Racism 101 – An Unsolicited Introduction

Evidently, I am no different than most mothers out there. From the moment I first laid eyes on my son as a baby, I knew I would do anything in this world to protect him. I truly thought I could protect him from all the things that could threaten his tiny little world. Little did I know that my incredible desire to shield him from all negativity would not only last throughout his life, but increase by leaps and bounds over time.

Being the African American mother of a male child, is no easy task, especially when doing so alone. The careful shaping and molding of a young boy into a man without any handbook or instructions to refer to. After all, I am not a man. My main hope as a young mother, was to instill the vital morals and values within my son that would later manifest and help to solidify his manhood. There always seemed to be so much to share and make him aware of and that is still true today. I often wish I could pour my knowledge and experience into him as a kind of ‘heads up’ to the many storms that life can unexpectedly rain down on a person. But we all know that it’s impossible to make our children aware of every little thing, try as we might. Trial and error has proven to be a constant teacher in my son’s world and to this day he is still an unsuspecting student.

In spite of some kicking and screaming, my son made it into manhood. It’s so interesting to watch him evolve a little bit each day. There are times when I am stunned by the level of growth and transformation taking place. Sometimes life allows him to ease into situations and adjust at a comfortable pace, while there are other times when life slams him hard, forcing him to face the oftentimes deafening music of real life.

A couple mornings ago, my son woke me up at 6:00am to tell me about an incident that happened while he was delivering newspapers on his route, one of two jobs he holds. I was stunned by what he was saying, so much so that I sat up in bed with a spring-board like reaction. He proceeded to tell me about his encounter with a man in the wee hours of the morning during his delivery. It didn’t take long for my son to figure out that this man was a full-fledged racist. This particular morning, my son was late delivering the newspapers and as a result, he crossed paths with an ugly evil that he was not expecting. My son said he asked the man three times if the paper he was about to deliver belonged to him, as the man would not move out of his path. The man just stood there like a statue, not moving left nor right, backward or forward and not responding in any way. My son finally gave up and carefully maneuvered around the man and threw the paper past him.

This action seemed to set this peculiar being off. He started yelling at my son while to calling him a monkey and threatening to report him for throwing the newspaper to close to him. Really? This man then proceeded to grab the paper up from where my son had tossed it and began to dismantle it. My son asked the man AGAIN if it was his newspaper. The man started spewing the word monkey and other racial slurs in an onslaught of negative rapid fire. Thankfully, the man’s words were not bullets, or my son may have met with a very different outcome.

No doubt the verbal attack penetrated my son as a human being far deeper than any bullets could have. I’m sure my son didn’t tell me every word that was exchanged between the two but I’m sure he had some choice words for the bigot that stood before him. My son did express that this is 2015 and that here this man was with these ignorant prejudices and distorted beliefs of years long since passed. Years that have transpired yes, but unfortunately have left their relative behaviors and backward thinkers behind.

I have to say that as his mother, I felt my heart breaking twice over as he told me this story; once for the pain and shock it must have been for him to encounter this hatred full on, and secondly for the pain of knowing that the one thing I wish I could spare him from the most, blatantly introduced itself without warning nor provocation. There was nothing I could do about it. If only there was a channel I could change and flip to another station. Unfortunately, it’s an ugly life truth that exists in full living color on a seemingly never ending wide screen. Everyone plays their role in life and then in walks an unwanted extra, onto the scene without solicitation.

How do we prepare our children for the outrageous and vicious behaviors of others that can break out at any time? I don’t think anything really prepares them until they’ve actually met this ignorance face to face. I’m just thankful that things ended with my son walking away. In spite of the nature of this incident, he handled the situation like an adult and didn’t allow it to provoke him into doing anything he might later regret. I couldn’t be more proud of him. As ugly as this incident was, I am confident that it has cemented a much needed awareness in my son that he will definitely need as he continues to walk out his life journey!

By Sylvia Porter-Hall

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. D'aller Naturel
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 13:55:42

    That is really unfortunate, and I’m sorry your son had to experience that. Sadly, in my line of work I’m acutely aware of how we’re regressing in society and being in 2015 is much like being in the ’60’s in disguise. I mean, the FBI is just investigating a recent lynching in Mississippi–well, to be fair, the story said “a black man that was hung” ( which is essentially the same thing)

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  2. sporterhall
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 14:47:42

    Thanks for your comment my friend. It is a crying shame, literally, that these instances are still so prevalent in the society we live in today. And you are so right when you say a lot of it is in disguise or what is now termed ‘subtle racism’. The raw truth is that there is nothing subtle about it, especially when you’re on the receiving end. It’s hard to heal an open wound when salt just keeps getting poured into it!

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