The conversations our children have between themselves can be eye-opening and provide perspective, particularly on the true state of race relations in our nation. A conversation between my two mixed-race sons:
Max (being silly): I voted for Donald Trump!
Mom: Welp, better get you out of the car because I don’t know who you are or what you’ve done with my son!
*laughter between Mom and Max*
Telson (very serious): Donald Trump is racist. Do you know what that means, Max? It means he hates black people…and you’re black.
Max: …….I’m BLACK?
Max, moments later: Why does Donald Trump not care about us?
Telson: Because he’s racist.
Max: Okay. *Commences silly play after seemingly internalizing the new information*
I realized that in this moment, I witnessed my precocious, eldest son, Telson (9 years old), having a big brother’s “talk” with his younger brother, Max (5 years old), about his perception of how their mixed race (Black African and White American) is seen in this world and seen by our current POTUS. For me listening in, it was powerful for many reasons, but a few points I’ll share …
One, Telson and I have talked about race a lot. He is very aware that he is mixed race, and typically I refer to their skin as brown. This is the first time I’ve ever heard him describe his and/or his brother’s race as black (which is okay, to be clear). It almost felt like an intentional declaration of solidarity. In some ways, this administration is influencing his journey of racial identity.
Secondly, it was powerful how different this message felt coming from big brother to little brother, as opposed to having come from say, me, their white mother. The whole conversation reminded me of my role in their identity development. One of the most powerful messages I’ve ever received as a white mother to brown children came from hearing Barack Obama say to Ta’Nehisi Coates that HIS white mother had made it okay to be black when he was growing up.
Finally, how sad that our children have to deal with this president? Imagine being nine years of age and having the awareness that the person who holds the highest office in the country has hatred toward people like yourself. No child deserves to feel that their president has hatred toward them. Not one.
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Photo provided by the author.