Happy Black History Month!

It’s February ’round these parts– ’round your parts too, I imagine, but I try and not talk about your ‘parts,’ *I’m* a lady.  What was I talking about?  Oh yeah, February….  That means– getting ready for the church rummage sale (squee!  I always score such good stuff!); the much loved Valentine’s Day; my Mom’s Birthday (she’s going to be awesomety-four this year); and some of the weirdest weather in you could imagine.  For instance, today I went out in just a t-shirt and sweatpants for about fifteen minutes with no discomfort, and then tonight between 10 PM and 10 AM we have a snow advisory.  Sheesh.

Marcus Leaves For School

Marcus Leaves For School

It’s also black history month.  I must admit, as a typical young WASP, black history month was always sort of like Canadian Thanksgiving– yeah, they’re nice people, but it doesn’t affect me much.  And then I went to college, and life branched out for me a little, and my horizons broadened, and at some point, I started raising a kid.

As he gets older and becomes more socially aware, I’m trying as his parent to be really careful about what loaves I put in that metaphorical breadbasket.  He ain’t gonna just like white bread, if you know what I’m saying.  That stuff sticks to the roof of your mouth.  No really, I’m not just talking about race awareness when I’m speaking of loaves, I want him to be open-minded with topics like religion and sexuality and all kinds of things so again, I’m careful.

We’re Unitarian Universalists, which means that when he grows up, he can ascribe to whatever religious theory he wants, or even none at all.  (I know that many of you may take issue with this– Heck, many of my *family* might take issue– but this is where I’m happy.  If not UU, I would be non-churchgoing.)  I think we’re pretty good in the spirituality department, and TVUUC works really hard to give him a great variety of love and information on Sunday morning.  (And as for sexuality, er, he’s six.  I’ll deal with that when I deal with hormones.)

I find that an interesting part of parenting this way involves simply not mentioning some things.  We have never pointed out that two men kissing on TV might be considered “weird.”  We don’t think it is. We have never told him that certain friends of ours are African-American, and these obvious physical differences were never observed by him….  In fact, he once asked our young, 6’4″, black friend Alex, “Are you my family?”  And my family is so SHORT, the whole thing was funny.  After laughing, Alex hugged him and said, “I love you like family, but we are not related.”

He Runs Past (His Dad's?) Dentist Office

He Runs Past (His Dad’s?) Dentist Office

So in a way, I feel like this is working, his best friends at school are a fascinating mix of girls and boys of all races; he can tell a Christian adult what a Menorah is and how it is used in Hanukkah; he likes wheat bread.  But in other ways, I worry that we are setting him up for a sort a of failure, a disappointment in mankind when he sees how cruel and disgustingly hateful others can be… he is such a little gentle soul.

A favorite uncle of mine just passed, and I went to his memorial a week ago today.  Pan, on the way to school, explained where I was going that day, and how I wouldn’t be home until after Fox was asleep.  Later, on the way home from school, Fox had questions about death, and heaven.  Pan hedged a little, not sure what to tell him, and answered sort of vaguely.  That night, when I got home, it began to storm.  Poor Fox had nightmares all night.  He repeatedly woke up and didn’t want to lie back down, didn’t want to return to sleep.  In his groggy dream state, he said he was worried about me getting home, and it was hard to convince him I was really right there.  I know he still feels very uncertain about the information that he was supplied, and we need to rectify that very soon….  It’s hard to have answers in moments like that when your previous policy has been to be vague or elusive… or worse, entirely mum.  He was hungry for those loaves, and we hadn’t selected any to give him.  It makes me feel a little bit like a failure as a parent, but I also try and remember that I was dealing with grief, and its hard to know what will freak a child out when Mommy is crying.

He Waves To the Handsome Traffic Cop

He Waves To the Handsome Traffic Cop

Back to Black History Month.  I’ve decided that since there’s a month for it, I’m going to do it this month– intentionally talk about it.  I’m going to try and talk about race, and do that on an open manner, but also on six-year-old level.  This evening I had my first opportunity.  We were at the grocery store, and he was riding on the front of the cart, holding on tight in his puffy jacket he adores, and he says aloud, “What weird words… I mean, what does that even MEAN?  Peanut.  Butter.  That sounds crazy.”  (For the record, he knows what it *is,* he adores the stuff, he just meant the combo of the words.)  I explained that it was like butter–  smooth and creamy– but made out of peanuts instead of milk.  And then– I missed my opportunity.  Right there, in the grocery store, pushed my *literal* grocery cart past that metaphorical bread smeared with historical peanut butter, and said nothing else about it.  I SHOULD have talked about George Washington Carver, and what a trailblazer he was, and how important to African American history he was.  I should have, but I didn’t.  My stupid policy has brainwashed me I guess, and I didn’t even think of it.  So I will be doing that tomorrow, while Fox and I bake some peanut butter cookies.  I will create an opportunity because I feel terrible that I missed such a great one when given to me.  I will try and talk about race and racism with my young child.

The South has such a terrible reputation for bigotry, and I know why that exists, but that does not mean that I have to like it.  I also don’t entirely believe that it’s true.  I think there is a fair amount of racism everywhere in this country, and none of us are proud of it.  My state’s past has had plenty of moments that do not make me swell with pride. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Scopes and Campfield.  I was not alive for most of it, and you weren’t either.  (If you were, message me privately and I’ll have some of what you’re having.)  But I can try and have an affect on our version of the future, and actively steer my child away from hate and rot and the bad joujou that is moldy bread.  (Are you totally sick on my bread metaphor now?  I’ll stop feeding it to you soon!)

On the Way Home, He Stops To Check On a Neighbor

On the Way Home, He Stops To Check On a Neighbor

In my desire to point out how far blacks have come, I will be reading a special selection of books to Fox at bedtime throughout the whole month, I have already selected a few that are fantastic.  I have Dr Seuss’ The Sneeches, which is an excellent bridge to walk and talk about racism itself.  I have President Obama’s fantastic book dedicated to his girls (makes me cry!).  I also have three books by Mr Ezra Jack Keats, A Whistle For Willie, The Snowy Day (perfect for right now), and A Letter For Amy.  All three of these are centered around Peter, a African American boy perhaps only a couple of years older than Fox.  I would really love to go and get more of Keats’ works, particularly more featuring Peter.  These Keats books are historically important, because they were the first children’s books featuring mutliculturalism on the mainstream market of the 1960s.  Not only that, but they’re a fun read.  Put that in your breadbasket and push it!

I also wanted to share one last thing with you today, its the images dotting this post.  Its another kids’ book from the same era, and I feel, an amazing find.  It’s simply called, It’s Schooltime, with pictures by Kelly Oechsli, and its from 1967.  (Oddly, I failed to take a photo of its cover.)  I have already read this one over and over and over in the two months since I bought it, though saying “read” is a real stretch.  There are only 9 words of text in the whole volume!  Still, it’s super-cute, and I hope you agree. We like to create names for all of the characters and really pore over the bustling scenes.  I love that the setting is so urban and the scenes are so detailed.  The depictions of African-Americans– everyone, really– are so positive and encouraging.  It has a very warm and uplifting feel, all conveyed in those sketched and watercolored pictures.  I cannot help but wonder as I kiss my boy goodnight if he will grow up to good things… if he will be open minded, and smart, and positive.  And I also wonder if President Obama was read to by Miss Stanley and given the same hope from these same sources.  And I feel pretty proud of our country for how far we’ve come.  I want to be sure we stay on that path.  Happy February, ya’ll!

And Back To the Safety Of Home...

And Back To the Safety Of Home…

(This last pic is my favorite!  Look at that Mid-Century apartment!  Multi-generational, homey, efficient and clean-lined!  Swoon!  I love the aqua harlequin diamond wallpaper, the low console with the African bust, the large Van Gogh “Sunflowers” on the wall, the tidy hutch.  Looking at it, I cannot help but wonder if someone (Grandma?) sleeps on that clever daybed….  And little Tina’s laundry line!!  Isn’t that the best of all?  Hours of play imaginatively playing while emulating Mommy….  It’s all completely wonderful.)

***I know I’ve talked about some pretty heavy stuff here today, and it’s not my intention to be controversial or a downer….  I’m honestly just reporting my thoughts and struggles about our very real life.  If you comment here, please be nice… I’m sensitive.

 


Feb 01, 2013 | Category: Just A Thought | Comments: none

 


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