening to be me) that has an insight view of an entire culture. First-hand experiences that you and your children may have possibly never encountered. A perspective that may not match your own. But you stood up and asked the question so that you, as a mother, could share this priceless knowledge with your own children. And for that Mama, I applaud you.
Now, to answer your question. There is, in fact, something I would love for you to teach your children about my culture. It’s something you’ve likely been teaching them all along. It’s something that, in fact, everyone could benefit from.
What’s my message?
It’s simple. Please explain to your boys that in life sometimes people are hurt, and it doesn’t make sense to you. Someone may fall down on the playground in a manner that you would have bounced right back up from. Someone’s feelings might be hurt by something that wouldn’t seem that significant to you. Whatever the case is, it’s never a nice thing to tell someone to “Get over it” or that it isn’t something they should ever hurt from. The thing is, we don’t decide what hurts other people. Race is no different.
Here’s a timeline of slavery in United States, that helps put things into perspective.
You see, the picture above shows us that slavery and segregation weren’t all that long ago. And some people are still hurt by it. And that’s okay. Becuase it’s beautiful people like yourself… the ones that seek further understanding. That dig a little deeper. That ask to borrow the shoes of another, if only for a moment, so that you can better understand their walk. And ESPECIALLY, the people who teach their children to do the same… It’s people like you who well help the future hurt a little less, and the world feel like a better place.
Thank you friend,