Let’s not forget that white children learn to be racist from their parents

Just like they are more likely to pass down wealth (property, money, etc.) to their kids, so too are white people more likely to pass down racism. The kids learn from the grown-ups, and that’s a fact even today, because plenty of racists have kids right now. And it’s why the pipedream of racism dying out with the passing of older generations is simply a pipedream.

By now, a lot of America should know the white woman named Corinne Terrone, thanks to social media. I suppose we could call her “Spittin’ Sally.” On Friday, March 15th, the now-former secretary who had been an employee for Hamden Public Schools in Connecticut, decided that she was going to teach her two little girls how to be racist.

Most white people have been in denial for centuries about the racist systems of America that are designed to disadvantage Black people. They claim that Black citizens are treated equally and that we, as a community, should just get over the impacts of white supremacy. The generational standards for how to treat Black people were created by the white race over 400 years ago and are still alive and active today in 2019. Is that unbelievable to you? Are you shocked that white people like “Spittin’ Sally” are still on the mission to destroy Black bodies? If so, why? No, really—ask yourself “why?” How are white American citizens are still shocked when Black people are subjected to racism when we only became “free” 54 years ago?

If you’re surprised when whiteness makes its attack on Black people in any form, you’re confirming that Black lives don’t matter to you. It means that you’re under the impression that Black people are good to go now and that we have absolutely nothing to worry about in regards to our skin color. It means that you thought that anti-blackness was all over and that concept, in itself, denies the Black experience. It is white people like Corinne Terrone who reminds us that anti-blackness is still very prevalent throughout America. 

Being that New England covers both Maine where I live and Connecticut where “Spittin’ Sally” prowls, I felt the need to address the lessons that the Connecticut ShopRite-mother taught her two little girls that day in the grocery store. White people teach their children how to be racist both privately and publicly. Or even how not to treat Black people—literally—teaching their kids to ignore us as if we’re invisible. And you don’t get off the hook because you’re a quiet, non-racist individual, tucking racism in your back pocket and not talking about it. If that’s what you’ve decided to do, then clearly you remain problematic to the cause for Black liberation and dismantling white supremacy.

Without hesitating, Corinne Terrone felt the need to teach her two little girls, indirectly, how to treat Black people. And she did it publicly without hesitations; other white parents teach their children racism privately. The two little girls watched their mother call a Black man and woman, a n****r several times. It’s no secret that children learn behaviors from their parents, let alone the world around them.So what exactly did Corinne Terrone teach her children that day? She taught those two little white girls that because they’re white, they have the advantage of throwing fits of rage in public spaces without facing any of the life-threatening repercussions like Black people do, when we express even a hint of frustration.

In addition to Corinne Terrone calling two Black people n****rs in front of her two little girls, she decided to elevate her dose of fury by spitting at the Black shoppers, twice! The examples that “Spittin’ Sally” displayed in front of those girls have permeated their brains with the level of respect that they should treat Black people with. Those girls have been programmed. It’s possible they will break that programming one day—maybe even possible they won’t internalize it even now. But honestly, that isn’t likely and it isn’t the norm. 

The deadly poison that white supremacy continues to spread through America not only seeks to destroy Black people, but impacts whiteness itself. Over and over again, white supremacy shows that it simply does not give a fuck about who it hurts, oppresses, assaults, disrespects, robs or dehumanizes. How will those two little white girls process and internalize their racist mother’s behavior towards Black people? How will those two little girls socialize with Black people in society? school? work? etc? Who will teach them that their mother is a racist and what that means? Will they do better as girls who will one day grow up to be white women in America? White voters? White citizens? Or will the daughters of “Spittin’ Sally” harbor the same feelings in their hearts that their mother does about Black people? Will they one day spit at Black people and call them niggers? Who will teach them that they’re not superior based on their whiteness? That they may catch a different type of Black person one day who may not be as nice as the Black people were to their mother?

Authorities have said that charges could be pressed against the mother for “impairing the morals of children,” but let’s face it—whiteness corrupts the morals of individuals inevitably when it comes to culture and society. If your whiteness has not been reckoned with, then you remain a huge part of the racial injustices in our country. And if that is the case, your silence about the disease of whiteness and generational hate passed down for centuries is more deadly than acknowledging that you play a role in sustaining racist systems structured to neglect the Black race, in addition to significantly benefiting from these systems. 

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The white-boy smirk and making America great again: It’s dangerous!

I’m going to need a lot of grace on this one; much like the grace that a Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, extended to those punk-ass white boys in Washington, D.C., recently. Let me be clear about my meaning of “punk-ass white boys,” defined as privileged white boys who are confident and comfortable hiding behind their shields of white supremacy, to taunt and dehumanize Black and brown people. Without that sort of corrupt power and privilege, those white boys may actually have been the angelic ”kids” that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and many others claimed they were; but clearly, the devil beamed through the face of young Sandmann and his klan of fellow students. 

I commend Nathan Phillips for being a peace-maker in the midst of several Trump-clones, reiterating the ridiculous and pointless idea of building 45’s wall. Face-to-face, eye-to-eye and toe-to-toe with MAGA hat-wearing white boys, is not a situation I’d ever want to be in as a Black man; those sort of demonic smirks are dangerous and could easily snatch a man’s heart like mine or Elder Phillips, right from his soul. As much as I would’ve been tempted to punch that white boy, Nick Sandmann, right in his face, as a Black man, I also realize that would not have gone well for me. The situation in general had me furious beyond measures, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that by now. 

I have never been this angry in my entire life. I’ve experienced a lot of evil things in this corrupt world that could’ve easily turned me into Lucifer’s puppet years ago, but lately, the one thing that has been pushing me over the edge (as I’ve told my therapist), is white people who have been emboldened by Trump’s racist rhetoric. White hate has been served to many Black and brown communities over and over, throughout history, continuing right into 2019; whether it be the theft and murder of indigenous people and their land or the enslavement and destruction of Black people and our prosperity. 

The regurgitated “BUILD THAT WALL. BUILD THAT WALL” mantra, whether those Covington students chanted it or not, was evident and has erupted into the winds of America once again. Those red, white-lettered stitched hats are no different than the white hoods worn by Ku Klux Klan disciples and belligerently announces that America is being made great again—for white people, that is. As activist Aylssa Milano tweeted recently, “the red MAGA hat is the new white hood. Without white boys being able to empathize with other people, humanity will continue to destroy itself.” Part of that greatness includes building a wall that Donald Trump can’t even seem to scrape up the funds for; which is straight-up pathetic. 

Many Trump supporters are so focused on the viral video of “very fine people” and the typical, extreme protection of their reputations that they’ve somehow neglected to address the lies of the good ole’ Catholic Saint. During his interview with Savannah Guthrie on The Today Show, Nick Sandmann stated, “We’re a Catholic school and it’s not tolerated. They don’t tolerate racism, and none of my classmates are racist people.” White boys are phenomenal at lying their way out of racist behavior. If you are white and are wearing any sort of MAGA apparel, then you are a racist! What in the hell do white people rocking Make America Great Again gear think the slogan means? Great? For whom? For Black people? Native Americans? Other POC? I would love to hear Sandmann and his crew get on television and explain to this country when America was “great” for Black people and the like. 

The white-boy smirk is threatening and I realize that it was the cocky smug on Sandmann’s face that truly had me wanting to fuck some shit up. But how then would I be setting the example of one of my favorite leaders, Martin Luther King Jr.? To lead and respond in a non-violent manner? Then again, as a Black Christian myself, always leaning more towards turning the other cheek, allowing white people to have their cake and eat it too, results in a burdensome depression. Lavishing niceness upon white supremacists is one of many reasons white boys like Nick Sandmann, Brett Kavanaugh, Dylan Roof, Brock Turner and so many more are freely able to exercise and abuse white privilege to begin with. Many of us Black and brown folks have seen that smirk over and over again in America and as 64-year-old Nathan Phillips expressed, he felt threatened by those teens.

Those smirks of whiteness are dangerous and present a sense of comfort for whiteness that is impossible to be accessed by people with prominent melanin beneath their skin. White teenage boys wearing red MAGA hats, mocking Native Americans, adds a layer of confirmation to the reality of what white parents are teaching their kids at home. This sort of hate didn’t just start with Donald Trump. Like many other white parents raising their well-behaved Catholic boys, teaching them that they’re supreme and innocent in the face of a God, blinds them from even seeing how racist they truly are. 

I can recall a time where I experienced the white-boy smirk myself. A white male had been taking advantage of me by excusing himself from a task we were working on, to take several breaks. I hadn’t taken any breaks from the task because like in most cases, the white body has more authority and superiority than its Black peers. Again, part of the Christian faith involves letting a gentle light shine in the presence of darkness so that corruption may witness the acts of God and praise him, according to Matthew 5:16. While attempting to let my little light shine by “being nice,” allowing my white rival several breathers and breaks, I eventually noticed that he wasn’t going to permit me a time to rejuvenate. The situation escalated very quickly after he returned from what seemed to be a vacation; me being frustrated with both his lack of involvement on our task and the fact that he was continually dismissing my request for a break! 

I think I lost it that day. The white man started yelling at me and during that time, yelling at me was a recipe for disaster due to some PTSD; thankfully I’ve gotten better at that. He then decided to step to my face; with the same valiant stance  Sandmann presented to Phillips. Disrespectfully yelling at me is one button to push but getting in my face with the white-boy smirk is hazardous on both ends. Our task was almost over and when he stepped to my face with his perilous grin, invading my personal space, I wanted to feed him an uppercut. Instead, I walked away, gave no explanation as to why I did and took my deserved and overdue intermission. That white dude did many other things that day including stealing, lying and physically abusing another bystander. I reported it all to the appropriate authorities and the result came down to me being suspended from the task, for three days. 

I asked if he was going to be suspended for stealing? Lying? Abusing another human? And for abusing his power by manipulatively denying me the breaks I was entitled to by law? I was told that the white dude would be suspended as well and that I shouldn’t be concerned about what was going to happen to him. But the fact is that I should have never been suspended in the first place. I was suspended for, “exposing dirty laundry.” Whiteness didn’t like the idea of me getting the law involved and so to protect itself, I was retaliated against. I shortly learned that whiteness had lied to me—that my white peer hadn’t been suspended at all and that my blackness had again been demonized and subjected to inequity.

This whole situation boosted that white boy’s ego and I had to see him again, with his smirk of triumph proudly flaunted on his face. The white-boy smirk represents conceit and vain glory. It cateres defiance to indigenous people, who do not believe in walls meant to sustain white supremacy. And so it also was that Sandmann’s smirk was aggression—overdosed entitlement and a silent form of bullying a well-respected adult who displayed wisdom and a strong, pure example of resilience.

The smirk replicates many other young and old white men who get to sweep their nasty behavior under the carpet. These white boys (and men) are protected by their parents, their “just being kids” card and constantly escape from situations where Black boys are shot, racially profiled, unfairly arrested in or killed. White boys know this to be true about Black and brown bodies, and that is exactly what the smirk on Nick Sandmann’s face equated to for many of us.

And, only a few weeks later, here we are again with MAGA white men, this time breaking a Black man’s (EMPIRE star Jussie Smollett) rib, pouring bleach on him, calling him “nigger” and “faggot” and placing a noose around his neck. The white-boy smirk is day-by-day making America greater and greater again for white people with harmful intent and clearly, it’s dangerous!

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Falmouth’s Black babysitter

A white family of four became really good friends with me while I was working at a Starbucks coffee shop a few summers ago. I was a workaholic, making people their lattes by day and being a full-time healthcare provider by night; showing up at the coffee shop in that dope green apron and leaving in sky-blue scrubs. At the end of the day, I’m all about serving the people in the way that Christ came to serve, full of grace and truth.

The parents of a five-year-old little girl and a two-year-old little boy decided to ask me to be their “nanny” after realizing how awesome I was—I suppose. I thought this offer was too good to be true. I’m a young Black man who had dreadlocks, who had been invited to Falmouth, Maine, to babysit two white children in a white space. Black men don’t just get opportunities like this so you know I was hyped to have such a privileged job offer lined up. I accepted the offer and would soon enough be taking the bus over to Falmouth every Friday morning to babysit.

I was super excited to start. The family lived in a nice home on the ocean in a town that, to me, felt like paradise. I enjoyed the luxury of being invited into their home to nanny for their beautiful, joy-filling children. I enjoyed taking care of them, playing guitar for them, singing them to sleep, reading to them, building forts and homemade cardboard houses with them. I learned a lot from those kids and their family but I was still very uncomfortable.

As I stepped off the bus every Friday morning to start my day with my two “pop-rocks,” I would notice the stares presented to me from the white teenagers passing by to get on their school buses.  You know how that works; they give you the perky lips with the downward head-nod, you try to figure out whether to show some love or to just keep it moving, later realizing that white folks are miss out on some of the best friendships that exist, due to lies fed to them through the media and through what they’re taught in their homes. ​​

I was later told by the mom of these white children, “I want them to see you. I want them to see that I have a Black male nanny.” She had been referring to white people or “wypipo.” She wanted white people to see a Black man in a white neighborhood, coming to take care of her adorable children; I was speechless in the most awkward way. I loved taking care of those two kids. I had been caring for those kids simply out of the kindness of my heart, as a nursing student and as a follower of Jesus Christ. I would do the same for any child, adult or elderly person in need of my healing hands and exceptional care.

The mom also informed me that she wanted her children to have a better Black social experience when in public; this was after her little boy received an injection by a Black pediatrician, causing him to cry like most two-year-old kids would do. The pain from the needle associated with the face of a Black man had perhaps become problematic for this small child. Her privilege reminded her that she needed to somehow fix this issue. Now I was starting to feel like a prop of some sort, handy for the show that was happening every Friday morning in Falmouth.

Was I there because of my resumé? I did not feel like I was there because of my experience as a nursing assistant and as a nursing student but more as The Help. While I helped fulfill the mother’s desire for a Black man to be seen by her white neighbors (mostly family members), providing the gift of Black magic to her children, my mental health started to be impacted more; specifically with my anxiety and depression.

Did these white parents have good intentions? Of course they did. I loved their family and appreciated all the help they offered me. Too often, white people are naive to the damage they lavish upon Black people; they make “black jokes” hoping to connect while instead, halting the healing process of the wounds already present. White folks offer help to Black folks in ways that are not required; they mean no harm while ceasing from pulling us out of the fires they created. They even yell, “I hired a Black male nanny” hoping to rescue themselves from the system they benefit from and further strengthen. Why remind a Black man that he was hired by another “white savior?” Black people already know we can’t do much without our white allies but for Heaven’s sake, do not rub it in.

I felt like I was being watched by every white person nearby. I would take the kids outside to run around and play like little kids enjoy doing. I quickly found myself worried about what the white neighbors would think of a Black man, outside playing with white kids in their ‘hood. Sure, I enjoyed the job but I did not enjoy the show I was expected to put on for these white folks. In October 2018, Corey Lewis, a black child-care entrepreneur, had the cops called on him for babysitting two white children down in Marietta, Georgia. A white woman followed him and the children to Corey’s mom’s house and waited down the street for the cops to arrive. The cops decided to do a wellness check on the children by questioning them. A white woman didn’t call the cops on a man due to her concerns for the safety of two little children. No—a white woman called the cops because she saw a Black man with two little white children.

If one of my “pop-rocks” were doing something unsafe, I wanted to know that I could use a stern tone in telling them “no” while not being perceived as an “angry Black man.” I wanted to know that I could do my job my way, as long as it didn’t violate any policies or rules. I want to know that I’m showing up to a job because I’m worth it, because I come to slay and not because of the way I look. I want to know that my social experience is also considered when white folks use Black folks as gain for their own agenda; to make their lives more convenient and “not racist.” What if someone had called the cops on me for being with these two little white kids?

I recall taking the kids to a local Starbucks one afternoon. As we would sit out in the warm sun enjoying our beverages, a few white folks walked by, giving us the side-eye. Two white women “checked in” by initiating a conversation about the two white kids in my presence. You know? The usual small-talk about how cute one’s kids are? Or asking them their names? Yeah—that kind of intrusive prying. Were these two white women skeptical of me being with these two kids like the white woman was with Corey? I can never truly be sure, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder about their approach. Perhaps they were being friendly or maybe they were analyzing an uncommon scene. After all, what is a Black man with locs doing at a white neighborhood Starbucks with two little white kids?

I, Falmouth’s Black babysitter, concluded that I loved the babysitting job, appreciated the wonderful opportunity, but that I would no longer be a white family’s prop, embellishment, “Black friend,” social experiment, political statement or their HELP. As a Black male aiming to accomplish great things in my country, I suggest that white people allow space for Black excellence to play its course. Too often, Black people aren’t able to exercise their full existence, perhaps due to anxiety that stems from being highly concerned about how we’ll be perceived by our white peers in society and in professional settings. Let us live and let us be.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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