Two weeks ago my nine year old daughter was talking to me about the things happening in our hometown. She tries to hide her feelings and shuts down sometimes, so I saw this as an opportunity to help her communicate her feelings and to help her process everything she is seeing and hearing. She feels stuck. She is a biracial girl living in the middle of Ferguson, MO and she feels stuck. We have tried our hardest to protect her from media overload and to not overwhelm her with facts and yet she is still seeing and hearing things that scare her. While we were talking Abbie suddenly got quiet and looked away. She began to weep to herself. I asked her what was wrong. She looked at me and sheepishly said, "Mom, I am afraid of black people." When the words came out of her mouth, I could see the guilt written across her face. She was scared, angry, filled with guilt for the feelings of which she couldn't control. I wonder know if she saw my expression when she had said it. I don't know what my face said but when I heard her say those very words I felt as if I had been punched the the gut. It hurt emotionally as well as physically. I tried to soothe her telling her how proud of her I was for her openness and willingness to communicate her feelings. We discussed how there are good and bad people on every side with every race and background. We reminded her of all the black people who love her dearly and are wonderful people that we don't fear. We also talked about how not everyone feels the way those who are scaring her do (those looting and rioting).
When we got home and I had some time to myself; I began to think about what she had said. Each time I thought of it, it broke my heart. I was shocked and confused because it was the last thing I had thought that one of my daughters would have to face. We had tried so hard to fight the hatred and judgements of others and to be an example of love and acceptance. How could my child be afraid of black people? I was concerned that this will negatively affect her as an adult. I don't want her to disconnect from one side of her background because of the things in Ferguson. I don't want her to harbor bitterness and anger in her heart which can create self-hate and internal racism. Just as she felt guilty for feeling afraid, I felt guilty for having a child who felt afraid.
I wanted to fix the problem but I knew that it isn't something that will vanish and I needed answers. I turned to the places I usually find answers: the Bible, family, friends, and google. The title for this blog is because they were the exact words I typed into for my google search. I found that in this instance, as well as many others, the counsel I found in the Bible, with friends, and with family was far superior to google. This is I why I wanted to write this. Maybe I could share the wisdom I have found with other moms.
What to do when your kids are afraid of black people.. or any group of people.
- Listen. Allow them to communicate their feelings. They are going to have the feelings either way but by listening it allows it to not fester and grow out of control. It also strengthens the bond between child and parent to be able to accept advice and wisdom.
- Help them to view the situation or the fear from different aspects. Noting positive people who go against that fear. Also noting that whatever behavior is happening that caused that fear (rioting, bullying, ect.) comes from a condition of the heart. It is affecting everyone around them but it really is a thing that they need love and grace through. Also reminding the child that the person they fear is just a person too. They might be someones brother, father, sister, mother, or friend. So often we begin to see people as "the others" and stop seeing them as people created by the same loving God. They might be lost, hurt, or heart broken but they are still loved by God.
- Acknowledge the power fear has over us. Sometimes we give fear very little attention and it does not affect us greatly but other times we can let it consume us. That little bit of fear can become infection and lead us to act out of hate and anger. I am always reminding my daughters and myself of who is in control, God. I can't be in control but He is and I need to cling to the faith in His promises.
- Educating ourselves on people who lived through similar circumstances. Esther's family and people were being persecuted and her cousin Mordecai told her that she was made for a time such as this. Anne Frank who said, "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." I think there is especially power in learning about people who are of the race your child is afraid of.
- Encourage social interactions. I want my daughter's life to be filled with wonderful loving godly people of all races. Just as it is said "it takes a village to raise a child", I wholeheartedly agree. I can only bestow one perspective to my children and I have been giving an amazing supportive group of friends and family member that I can allow to bestow other things to her. We are going to let my daughter go spend some time with her Nana. I also am setting up some times for her to play with friends of mine who are black. I want her to face that fear and be able to say truths to herself to combat those thoughts. So when she thinks, "black people scare me" she can then think, "actually I know Ms. Jaye is amazing and I love her. She doesn't scare me so it isn't true."
- Look for the blessings. Anytime we are filled with fear or frustration we can become stuck. By looking to the blessings and the things we are thankful for we can slowly get out of our tough spot and see things from a different view.