Parenting is a tough job. It involves being responsible for a child’s safety and well-being day after day. But for Black parents of Black children, unfortunately, raising children comes with an extra layer of stress due to the toxic nature of racism prevalent in society. This is anything but new. It is a burden that Black parents have had to carry for centuries.
Parents of Black children are “constantly having conversations our white counterparts generally don’t have,” Shaun C., 41, father of two sons, 18 and 10, and one daughter, 15, tells SELF. These conversations include “how to survive and make it back home safely versus how to just be normal,” Shaun explains. The result: There is an ever-present undercurrent of anger, fear, and sadness for many of these parents—and it is exhausting.
“You are constantly trying to protect them, even from people who are supposed to be on their side—teachers, administrators, and so-called friends,” Kimberly L., 42, a mother of two sons, 20 and 5, and one daughter, 10, tells SELF. “You try to put them in a bit of a bubble, even though the bubble doesn’t really exist. It’s more of a fantasy for them, and we have to deal with the reality of what that looks like.”
Despite these hardships, Black children are cherished, and their parents are committed to helping them thrive. Below, SELF spoke to a variety of Black parents raising Black children to learn more about what parenting looks like right now—as well as the microaggressions their children experience, the lessons they are instilling in their children, and how they grapple with their own fears and anxieties during this time.
On parenting through George Floyd’s murder and other acts of violence against Black people
“If I had it my way, I would have waited as long as possible to expose my child to this world.”
“I was heartbroken when my daughter’s friend told her about George Floyd. If I had it my way, I would have waited as long as possible to expose my child to this world. The one thing you want to protect most, at least for me, is their innocence. I would like the world to still be a place filled with fun, excitement, and curiosity. Every time one of those conversations happens, a little more of her innocence goes away, and that’s sad. But it is required, right? If you are going to prepare your child for this world, then you have to have conversations about George Floyd, the police, racism—all of these things.” —Jason P., 42, father of two daughters, 10 and 5
“I say: ‘This is not television. This is not an anime movie. They will kill you.’ It’s hard to tell my son that.”
“My youngest son is very cognizant of what is happening. He has asked questions regarding the police. When we have been driving, he has seen police cars going by (or behind) us, and he has asked if they are going to stop us. I say, ‘If we do get stopped, this is what you do: Keep your hands where they can be seen, be calm, and let me talk.’ At 13, kids his age are like, ‘If he does this, I am going to do this.’ I say: ‘This is not television. This is not an anime movie. They will kill you.’ It is hard to tell my son that. You never want to tell your child that someone will harm them, but he needs to be aware that the police don’t think like he does. And, unfortunately, we as Black males grow up with a target on our backs.” —Ronald F., 51, father of two sons, 26 and 13
“We have stepped up, letting her know that police brutality isn’t new, and we didn’t come to this problem in 2020.”
“Our oldest is in a mixed-age classroom—her peers are between 9 and 12—and they were talking about it a lot. It started with one of her classmates saying, over Zoom, that something happened on the news, but ‘Ask your mom if I can tell you.’ And that was George Floyd’s death. I said she could talk about it. I don’t want it to be a secret. It is time for her to know these things. And because some of her friends are going to protests and talking to their parents as well, we haven’t shielded her from any of the conversations that she has been having with her friends. But we have stepped up, letting her know that this isn’t new, and we didn’t come to this problem in 2020. Recent events have also made me focus a little more—especially because we are homeschooling due to the quarantine—we are going to incorporate more Black history, from a struggle standpoint and a celebratory standpoint.” —April P., 42, mother of two daughters, 10 and 5
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