DIVERSITY + INCLUSION = EMPOWERMENT
"A more equitable quality of life is only achieved through a more inclusive society."
A spoken word piece
Spirit broken, my little kindergartener lamented when a bully pulled the chair from under him in class. His heart lay beneath the thud of his body.
Me? I did what any southern bred mother would. I told him to go back to school unafraid and unapologetic, but if that little boy put his hands on him again, he had better stand his ground and defend himself, “If you don’t stand, people will always push you around.” It was about respect. It was about the future of his manhood. That’s what every boy in the South is taught in their youth.
The lesson served him well. Not long after, the little boy tried my son again. This time he fought back. He came home with a smile of dignity and self-worth exclaiming, “His face turned red, Momma! He turned red, but we are good friends now.”
Yes, friends. Friends because kindergarten perceptions of race aren’t yet well conditioned. Respect had been established between the two – my son black, the other white.
Young males are taught such lessons until their teen years when all children transition from precious innocence into perceived potential threats. At that point, the advice of black mothers take an abrupt turn. I had not embraced my son’s unplanned life in vain, so lessons of dignity were aborted. Self-respect became nothing – better to suffer a few minutes of shame, than to die proud:
“Stand your ground unless your offender is… Caucasian.”
“Remember your place – one that is firmly held by unbalanced scales of justice.”
“If a simple misunderstanding escalates into something criminal due to no fault of your own, the only thing you’ve got is a prayer and a good defense attorney if we can afford one. That’s assuming I don’t have to fight just to have a man prosecuted for taking your life.”
I even found myself saying, “Never do a rolling stop while driving” and “Stay below the speed limit. The last thing you want is an excuse to get pulled over.”
“However, when you do get pulled over, ignore it if your manhood is smugly questioned by erroneous accusations and ignorant acts of taunting which will occur at least several times in your lifetime.”
“No son, do not stand your ground.”
“Do not even leave home if you can avoid it.”
“Do not go out to satisfy your sweet tooth with a pack of Skittles and a can of tea.”
“Do not live a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness- no matter what the Declaration of Independence says.”
“Do not live.”
Do not live?
“Do not live… a life of subservience – implied, intended, unintended or otherwise.”
“Do not let another man believe he is justified in fearing you simply because you breath.”
“Do not forget what I taught you in kindergarten.”
“Stand your ground every second of every day with any man who chooses to go toe-to-toe with the life that came into this world through me.”
Both of my sons were born of beautiful brown flesh, through the womb that bares my womanhood. They have been taught by a heart which beats rhythms of passion on eardrums clearing deeply packed wax of conditioned ignorance. They have learned that we are no less. I am no less than any other mother. I am no less than any mother who loves her heart-broken kindergartener. I am no less than any mother sitting in the jury box for a trial in which a grown man chose to go toe-to-toe with another mother’s young son. And my sons are no less than any other mother’s sons.
“Remember Momma’s lessons.”
A poem dedicated to the mother of Trayvon Martin