The other day, I was at the park with my son. While we were there, the local school let out and the playground flooded with high schoolers. There was a group of about 5 relatively close to where we were swinging who were talking about finally being in Grade 9. I didn’t pay much attention to them, although sometimes it was hard not to overhear their conversations.
As my 18 month old son was innocently swinging, two more young people arrived (of about the same age). One of the girls who had been hanging out said “Finally! I’ve been waiting for you!” So, it was obvious that they were familiar with each other. One of the boys who had been hanging out was white and greeted the approaching boy with “Hey, there’s black boy!” The white boy continued, saying “I saw this black guy telling black jokes, and they were so funny!” He proceeded to tell the jokes (which I have heard before, but won’t repeat).
The two youth who had been approaching, both of whom were black, continued to walk. They walked right by the group of their peers. Right by the girl who had been waiting for them. The white boy called after them “Hey, black boy! Where are you going?” They kept walking, silently, until they were out of sight. The girl who’d been waiting, who was white, called after them and looked perplexed when they ignored her. She said to her friends “Where’d they go? Why didn’t they stop?” Why didn’t they stop? Really?
Soon after that, the white boy was cursing loudly. The white girl said “Watch your language! There are kids around!!” Wow. I would rather my son hear him swear than to have him be subjected to the racism that we had just witnessed. I would rather him hear “shit” than black jokes, anyday!
This is what my son has to look forward to. Regardless of what he says, what he does, or what he thinks, he will be the “black boy.” What kind of world do we live in where white children judge and mistreat black children based on their racial identity? Where are they learning supremacist ideologies? Who is teaching it to them and how is it being reinforced?
I am glad that Q’s father is here to help him through this because I can never know what it is like to be oppressed because of my racial identity. I can acknowledge my whiteness and recognize the privilege that comes with that, but I can never live the torment of that child on the playground, and I can never put myself in my son’s shoes when he comes home from school and says that someone called him the n-word.
This is not ok.
For more information on white privilege, please read this article. If you disagree with my take on racism, power, and privilege, I would greatly appreciate it if you read the article before commenting. Thank you.
Other information on racism in Canada.
Videos of Tim Wise talking about white privilege.