There’s a toddler gym where the mostly white and wealthy folks go that I take my son to. It’s so refreshing to see the children play with each other without judgment. This isn’t to say that some of the kids aren’t jerks but they’re equal opportunity jerks. Still, some moms and nannies watch with laser-focused curiosity and caution as their sons and daughters jump around in the ball pit with a dark-skinned boy with nappy hair he inherited from his large, bearded, daddy, looking on.
When I was growing up in Brooklyn, the only time us Black kids would interact with white people were at school with teachers, in the streets with cops or maybe the landlord. Either way, it was in a very limited capacity. I didn’t have any friends aside from Blacks and Latinos. It wasn’t until I entered the workforce that I associated with a white person who wasn’t some sort of authority figure. I wasn’t the only that had this experience either.
A lot of my friends grew up the same way which created a twisted cultural perspective. To us, white people all had money, they were smarter and for the most part more important than any of us. It wasn’t until adulthood that we realized that white folks can be just as smart or dumb as anyone else. It was like when the Wizard of Oz was exposed as a regular, insecure, basic ass dude. The curtain was yanked and the perfect superhumans we were in awe of as kids turned out to be just as flawed as the rest of us.
This is why I will continue to have my kid around people of different races, especially white people, so he becomes accustomed to being around them. I believe that having experiences with folks of different ethnic backgrounds lessens the cultural shock later on in life when it really counts. Without that exposure, it’s easier to mistake stereotypes as facts it helps kids realize that despite what they see in media or encounter dealing with someone of any race, no one is any better or worse than they are.
We need to more than ever reinforce the foundation of Black confidence and ensure fear and hatred don’t block our babies from greatness. That way our history will be more meaningful for them than just old clips of our parents and grandparents being attacked by dogs or slave movies where all we do is get our asses beat and raped for 90 minutes.
Love for yourself and your people is what drives community building. Getting caught up in hating white people or being too scared to stand level with them only makes you stagnant. I’d much rather my child spend his life’s energy gaining the knowledge to navigate this world on his own terms.
Regardless of if America becomes “great” again.
Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.