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Ignoring “black” . . . on mama’s account?

Debra J. Dickerson got quite a few blistering letters from readers.  Some were off the mark and some were rather insightful.  I’ve included one that I thought was rather good. —Nuttshell

As a black man raised in a predominantly white environment for the balance of my childhood, I can understand some of the issues, perceptions, and complexes that inevitably await Ms. Dickerson’s kids. What I don’t understand is how a woman who claims to have “lived” (her use of the past tense telling) blackness completely abdicates her DUTY AS A MOTHER to teach her children to cope with the burdens of race and enjoy the diverse fruits of their heritage.

Her account of her family history is the quintessential American story of the American Dream denied, deferred and ultimately, enjoyed to a certain degree. She is the great-granddaughter of slaves, she grew up knowing a living, breathing testament to America’s Shame. Her father was fought in World War II, fighting for freedoms he himself was denied. She herself experienced personally the sting of Jim Crow segregation. And yet, with the help of her loving “Mis’Sipi Mama,” she became a highly educated, nationally recognized author and columnist, married a white man, and had beautiful kids. Who would NOT want to teach her kids about such a triumphant story?

Her primary rationalization: she wants to shield her children from the evils of racism the legacy of what society has done to black folk. But that means that she is denying her children a chance to learn about history. But if all Ms. Dickerson teaches her children is that her people were raped, enslaved and “Jim Crow’d” by people who looked like their Daddy, then maybe ignorance is bliss for her kids. My parents had the presence of mind to teach me about their family histories, which share much in common with hers. They also taught me that black folk, despite all the things done TO them, had done much FOR themselves, each other, their country and their world, despite centuries of dehumanization.

Moreover, Ms. Dickerson seemingly, and shamefully, associates black culture with “high fives,” “might ta coulds,” slang and “ghetto passes.” In so doing, she ignores her own advice. In HER OWN BOOK, The End of Blackness, wherein she exhorts the readers to remember the broad diversity of black culture. The contributions of black Americans to the intellectual, social, political and cultural institutions at home and abroad are limitless. She denies her children the knowledge of this, so as to make their choice of identity a foregone conclusion. If I were a biracial child and knew nothing of my own rich heritage as a black person, I’d choose white, too. You’re not giving your kids choices if you limit their access to all of the information about their heritage. You’re making it for them. Based on this article, it’s no stretch to guess that the Dickerson children will learn more about their own culture in presumably predominantly white schools than at home.

My parents raised me in an interracial environment, and I’m glad of it. It enriched my life. But they also taught me about the realities of race in America, and the difficult job of coping with racism of a subtler, softer strain. They knew people out there would hate me or underestimate me because of the color of my skin, and they PREPARED me for it. No parent of any carbon life form would neglect to teach her offspring how to protect themselves from predators. Racism is a societal predator, and to allow her five-year old son to think that black people are “burned” is no less irresponsible than allowing that child to believe that Barney is a real dinosaur.

Ms. Dickerson, my heart goes out to your children. This article, more than others, reeks of self-loathing and self-doubt about being black in America. It’s no crystal stair, but it comes with many blessings and triumphs which are clearly evident from your own family history. Why deny your children the exposure to their family, their culture, their history? They can live their own lives on their own paths however they choose, but how they process the information you give them may surprise you, and us. IMHO, you are doing them a tragic disservice by shielding them from part of themselves, and by associating your own heritage with well-worn stereotypes and presumptions.
-- namepeace


Posted by Nuttshell on 03/06 at 03:45 PM in Blogging

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