I am the mother of a large family. Some of the lessons I hope to teach my children and now my grandchildren, are ones I would like to hand down to all of them. Others I save because they are meant for only specific children.
I have found one lesson important for one of my children and that has also really impacted me. This is a lesson for this particular child and now the grandchildren that he has brought to the family. This is a lesson I have repeated multiple times in my child’s growing years. This is a lesson important for his safety. This one lesson I cannot ignore especially after these recent weeks.
I have a son who is black. He is a delightful young man who has brought considerable joy to our family. We adopted him just before he turned 7. He has clearly and vividly brought us an understanding of some of the problems of growing up black in our society.
I have discussed with my son and with his children the vulnerability they have when they are stopped by the police. It isn’t as if they are stopped regularly by the police but the stories of individuals, including George Floyd who have been physically abused and subsequently killed during their arrests causes me to want to be sure my family members know how best to behave under these circumstances. I want these family members to remember to be courteous and cooperative and to stay out of trouble. I want them to understand that even without cause, they could be in a dangerous situation.
I do not have these discussions about being polite to police officers for fear of physical harm with any of my other children or grandchildren … only my black or partially black ones. I do not feel the need. I do feel the need to talk with my black or partially black ones. I recognize why this is an important discussion black or partially black parents must have with their children. It is for their safety and perhaps even for their lives.
I have also talked with my children about the power of their positive behavior toward people in the community. For many, my family members have been one of their first interaction with people of color. Respect, patience, and overall kindness and good will prevail over even the most stubborn of opinions and that impression affects not only their perception of that child, but how that person will view other people of color thereafter.
In general, I have been impressed with the acceptance my son has received living in this town. I know that many towns are not as accepting as Sequim has been. That does not mean he has always met with positive acceptance. He has had to learn how to deal with people being prejudiced and saying very negative things.
It is certainly different raising a child from a different ethnic background. The best thing about it is you learn of the problems faced by races other than your own. We all need to learn about other races and try to solve the problems our country continues to face. I appreciate what my son and my grandchildren have taught me. I am very fortunate.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach interim First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.