Growing up in Montana didn’t provide me with the opportunity to be around too many black people. The google search I did tells me there’s just over 1 Million residents of the state and 980 of them are black. That’s not even half of 1%. To put that in prospective, Texas has almost 29 million people and about 3.7 million of them are black. That’s almost 13%.
Meeting my wife and being around her two kids was a big lifestyle change. Having 2 interracial babies together, whom the world will undoubtably refer to as black, has also been a big wake up call for me.
I have had to look at the world from a completely different point of view.
Growing up I never had to weigh race in any discussion I was having or anything else I was doing in my life. I was raised the right way. I was always taught the soul of the person is the only thing that matters. But I was never tested. It’s not like I hung out with skin-heads or friends that threw the N-word around or ever had to stick up for anybody because someone didn’t like the color of their skin. There was none of that.
Here in Texas it seems like there’s a cop killing a black man on the news every other week or so, and a debate about whether it was justified. I flat out was not ready for that when I moved here. Now it hits close to home. I firmly believe when Harrison and Travis turn 16 they’ll both be treated differently than a white kid of the same age. Held to a higher standard by employers and possibly even school teachers along the way. And definitely treated different by the police at a routine traffic stop. I believe I will have to teach my kids different strategies to apply in their lives than some of the other dads in my peer group would in similar situations.
And the coaching will start early. They will need to speak properly. They will need to text properly when they get phones. They will need to learn how to respond to mom and dad respectably when they are asked to do something they don’t want to do. Chores, getting ‘no’ as an answer, etc. Nothing they do in their routine daily life will resemble any sort of tendency that could get them into a permanent habit of mouthing off. And they will need to learn how to talk to adults and other kids with respect at all times. Specifically women.
Travis is 12 and he has had it pounded into his brain time and time again that it’s not about him just talking back to his mom and me, (which is bad enough) it’s getting in the habit of responding like that in the first place that poses a big potential problem in the future.
The way I see it, my kids don’t need to give any bigot in this world a sniff of a reason to harm them more than they’ll already want to. Nor do they need to put themselves in any situations where they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and/or get blamed for something they didn’t do.
Some kids can pop off at the mouth multiple times and there’s never any consequences. It’s conceivable my kids might not get another chance after popping off once. Ironic, seeing as how I spent the majority of my young adult life being a smart-ass for no reason…A few potential fights averted and never any big consequences.
So now, raising these two young kids, there’s always that little shadow looming. When I see them playing, smiling, and having fun, it’s not uncommon for me to be interrupted with thoughts of what their future will look like. How will they react in certain situations when they get older? I feel like it’s my responsibility to prepare them to act accordingly in any and all possible situations.
That’s a lot of pressure. I need to be up for it.