Not Black Enough…

Here at FullPlate Manor we’re encountering our first issues with racial tension.  I knew it was coming.  We specifically chose to send our kids to public school, a racially diverse public school, because we wanted them to encounter kids that look like them.  They do.  They go to school with quite a few other Black children.  Yes, I refer to my children as Black.  You see, only three of them are actually “African-American”.  As a White person, it might not be politically correct, but they refer to themselves as Black.  I’ve heard it said that to be truly politically correct, you use the term that the person themselves uses.  If they say African-American, then you use that term.  So, when they referred to themselves as Brown, I went with it.  They’ve now learned that the term “Black” doesn’t just refer to their actual skin color, it refers to a culture.

When it comes to public schooling, I’m a HUGE advocate for my kids.  I have to be.  I can’t home school them.  Part of me wishes I could, but the other part screams that this is what they need.  So, we choose to make the best of it.  The best FPD and I can do is help our local public school be the best it can be.  We volunteer like CRAZY.  One of us is in that school every.single.day helping out.  We feel that this is something we can do right now when we can’t home school.  We feel like we’re helping more than just our own kids this way.

Earlier this week, we were at school for Giggles’ Spring Concert.  She was going to rock the recorder.  So, FPD, Bubbly, The Diva and I got to school bright and early, ready for a great show.  As we were waiting to be seated, the morning announcements began and it was announced that several children were honored over the weekend at a ceremony for African-American Student Leaders.  Hmmmm…  FPD and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows, both of us thinking the same thing.  We get told constantly how our kids are GREAT leaders at their little school.  Neither of us had ever heard of these awards.  Who decided the winners of these awards?

Because I have a big mouth, I asked.  They’re decided by the teachers.  When I asked what the qualifications were for winning these awards, the Principal shrugged.  Some of the kids listed have huge issues with their behavior.  Are we giving them a ‘most improved’ award?  Maybe.  Maybe some of them have made huge strides I don’t know about, but what about honoring the kids like Giggles who come to school every day and tow the line?  What about the ones who do their work happily and never get in trouble?  What about the kids who lead by example?  Black or white, that needs to be considered.  Again, I received a shrug.

I also asked why I had never heard about these awards.  As a parent of Black children, maybe we would have liked to attend the ceremony and support some of the kids’ friends who actually did really deserve an award.  Again, a shrug.  I said it would be really nice for my Black kids to be included in events designed for Black children.  I then reminded the Principal that just because FPD and I aren’t Black doesn’t mean that our kids aren’t.  She shrugged and then admitted that might be part of the problem when it came time to nominating kids.  Then, she walked away.  What the heck did that mean?  Was she admitting that they weren’t nominated because of that?  I’m not going to press the issue any further.  I don’t want to look like the parent who complains every time her kids aren’t given an honor.  They’re great kids.  I know that.  They know that because we tell them all the time.

I see them as kids, not as “Black kids”.  Issues like this one make me really think about the way the rest of the world sees them though.  Are they viewed as “not Black enough” because they have White parents?  Ouch.  I hope not.  While being Black isn’t all of who they are, it’s part of them.  While I don’t want them viewed as “Black kids”, I do want people to acknowledge their culture.  We work so hard to help them hold on to where they came from.  It’s not fair to have someone else come along and try to take that away.

As I put together summer activities, I have included an exercise for the kids that will ultimately decorate our playroom walls.  We’ll be printing out the images below and learning a little bit about the history of each of these countries.  We’re a regular mini-United Nations around here.  Each flag represents someone (or someones) in our family.  The American Flag will be proudly placed at the top of the chart.

Giggles, ShyGuy and Bubbly are proud Ghanaian-Americans

The Diva is Mexican and Black-American

We will soon add a daughter that is Chinese-American

FPM is very Irish-American, including her often stereotyped “temper”.

FPD Dad, and the last name we all share, is Lithuanian-American

We are all American

FullPlateMom,
who doesn’t want anyone to tell her kids who they are.

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