In an ideal world, adults seek to protect children from the dangers that threaten their safety. Some of these dangers are easier than others to address, and so most children know the importance of wearing a seat belt, or not playing with fire, as these are very real concerns related to safety and well-being. But when it comes to protecting children from the emotional, intellectual, and psychological dangers of racial identification, most adults are ill-prepared—even the most loving and caring adults. As a result, young children venture out into the world, stepping into kindergarten classrooms for the first time, or onto playgrounds, only to have entered into a world that has already set them up to be either the oppressor or the oppressed. And in an instant, a child can be transformed into something other than what they had once been. This instant is when race, gender, or other identifiers become not just a seemingly innocent tool of recognition, but a role that has been assigned. Little girls become more than just their parents’ daughters, they become the societal assumptions of what girls and women are thought to be. Children who can be defined by the concepts of race cease to be children, and begin the long, painful journey of becoming what they have been racially identified as being.
Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification, Racism, and Popular Culture is now available on Amazon.