Braids, Hoodies, And Driving While Black – The Usual Stuff That All White Parents Deal With…

I said to Lizzie, “We could get your hair braided.  Then we wouldn’t have to re-do it every morning.”  And, then I referenced a little girl in her class so she’d know what I meant by braided. 

“No!  I don’t want my hair like hers.”

  

This didn’t please me since I really love the idea of not fixing her hair every morning.  But, she was pretty definitive in her opinion and if I know anything about Lizzie, I know that there is no changing her mind once she’s made it up.

 
The fact is, she doesn’t identify with the black culture and that’s partly our fault.  It’s not for any malicious or thoughtless reason, though.  It’s just that we are white and we are, inadvertently raising her white.  We’ve tried to make her (and her brothers) aware of their culture.  We’ve read books, talked about black history, enlisted the help of black friends, and sought out tv shows that featured more faces of color. 
 
But, still, because our area is not very diverse, Lizzie goes to a school full of white girls with long, flowing hair and she comes home and asks me to leave her hair down instead of twisting it like I tend to do.  Thankfully, she usually settles for puffs.  And, if I do leave it down, it looks adorable…for awhile.  But, soon, it gets tangled and just plain messy-looking; and then I get well-meaning comments from random black women in Taco Bell, like “You know that you should moisturize it daily, right?”   (True story)
 
Because of where we live and who we are, Lizzie’s been nice and dry under the umbrella of white parents and her predominately white school.  But, one day, she is going to have to deal with the fact that she’s black.  And, being black in America brings extra complications to your life.  It just does. 
 
I didn’t know about “white privilege” when I was growing up in it.  Some don’t even believe that it exists.  I really didn’t give it much thought when I was a kid.  And, I didn’t give it much thought when I was in college and sat in class, listening to a speech by a black classmate who talked about how often he would hear car doors lock when he walked by.  I thought it was unfortunate but, I didn’t dwell on it because I didn’t have to.  I didn’t have to dwell on it until I became a mother to black children, anyway.  Then, I started to look outside of myself and my front door more and I became aware. 
 
We live in Florida.  We have the beaches, the sun, and the recent deaths of black teenagers.  And, it really terrifies me.  There have been two high profile killings of youth in the last several months and they both happened here, in my metaphorical backyard.  We all know about Trayvon Martin.  Then there’s the Jordan Davis who was shot at a gas station.  A gas station that I have used, many times.  A gas station that my kids could theoretically be using in a handful of years when they are driving. 
 
My kids are inadvertently growing up with white privilege.  They are viewed as the black children who are being raised by the white parents.  We’re in a class of our own.  But, that doesn’t mean that one night, Antwan might not walk down the street with a hoodie and looking like he’s “up to something.”  Or Kaleb might not play his music too loud, irritate a grumpy white guy at a gas station, and respond with a little attitude of his own.  Or William might not make one of his goofy jokes that come off a little ruder than he means for them to because he’s constantly preparing for his future stand-up career.   And, Lizzie will definitely give someone attitude because I get it on a daily basis. 😉
 
How do I protect my children?  How do I teach them what it’s like to be black in America when I don’t completely know?
 
The answer is, I don’t know.
 
We can tell them to be proud of who they are.  I can do my best with Lizzie’s hair.  We can explain the realities of being black.  Yes, there is such a thing as driving while black.  Yes, you might get more suspicious looks when you’re wandering through a store.  Yes, it can be frustrating.  No, you shouldn’t mouth off to grumpy white guys at the gas station because it’s rude and you haven’t been raised that way and, yes, you should be more considerate about your volume level on your radio.  No, you don’t deserve to die over it.  Sometimes you’ll have to be a little more careful, in general; even though, it’s not really fair.
 
Will it be enough?  Am I paranoid?  If paranoia keeps my babies alive then I guess I’ll be paranoid.

 

But, if I step away from the freaked out mom routine for a moment, I remember to tell them something else.  I’ll tell them that the world is getting better and better.  That most people are inherently good.  That they can do anything that they want to because Daddy and I will see to it. 

And, when the world gets scary, they can come home to Mommy.  I’ve got Batman on the DVR and popcorn in the pantry.  

I’ve got their backs.

Looking cute and not so scary in his hoodie. 🙂

 

 ‘

The “hoodie brothers” as Antwan called them. 🙂

 

 

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34 thoughts on “Braids, Hoodies, And Driving While Black – The Usual Stuff That All White Parents Deal With…

  1. You guys where the first people who came to mind as I watched both these cases, and honestly I think all you can do is, keep up what you’re doing. My parents spent a lot of time teaching me to be aware of my surroundings (DC wasn’t a great place in the 80’s) and to always attempt to avoid escalating conflicts, because it was the best way to avoid any problems.

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  2. I love your posts! My son is 5 and in the same boat as Lizzie. And while I'm trying to explain why he can't have bangs today, I know that \”driving while black\” is a conversation that waits right around the corner. You did a beautiful job sharing the joys and worries of ALL parents of black children. thank you. 🙂

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  3. I'm a white mother, with a white husband and together have two adopted black boys ages 1 and 2. I loved your post! We live in a \”white area\” as well. We haven't received any strange looks or rude comments in our year of being a transracial family, and I hope that day never comes, and yet your post was very relatable! thanks 🙂

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  4. Our family includes three biracial teens. And, we also happen to live in a predominately white community. We celebrate all our family's ethnicities; german, english, french, native american, west african, west indian and hispanic. Its very exciting to us to represent a multi-ethnic family – we are a true American family!

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  5. Beautiful post! I hope that you and your children enjoy all the happiness, blessings and beauty the world has to offer and are spared the tragedies that every mother worries about. I wish that for all children and families, no matter their race. Love your post. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. I LOVE THIS! This world can be so cruel sometimes, and it is wonderful you are expressing your concerns with your children. As they get older and may begin to experience \”being black in America, \” your love and concern for them is what will comfort them. As an African-American family, we share these concerns, fears, and teachings with our son. It's difficult to explain, but I am very grateful for you sharing this and having this particular concern and understanding in raising your beautiful children. Peace & Blessings to the Parker family 🙂

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  7. شركة تنظيف اثاث بالرياضشركة تخزين عفش بالرياضشركة جلي بلاط بالرياض تقوم كذلك بتقديم كافة التسهيلات وسيارات النقل لتحصل على افضل خدمة شراء اثاث مستعمل بالرياضعلما بان الشركة تستخدم افضل المنظفات والمطهرات والمعقمات التى تحقق اعلى نتائج التنظيف المطلوبة فى تنظيف منازل بالرياض وتنظيف الفلل والشقق وكافة المؤسسات الاخرى لتصبح شركة الاخلاص افضل شركة غسيل خزانات بالرياض بجانب خدمات التعقيم والتطهير المميزه التى تتم باستخدام افضل المواد المنظفه والمحاليل المطهره والتى تحقق اعلى نتائج خاصة بتنظيف خزانات المياه بالرياض شركة تخزين العفش بالرياضوتقوم ايضا بتنظيف كنب بالرياض فهى افضل افضل شركة تنظيف المجالس بالرياض وبالمملكة فابتصالك بنا تحصل على افضل شركة تنظيفمع العلم ان شركة نقل العفش بالرياض تقدم خدمات نقل الاثاث الدولى خارج الممكلة بكل سهولة بالاعتماد على احدث سيارات الشحن الدولى والتى تتميز بالسرعه والامان عند نقل الاثاثافضل شركات نقل عفش بالرياضفشركة البيت الافضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض تسعى بكل جهدها للوصل لحل لهذه التسريبات والتقليل من فاتورة المياه الخاصه بك بعد حل مشكلة التسربات بالاعتماد على اقوى وافضل عماله متخصصه وخبرة فى استخدام هذه الاجهزة باحتراف شركة رش مبيدات بالدمامشركة كشف تسربات بالرياضافضل شركة مكافحة الحشرات بالرياض شركة مكافحة صراصير بالرياضونقدم افضل خدمة جلى بلاط بالرياض فشركة البيت الافضل تشتهر بانها افضل شركة جلى بلاط بالرياض تعمل على جلى جميع انواع البلاط والرخام

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