Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do Babies Feel Racism?

I had the oddest thoughts last night. Seriously, they were odd and I question the necessity. I also wonder what triggered them. Here they go...

Was I treated in a racist fashion as a child? And if so, has it had an effect on me throughout the maturation process? Follow me as I Build on this...

My parents were about as conscious as Black folks could be at that age. I have often said, if they were younger they would have been Panthers. But my parents were born in the 1930's and there is only a certain amount of the water they would trouble. As a child my parents, convinced me that I could do anything I wanted if I put in the work. They also told me to not trust 'Mr. Charlie.' That is the word they used unless they were mad at white people. Then they called them 'Paddyrollers.' I have come to learn that is a truly OLD way to refer to despicable white folks. Anyway... They made sure that I Knew and Understood the contributions that Black people have made to this country and to the world. My bed time stories along with tales also included information about prominent Black people and what they did. We also lived and socialized in a Black community of strivers. Okay. That was home. Lets talk about abroad.

I grew up in an urban environment. My parents did not trust the Paterson public school system. If y'all remember that movie Lean on Me?. That was my town. I did not attend that school, or any of the public school and programs that Paterson had to offer. I attended private, religious based schools. That was another block from my parents being too conscious. They powerfully love/d Jesus. All of my educational experiences were in predominately white schools. This is what prompted these thoughts. Did these white people do something to me when I was defenseless?

Various instances of mistreatment at the hands of white teachers and administrators have been bubbling to the surface lately. Why? Some of these memories are more than 30 years old! They aren't really upsetting me in a way where I want to go out and slap all white people. You know the feeling you get when you watch Roots, Mississippi Burning or any of them racist movies. No? I'm coming down with one of them Oprah "Aha!" moments. Ain't like I can hunt down and slap the people who mistreated me. I don't even want to. But I am being more mindful of my dealings with the devil.

I remember being put in the 'slow' class in kindergarten. Why? I remember taking a test and the people saying that I could be admitted to the school even though I was younger than their cut off for the class. I was the only Black girl in my class. There was a short bus of Black children bussed in from Paterson. We were the only Black children in the school. I mentioned some of the things that were going on in my class to my mother and she, an educator herself, realized that I had been classified as slow. You can't piss my mother off like that. She don't play that. I wasn't slow and she paid money for me to go there. She went up there and set them jokers straight. I was put in a regular kindergarten class and did well. Wasn't delayed at all. So they just decided to put me in that class for their own twisted reasons.

Another memory I have is at a February assembly, the principal made a statement that all Black people in this country should be happy that we taken into slavery. Because if we hadn't we would still be in Africa and starving. I had to be like 6 at the time. I came home and told my mother what was said and the fork fell from her fingers. See, at dinner we had to tell Mommie something new we learned that day. Even in the summer! That was my lesson for that day. She went ballistic and formed a lynch mob with Daddy and her lady friends (all teachers). They took me to school the next day, demanded to see the principal, and demanded that he corrected what he said over the loud speaker to the entire school. And didn't leave until they witnessed it. They did leave me there to deal with the fall out. The older students on the bus on the way home explained to me and the young children what had happened, because they (older children) were tickled and we were confused.

I remember forgetting to put my name on a test once and receiving a '0' on the test that affected my grade in the class. It was an honest mistake on my part. But it was the middle of the year and the class had maybe 9 students and if the other students all had their names on their papers then the teacher had to Know that that was my paper. Again my mother got involved. And the reason they adjusted things (I had gotten 100 on the test, they took 5 points off for my oversight) was because the teacher had filed the test, without the name, in my file. So she Knew that was my test! She just wanted to be contrary.

I remember in the 6th grade, the different, now Catholic school I was attending used to require parental class involvement. My mother worked like 30 minutes away from the school and my father was self employed. So Daddy used to be the one to come to school and participate. He was the only father helping out. The teacher made the comment that it was good to see him participating, and then she put her foot in her mouth and said, "Its probably the only time you see your daughter." Damn. Why it gotta be like that. Daddy was one of the funniest people I have ever met and he could shut you up, and make you feel foolish without making himself look bad. And he did just that. Damn paddyroller.....

I could go on. You could too. When you think of racism, you think of grown folks and not really of the babies being on the receiving end of it. They don't Know when they are being subjected, nor do they Know how to handle it. I was lucky because my parents were extremely supportive, involved, educated and did the Knowledge to my Cipher everyday. But there are parents who don't do this for what ever reasons. Maybe they are busy. Maybe they don't care. Maybe they feel like their children should learn to handle there own issues on their own. Maybe they don't Know how. I don't know. But should I have babies, I will be all up and through. And I will show them how to navigate that foolishness and always let them Know that their parents have their back as long as they are in the right. Though... I would like to think that that foolishness won't exist in the very near future, but you never Know.



Precise said...

You not gonna be a "Helicopter mom" are you?

Serenity Love Sincere Peace Earth said...

The funny thing is you aren't the 1st person that works for a university that has said that... In those exact terms. Is that university lingo?