It broke my heart to have to tell him this…
With February here, I knew I had to have a conversation with my son about Black History. It is a very surreal thing to sit down and talk with your 10-year-old child about America’s treatment of his ancestors. He is so innocent and knows nothing about how the real world really operates and only sees the good in people. It is a slippery slope navigating educating your child about his people’s history and keeping his innocence and positivity in place.
As a fully realized adult (thank you Antonio for those words 😊) I have seen some things and experienced some things that could have tainted my outlook on the goodness of people, but I refused to let that happen. I am a positive person and I want my son to continue to be positive. My husband and I are doing our best to raise our children with a healthy view of the world but sometimes it really breaks my heart to have to explain certain things to them.
I look back on when I was growing up and I remember my mom and dad always sharing with me the accomplishments and contributions that Black people (whether they were African American or not) have made. They made sure I wasn’t ashamed of being brown skinned and taught me how to embrace my heritage (and let me tell you that was not an easy job seeing how I went to a predominantly white school for most of my middle and high school years). But they also didn’t sugar coat the wrong that was done to our people either. (I’m about to date myself, but oh well!) I grew up watching Roots, the tv series with LeVar Burton (yes, the same LeVar Burton who played Geordi in Star Trek: The Next Generation) and let me tell you—that sparked MANY a conversation about slavery between my parents and myself!
In preparation of Black History Month, I had written down several different quotes regarding Black history to use for t-shirt designs. I was reading them to both my sons to get their opinions on which quotes they liked best. When I read the quote from Malcolm X “Our history did not start in chains” my youngest son stopped me from moving on to the next quote and asked me to explain what this quote meant. It was then when I was reminding him that our ancestors were enslaved and brought over here that he realized the gravity of what happened. He interrupted me and said, “Wait, are you telling me that they TOOK them? They were TAKING people?!” And I answered him, “Yes, they took them against their will”. He looked at me with his eyes as big as saucers and said, “So, they were kidnapping people-wait- not kidnapping, but PEOPLE SNATCHING!!?” I answered him, ”Yes”. And yes, it was bad to have to break it down to him like that, but the thing that really broke my heart was when he asked me why. He asked me why people would want to come to a whole other country and TAKE people. My reply was they were taken so that they could do the work that the people from the other country didn’t want to do. He looked at me incredulously and asked, “why didn’t they just do the work themselves?” I didn’t really have a good answer for him. Luckily, this conversation moved more towards him deciding he was not going to be lazy, and he was going to do his own chores, but it really could have taken a turn for the worse. I’m glad we didn’t get into the more horrific details about slavery. I know that one day those details will come up, and I will have to have another conversation with my son.
I will say that I am glad that it was me that had the conversation with my son first, and that I was the one to answer his questions (at least trying to answer 😊).
As Black History Month gets underway, I am grateful to be a part of ADJ Design. My husband and I are taking the opportunity to design items that promote positive messages about being Black and our history. The one memory that sticks out in my mind as we collaborate on the designs of our t-shirts and water bottles for Black History, is that a lot of these things did not exist when we were growing up. You didn’t hardly see any water bottles that promoted Black pride or shirts with quotes on them about Black people or by Black people. I am happy to see that these things today are the norm and not the exception. I’m not delusional though. I do know that there are still more improvements that need to be made regarding social awareness and acceptance. I’m just glad to be a part of a team that can help promote it!
~ Truly Tamika