Saturday, April 7, 2012

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Are active black boys "bad" & active white boys "mischievous"?


A friend of mine from college, who is now an award-winning journalist penned a well-written, well-thought out essay in The Atlantic where she weighed in on the Trayvon Martin case. For those who have been living under a rock and haven't heard, it's the case about a 17-year old Florida teen who was killed by a 24-year old neighborhood watch captain who thought Martin, who is  black and was wearing a hoodie while walking home from the store after purchasing a can of iced tea and pack of candy in his hand, was suspicious. The killer, George Zimmerman, followed Martin, got into a scuffle with him and eventually killed him with a pistol he was licensed to carry.  He was not arrested although a grand jury has been ordered for April 10 to consider whether an arrest should be made. The case sparked nationwide outcry over racial profiling, gun control and other side issues. 

Lisa Armstrong, in her piece, "Are we teaching the wrong lessons about Trayon?",  said that after weeks of watching, reading and taking in the different perspectives of the case, she noticed a lot of pieces focused on telling black parents they need to train their sons to prepare for a life where they may be judged by others because of their skin color.  She suggests that perhaps white parents ought to be doing a better job at making sure their kids  aren't raised in a way to fear black boys. She says it is an unfair burden on black parents to have to raise their children to anticipate discrimination.

To support her position, Armstrong shares with readers how her son was treated badly by his teacher when he was the only black kid in his all  white class in a very prestigious predominantly white school.   She pointed out that other black children in the school and the boys in particular were tagged as "bad" simply for being active.  White boys, when they are fidgety or got in a little trouble here and there, she says, are called "mischievous." The difference, she says, is that the latter term is considered "cute" and endearing a little. The black boys are just trouble. Read more at The Atlantic to learn how the story ends when she confronted the school administrator about the disparate treatment. 

Armstrong got lots of irate response, in the form of article comments, mainly from white readers, who called her racist and accused her of race-baiting merely for making the suggestion that non-white parents ought to shoulder some burden too. She cited an interesting CNN study recently released that shows disparate responses of black and white children which reveal that children are being raised to have racial bias by their parents.  I also referenced that study in a piece I published yesterday  at The Communities section of The Washington Times where I highlight a recent viral video of a white teenager who declares that she is NOT Trayvon Martin but is more like George Zimmerman. Read more about my piece HERE, where I share her perspective that white parents need to do better preparing their kids too.

It seems this case has opened up an opportunity for us to all look at, dialogue and think critically about race and how it impacts our child rearing. Ignoring the issue won't make it go away because our children pick up on our actions, words, and inaction. Discussing it doesn't make anyone a "race baiter" either because it is a real aspect of life in America, unfortunately.


Perhaps it's better to deal with it head on rather than take the "bury the head in the sand" ostrich approach.  It is foolish to think that if you don't talk about it, that means there is no issue and we are living in a fantasy color-blind world where people aren't judged by their race. 

Thoughts?

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