What would you say?
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
What would you say, if a close friend said, “you look like a monkey?” With the voices of the world sharing their hearts, I was overwhelmed with pride by the answer of my young king.
When I entered the door, Hezekiah wanted to explain, what had happened on a call, with a young girl he calls friend and I will call "Becky". I sat down quickly and focused intently on what he had to say. I could tell that he was filled with emotions of hurt, frustrations, understanding and then pride. He hasn’t had to have a difficult conversation with his peers in relation to race issues. However, the world has shifted, children are listening, as parents are talking. Adolescents are utilizing social media to gain information, their friends are posting, liking, and commenting on what they feel is right and wrong. We pray that they develop their own identity, we shelter them from the horror of the world, we instill mini lessons, and hope that they will be shaped by our character as we share our individual experiences as guides. We are fighting with technology, peer influences, and the systems they are associated with and many of the times we feel they don't hear us, I am here to testify they are listening.
“Mom I had to check “Becky” today because she said I looked like a monkey. So, I asked her, do you know what you said was racist?” My eyes got big and wide, my heart dropped into my stomach, I went into protective mode, as I tried to show no emotion. I asked Hezekiah, “so what did she say when you informed her that her comment offended you?” He took a deep breath, with a sense of disappointment and explained she said, “how is that racist?” I cut him off quickly with my mama gonna knock you out stare and followed up with a calm breath and changed my body posture which was squared up to fight. While breathing and changing my body language I said, “then what did you say.” He explained that he talked to her about how blacks, were called porch monkey’s based on white’s assumption of blacks being lazy, he also told her to google it (basically, check yourself Becky), etc. His body language was that of someone who may have got the wind knocked out of them and was coming back to reality. His eyes were big with guilt for befriending someone who he just lost respect for, and in that moment I seen him become a man. A man who would fight for injustice, a man who knew that history must be told, a man who would educate himself and soar because, in that moment he felt challenged, slighted, and had to acknowledge he was seen as other.
I must add, he had a little help from his Mammah (my mom), who helped guide Hezekiah and "Becky's" conversation towards educating rather than, not addressing the issue.
My mother acknowledged Hezekiah for not letting his emotions get the best of him, for being able to articulate himself with facts, being able to communicate the why of his offense, and having a clear message for moving their friendship forward. Hezekiah was smiling ear to ear as she spoke of how proud and brave he was. He followed up with Big and me later in the evening and gave us more context of "Becky" and how abruptly she got off the phone. We talked to him about being consistent with addressing issues even when he felt uncomfortable, we explained that this was new for him and only the beginning stages of becoming a strong black man, that he should challenge people who have fixed mindsets, that he has the ability to assist people into leaning into their own discomfort and growth, that he has a duty to speaks truth.
We have a duty as a people, the duty is to utilize our voice for righteousness, to support people through learning and facts, and to provide opportunity for growth. It is amazing to me how Hezekiah, has been able to develop his voice, how moldable he and Little are, how they listen to everything and have applied their learning to everyday situations. I am proud of who they are becoming as men, how they see the good in others, how they have developed their own opinions about the world based on the few lessons we have taught them. That their opinions are valued and matter. I think I haven't been doing that bad as a parent. Then I think, “Becky’s” mom probably thinks the same thing.