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August 29, 2014

My Difficult Conversation With My 9 Year Old Son.

nathan and Dylan

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned as a Yoga Teacher was from my mentor, Dr. Gail Parker.

She taught me that my role as a Yoga Teacher was to help shape consciousness. I have always wanted to use my yoga to change my world, my perceptions of myself—life as an act of self care.

Yoga has changed and helped me to be the change I want to see in the world around me. Yoga has been an excellent vehicle for my own personal growth. I wanted to do more with my yoga then just practice asana. I was inspired by a colleague to take an Off The Mat and into the World course on duality and social Justice.

I was really hesitant at first because I felt that it would be with a bunch of privileged people trying save us people-of-color, and I was honestly annoyed by the thought. How could these people really know and feel my struggle, and why do they care?

I took the course and at times it made me angry. It really made me look at myself and some of the exercises stirred up some personal stuff. I am glad that I took the course because it changed my life. I thought I was already pretty conscious of the world around me…I really had no idea.

What I learned is that we need the privileged Caucasian people to speak up about racism and discrimination; they have a stake in this cause as well. Their voices are so important to the struggle for equality for all. Their voices have so much power with the dominate culture because they are the dominate culture.

Racism is a product of a dominate culture that created slavery and colonialism. It cannot be the sole responsibility of people of color to dismantle  racism. We cannot do it alone. We need conscious white allies in the struggle to make our voices stronger. United we can make great changes in the world.

My family is biracial. My husband is white. I mean really white; he has beautiful blue eyes, very little pigment in his  skin and burns in the sun within 10 minutes. His view of the world is very different from mine. Our children are brown. We are raising them to appreciate that their skin color is beautiful and something to be cherished.

I want them to have a positive self image and great self esteem. We have been teaching them that to be different is good. So far they seem to be content with who they are. But with all that is going on with the struggle for equality in North America, we felt it was important to have the conversation about their place in this world as  brown skinned young men.

My husband initiated the conversation with our oldest son. Our son is generous, honest and truthful. We have raised him to make good decisions and trust his judgement. Once he found an iPhone in a public washroom and he immediately returned it to security without question. I know he is a good boy.

I fear he will be mistaken for someone else and lose his life for it. I never had to worry about it before because he was a baby and I could protect him from everything. Now he is growing up and venturing out into the world and I feel powerless to protect him against the huge machine of discrimination and racism. People will see his skin before they see the content of his character.

We told Nathan always take the time to think before you act. Choose your friends wisely because the company you keep matters. The police will not protect you as they do your fair skinned friends. If those friends choose to make bad decisions and you are in their company, you will be disciplined more harshly than them.

The color of your skin may be detrimental to your well being. The police will treat you differently because of your skin color. This conversation broke my heart. It is clear he didn’t understand why his skin would matter. He said, “Just tell the police it’s not me.”

He is only nine years old and so far he hasn’t experienced this world of discrimination. My parents had this conversation with my brother, and I hoped in 2014 I wouldn’t have to have it with my sons. My husband had to tell my sons that they are second class citizens in this world, because of their color and they will not be afforded the benefit of the doubt.

It is true and it is so sad. I am responsible for their skin color and these are the lessons I have to share with them. If you get into trouble make sure you call your dad. His presence will save your life before mine will. The whiteness of his skin will make you more acceptable in this world. People will embrace your whiteness before your dark skin.  I am not sure if we can ever change this. I feel powerless in this fight.

 

 

I am choosing to educate my children to be aware. I am raising their consciousness of who they are by educating them to make better choices. I am teaching them to understand they will have to work twice as hard to get half as far, but if they keep fighting we will create change.

It will be slow and very hard but it starts with raising awareness and consciousness and being united in this fight. Racism is a human problem. People of color being shot and killed for no good reason is a problem for all us. My son is your son. So have a difficult conversation with your children about the part they play in this struggle. Raise their awareness about the world they live in and help them to become part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

 

 

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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Provided by author

 

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