'Black-Ish' Got It Right: Why It's So Hard To Teach Kids About Race And Police Brutality
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'Black-Ish' Got It Right: Why It's So Hard To Teach Kids About Race And Police Brutality

Last year, my son figured out what the word black meant in terms of his race, and any mother of a kindergartner knows that teaching them about race is either going to end with laughter, crying, confusion, or all three. For me, it was all three.

"Mom, my skin is brown, so how am I black?"

"Mommy, I can't find the color Mexican in my crayon box, and my friend said that it's a color."

"Mom, my friend Maddie is peach and has yellow hair, so she can't be white."

Now that he's a first grader, he's starting to gain a better understanding of what race means and how it makes us all different. What he can't "unsee" are the tears, anger, frustration, and loss of hope that's displayed in front him with every news report. My husband and I have sent him into the next room, or out of the house, more times than we can count, especially when we turn on the news. But eventually he's going to see what's happening in the world around him, and when he does, it's my responsibility as his mother to tell him the truth about what he's seeing. Even when I'm not ready to tell him.

This is how my hell with explaining to my son about how race can often divide us actually began, and it started with a Donald Trump news report. The other day, while I was busy doing mom stuff, he paid close attention to a news report on how Donald Trump won big in Nevada. Whatever he saw next prompted him to ask why everyone was mad at Donald Trump? Did he do something bad? Instead of telling him about how some of Trump's supporters often boast some distasteful qualities, especially when it comes to race, I sent him into the next room, and turned off the television.

I thought that I was doing the right thing, because I wasn't ready for him to see the world through a lens of anger and frustration. He's still young, so there's a lot of hope for him in his future. But again, he can't "unsee" what's in front of him. Thanks to last night's episode of Black-ish, where the Johnson family gathered in their living room to watch and discuss a news report on police brutality, I got that friendly parental reminder.

Bow's struggles to tell her seven-year-old twins why people were angry following a fictional police brutality case began at the beginning of the episode, when one of her twins asked why everyone was so mad while looking at the news. Instead of answering the question, she sent her twins, Jack and Diane, into the next room to find a dinner selection among their stack of take-out menus.

No matter how many times her family jumped on her case, she still felt weird about telling her twins the truth about what they were watching on the news. Mostly because she wanted to protect their innocence (as any good mother would do).

But it came a point in the show where no one in the family could shield them, especially after Dre yelled in anguish, "Kids are dying in the streets," during an adult conversation. The twins heard exactly what their dad said, and they wanted answers.

"Kid's are dying? We're kids," Jack said. When everyone looks around with an awkward silence, Diane whispered to Jack out loud, "Why is everybody acting surprised that we can hear the conversation?"

From a mother's standpoint, we are surprised that our children are attentive enough to see what's happening in front of them. Explaining how ugly the world can be is a daunting task for any mother. It means that their innocence is shedding before our eyes, and just like Bow, I'm not ready for my child to lose his innocence yet.

But the reality is that people who have never met my child hate him, and they're looking for every opportunity to steal what little bit of happiness that he has within his reach, and I have to teach him this. I'd be doing my child a huge disservice by not teaching him about the monstrosities of the world, but who the hell wants to do that anyway?

This is where Black-ish got it right - teaching your children about police brutality and how race divides us more than it unites us is tough for any parent. When my son sees reports of slain children, who are not much older than he is, and he notices that they share the same skin tone, I can't make him not see what's in front of him. Just like I can't make him not see a white man telling millions of people that something is wrong with brown people.

But as his mother, I have to tell him the truth. I don't want to, but if I want to prepare my child for his future as a black man in this country, I don't have a choice.

Watch the full episode of Black-ish on Hulu now, and watch a poignant clip, where Dre gives a monologue about losing hope, below.

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