August 3, 2015
Until fourth grade, I never rode a school bus. So at the end of that first day, standing in line with the other kids, I kept worrying that I’d get on the wrong one and never make it home. I was so preoccupied that when another bus pulled away from the curb, I didn’t notice several kids leaning out the windows. I only looked up when I heard their strange, sing-song voices. They were pulling up the corners of their eyes, and chanting: “Ching-chong-ching-chong-ching-ching-chong!”
I’d never heard that before, but it didn’t matter. I knew they were making fun of me. I knew that I wasn’t like them. I knew that I felt ashamed.
What I didn’t know was what to do about it. I told no one — not my parents, not my teachers, not my friends. That’s what shame does to you. It makes you disappear.
These days, I live in a diverse, progressive city, and the daily taunts and insults of my childhood seem far away. I could almost believe that the world has changed, but the world won’t let me. In Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Charleston — our country keeps erupting into violence on a weekly basis, and all over something that seems like it shouldn’t matter at all. Every day, cities are burning and people are dying over the color of skin.
As parents, it’s our job to prepare our kids for a world where race matters. But how do you explain something so far beyond reason? What can a 4-year-old comprehend about slavery, and hate crimes, and police brutality? Why can’t we just raise them colorblind, in a world without all that strife?