It happened on our way back home from after school club the other week.
It all just came pouring out of nowhere all information regarding the Queen of England – her age, her husband’s name, what happens when she dies, where Big Ben is- Earl this, and Castle that. I was amazed as to how he was able to retain all this information that I frankly didn’t know myself and had to use my phone to fact check. Everything was correct.
I had a little proud moment, it was just amazingly random to hear his little voice speak with such accuracy. I even stopped to buy him some flap jacks as a treat on the way home as we shared hi 5’s and spoke with excitement on how we were going to impress daddy with all this new found knowledge.
Then I had one of those ‘squint your eyes-glance right’ moments..
It was black history month and my son had been learning about the Queen Of England and co.
Why were my son’s school choosing this particular month as a time to learn about British History instead of Black History. I started making up excuses
But is black culture/history something that you have to be eased into? Any other month it would have easily made sense.
In my school years I don’t recall doing anything in class in relation to black history month, it was always a quiz or something of that sort after school that not many people could attend because of how dark it would get past 3pm. It’s quite sad thinking about it now because it’s almost as if it just didn’t matter.
It really made me think- I’m a black woman raising a black man and I’m here stressing on what the school was and wasn’t doing..
What am I doing?
How am I consciously ensuring my son is aware that he is black, what being black means and how great his race is? Let’s face it on top of protecting and nurturing, you also have to raise him to be a decent man, civilised member of society with good morals, values and manners– a real gentlemen. All milestones met, be able to articulate himself well enough so others will hear him and as if this wasn’t even enough he also must be aware that regardless of how many check boxes he ticks he will probably be judged somewhere along the course of life because of his skin colour/background / race.
That there will come a time where the hood on his jacket will no longer be just a hood on his jacket, but form some kind of threat to some when it frames his black face. That he can talk or get into scraps in the same way as his peers but may be labelled as aggressive. That he may have to work twice as hard as his white colleagues just to prove that he is worthy of a position.
Now I didn’t say this will all definitely happen.
Growing up I didn’t really experience racism first hand until my first year at uni and the typical response is because I’m light skinned / I wasn’t paying attention / I didn’t want to see it blah blah blah. But let’s face it racism in this day and age is so open now, no longer a nasty sniggered remark in passing or an anonymous comment made on a fake account but we now see the physical abuse in broad day light, social media and the news. It’s now our friends, our relatives that are experiencing this and its’s scary that my innocent son meets the criteria by default to experience such abuse.
Whilst I know there may not be much I can do single handedly to create an equal society where we are only judged by the characteristics we are able to change- what I can do is ensure that my son knows that his African decent is to be celebrated. That the colour of his skin is nothing to be ashamed about, that he should not let any kind of discrimination against him stop him from trying or doing the things he wants to do.
I used to think race and bias were things I’d deal with ‘when we cross that bridge.’
But what is the point in allowing my son to potentially subconsciously or consciously become hurt/broken from hateful words or behaviour from others to only come and repair the already done damage. Prevention is better than cure my mum always says, so I need to be building him up from now. This is not building him up to expect the worst in people, but just having a general pride about who he is.
Let me be the first to admit I’m no expert on my history but I do appreciate an awareness of the past is important.
Much respect is owed to those before us that used their ideas and voices to pave the way. There are so many people to acknowledge when it comes to black history and amazing as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were, they are only the tip of a very old iceberg. It’s almost as if we’ve been brain washed to believe that this is all our race has achieved to blind us from realising how great we are and the achievements we continue to make. Slavery is not the beginning or end of the black race. Slavery happened but it does not define us as a people, we had history before and after so I was so shocked to find out about a primary school my siblings attended that asked the children to dress us as slaves.
The school even went as far as to say the clothes should be dirty and stained. How disappointing.. that they saw fit to learn about black history and culture in this way.
So what if I find this history thing a bit .. long?
The whole point of looking into any history is to see how and why things are the way they are today, maybe to find origins, understanding, identity, role models?
The most relevant role models are the people you surround your son with and the most important person is you!
Children are like sponges and more or less look up to their parents. My son tells me all the time when he’s 11 he’s going to go to work, when he’s bigger he’s going to be a parent and when he’s a really big boy he’s going to have a beard like daddy. Whilst you can appreciate that its no serious 10 year plan, its evident that he acknowledges what he see’s- waking up, going to work, his appearance- he’s already setting his own goals (however unrealistic they may be).
I think that’s the best way that young children learn- seeing. Whatever good quality you wish to see in your daughter or son – make sure you are doing everything to exhibit those qualities yourself. The ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ life approach to parenting is so outdated and I doubt will have much impact on this cheeky new IT generation.
The 25 years of life, has brought me to the point at where I am today. I look at my son as this blank canvas- wanting him to be happy and successful, but at his young age I’m realising more and more that this depends on me leading the way. I want my home to be a familiar place filled with love warmth and answers, so my son never has to go looking for another person’s reality to make his own. This depends on how deliberate and conscious I am to be this example to him. I pray that as I truly accept and love myself, my race and my culture my black son will naturally do the same.
Love Naomi Undiluted xxx