So I had a class with a group of young people a few days back. These young men were between the ages of 8 and 12. We were discussing the hot issue of race, racism, how it affects our lives here in the U.S. and some of the conditions that our ancestors faced from a system that viewed everything through the lens of skin color.
What I found compelling was that in a class of 9 young males, all, with the exception of one, stated that race was not an issue today and that they didn’t look at the race of a person, it didn’t matter. Let me say that these were all black males. The one youngster who said that race did matter to him, said that he had gone to a suburban school for a year and a half and was treated poorly by the predominately white student body. When I asked for specifics he said that they made fun of his afro, always wanting to either touch his hair or throw things at it to see if they would bounce off. He also said that the teachers spent less time with him than his white classmates, and his mother had to go talk with them several times to see why he wasn’t receiving the same treatment as others.
I then asked the others what made them not see the race of other people and most of them shrugged, saying that they just didn’t. Under normal circumstances it would have been easy for me to say that they shouldn’t seen race and that everybody is equal and that they were on the right path, but then I knew I would be doing these young black children a real disservice. What I told them is that although they don’t look at race, they should always be aware that other people of different races many times do. I let them know that there are certain communities around the country that will not allow them to live there based upon the color of their skin. I told them that they should not look at others with hatred based upon their skin color but that they should know others will look at them with hatred based upon them being black. I told them in no way should they change their view of not thinking about color but that they shouldn’t be blind to the fact that they will see racism, and they need to recognize it for what it is.
These young guys were very engaged and we even talked about examples of things that we go through as a people. The one example, the most popular right now, is the kneeling by pro sports players during the National Anthem. I broke down the full scope of why that is happening and the message being conveyed. We had a wonderful session and they questions which they hit me with were all great. Then the next day I got a call from a concerned mother asking me if or why, I was teaching these black children to hate other groups of people. I broke it down to her that that wasn’t what I was teaching but rather awareness that this could happen to them because historically it has happened to black people in this country and I just wanted to keep their eyes open. I assured her that in no way was I asking them to change their view of how they look at race but to protect themselves against those that do look at race and skin color. The conversation with her ended on a positive note and she wants me to keep mentoring her son, she just wanted clarification that hate wasn’t being taught. What are your thoughts?