As the girls grow older, my blog posts have reduced in frequency. Part of the reason is that they’re reaching the age where I want to respect their privacy and the covenant between parent and child. High level posts on Facebook seem more appropriate than thoughtful analyses of the personal growth I enjoy as a parent. That said, I had a very exciting blog post to make about the wonderful summer I’ve had with the girls that I thought would capture the special time I had with them. And I promise that is still coming. Unfortunately, I feel like a separate blog post is required to describe what this summer has been like and what it has meant to me as a parent given the general social climate.
After the events of Charlottesville took place last weekend, a common refrain I’ve heard is “what am I supposed to tell my children?” Let me tell you what to tell them.
- Tell them what you were going to tell them when they hear that a student at Stanford named Brock Turner would do the disgusting things that he would do, even though he’s supposed to be a model student-athlete at the pre-eminent academic institution in the world.
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them when they find out a young black man is executed third-world style in front of his fiancee and child in his car in Minnesota and the officer is exonerated because he was supposedly the one in danger–and that this is a carbon copy of stories all around the country.
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them when they learn that two men were shot in a restaurant in Kansas because they looked no different than me and a man actually thought that was justification for killing one of them.
- Tell them what you’re going to tell then when they discover that one of academically brilliant employees at Google would misrepresent a study to state that women are incapable of the engineering prowess of men and suggest that it was fostering dialog instead of its reality: an attempt to propagate the oppressive sexism that keeps Silicon Valley broken.
- Tell them what you were going to tell them when you share the personal story of being chased down by a skinhead in an alleyway in Sacramento a month before you got married because you dared to be a brown man walking in the opposite direction. (Oh, was that just me?)
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them when your neighbors in a wealthier area of town are trying to break off the school district from the poorer regions and, when accused of segregation, respond “hey, we’ve actually always had segregation, so this new segregation is no problem!” (I am not sure where to begin)
What do you tell the kids? You tell them that there are bad people in the world. You tell them that there are bullies at school and those bullies grow up to be disingenuous parents, stray law-enforcement professionals, talk show hosts, and, of course, hypocritical, spineless elected officials. You tell them that there is injustice from every angle and their responsibility is to fight it, like the two students that interrupted Turner’s attacks, the good samaritan who chased down the Kansas assassin, or even those who risk their own safety to defy, dishonor, and destroy the evil that we wish you didn’t have to know about. To quote the final post of Heather Hyer, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Now I see all the tweets about the fact that the news doesn’t reflect reality. “Hey, we all love our neighbors and the news is blowing it out of control. Everything is great!” People who say that are absolutely missing the point of what they’re saying in the news. Of course we love our neighbors, they are homogenous representations of ourselves. And in close circles, we can bury her head in the sand and assume that the injustices happening in the world do not exist. That is until a group of teenage Trump supporters drive by your house pumping their face and yelling “Trump Trump Trump” and some sort of victory cry after the riots in Charlottesville, not unlike the celebration after the Warriors won the NBA championship (yes, that happened to us last Saturday). I don’t doubt that they get along with one another. I doubt that I’ve ever met any one of them before and their parents are probably stay clear of me. If I ignore them, I imagine I’d be happier. However, if there’s one parental message I can think of in this post, it’s that ignorance is never a solution.
At one point this summer, Robyn asked why we watch the news and why we paid attention. After all, after seeing the frustrating governance of our country, the injustices to other groups, and the outrage the forces us to march in to fight, wouldn’t it be easier if we just didn’t pay attention to such things? Cherise and I quickly snuffed out that idea. No, don’t ever forget that it is your responsibility to seek out the truth and fight injustice. 50 years ago, your mother and I weren’t allowed to get married. It was some very thoughtful people that fought against it and earned rights for us. And that’s why we do it for LGBTQ people and that’s what I will do it for the next set of oppressed people. That’s why we march for women. That’s why we give to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Never stand for injustice. Don’t hide from it in a “safe space”. Push back when you see it. Speak out against it. March against it. And if you’ve got it in you like Mommy does, run for office. Represent those who need representation. Make your voice heard. Even if you become a software developer or veterinarian, you have a responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves. If we teach you anything, I can only hope that this is the most important lesson you get.
I suppose I could’ve said the opposite. “Yeah, don’t worry about the news. You’re too young for that.” But at what age do we teach outrage? At what age does ignorance or acceptance give way to social responsibility and facing the bullshit instead of hiding away in protected conclaves that protect the easily offended (c’mon colleges, quit protecting your students). Last year, when Iris became increasingly interested in civics, we were fully invested in the election process until Donald Trump became the nominee and I pulled back, preferring to wait until the circus left town–not so much because I was afraid to show it to her as much as I was confident it was an aberration of US History. Well, I was wrong. The circus is here and it’s part of our lifestyle. Ignoring it in a bubble of wealth only makes us complicit in its consequences and derelict in our responsibilities as parents. I won’t do that.