Teaching My Kids to Survive in ‘Merica

My two oldest boys took a trip to Texas this summer. It was their second time flying to Grandma’s without an adult.

Last year was their first solo trip and I was nervous, but it was a good nervous. It was a – my babies are growing up – kind of nervous.

Before they left we talked about wearing their seat belts and using their manners. I made sure they had everyone’s phone numbers just in case they got lost playing in Grandma’s neighborhood. I did the usual mom run-down.


But this year we had a much different conversation – a more serious conversation.

We talked about how to stay safe around police officers, even if they were asking for help. I taught them how to hold their hands palms up and to the side, and to never reach in their pockets.

And for God’s sake, don’t run up to them, even in an emergency. Some officers will shoot first and ask questions later – when it’s too late.

We talked about sucking it up if someone made a racist comment to them while they  rode their bikes in the neighborhood. They’ve always joked about what they would do if someone disrespected them in that way.

“I’d put ’em in a full-nelson while DJ gives ’em a wedgy.”

“I’d karate chop ’em while Ty brings the pain.”

I’d usually just chuckle a little and roll my eyes when they came up with these scenarios. They were just so silly. But they had no idea what it would really feel like to be disrespected and discriminated against, so we had to talk about it.

I explained to them, in no uncertain terms, how abrasive and bold people in our country had become. Yes I know, racism has always been around. But in the past year, people stopped trying to hide it.

It’s like race relations have been set back 50 years. People are literally wearing their bigotry on their shirts. So I told them how they might appear to some people.

“You don’t look like kids anymore.
You look grown up.
You look like you’re up to no-good.
You look like a bad hombre and a thug.
You look like trouble.

Some people will see the color of your skin and act like it has poisoned your bodies. They won’t care that you’re on honor roll, or that you help care for your brothers.

So if a person disrespects you, as much as it burns on the inside, just walk away. You can’t control how they feel. It’s not up to you to change their minds.

More and more people are carrying guns – and using them.
Your only job is to keep yourself safe.
At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.”

My kids have been raised in a protective bubble. They already know that the world is full of good, loving people. They’ve grown up believing police officers are here to help and protect them when they need it.

They’re oblivious to all that’s wrong in the world. They don’t watch the news. They don’t know the KKK had a rally in a neighboring town last week.

They haven’t seen the brawls on the airlines. And they’ve never seen the Facebook videos of innocent men being murdered by police officers with no consequences.

So it’s my job to teach, educate, and prepare them. Just like I teach them to be respectful and do well in school, I will also teach them how to survive.

No, these aren’t the conversations I envisioned having with my twelve year old children. I thought we would at least get to girls before we got to guns. But this has been an extraordinary year, full of violence and bigotry.

Maybe we’ll get to the girls next year.

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187 Replies to “Teaching My Kids to Survive in ‘Merica”

  1. I am so sad to read your post, truly dissapointed of human being and even more to say you are right. As a Mexican leaving in Asia and dealing with so many cultures everyday because of my job.. I think I have seen everything but for sure I didn’t. Sometimes I don’t believe anymore in people being good and sometimes yes. Let’s hope for the best

  2. Beautiful family, I’m sorry this discussion is even necessary, More people should be having this same conversation with their children, unfortunately. Thank you for sharing.

  3. It’s so sad that most of the comments in this thread make this world and country sound so cruel and hateful. I believe there is still hope, that not all cops are bad, that not all white people hate black people, that this is still the best country in the world, with more freedoms that anywhere else to live and raise a family in. Let’s look for more positive things in troubling times.

    1. I believe all those things as well. But this post was not about the positive things… it was about the troubling times. And it is troubling to most people. I think most of the comments have been uplifting, and show compassion for our children. Thank you for reading. ❤

    2. Ehmr… I will start by saying that it’s great to hear you’re being proactive.

      With that being said, I wonder how those talks go between you and your sons. If they sound anything like what you write about here, then what you’re doing is fostering HATE and racism in your own kids.They will grow up thinking all cops are bad and all whites are racists. Your opinions are very clear, and I do not believe my comment will change them, but -> We are often biased when talking to our peers, but the young minds deserve the full story, so they can LEARN and make their own choices in the future. Instead of telling them what to avoid to not be seen as “thugs”, maybe you should teach them how to show that they are honor students. How about teaching them respect for others. Some people know to obey clear commands from police officers, while others don’t listen to anyone so then they complain of getting shot.

      I will not go into criticizing your kids for saying how they would be violent just because someone made a racist comment, because… they’re just kids and they’re just trying to reassure their mom that they would be fine. Or so I hope. However, you should not giggle this off. Is a verbal abuse a warrant for physical violence now? Do you see what you’re doing? You’re allowing them to hide under the racist label. Planting seeds of negativity. They have no motivation to do good, because it will all be misinterpreted anyway…

      1. That’s a bit of a cop out. Not sure which part of my comment you were referring to.
        Raising a kid last year vs. this year should not be so drastically different as you describe.

  4. I was placed upon a TWA Jet airliner back in the summer of 1967, it was a nightmare, first my parents never asked me, they just walked into my bedroom and tossed down a suit case and said pack it! You’re going to fly alone back east. I was 8 years old, and they were sending me to spend the entire summer in the House of horrors. To visit my Father’s sister aunt disgusting and her Pedophile husband ‘Uncle creepy. I was never touched, but it was a very frightening summer. As for the jet flight, the stewardess was personally assigned to watch over me, which didn’t go well. The Jet flew from Long Beach California to Tulsa, but no one told me it was first landing in Oklahoma city. They just said when the jet landed I would walk off and my Aunt and the inbreeds’ would be there to greet me. Well the Jet landed, and the assigned stewardess was nowhere in sign, so I got up and walked off the jet, there was no one waiting for me and I had to pee, so I started walking the airport searching for a men’s bathroom. When I exited that men’s bathroom and started walking, up ran a wide eyes crying, panicked stewardess, sure that she had lost her job as the Jet was full of passenger and on hold, until the ‘Missing eight year old lone flying boy could be found and returned to the plane. I now have a four year old son and I would never place him as alone upon a any public more of transportation at any age of his childhood or even teen years.

    1. Wow. I can see how traumatic that must have been for you. Luckily, airlines have changed their policies. Unaccompanied minors can only fly direct now. A parent must stay until the plane leaves. The person picking them up has to be at the gate upon arrival. Thank you for reading. <3

  5. Respect deserves respect. If the children are not taught that, then they will have a life time of fear and classing issues with others. and that’s not a racial statement, but it sure ends up that way in life doesn’t it?

    1. Some people aren’t even given the chance to be respectful. Shoot first and ask questions later. Respect or not, no person should be shot dead for being a certain color.

  6. Thank you for sharing your fears and highlighting just how the world has taken a huge step back. My heart goes out to you and your boys. I live in England and I had a chat earlier this week with someone who said things are getting bad here too (for black youths) but it’s kept out of the media. I am an optimist and I believe there are more good people in the world than bad but I can’t deny that we’re facing scary times. I just want to make things better. I want people to look further than the colour of my skin. Sending positive vibes to you and your family! Xx

  7. Wow…Thank you for sharing. It’s really a painful thought that as parents we have to teach our children such awful truths but if we don’t , the wrong person will. My children also very much live in a bubble they find it sad and unfair when they hear that someone with the same color skin as their own was hurt or mistreated for nothing more than how they look. Thank you for having the courage to share this story I hope more people see it and understand how real this experience is.

    1. It is painful. Growing up, I never even realized how hard it was for non-white individuals. I was oblivious. There is some good coming from people having a way to share their struggles with the world. If there were no cell phones, we wouldn’t know a fraction of what’s really going on. Thank you for reading. <3

  8. Wish all the best to you and your kids!
    Being a mum like you, me and many many others can be a little harder.
    I’m lucky I came across your blog today.
    Ciao from Italy!

  9. As a black teen who currently lives down south, I see the prejudice a lot. My sister and I recently flew alone on a plane as well so I know how your boys must have felt. I think it’s sad how people have become like this. Even children in school believe thing like ” If black people didn’t dress like thugs maybe police officers wouldn’t shoot them”. I’m not trying to prove these stereotypes to be true, I am just saying that however sad it may be, everything in this post is true. But I think the scariest thing is that my male friends may have to experience these things in the future which is very very scary.

    1. If you look back at the comments, a few people are saying the same things… It’s frustrating for me, so I can only imagine how infuriating it is for you.Thank you for reading. ❤

  10. Oh wow I can only imagine your pain. And to think how everyone does everything they can to travel to and stay behind in America, the land of dreams. I’m glad I left America 6 years ago and returned back to Africa. Being biracial, my African half makes me to be identified as black In the US….Now was a newlywed, I watch news streams and online stories of outright racism, usually against African American males. Your post now makes me vividly imagine what it would have been like had I stayed back, married and raised kids back in the states.

    You are being a very loving, wise and forward thinking mum…actively looking for ways and conversations with practical guidelines to equip your sons as best you can in this new dangerous America. Sorry about the state of nerves as yyourboys get older and are viewed as full grown threats by some officers. Continue to do your best with love and parenting, and send them out with prayers

  11. Right now I’ve been in a serious relationship for 4 years and we talk about similar things. I live in Spain with my Spanish girlfriend and when we talk about raising kids, eventually, I often express my joy for them being raised here in Spain. Then we talk about when they go and visit my family that relocated to Baltimore from Boston. While we wouldn’t worry about racial slurs being yelled, it’s more the social milieu and how easy it is to get swept up in problems and now with Trump the cleavege between races are widening every day. But from what I’ve read it looks like you are doing just fine educating your smart children 🙂

  12. Oh isn’t it such a bittersweet moment for a mother, putting a child on a plane to go spend time with family. My son has done the flight from Europe to NZ twice now (at 12 and 13) and he said to me recently, I think its better if someone else sees me off, because I hate leaving you there and I don’t think it would feel like that if it was someone else.

    I worry more about him passing through the airport actually, than being in the home country, due to his beautiful names being of Arab origin, I fear that soon he is going to encounter that kind of negative perception that exists, due to a name rather then the face.

    We talk about issues and I also introduced my children to Kyle Gray’s Angel Prayer cards, seriously, picking one of those cards before facing the day has done a lot to help them to cope and to face things with a helpful philosophical view.

  13. Excellent article and, sadly, right on point. Being stuck as I am for the time being in Texas I know how right you are. Guns on hips everywhere now that open carry is legal. Then there are the confrontational/adversarial police who immediately distrust you if you dare approach them for help.

  14. This is seriously heart breaking.. reminds me of when my grandmother sat me down and talked to me about how I should act, dress and behave because I was no longer a young girl and that sometimes I don’t look like a playmate to other people anymore.. That I’m a young woman now and that I might be seen as promiscuous and flirty, not bubbly and playful. That sometimes boys and men will approach me not to make friends but to take advantage of me. It’s sad, and disappointing. We have progressed so much with science and technology but why does it seem like our humanity is not moving forward? 🙁

  15. The reality of what you have written breaks my heart. Blessings for your boys on their journeys–to Texas and where ever they find themselves–throughout their lives.

  16. This is a sad and terrible indictment of American today, no one should ever have to teach their children to approach those who are there to protect and serve them because of the colour of their skin.

  17. I totally understand your pain. You are a great mum. Being open with the kids is the best thing to do. World is full of bad and good things and it’s in our own best interest to be aware about the ills in society. God help the racists.

  18. It’s sad that we live in a world like that. Like some said earlier it’s 2017. I’m glad you are talking to your children, you’re a good mom.

  19. This is such a great post. When I was growing up, I used to hate it when my parents would tell me how to handle certain situations, because the world couldn’t handle the colour of my skin. But now I see how relevant and honest their comments really were. This is a great thing you’re doing 🙂

  20. Your post is btrave indeed! These are terrible times, hatred seems to be all over…yet, I have also found that the only resistance is by showing love and understanding. And staying safe. Hopeyour boys had had a safe, enjoyable trip!

  21. Reblogged this on Nappy Tales and Me and commented:
    Isn’t it a pity that some children have to grow up differently? Unfortunately the truth is that prejudice, bias and bigotry are in bred and we have to learn to live safely as there is no one out there looking out for us.

  22. It saddens me that you had to discuss these matters to your kids sooner, at the same time, props for great parenting in the world we now live in.

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