The more things change… the more they stay the same

As a young girl, I loved spending the weekend with my cousin who was about two years older than me.

We grew up in a small town so there was not much for us to do besides trying to catch grasshoppers and butterflies in the spring or rolling down the hill in our grandmother’s front yard. The grass made us itchy in the end, but we didn’t mind. But whenever I visited my cousin, we would often head out of town to shop at the mall or stay in town and attend a Halloween carnival organized by her school.

I could not wait to find out where we would be going next, so I was excited the day I learned we would be helping babysit some younger kids in a daycare-type setting – we were about 12 years old at the time. Unbeknown to me, I would experience racism for the first time. But it would not come from the mouth of an older white person with prejudice views.

It would come from the mouth of a small child we were watching while the kids played outside.

We were trying to keep them from getting to rowdy when one of them said, “My mom told us we don’t have to listen to black people like you.”

My cousin and I looked at each other in disbelief, shocked that a child would be taught to not to listen to someone because on their race. This was the 90s. Weren’t we past that?

Up to that point, I never had anyone call me a derogatory name or single me out in a negative way because of my race. I went to a predominately white elementary school and race was the last thing on our minds. We were more concerned about when tacos would be served at lunch and waiting in anticipation for our book club orders to come in.

We only had one middle school so there was even more interaction between the races, but I never personally encountered any racism. It saddened me to think there were still families out there teaching their children to make judgments based on race. It was also interesting to see that even though my cousin is mixed –her mother is Thai and her father is black, the child viewed her as just another black girl they were taught not to listen to.

After all that civil rights leaders and their foot soldiers accomplished in the 60s, it is always disappointing to realize that racism still exists. While we may not be able to change the views of the older generation, we can definitely teach our children not to hate. This goes for all races.

As a black woman, I have heard many prejudice views come out of the mouths of people I know who are black. We should not teach our children that all white people are out to get them or Hispanics are out to get their jobs. This is not what King taught us.

We should love one another and seek to understand each other. I sometimes wonder what became of that child who opened my eyes to prejudice. But I focus most of my attention on making sure I teach my 4-year-old daughter that we are much more than the color of our skin.

 

Written by Amanda Thomas

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