This blog prompted me to stop and apologize to my son….
As a little girl, I loved going to the store watching my mom prepare breakfast, and run the store every morning at 5 AM. There were regular customers that she’d prepared their breakfast and bring out to them, even got their coffee when the machine was right there by them. She literally walked from behind the cash register, to the coffee counter that was on the table right next to where they sat. I figured maybe she wanted to do that. It was required and she could have potentially lost her job if she had not. The store was owned by a very racist guy to many other people we knew, but he did not treat us that way because she was reliable, trustworthy, and a hard worker. They made a lot of inappropriate jokes and some days she would give them a piece of her mind and the rest got brushed off. They would only make my mom a manager but did not offer the right salary for a manager with benefits. There were a few times, if the store owner’s wife miscounted, they’d accuse my mom, barely apologizing when she ran the camera back or recounted correctly. She worked there for 18 plus years enduring a ton of disrespect until she was offered a job with benefits and better pay. They tried everything they could to make her stay but she knew it was time!! A few years later, the owner passed, and the store went out of business.
During high school, I participated in pageants and never won but I always got the first runner up. It was so common, I started to believe that I was second best. I did not know that my face could not represent my town no matter how good or pretty I was. I got to fulfill the role when the winner was unavailable or did not want to do it but never attended any real opportunities to be exposed for scholarship opportunities. In addition, I wondered why I had white teachers, but their kids did not and still do not attend the schools they teach in. It had been masked all my life and even during history and black history month, but I never really understood, it was like just going through the motion.
In another scenario, I started cleaning for an elderly Caucasian lady in our town. I ran errands, cleaned for hours, dealing with her dogs, and even cut her grass for $25.00 a week or whatever she wanted to give away at the time. Now I thought because she was older and on a fixed income, that was all she could afford. This lady was genuinely nice, never seemed racist or disrespectful. I thought she was all alone until one day, she asked me to come an additional day because her kids were coming, and she wanted me to clean the other bedrooms. These rooms were filled with tons of old things, storage bins, and bathrooms that took hours to complete. I wondered why they could not clean their own rooms; they were adults, and one had a child. I would get called in to do the same when that child wanted to visit on spring break or the summer, the child did not clean behind himself, I did! During the errand runs, she would have to call the locations I was going to let them know she had given me her check to pick up things for her so no one would think I stole from her. When someone new was around, those trips were not pleasant. Naively, I assumed it was because they did not know me as she did but, she saw me the same way they did.
When I moved to Minnesota, my heart turned, I thought it was a new beginning and the world had surely evolved. The first day at my new job, the higher echelon told me over the phone that I could not use my kids as an excuse not to come to work and that he did not know how I got the job anyways being a single parent, they usually do not hire those! I was ready to leave then, I was offended but the culture at the time was so thick, it could not be cut at all. Long story short, I was the last one to leave that job, me moving on to a new position and him retiring being denied an opportunity to extend. There were a lot of other incidents that I and others reported that got swept away. It placed several people in a depressive state and even suicide.
My children encountered so many acts of discrimination in that school system, on the basketball court, football field, and volleyball courts. My son was in 6th grade in Apple Valley, MN. He had a substitute teacher this day and one kid called him the “N” word, the substitute teacher said to him, “Just get over it”. No action was taken, she did not write a note for the teacher, it was brushed off. He was picked on by kids because of his natural curly hair, he was growing an afro. Fearing the environment, he did not tell me right away. When he finally told me, I immediately emailed the teacher and asked for a conference merely for the education of using that word, she declined and said she would talk to the principal. I asked if both parents could meet and talk because clearly someone needed to be educated. The teacher said they handled it and the child wrote my son an apology note. When my son got home, I asked him to let me see the note, it was horrible, looked like a kindergartener wrote it, was not sincere at all! I told my son to show me his picture in the yearbook and I wanted his name. The next week, they held conferences, during our session, the teacher allowed him and his mother to interrupt our session to get a book. I knew she was showing that child’s mother who we were. I had no idea who to talk to or how to handle these situations. I requested to leave so many times.
If he did anything such as not talking in class, defend himself, draw pictures they didn’t like, I was called immediately but never when he told a teacher he was being picked on. Not one parent there could ever understand how I felt or what my child experienced. My job had so many limitations, I could not protect my child the way he deserved to be protected. I am ashamed of that but I knew what it was like to not be able to provide for my kids and I didn’t have another plan that would offer the salary and the benefits.
As I wrote and reflected, I stopped and…
“I apologized to my son, he said momma, it’s been three years and I said I know but you deserved that apology, and I am sorry! I am sorry for my ignorance and I am sorry for anything that you felt, you know I will do anything to protect you because you are not a threat and you don’t have to accept anyone calling you anything other than the name I gave you!”…
(Kaden the King or Kaden, the Baller he would say)
Until they became the sports stars, my kids really did not matter and always thought there was a reason why something happened other than blatant racism. They were accepted when they abided by the limitations and permissions given. My 12-year-old son got a foul from a referee because he was too aggressive on the basketball court!! Yeah, the referee literally told him that and everyone went with it. I was livid and tried to explain that to the parents and coach, but they all played confused. I got an email from his 3rd-grade football coach, Coach T. He asked if my son was going to play sports and I explained to him my concern and a few incidents on why I wasn’t comfortable with him playing. He was upset and stepped in and spoke up because he was ashamed of how a child was treated, there was no other reason than the color of his skin. The coach saw my son for who he was, how coachable he was, well-mannered, pensive, smart, and introverted. If he coached the sport, I allowed my kids to play for him, he protected them and treated them like his own. Until we moved, I declined all invites for him to play on any team, I couldn’t put him through anything anymore, and neither could I go through it. To this day, Coach T. and his wife still check up on my kids.
After I got over the myth, Black people don’t go to counseling. I have enrolled my son in counseling and I am here to support him every step of the way and that mistake and many others will NEVER, EVER happen again. These incidents have made me more cautious of people and encouraged me to know my rights, acquire educational degrees, understand who I am and where I come from, and be firm about where I wanted to be and go in life! I think about Michelle Obama saying, “When they go low, we go HIGH!”
We have more in common than you know. We are all struggling to try to make ends meet some days. We are all glad that we get stimulus checks. We hate when our relationships or marriages end. We all get cheated on. We all hate when our kids disrespect us, and we all want what is best for them! We both pray for our families and friends! These are just a few things we have in common, and I am sure there are more if we would take the time to put the GUNS down during a police stop, show empathy, integrity and serve real justice before slamming the GAVEL and rendering an excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishments. Please do not assume I am hostile because of my skin color, I am not always a threat!!
To my young Black Kings and Queens (My Krew), growing up in America is a challenge. It used to be graduating from high school, going to college, not getting pregnant, not being hooked on drugs, but now it is surviving an encounter with law enforcement, a walk in the community, defending your human, or dating whoever you want. I wish that I could endure your pain and promise everything will be okay every step of the way. I wish I could tell you that I will always be able to protect you from everything…
But what I can do is make sure you:
KNOW HOW TO PRAY,
KNOW HOW TO SELF-EDUCATE,
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS, (I Know My Rights by Mysonne Linen is a good start)
KNOW HOW TO DISCERN and ASSESS SITUATIONS,
KNOW HOW TO RESPECT OTHERS and YOURSELF,
KNOW HOW TO RESOLVE CONFLICTS PEACEFULLY,
KNOW HOW TO PROTECT THOSE YOU LOVE AND OTHERS, LEGALLY!
I want you to see me the same way I see me, the way I see you, EQUAL!!
Rest In Peace to all those gone too soon and suddenly, may justice be served!!