One of the things that has become a big concern for me since I became a single mom is that I’m raising children who don’t look like me. They are three, little people who are mixed Armenian and Black. Whatever your political viewpoints are, there’s one thing in today’s world that is undeniable: outright racism has become a part of our society. There are many who will argue that racism has always been there and that the media is now sensationalizing it. I will partly agree. However, for a mom of kids who are growing up in this society, it’s now more than apparent, that I have a task far greater than what I imagined. Raising black kids to become what the world will see as black adults is something I’m not sure I can do on my own. How do I prepare them for racism, injustice and prejudice that they will more than likely face? How do I ensure that they will know how to handle these moments with dignity, pride and self-respect?
About 2 years ago, I was getting the kids ready to take a shower. Cortland came to me and said, “Mommy, I really need to take a shower. I need to scrub my skin with soap because my skin is dirty and I need to get it clean so it’s white like yours.” I stood there with my jaw down to the floor. How do I even begin to address this issue with a 4-year-old? I reassured Cortland that his skin was beautiful and perfect the way that it was. I explained that because his dad is Black, his skin is darker. It doesn’t mean that he is dirty. Cortland told me that it was a child at school who told him to wash the dirt.
On a side note: The parents of this child are far from being racist. I am certain they are not the type to speak negatively about black people. If anything, I think they would defend my children in a split second if they knew they were being harassed because of the color of their skin. So let’s not blame this family. To me, it’s a sign that my children stand out in our community simply because of their skin color.
Then, there was a time, an older white man implied I should lynch my children while we waited for a seat at a family restaurant. My kids were being a little rowdy, but so were the other white children waiting for a table.
These situations, though, were a reminder to me that even when my children earn the highest of honors, receive the greatest of awards and accomplish the best of achievements, they will always be seen differently. They’ll be referred to as the “black kid” or the “mixed kid” or possibly even, a more derogatory term. They will be identified more by the color of their skin, than by the people they become.
So how do I, a woman of Armenian descent, prepare them for this? How do I teach them that despite those labels, they are viewed perfectly in God’s eyes? How do I explain that sometimes they will have to work a little harder and a little smarter to obtain their goals? How do I reassure them that they have a responsibility to stay peaceful when individuals around them may be hostile, simply because of the color of their skin?
While they are still children, I teach them to obey and respect the law and rules. I give them lessons on how law enforcement officers are there to serve and protect. But what happens when they are pulled over for driving a nice car in a nice neighborhood, and the law enforcement officers are not willing to listen and understand? How do I, as their mother, teach them the nuisances of being Black in America, when I, myself, have no clue?
I owe it to my children to be honest with them about the world. How do I touch on this subject without breaking their little hearts? This is where I humble myself as a parent and accept that I don’t have those answers. This is why I am grateful to have the opportunity to raise my children with diversity around them. This is why I am willing to accept help and guidance from those around me who can help answer these questions for them. This is one of the reasons I know I can’t raise my kids alone. I need my village: my village of people from all walks of life, all levels of wealth, all colors of skin and shapes of eyes and languages spoken. In the end, I hope my children can look back on their past and can appreciate that they were brought up in a home that was welcoming and loving to all. I hope they recognize that their worth comes from what they give to the world, rather than how the world sees them. I hope. And I pray.