I have two kids, a girl and a boy.
My Elle, 11, has always been cut from her own cloth: independent, smart and smart-witted. She inhales books and the written word in a way that colors her reality. Because of this, she discovered a love of horses at the age of 6 and is now a full fledge equestrian. Seeing her twists bounce over jumps secretly thrills me.
Then there’s Jude, age 7. Gregarious and infectious, he’s been claiming his space in the room since birth. I’m convinced he walked at 9-months because he couldn’t bare being the only one on all fours. And, by 18 months refused to be left out of any conversations, speaking full sentences. Jude is a true conversationalist. Never at a loss for words.
My regular innocuous pick-up of him from after school care is usually laced with questions about every detail of the evening…because he must be in control of his world. But today, he couldn’t wait to open the door to tell me about David.
Apparently, his classmate David came over to his desk to take a verbal-jab at Jude with a harmless but inappropriate joke about Jude’s private parts. Jude, proceeded to tell the teacher what David said. He thinks the teacher shrugged it off. The incident however takes a turn because little Mr. David, in an effort to deflect blame, turns the entire story around. He tells the teacher that Jude was the one who came across the room and said the inappropriate comment to him!
Now I’m not the type that believes everything my child says. Actually, two days earlier he tried fruitlessly to cover his trails in a foolish rubber-band-as-a-slingshot mishap in the cafeteria. I know that crap was him. But, as a parent, you know the language of your kid. You know the stuff they are sneaky about and the kind of foolishness that they would probably get tempted by. This inappropriate statement being tossed around, was NOT Jude’s language. I knew immediately there was no way that came from him.
But, here is the most surprising part…
I froze. I…an educated, experienced, capable woman was paused on various levels.
Data tells us clearly that children of color are disproportionately dealt disciplinary actions in school over their White peers. What if they don’t believe Jude? Will they default to seeing Jude as the trouble maker because of his race?
I wanted to march in and warn them about implicit biases, especially from “good” people, before they had a chance to dole it out on my son. I wanted to beg them to clean their lenses and not make rash judgments which would victimize my kid.
But I did none of that. Why? Because I wanted to measure my entry into the situation at exactly the right time. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t labeled the “angry Black woman,” compromising my son’s journey in this school he loves so very much.
This is the truths of parents of color in America. Constantly weighing what to do and how to do it to avoid, or hopefully overcome implicit biases, in the face of what should be simple daily decisions. I don’t know if it’s the political rhetoric of our current distinguished presidential elections (sarcasm intended). It has certainly uncovered a rancid stench of racism many had said was gone. But, there is unrest that has reopened old wounds just to find there was infection sitting there all along.
I had no reason to think the school would believe David over Jude. As a matter of fact, the next day Jude reported David had been moved to the front of the class for a closer eye from the teacher. I didn’t have to intervene…this time.