I Don't Talk About Strollers, I Talk About Race

Mom blogger. There's a whole lot of mom bloggers these days. But what is a mom blogger?

Is she a mom that writes tips about the best stroller and how to save money on groceries? Or is she a mom that's thinking about how she's the first educator of her children and how she raises her kids to solve the issues of race, class, gender equality and all the other social problems of this world?

I don't want to read about strollers. I want to read about how do I raise my child with the social and spiritual mindset, skills and knowledge to be a productive member of society?

My boys go to summer camp and on Wednesday they took a field trip to Zuma Beach. I figured the most exciting thing to happen would be a jellyfish sighting. Unfortunately, on the bus ride home, one of the other campers, an older 13 year-old boy, decided to slap my nine year-old , Mr. O, and hurl some racial epithets his way.

I had to figure out how to respond to that, and in the long run, how I deal with that will mean more to my son than what stroller I bought him or what babyfood he ate.

That child that slapped mine and called him racist names learned that from someone else. Someone who's an adult. Someone who is probably a parent. If that parent chose to raise their child with an attitude of racial unity instead of an attitude of racism, prejudice and being a bully, the interaction wouldn't have happened.

To all you moms out there - and all you dads too - kudos to those of you who are talking to your kids about the equality of all people. Thank you for thinking about that and talking about that instead of the fleeting material things of this world that ultimately do not shape our children into the adults they need to be.

Thank you for writing about it. It means more than the stroller posts ever could.


Thanks for this. I wrote a post earlier this week about how all the clearance Barbies at my local Target were minority. I suggested that it reflected moms choosing dolls that only resemble their kids, and how that may send a message that sameness is preferable. I tried to encourage moms to buy more diverse dolls. I got so much pushback! The feedback was so negative that I almost pulled down the post. I know that most of it is people being defensive/derailing, but it still gets me down. This post is a little boost for me to keep with it. You're right. It matters way more than strollers.
Kandeezie said…
Yes. You are right on so many levels. Strollers...they can wait. Helping them navigate a world that is sometimes hostile towards them...that will last forever.
Unknown said…
This is so sad. I feel so bad for your little man. That's just ugly. I reposted this on my personal FB for all to see. Thank you for such a great blog.

What the minority Barbies show me is minority parents aren't buying Barbies for their kids. Obviously I wasn't there but that wouldn't trigger a racist alert in me.

But this, Liz. I'm so sorry your son had this happen to him. I hope you will write about what happens in the aftermath - what he says, what you do, what you say. Maybe we can learn more from you.
Sarah Auerswald said…
Thank god you aren't writing about strollers -- Mom blogging needs to be about more than strollers.
Jameil said…
Ugh. My mom was SO PISSED when I had a racial encounter with a classmate at FIVE. She was like why are parents teaching this foolishness to their kindergartners?? Do your children know how to read before they know how to discriminate? I'd like to know what you did.
sippinwineman said…
I still want to know what YOU did. What is the action of the intelligent mom? (I say that with no sarcasm)

I was taught the old fashion and possibly ignorant way of dealing with bullies. Especially bigger bullies.

-I was taught how to build a black jack out of a bicycle inner tube and sand.
-Every time I saw the bully, and I mean EVERY TIME I saw the bully, I was to proceed to whup his butt. And I was to do this until he bother me no more. It worked for me.

But I want to know better ways to deal with this issue.

Tell me. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me
Please. lol
I'm so very sorry this happened to your lovely son. It's perfectly horrible.

I agree with your views on what is most important in raising our children, and have never understood why anyone would even want his child to live in a world in which everyone was of exactly the same ethnicity, religion, or whatever. Those who are different from ourselves expand our experiences and knowledge, so denying children that opportunity makes their lives so much smaller and duller.

I would like to know how the counselor/teacher/responsible adult on the bus handled this incident which involved racism, violence and let's not forget, picking on a much younger child. People can be so stupid!
Sundry said…
I can't say anything. Tears are in my eyes. I'd like to throw myself between Mr. O and that other kid and just not let that happen to him.
Cindy said…
Thank you so much for this post. Just found your blog and I am loving it!
nick said…
How right you are that a parent's first duty is to teach his/her kids how to react to situations like that and to all the social/ political problems that confront us daily. A parent who leaves those issues to others is asking for trouble because we all know what negative attitudes prevail.

Like Heart, I wonder what the responsible adult on the bus had to say about the incident.
Yes, Liz, what did you do? How do you handle a situation like that? I would have a hard time keeping my cool.
Themia said…
Thank you for this post, I am so sorry for your son. It's hard to understand sometimes what a cruel world it is out there, but we have no choice but to prepare our kids for it. Great blog by the way, just found it and look forward to reading more.
I feel just terrible for your son.

I've been there and even years later those vicious words hurt.
M and M said…
Talking about race (not strollers) has had harsh consequences for me as a white mom. It is NOTHING, however, compared to the realities my little boy will encounter JUST by his very being. He won't have the luxuries of "choosing" whether to speak his understanding of race and prejudice and discrimination. It is already inscribed on his body. I'll keep speaking because I must. Thank you Los Angelista for being a kindred voice in the crowd - discovering places like this is akin to discovering community.
I love how you bring the real to our world. So many people would rather hear and read about strollers than look past the vainer. You always challenge me, Liz, to speak my mind, to bring up the issues that are real to me.

Of course, I don't/can't do them as well as you do.

And I'm sorry your son was treated this way. What I know about your son, is that he had some armor - parent who told him this would come - so he knew what to do.

I mean really, why are we foaming at the mouth over stranger sexual predators, when racial predators are everywhere?? Psychopaths are less than 2% of the population - but everyone knows about them. And racists? In this 'you stole mine' economy? I'd bet there's more than 2%.

I'm with Kristen. I'd love to know what you did with this.
Anonymous said…
I'm a long time reader/lover of your blog and also a long time lurker. I had to come out of "lurkdom" and express my anger and sadness @ what happened to your son. I really have no words. Thank you for bringing the real issues to the forefront of the blog world. It's really appreciated.
Liz Dwyer said…
All - Thanks for reading. I got home super late last night from my first "date night" out with my husband in maybe a year. OK, maybe more. I went to sleep at 4:30 and got up at nine. I feel like a zombie. Anyway...

As far as what happened the short answer is that my boys did not go to camp the next day (or the next) and my LIVID husband went and spoke to the camp director about the definition of a hate crime and assault and how just sending a note home to the boy's family wasn't enough. Apparently, this kid's been harassing Mr. O for a while. We asked for him to be removed from the camp, and if they don't do that, then at the very least, the other kid needs to be told to stay away from our son. We also had good convos w/ Mr. O that night and the next day and talked about how racism works and why that boy said those things to him (learned behavior) Also, if the adults in a situation don't respond approriately - i.e. removing him from the proximity of this kid immediately, he should raise hell until the do and how that kid's behavior in no way means he's a wimp or a loser or any of the racist names the boy called him.

Yes, it could very well be moms choosing only the traditional white Barbie, or their daughters only asking for the traditional Barbie. There's that whole short documentary from a couple years ago where the black girls choose the white dolls over black dolls. I'll have to come over and read your post. And fine if people want to write about strollers sometimes, I mean, I do giveaways sometimes b/c they're fun, but jeez, when every other freakin' post is about some inane product... I guess it just gets to me and makes me feel like we moms are being PLAYED!

I don't even remember what kind of stroller I used for my sons. It got him from point A to point B and was on sale at Babies-R-Us. But I do remember the 1st time he told me he wanted to be a snake so he could shed his skin and become white.

The Disneyland Mom,
It's seriously ugly. Our babysitter picked the boys up that night because I was on my way to do a radio interview and ugh, the camp director called me to tell me since I wasn't there in person. I was on the 101 and I thought my head was going to explode.

I think it shows that everybody isn't buying Barbies of color and that's too bad.

I'd probably be pretty terrible at writing about strollers. What could I say? "The stroller has four wheels..."

My boys haven't been slapped before but not a year has gone by where they haven't been called some name. I remember when Mr. O was like 18 months being called a monkey by people at the mall. Just ridiculous - I don't know how anybody with a brain could ever use the word post-racial in this day and age.

I'd say an intelligent mom (or dad) follows up with the adults in charge and has very frank conversations with them about why they should take incidents of racial name-calling and bullying seriously and not brush them off as being a rite of passage or kids just being kids. An intelligent mom can inform the adults in charge that legal action can be brought to bear and if the situation escalates, they could be legally liable if something were to happen to impact the safety or well-being of the affected child. And, I'd say an intelligent mom tells her kid that if anyone gets in their space in a threatening way, the first line of defense is to get away, remove yourself from the situation, tell an adult. Hitting back is the last resort.
Liz Dwyer said…
It is pretty horrible. My son says the adult in charge told him that if the kid hit him again or bothered him again, he should hit back, but that he couldn't move his seat because the bus was in motion.

I'd like that too. We asked to talk to the parents as well and they don't want to talk to us. That might be a good thing because I'm not sure I could be civil.

Thank you for reading. Hope you come back and visit sometime soon.

I just wonder where we think our children are going to learn to function as moral, socially responsible people who care for their fellow man and without prejudice... unless we teach them. They aren't getting it thru osmosis.

Since I was on the 101 when I found out and didn't get home till like 8pm, I had a little bit of time to mull over my approach. I was sad that my son was worried we'd think he was a wimp and that he LET a kid bully him. I don't like him feeling like it's his fault and we talked a long time about that.

Thank you for coming by and visiting. There is much cruelty in our world, but also so much hope and beauty. One of the things I worry about is the behavioral expectations being lowered in middle school and beyond instead of raised. I want my boy to be a shining example of rectitude of conduct and a force for equality and justice- sadly, not everyone wants that for their child.

Yes, it's the kind of incident that sticks with you for a long time - that's why I wanted him to know his parents had his back and that we took it extremely seriously.

M & M,
I'm glad you came to visit over here. Why do you think it's had harsh consequences for you?

One of the principles I firmly believe in is that when it comes to healing from racism, within a black/white dynamic, blacks must be forgiving and whites must be loving and drop the inherent sense of superiority. Otherwise, we'll keep the same problems over and over.

I don't often say it well, but thank you for saying I do. He does have that armor but I worry about this world chipping it away. I feel like every time my boys are home/with us, we have to build it back up.

Good point about the predators and psychopaths in our midst. What bothers me is when folks think being called racial epithets is the same as being called stupid or fat. Those things are horrible, but they're surely not the same.

I'm so glad you de-lurked and thank you for your expression of solidarity. It means a lot to know that there are others out there that don't think it's OK and just a rite of passage to be bullied and degraded.
Anonymous said…
Dearest: My heart bleeds hot, red blood for your little one after this hoodlum spoiled what should have been a lovely experience. I do hope you and your family SUE THE BEJEEZUS out of the thug's family and the camp.

I also hope that -- out of your sight and hearing -- Daddy Los Angelista shows Mr. O how to respond to bullies when the physical will NOT give way to the verbal (or parental). It's not pretty; it's often necessary.

Blessings to your family. I hope peace, calm, and beauty return soon.
Deb said…
It's my belief that those moms that blog about strollers and the hot tv shows are the moms that don't have any concern about how their child views things such as race. Mainly because their child will never have to deal with things as your son did.

Just happened to see your link on HGH and your title got me. I'll be sure to follow you now. I want to read the good stuff. The stuff that's going to help me raise my daughter to be a strong young woman in this world.
SweetThang said…
It's so sad that your son had to experience such hatefulness at such an early age. It's true some so-called adult taught the bully that type of behavior.
Liz Dwyer said…
Yes, Daddy L.A. is already plotting self-defense classes and putting him back into martial arts classes. He stopped last summer but I think we want him to get back into it.

I agree. It's a sign of privilege to not have to think about anything other than strollers. I'm glad to connect with you. What's HGH tho?

It is very sad - not the first time though and I'm sure it won't be the last. I mean, look at how the so-called adults, folks with multiple degrees, act over Shirley Sherrod!
1969 said…
Liz...I am so upset. I am sure you will handle this the best possible way as you are a phenomenal mom.

Hug your son from his Auntie 1969. I hate bullies and I hate parents that plant these seeds f hate in their children's heads.

So sorry he experienced such a hurtful act.
TAB said…
Dear Los Angelista,
I found a link to you through Love Isn't Enough. Thank you for writing this. What happened to your son is an outrage. As a black mom of preschoolers, I was interested in reading about how you and your spouse, as more seasoned parents, handled talking to your son and the adults involved.

Why doesn't the camp have a zero tolerance policy? Your son's been repeatedly bullied to the point that it escalated into racial slurs and assault...and the assailant is allowed to continue attending? What then, in the camp authorities' minds, constitutes a justifiable eviction from camp?

I hope your son's spirit recovers from this.
Liz Dwyer said…
It's horribly upsetting that this happened - what's been interesting is the people who are surprised that this would happen in Los Angeles. Um, yes, there are racists in LA, too, and they raise their kids to be racists. :(

Welcome - so glad you came by to visit. I think this sort of behavior is often seen as kids being kids, which is unfortunate.

I spent a lot of time talking with my son about how he's not at fault and shouldn't feel at all like he can't tell me something if it's going on - and I'm relieved and glad he did say something to us about it. I always think the best thing to do is to follow your guy and preserve the nobility of your child no matter what.
Liz Dwyer said…
I mean follow your "gut" not your "guy"! ;)
caoileann said…
Hi Liz,

I'm sorry that your 9 year old had to experience anything like this. I've always enjoyed reading about your sons - they seem so smart and witty, and you clearly have a lot of fun with them!

Of course, what happened here is bigger than any of this, and I hope that you can get the camp organisers to proactively take steps to reprimand this teenager. Sadly, the teenager has picked this up from an "adult" (I think his parents are too ashamed to meet you and your husband), but that doesn't mean the camp can't put in place guidelines on how to deal with these issues (and of course implement them, the next time this occurs, as it sadly will).

I think the problem here may be that in this supposed post-racial world, there's an understanding that racism does not exist any longer, and that children like your son are not singled out for racist abuse. Of course, this could not be further from the truth, and that's precisely why we need ongoing dialogue on these issues!

Please let us how how this conversation with the camp pans out.

Popular Posts