While reading shanikka's extraordinary diary about the ongoing slaughter of young black men in this country, I had two visceral reactions. The first I hope we all had -- an overwhelming sense of horror and sorrow at the utter pointless waste of lives. This reaction is, I think, baseline human; you'd be hard pressed to qualify as a human being if, reading once more of the violent deaths of scores of young men, deaths attributable solely the expectations of their killers based on the color of their skin, your first reaction isn't one of overwhelming sorrow and horror. So that, in and of itself, wasn't particularly notable, and isn't a diary.
My second reaction, I think, may be worth a diary. Because my second reaction was to wonder what my parents did that was so different than so many other parents of kids in my demographic. I was raised in a white, middle class, Protestant family in the suburbs of Detroit. There were no people of noticeably darker hue within several miles of my boyhood home. Yet my parents raised three kids who all manage NOT to react to others based on the color of their skin, or their non-Western dress, or any of the myriad markers of the "other" that identify the targets of middle-American violence these days.
I'm grateful, of course, that they did so. This diary is an effort to identify what it was that they did, and how they did it. My goal isn't a parenting primer (as a non-parent, I'm not qualified) but will, I hope, add something of value to the ongoing discussion of racism and violence, and how we might decrease and, ultimately, end them.
To some extent, I'm also responding to this diary, which asks some very useful (and pointed) questions about how we can battle racism. The diary challenges readers to become "anti-racism warriors", and encourages confrontation. There is certainly value in that approach, but in my experience confrontation is rarely successful in changing people's minds, even if they moderate their behavior or language in the presence of the person doing the confronting. (For instance, I've been confronted by folk I consider religious extremists, who informed me that I was wrong to so describe them. I still do, but not around those specific individuals; it's not worth the annoyance. I've also confronted extremists, and members of the Klan, and members of Westboro Baptist Church, not expecting them to change, but because they and their ideas needed to be challenged.) This diary is about something different: raising kids to treat people as universally human. It may not feel as activist as confrontation, but I believe it is just as valid an approach, more proactive, and in some ways far more subversive.
The two approaches can also be effectively combined.
More after the orange arabesque.