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Raising children amidst strange times

by, Michael Baughman

Life in the slow lane

 

These are tough days in the kid-raising department. It’s not all sunflowers and rainbows.

We’re lucky that we live in a safe, bubble of sorts here in Tryon. But when things like the killing of George Floyd and the teargassing of peaceful protests happen on internet for all to see, how do you explain that to children ages 9 and 12?

What words can possibly describe those situations without my own biases and prejudices? How does a white male born and raised in the South even start to speak intelligently on the issues of race and police brutality?

Normally at this time of year, we are signing our kids up for summer camps and celebrating the end of another homeschool year. Instead we are creating signs and attending rallies to show our support and love for our fellow citizens of all races and ethnicities.

Racism is taught in homes and around dinner tables. We are not born with hatred in our hearts, we learn it by watching those we admire and trust; none of whom are without their own biases and imperfections.

It took me getting out my own bubble of family and friends, all of whom looked like me, to break the cycle of racism. But not everyone seeks out those experiences which expand and moderate our world views. In my personal opinion, very few are willing to stand up and speak out against racism when we see it among our friends and family. I’m certainly guilty of that.

I went to a small, private, liberal arts college in the South. One that was not very diverse. During a student assembly early in my freshman year, our college gospel choir performed. I was blown away. This choir was singing church music, dancing, clapping and having a ball. They sounded incredible. I wanted more of that!

I dropped out of the formal (white) choir and signed up for the gospel (non-white) choir. I was one of three white people in that choir. The rest, fifteen or so, were African American. For the first time in my life, I was a minority and it felt a little strange.

I didn’t grow up singing this type music and I didn’t look like the rest of the choir or the people in churches where we sang. I was a six-foot five-inch skinny, white guy having the time of my life. At times I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong. Not because anyone ever made me feel that way but because I just looked different than everyone else.

No one gave me strange looks or discriminated against me. Some may have giggled at my attempts to sing the music and learn their culture. But let’s be honest, it was a giggle-worthy pursuit.

I was simply welcomed with open arms and smiling faces. They showed me how to sing, dance and love.

I’m still working on the dancing part.

Let us all work on the loving part.