Ask Cody: Black children learn the truth from birth; white children must, too (Column)

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Note: Ask Cody is a regular opinion feature that Cody Keith Charles writes for The Lawrence Times. Community Voices pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Read previous editions of Ask Cody here.

Q: Dear Cody, what are your favorite resources or habits parents should have when teaching their kids about injustices and creating equity?

A: Whew! This is a question.

And a question that should have been asked and explored a long time ago, but here we are in 2021.

A question that reeks of inauthenticity. I’m not calling the question asker inauthentic; however, the question reveals a politic that is concerned with performance, rather than the truth. And, yes, I assume this question was submitted by a white person, and is rooted in a white ideology.

Consider, Why this question in 2021? How were you taught about injustices and creating equity? Why didn’t your great great great grandparents reckon with this question? How can you teach your child about something that you’re not fully invested in? Or don’t truly understand?

Therefore, I challenge the inherit performance in this question — it assumes that you the parent, you the guardian and you the caregiver have gone through your own radical reckoning. By radical reckoning, I mean understanding the violence you actively commit — constantly tracking the ways you end up in the center of life and being radically honest about your mistakes, fragility and histories.

The question assumes that you, the parent/guardian, are anti-racist and anti-anything in theory, but not in practice.

Do some radical self-reckoning around this question, and implicate yourselves in the mess. Stop performing helpful; actually be helpful.

Parents must be honest with their children. A child is never too young to be familiar with the truth — they should expect it from those who say they love them. Most often white parents/guardians default to their children being too young to learn the realities of the world, when the truth is they have not done their very own self-reckoning and have no idea where to start in conversing with their children. 

Black parents raise their children from the very start of life to fear the power of white people. Black children learn about anti-Black racism from the moment they engage institutions. If Black children can handle the truth of our world, why can’t white children? If Black children have to learn how to code-switch, what of your children? If Black children are being killed at the playground, at church, at school, on the street and in their own homes — ponder on your true love for children. Do you love children like you say, or just the white ones?

Brown parents, teach your children about themselves. Teach them about their histories — the violent and the celebratory. Teach them about the system that often disguises their oppression as lower level white success. Teach them about the inner workings of the internalized bullshit that all Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) must work through. Teach them about anti-Blackness — the ways you live life on the backs of Black people.

“Black parents, teach your children that they deserve the world, and Blackness is not defined by the violence around us, but as the audacity to survive and create joy.”

— Cody Keith Charles

Learn and teach.

Observe and process.

Be honest, and help them reckon with themselves. Break the delusion. 

Black parents, teach your children that they deserve the world, and Blackness is not defined by the violence around us, but as the audacity to survive and create joy. Teach your children to love Blackness, all Blackness. Teach them to fully experience their trans uncle or disabled sibling. Teach them to question and critique everything, as everything damns Blackness. Teach them to protect Black trans women and Black queer folks. Teach them to love themselves outside of the white gaze. Teach them to invest in Black queer art, and see themselves in it. Teach them to critically think about the media they consume. Teach them to work through their trauma, and make amends with the violence you’ve brought to them. Teach them to fight for our liberation. Teach them to fight for us all. 

I guess what I’m saying, with all of these words, is that good practices without a radically loving politic are meaningless. It’s just performance. What are you actually teaching your child if you’ve not done your own self-work? Do your own work around your position in life, and role-model the healthy conflict that arises to your children.

– Cody Keith Charles (all pronouns) is the Founder and Executive Director of Haus of McCoy, a queer and trans community center in Lawrence, Kansas. Moreover, Cody is a writer, facilitator, cultural critic and dreamer who critiques pop culture at the intersection of liberation. Cody enjoys trash TV, spending time with beautiful queer people and loving on their dog, Monét.

Find Cody on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read more of Cody’s writing on Medium. Read more of Cody’s writing for the Times here.

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