This month is Black History month in the U.S. and, I’m ashamed to admit, that it’s really the first year that I’ve taken the opportunity to educate myself about Black History. I was raised by a mother who spent time for many years passionately teaching her students about The Civil Rights Movement, but I’d never really dug past the major events. I see now that I have huge gaps in my knowledge about black history. I’ve got slavery, Civil Rights, and modern history. Everything else is unknown to me. Now felt like as good a time as any to stop being so shallow. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized just how little other cultures are accurately represented in the pop culture and media that I take in and surround myself with (music being the only real exception). I know that this isn’t a surprise to most people like it was for me. I’m probably going to catch hell for even saying that it was but I can admit when I’m wrong. It just wasn’t something I ever really thought much about before now.
I read an article last week about black cowboys in the old west and was blown away. I felt like a complete idiot. All my ideas about the old west came from movies, tv, and Little House on the Prairie. I’d just taken them as accurate and assumed that there were very few black cowboys. How freaking stupid am I?! Not once did I think about the lack of diversity that I saw even though somewhere in my brain I knew that it didn’t make sense for there to only be white people in the bustling western towns. That’s privilege. It didn’t look different than me so I didn’t have to think about it. It’s a privilege to not have to think about how my culture and race are represented in pop culture because we are the norm.
As I’ve said before, my goal as a parent is to raise kids who aren’t assholes. All of this has had me doing a lot of thinking about what it means to raise well rounded, caring children in today’s society. My job as a mother in 2020 is to raise children who appreciate both their heritage and that of cultures outside of their own and understand these cultures’ importance to the world around them. My job as a mother is to raise children who understand that, while all people are different, no one should be afforded any less respect or dignity than them because of the way they look.
I have to take it a step further too. Learning can’t just stop there. They need to learn that people with disabilities should have a place at the table. They need to learn that people of all beliefs, sexual orientations, genders, and ages deserve a seat at the table. My job is to teach them that all human life has value. My job is to make them understand that while you don’t have to love everyone, it is important to appreciate that everyone is a piece of this great big world and that all people have a role to play no matter the size.
In order to do this job, I have to recognize that I’ve got to use my resources. I can’t tell the stories and share the journeys of others all on my own because I haven’t even come close to living them. Instead I have to give my children the opportunity meet people who are different than them. They need to be able to ask questions and hear the truth from the people that have lived these journeys. I have to step out of my comfort zone so that my kids can grow to be better humans. When we educate ourselves, when we allow ourselves to be open to learning, and when we approach learning with humility and respect, we take the first step towards making the world a better place and being better individuals.