Shocker (NOT): My Son Got Called An "African Bitch" at School

Is Los Angeles the most racist city on the planet?

If you want to know the answer to that, just ask my sons. They've had enough racist experiences that I'm sure they can give you an expert opinion on the matter. In fact, seven-year-old, Mr. T, got called an "African Bitch" yesterday at recess by another child in his class. Or rather, as Mr T said, "And then he called me an African B-word!"

Ah, second graders. Full of precocious racial epithets (and cuss words!) at such a young age.

Let's see... In March he got called the n-word by a different little kid while we were at our local park. That boy's momma said it's because Mr. T is one. Fabulous.

Last week, the same child that called Mr. T an African bitch called him an "African Elephant". T thought being called an African Elephant was both "racist and dumb", and that it didn't make any sense because, "I wasn't even BORN in Africa! I was born here, in LA!"

Hmm...Funny how this kid throws throws around the word "African" like it's supposed to be some kind of insult.

Oh wait, this kid probably believes being African, or being called African, is insulting. So, Mr. T isn't just an elephant. He's an African elephant. He's not just a bitch. He's an African bitch. That lil bit of African makes those insults SOOO much worse.

Yeah, I don't know if Los Angeles is the most racist city on the planet--or in the solar system, galaxy or universe--but I do know this town likes to skate by on its "We're not racist. Those people in flyover country are the racist ones!" laurels.

The Watts Riots and the LA Riots? Pfft, mere anomalies. We Angelenos are soooo busy pretending we're all open-minded, Obama loving, tree hugging, vegan, diversity embracing hipsters whose friends look like they jumped outta an old skool Benetton ad.

Don't believe the hype. Really. We don't all hold hands and sing kumbaya while strolling down Sunset Boulevard.

As for whether I think this city is more racist than other parts of the country, no, it's not. I've been around the block enough to know that what my sons experience here could happen anyplace else, and that black children across the nation are called these kinds of names and degraded like this every single day.

Knowing that doesn't make Mr. T being called an African Bitch any better.

I don't like picking up my kid and hearing him tell me he got called that. I don't like watching him SOB hysterically during the drive home because all afternoon he's kept inside the hurt and anger about what happened. I don't like looking in my rear view mirror and seeing hot tears sliding down his cheeks--him shaking and gasping for breath because he's so upset.

California dreamin'? Nope, not so much.


nick said…
So much of this is group conformity, isn't it? Kids pick up these abusive words from other kids, probably without realising just how hurtful they are. I can call someone African as well, aren't I cool? Er no, just a mindless sheep.
Unknown said…
I like what you said in a post last year: 1) it isn't their fault and 2) they don't have to be suck it up and take it

How do you help your son get past being insulted? Your last paragraph really got to me. My son is only 2, but I can too easily imagine him in the back seat of the car. I don't know what I'd tell him.
Unknown said…
Liz, I have to say that I am shocked.
Not that I am naive, but displays of racism usually don't occur THIS early! Seriously. My boys are teens and I was hopeful you had a few more years to toughen them before this all came about. I am so sorry. Our beautiful black babies are America's Most Wanted. They emulate us but hate us. I am really not happy with my country right now. People are breeding some vile racists ... America should be ashamed.
It's just disgusting. I'm so sorry your boys have to deal with this. The way things have changed in our country, I bet they'd probably experience the same thing in Chicago. Everyone wants to put the increased racial tension on the economy, but I think it's more about the haves vs have nots. It's always a lack of love that creates our separation. Just sucks.
LA Mama said…
It's horrible. You're right that it happens everywhere, though.
Liz Dwyer said…
Or learning it at home, or picking up the general disdain for Africa and Africans, which is not surprising given the way our culture is.

Thanks for reminding me that I said that, because I do still believe that. It just gets harder every time to remember that and NOT be demoralized completely. We had a long hugging session when we got home,and talked about why people say such things, and how racism is a sickness, and HE has to make sure he doesn't catch it. But, damn if it isn't just depressing all around.

Yeah, When T told me, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. I can remember facing similar racial comments at his age, but I guess a part of me hoped it wouldn't happen with my boys so soon. They really ARE America's Most Wanted. Makes me so sad.
Liz Dwyer said…
I think they would experience similar stuff in Chicago, too. The racism is always there, just now it's bubbling up to the surface now --maybe because of all the birther stuff people feel bolder. I don't know.

LA Mama,
Yep, it sure does. Sadly.
Jameil said…
The amount of race-related negative experiences your boys have had BAFFLES me!! I remember one or two incidents growing up but it's like something new every month! Geez. Clearly there are children who need to learn how to get along.
Liz Dwyer said…
I know. I really didn't expect all this. I expected to have to have tough convos when they got to middle and high school and the cops started bugging them. Sigh. Sometimes I think it's because my boys really stand out positively everywhere they go, and so maybe it makes other kids want to eff with them. I don't know. I also think other kids have been taught that there's a certain way black people, black males, are supposed to act or be, and when my boys don't fit the mold, they don't like them. And I think a LOT more people have become more vocal with their racism over the past couple of years, and they pass that on to their children. Whatever it is, my boys could SURE do without it.
1969 said…
This makes me so angry. I am sorry your son had to experience such ignorance and I am sorry he was upset. (hugs)
Declan de Barra said…
An apt image. Beneton also skates by on the same bullshit, while he buys massive tracts of Patagonian land and kicks the native people off.

Your sons might like MMA training at the Y on Thursdays and Saturdays for kids and teens. They are very very good. Did me a world of good when I was their age.
Unknown said…
I'm so sorry to hear about this, Liz. The heartening thing is that he has you and O to help him process this and have a spiritual strong response (as opposed to internalizing it a self-hate). A question: where is the school/teacher in all this? Will they act? Have you had a chance to talk to them?
Anonymous said…
The image of your baby crying in the backseat made me cry. I'm so scared of sending my beautiful black boy into the world called kindergarten next year because of this bullshit. Makes me want to take my babies and create our own little island where no one can hurt us. This has to be by far the hardest part of parenting these precious brown souls.
Traci said…
Unfortunately, Liz, Los Angeles is not the "most racist city on the planet." Although people claim that the Bay Area is progressive with its liberals, hippies, and organic food freaks, it isn't. Last year, my son was called an "f#cking African American n*gger." The principal suspended the boy for one day. Really? Great. A day for him to stay home from school and play video games. When I questioned the punishment, the principal informed me that what the boy said was similar to cursing someone. What? "I'm sorry, but being called an *ss does not compare in magnitude with what the kid said to my son. The principal said the parents were shocked. Hmm...well, he got it from somewhere, and I wonder if he over heard his parents on an occasion or two making such comments. And so, I know what you experienced. It just rips my heart out that we can't seem to move beyond racism no matter how subtle.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for the virtual hugs. It makes me angry STILL. Today I had a convo with someone who was like, "that's just how it is. why are you shocked?" and that attitude made me SO mad! This kind of thing CAN'T become normalized to me.

Wow. That's disgusting what they're doing there. Now I'm glad I never owned ANY Benetton clothing. As for the MMA, that's actually a really good idea. Maybe when swimming & baseball are over and they have a free night once more. My eldest took Kung Fu for a year but quit. I'd love to get them involved in some martial arts again.

Thanks and good question about the teacher. At first I thought this second incident happened after school because the Black Elephant one did, so I talked to the staff that runs the after school program, as I had after the first incident. They agreed to talk to the kid again. Then T told me the 2nd incident happened during the day. He didn't want to tell his teacher because he thought HE would get in trouble about it. Him thinking he'd be in trouble for telling that someone else is calling him names has been a problem before.'s complicated. But we respected his wishes, for now, because the after school staff dealt with the kid.

I joke with my eldest that we're moving to rural Idaho so we don't have to deal with this stuff. I don't think it's gonna get better so we have to build up our armor. But yeah, it makes me cry thinking about him sobbing like that.

Yeah, the progressives aren't so progressive when it comes to color, or having to think about how THEY may hold racist attitudes and beliefs. So sorry that happened to your son. That principal was clearly confused. NOT the same at all. Hmph, I *bet* those parents were shocked.
Phillipe said…
Given all the focus on Obama being an "African" and not really an American, it's not surprising that African is becoming a slur among our kids. I can't help but see a relationship here.

This is the kind of thing I dread happening to my beautiful son who is as yet mercifully unaware of this kind of thing. My wife and I have made specific efforts to make sure that he spends lots of time with people who look like his father and that he can begin forming positive associations with blackness now. For example we chose a black woman (Haitian actually) to be our childcare provider. I'm grateful that my German/Russian/Jewish wife gets it and is on board. My son is just brown enough to catch the same hell as his dad and having grown up a black boy in America, I know some of what he's going to have to face.

By the way, tell your son uncle Phillipe has his back all the way from Boston.
Melanie said…
All I can think to say is that I'm unbelievably sorry this happened to Mr. T. Again. I'm sure it hurts terribly to see your son learn the cruel lesson of bigotry. So much ugliness for a little boy.

People sure can raise their kids to be hurtful.
Rosita said…
Sorry to hear you son had to deal with this again. My son no longer wants to go go school, and I am worried a similar type incident my have happened to him, but I can't get him to share at all what is happening. I just keep trying, gently, to get him to share.

As for your comment about rural Idaho, (and I know you were joking) I lived there, I wouldn't choose there to go.
Liz Dwyer said…
You are, as always, SO on point with your observations about why African is becoming a slur with the new generation. I'm glad to know you have his back.

Yes, they can, and they don't think twice about it, sadly.

Ugh, yeah, something like this may have happened to your son. I hope not though. And LOL over rural Idaho. Advice taken!
evelyn said…
Ugggghh this is awful to hear about, and I am so sorry your sons are going through this nonsense. I wish I could say that I am shocked, but I'm not. As Phillipe already said so well, just look at how "African" is being used against the President. Certain kids must be hearing that crap either out of their parents' own mouths or from the TV and radio, all day every day. Of course they are internalizing it. Of course they feel comfortable wielding that same ugliness as a weapon against other children.

I just wanted you to know that as I start to consider the prospect of raising multiracial children with my boyfriend some day, your blog is a great inspiration. Even when bad things happen, your determination and love for your boys shines through!
Tafari said…
I think Mr T needs my "next time slap the taste out of that bitch's mouth speech." It sounds like it's getting to that point!!!
Anonymous said…
EYE almost teared up while reading about Mr.T sitting in the backseat crying--not just the crying but the fact that he held it until LATER to let it loose. UH!

Tell you what, that little em-effer who said that is being raised IGNORANT. That said, he/she is getting set to live a jacked up life with such opinions at an early age. It's 2011, baby. The true racists won't have a step to stand on much longer.
Hugs from Washington, D.C. for Mr. T.

Liz Dwyer said…
Sorry to be so MIA and slow replying to your comment. Thanks for saying that the ins and outs of our life together are an inspiration. I AM definitely determined to make things better for my boys. I do love them dearly.

lol, sometimes I'm tempted to give him that speech, except then he'd be in trouble and probably get suspended from school.

I still tear up thinking about him sobbing. It was just horrible. Truly horrible. Thanks for the hugs from D.C. xo's.
LaNeia said…
All I could think of was "again?" while reading the post. Geez, enough already - it was enough the first attempted insult go-around. My goodness. I find it so interesting that not matter how many examples of these kinds of issues are raised, there are still a lot of people who are quite shocked when you tell them the country isn't always as open and loving to ALL, as we would like to believe. Its sad sure, but its not shocking - and that's the truly sad part for me. That its 'shocking' for some and 'the norm' for others. We are a bit disconnected from each other and the reality that many people live with.
Liz Dwyer said…
Yeah, I get that "again" feeling, too. That sinking feeling that just makes me feel like, seriously? How many more times is this scenario gonna play out in my son's life. Not a surprise, but I wish it was.

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