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On Protecting (White) Children
Saying that “children are precious” is common verbiage. People believe that children need to be sheltered, to be provided with protection from the harsh realities of the world. Children are not meant to handle the many facets of life that we, adults, can and often do. We worry about how to talk to them about grown up things. We lie about where babies come from. We have them leave cookies for a jolly strange man in a red suit who is believed to come down the chimney and deliver presents to them each year until they are too old to continue believing this myth. We explain complexities like race and disabilities and gender differences in babied down voices and simple, sometimes false, rhetoric because why ruin the innocence of childhood if we don’t have to? But there is, of course, a caveat. This idea that children are vulnerable and need protecting does not apply to all of our children. When we say that we need to protect our children, we are talking about white children.
Earlier this month The Washington Post ran a story in which a white mother wanted Beloved removed from her son’s school district. Blake Murphy was 18 years-old when he complained to his mother that Beloved “disturbed” him. He said, “It was disgusting and gross. It was hard for me to handle. I gave up on it.”
It was disgusting and gross.
It was hard for me to handle.
I gave up on it.
We have parents calling into their school districts complaining about their precious little children (but really, an 18 year-old man) being affected by reading Beloved. They want this book banned. It’s too much for them to handle. The violence. The hatred. The abuse. It’s too much. But it’s not too much for those little black and brown children who are subject to the violence, the hatred, the abuse on a daily basis because, so far, there is no entity powerful enough to protect them, or even one who believes that they are worthy of protection.
There is no one to protect a 9 year-old girl from being called a “cunt” on a twitter account that is currently being followed by over 4 million people.
This is the difference between growing up white and growing up black. Sometimes it’s disgusting and gross. It’s hard for us to handle. But we cannot simply put it down and give up on it. We are not afforded the privilege to do this. We are not the ones to be coddled and sheltered and protected from a world that does not give a shit about us, because how would we then emerge strong and able and alive in the face of all. of. this. shit?
Some of you look at those photos from the sit-in trainings during the civil rights movement and think about how long ago that was and how far we’ve come and isn’t it crazy that this existed, that this happened here? This is still happening here and we are still being trained how to not react. But by you this time.
There was a sense of community last night seeing all of these great black and brown folks tweeting to and about The Onion, reblogging contact information, providing sample letters, bravely engaging with others who thought that they were overreacting. But it wasn’t surprising to also see the round of white folks attempting to explain satire to us. Asking us to “pick your battles.” Or telling us that we were making too much out of what was simply a poor choice of words. We were told that our response was inappropriate, that we shouldn’t have reacted in the way that we did.
The controlling of the black body in the age of social media.
Black people have been forced to cultivate our own communities and our own support systems as a means of survival, so that we do not fall apart when we are faced with someone telling us that we ain’t shit.
Because they have. And they do. And they will. And we are the only ones here to protect us.