Mar 25, 2012

Black is Beautiful: A Message to our Children Inspired by Trayvon

Image Credit: Flickr/werthmedia
Image Credit: Flickr/werthmedia

For a couple of weeks I've had to focus on things going on in my life, putting one foot in front of the other just to get through. As I spent time yesterday going through thousands of unread stories from fellow bloggers, trying to get caught up, I cried. Several times. 

Honeysmoke recommended this piece by TourĂ© in Time that was the first to move me to tears. His piece is entitled, How to Talk to Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin, and I don't know which saddened me more: the fact that such a conversation needs to take place between parent and child at all, or the fact that my husband and I have already had that conversation with our son--who is not yet 12. 

AP writer Jesse Washington has a son about the same age as mine. His piece, Trayvon Martin, My Son, and the Black Male Code also pulled at my heart strings. He's had that conversation with his child already, too. His conversation is tempered with personal memories of being an adult man, seen from a distance, and momentarily deemed suspicious by someone in his own family. 

We are a well-trained society when it comes to applying stereotypes.

Pieces written by parents of black/brown children flooded the blogosphere last week. Why? Parents of all children worry about their safety. The Trayvon Martin case has shown that many parents have additional worries. Those who have brown children worry that their safety will be threatened by the very same forces that are supposed to be serving and protecting them. It's not just that a crazy pedophile might snatch our child, it's that a neighborhood watch volunteer might kill him for no reason other than having brown skin in a society that sees all people with brown skin as threats. We inform our children from a young age (my daughters started getting tips at age 7) that they shouldn't bring big bags into any retail store because they may be suspected of shoplifting. We don't allow our son to go to the mall to hang out with friends at all (a cause for major eye-rolling on his part) because they will just be targets for trouble from mall security.  

So much of the time, we have to share messages with our children about how scary it is to be black... How difficult it is to walk around in brown skin...How worried we are for their safety...How much harder they have to try to proves themselves in EVERYTHING so that they can combat stereotypes. 

What we forget to do sometimes, is to remind them that they are beautiful. They are so beautiful! They should be so proud of their heritage and history! No matter what the struggle, no matter how society treats them, they are precious. 

To my children:
You are beautiful. I love you and believe in you, and I will always see you for who you are inside...not just for what is outside--your skin or your clothing.

To all of the black & brown children in the world:
You have a rich and storied history of which you should be proud. Do what you need to do to protect yourself, but never let it diminish your sense of self, your sense of heritage, your love for who you are.

This beautiful song sends such a positive message. Please watch, "You Are Black Gold" by Esperanza Spalding featuring Algebra Blessett.

Every time we need to remind our children about the possibility that what happened to Trayvon Martin could happen to them, let us also remind them that they are precious, like black gold.


  1. You're gonna get me crying, Jen. I can't even presume to know the kind of anxiety this murder has instilled in your and your children's minds. I was up in the middle of the night and saw a report somewhere that someone who had thrown flour on a celebrity had been arrested immediately. So I sit here sickened by a legal system (and mainstream values) that arrests a person who perpetrates a harmless act on a movie star and then does NOTHING about "blatant" homicide (even when there are witnesses and audio recording). I'm sick of people being judged, profiled, crucified for how they "look." 

  2. Well said, Jen! I love the video - especially the conversation between the boys and their dad. My own knowledge of black and African history is so sorely lacking, I really hope to audit a course when the boys are school age (and I have the time!) so that I can help to pass on some of that knowledge to them. 

  3. Thanks, Ellie. I love that video, too! Hope you do get to take a class some day. Until then, there are quite a few kid's picture books about black history these days--it's a start!

  4. I hadn't heard about that flour incident. Very sad that we give priority to celebrity over just about anything in this country. 

    I admit to crying a couple of times this week about the world. Part of it was my stress and fatigue, I'm sure. But I keep thinking about Trayvon's family (your poem really got to me too, amiga...) and how they couldn't have told him to do anything any differently. It's such a helpless/hopeless feeling to know that your kid can do all the right things and still end up the victim of hatred. So sad.

  5. Those articles are so sad. It's stuff that has been shared with me and I know it to be true, but reading it in this context is so, so sad. I am crying over that sweet boy who sleeps with stuffed animals, but yet, needs a warning that some people will be afraid of him. 

  6. I can't stop feeling sad about this, Martha. When I look at my son I still see the little afro-headed preschool-aged boy who jumped off the coffee table, pointing his wrists to the sky "thwip, thwip," pretending to be Spider-Man! To think that his now almost 12 year-old 5'5" frame, which is always encased in a hoodie when it's rainy, will cause anyone to believe he is a threat....that just makes me cry. 

  7. Tragic is what it is. I'm sending you positive thoughts and energy that you find the strength and fortitude to keep on moving ahead with optimism and a positive mindset. It's so easy to get mired in helplessness and negativity if we let it. You're doing everything right by educating your children and speaking out. A hug to you. I was so angry when I wrote that poem. A big, big hug to you, my friend.


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