Thursday, April 30, 2015

Race and Riots

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing color differences until I was in about third grade. I grew up in a pretty diverse community – this one, as a matter of fact – and the reality that some people are different than me because of their skin color was not something that I heard in the house I lived in.

When I was two years old, I met my favorite childhood friend. Brandy lived behind us, and we played outside most every day until my family moved from that home after sixth grade. At my birthday party while we were in third grade, Brandy gave me a small token of our friendship that I still display on a shelf to this day. It was a small plaque with a picture of two kittens on it – one black kitten and one white kitten – with a quote that reads: "How nice they always seem to be, the times we share, just you and me."

Upon opening the gift, Brandy, with a huge grin on her face, told me she picked it out because the kittens on the picture looked just like us. My little third-grade mind was blown away, as this was the first time I remember realizing that I do, in fact, look different from my best friend.

My own child is now the same age as I was when I had this revelation. Just the other day, in the car on the way to school, Michael informed me that another little boy in third grade called him the "N" word. Thinking I hadn’t heard him correctly, I asked him what word he was referring to. Sure enough, the other little boy didn’t call my son nice, neat or even nerdy.

I attempted in the best way I could to explain to Michael the significance of the "N" word, and why he, along with any other person, black or white, should not say it. After the conversation, he was full of questions, the same questions I continue to ask, the questions that I’m not sure there are answers to. Such as explaining away the rioting that transpired in Ferguson, and most recently in Baltimore. Why do people feel the need to go to extreme measures to prove a point? I don’t have the answer for that. But, the way I can do my part to prevent a future of civil unrest regarding race in our community is to raise a son who more than tolerates other races. I want my son to become best friends with all kinds of kids, regardless of race. I want him to see people the way I see people – not what color they are, but what qualities they bring to my life.

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