I remember the first time I was called the N word by a white person. I was 9 years old, and was walking through the doors of the Eaton Centre with my mom and sister. This white woman was coming through the same door on the other side, and as I passed her she said “Get out of my way nigger or I’ll kick you in your face.” 26 years later, I can still remember her face and the exact words she used. The second time I was called a racial slur was in that same year by a red-haired boy in my class named Shawn. I will never forget him calling me a “Black dragon” which I knew in my soul he meant as a racial slur. When I blew up, he got red in the faced and denied it. My teacher then sent me (of course) to the Principal's office for misbehavior, even though she knew I was right. Ms. Hogue. I will never forget her. Shortly after that, we moved and I was taken out of that school, thank God. Both times, my mom and I never really talked about what happened. Knowing what I understand about my mom now, I honestly don’t think she had the words to even communicate with me what she knew was happening. How do you explain to your 9 year old child what racism is? These were the 90’s and my parents where a part of the survivor generation. Enough said.
I was triggered by all of this while reading a post on Instagram from Tracy Moore about her son being called the “n” word recently by a classmate in gym. In 2020, in Canada, in Toronto one of the most progressive cities in the world, Black children STILL get called nigger by white children. I’m not sure how many more of these stories white people have to hear before they understand or believe that this happens on a daily basis to young Black children, even in 2020. This is not only here in Canada. I have a cousin who lives out in California. My cousin is a Black woman and her husband is a Mexican American man. They have a beautiful daughter, my talented younger cousin who is a mixed race Afro-Latina. One day years ago when she was much younger, she was subjected to her first bought of racism while on the school playground. She was told by a young white girl that she could not play with her because she was Black. This was in a very wealthy, progressive neighborhood and school in California. My cousin had to try to explain to her beautiful young daughter what had happened in a way that was age appropriate.
This is a reality for many young Black children. I’m not saying all of us have had these experiences, but I am saying many of us have and multiple times. Sometimes it happens in our early youth. Sometimes it happens in our adolescent years. Sometimes not until early adulthood. But most of us have had these types of run-ins with white children. Now, I want to make one thing clear. I don’t think in any of these cases that any of these young white children actually knew what they were saying or doing. I truly don’t. What I do believe for a fact is these kids are sponges. They are products of their environment whether it be the environment they have at home, or another environment that they are exposed to where racist behavior is prevalent. But they are simply reflecting and regurgitating what they hear and see. So when white people as a whole want to act like they don’t understand where this comes from, I submit to you to become more self aware of the things you say, your partners and spouses say, your parents and grandparents say and others you may expose your children to. Because this is where it comes from.
We are no longer going to sit here and act like these children are not being exposed to racist acts. So if you as a white person are truly perplexed as to where this comes from, then I ask you what is your definition of racism? Maybe that is the problem. What you think is NOT racist truly is, and maybe because of whatever your miss-the-mark definition of racism is, you cannot see the things that you are actively participating in and exposing your children to. We need to ensure we are on the same page about not only what racism is by definition, but also what are racist acts. What are microaggressions. I’m not sure in general that white people are aware of what a microaggression truly is towards Black people. I have seen on many a thread where well-meaning white people will say things like “why do you all have to make everything about race?” Which signals to me that instead of white people wanting to even try to understand what Black and people of colour are telling them about their experiences, they would rather jump to conclusions, not ask any further probing questions or find out any more information, but would rather come to a conclusion that we as people of colour are just making everything about race. It is lazy. It is entitled thinking. It is white privilege.
I’m not a Black parent yet, but I’ve been surrounded by them my whole life. I know how tired as Black people we are with just trying to survive day to day. I can’t even imagine how hard it makes it to have to sit and have these conversations with your kids. I can’t imagine how hard it is to have to sit and talk to young Black boys about how hard things will be for them and how they will need to learn to manage and control their emotions at a younger age than their friends. How they will never be able to do the things their friends do. How no matter how well dressed or spoken they are, they will still be considered a suspect in most instances. How young women will most likely be sexualized, fetishized and assumed to be guilty. How they will be called “trouble-makers” and having “attitude” and suspected of things simply because of the colour of their skin. How young Black trans kids are going to have to face immeasurable challenges, even more so than cisgender Black children. And how for all Black kids, they will mostly like have an experience in their young lives where they will be called the “n” word.
White people, y’all need to do better. I’m going to make a general statement and include all white people because it’s up to those of you who are woke, self-aware and healthy to call out your racist white friends, family members, partners, spouses, religious friends and anyone with your skin colour who spouts dumb, racist shit. Just like as a Black community, it is our job to hold our community members accountable, it is yours to do the same within your communities. But please understand: People of colour can no longer wait for you to get your shit together. We will no longer tolerate your children saying racist things to ours and everyone getting away with it because they are kids, while you as the adults are not held accountable. It is not fair that our children get to continually be traumatized by the ignorance of yours. Your children need to know that it is not okay to say things like this to Black children. There needs to be real consequences for people’s actions, starting with the parents of these children. This is why white parents teaching their children to be “kind” is total and complete bullshit. We need white parents to teach their children to be anti-racists. And it starts with them.