Posts tagged kids











This, along with the cries of his friends, the last sound Jordan Davis heard before slipping from this earth. 10 shots fired. 9 hit the car. 3 hit Jordan Davis. The circumstance in this case? Loud music. Jordan Davis. Trayvon Martin. Jonathan Ferrell. Renisha McBride. The circumstances are different in each case. They took place in different parts of America. But the thread that seems common among all the assailants in these murders is fear of the black body.

I warn you in advance. The verdict just came and I am a flood of emotion. This is me ranting and raving. I have no intention of doing anything other than sharing my broken heart tonight.

I imagine that if all I knew of black people came from the defendants in these murders, I would be left to assume that black people are absolute monsters. I mean monsters, like the fantasy kind. You know the ones that can pick up cars and throw them across city blocks. The kind of monsters who can scale buildings with superhuman strength. The kind of monsters who posses an unnatural form of power- the kind gained only by chemical reaction, abnormal genes, or a science experiment gone wrong. If all I knew about black folks came from these cases, I'd believe that black skin comes with an aggressive gene. A suspicious gene. A murder gene. Be afraid. Be very afraid. I didn't know, but apparently black people just can't help but be violent. So stand your ground. Be prepared to shoot. Arm yourselves. Get us before we get you. And this is important. It is important that all these young black bodies are monsters, because we don't mourn monsters. People who kill monsters are heroes. I don't watch many cartoons these days, but I'm pretty sure thats how it works. Monsters die and we celebrate the hero who slayed the beast.    

But here is the thing. These kids seem awfully normal. Walking down the street. Knocking on a door for help. Seeking out the police. Playing loud music in the car. Didn't I do these things as a kid? Don't I do them now? 

But this is different contends the gun-toter. These kids did bad things. They slung their jeans low. They smoked. They drank. They cursed. They listened to rap music. These were not ordinary kids, these were those infamous gangsters ready to take my life in a moments notice. I could tell. These were bad kids. 

And as much as I want this to matter. As much as I want to separate myself from the fate of these children, I cannot. I know no child saints- black, white or any other color. I know kids who make mistakes, who experiment, who get into trouble. I know kids who speak out of turn, who are disrespectful, who are angry. I know kids who get suspended and expelled and go to rehab. I know kids who get bad grades and make the day hell for teachers. I know kids who take a long time to mature, to learn from their mistakes, to make better choices. In fact, I hear there are a lot of adults who have these same struggles. But black kids don't have the luxury of immaturity. 

Black kids must be saints. Must be angelic. Must be Jesus.

I want to scream to the world tonight, that black kids are precious. They are beautiful. They are full of life, of creativity, of soul. Black kids are bursting at the seems with potential, with possibilities. Black kids are made in the image of God. Black kids are made in the image of God. They carry within themselves the capacity to love deeply, to give generously, to hope eternally. They could change the world, if only we would let them live. Black kids laugh. They LAUGH. They cry. They scream. They smile.  Black kids experience emotion because they are human. They.are.human. 

Black babies are not immune to the experience of life. They are not immune to mistakes or anger or frustration. They are not immune to peer pressure or instagram or clubs. They are not immune to friendship or media or hip hop. They are not immune from car crashes or walking or needing the help of a stranger. They are not immune, and they shouldn't have to be. 

Black kids should be able to live without needing a defense. They should be able to mess up, to ask for help, to go to the store. They should be able to talk back, to curse, to play loud music. They should be able to do all the things that other kids do without fear of losing their lives. 

Why are the stakes so high for kids who look like me?

Why are the stakes so high for kids who look like me? Why are the normal things of life so costly.

Why are the stakes so high for kids who look like me? 

The best quote I've heard tonight following the Dunn verdict came from Joshua DuBois, he writes on twitter, "I want young black men to know: there is nothing wrong with you. You are worthy of protection. Of care. Of love and of life."

I echo this statement.

Black kids- boys and girls- are worthy. They are worthy.

Black folks are not monsters who need to be stopped. We are your sisters and brothers. We are members of humanity, carriers of divinity, lovers of life. And we deserve to live.  


Kids & Race

Have you ever heard someone say that kids are a "blank slate" when it comes to race? I have long listened to the refrain that kids only learn about race and racism when parents teach it to their kids. But I have been reading a lot of research, lately that debunks this notion. I'd like to take the opportunity to share some of what I am learning with you! I have only included short quotations, but I do hope you will find some of these worth reading in their entirety! 

"Research has disproved the popular belief that children only have racial biases if they are directly taught to do so. Numerous studies have shown that children’s racial beliefs are not significantly or reliably related to those of their parents (Hirschfeld, 2008; Katz, 2003; Patterson & Bigler, 2006). While this may seem counterintuitive, Hirschfeld (2008) says it should not surprise us. Children, he argues, are motivated to learn and conform to the broader cultural and social norms that will help them function in society. In order to gauge these “community norms,” children have to gather information from a broad range of sources – not just their own families." -Dr. Erin Winkler, Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race   

“…By nine months of age infants are better able to tell two own-race faces apart compared to two other-race faces. But the facility at recognizing faces in our own group has a flip side that may be the basis of a curious mindbug we know well in our adult selves- the perception that members of groups other than our own look (and behave) “alike”. “ –Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (pg 128)

"So research with babies, notices the - it shows that kids notice racial differences very, very early - by a year or so. By preschool, they start to talk about racial groups a lot more frequently, but it's really a focus on skin color and noticing that we all come in different shades. But about 5 up, preschool, about 3 to 5 years old, kids start labeling themselves often with racial terms. So using like black and white, which don't actually reflect the actual color, so it shows that they're actually understanding that these categories have labels that have social meaning." -Ms. Christia Brown, transcript from NPR Interview 

 "Instead of trying to ignore race, research suggests that parents should be more pro-active. They can tell their kids it’s OK to recognize and talk about racial differences while still communicating that it’s wrong to hold racial prejudices. My own research with 67 racially- and ethnically-diverse families, all of which had children under the age of seven, indicates that talking and answering kids’ questions about race may help them understand racial issues and become more tolerant. I found that the children of parents who talked more about race were better able to identify racism when they saw it, and were also more likely to have positive views about ethnic minorities. This was true for both the white families and the families of color in my study." Allison Brsicoe Smith, Rubbing Off 

"Another study by Dr. Bigler demonstrated how children’s logic in trying to understand race can go awry. In a study conducted in 2006 (published in 2008) before Obama was a candidate for president, Bigler and her team asked a group of 5-10 year old children why they thought all 43 presidents to date were White. She offered possible explanations and a whopping 26% of children endorsed the statement that Blacks could not be president because it was presently (in 2006) illegal! It’s doubtful anyone taught their children that it was illegal in 2006 for a Black person to be president, however children, reasonably I might add, searched the world for a possible reason why this would happen. How could 43 presidents in a row all be from the same racial background?! Certainly illegality would explain such a disparity. Thus not talking about race with your kids can result in surprisingly problematic views about race. " Dr. Kristina Olson, Are Kids Racist?

I also really enjoyed this resource on talking to kids about race. Hope you like it, too!  

Happy Halloween... for all

So, I am sure you have heard of a phenomenon called cultural commodification, which essentially is placing a price tag on elements of a people's culture reducing said element to something "cool" without any recognition of its significance and meaning for the people group to which it belongs. One recent example of this is the "Native" wear line of Urban Outfitters just a couple years ago. (Go ahead google it.) Now, Urban Outfitters is not the first (nor will they be the last) to participate in cultural commodification. Hence this post! 

There is one day of the year, when many of our friends and loved ones believe they have permission to participate in cultural commodification, one day when the idea of respect gets suspended, and cultural commodification seems not only fun but funny. That one day, is coming upon us- halloween. Right now, there are families all over the country deciding what to be for halloween, and for those who would rather not offend, I want to offer a few tips: 

Tip 1. No black face. Period. Ever. Not okay. If there is even one person of color that you love or admire, just don't do this. I cannot begin to explain the level of distaste you are exhibiting or the level of disrespect you are imparting when you do this. Just say no.   

Tip 2. Imitate achievement, not race. If you want to dress as President Barack Obama, I'm good with that. Put on a suit, wear a campaign button, do the fist bump with your "Michelle", carry the seal of the President to the party. Get creative, but stay away from imitating his color (see Tip 1). Same goes for other cultures, friends. No changing the shape of your eyes with tape, wearing a wig that represents another people's hair type, or speaking in broken English. (I mean seriously, what did you sound like when you first learned another language? Do you know another language?) Focus on the achievement! Ask yourself, "Would whomever I'm trying to represent be honored or horrified by this costume?"  

Tip 3. Stay away from First Nations (Native American) wear, please. Hasn't dominant culture taken enough? Lets stop trying to claim a culture that has been so disrespected and under-appreciated. If you have the urge to participate in First Nation culture, do so with a clear invitation. Make arrangements to attend a pow-wow, reservation, or lecture on First Nation history. No one is saying you cant participate in the culture, but lets do so on their terms, shall we? So, no moccasins, headdresses, tomahawks, feathers, etc. Additionally, can we agree not to be a "sexy" Pocahontas? Let's read about her life instead.  

Tip 4. Yes, your child can dress up like someone of a different race. Friends, minorities have been doing this for decades- think batman, superman and most pre-2000 disney princesses. But what you haven't seen are minorities wearing "white face" or making fun of dominant culture. Parents, I refer you back to Tip 2... focus on achievement. If your child wants to be Gabby Douglas, get a gymnast leotard and some chalk! If your child is still obsessed with Jeremy Lin, sounds like a basketball uniform is in order.  Get creative, and don't be afraid to weave the role model's name into the outfit, just in case your child is concerned no one will get it!

Tip 5. Uplift, rather than demean. Go with people you actually admire. Leave the gross costumes alone- terrorist, "illegal alien," nazi soldier, geishas, gypsies, thugs and red necks. If there is something you would like to say about any of the above, get a pen and use your words, but don't try to make a point by using a costume. Uplift instead. Who do you love? Who do you admire? Go with that.        

May we all leave our parties happy rather than deeply offended. Happy Halloween. 


Please feel free to add more tips in the comments! 


Skittles and Iced Tea

I have purposely waited to write my thoughts on the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. It was tempting to jump into the fray of emotions I felt, and proclaim from social media everything I was feeling moment to moment. Instead I made a decision to sit in the emotion for a few hours. Just sit, and allow myself to really contemplate how I feel and what I think.  

As much as I want to write a post that is theologically deep or gives a great spin on the case that no one else has thought of, or analyzes the legal implications of the verdict, I am afraid I only have simple thoughts. These are thoughts that I own as an individual.  This is not an attempt to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself. If you find something here that resonates, I will be grateful for our shared connection, but today I write mostly for me. 

As hard as I tried, I just couldn't get myself to see Trayvon Martin's death in isolation. In my mind I can see slave ships unloading black bodies like cattle. I see families torn from one another on the auction block. I see the terrified faces of black men desperately trying to out run a lynch mob. I see burned bodies floating above dying campfires. I see the hatred of students screaming at Ruby Bridges, and I hear the shot that killed Medgar Evers in his driveway. The image of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin bleed into one face, one story. And as if these pictures of history aren't overwhelming enough, the faces of the men I love loom before me. If I could quantify the history of injustice in my own family, I wonder if the scales of justice would fall over. How many beatings? How many lynchings? How much police brutality? How many false accusations? How often has the fear of America overtaken justice in my own lineage? How many times did injustice crush the hearts and minds of the men who produced me? I probably don't want to know. But I wonder. 

Though my heart is heavy, I am not oblivious to the fact that Trayvon is far from being the only little black boy to die at the hands of another over the last 18 months. I live in the city of Chicago, and here the murders of brown boys and girls are told on the news like baseball scores or box office numbers-- how high will it be this weekend? This acknowledgement offers me no comfort. I keep coming back to the question, "where am I supposed to raise a black boy?" If I cannot raise him in a community that looks like him, and if he cannot walk to the corner store in the "safe" neighborhood... where am I supposed to go? Where is the place in America where the dirt doesn't cry out for the blood of my future son? Perhaps this is one reason why I have not yet started to have children; my hope of a "safe neighborhood" continues to fade. 

I tried really hard to use "Christianese" to relieve myself of these thoughts, "Surely God will protect MY son." "Well, I cant put my trust in the justice system; I can only put my trust in God." Or how about, "God will judge in the end." But none of these thoughts bring much in the way of peace. And why should it? After all, Trayvon's family is far from the first to lose a child. So where do I place my hope? It is only in believing that God doesn't just touch, but that He has felt and intimately understands the hurt of Trayvon's family and their deep sense of injustice. This sense of finding God, hearing God, reaching out to God and God reaching back happens in my lament, not in a hope for eternal retribution- I personally can't wait that long for healing. 

So, to all those who are lamenting, you are not alone. I pray that God will indeed make Himself known to you and your family as you lament. May your sons purchase skittles and iced tea in the rain, and still come home. Amen.